Reading Log - January 2024



January Books


My reading goal for this year is six books a month. I’m off to a good start, I made my goal for January. Here are January’s books.

Title: 101 Essays that will Change the way You Think
Author: Brianna Wiest

It’s not a tremendous read, but it is a thoughtful one. I did take away some ideas for my Year of Living Thoughtfully Project, so all things considered, it was worth the time investment. I suppose one of the more important ideas I extracted from the book is the author’s notion that “thought creates reality.” When you think about it, it’s hard to deny that notion — especially since we have seen that played out so conspicuously (and negatively) in our social sphere these last few years… From a personal perspective, my thoughts have led me to take on projects (like the one mentioned above) and one I have in the wings for next year, so there you go.

Title: Bookbinding A How-To Guide
* Author:* E.P. Carter

This book talks about my dream job. It’s the inspiration for my plan to hand-bind my poetry for my children. There’s a trade school in Boston that teaches this art. It would be fun to establish a school for this in Bend Oregon, if I were, oh, let’s say, 40 years younger… I would skip the clay tablets and pressed papyrus scrolls and focus on hand-sewn and leather-bound varieties of books, FYI.

Title: The Slickrock Desert
* Author:* Stephen W. Hinch

A terrific read. I loved it. This book is worth reading every time before going into the Utah wilderness or the Four Corners area. I loved the story about the establishment of the Grand Staircase Escalante Nation Monument. President Clinton established the monument, but the proposal sat on his desk, unread and mostly ignored until Chelsea saw the proposal on his desk and told him “You have to do something about this!” Children are so wonderful.

Title: The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy
Edited By: John Brehm

Not surprisingly, none of my poems showed up in this collection (that’s a joke). As poetry books go, I love most that I have run into, this one was top drawer. It is simply a collection of poems with no annoying commentary. There is an interesting introduction by the author, and at the end of the book, he says a few words about each poet. This is a book you can pick up from time to time and peruse easily and fruitfully. It is the inspiration for my “64 Poets Project” that I plan to undertake next year.

Title: Novelist as a Vocation
* Author:* Haruki Murakami

My main reason for reading this book was to discourage myself from thinking I could write a novel… Sorry to say, it did not discourage me from writing (stuff like this). I love to write. It doesn’t matter if you don’t do it well, what matters is that you do it. The same is true for all activities I should think. If there is something you love to do, it doesn’t matter if you are good at it or not, just do it (to steal a phrase). Back to writing, we need more writers in the world, and people willing to read. TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and X don’t count as writing, sorry.

Title: White Holes
* Author:* Carlo Rovelli

There is real science in this book, but more importantly, perhaps is the need to use your imagination to grasp the subject. Even if you are a trained scientist with a firm grip on the equations of General Relativity (I’m not describing myself) you still have to stretch your imagination to see how the pieces fit together. I have a small notion of what Rovelli is talking about. The following does not do his little book justice, but I’m going to throw this at you anyway: There is no solid agreement in the scientific community on this topic, but Rovelli has convinced me, that if you were to travel through a Black Hole, you would emerge in another time and place after having exited a White Hole. In other words, these two features of our Universe are conjoined and work in concert with one another. The only problem is no one has found a white hole (this is me talking) largely because they exist in a spatial and temporal plane that we (humans) can’t observe. Now go smoke some pot. (Side note: The Tralfamadorians understand all of this very well, as clearly insinuated by Kurt Vonnegut in Slaughterhouse Five. I will definitely be reading more Rovelli.



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A Year of Living Thoughtfully 02/11/24



# 145


Often the strength of an argument is better judged by the weakness of the counterargument.



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A Year of Living Thoughtfully 02/10/24



# 144


Life is precious. That is about as true a statement as one could make I suppose. There are examples of people not using the precious gift of life to make the world a better place there are those who by their actions and words are leading others off the path of making the world a better place. Reconciling this conflict is our greatest challenge. It begins by making our own lives reflect this awareness. That is accomplished by taking care of ourselves, which allows us to care for others. It doesn’t matter if it is in big ways or small. Even the smallest of ways is important.



