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Monday, May 31, 2021

On this #MemorialDay2021: Remembering


A little history about Memorial Day.  


Memorial Day was first observed in May 1868. First called Decoration Day Major Gen John A. Logan declared that this day should be observed on May 30th as a time for the nation to “decorate” the graves of those that gave their lives in the Civil War. The first observance was held that same year at the Arlington National Cemetery.  

Memorial Day is the day for the national remembrance of all those who died serving the United State of America. Let us remember all those who gave up their comforts of home to protect our country and who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. Thank you for your service.    

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Notations From the Grid (Month-End Edition): #RandomThoughts For the Week

We present the following on the 1619 Project courtesy the team at the New York Times along with some recommended readings from the man behind the Daily Stoic, Randy Holliday as we wish all a Happy Memorial Day Week-End: 

###1619 Project######

 One of the tricky things post-Corona will be figuring out how to protect the reading time I've carved out for myself over the last year. Yes, things have been tough with two little kids and no childcare, and also not traveling for the last year has meant fewer opportunities to binge read on airplanes, but for the most part, no meetings, no events, and no other nonsense has meant so much time with books! As life starts to fill up and the creep of obligations returns, I'll have to be extra diligent to protect the slower pace of life and the stillness that has been so good for my mind. I hope you will too. Don't just let things 'go back to normal'—because in many ways normal was abnormal and if the last year has shown us anything, it's that we should spend our lives doing what we love while we can. 

Also, thanks to everyone who has supported our new bookstore, The Painted Porch. It's been wonderful to see some of you in person and we've had a lot of fun fulfilling the online orders. Links below go to books we carry (and Amazon for the more obscure titles), plus some other all-time favorites.

Must Reads

Every morning, I read a page from Tolstoy's A Calendar of Wisdom. Obviously, I am a big fan of the daily devotional concept, but to be able to read a collection of thoughts (and favorite quotes) from one of the greatest writers of all time is a pretty incredible way to start the day. As a result, it's one of our bestsellers at The Painted Porch. As I said, I love narrative nonfiction and Shadow Divers is a book I have loved and am batting a 100% when I refer it to people. Great story. As far as books about Texas go, Goodbye to a River by John Graves is awesome (also a good memoir too). We've also been raving about Outside, Inside by LeUyen Pham, which is a beautiful kids' book that explains the events of the last year in a way that's been very helpful and inspiring. And Does It Fart? is a ridiculous book but kids love it.

King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero by David Remnick

Sometimes you read an award-winning book from a few decades ago and you're like whoa. It's obvious why this book was popular then and it holds up well. It's ostensibly about Muhammad Ali but really it's just a great look at the 1960s from dueling perspectives of very different personalities (Ali, Patterson, Malcolm X, Liston and all the great journalists who covered them like Baldwin, Plimpton, and Mailer). It's a short read, but I really enjoyed it, and it has sent me down an Ali rabbit hole since. 

Ralph Ellison: A Biography by Arnold Rampersad

I re-read Invisible Man in June of last year, after the death of George Floyd. I was stunned at how relevant a book written in 1953 turned out to be (we carry Invisible Man and people still love it). I wanted to read more about Ellison, who seemed to be unable to follow up the book with another novel. Rampersad, whose books on Jackie Robinson and Arthur Ashe are quite good, put together a definitive (if a little slow) biography of this complicated man. It seems like Ellison ran smack into what Pressfield calls "the Resistance," it was also sad to see him slowly close his world off, caring more about his art than what was happening in the world. Still a very good book about a very good writer.  

Against the Tide: Rickover's Leadership Principles and the Rise of the Nuclear Navy by Dave Oliver

Is Admiral Rickover one of the most influential people most people have never heard of? Possibly. He invented the nuclear submarine, which itself is a not well-understood but deeply influential change in the 20th century. To be able to have a silent, traceless, self-propelled navy that can carry nuclear weapons (and the deterrent therein) anywhere in the world? This is the secret heart of American dominance from the Cold War on. And Rickover was the bureaucratic and scientific genius who not only made it happen, but ruled over it with an iron fist from the Truman administration on through to Reagan's presidency. For people who have loved my recommendation of Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, this book will be enjoyable. I'd love a riveting biography of Rickover, but this character study does the job for now. 

Martha: The Life and Work of Martha Graham by Agnes De Mille

I've heard a lot about Martha Graham, mostly in Robert Greene's book Mastery (an all-time fav) but I'd never read anything directly on her. This book (my used copy was given as a birthday gift to someone named Paul in March 1994) is one of my favorite types of books. It's a biography by someone who not only liked their subject but spent a lifetime trying to understand what made them tick. (Agnes De Mille was not only the director Cecil De Mille's niece, but a world class dancer who worked with Graham). There is so much brilliant character study in here...although I would say that, like many greats, you end up pitying the subject as much as you admire them. Graham was brilliant but it appears deeply unhappy. In any case, great book!

