In this Spring edition of Align Center, we’re going back to nature and talking trees, seeds, farm tech, inventions, and a project to photograph thousands of animals individually. One long read will have you rethinking how you use your smartphone, and the other is a story about the struggle of launching a big idea in healthy fast food. And as always, a vegetarian recipe, and my digs from the last two weeks.
◦ selected words
“Our unaided ears can hear how a maple tree changes its voice as soft leaves of early spring change into the dying ones of autumn.” Echoing Thoreau’s Walden, Professor of Biology David George Haskell makes a compelling case to sit in nature and listen to the sounds trees make – teaching his students how to tell an oak from a maple by ear. From this space we can better tune into the intelligence of the forest – a network of plants that not only senses and respond to their surroundings, but also store memories as we do, albeit deeply into their tissues instead of neurons.
theatlantic.com (min read)
Dr. John Goodenough, with his team from the University of Austin, invented a fast-charging battery with three times the density of traditional lithium-ion, operating at temperatures under -60C, far better than current technology. If you’re feeling your most creative years are behind you, rest easy. On average, Nobel physics laureates made their discoveries at 50, and the highest value patents are from inventors over 55. Dr. Goodenough, with the best anti-procrastination name and co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery found in your laptop, phone, and future car, gives us a reminder that even at 94, your best years are ahead of you.
nytimes.com – 6min read
Ever feel like you’re not enough? Not satisfied with where you’re at? Think you should be doing something else? First, take “should” out of your vocabulary. Second, life isn’t a straight line. It’s harder and harder to avoid the comparison trap – which is at the heart of this feeling – but for now, take in this thoughtful meditation on living a slow, simple life and let it serve as a reminder that life is not a race, you’re at is exactly where you’re supposed to be (and for fun, Google the difference between “should” and “supposed to”). The site from Becoming Minimalist, one of the original minimalist bloggers.
nosidebar.com (3min read)
Chemists at Harvard have announced a device that uses bacteria, sunlight, water and air to mimic photosynthesis – with claims of exceeding nature’s efficiency to create energy by a factor of ten. A research paper is expected in six weeks. Let the debate begin.
kurzweilai.net – 2min read + 24min video
A brief summary of recent research into treating depression highlights the complexity of the diagnosis and the limited effectiveness of it’s two main forms of treatments: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and antidepressant medications – with around 40% of patients getting better with either. Using brain scans and machine learning, researchers are studying the subtypes of depression in order to tailor treatments to patients based on brain types, with promising initial findings.
vox.com (9min read)
From 2012-2016, for the majority of the winters, I embraced location independence – enjoying the warmer climates of Latin America while working where I could find a solid Internet connection (and learning to work with a weak one). I still love to travel but recently I’ve slowed down, shortening my journeys as priorities change (hostel life is less appealing when you prefer a glass of wine, a book, and quiet). I agree with the arguments the author makes – a life of perpetual travel isn’t sustainable in the long term and rarely is it actually good for business. A good read for those considering or already on the nomadic path.
fastcompany.com (6min read)
◦ listen in
A National Geographic photographer is 11 years into a 25-year project addressing the extinction crisis by presenting species in a way that allows us to look them directly in the eye. By using studio lighting and black-and-white backgrounds, The Photo Ark attempts to give each creature equal care and voice to show that “a mouse is every bit as glorious as an elephant, and a tiger beetle is every bit as big and important as a tiger”. His goal is to photograph every captive animal species on the planet.
Fresh Air on npr.org (30min podcast or 12min summary read)
◦ eat well
The Best Marinated Lentils
Growing up, my starch diet consisted of steamed white rice, more rice, and sometimes noodles that one day a week we went out for dinner. Lentils did not exist early on in life, and that trend continued until only recently, when I made a conscious effort to include them in my diet (I actually keep a file named “Eat More of This Food.txt”). So imagine my elation when my first attempt at a non-curry based lentil recipe turned out so well! This easy dish starring sun-dried tomatoes and French green lentils (“lentilles du Puy”) originates from one of Angela Liddon’s hit cookbooks, Oh She Glows Every Day.
