The Updates #7

Estimated Reading Time: 10 minutes

The updates continue...  


I'm still in pursuit of participants but currently have about 10 interviews scheduled and at least 2 in finalizing interview dates.  I need to get to 20 and would like to get to 24, so if you're reading this and can share about my study, please share away!  Information can be found here and if you reach out to me, I can even give you tweets, posts, and emails that have all the relevant requests of people.  By next week, I should have at least 6 interviews completed.  Not much updating beyond that. 
A photo of a window in a cinder-block wall; a branch hangs from the glass window.


Another solid week at work and one that makes me appreciative of the intentionality that is brought forward by my colleagues.  They celebrated my birthday with several rounds of happy birthday in the day.  My boss took me out for breakfast.  My partner came into work and she brought the most delicious cake--that both I and much of the rest of the staff also enjoyed. It was also great that she got to meet many of my colleagues.  But it was more than just the birthday that made the week a hit.  I had a couple really good conversations with colleagues about improving the ways we work with faculty and each other.  My boss also took the time on Friday afternoon and call me to wish me a wonderful vacation (more on that below).  

What I'm Reading

The Weird and the Eerie by Mark Fisher
A short book by the philosopher Fisher who delves into and draws out a bit more of the "weird" and "eerie" from Freud's concept of unheimlich.  While most focus on that term's translation into uncanny, Fisher examines the weird and eerie to explore a range of work from fictional prose to poetry to music to television and film.  In each case, he draws out moments where these experiences are captured and picks them apart. It's an interesting and, for me, a more accessible example of Fisher's work, who, like Slavoj Žižek, can make fascinating points about society but can also be a bit too obtuse for me to follow. 

No Kindness Too Soon by Sylvain Neuvel
A short novel (and full cast production for free on Audible) that explores the possibility of first contact and what happens when one doesn't realize they are in the midst of a first contact situation.  

Star Wars: Stories of Jedi and Sith by Roseanne A. Brown et al
An anthology of Jedi tales from the High Republic era all the way through the Resistance.  Nothing that's particularly exciting or feels particularly new. If you're a fan, you might find some new morsels to enjoy (but no feast) and if you're not a fan, it will feel largely uninteresting.

The Fearless Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist by Marcus Rediker
 Lay was a man who lived in the late 1600s and 1700s.  Born in England, he was a small person who also dealt with kyphosis, an illness that curves the back.  He lived as a shepherd for a while and eventually lived as a sailor for about a decade before returning to England.  Upon returning, he joins with his local Quaker community and he starts to call out the Quaker leadership for their hypocrisies. He spends much of the rest of his life, getting kicked out of Quaker communities for speaking his mind and increasingly, calling out Quaker leadership for owning and profiting from slavery both in England and in Pennsylvania.  He even publishes a book through Benjamin Franklin's press, All slave-keepers that keep the innocent in bondage (yes, you can even read it today). He was a vegetarian and performed guerilla theatre stunts at Quaker meetings involving fake blood.  He's just such an interesting character that we know hardly nothing about in the modern day.  His work would go on to influence the Quakers in moving toward abolitionism in the late 1700s and early 1800s.   As a historical biography, this book is a bit dry. My sense is that Rediker has less to go on; therefore he has to draw in details that he can account for in as much detail as possible and conservatively interpret the gaps. He then justifies those gaps with other literature and sources that highlight this is or was likely. It's standard practice in history books but still feels (rightfully) dry.  In fact, if it wasn't dry, one might have to question his authenticity of research on Benjamin Lay, the subject of his biography.  I can only say that I can't believe this person does not have more attention on him.  I mean--there needs to be a movie about Lay and just how badass he was.
A photo of a cobweb spread across a bush with water droplets on the web.

The Electric Pencil: Drawings from Inside State Hospital No. 3 by Edward James Deeds Jr.
This book is a collection of drawings by Deeds during his time (most of his life) in a state institution that were discovered and studied as "outsider" art.  Deeds was entered into the state hospital in his teenage years after tension between him and his father and was not released until his 60s. His experience in the institution took place from the 1920s through the 1970s which means, he experienced a range of changes in the institute--some positive, many negative including electric shock therapy, overcrowding, and other problematic approaches.  His art is fascinating, eerie, and evokes so many questions for its focus on portraits, cars, and other objects that show up regularly. I stumbled upon this book at the library and had not heard anything about him previously.  

