Wednesday, 1 August 2018

What I've Been Reading, July 2018

This month, I've moved further in the direction of curating this list and added new sections for topics that particularly interest me. In the context of this blog, that is—I'm leaving out woodworking articles, recipes and most politics, so far.

I don't put a great deal of effort into hunting for articles on any particular topic, so the size of each section will vary from month to month. Also, for the most part, the articles are listed in the order I found them.




Peak Oil

Climate Change

Economic Contraction

The Scientific Consensus

Lacking an Owner's Manual

The human body/mind/spirit doesn't come with an owner's manual, and we continually struggle to figure out how best to operate them.

I just started this category this month and the moment I did articles that fit started popping up everywhere I looked, so the list is probably a little unbalanced in this direction this month.

  • How a Young Woman Lost Her Identity, by Rachel Aviv, The New Yorker
    Hannah Upp disappears for weeks at a time, forgetting her sense of self. Can she still be found?
  • "Find Your Passion" Is Awful Advice, by Olga Khazan, Medium—The Atlantic
    A major new study questions the common wisdom about how we should choose our careers.
  • What Do 90-Somethings Regret Most?, by Lydia Sohn, Medium
    I interviewed the oldest people I know. Their responses contradict popular research about aging and happiness.
  • Why you shouldn’t share your goals, by Aytekin Tank, Medium—The Startup
  • Caves all the way down, by Jules Evans, Aeon
    Do psychedelics give access to a universal, mystical experience of reality, or is that just a culture-bound illusion?
    " do we know if our trips reveal ‘ultimate reality’ or just the reflection of our subconscious?"
    It may be that this should have gone in the "scientific consensus" section, since it is written by someone with a preconceived notion who is willing "hold his ideas to critical account" (and good for him):
    "I am a fan of the mystical theory of psychedelics. I have accepted it since I first read Huxley’s Doors of Perception as a mushroom-munching teenager. I have had mystical-type experiences on psychedelics that have been deeply important in my life (as well as some awful experiences). However, like all academics, I need to be able to hold my ideas to critical account, or otherwise stop pretending to be a researcher and leave the academy to start a religion (as Timothy Leary did in 1966 with the League for Spiritual Discovery, which used LSD as its holy sacrament). So, in the spirit of critical enquiry, I want to suggest that there are several problems with the mystical theory of psychedelics."
  • The Wisdom of the Sloth: Is Sleep a Lost Virtue?, by Joel Frohlich , Knowing Neurons
    "We are with sleep where we were with smoking 50 years ago. We had all of the evidence about the … disease issues, but the public had not been aware, no one had adequately communicated the science of, you know, smoking to the public. The same I think is true for sleep right now."
  • How Do I Stop Forgetting What I Learned So Quickly?, by William Cho, Medium—Student Voices
  • 'Boy or girl?' Parents raising 'theybies' let kids decide, by Julie Compton, NBC News
    "One way of shielding children from gender stereotypes: Keep their biological sex secret."
    I suspect there are quite a few socially conservative people around who will have trouble with this and make trouble for children being raised a theybies. Just chill.
  • You Might Not Actually Be Struggling With Depression, by Benjamin Sledge, Medium—Heart Support
    But you may be dealing with depression’s lesser known evil twin.


Refugees and Migration

Puerto Rico

Poverty, Homelessness, Minimum Wage, UBI

  • Where Financial Inequality Is Rampant, by, Niall McCarthy, Statista, The Statistics Portal
  • What It Really Means to Be Marginalized, by Thrity Umriga, Medium
    Growing up amid the beggars and laborers of Mumbai, I wanted to know what it was like to live their lives.
  • The United States Has a National-Security Problem—and It’s Not What You Think, by Rajan Menon, TheNation
    Conflict abroad is not the biggest threat to most Americans’ lives.
    It’s time to rethink the American national security state with its annual trillion-dollar budget. For tens of millions of Americans, the source of deep workaday insecurity isn’t the standard roster of foreign enemies, but an ever-more entrenched system of inequality, still growing, that stacks the political deck against the least well-off Americans. They lack the bucks to hire big-time lobbyists. They can’t write lavish checks to candidates running for public office or fund PACs. They have no way of manipulating the myriad influence-generating networks that the elite uses to shape taxation and spending policies. They are up against a system in which money truly does talk—and that’s the voice they don’t have. Welcome to the United States of Inequality.
  • You can’t just put homeless people in tiny houses, by Miles Howard, The Outline
    Rather than confront America’s housing crisis head-on, some cities are asking homeowners to build tiny rental units in their backyard.

Autonomous Vehicles and Artificial Intelligence



I was reading both the John Barnes books for a second or third time, but they deserve it.


I'm still wading slowly through The Bell Curve, in order to be able to criticize it with some degree of credibility. Less than 200 pages to go at this point. This has also lead to reading some scholarly articles about IQ on the web, further slowing down my other reading. I did manage to read a couple of non-fiction books this month, though.

  • The Informed Gardener, by Linda Chalker-Scott
    Disappointingly, this is mainly about landscape gardening. But it does do some pretty significant debunking.
  • Democracy in Chains, by Nancy MacLean
    My eldest son Michael lent me this book. It answers a question he and I have often pondered, "Why do people vote against their own interests?" The answer is clearly that a great deal of money has been spent to convince us that our best interests lie with the very rich and their right to accumulate more wealth, regardless of the effect on us.
  • The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, by Kristin Miller,
    A Q&A with author Nancy MacLean about the elusive James McGill Buchanan. MacLean's book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, tells the story of one James McGill Buchanan, a Southern political scientist and father of “public choice economics".
    If you don't read the book, at least read this interview.