Reading

Here’s a list of books that I’ve been reading. I’ll try to keep this updated as I go, send me an email if you think of one I might enjoy based on what you see below!

Queued: on my Amazon wishlist.


July 2019

  • Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd NOTES: …
  • Search and Rescue: A Wilderness Doctor’s Life-and-Death Tales of Risk and Reward NOTES: in an alternative life, I’m an ER doctor volunteering with the Crag Rats like this guy. Worth noting that having a super demanding ER job and volunteering with an organization that regularly calls you out at all hours probably makes it really hard to be a supportive and present spouse. Quotes:
    • Page 68: “For summer trail rescues, I carry a lightweight pack. Everyone has a slightly different version of their ready pack. I carry a long-sleeve polyester shirt, medium-weight jacket, work gloves, medical gloves, radio, two headlamps, extra batteries, Mount Hood and Columbia Gorge maps, a roll of tape, GPS, and a small survival kit. I carry personal rope-rescue gear, which includes a helmet, goggle, 20 meters x 7 mm rope, three locking carabiners, three prussik cords, a belay device, a 10-meter length of webbing, and a personal harness. I also have a bottle of water and a few energy bars stocked in my pack.”
    • Page 117: “Luckily a pathway for success and safety can help us mitigate risk in mountain rescues, and this pathway works for almost any stressful situation. The pathway is: 1) recognize the situation, 2) take a time out, 3) prioritize, 4) use a checklist, 5) divide up the tasks.”
    • Page 119: “In fact, I use time-outs in every facet of my life. When I grew up we had a family dinner every Sunday night that my dad called ‘A meeting of the family corporation,’ to recap the week and plan the next. I still carry on this tradition by having a Sunday night dinner with my daughters and keeping a notebook of ‘minutes’ each week. Mostly we talk about difficult situations at school, the next week’s schedule, and upcoming travel adventures, which is my favorite part.”
    • Page 120: Really liked the Coast Guard / GAR model for risk: “… When faced with a difficult mission, every member of a response team assigned to a mission rates risk in six categories on a scale of 0 to 10: 0 being no risk, and 10 being extreme risk. The rating is done in confidence, because the supervisor is often responsible for the first three categories and subordinates can often be reluctant to criticize their superior. The subjects are: 1) supervision: is the supervisor well qualified, focused, engaged and impartial? 2) planning: are the preparation and plan adequate? 3) team selection: are members skilled for the job? 4) team fitness: are members physically and mentally ready? 5) environment: are the weather, terrain, and sea conditions safe or manageable? 6) event / evolution complexity: is the allotted time and complexity of the task reasonable? Once each member has rated the six categories, he or she adds up the numbers, the sum of which will range from 0 to 60, and plats the score based on 3 colors. A score of less than 24 is green, low risk. A score of 24 to 44 is amber, moderate risk. A score of 44 or more is red or high risk.
    • Page 169: “… Mount Defiance. At an elevation of 5,010 feet, it’s the tallest peak in the gorge. Because the peak is only a few miles as the crow flies from the Columbia River, elevation 150 feet, the twin trails – Mount Defiance, 5 miles to the summit, and Starvation Creek, 7 miles – are among the steepest you’ll find anywhere. Many mountaineers use them as training hikes to get in shape for climbing.”

