The Evolution of Parenting

It’s Monday and all things are possible. On my morning commute, I was listening to the most recent episode of the podcast in which Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler recounts her early family history and how it made her become interested in conflict, leading her to write her most recent book.

As I listened to her story, I started to wonder how we are ever able to break out of the cycle of parenting in the same way as we were raised? Simple rebellion may have something to do with it. “I’ll never do this to my children” where “this” is whatever trauma most deeply marked the parent that repeats this phrase.

But I think another part of it might be the cultural recombination that is a natural outcome of marriage. The genetic exchange that happens as part of reproduction is fundamental to evolution and diversity. But just as Harari points out in Sapiens, the unique capability that has catapulted humans to be in charge of everything (sometime’s to everything’s detriment) is our ability to tell each other stories. Those stories form into cultures and today we see cultural evolution as a far more powerful and faster acting element in our lives than genetic evolution.

I think parenting styles in long term relationships is a great example of this and explains another important mechanism in allowing the next generation of parents to change things up. I wonder if this might be another challenge of single parenthood (not that there aren’t enough already): the single parent is left mainly with what they “learned” from their parents about how to be a parent and what they see in the culture at large. They don’t get to recombine their style with their partners in the petri dish of the home and come up with something new and hopefully better.


Speaking of unspoken games

The thing I love about HPB and Podcasts is the randomness of them. Sometimes they give you just what you need to read or hear respectively and this morning was one of those times.

While I am just 15-20 minutes into it, the most recent episode of The Portal features Agnes Callard, who dropped the idea that when we meet new people we are engaged in two unspoken games simultaneously: we are trying to build a relationship with them AND we are trying to jockey to status. These games push us in different directions; make us behave in ways that are curious even to ourselves.

I did a quick search and couldn’t find the article mentioned in the opening of the podcast, but did find this one, which has some really interesting things to day about why we play some of these unspoken games, and why the are unspoken in the first place.

Spoiler alert: it seems to come down to our need to have status be both freely available as a basic humans right AND be attainable through action / reward. Those two viewpoints are to date irreconcilable so we end up acting out in ways that are incoherent.


What I’m listening to now

Here’s my current list of podcast subscriptions, with the ones I listen to most often in bold and newest subscriptions in italics. I’m still using the native Podcast app on my iPhone although I am interested to try out Spotify. Just need a reason to switch.

On average I listen to about 2-3 podcasts a week. Mostly when driving. More when I travel (on planes) or in the spring / summer (when I have to I get to mow the lawn). Fewer when I am working from home or in a mood for music. So obviously with this sort of feed I miss a lot.

Podcasts have been an important part of my journey. I find it to be the absolute best thing to have emerged from the web. They have reintroduced long form conversation and the best ones let you hear both all sides of important ideas and arguments in more than soundbites.

I do find it interesting that I had to compile the list above manually. I looked for a podcast app that would send data to a wordpress plugin, or at least publish a feed and couldn’t find one. It would be even cooler to have real time stats on what I had just listened to, similar to the Spotify social feed. Maybe spotify podcasts does do that. That may be my reason to switch.


Brave enough to stop clapping

While I was taking a bit of a blogging hiatus last year, I doubled down on reading and for a time I was rally focused on the Russians, reading Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Solzhenitsyn in a 3-4 month stretch last spring.

So I was interested to tune into a discussion of Gulag Archipelago on the Great Books podcast on my drive into and home from work today. I also read an abridged version based on repeated mentions of the work by Jordan Peterson when I was still actively consuming almost everything he put out. As an aside, that time has past, but I would still book time to watch / listen to his next bible series should he ever get back to that.

They recounted a story from GA that stuck with me from my reading, that of the endless clapping. It goes that there was some gathering of minor party officials and local business folk in some out of the way people’s hall. The leader at this event called for an ovation for Stalin at which point everyone started clapping. The problem was that no one wanted to stop for fear of being singled out by the secret police as not patriotic enough. After 11 minutes of enthusiastic praise a local business man sat down and was followed by everyone else. He was later arrested and sent to the gulag.

Humans are heard animals by default with incentive to stay with the group. Add in a little justifies paranoia and you have a recipe for unreasonable actions that everyone knows are unreasonable but no one can seem to stop.

This is an important book still because I can see myself in too many of the stories. Would I be brave enough to sit down and stop clapping? I’d love to delude myself into thinking I would. But when I’m most honest I know the truth.

I see this happening today between many groups: left / right, urban / rural, rich / poor. We all get caught up in story lines and don’t ask questions. We’re all afraid of stepping out of line and loosing the protection of our tribe. Solzhenitsyn makes us all think about what we would go to a Gulag for. Reading even an abridged version isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but at least take a listen.

miscellaneous podcasts

One Small Step: the lost art of conversation

A few months back I was lapsing on my commitment to stay off of social media and scrolling through my Facebook feed (<side note> if Apple really want to give people control over their lives again, they should add a feature to screen time that limits the number of scrolls you can have per day in the bottomless bowl apps like Facebook and Instagram </side note>). I happened to see a promotion of a new initiative from Story Corp called One Small Step. I was familiar with Story Corp from hearing some of the interviews they captured aired on local radio stations, but the One Small Step project was something different.

The usual Story Corp format is to have a couple people that know each other tell a story. They’ve done series on people’s immigration stories, cancer stories, childhood stories, etc. One Small Step was all about getting two people that didn’t know each other and were coming at things from different political viewpoints to sit down with each other tell / listen to each other’s stories.