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A Year of Living Thoughtfully 02/09/24



# 143


Occasionally I ask myself: what have I done that may cause others to want to avoid me, that may make them want to seek shelter from me? The notion that could not happen is of course preposterous. We harm someone every day, even if it is only slight, even if it is not to someone else but to ourselves. I believe we can seek comfort in acknowledging this, it can also free us to do better tomorrow.



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Journal Entry - Saturday, February 10, 2024



A Brief Respite From Yesterday’s Promise


Yesterday I said I would refrain as much as possible from engaging in political argument. I’m now breaking that promise. (But I hope not to make this a habit.)

Today the Supreme Court heard arguments on why former President Donald Trump participated in an insurrection and whether or not states have the ability to decide the question of who can appear on their ballot.

The Supreme Court seems reluctant to render a decision on behalf of the plaintiff (The State of Colorado). The following arguments appear to be ones that will weigh heavily into the Court’s final decision:

  • Amendment 14, Section 3 Doesn’t apply to former Presidents running for a second term.
  • Amendment 14, Section 3 There is a difference, between “Officer” and “Office.” The Presidential “Office” does not make the holder an “Officer.”
  • Amendment 14, Section 3 Prohibits states from weighing in on presidential elections without express legislation from Congress giving them that authority.
  • Amendment 14, Section 3 States do not have a role in determining presidential candidates, that process is administered by the political parties themselves. It is a “national” process.
  • Amendment 14, Section 3 A candidate can not be called an insurrectionist unless convicted of that crime in Federal Court. (The defendant did not agree with this notion because Presidents and former Presidents have absolute immunity from prosecution. This is a proposition not yet legally decided. Based on a now two-day-old Circuit Court decision, that proposition seems unlikely to be upheld.)

All of this is nothing more than an elaborate dance around the issue in question. The issue at hand: Did former President Trump participate in an insurrection? If it were determined that he did, then he is excluded under Amendment 14, Section 3. That determination is the only job of the Supreme Court. Their desire to find an off-ramp to this issue that would allow them to weigh in without determining what exactly constitutes insurrection is a dramatic failure by our highest court in the land.



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Journal Entry - Friday, February 9, 2024



Just Another Rant


There isn’t anything to see here, just another rant. I don’t like getting political, but it seems our times are trending more and more in that direction. If you don’t care what I think (or if you are already sick and tired of the political culture we find ourselves living in these days (a distinct possibility) you should not read any further. I give you my solemn word I will avoid this subject as much as I possibly can, but this particular entry has been building for a while, it’s time to let it out so I can (at least temporarily) move in a more positive direction.

Donald Trump is a spoiled, entitled little boy who just wants what Donald Trump wants. He has no intellectual ability to describe to the American people what he will do to make their lives better. His only real skill is in making people angry, usually by wielding outright lies. Donald Trump is also a bully, a professional bully. He has intimidated his party to the point where they can no longer see rationally and they are afraid to say publicly anything that Trump would not approve of or has not already approved of.

I am without question living in the most dangerous political era of my lifetime, a lifetime which includes memories of the Nixon era. Trump has set the stage for another run at taking power, and it is clear he intends to do so, even if he does not have the votes necessary to legitimately claim victory. What we are living through now is likely the beginning of a radical change in how American Government sees its duty to the citizens of the country. This could be as extreme an outcome as the eventual suspension of the Constitution.

In tomorrow’s post I will discuss how the Supreme Court has failed the country and is paving the way for Donald Trump to assume the reins of power once again.



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Journal Entry - Thursday, February 8, 2024



Bandon Oregon


It was some time ago, 1976. I was camping and cycling the West Coast. It was a rainy summer, my homemade rain gear seemed to be of little value. That has nothing to do with this story except for the fact that it made any offer I received along the way to abandon my journey all the more tempting. I received a few offers that gave me pause, none more evocative than the one I received in Bandon Oregon.

When I pulled into the State Park at the beach in Bandon Oregon, I was greeted by a summer intern at the registration booth. She was young (my age) and attractive, working on her Forestry Degree at the University of Oregon. I was enchanted. I off-handedly asked her if there was a Catholic Church in town and where it was located. I had no inference in that question other than my desire to attend Mass the next morning (it was late in the afternoon on Saturday). She gave me directions and informed me that her family usually attended the 10 AM Mass. I truly did not think much of that comment at the time.