June 2019

  • Gamer Nation: The Rise of Modern Gaming and the Compulsion to Play Again NOTES: great counter-balance book to Steven Johnson’s book about technology / games. Quotes:
    • “Any rational parent knows that saying yes to all of your child’s demands produces terrible results in the long term. You need to cause your child short-term suffering every day, in many facets of their lives. You drive them to school despite their teas, deny them a much-craved third episode of a television show, and fail to fully appreciate the importance of a concert or event, nixing attending due to the cost or energy (and time) required to satisfy it…”
    • Page 70, on time that’s spent in front of a monitor: “In 2016, American who play games report playing them an average of 2.41 hours a day (men) and 1.85 hours a day (women)…Television watching comes in at 3.45 hours and ‘computer use for leisure, excluding games’, totals 1.51 hours… The categories affected most by the increase in gaming are socializing, reading, and arts and entertainment.”
    • Page 84-85: “Games in general, and video games in particular, are a massive economic force in the modern American economy, but they have an even greater impact on our increasingly narrow slivers of free time. Games are not like an expensive car, that, when bought, represents the end of a major time investment (choosing the model, etc..). Games represent an active and ongoing use of our time, and because of this, it’s not sensible to ask if games are ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ or if they impact children and adults in ways that are aggressively negative or positive, because playing a game, or watching a gaming YouTube video, or reading a message about about cheat codes and technical game strategies, remove the time spent on activity from our use forever. The question isn’t a black or white ‘Are we playing too many games?’ The question should be, ‘Because we are playing so many games, what are we not doing in the meantime, and is this a long term benefit or harm?’
    • Page 98: “Third years ago, before the advent of the internet, Stolle would have been playing poker with his friends or trying to find a date or tinkering hi his garage with a lathe or motorcycle or reading a book or listening to the radio. It’s not that video games are themselves, generally noneducational; it’s that highly immersive, reductive time sinks such as video games limit growth by closing off other avenues of deeper enlightenment.”
    • Page 180: “On a more down-to-earth level, surveys indicate that the vast majority of humans are happiest when they have ea full and diverse life, not one obsessively focused on games. Again, there are edge cases – people who are willing and happy to spend 10 hours a day playing Call of Duty and don’t care about anything else they are missing out on, or professional poker players who eat, sleep, and think about nothing but poker. These are the extremes. For the rest of us, too much game playing isn’t healthy.”
    • Page 193: “McGonigal is yet another in a seemingly endless series of B-list celebrities or authors who achieved fame by sturdy application of the ‘but actually’ trope. You know the one: hey do you think exercise makes you live longer? I bet you do… but it actually doesn’t (at this point in the article or speech one rat study is city, all contradictory evidence is ignored, and the speaker breezily continues with the apparently contrarian point that everyone is happy to embrace). She’s doing that same sort of thing but pushes it to absurdly grand extremes. You think playing games is bad? I bet you do… but it actually isn’t, in fact more people should play games since games will change the world.” This after a paragraph or two about how gamification is going to change the world.
    • Page 208, story about John Jacobsen: What John represents is the positive, beneficial, and even ennobling power of video games, which are able to expand the mind’s attention toward the real world, rather than limit it through an obsessive inward and virtual focus. John’s love of games has expanded his community of friends and contracts throughput the country and extended his understanding in fields as eclectic as music, electronic board repair, and graphic design — in short enriched his life in ways powerfully fulfilling. The key to John’s positive relationship to games is that he is, in a word, active. Games are not ma method of passively passing the time or escaping into distraction; games are a gateway to active involvement with other people, other hobbies and interests. If all gamers the world over were as active as John, I would be writing a very different book.”
    • Page 228: The short-term pleasures of gaming are difficult to compare to the negative long-term effects of dropping out of the job market, not pushing for a better job, or failing to search for work as hard as one might. Gaming is an immediately enjoyable but empty pleasure; figuring out how to get a better job is difficult but might have significant and meaingful long term value. I find it hard to imagine that any mature man will look back on a five year slice of his twenties during which he was living with his parents and spending the majority of his time playing video games and consider it a positive experience. Yes, it might have been fun at the time but it also represnts a complete dereliction of responsibility. It’s putting off the inevitable. You can’t live with your parents your whole life. You can’t get a less depressing and higher paying job by not engaging with the real world. You can’t meet real friends, go on trips, or find the love of your life by sitting at home playing video games. Doing so winnows away the possibilities for a dynamic life, stripping them down to the most basic level: the game.”
    • Page 238: “… The ultimate goal of the attention economy is to capture your attention and keep it for as long as possible, and if this involves addiction in some form (minor or major)… that’s a feature, not a bug. It’s cowardly to let companies who embrace this as their business model off the hook for their attempt to capture and retain your attention, pulling you away from your family, the external world, and harming your wellbeing. Taking offense is the correct response; anger’s even better if you can manage it. It’s a game that’s being played in your brain for control of your brain, and very few people are aware of the psychological warfare that occurs every time they turn on a smart phone.”

