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Some of it was a bit dated but the philosophy remains true, even if the language and examples they give are 100+ years out of date.

Highlights:

  • 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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Seattle Mystic Alfred M. Hubbard

Title: Seattle Mystic Alfred M. Hubbard Inventor, Bootlegger and Psychedelic Pioneer

Author: Brad Holden

Completed: Nov 2022 (Full list of books)

Overview: What an interesting life Hubbard lived! He seemed to bounce from one weird job to another (often conning at least a few people in the process) and usually at the cutting edge of a new field. I knew almost nothing about him before this book and now, part of me wants to chat with him… while the rest of me wants to keep plenty of distance. Either way, it was fun to learn about a bit more Seattle history.

Highlights:

  • curiously looking around at the intriguing inventory of transistors, vacuum tubes and assorted radio parts.
  • Olmstead had become quite affluent thanks to his bootlegging operation, which had grown to such an enormous degree that, for a time, he was Puget Sound’s largest employer.
  • Known as the “Whispering Wires Case,” due to the extensive wiretapping involved, the resulting legal proceeding would end up being the biggest Prohibition trial in history. Olmstead, seemingly unfazed, simply posted bail and returned to work—setting his liquor operation right back into motion again.
  • Aberdeen, a flourishing working-class town built around a thriving logging industry. While Seattle was awash with smuggled Canadian liquor supplied by Olmstead and others, Aberdeen’s liquor market was mostly controlled by competing moonshine operations that set up large-scale stills throughout the heavily forested hillsides.
  • The results were astonishing, with abstinence rates reaching as high as 60 percent. Best of all, LSD therapy was now viewed as an attractive, cost-effective form of mental health treatment.
  • Word soon spread about this Canadian hospital, which was now boasting recovery rates of up to 90 percent, and in no time at all, the rich and famous started arriving by the droves to receive help in overcoming their battles with the bottle or to receive some form of psychological care.
  • research showed that a properly guided psychedelic session provided peace of mind and a much greater acceptance of death for those with terminal illness.
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Fermented Hot Sauce

If you like spicy foods and have never tried fermented hot sauce, it’s time to make a batch. It simple and produces such amazing flavors. I took a bottle into work and several co-workers asked how to make it. I planned to do it at work, but kept getting distracted with… well work. So, this is to show them, and anyone else interested, how to make it.

Grab 1-3 pounds of peppers. For this batch, I used all the peppers we grew in our garden this year, plus some smoked hatch chiles that were hotter than my co-worker had expected (thank Della). Cut off the stems and cut the larger one into smaller chunks (not really needed, but in my mind, it helps). Then throw them in a mason jar.

After you have a good layer on the bottom, throw in a few cloves of garlic. I lightly crush it, but you don’t have to do much. Keep adding peppers and garlic until you run out of peppers. The exact ratio isn’t too important, but I usually aim for about 10:1 peppers to garlic by weight.

Once all the peppers and garlic are ready, you need to get the total weight. I tare the scale with an identical mason jar then weight the full mason jar. Next you need to add 2% of the total of the peppers and garlic. This is the only critical step where you need to be exact. The wrong amount of salt can encourage the “wrong” microbes to grow which could mess with the flavor or make it unsafe to eat so double check.

Pour the salt into the mason jar with the peppers and garlic, then gently mash the mixture to release juices. Keep mashing until the liquid covers the peppers. If you can’t get enough liquid to cover the peppers, you can add a little water with 3% salt by weight mixed in (3g of salt mixed into 100g water, until it’s dissolved). These peppers had plenty of liquid so I didn’t need to add any brine. I added just over 14g of salt to 721g peppers/garlic.

This mixture needs to ferment for 1-3 weeks. During that time, you want to keep the peppers below the surface. You could fill a zip-lock bag with brine to weigh them down, but there is a much better option. These lids and springs make fermenting much easier.

The spring keeps everything below the surface and the vent on the lid allows CO2 to escape without building up pressure.

After a week, you can check it. It should smell spicy with sour notes, like kimchi. There shouldn’t be any fuzzy growth, but you might see small, matte white areas. As long as it’s not fuzzy, it’s probably kahm yeast which can be removed but doesn’t ruin the hot sauce. Once it’s sour enough (I usually ferment mine for about 10 days), it’s time to blend the peppers and all their liquid. You can strain it or leave it a little chunky. Either way, it’s ready to add to your dish. Enjoy!

