a swarm of butterflies against a blue sky

The Power Broker Read-along 1

In addition to my work book club (we’re reading How Big Things Get Done by Brent Flyvberg) I found out that one of my favorite podcasts “99% Invisible” is doing a read-along of the massive Robert Caro book “The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York”. It’s a biggie – so they are going to work through it over the course of 2024, with one episode a month covering a 12th of the book. This sounds totally achievable.

I’ve just finished the first part – Robert’s beginnings, his family, his progressive paternalistic origins and the brutal education in power that he goes through. This guy seems to be a massive intellect, a fantastically energetic powerhouse of change, an aristocratic snide jerk who looked down on all of us (my ancestors are particularly some of the people his family organized to keep from embarassing them), and possibly one of the most destructive people who doesn’t get credit for it. Once you listen to Butterflies, the Memory Palace’s story of how Thomas Midgely was inadvertently a destructive monster who murdered so many of us a fraction at a time, you begin to think about the other secret monsters in the world – killing us in tiny slices. They removed so many parts of so many peoples lives, bringing the day of their death closer than needed.

Listening to the first episode of 99PI’s Power Broker read-along was great – Robert Caro is the guest, you begin to grasp that Robert Moses did the same, but in the middle of people’s lives and he did it for aesthetic reasons. He wanted to prevent us from having trains and public transportation. He had the choice and he chose to do things that made so many people in my region sit idling in cars, pumping exhaust out and increasing their blood pressure. It reminds me of the part in Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett where a demon takes credit for a the design of a UK motorway as a force of massive incremental evil. I was hooked in the first 20 pages, but I feel like we are in masterful hands by now. I was eager to not get too far ahead of the podcast – but now I can get through the next chunk. It is definitely not too soon to get started and join in – I am eager to chat with folks about it.

Fixing broken unicode in wordpress

I tried to use unicode stars in posts to show how much I liked some books. I was embarrassed to see them show up as ????? question marks. Yuck. Why is that happening?

I’ve been blogging for a long time and had a suspicion that it was going to be the age of this WordPress install. I’ve diligently upgraded the software, but nobody likes to migrate a DB schema. So I dug through the DB and sure enough, my wp-posts table is in latin1-ci. For non-nerds, that means it’s a case insensitive database that only is set to store “latin” characters – basic ABC123 and punctuation, but none of the fun unicode or non-latin characters in other languages.

I’ve done some digging and it looks like this isn’t a pushbutton process, so it looks like a weekend scripting adventure.

Black Keys X Big Boi – Go Get Tangerine

What a great video. It’s a mashup of rollerblading stunts over a music mashup. Way back when, Wick-It the Instigator mashed up Big Boi’s The Son of Chico Dusty with The Black Keys The Brothers to make The Brothers of Chico Dusty, a wall-to-wall smash. I’m still riding to work over it today.

Unlike the young people in this video, I recently tried to go up a ramp and down a ramp in my new rollerblades and wrecked my wrist. I write to you from my bed where I’m lying on a hot water bottle because ow my back also hurts.

Managing health overwhelm

Just finished this great episode from my favorite health nerds at Wild Health.

It’s a short, very accessible episode focused on how to do “not too much” health. It’s especially good because these are really data intensive folks that go deep on lots of different tailored practices. Here they talk about not doing all the trends, focusing on what actually helps you embody what you value in your life.

Counting to 90

I’ve been doing stretches in the morning.

This post is about that and a new meditative technique. It’s uh, the title.

My trainer, the incredible Christina, saw there were some exercises where I was limited by mobility, not strength. For a pistol squat, at a certain point I couldn’t go lower without tumbling over.

So, at the end of October she challenged me to do a set of stretches every morning for 30 days. It’s based on these from the Strength Side guys.

  • 1:30 Seiza
  • 1:30 Squat
  • 1:00 Downward Dog
  • 1:00 Crab
  • :45/side Long Lunge
  • :45 Horse Stance

Not too much! Too much doesn’t get done.

I’ve been using this on most mornings as a way to be silent, mindful, meditative and fully inhabit my body instead of jumping into a million thoughts and todos.

After I get the coffee brewing, I do these stretches before cooking breakfast. I’m doing it this way to take advantage of something I learned from my book club inspired reading of Atomic Habits by James Clear. I am setting up a chain where the obvious thing to do while the coffee brews is to do these stretches. Not look at all the slack messages from India that have piled up in the night. Not check my calendar. Not check the news. Just do my stretches while the coffee brews. This is actually working for me as a way to create a good habit. It feels great.

Just one thing is irritating though.

My timer going off on my phone after 1:30 is jarring. Setting the timer again is disruptive and lets me look at notifications. Midway through a stretch I find myself tapping the phone to see how much time is left (as if it matters!).

So I switched to just counting and it’s going great. One one-thousand, two one thousand…

Turns out if you just count and concentrate on the counting, you can get all the way up to 90 just fine. Turns out that counting helps me focus and be single-minded – it’s a meditation technique.

When I’ve finished counting and stretching, I find myself loose and ready and centered. I can eat, clean and get kids ready easily. I can thumb through notifications and Slack messages and make sure I’m ready for the agenda for the day. But I’m doing it because I’m done with what I wanted to do first in the morning.