Imaginable: How to See the Future Coming and Feel Ready for Anything―Even Things that Seem Impossible Today by Jane McGonigal
McGonigal always gets me thinking.  Ever since I read her first book, Reality Is Broken, McGonigal is one of those people who I'm always willing to read.  Imaginable is another great book to check out.  McGonigal uses her expertise in games and future casting to think about how we as individuals and a society can think about the future in more productive ways.  It's not about predicting the future but rather by imagining and playing out different simulations about the future, we are more prepared to navigate its complexities.  The book, in part, comes from her work at the Institute for the Future and also, from her experience playing simulations over the years, including one about a decade ago that focused on an airborne respiratory virus that creates a pandemic (sound familiar, ahem, COVID).  She noticed that she and others who participated in the simulation were more prepared for both what did happen and for navigating the uncertainty of the moment.  This book expands upon the lessons there to consider what other types of simulations might help us engage in meaningful future thinking that can act like mental preparation while also being something to enjoy and provoke our minds in different ways.  It's definitely a book that would benefit families, organizations, and individuals curious to think about how to prepare for whatever comes next in society and feel comfortable with the uncertainty that seems ever-present these days.

Moby Dick by Christopher Chabouté
I know, I know--more Chabouté; but I think is the final one of his that I have access to (thank you for your service, public library!).  So much more wordy than his other books and also a smaller in page count (but not size--large 11 by 14 or so pages).  And also, a hit!  It's a great rendering of Moby Dick that captures Ahab's relentlessness, the life on a ship, and traversing the great wide open waters. Granted, I still haven't read Moby Dick (for shame, I know) but I have read and seen other adaptations and this one has an elegance to it that the others miss.  

What I'm Watching

Not a whole lot this week; mostly binging my way through Brooklyn 99 before it leaves Hulu (1.5 seasons to go).  

What's on My Mind

This weekend started a 2-week vacation from my primary work. I've been looking forward to this break since I first put in for it back in June. I knew the summer was going to be intense and that this would be the ideal time for a breather. I have several different things planned including a trip to Maine for a few days on my own, a few days of doing interviews for my dissertation, a few days up to Quebec City with my partner, and a few more days home. I like the broken up pattern so that it feels like several different phases.  I'm looking forward to the time away and also know that in 2 weeks, I'll be looking forward to returning to work--not because I have an unhealthy relationship to work, but because I do enjoy where I work and feel like this recharge is just what I need after leading a learning management transition.  

Noticing Patterns
About 15 months ago, I bought a new Garmin watch.  I have been using Garmin since the early 2010s whenI started running and the last version one I bought back in 2015 or 2016 was a solid watch and tracker for my physical activities.  Going with Garmin again was an easy decision for me.  The new Garmin came with a "body battery" which measures my heart rate, body temperature, sleep, and other things to determine how charged I am.  Over the year, I've been slowly noticing some patterns and am trying to move from noticing those things to taking action with them.  Some observations:

Eating a lot in the evening or within 4 hours of sleeping can hurt my body's ability to recharge.  It's interesting to see how this works on a physiological level as the app shows me that well into my sleep, my heart rate is working more actively further into the sleep than when I don't eat within 4 hours of sleep or eat a lot.  For instance, on one night where I ate a reasonable meal at 5:30pm and went to bed at 10pm, my heart-rate almost immediately moves into the my resting heart rate zone (like within minutes).  By contrast, when I eat a lot or after 6pm, my heart rate is about 15-20 beats per minute more, well past midnight.  

Drinking alcohol also ruins my body battery. I thought this might be the case but when a colleague pointed out her observation with it, I looked a bit closer and noticed the same.  To be clear, I'm not talking about having several beers, shots, or what have you.  I mean like 1 can of cider or 1 glass of wine can significantly impact the next day.  

This kind of information is useful and has me thinking about how I can leverage this knowledge to make better decisions.  It's always a hard thing to navigate with eating but I feel like this helps me think more concretely about the impact of overeating (something I grapple with a lot) and also figuring out social eating (something that also can lead to overeating). 

I know some folks go full deep into using such biodata to build out lots of practices and routines and that's definitely not where I'm headed but am appreciating some objective information that can help me with making better decisions.

Till next week...

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