May 2019

  • Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World NOTES: great book with concrete steps to accomplish the goals he laid out. I deleted Instagram from the phone, blocked the websites that I kept refreshing, turned off calls and notifications (except for favorite contacts) and even after a couple days I feel better about my relationship with my phone. I’m working on putting a seasonal and weekly leisure plan in place. Quotes:
    • “… Long before Henry David Thoreau exclaimed ‘simplicity, simplicity, simplicity’, Marcus Aurelius asked ‘You see how few things you have to do to live a satisfying and reverent life?’… Because digital minimalists spend so much less time connected than their peers, it’s easy to think of their lifestyle as extreme, but the minimalists would argue that this perception is backward: what’s extreme is how much time everyone else spends staring at their screens.”
    • “When Bill Maher joked that the App Store was coming for our souls, he was actually onto something. As Socrates explained to Phaedrus in Plato’s famous chariot metaphor, our soul can be understood as a chariot driver struggling to rein two horses, one representing our better nature and the other our baser impulses. When we increasingly cede autonomy to the digital, we energize the latter horse and make the chariot driver’s struggle to steer increasingly difficult — a diminishing of our soul’s authority.”
    • “Digital minimalism: A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.”
    • The principles of digital minimalism: 1) Clutter is costly: digital minimalists recognize that cluttering their time and attention with too many devices, apps and services creates an overall negative cost that can swamp the small benefits that each individual item provides in isolation. 2) Optimization is important: digital minimalists believe that deciding a particular technology supports something they value is only the first step. To truly extract its full potential benefit, it’s necessary to think carefully about how they’ll use the technology. 3) Intentionality is satisfying: digital minimalists derive significant satisfaction from their general commitment to being more intentional about how they engage with new technologies. This source of satisfaction is independent of the specific decisions they make and is one of the biggest reasons that minimalism tends to be immensely meaningful to its practitioners.”
    • “You can enjoy solitude in a crowded coffee shop, on a subway car, or, as President Lincoln discovered at his cottage, while sharing your lawn with two companies of Union soldiers, so long as your mind is left to grapple only with its own thoughts. On the other hand, solitude can be banished in even the quietest setting if you allow input from other minds to intrude… Solitude requires you to move past reacting to information created by other people and focus instead on your own thoughts and experiences — wherever you happen to be.”
    • “… Writing a letter to yourself is an excellent mechanism for generating … solitude. It not only frees you from outside inputs but also provides a conceptual scaffolding on which to sort and organize your thinking… Dwight Eisenhower leveraged a ‘practice of thinking by writing’ throughout his career to make sense of complicated decisions and tame intense emotions. He was not the only leader to deploy this habit… Abraham Lincoln had a habit of recording thoughts on scraps of paper that he would stick in his hat for safekeeping.”
    • On coffee shop hours, walking hours, office hours: “I’ve also seen people deploy daily walks for this purpose. Steve Jobs was famous for his long strolls around the tree-lined Silicon Valley neighborhood where he lived. If you were in his inner circle, you could expect invitations to join him for what was sure to be an intense conversation. Ironically for the inventor of the iPhone, Jobs was not the type of person who would be interested in maintaining important relationships through ongoing drips of digital pings.”
    • On reclaiming leisure: 1) prioritize demanding activity over passive consumption. 2) Use skills to produce valuable things in the physical world. 3) Seek activities that require real-world, structured social interactions.
    • On leisure plans: “A good seasonal plan contains two different types of items: objectives and habits that you intend to honor in the upcoming season. The objectives describe specific goals you hop to accomplish, with accompanying strategies for how you will accomplish them. The habits describe behavior rules you hope to stick with throughout the season.”
    • On slow news consumption: “… if you’re interested in commentary on political and cultural issues, this experience is almost always enhanced by also seeking out he best arguments against your preferred position.”
  • Lost Person Behavior: A search and rescue guide on where to look – for land, air and water NOTES: …
  • Meditations: A New Translation NOTES: …
  • The Art of Fielding: A Novel NOTES: read it while camping by myself on the Deschutes river. Good escape if you like baseball…. quote: “That was what made the story epic: the player, the hero, had to suffer mightily en route to his final triumph. Swchartz knew that people loved to suffer, as long as the suffering made sense. Everybody suffered. The key was to choose the form of your suffering. Most people couldn’t do this alone; they needed a coach. A good coach made you suffer in a way that suited you. A bad coach made everyone suffer in the same way, and so was more like a torturer.”
  • Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World NOTES: …