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What If? 2

Title: What If? 2: Additional Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

Author: Randall Munroe

Completed: Nov 2022 (Full list of books)

Overview: If you like XKCD you’re going to enjoy this book, but if you like XKCD, you probably already knew that. Randall answers some truly ridiculous questions with the scientific rigor usually reserved for graduate studies. Many of the questions were one he originally answered on the What If website, but it was wonderful to look back at those and fun to see the new questions readers sent in. I’ve used similar questions in class to get students thinking about problems in a different way. It is wonderful to see how they solve problems that aren’t abstractions in a book but also don’t have a specific “right” answer.

Highlights:

  • This “cold sky” effect can cool things down to below the ambient air temperature. If you leave out a tray of water under a clear sky, it can turn to ice overnight even if the air temperature stays well above freezing.
  • What the physicists found, after half a century of research, was that children know exactly what they’re doing. Rhythmically kicking and leaning with their hands on the chains seems to be just about the optimal strategy for powering a swing using the rider’s body.
  • Really big objects can get extremely hot from even a tiny amount of heat production per unit of volume. Even the core of the Sun, where nuclear fusion happens, would be pretty cold if you could somehow isolate a piece of it. A cup of solar core material produces about 60 milliwatts of thermal energy. By volume, that’s about the same heat production rate as the body of a lizard, and less than that of a human. In a sense, you’re hotter than the Sun—there’s just not as much of you.
  • It might seem confusing that someone navigating toward Earth’s north pole would be attracted to the MRI’s south pole, but that’s because the Earth’s pole names are backward. The “north” end of a magnet is the one that points toward the Earth’s north pole, which means the Earth’s north magnetic pole is technically a south magnetic pole, and vice versa. This is deeply annoying to me, but there’s nothing we can do about it, so we might as well move on.
  • When you crush sugar in the dark, it emits flashes of light. This phenomenon is called triboluminescence. The light can be pretty faint, but the old Wint-O-Green flavor of Life Savers candies are famous for producing an especially bright flash, which is thanks to an additive used for flavoring. Most of the light emitted by sugar through triboluminescence is ultraviolet, but certain Life Savers contain methyl salicylate, which is fluorescent. It absorbs the invisible ultraviolet and emits it as blue visible light.
  • If you’re not familiar with it, I recommend doing a quick image search for “glass beaches of Vladivostok” —you won’t regret it!
  • piece of trivia is that the point on the Earth’s surface farthest from its center is the summit of Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador, due to the fact that the planet bulges out at the equator. Even more obscure is the question of which point on the Earth’s surface moves the fastest as the Earth spins, which is the same as asking which point is farthest from the Earth’s axis. The answer isn’t Chimborazo or Everest. The fastest point turns out to be the peak of Mount Cayambe,‡ a volcano north of Chimborazo.
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Beginners

Title: Beginners: The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning

Author: Tom Vanderbilt

Completed: Oct 2022 (Full list of books)

Overview: Learning helps the brain stay young and despite the difficulties, is something the brain yearns to do. That’s the simplified version of the book. The author then goes through and tell about his experiences learning new skills in his 40s-50s. There are certainly skills that I’ve dabbled in that I keep thinking I should actually dedicate some time to learning and this book has encouraged me to go back and try them again. We’ll see if any of them are stickier this time.

Highlights:

