A psychedelic renaissance from a well-known food writer highlights our podcast and book recommendation in this issue of Align Center. We also have great reads on a nihilist’s dystopian world view, the first country to ban fossil fuels, experiences with online therapy, and an author’s take on when writing personal stories becomes too personal. We end with five things I’m digging lately, and an update from Northern Spain!
◦ selected words
We’ve been watching the “everybody gets a trophy” generation turn into “nobody deserves a trophy”, quips the author of this essay on the topic of millenials. Along with references to the Truman Show, the self-confessed nihilist makes keen observations and sharp cultural critiques while ruminating on meaning and purpose in our lives. It’s definitely worth reading to the end for the turn away from the negative and cynical.
Medium (10min read)
Costa Rica announced plans to be the first fully decarbonized society in the world. But even for the country of 5 million that already generates 99% of its electricity from renewable sources, experts say this is a bold statement and will be a challenge. The primary target? Transportation.
The Independent (3min read)
The popular review site of all things, Wirecutter, gives a test-run with three companies offering sessions from licensed therapists, comparing video therapy to traditional in-person therapy, and a text-based service.
Wirecutter (5min read)
With a title like that, it’s definitely can’t be good. It turns out if the crystals aren’t from one of the many middle-men that often obscure the origins of the source material, they’re were most likely purchased at the annual Gem, Fossil and Mine trade show in Tucson, Arizona. But before that? Byproducts of industrial mines with poor track records. Read on to feel bad about your shiny rock.
New Republic (10min read)
This week, Vancouver became the first city in Canada to announce a ban on plastic straws AND polystyrene foam (aka Styrofoam, though it’s not) take-out containers and cups. The ban begins June 1, 2019. In addition, a city-wide container exchange program like Portland’s Go-Box is in discussion. This will go a long way towards Vancouver’s goal to be a “Zero Waste” city by 2040.
Daily Hive (5min read)
◦ listen in
“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” These seven words were popularized by Michael Pollan, don’t-call-me-a-food-writer for the New York Times and best-selling author of the Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and star of Cooked on Netflix. But the topic of Pollan’s newest book was unexpected as it’s in a territory scientists have been careful to tread — plant medicines. In this interview with Tim Ferriss (where Tim thankfully let’s Pollan do most of the talking) the nature writer, as he prefers to be called, is helping shift global consciousness by bringing attention to the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics such as LSD and mushrooms. If the two-hour podcast is too much, read this summary in the NYTimes (5min) or this Q&A in Macleans (9min read).
The Tim Ferriss Show (2hr15min podcast)
◦ eat well
Roasted Root Vegetables
I learned this one a years ago from my friend Erika when she was sitting a homestead East of Portland, and it’s become one of my gotos since, as the ingredients are readily available year-round. Chop a combination of three to four root vegetables like potatoes, yams, beets, carrots, or broccoli into bite-sized pieces. Toss in a large mixing bowl with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, and my secret “easy” ingredient, Clubhouse brand Italian seasoning. It’s nothing like the lighter, less flavorful U.S. alternative which is more similar to Herbs de Provence. Fresh rosemary and oregano is preferred if available. Roast at 400F for 30min, removing any quicker to cook veggies like carrots, cauliflower and broccoli after about 15min. Remove from the oven and sprinkle salt and pepper to taste, and optionally top with Valentina’s hot sauce, grated cheese, and a sunny-side up egg. Mix in kale or spinach for some color. Good for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
◦ read slow
How much is too much when revealing yourself in first-person writing? This is the question that came up repeatedly for Morgan Jenkins on a book tour for her first book, a newly published essay collection “This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female and Feminist in (White) America”. Learn about her creative process and motivations for writing when penning her emotional and sometimes traumatic stories, growing up as a woman of color.