The next morning, shortly before 10 AM, as I walked up the front steps of the church, I noticed my Forestry Intern waiting outside the front door of the church, with her whole family. They cordially invited me to join them for the service.

After Mass, we all exited the church and chatted for a bit on the front steps. My Intern’s father approached me and asked me a bit about myself, where I was going, where I went to school, and what I was about generally speaking. I had no idea where the conversation was going, but I happily obliged all of his inquiries. After a few minutes of chatting, he asked me the 64-dollar question. Would I be interested in a job on his fishing boat and a bed in his basement? At this point, it occurred to me that my Intern friend may have been planting seeds with her father and he was doing his best to help her out.

I respectfully declined his generous offer. One of the things I told him was I would be no help on his fishing boat since I could not even handle fish without an allergic reaction. I said goodbye to the family and headed out of town. I had no idea at the time if I would return or not once I finished my ride. As it was, I never made it back to Bandon. This is one of those turning points in life that help to define who we are. I look back on this experience with fondness and appreciation for the trust the family was willing to place in an almost perfect stranger. It was an epic ride, even without this once-in-a-lifetime offer having been handed to me.



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A Year of Living Thoughtfully 02/08/24



# 142


I like to write every day. Sometimes something worthwhile results. I have no hope that anyone besides myself will find any of this worthwhile, but it makes me happy to think there is at least that possibility. None of this changes the fact that all of this is probably more of a gift to myself than to anyone else.



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A Year of Living Thoughtfully 02/07/24



# 141


I need to think about moving to Colorado. The skiing is pretty good there. They also recently recognized Donald Trump as a traitor to the United States. (The only problem with that is they deferred the final decision on that question to the United States Supreme Court, which was the right thing to do.)



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A Year of Living Thoughtfully 02/06/24



# 140


I’m beginning to see my life with more clarity than at any point in the past. Yes, this sort of thing comes with age. Experiences also play a major role in shaping who we are and how we see ourselves. Good experiences and bad experiences all become factors. Once we are fortunate to obtain the vision of who we are, the trick becomes hanging on to that vision. We should be careful to do just that.



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A Year of Living Thoughtfully 02/05/24



# 139


I like to view my life as a beautiful hand-bound book. I will spend the greater portion of my life writing the pages. In the end, I will carefully stitch the pages together and bind them using a beautiful cover. I will then place the book into the hands of someone I think will refer to it occasionally and perhaps, just perhaps, will find a small portion of it useful in some way.



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A Year of Living Thoughtfully 02/04/24



# 138


Sometimes I write things that have great meaning to me but most likely leave whomever is unfortunate to be reading this scratching their head. To those who find themselves in that boat, I have two comments: First, try writing daily, I think you’ll find it’s not always easy. Second, be assured that even if it doesn’t make sense to you, it probably makes sense to me… Sometimes… Maybe…



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A Year of Living Thoughtfully 02/03/24



# 137


There are many ways to pay attention to our lives. Writing a poem is one way, but not the only way. What matters is that we find a way to do it. It might not be the same way every day. By paying attention to our lives, we stand a better chance of consciously fulfilling our destiny.



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A Year of Living Thoughtfully 02/02/24



# 136


Some days the writing comes more easily than others. Like today. That does not lessen the experience. The satisfaction that comes from reflection is the same even if no conclusions are revealed.



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Journal Entry - Friday, February 2, 2024



On Writing


The following thoughts are some of those expressed by Julia Cameron. She’s a professional writer. I admire that. I think what she has to say here applies to all of us who pick up a pen. She has been writing for over 50 years, which gives her a unique perspective. I like what she has to say.

“Writing is an act of bravery.”

Yes.

“Writing tells us the truth about who we are.”

Yes.

“Writing tells the Universe what we need.”

Yes.

“Writing allows the Universe to help us.”

Yes.

“Writing shows us our path.”

Yes.

“Writing gives us wisdom.”

Yes.