  • At chess tournaments, I saw a dynamic that was all too familiar from the world of children’s activities: kids doing the activity, adults like me staring into their smartphones.
  • A man…progresses in all things by making a fool of himself. —GEORGE BERNARD SHAW
  • I am brimming with declarative knowledge, or what is called “knowing that.” I have a lot of “knowing that”; hell, I was on Jeopardy! (I lost, to someone who knew more of “that.”) But what about procedural knowledge, or “knowing how”? I was a quick study when it came to facts, but what had I actually learned to do lately?
  • In one fascinating experiment, researchers demonstrated, to different infant subjects, the act of retrieving a toy from a container. One adult model struggled with the process, while another adult did it quickly. The infants who saw the adult struggle tried harder when it was their turn to try to retrieve the toy. The ones who saw the adult do it more easily didn’t want to try as much.
  • one example, Claude Shannon, the brilliant MIT polymath who helped invent the digital world in which we live today, plunged into all kinds of pursuits, from juggling to poetry to designing the first wearable computer. “Time and time again,” notes his biographer, “he pursued projects that might have caused others embarrassment, engaged questions that seemed trivial or minor, then managed to wring breakthroughs out of them.”
  • Learning new skills also changes the way you think, or the way you see the world. Learning to sing changes the way you listen to music, while learning to draw is a striking tutorial on the human visual system. Learning to weld is a crash course in physics and metallurgy. You learn to surf and suddenly you find yourself interested in tide tables and storm systems and the hydrodynamics of waves. Your world got bigger because you did.
  • The subjects who took the classes had larger improvements in a variety of cognitive areas, ranging from episodic memory to processing speed. It’s not that learning by yourself is bad, or that simply socializing is mind-numbing, but learning with people just seems to hit some sweet spot in the human brain. It helped, Park said, that in the activities chosen, “everyone could proceed at their own rate, and it wasn’t obvious if you were doing it badly.” Learners were motivated by the presence of other learners and challenged by the instructors.
  • The long-standing hypothesis was that infants were always walking to something: a friendly caregiver, an alluring toy. And sometimes they are. But as research at the Action Lab has shown, the majority of walking instances don’t really seem pointed toward an obvious destination. Infants walk in place, stop in the middle of nowhere, and often seem to stumble into interesting objects or destinations by happenstance. Eye-tracking software reveals that they’re rarely looking toward some goal as they begin to walk.
  • Infants live what might be called the beginner’s creed: If you don’t learn to fail, you’ll fail to learn.
  • When we practice a variety of skills, rather than long, monotonous drills in the same skill, we often do worse during the practice session but better in the long run. Because we have to work harder to remember the different exercises, and the ways we solved them, we perform them better.
  • you may be wondering about your own singing ability. I would urge you to take the online test that Steven Demorest helped create.6 It’s based on pitch accuracy, the easiest-to-measure, most fundamental variable in singing quality. No matter your score, remember one thing: It can be improved.
  • The widespread use of the phrase “tone deafness” obscures the real problem, as Sean Hutchins, director of research at Canada’s Royal Conservatory, told me. We’re incredibly sensitive listeners when it comes to pitch. The problem is not perceiving correct notes,*7 Hutchins says, but producing them.
  • According to a theory from the sports psychologist Gabriele Wulf, we do worse at an activity when we focus on ourselves, instead of some “external” target. This idea shows up in almost every sport there is. Darts players do better if they focus on the board and not their own arms; golfers do better if they focus on the hole and not their elbows. Even musicians, it’s been shown, seem to do better if they focus on overall sound rather than on their fingers strumming the instrument. Wulf, who says the findings have been replicated across 180 studies, thinks a focus on the self can prompt “micro-choking,” getting in the way of automatic movement—which is what we’re talking about when we’re talking about skilled behavior.
  • “Don’t beat yourself up in the sessions that went badly, and don’t pat yourself on the back too hard when you have a really good one.” It seemed like a good mantra. You just did the best you could. It might work out, it might not, but the rest was out of your hands.
  • The legendary pro surfer Phil Edwards once said, “The best surfer is the one who’s having the most fun.”
  • “Almost everyone can ride a bicycle,” observed the physicist David Jones, “but almost no one knows how they do it.” Ask the average rider how to turn a bicycle, and they’ll probably answer, “Turn the handlebars in the direction you want to go.” But this isn’t technically true. As bike geeks from Wilbur Wright onward have noted, to go left, you first have to steer to the right.
  • The more things you have to pay attention to, the faster time seems to move. But as you get better, you learn what to pay attention to. You have a better sense of what to expect.
  • we shouldn’t try to endlessly perfect that one technique that seems to work, under the same set of conditions. That’s too rigid; if one little variable changes, the technique might not work so well. Instead, we should try to solve the problem every time, which means we might even use a different technique. He called it “repetition without repetition.”
  • Our brain has a host of regions, termed the “action-observation network,” that’s sparked when we watch others do something in our “motor repertoire” (watching a dog bark, for instance, not typically being a human trait, doesn’t activate the region). We’re simulating doing the task ourselves, warming up the same neurons that will be used when we actually give it a go. The action observation network isn’t a substitute for action—only doing something will fully engage one’s motor cortex—but rather a dress rehearsal.
  • The more we want to learn, the more we prime the brain. The more curious you are to know the answer to a question, the better chance you’ll remember it. People who believe they will need to teach something that they learn seem to learn motor skills better than those simply learning them. Curiously, we seem to learn better when we watch the error-filled efforts of novices. When we watch the flawless performance of experts, after all, we’re watching someone who isn’t learning. Seeing learning happening actually helps us learn.
  • While we tend to think of feedback as a diagnostic tool for fixing mistakes, a growing body of research shows that people not only prefer to be given feedback on their successful attempts at a skill; they seem to learn better this way.
  • a whole body of research has shown that sleep, or even just a short rest, is one of our best learning tools. The resting brain “consolidates” the memories of what you were just trying to do; a big part of any skill, after all, is remembering how to do it.
  • The more learning older adults take on, the faster they seem to learn—the more they become like younger adults. Learning to learn, it seems, is a lifetime sport.
  • The artist Frederick Franck quotes the ninth-century Zen master Daie: “Meditation in a state of activity is a thousand times more profound than in a state of quietude.” Nowadays we call it flow.
  • They were soon dropped into water for a bout of swimming. Analyzing the subsequent changes to the mice’s brains (specifically proteins in the hippocampus), the researchers concluded that it looked as if the mice had swum their depression away.
  • the philosopher Seneca, writing about “feeble old men” terrified by mortality when an illness appears. “They exclaim that they were fools because they have not really lived, and that if only they can recover from this illness they will live in leisure.”
  • There’s an argument, made by Kelly Lambert, who runs a neuroscience lab at the University of Richmond, that doing physical labor with your hands is a powerful, mood-enhancing way of activating what she terms “effort-driven rewards.” We’re “programmed,” Lambert suggests, to “derive a deep sense of satisfaction and pleasure when our physical effort produces something tangible.”
  • I wanted effort. I wanted struggle. I wanted to be able to feel the little advances, the setbacks. This was a journey by foot, not airplane. To be a traveler, the writer Daniel Boorstin once observed, you need some travail—that’s French for “painful or laborious effort.” Otherwise you’re just a tourist; someone else has done the legwork for you. You’re watching the how-to video without getting your own hands dirty.
  • “In science,” he wrote, “if you know what you are doing you should not be doing it.” Meaning: Science was about probing beyond the edge of what we know. It was about experimentation and failure. There was no need to dabble in proven hypotheses. In engineering, however, wrote Hamming, “if you do not know what you are doing you should not be doing it.” Engineers are tasked with making sure things do not fail, with ensuring certain quantifiable levels of performance. No one wants to drive across an experimental bridge.
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Open Borders

