Happy accidents

I’ve made a rather unconcious, but very positive change over the last 24 months. It all started when in a fit of budget streamlining I cancelled my cable subscription, much to the dismay of my kids. It was a small decision, driven mostly by the idea that I could save $50 a month for something I wasn’t really using, more so than any grand ideas about spending less time in front of the boob tube. The kids adapted (watching more YouTube, Netflix and iTunes) and I didn’t miss it (except for during college football season…but even then I did like the “extra” time in my Saturdays).
About a year later, I discovered the Von Mises Institute literature library. I was just starting the journey I am still on to more deeply explore philosophy, economics and politics, and it has been a treasure. A few months after that I discovered the torrent bundle which let me have the whole bundle of more than 1,000 great works on the philosophy of liberty on my desktop (and in my personal cloud thanks to the OwnCloud setup on an old desktop I had sitting around).
Last fall, I started transferring a few PDFs from the docs from the torrent bundle to GoodReader on my ipad. I read Rothbard’s For a New Liberty that way. I also grabbed a few fiction ebooks, most notably Makers by Cory Doctorow (great read, BTW).
Canceling cable freed up the time to read more, the iPad gave me a somewhat book like platform (portable with pages)…and the fact that the content was free removed a financial barrier, albeit a small one (books don’t cost that much). The most recent tweak was the snap decision to purchase a refurbished Amazon kindle paper white. While it may seem like yet another device to carry (and keep charged) it actually has made a big difference, primarily reducing the amount of time it takes me to get through a book. The display is a little easier on the eyes, so I can read longer with less fatigue on the kindle than on the iPad, but I think the biggest difference is the fact that there aren’t any distractions on the kindle: no Facebook, no twitter, no email, no messages, no blogs. When I have the kindle in my hand, all I can do is read, so that’s all I do.
The addition of the kindle has also opened up some additional content sources as well: there a number of free kindle books available to anyone (I.e. you don’t have to have a branded kindle device to get them – you can get them for free on the iPad or android app or the cloud reader). I was able to read Cicero, Hobbes, and Locke this way. In addition, I am an Amazon Prime member, so I can get one free book from the “lending library” as well. I just finished up a book on Tesla that I got for “free” there (admittedly I do pay for Prime, but I would anyway based on the number of items I get shipped from them every year, so it’s not free but rather zero incremental cost).
One last bit I discovered just a few weeks ago is Calibre Library, a great free application (donations appreciated) that allows you easily easily convert PDFs and ePub formatted docs to mobi that the kindle can easily consume and display. I’m still playing around with it, but so far it’s allowed me to convert and read a PDF of John Taylor Gatto’s “The Underground History of American Education” and a ePub of Von Mises “Liberalism”.
Through a series of small decisions and happy accidents I have changed how I spend my leisure free time (contrasting with my working free time – gardening, riding horses, reloading, shooting, practicing Krav Maga, etc): reading instead of watching. Learning instead of vegging. Exercising my intellect rather than getting dumbed down. I wish I could say that it was a deliberate, planned change, but I guess this is a case where I would rather be lucky than good.






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