Longreads.com (12min read)
◦ current read
If you want to dive deeper into the podcast recommendation, Michael Pollan’s latest book on psychedelics was released earlier this week with his usual appealing, relaxed writing style. In this sure-to-be bestseller, he starts with a broad history lesson of the current situation, including the three pivotal events in 2006 that sparked the recent renaissance into psychedelic research, while sharing his personal experiences from a self-professed “square” New Yorker in his sixties while often referencing Aldous Huxley’s Doors of Perception. If a book is too long, read this feature in New York Times Magazine (45min read).
How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan (480p book)
◦ dig this
What I’m digging lately:
- Scientists at Work – A photo celebration of scientists, from the journal Nature.
- A Healthy Economy Should Be Designed to Thrive, Not Grow – Economist Kate Raworth makes the case against boundless growth, and explaining how ingenuity comes from boundaries at TED2018 Vancouver.
- FinalStraw – The world’s first collapsible, reusable straw (Kickstarter).
- Show Your Work – Digital copies of Austin Kleon’s motivating book on creativity is on sale for $2.
- Nicola Cruz – Electro Latin-influenced funk-soul? Whatever genre you put it in, she’ll make you move. Start with Cumbia del Olvido in this YouTube Mix.
◦ humble thought
“Choose only ONE thing to be terribly, terribly offended by—as opposed to the many, many things that you are currently juggling. Also… be yourself unless yourself is an asshole.”
– David Sedaris’ advice to graduates at the Vogue Theatre, Vancouver, quoted by Danielle Laporte.
Last night I landed in Bilbao, the heart of Basque Country in Northern Spain, home of Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum. Fighting jet lag, I checked into my AirBnB that turned out to be an entire empty hostel. On my walk with my sub-10kg budget-airline-friendly backpack from the central bus station across the pedestrian-friendly bridge North of the Nervión River with huge walkways you’d only see in Europe, I heard my name shouted out from a crowd outside a busy local bar, and turned to see a tall dark-haired young man on his bicycle. So much for blending in.
It was the owner, Fernando, an affable Argentinian who was much taller than his AirBnB mug shot. After the casual check-in (no keys), I washed off the eighteen hours of travel (door-to-door) and walked two blocks down to the buzzing locals pintxos bar, Deustoarrak, and had a wonderfully broken Spanglish conversation with a charming school teacher named Martha over Spanish omelets, bocarones (anchovies in oil on bread), and cheaper-than-water Viña Real red wine. She talked about her son who’d gone to school once in Canada but couldn’t recall the name of the city, and how on the weekends she’ll go to a small town in Andalucia and practice bolero, a traditional Spanish folk dance. She had to teach early the next morning, and I stayed a bit longer to people-watch and nibble on a few more tapas until I couldn’t stay awake any longer.
Sometimes when I first think of what to write in this section, nothing jumps out. But after I start the process and go about my day, topics pop up and I end up with more than I can possibly write. And during my trip to get here, here were some of my thoughts:
- This huge shift in consciousness we are in the midst of, witnessing not only the renaissance in psychedelics and the legalization of marijuana (though it’s delayed in Canada from the original July 1 date).
- The comeback of electric cars (sadly due to the rebound-and-then-some of gas prices) despite Tesla’s recent troubles.
- The growing awareness of over plastics, including Vancouver’s big move to ban foam, Montréal’s new ban on plastic bags, and the attention on microplastics from washing machine wastewater.
- The changing face of backpacking because of technology.
And this newsletter normally comes out every second Tuesday, but between packing and work, I figured I could finish it during my ten-hour flight. But alas, my Westjet flight to London had no power outlets (no 787 Dreamliner here) and I forgot my travel charger so I was conserving battery. Instead, I decided to start my very non-scientific experiment on sleep, sparked by this intriguing podcast with sleep expert and neuroscientist Mathew Walker. It’s been two winters since I’ve flown to Europe, but I can clearly remember the crippling jet lag that caused me to sleep eleven hours my first night, and the next days exploring Belgium half-asleep, so I’m determined not to let that happen again. The results? The melatonin supplement is working, I’ll report back next issue with more details. And as for the writing? As usual it’s gone on longer than expected and was much easier to write than when I first started out. It gets easier, and more fun, every time. Thanks for reading.