Title: Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration

Author: Bryan Caplan & Zach Weinersmith

Completed: Sept 2022 (Full list of books)

Overview: Borders and immigration are topics that get a lot of attention within political discussions but most of the attention is based on reactions and feelings. This book looked at the impacts immigration has on a country; what happens when you let in anyone who wants to live and work in your country. There is clearly plenty of fear about this in the US (and many countries around the world) currently. This book shows the benefits of free immigration and open borders. They look into many of the arguments against letting people into the country and provide data to show that from an economic perspective, more immigrants benefit the receiving country.

This was a very quick read and if you’re interested in getting beyond the political talking points, this book is a good start.

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Two Wheels Good

Title: Two Wheels Good: The History and Mystery of The Bicycle

Author: Jody Rosen

Completed: Sept 2022 (Full list of books)

Overview: If there is nothing in this book that makes you want to go out for a bike ride, nothing will. It has a many stories about bikes and biking I’d heard before but so many that I hadn’t. Who knew that bikes were so popular during the Klondike Gold Rush? Some of the later chapters rambled on a little but overall, this was such an enjoyable look at (arguably) the best form of land transportation ever.

Highlights:

  • During the last years of the century there were countless efforts to merge the bicycle and the airship. Newspapers and scientific quarterlies announced the inventions of “the Aerial-Cycle,” “the Luftvelociped,” “the Pegasipede.” There were designs for bikes with whirling rotors, with whipping fan blades, with kite-shaped sails; there were proposals for dirigibles powered by squadrons of cyclists.
  • “Bicycling…has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world,” said Susan B. Anthony in 1896. “It would not be at all strange,” wrote a Detroit Tribune editorialist that same year, “if history came to the conclusion that the perfection of the bicycle was the greatest incident in the nineteenth century.”
  • There are approximately one billion cars in the world today. There are twice as many bikes. The number of bicycles manufactured this year in China alone will exceed the total worldwide production of automobiles. The cities and towns we inhabit, our economies, our laws are designed for cars; we hop between continents on airplanes. Yet we live on a bicycle planet.
  • “Get a bicycle,” wrote Mark Twain in 1886. “You will not regret it, if you live.”
  • Among the first major cycling organizations were socialist bicycle clubs in 1890s Britain, which hailed the bicycle as an egalitarian “people’s nag.” Through the decades, the bicycle has retained its countercultural potency.
  • Governments have long recognized the bicycle as a means of resistance. One of Adolf Hitler’s first acts upon assuming power, in 1933, was to smash Germany’s cycling union, the Bund Deutscher Radfahrer, which was associated with anti-Nazi political parties and was capable of assembling tens of thousands of cyclists in the streets.
  • Increasingly, public opinion is tilting toward a belief long held by cycling advocates: cars are killing us. Researchers say that motor vehicles are the largest net contributor to climate change. The problem will not be solved by electric or hybrid automobiles, since tire wear and other non-tailpipe pollutants account for a large percentage of vehicle emissions.
  • In earlier stages of wheel development, spokes were threaded from hub to rim radially, but designers figured out that a tangential pattern—in which the spokes stretch out from the hub at angles in an overlapping configuration—made the wheel more resistant to warping. Also, tangential spoking is an eye-catcher.
  • A key figure is Jules-Pierre Suriray, the Parisian bicycle builder who patented the ball bearing, that “atom of the Machine Age,” essential to the operation of not just bikes and cars but everything from fishing reels to air conditioners to computer hard drives to the Hubble telescope and the Mars rover.
  • Charles Sheldon, the American Congregationalist minister whose 1896 novel In His Steps popularized the phrase “What would Jesus do?,” took the position that the bicycle was the ethical choice: “I think Jesus might ride a wheel if He were in our place, in order to save His own strength and the beast of burden.”
  • Whenever a healthful amusement becomes a mania, it ceases to be healthful. The doctors have invented the word bicychloris to designate a condition in which the blood is impoverished and the vitality of the system lowered from excessive wheeling.
