Searching for contentment
In the fragrance of freshly worked wood
The soft glow cast by shoji lamps
My heart is with
the people of Ukraine
Jermaine Fowler, The Humanity Archive: Recovering the Soul of Black History from a Whitewashed American Myth
This is an extraordinary book about Black history, and Fowler's narration lives up to that high bar. Perhaps because he is not a tenured intellectual, his writing vibrates with a passion I've never before encountered in a history book.
The prologue does a superb job of introducing the story to follow. I can think of no better way to sum it up this book than to share a few excerpts from the prologue (better yet, take a few minutes to read for yourself the entire prologue⩘ , which is available in the free sample of the eBook).
In this book, I've recovered a few of the millions of stories from Black history to frame the contours of our humanity. But first, let me tell you my own story. Conventionally speaking, I'm no one's historian. I've defended no dissertations, have no PhD to proudly display, no real academic bona fides. I poked around the university for a while as a nomad drifting from architecture courses to mechanical engineering courses, then to marketing courses before jumping ship with an undergraduate degree. The only thing better than hindsight is foresight, much better to anticipate future problems than agonize over how you could've avoided them. Back then I had neither. I can now say with certainty my passions lie in scholarship and teaching. However, staring down the double barrel of student loans and monthly rent, a PhD in history looked very much like financial suicide. Then, the Great Recession of 2007 gutted anything left of my higher education dreams, yet my love of learning remained undiminshed.
Curiosity is, and has been, my highest credential. I'm an intellectual adventurer, always trying to experience the high of discovering a dose of wisdom, a measure of history, a capsule of humanity. The library is my alma mater. Books are my professors.…
Compared with a typical American-authored history book, which tends to sway toward uncritical celebration or museum of atrocity, this book is a little different. We will not shy from our ever-present power struggles, the spectrum of inequality, nor the deeply flawed history from which they stem, but my aim is to underscore our inextricably linked humanness.…
Row House Publishing, 2023; Bookshop.org⩘ audiobook: OrangeSky Audio, 2023; Libro.fm⩘
More of this reflection >
More recent reading >
Fear is not freedom! Fear is not liberty! Fear is control!
Inspiring! Grace Linn, a 100-year-old woman and Martin County resident who lost her husband in the fight against the Nazis in World War II, passionately spoke out against Florida's books ban during a school board meeting. She nails it:
Banning books and burning books are the same. Both are done for the same reason: fear of knowledge. Fear is not freedom! Fear is not liberty! Fear is control!
My husband, Robert Nichol, was killed in action in World War II at a very young age—he was only 26— defending our democracy, constitution, and freedoms. One of the freedoms that the Nazis crushed was the freedom to read the books they banned. They stopped the free press, banned and burned books. The freedom to read, which is protected by the first amendment, is our essential right and duty of our democracy. Even so, it is continually under attack by both the public and private groups who think they hold the truth.
100-year-old woman stands up against Florida's book ban during school board meeting⩘ , The 11th Hour, MSNBC, Mar 22, 2023.
More recent contemplations >
Living in the Rockies
I've walked along a nearby lane between some cliffs and a creek hundreds of times, yet still often notice things in a fresh way. This morning, I really noticed the cliffs. At some time in the far distant past, this area was a mile beneath the surface of a sea. At some other time, it was covered in glaciers, and as they melted away, their roaring waters carved out this valley and wore away multiple levels of these near vertical redstone cliffs.
It sometimes blows my mind how these cracked and fractured faces with many huge overhangs even stay in place. It actually looks like a good bit of it would come tumbling down if you gave it a good kick at the base … which makes my fingers tingle whenever I think about it.
And here's a view of one of the cliff faces across the valley.
Larger version of these photos >
More recent photos >
A note about the image at the top of this page
The Windtraveler—a shoji lamp I created in the shape of a deltoidal hexecontahedron—is made of 60 deltoid-shaped faces (like kites) framed in maple. Each five deltoids meeting at the more pointed bottom tips form a pentagon, creating a total of 12 pentagons, which is a dodecahedron. Each three deltoids meeting at the broader top tips form a triangle, creating a total of 20 triangles, which is an icosahedron. Within each deltoid frame are thinner 1/4 inch inner frames made of mahogany, with additional strips that run from the top tip to the bottom tip of each deltoid forming 120 right angle triangles, which reveal a hexakis icosahedron. The inner mahogany frames are backed by washi, a traditional Japanese paper, which creates a gentle shade for the light cast by the light bulbs within to pass through.
More about this project >
More woodworking >
Pandemic perspective: Please help keep us all safer
"I've tried to take to heart the lesson I keep writing about—that the pandemic is a collective problem that cannot be solved if people (or governments) act in their own self-interest. I've tried to consider how my actions cascade to affect those with less privilege, immune or otherwise. Instead of asking 'What's my risk?,' I've tried to ask 'What's my contribution to everyone's risk?'" – Ed Yong, The Atlantic⩘
A very good source of ongoing analysis (hint: no matter what some are saying, it's not over yet): Your Local Epidemiologist⩘ , written by Katelyn Jetelina, recipient of the 2022 National Academies Award for Excellence in Scientific Communication⩘
Weekly summary >
Love nature. As a kid, I just wanted to be out playing in the woods that surrounded our small town home. When younger, I lived a few places around the world and visited several others … then found a place in the foothills of the Rockies and my heart was home. When I'm out walking, I snap photos and post the better ones on this site to preserve the opportunity to revisit some of these exquisite experiences. Photos >
Love reading. As a kid, I carried armloads of books home each week from the library. Now tend to carry around a virtual stack of audiobooks. I deeply appreciate authors, narrators, and translators. Since 1999, I've been posting reviews on this site, in the more recent years focused on just those books I appreciate the most. I listen to or read a lot of genres, fiction and nonfiction, and particularly appreciate well done speculative fiction. Reading >
Love woodworking. A passionate amateur, I revere wood. My main focus has been shoji lamps in the shape of polyhedra. I love the light that glows through washi and deeply appreciate the folks who make these papers. I'm entranced by the dance of polyhedra patterns, and keep notes on my website about the experience of making some of the lamps. I've also made a fair bit of our furniture, and have even done some woodworking to fix up our old home. Woodworking >
Love our beautiful, fragile planet. I'm deeply concerned about climate and all the life we are carelessly and rapidly destroying.
Photo credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring
Awed by space and astronomy. Photos of a spiral galaxies melt my heart and also inspire me to wonder whether I'm originally from another planet in another galaxy. See also: Our home in this wondrous universe⩘
Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Value privacy. I think online privacy should be the default state. Because it's not, I try to protect at least some of my privacy online, especially against greedy corporations. I deeply appreciate the work that folks like Cory Doctorow and organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)⩘ are doing on our behalf.
Tech companies that have earned my contempt because of their data practices: Amazon⩘ , Facebook⩘ , Google⩘ , Twitter⩘ .
See also: Privacy Is Power: Why and How You Should Take Back Control of Your Data by Carissa Véliz⩘ , Melville House, 2021; audiobook: Tantor Audio, 2021.
Some helpful online privacy tools:
Also: DuckDuckGo App Tracking Protection⩘
Keystones: Respect, compassion, empathy, acceptance. We're all in this together.