What I'm Reading (Oct. 29)

Related articles

For your consideration this time 'round: An American woodworker ... the neurology of being in "the flow" ... a guide to reading in the tsunami of information and misinformation ... and a consideration of whether cells "think."

My hobby outside of work has been woodworking. There is something about creating, by hand and machine, that provides a moment to get into the flow – that mindful place of being rather than doing. So, here are two articles that caught my attention. The first, on an American treasure, woodworker George Nakashima. The second, the neurology underlying the state of flow. 

“There was one very significant incident in his life. In 1942 all the Japanese Americans on the west coast were incarcerated because of the war. Dad and the rest of the family were put into a camp in the Idaho desert. When he was in camp, he said, they were sort of apprentices to each other. There was another Japanese carpenter who had trained in Japan. He and Dad were working side by side to make the barracks more liveable. This fellow from Japan had all the skills and knowledge of the joinery and the way that they selected wood and used it in Japan. My father came from an architectural background. He knew a lot about structure and design. The two of them partnered at Minidoka and created some furniture there.”

So begins one of the origin stories of a great American woodworker, George Nakashima. His work, for me, remains aspirational. From Architectural Digest, A Look at George Nakashima’s Instinctual Woodworking


“Time is most commonly manipulated by the kinds of things we do to fill it. When our minds are under-stimulated, time often feels like it is moving in slow motion, as in the scene in The Simpsons where Bart is made to lick envelopes for Principal Skinner all afternoon and groans when the clock starts ticking backward. On the other hand, when we are fully engaged, especially in the kind of “flow state” familiar to artists, athletes, and other top performers, our sense of time appears to speed up, or even to disappear entirely.”

Time especially in the days of COVID-19 seems to be stretching out in the most unsatisfactory ways. But somedays, I get into a flow, and time contracts. What are the neurologic underpinnings of this malleability? From Nautil.us, The Neurology of Flow States


“And yet journalism is critical for a functional democracy and is a massive player in mobilizing public sentiment and catalyzing change. Giving up on it should not be our go-to just as sacrificing our mental health on the altar of its negativity shouldn’t either. Is it possible to stay informed and engaged without destroying our faith in humanity every morning?

Yes. The key is learning how to read the news with an understanding of both its structure and your own brain’s, a critical (but not distrustful) eye, and an equanimous, long-term perspective. We’ve gathered these ideas into a five-step approach for how to keep reading the news—without losing your mind.”

For the readers amongst us, the daily news can be a jolt we do not need. But the five steps offered here should make reading the news less stressful. From The Progress Network, How to Read the News Without Losing Your Mind


“Thanks to Charles Darwin, biology doesn’t ever have to invoke an ‘intelligent designer’ who created all those mechanisms. Evolution by natural selection has done – and is still doing – all that refining and focusing and differentiating work. We’re all just physical mechanisms made of physical mechanisms obeying the laws of physics and chemistry. But there is a profound difference between the ingenious mechanisms designed by human intelligent designers – clocks and motors and computers, for instance – and the mechanisms designed and assembled by natural selection. A simple fantasy will allow us to pinpoint it.”

Take a moment to consider the fantasy the author puts forward. It is all in the cause of understanding how a cell knows what to do. Even better, what is the underlying knowledge of how to make a human from our DNA? From Aeon, Cognition all the way down