Happy Interdependence Day

Each Tuesday (OK, most Tuesdays) I’ll continue to deliver a taste of what I’m reading, watching, and thinking about, right to your inbox. Here is your Taste of Tuesday.

July 2, 2024

Happy Interdependence Day! Here in Open-Source Learning land, ‘tis the season for Civic Fitness. We’ve never needed each other more.

Every year I watch people celebrate The Fourth of July and I catch myself thinking… Are we celebrating the same thing? King George and declarations and Boston and all that? A country founded on ideas? Taking a day/week off? Then I imagine any of those people reading my mind and saying something like: “Jeez, man, stop thinking so much. Have a beer, grab something off the grill, and relax.”

I love connecting with people and seeing the world through their eyes. But if you know me, or even if you’ve spent eleven seconds reading my newsletters or blog posts, you already know I’m not gonna do any of that. It’s no accident that the first two Open-Source Learning fitnesses are mental and physical. I want to keep my mind and body in good working order. Most beer isn’t worth the neurotoxic ethanol bite out of my memory and cognitive function (one reason I rarely drink – and when I do, the liquor is top shelf). I also like feeling energetic, and I like the way my wife looks at my abs, so I don’t want the lethargic bloat or the empty calories (another reason I rarely drink). Most grilled meat isn’t worth the antibiotics, growth hormones, and general sad grossness that comes with factory farming. And anyway, relaxing isn’t what I do to relax.

But why harsh your mellow and carry on about Civic Fitness when we can just party? Because some parties are better than others. Our lives are better when our social systems function well, and there are things we can do to help. We party better when our limbic systems don’t land us in escalating conflict or emergency rooms. We’re all in this together.

So go right on ahead and declare interdependence with your families, friend groups, neighborhoods, clubs, representative democracies and other social systems. You don’t have to do much. Ask how someone is and take a moment to really care about their answer. Pick up a piece of litter. Give blood (before you drink!). Volunteer. Change your mind. Put a relationship above principle. Donate to a cause. Have a meaningful conversation. And remember to ooh and ahh with friends and strangers alike, because fireworks are at their best when they’re shared.

Speaking of social systems and sharing, thank you to everyone who answered me last week! I loved learning from you, and I’m going to share this newsletter with you. Not just as a reader – you already do that – but as a co-owner of a club where you’ve always been a member. (If you didn’t answer yet, please travel back in time to last week’s newsletter and have a look.) Stay tuned for details next week.

🎤 What I’m Listening To —

My wife’s family is having a big reunion for the Fourth so my daughter and I are upping our karaoke game. We considered a few duets – ”You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly” is always fun – but in the end, one choice stood head and shoulders above the rest. “Listen, baby…” Tammi Terrell showed up at the studio to sing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” in the studio without rehearsing the lyrics, so I figure we’re following in great footsteps.

✋ What I’m Ignoring —

All of the gossip and nonsense around the presidential debate. I would vote for a houseplant to keep Donald Trump out of the oval office, and if that houseplant is named Joe Biden so be it. Lincoln-Douglas started this hot mess of campaign-by-debate by turning presidential candidacy into a disagreeable made-for-media face off. At least they went deep on the issues, for hours. Only serious voters followed the proceedings. John F. Kennedy understood that the medium is the message, and he raised the televised debate to an art form by embarrassing a sweat-soaked Richard Nixon. Voters could tune in from their living rooms, but there was still some substantial policy steak to accompany the theatrical sizzle. Now, we have arrived at the edge of absurdity. Voters don’t care. Or vote. Pundits and internet trolls desperately try to make themselves relevant by gathering round the virtual flagpole after school and chanting, “Fight! Fight! Fight!” Everyone tells you what you just saw (or tried not to see), worships at the altar of Confirmation Bias and claims victory where there isn’t any. There is nothing left to be gained here. If you don’t show up, you may be labeled a coward, but as Mark Twain famously observed, “It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak out and remove all doubt.” If anyone wants to promote a serious agenda for this country as we face an increasingly complicated and uncertain future, I’m all ears. Otherwise, for the moment let’s set a baseline of keeping criminals out of the White House, and use the post-November breather to get our sh*t together. Plato observed that each member of the Republic has to know what’s up. (I’m paraphrasing.) Civic Fitness. It’s all about Civic Fitness.

📺 What I’m Watching —

Having a 15 year-old daughter is the perfect excuse to rewatch 1980s teen movies. Sixteen Candles is the current house favorite. Honorable mentions to The Breakfast Club, WarGames, and Pretty in Pink. After the family reunion we’ll move on to Ferris Bueller, and then maybe Some Kind of Wonderful or Say Anything. If you have a favorite you don’t see here, please send me a suggestion! It’s fun to watch the next generation sit there and wonder along with Andrew in The Breakfast Club, “My God, are we gonna be like our parents?” If you have to ask, you may never know.

🔏 What I’m sharing in memory of Aaron Swartz —

In case you don’t remember Aaron, he was a giant mensch who built the architecture for Creative Commons (among other things) and later committed suicide while being persecuted over providing access to copyrighted academic content. I wonder what he’d say about having an AI assistant to do the work for us. Wired Magazine reports, Quora’s Chatbot Platform Poe Allows Users to Download Paywalled Articles on Demand: “Poe, an AI chatbot platform owned by the question-and-answer site Quora and backed by a $75 million Andreessen Horowitz investment, is providing users with downloadable HTML files of articles published by paywalled journalistic outlets.

“Prompting the service’s Assistant bot with the URL of this WIRED story about the AI-powered search service Perplexity plagiarizing one of our stories, for example, yields a detailed, 235-word summary and a 1-MB file containing an HTML capture of the entire article, which users can download from Poe’s servers directly from the chatbot.”

🤔 Quote I’m pondering —

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He who can no longer stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. "
― Albert Einstein

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to reply to this email. Which bite is your favorite? What would you like to see more or less of? Any other suggestions?

P.S. If this edition of Taste of Tuesday was forwarded to you, you can join the list here.

David Preston

Educator & Author


Latest book: ACADEMY OF ONE

David Preston

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