“Writing allows us to see more clearly.”

Yes.

“Writing helps us to be honest with ourselves.”

Yes.

“Writing makes us healthy.”

Yes.



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Journal Entry - Thursday, February 1, 2024



January’s Books


My reading goal for this year is six books a month. I’m off to a good start, I made my goal for January. Here are January’s books.

Title: 101 Essays that will Change the way You Think
By: Brianna Wiest

It’s not a tremendous read, but it is a thoughtful one. I did take away some ideas for my Year of Living Thoughtfully Project, so all things considered, it was worth the time investment. I suppose one of the more important ideas I extracted from the book is the author’s notion that “thought creates reality.” When you think about it, it’s hard to deny that notion — especially since we have seen that played out so conspicuously (and negatively) in our social sphere these last few years… From a personal perspective, my thoughts have led me to take on projects (like the one mentioned above) and one I have in the wings for next year, so there you go.

Title: Bookbinding A How-To Guide
By: E.P. Carter

This book talks about my dream job. It’s the inspiration for my plan to hand-bind my poetry for my children. There’s a trade school in Boston that teaches this art. It would be fun to establish a school for this in Bend Oregon, if I were, oh, let’s say, 40 years younger… I would skip the clay tablets and pressed papyrus scrolls and focus on hand-sewn and leather-bound varieties of books, FYI.

Title: The Slickrock Desert
By: Stephen W. Hinch

A terrific read. I loved it. This book is worth reading every time before going into the Utah wilderness or the Four Corners area. I loved the story about the establishment of the Grand Staircase Escalante Nation Monument. President Clinton established the monument, but the proposal sat on his desk, unread and mostly ignored until Chelsea saw the proposal on his desk and told him “You have to do something about this!” Children are so wonderful.

Title: The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy
Edited By: John Brehm

Not surprisingly, none of my poems showed up in this collection (that’s a joke). As poetry books go, I love most that I have run into, this one was top drawer. It is simply a collection of poems with no annoying commentary. There is an interesting introduction by the author, and at the end of the book, he says a few words about each poet. This is a book you can pick up from time to time and peruse easily and fruitfully. It is the inspiration for my “64 Poets Project” that I’m planning to undertake next year.

Title: Novelist as a Vocation
By: Haruki Murakami

My main reason for reading this book was to discourage myself from thinking I could write a novel… Sorry to say, it did not discourage me from writing (stuff like this). I love to write. It doesn’t matter if you don’t do it well, what matters is that you do it. The same is true for all activities I should think. If there is something you love to do, it doesn’t matter if you are good at it or not, just do it (to steal a phrase). Back to writing, we need more writers in the world, and people willing to read. TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and X don’t count as writing, sorry.

Title: White Holes
By: Carlo Rovelli

There is real science in this book, but more importantly, perhaps is the need to use your imagination to grasp the subject. Even if you are a trained scientist with a firm grip on the equations of General Relativity (I’m not describing myself) you still have to stretch your imagination to see how the pieces fit together. I have a small notion of what Rovelli is talking about. The following does not do his little book justice, but I’m going to throw this at you anyway: There is no solid agreement in the scientific community on this topic, but Rovelli has convinced me, that if you were to travel through a Black Hole, you would emerge in another time and place after having exited a White Hole. In other words, these two features of our Universe are conjoined and work in concert with one another. The only problem is no one has found a white hole (this is me talking) largely because they exist in a spatial and temporal plane that we (humans) can’t observe. Now go smoke some pot. (Side note: The Tralfamadorians understand all of this very well, as clearly insinuated by Kurt Vonnegut in Slaughterhouse Five. I will definitely be reading more Rovelli.