  • Philip Carr-Gomm has written that people who protest in the nude “convey a complex message: they challenge the status quo by acting provocatively, and they empower themselves and their cause by showing that they are fearless and have nothing to hide. But at the same time they reveal the vulnerability and frailty of the human being.” The WNBR embraces the direct-action tactics of Critical Mass; its rhetoric links nudity and sexuality to environmentalism, safe streets, and anti-automobilism. “By cycling naked we declare our confidence in the beauty and individuality of our bodies,” reads the WNBR mission statement. “We face automobile traffic with our naked bodies as the best way of defending our dignity and exposing the vulnerability faced by cyclists and pedestrians on our streets as well as the negative consequences we all face due to dependence on oil, and other forms of non-renewable energy.”
  • the only people getting wealthy in the Klondike were the early stakeholders and entrepreneurs who had established businesses catering to the gold rush hordes. One of these was Frederick Trump, Donald Trump’s grandfather, an immigrant who had dodged the draft in Germany, fled to the United States, and made a small fortune opening hotels in the Yukon riverbank towns of Bennett and Whitehorse.
  • Klondike cyclists claimed another advantage over horses and dog teams: speed. If the weather cooperated, bicycle riders could travel faster than anyone, up to one hundred miles per day on flat stretches of trail, about twice the distance covered by prospectors with dog teams.
  • there is a responsibility to create the conditions for happiness.” Dorji said: “When we say ‘happiness,’ we have to be very clear that it’s not fun, pleasure, thrills, excitement, all the temporary fleeting senses. It is permanent contentment. That lies within the self. Because the bigger house, the faster car, the nicer clothes—they don’t give you that contentment. GNH means good governance. GNH means preservation of traditional culture. And it means sustainable socioeconomic development. Remember that GNH is a pun on GDP, gross domestic product. We are making a distinction.”
  • Bhutan’s success in combating the Covid-19 pandemic—only three Covid deaths, through the end of 2021—has been ascribed to geography and topography: the Himalayas are great social distancers. But the efficiency with which the government vaccinated nearly the entire adult population underscores another kind of Bhutanese exceptionalism, the bureaucratic competency and social cohesion that shield a small developing nation from the pathogens, and the pathologies, plaguing the theoretically more sophisticated wider world.
  • Tshering Tobgay, for one, doesn’t see Bhutan’s topography as an impediment. “In fact, our terrain in Bhutan is bicycle-friendly,” Tobgay said. “If it’s all flat, it’s no fun.”
  • For three straight years—1972, 1973, and 1974—bicycles outsold cars in the United States.
  • In 1992, Gallagher estimated that there were seven million passenger trips taken by rickshaw in Dhaka each day, covering a distance of eleven million miles. These totals, Gallagher noted, “nearly double the output of London’s underground railway.” In the decades since, Dhaka’s population has more than tripled, and the statistics have surely spiked accordingly.
  • To teach a novice how to keep a bike stable and moving forward, Karl von Drais’s invention turns out to be far preferable to a bicycle rigged with training wheels. History’s original bike has returned as a starter bike.
  • Eventually, the bicycle would become something close to compulsory: along with a watch and sewing machine and radio, it was one of the proverbial “three rounds and a sound,” the must-have possessions for all Chinese adults who wished to get married and start a family.
  • a woman could be heard screaming at the police, asking why bikes were being taken and how protesters were supposed to travel home. Another piece of viral footage showed three policemen clubbing a cyclist with batons on a Manhattan street. It was unclear whether the man was arrested or what became of his bicycle. In the days that followed, the NYPD’s anti-bicycle actions continued. The Daily News reporter Catherina Gioino tweeted that the police had been ordered to “focus on the bicyclists.”
  • NYPD has a long history of hostility to cyclists, especially cyclists who are also protesters. For years, the police used aggressive, sometimes violent tactics to sweep up participants in Critical Mass rallies. In 2008, an NYPD officer body-slammed a Critical Mass rider; the cop later received a felony conviction for this action and for filing a false criminal complaint in an attempt to frame the cyclist. In 2010, the city agreed to pay a settlement of nearly $1 million to eighty-three Critical Mass riders who had been wrongly detained or arrested between 2004 and 2006.
  • The manual offers examples illustrating the difference between “peaceful” crowds (“Parades or details such as New Year’s Eve”) and “violent” crowds (“Occupy Wall Street, BLM movement, Anti-Trump Demonstrations”), and provides instruction in a number of “aggressive” cycling maneuvers (the “Power Slide,” the “Dynamic Dismount”) that bike officers use to control and subdue.
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Early Seattle Profiles