◦ read slow
This one’s been pulling at me for some time – it’s because of this post that time estimates are included in these newsletters. And this past Sunday, 60 Minutes focused an entire episode on what CBS calls “Brain Hacking”(cbsnews.com) – unveiling a world where some of the smartest technologists are focused on metrics that go directly against your psychological wellbeing.
Former “Design Ethicist” at Google, Tristan Harris, offers the analogy of a slot machine in your pocket – you pull down, checking how many new FB likes and new emails you’ve received. It’s addictive – the average person checks their phone 150 times PER DAY. If you don’t believe that number, install a usage monitor like App Usage for Android or Moment for iPhone to view your usage unobtrusively. Harris exposes ten clever attention hijacking strategies of the web’s most popular websites and outlines how to join the movement to win back our attention that we unwittingly gave away.
thriveglobal.com (12min read) + cbsnews.com (14min transcript) + timewellspent.io (take your time and join the movement)
What if you could make affordable, nutritious fast food, place them in food deserts across America, and hire from surrounding neighborhoods while paying fair wages and serving nutritious food. This is the mission of Locol – the result of a disillusionment with fine dining and the hypocrisy of charity banquets to feed those in need. This offspring was born from the unlikely combination of Northern Californian culinary star Daniel Patterson and king of L.A. food trucks, Roy Choi. A story less about business struggles and the importance of making a good burger than the role of community, privilege, and race.
◦ current read
For 15 years, art historian Amy Herman has trained first responders, FBI agents, surgeons, and managers to improve their observation and communication skills using art. By closely examining classic paintings and sculptures, Herman breaks down how we see the way we see, leveraging the science of perception in creating practices that enable us to become more aware of our filters and biases (and we all have them) to truly see, rather than passively observe. It’s transformed the way I look at art and has given me tools to ask better questions and to prioritize information more thoughtfully, skills which have benefits that can be applied to both professional and personal life.
Visual Intelligence (336p book)
◦ dig this
What I’m digging lately:
- Clem Leek – Listening to this “Modern Classical” composer from the UK while doing deep work.
- The School for Life – Raising the emotional intelligence of the planet. Makes for great gifts and conversation starters as well. Or check out their popular YouTube channel.
- Seed – The Untold Story – The seed is nature’s version of reincarnation – a time capsule of the past offering gifts for the future. Activist, physicist and philosopher Vandana Shiva joins Jane Goodall and other champions of the seed to uncover how 94% of our seed varieties have disappeared, and the desperate efforts around the world to save seeds. (94min)
◦ humble thought
“Never confuse movement with action.”
– Ernest Hemingway
To me, the best part of living in a climate with seasons is getting to watch and listen to the slow changes from one to another. I was on the island last week (local’s term for Vancouver Island, not “Victoria Island” as many tourists and CouchSurfers have confused), with vibrant yellow daffodils dotting the landscape, pink cherry blossoms in full bloom, and blue herons nesting at Beacon Hill, a beautiful downtown park, taking in my newfound appreciation for this city.
And for the first time, I saw the appeal. I’ve never visited Victoria outside of the manic cruise ship season, so with that absent, I was finally able to experience what I’ve often heard about but just wasn’t listening. In Vancouver there’s rarely a conversation without a mention of real estate and living costs, as it’s right up there with the weather for topics we can unite against. It’s been written about in the NYTimes, The Guardian, and the BBC. And it’s not just Vancouver where people are feeling the squeeze, as record numbers are leaving New York City. The long-term trend has been of migration into cities, but are we approaching a pivot point, as this article on fleeing millenials predicts?
No, I’m not about to move to Gabriola Island or Powell River, where 50% of buyers last year were non-residents, but I’ve noticed my internal shift towards tranquility, so much so that I feel “off” after a week in the city. I’d miss the community, convenience and the sushi the city life offers, but it is something I’m thinking about more and more. Are you considering a move? Or have you made the switch? Always curious to hear your thoughts. Hit reply or post in the AlignCenter Facebook group.