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Journal Entry - Wednesday, January 31, 2024



72 Poets


Along the lines of six books a month, here is a list of 72 poets. If I were to read all of these poets in one year, that would be six poets per month. That’s not my plan. I would simply like to collect a few poems from each of these poets — from time to time. Having this list puts me on the road to fulfilling that ambition someday. Here’s hoping…

Dick Allen
A.R. Ammons
Matsuo Basho
Ellen Bass
Elizabeth Bishop
Shido Bunan
Yosa Buson
Chuang-Tzu
Billy Collins
Eihei Dogen
Robert Frost
Jack Gilbert
Han Shan
Jane Hirshfield
Andrea Hollander
Kobayashi Issa
Anna Kamienska
Jack Kerouac
Bill Knott
Yusef Komienska
Marilyn Kryst
Philip Larkin
D.H. Lawrence
Denise Levertov
Li Po
Bronislaw Maj
Czesław Milosz
Marianne Moore
Pablo Neruda
Frank O’Hara
Alicia Ostriker
Ron Padgett
Lucia Perillo
Fernando Pessoa
Paulamin Petersen
Po Chu-i
Ezra Pound
Jacques Prevert
Kenneth Rexroth
Yannis Ritsos
Kay Ryan
Ryokan
Saigyo
James Schuyler
William Shakespeare
Old Shoju
Tracy K. Smith
Gary Snyder
Ikkyu Sojun
William Stafford
Wallace Stevens
Ruth Stone
Su Tung P’o
Anna Sir
Wislawa Szymborska
Tomas Transformer
Tu Fu
Wei Ying-Wu
Walt Whitman
William Carlos Williams
William Wordsworth
James Wright
William Butler Yeats
Adam Zagajewski

If you were to add these up, you may have noticed that it does not total 72. That’s okay, I thought I would give myself some room to add a few more — not that I really need to…



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A Year of Living Thoughtfully 02/01/24



# 135


Artificial Intelligence is the biggest intellectual achievement in human history. (Arguably, General Relativity is right up there.) What we choose to do with it will challenge our biological intelligence and our social adaptability. It will do so to a degree never before experienced or even imagined.



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A Year of Living Thoughtfully 01/31/24



# 134


A history that looks back and mythologizes what has come before is nothing more than a tool of persuasion disguised as “thought.”



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A Year of Living Thoughtfully 01/30/24



# 133


If all cats are pets, it does not follow that if it is not a cat, it is not a pet. Listen carefully, you will hear this argument made in different forms more often than you can imagine. Don’t let this sort of thinking stand as an intelligent argument.



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A Year of Living Thoughtfully 01/29/24



# 132


Nothing that presents itself as a problem is ever a problem for long. The trick is to recognize it so it can be dealt with. If it can’t be dealt with perhaps it is not your problem.



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A Year of Living Thoughtfully 01/28/24



# 131


Tomorrow will come before you know it. Never let what is happening today stop you from waking up tomorrow with new hope and anticipation.



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A Year of Living Thoughtfully 01/27/24



# 130


Any activity that helps you to pay attention to your life is good.



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Journal Entry - Tuesday, January 30, 2024



My 2024 Goals


Okay, I have some 2024 goals. I’m going to lay them out here, because, well, a goal not stated is not a goal, right?

My First goal is to read six books a month. I checked that box in January (with a few days to spare too). I’ll chat about the “January 6” in a follow-on entry. It turned out not to be as difficult as I thought to knock out six books in a month, it was fun too.

My second goal is to exercise daily. When I say daily, I would seriously like to make this a daily activity. I expect this will be harder than reading six books a month, but we’ll see. What I have in mind is not that difficult. A little rowing, a little balancing, a little stretching for the back and legs, and probably the most important exercise, walking. When I’m here in Seattle I can walk up Queen Anne Hill (it’s a steep one). You’ll see the point of all this as we get into the rest of my goals for 2024.

With that, here they are. I would like to hike a couple hundred miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, bicycle from Missoula MT to Florence Beach OR, ride a portion of the Oregon BDR on my motorcycle, and the one I’m most excited about, print and hand bind my poetry, three copies, one for each child. That last one will take some skills that I don’t have. I’m referring here of course to hand bookbinding, but that also applies to writing poetry.

If I can pull off this list, it will be a good year for sure. I just need to keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Start slow and small.
  2. Build a routine.
  3. Track results.
  4. Cut yourself some slack.
  5. Keep going.


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A Year of Living Thoughtfully 01/26/24



# 129


If I am having dinner with you and I take my phone out of my pocket without your permission, feel free to take it away from me.



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