Title: Early Seattle Profiles

Author: Henry “HB” Broderick

Completed: Aug 2022 (Full list of books)

Overview: This book was quoted in a podcast I listen to called “Dim Lights & Stiff Drinks” about dive bars in Seattle. They were reviewing bars around Pioneer Square and quoted HB’s description of the area: “Perhaps never in all history, certainly not in America, has there ever existed such a massive collection of the demimonde grouped in a restricted area.” With such a colorful look at early Seattle, I had to know more. It took longer to find a copy of this book than it took to read it. It was published in 1959 and has first and second hand accounts of events happening back to the 1880s. Some of the stories I had read before and others were new, but overall it was enjoyable to think back to what my city was like 100+ years ago. Worth reading and while you’re at it, add Dim Lights & Stiff Drinks to your podcast queue. It’s not the most polished and professionally produced podcast but it sure makes me want to get and explore all the old bars of Seattle.

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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Title: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Author: Mark Manson

Completed: July 2022 (Full list of books)

Overview: This book came up in several reading lists I’d seen recently. The first chapter or two had a very different voice than I’m used to with books. His use of seemed to focus on shock value more than actual content. After that, it read much more like a stoic self-help book. It was not a bad book and I’m glad I read it, but not one of my favorites.

Highlights:

  • A confident man doesn’t feel a need to prove that he’s confident. A rich woman doesn’t feel a need to convince anybody that she’s rich. Either you are or you are not. And if you’re dreaming of something all the time, then you’re reinforcing the same unconscious reality over and over: that you are not that.
  • You are constantly bombarded with messages to give a fuck about everything, all the time. Give a fuck about a new TV. Give a fuck about having a better vacation than your coworkers. Give a fuck about buying that new lawn ornament. Give a fuck about having the right kind of selfie stick. Why? My guess: because giving a fuck about more stuff is good for business.
  • Wanting positive experience is a negative experience; accepting negative experience is a positive experience. It’s what the philosopher Alan Watts used to refer to as “the backwards law”—the idea that the more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place. The more you desperately want to be rich, the more poor and unworthy you feel, regardless of how much money you actually make.
  • As the existential philosopher Albert Camus said (and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t on LSD at the time): “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” Or put more simply: Don’t try.
  • I once heard an artist say that when a person has no problems, the mind automatically finds a way to invent some. I think what most people—especially educated, pampered middle-class white people—consider “life problems” are really just side effects of not having anything more important to worry about.
  • this is what’s so dangerous about a society that coddles itself more and more from the inevitable discomforts of life: we lose the benefits of experiencing healthy doses of pain, a loss that disconnects us from the reality of the world around us.
  • Happiness comes from solving problems. The keyword here is “solving.” If you’re avoiding your problems or feel like you don’t have any problems, then you’re going to make yourself miserable. If you feel like you have problems that you can’t solve, you will likewise make yourself miserable. The secret sauce is in the solving of the problems, not in not having problems in the first place.
  • What determines your success isn’t, “What do you want to enjoy?” The relevant question is, “What pain do you want to sustain?” The path to happiness is a path full of shitheaps and shame. You have to choose something. You can’t have a pain-free life.
  • our struggles determine our successes. Our problems birth our happiness, along with slightly better, slightly upgraded problems. See: it’s a never-ending upward spiral. And if you think at any point you’re allowed to stop climbing, I’m afraid you’re missing the point. Because the joy is in the climb itself.
  • If suffering is inevitable, if our problems in life are unavoidable, then the question we should be asking is not “How do I stop suffering?” but “Why am I suffering—for what purpose?”
  • Self-awareness is like an onion. There are multiple layers to it, and the more you peel them back, the more likely you’re going to start crying at inappropriate times.
  • the first layer of the self-awareness onion is a simple understanding of one’s emotions.
  • The second layer of the self-awareness onion is an ability to ask why we feel certain emotions.
  • The third level is our personal values: Why do I consider this to be success/failure? How am I choosing to measure myself? By what standard am I judging myself and everyone around me? This level, which takes constant questioning and effort, is incredibly difficult to reach. But it’s the most important, because our values determine the nature of our problems, and the nature of our problems determines the quality of our lives.