Cal Newport's new book A World Without Email is timely and good. I read Sally Bedell Smith's biography Elizabeth the Queen, which was good in spurts but I was hoping for an epic look into what really made the woman tick. Jessica Lahey's The Addiction Inoculation is good (I love her book The Gift of Failure—a must read for parents) and we had a good podcast episode about it for Daily Stoic. Kate Fagan's new book, All The Colors Came Out is a moving memoir about her father's last year (she left ESPN to be with him and her mother as he died of ALS) is touching. I loved her book What Made Maddy Run? as well, which we carry at The Painted Porch.

Like I said, Outside, Inside is an incredible kids book. Highly recommend. We've also loved Most People, which also serves as a good reminder in these divisive, pandemic times. We got Little Excavator which is a fun one. We remain hooked on A Poem For Every Night of the Year, especially the last month, which had a bunch of animal ones the kids loved. I just interviewed Charlie Mackesy this week, so we also re-read The Boy, The Fox, the Horse and the Mole which is clearly destined to be an all-time classic.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Honoring Nasrin Soutoudeh: An Outsider Special

  Our team hereby presents the following throughout all our platforms to give voice to two leading human rights activists in the World:

Nasrin Sotoudeh will turn 58 on May 30th, in Qarchak prison. Join us to honor Nasrin's birthday and her global impact as an advocate for human rights. 

May 27, 1 pm EDT

Amnesty International USA, PEN America, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the filmmakers of NASRIN film have come together to present a special virtual event to present personal writings from at-risk female human rights activists from around the world. The event is FREE and you are invited to attend. 

Introduction by Amnesty International USA Executive Director Paul O’Brien. Moderated by journalist Sarah Chayes.

Young activists will read excerpts of writing by women who have been imprisoned for their work, including attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh, Saudi women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, Ugandan poet Stella Nyanzi, Vietnamese writer Pham Doan Trang, Belarusian philosopher Olga Shparaga, and Chinese poet Zhang Wenfang. 

PEN America's Karin Karlekar, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights' Karen Robinson, and author of “Zahra’s Paradise”, Amir Soltani, will conclude the reading with a brief discussion and a call to action. 

The selected works of Sotoudeh, Al-Hathloul, Nyanzi, Trang, Shparaga and Zhang each represent the importance of speaking for human rights and women's rights. 
Visit and for more ways to take action.

Tag @penamerica, @Nasrinfilm, @RFKHumanRights, @amnestyusa, and use the hashtags #FreeNasrin #FreeLoujain #FreeNasrinandLoujain to share these women’s stories.
NASRIN film is available for viewing worldwide

If you have any questions or would like to set up your own discussion event with us, contact us:


Jeff and Marcia and the NASRIN film team

Monday, May 24, 2021

Notations From the Grid (Weekly Edition): On Retirement

 As part of our commitment to feature key ideas here to educate & empower, We present the following on Retirement courtesy of the team at the Visual Capitalist

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Notations From the Grid (Mid-Week Edition): On Military Spending in the World

 The team at the Visual Capitalist released this on Military Spending around the World This Week:

Monday, May 17, 2021

Notations From the Grid (Weekly Edition): On the Scene in California

 California Governor Newsome just announced its' May Revised Budget Numbers based on a large Budget Surplus.   We present this courtesy to the team at EdSource & the Governors' Office on what some of the proposals entail:

Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to spark the higher education aspirations of all families by establishing a $500 college savings account for all current low-income public school students at a cost of $2 billion, and for subsequent incoming 1st graders. The proposal was a surprise piece of his $20 billion, 5-year "transformational" package for preK-12 schools in the May state budget revision that he presented this week.

College savings accounts are not a new concept but they've never been done on this scale. We discuss the merits and specifics with two leaders of Oakland Promise, an organization that has an extensive college savings plan and college readiness programs in place.

Also, we speak with former UC Berkeley Law School Dean Christopher Edley, Jr. about why he wants to lead Berkeley's Graduate School of Education for the next two years. Edley, a long-time advocate for equitable education, will become the school's interim dean in July, replacing Dean Prudence Carter who is stepping down.

John Fensterwald and Louis Freedberg are the co-hosts. Our guests are:


By Sydney Johnson & John Fensterwald, EdSource

The funding was announced Friday alongside a sweeping set of proposals for K-12 education in California as part of the annual May budget proposal.

By Ashley A. Smith & Larry Gordon, EdSource

The May revision includes $48.7 billion for the state's higher education systems, including restoring funding cuts made last year.

By Carolyn Jones, EdSource

The proposed funding would more than double Newsom's January proposal and provide mental health services for all Californians under age 26.

By Thomas Peele, EdSource

California's community colleges and state university system are deeply involved in training and educating police officers and are making changes a year after George Floyd was murdered.