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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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.


  • 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.


  • 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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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.


  • 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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