The Know it all part 1

The Know it ALL

So, I recently started reading The Know it All by AJ Jacobs.

Jacobs, to start with, is awesome. I would totally love to be out at a bar talking to him. But anyway, in his book he goes on a quest to read the Encyclopedia Brittanica from A-Z.

That sounds super boring. In fact, I picked up the book back in 2015 and I didn’t read it until now because it totally did seem boring. So why did I buy it again? Still, once I finally opened the book up I was pretty hooked.

I’m now up to “H” in his journey through the Brittanica. So far, I’ve learned that the term “going berserk” comes from Norse soldiers “who,” it is said went into battle naked. Hence ‘going berserk.’ That and elves were originally conceived as creatures that sat on your chest while you slept to give you bad dreams.

All of these facts are super fun. My only issue is that Jacobs flagrantly flaunts/relies on stereotypes and incredibly non-pc remarks to add humor to a lot of his anecdotes.

That and he and and his editor don’t hesitate to use these stereotypes for comic relief between all of the content about obscure facts.

Still, I relate to Jacobs a lot. Primarily because I love collecting facts and anecdotes as well. Sadly, I rely on the phrase, “did you know” way to often and someone, other than me, should definitely call me out on it.

Here’s the thing though: I love learning. So, I spend a lot of my weekends taking walks while listening to the Ted Radio Hour. That, or I’m reading the Book Review, Learning, and Style sections of the New York Times (only because they are left in my apartment lobby every weekend. Thank you, Landlord!!).

This Week’s Roundup

The New York Times Book Review Section

Locking Her Up

What Happened to thousands of women suspected of having sexually transmitted diseases?

They had police capture women with STDs!!! And it was more of a witch hunt. Many didn’t even have a disease. They were just taken away and put into concentration camps to, you know, keep men safe.

As part of the American Plan, author Nina McCall tells us about America’s “social hygiene” campaign. This was all pre-penicillin. Instead, doctors injected these women with mercury and other arsenic-related chemicals. The effects included loosened teeth and hair loss among others.

The badass part is that some of these women chose to wrap up their guards in their bedsheets. They then hurled their guards out of their windows so they could make their escapes. Hell yeah!

Science of Quakery

Hormone research and its many missteps and mistakes

So, get this. Doctors back in the day would perform experimental surgeries on children without their parents’ consent.

One that Naomi Oreskes points out from Randi Hutter Epsteins book, is that a doctor transitioned a 17-month old baby boy into a girl. Seriously, what the hell?

Apparently, the author also seems to delight in these accounts. Oreskes writes,

“Even more disturbing then reading about these practices is that for the most part Epstein shrugs them off, saying that the physicians involved were well intentioned, that what they did was appropriate for their day or they they did what they could with the information they had.”

Hmm, yeah sure…

The New York Times Style Section

Deeper Voice, More Listeners

Thomas Page McBee helps share a 31-year-old trans man’s account of becoming male.

The first thing this man noticed was that his voice could silence any room he was in. People would lean toward him eager to hear more as he spoke. Even when he was just stumbling through a thought out loud.

He noticed the problem and so he relied on women to help him. He asked for feedback on how to be a better boss, co-worker, partner, and friend.

He then learned to highlight women’s accomplishments during meetings, to have round-table discussions where everyone got a chance to speak, and to take on some of the totally invisible work women do around the office. Which, geeze, I’ve felt obligated to do WAY TOO MANY TIMES. Including, organizing holiday parties, loading and unloading the office dishwasher, and refilling the paper towels on the roll in the kitchen.

He also learned to ask for help and learn from others as he went about his day. You know, instead of talking as if he knew all of the answers and the women around him did not.

What a refreshing reminder that women are overlooked even in small ways. These are micro and macro aggressions that I love to see being called out.

The Future of Dating Is…Old-School Personal Ads?

Yup! Kelly Rakowski publishes personal ads geared toward “lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer, intersex, and asexual women; and gender-nonconforming and non-binary people. (Jamie Lauren Keiles, NYT).

These ads appear on her Instagram account, “Personals.” Go search for the page because it’s awesome (and that’s what I did right away).

People send in their personal ads. Then, once a month, they are published on the page with tags showing who submitted them. If anyone is interested, they can contact the author directly. Cool, right? Makes me want a Pina Colada and to get caught in the rain.

Kelly Rakowski also created Herstory - another awesome Instagram page. It shows lesbian imagery from throughout history. Plus, she’s the photo editor for Metropolis Magazine. In short, she’s super ambitious and creative!

The New York Times Learning section

When School Gets Real

This article takes a unique form. It starts by asking “How do you connect what you’re learning in the classroom with what’s going on in the world outside of school?”

Over 1,200 teenagers answered. Then, the same question was posed to teachers and they also had a lot to say!

Out of the answers, a few really caught my attention:

Apparently, his students have created Instagram accounts about our strict beauty standards and have created musical fundraises for LGBTQ+ rights group. Some have also created artwork, creative writing pieces, and written political letters about police brutality and mass incarceration. I would totally steal this lesson idea for my own classroom by the way.

The Ted Radio Hour

The Right to Speak

So, this Ted Radio Hour has changed my whole week. Many of the points made keep popping up in a lot of my conversations. That’s because a lot of my friends and co-workers are talking about politics. Surprise, surprise, right?

Jeff Howard said something that seriously got my attention! In part 2 of the show he makes the point that we don’t display actual public discourse anymore. Instead, we show two opposing sides in heated conversations again and again. There is no exchange of ideas, we don’t listen to each other, and opinions are not tested.

Instead, we are shown “a tribal fight between different teams” when we tune into political conversations on air.

He founded a group called Uncomfortable Learning. For the group, he brought a couple of contentious people to speak on campus.

For instance, he brought “John Derbyshire as well as Charles Murray to speak at [his] school knowing full well that [he] would be giving them a platform and attention for ideas that [he] despised and rejected.”

The things is, he did so that he and his peers could learning something new.

With the 2016 election coming up, Zack Wood just wanted students to understand more about Trump’s ideas, agenda, and the source of his rationals.

He didn’t want himself, or others, to just assume they already knew this information. So he invited these two to help answer these questions about this person’s agenda and views so that those on campus could make smart decisions in terms of how to handle this person’s presence in politics. More specifically to see how Trump would handle issues of immigration and race.

What I love about this portion of the show was that Wood was able to explain something super important. Just because we disagree with someone’s ideas, it’s still worth it to hear them share their thoughts.

Wood explains, “Through engaging, I believe that we may reach a deeper understanding of our own beliefs and preserve the ability to solve problems, which we can’t do if we don’t talk to each other and make an effort to be good listeners.””

Go figures I heard this talk just days before NPR invited Jason Kessler onto their show.

Except, she writes, “I sincerely believe in this life, if we’re going to learn anything at all, you know, we will be learning from people who are different than us. Someone who speaks like me, who dresses up like me, who votes exactly like me is only an echo of my voice. We do not learn anything from echoes. And it’s a very narcissistic existence, to be surrounded by sameness. It is possible to learn the value of democracy by looking at what’s happening in the world today. Even though lots of negative things are clearly happening, maybe this is a golden moment for people who care to raise their voices. Democracy is a fragile ecosystem. It is not something you have once and for all and then you can just take it for granted. We have to work for it, together.”

In short, hearing others’ views helps us better understand our own ideas.

Okay, this was a lot of content! But I swear, it’s all super meaty/valuable. I hope you skimmed through and found something awesome or discussion worthy to share or think about on your own. Definitely let me know in the comments what you think about any of these articles/shows!