  • We don’t always control what happens to us. But we always control how we interpret what happens to us, as well as how we respond. Whether we consciously recognize it or not, we are always responsible for our experiences. It’s impossible not to be. Choosing to not consciously interpret events in our lives is still an interpretation of the events of our lives. Choosing to not respond to the events in our lives is still a response to the events in our lives. Even if you get run over by a clown car and pissed on by a busload of schoolchildren, it’s still your responsibility to interpret the meaning of the event and choose a response.
  • “With great responsibility comes great power.” The more we choose to accept responsibility in our lives, the more power we will exercise over our lives. Accepting responsibility for our problems is thus the first step to solving them.
  • But there are also problems that we aren’t at fault for, yet we are still responsible for them. For example, if you woke up one day and there was a newborn baby on your doorstep, it would not be your fault that the baby had been put there, but the baby would now be your responsibility. You would have to choose what to do. And whatever you ended up choosing (keeping it, getting rid of it, ignoring it, feeding it to a pit bull), there would be problems associated with your choice—and you would be responsible for those as well.
  • Here’s one way to think about the distinction between the two concepts. Fault is past tense. Responsibility is present tense. Fault results from choices that have already been made. Responsibility results from the choices you’re currently making, every second of every day.
  • Growth is an endlessly iterative process. When we learn something new, we don’t go from “wrong” to “right.” Rather, we go from wrong to slightly less wrong.
  • My recommendation: don’t be special; don’t be unique. Redefine your metrics in mundane and broad ways. Choose to measure yourself not as a rising star or an undiscovered genius. Choose to measure yourself not as some horrible victim or dismal failure. Instead, measure yourself by more mundane identities: a student, a partner, a friend, a creator. The narrower and rarer the identity you choose for yourself, the more everything will seem to threaten you. For that reason, define yourself in the simplest and most ordinary ways possible.
  • Question #3: Would being wrong create a better or a worse problem than my current problem, for both myself and others?
  • If your metric for the value “success by worldly standards” is “Buy a house and a nice car,” and you spend twenty years working your ass off to achieve it, once it’s achieved the metric has nothing left to give you. Then say hello to your midlife crisis, because the problem that drove you your entire adult life was just taken away from you. There are no other opportunities to keep growing and improving, and yet it’s growth that generates happiness, not a long list of arbitrary achievements.
  • When I was in high school, my math teacher Mr. Packwood used to say, “If you’re stuck on a problem, don’t sit there and think about it; just start working on it. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, the simple act of working on it will eventually cause the right ideas to show up in your head.”
  • If we follow the “do something” principle, failure feels unimportant. When the standard of success becomes merely acting—when any result is regarded as progress and important, when inspiration is seen as a reward rather than a prerequisite—we propel ourselves ahead. We feel free to fail, and that failure moves us forward.
  • Without conflict, there can be no trust. Conflict exists to show us who is there for us unconditionally and who is just there for the benefits. No one trusts a yes-man.
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My experience at ToorCamp

The prime dome for presentations

A few months ago, friends mentioned that they were going to ToorCamp and thought it was the sort of event I’d enjoy. As I looked into “The American Hacker Camp: for hackers, makers, breaks & shakers” I started getting very excited about going and mentioned it to someone at work. He and I help teachers cover computer security, networking, and robotics in their classes. This was a perfect connection and he thought work should pay my registration which sounded great to me. My boss had two requests: first, bring back lots of knowledge to share with our students, and second, pass out some promotional pens in the hopes we could encourage someone there to apply for a tech teaching position. I admit, I wasn’t super excited about passing out these pens, they felt a little cheesy to me, but it’s a small price to pay.

Since ToorCamp is held on Orcas island, the primary way to get there is a ferry from Anacortes. But I’ve been doing a lot more kayaking this year so the 11 mile crossing sounded much more interesting. That meant everything I planned to have for the five day event had to fit inside my kayak. After finding out that I could easily get food there, I decided to pack fun stuff rather than food. This included ~15kg of pewter, an electric melt furnace, and everything to make stomp rockets. Clearly these are more important than food anyways.