April 2019

  • Ueli Steck: My Life in Climbing (Legends and Lore) NOTES: he lived an absurdly adventured filled life in a short time. Quote: “… This is what most people don’t understand about Ueli. The way to achieve one’s dreams is by working constantly to bring them about. His ability to focus on and examine the relationship between alpinism and daily life is not only honorable, it is something to emulate.”

January 2019

  • In Defense of Troublemakers: The Power of Dissent in Life and Business NOTES: Probably was / could have been a long essay.
    • “… dissent stimulates thought that is more divergent and less biased. Dissent motivates us to seek more information and to consider alternatives than we would otherwise, spurring us to contemplate the cons as well as the pros of various positions.”
    • “We do know something about the process of good decision-making. On balance, a good process leads to a good decision. Good decision-making, at its heart, is divergent thinking. When we think divergently, we think in multiple directions, seek information and consider facts on all sides of the issue, and thinking about the cons as well as the pros. Bad decision-making is the reverse. Thinking conversantly, we focus more narrowly, usually in one direction. We seek information and consider facts that support an initial preference. We tend not to consider the cons of the position, no do we look at alternative ways of interpreting the facts.”
    • “… Another form of liberation is to be less afraid to think differently from others. Whether or not you decide to express it, you don’t want to lose the ability to ‘know what you know’. Nor do you want to fall prey to the self brainwashing that often accompanies consensus and a need to belong. Cults know the power of self-brainwashing all too well. So do abusive individuals. There is liberation in recognizing the source of their power as well as your own.”
    • On dissent: “… Once you express a position different from the majority’s, the queries start. The bodies turn to face you. You are asked numerous questions on why you take such a position. Your questioners imply that you are wrong simply because your position is in the minority. You are under attack. Bear in mind, however, that there is a positive side to this. During this grilling, you have the floor, at least until they cut you off. This provides an opportunity to argue your position since you are the focus of attention and communication.”
    • On compromise: “… It was the late compromise condition that it both ways — both public and private attitude change. When a dissenter compromised at the last minute, he did two things. He appeared consistent and, at the same time, flexible enough to achieve an agreement. He did not change his position. He simply offered a concession. As a result, he achieved both outcomes.”
    • On consensus: “There is a reason why organizations like Jim Jone’s Peoples Temple create and maintain consensus. There is a reason why cultlike organizations cultivate consensus and reject dissent ‘like a virus’, as described in popular books such as Built to Last… majority opinion has a forceful impact on gaining agreement, especially when there is consensus.”
    • On polarization: which is “… one of the most powerful and widely research phenomena in social psychology. Here is the basic finding: when people share a leaning in a certain direction and they discuss their views, they become more extreme in that direction. There direction, or ‘pole’, could be a ‘guilty’ or a ‘not guilty’ verdict, it could be advocacy for or against making a merger; it could be liking or disliking Americans. It could be an inclination to invade the Bay of Pigs.”
    • On decision making: “… instead of debating only the one plan, they followed a new decision-making approach that called for exploring options. For instance, someone suggested an alternative to invasion — a naval blockade to force the Soviets to remote the missiles. Other changes in the decision-making process process reportedly included JFK’s instructions to his brother Bobby to lead a thorough deliberation of the two alternatives. The discussions were frank, and no one chaired the meeting. The advisers separated into two groups, and each wrote a position paper favoring one of the alternatives. Then they swapped papers. They dissented; they criticized the alternatives. Only then were the position papers presented to the president… Kennedy asked each member to be a skeptical generalist. He had learned not to be a directed leader.”
    • “The underlying message of this book is twofold. Consensus, while comforting and harmonious as well as efficient, often leads us to make bad decisions. Dissent, while often annoying, is precisely the challenge that we need to reassess our own views and make better choices. It helps us consider alternatives and generate creative solutions. Dissent is a liberator.”

Previous Years

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