The first lesson I learned was not to trust the person who told me to launch my kayak from the ferry terminal. This meant carrying my boat, paddle, all my gear, too much pewter, and those silly pens about 3/8 mile across the ferry loading lanes to get to a small bay. Instead, go to the Washington Park Boat Launch less than a mile away. With the difficulty launching, I got on the water late which meant the tides were not what I expected. On the paddle over, I got on the wrong side of an island and struggled to correct that. At one point, I’d been paddling for about ten minutes and didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere. As soon as I stopped to look around and verify I was going the right direction, my GPS announced, “Activity resumed.” I was only moving when I stopped paddling? That wasn’t good. I eventually made it around the southern tip of the island and started paddling with the tide which made everything much easier.

I eventually got to camp and set up my tent in a corner of a field labelled “Misfit Toys village.” It sounded like the perfect spot for me. After registration/check-in, I wandered around to get a feel for the camp which was divided into two main areas. Lower camp was where a lot of the activities and socialization took place. The upper camp was mostly tent and villages with the prime dome for main stage presentations in the upper corner of the upper camp. This meant a lot of back and forth over the next few days, but also gave me an excuse to see what others brought to camp to share.

My Shadybucks card just after I embossed my card number

As the official program and all the unofficial activities that groups brought began the next day, I quickly met a bunch of people who I would continue to connect with throughout camp. I also got my official Shadybucks credit card which I had to emboss myself. This monetary system was just for camp and even had instructions warning you not to hack the system… although it mentioned that such hack would probably be beneficial to you. By the end of camp one of my friends had realized that the “bank” had a rounding error in its program. If he transferred 0.005 Shadybucks to himself, it rounded up to the closest penny. With each transaction, he made half a penny so he quickly wrote a script to transfer two cents a second.

ShadyTel, the extremely local phone company, was also busy running phone lines to any tent that had the correct paperwork filed. I wasn’t sure why I needed a phone line to my tent but I was sure I did. Although it took some time, our village finally got phone service which not only allowed us to place important calls (more on that in a moment) but we could also get dial up internet service set up in the field. Through this we could access the hacker version of capture the flag on a bulletin board service. I didn’t spend enough time trying to hack the BBS, but it was fun to see how far others were able to get.

There were plenty of important places to call at camp. You could call to request a song on the pirate radio station or check on your Beerocracy paperwork or call the phone booth and just see who picks up. But, the most popular number to call was 4-NFT because as everyone knows, NFT stands for Nifty Flying Tacos and this is how you would place an order. Let them know how many tacos you wanted and where you were at camp, within minutes, a quad-copter with a basket underneath was zipping towards you carrying tacos. Just wait for them to hover close enough to grab the tacos and they’d zip back for the next order.

Even though this was my first time going, I knew I couldn’t just arrive and receive content without offering something of mine to the group. It is a maker gathering so I brought stuff to make. On the second day, I pulled out my mini electric melt furnace, several kilos of pewter, and some floral foam. I offered an impromptu pewter casting workshop for anyone who wanted to participate. They came in, grabbed a piece of foam, and pressed or carved their design into it. Some even used the CTE pens to design and carve the foam. Once they were happy with the look of it, we carved a pour hole and two vent holes then let the pewter flow. Different designs had varying degrees of success, but overall, I think they had some fun. We had several heart designs cast; we cloned one Shadybucks credit card; and even cast the world’s first two Shadycoins. The virtual currency was now physical. We didn’t get though as pewter as I’d hoped but about 15-18 people made castings.

The next day, I took my other activity over to the kids camp area. I had met a couple of the kids already and encouraged them to make stomp rockets out of a piece of paper, masking tape, and a paperclip. When they launched them, the rockets went about 15 feet. As they went back to improve their designs, I encouraged other kids to participate. Two hours later, I was exhausted and we’d built over 100 rockets. The best ones were flying about 130′ and most of the kids at ToorCamp had built at least one rocket. We even convinced a few of the parents to build them as well.

So many of the workshops I attended were great. I got to build a Blue Box which was used in the ’70s and ’80s to trick the phone systems into allowing you to make free long distance phone calls. We explored desktop milling machines for creating custom circuit boards. I heard from a team developing autonomous sailboats they plan to use for moving cargo throughout the inside passage and around rural Alaskan islands. We got a crash course in a block-based programming language for machine learning. All of these are topics that have come up in student interest surveys back at work (ok, maybe not the Blue Boxes, but they’re still cool). I also got to practice my lock picking and sample some good whisky. Through it all, I was able to pass out or trade away a lot of the CTE pens I’d brought. They turned out to be pretty popular with the crowd at ToorCamp.

The paddle back to Anacortes was much less eventful and significantly less fear-inducing than the paddle over. On the drive home, I started planning projects I could bring to the next ToorCamp in 2024. Whatever I do, I’ll have to leave room to pack more CTE pens.

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