Needless to say I was all in. This pushed so many buttons for me: the art of the conversation, seeking to understand, expressing yourself clearly, getting your ideas tested by someone, healing polarization, doing something physical / face to face instead of digital, going deep…I could go on for pages.

I clicked the link, filled out the survey (to determine my political leanings) and submitted my application. All from my phone. At dinner….sigh… I tried to answer the questions as truthfully as I could, but I also have a natural resistance to the left – right political paradigm, so I think I ended up describing myself in one of the few open text answers as a “anarchs-syndicalist” (which was intended to be ironic, but which I might actually have some sympathies towards).

I heard back about a month later that I was “accepted” with a quote from my story partner to tell me a little bit about who I would be talking to:

“I’m pretty damn liberal, but with a few areas of more traditionally conservative views (I tend towards pro-life, for example, but not the sign-waving, pray it away types.) I swear a lot. I honestly think a real apology is worth as much as a good public policy and I suck at both. I’m excited to meet you.”

I recorded my interview on Feb 15th at NKU. There was someone there from StoryCorp to run the equipment and to make sure things didn’t go too far off the rails (you can hear him a bit off Mic at the start of the recording below). I was a bit late to arrive (stupid Google Maps!) so didn’t have much chance to talk with my partner before the we started recording.

I was more than a little nervous. Who was this other person? Would we have even close to enough common ground to have a reasonably coherent conversation or would we be talking past each other the whole time? Would I be able to express myself clearly? Were my ideas even worth considering? Would I talk too much…or not enough?

All of that quickly faded away as I simply focused on the person across the table from me with the intention of sharing my experience with them and listening to what their experiences were. I covered things that I had no intention of talking about. We both commented on how this conversation ended up being a bit like therapy ;-). You can listen the conversation in the player below (it will also pop up on my podcast feed in iTunes).

I think you’ll hear that we ended up being far more similar that different. Not sure if that means that StoryCorp needs to find a better test or maybe it just doesn’t account for “off scale” people like me. Or maybe if we had met in cyberspace we would have fought and its just that when people are face to face they take the time to understand each other and have more than 140 characters to respond react.

Overall this was a fantastic experience and has provided more motivation for me to find opportunities for deeper conversations about things that really matter with small groups of people in face to face situations. In other words pretty much the opposite of what we all spend more time doing everyday, staring at screens. One Small Step made me realize that its just as interesting and valuable to do all of that with people I don’t know and/or don’t agree with.

miscellaneous podcasts

Back to the trail – part 2: White Mountain Adventure

This is podcast 2 in a two part series (part 1 here)on our 2018 section hike of the Appalachian Trail through the White Mountains in New Hampshire. ?Kendall and I recount our various adventures and sum up with what we are taking away from this most recent walk in the woods (more mountains than woods…), including:

  • Getting back on the trail after an unplanned day off.
  • Making decisions as a group
  • How luck plays a huge role in your experience
  • How hiking can “force” you into a more meditative frame of mind

We are already planning our next adventure, so if you have any suggestions of sections we should take a look at , drop them in the comments below.


A soggy start to what would be a foreshortened day 5 and a crew that is absent Me and Mason (we had already left for Highlands)

Coming down Mt. Webster…what would end the day early.

Hanging things out to dry in the “emergency” suite at Highlands Center.

Refreshed after a hard day 5 and a night at Highlands center. Ready for a good day 6 on our way to Guyot Tent Site.

We got lucky and were able to wait out a storm in a hut…but the creek didn’t have that luxury so it was raging by the time we got to it to cross.

Up and at ’em on the morning of day 7 from Guyot Tent Site.

A quick break on a hard day 7.

Yep, that’s the trail that leads to Garfield Ridge campsite. It just happens to be an active waterfall as well. After this we were expecting the trail to go through an active volcano!

Cooking dinner at Garfield Ridge Tent Site. Last dinner on the trail so emptying the food bag of all dinner stuffs.

It was slow going on the top of Mt. Lafayette with the fog making it hard to see the next trail marker.

The feeling that can only be achieved by actually finishing something like an 8 day section hike through the white mountains.

miscellaneous podcasts

Back to the trail – part 1: White Mountain Adventure

A little late in getting this posted, but we hit the Appalachian Trail again this summer. ?It was Kendall and I, plus Mason this time as well as 4 friends from church. ?This trip all got started last summer when I was talking about our trip to Shenandoah and Greg, a guy I go to church with, expressed some interest in doing a section hike. ?10 months, a few planning meetings and a lot of miles in the car later, we were in Pinkham Notch getting ready for what would turn out to be a really challenging, but really rewarding 8 days on the AT.
This hike was a lot different than our previous section in Shenandoah, but as I come off this section (and with the benefit of a few weeks or R&R back home), I can say that it has only strengthened my resolve to through hike. ?Where there is a will there is way.
Mason, Kendall and I say down to record our experiences on the first half of the trip, including:

  • A pretty easy first day from Pinkham Notch to Osgood tent site
  • A way harder second day over Mt Adams and Madison to get the Perch (with some getting separated and lost for good measure)
  • A recovery third day with awesome weather to get great views from Mt. Washington and an overnight stay at Lake of the Cloud hut.
  • A very nice fourth day that got us in pretty early at Nauman tent site
  • A surprise 5th day that you’ll have to listen to hear what happened…


An annotated map of the plan for our 8 day adventure (things don’t always go as planned…)

Look at all those smiling faces and clean clothes! First morning on the trail.

A lot of this on day 1. Not too much different from Shenandoah.

We had it made at Osgood tent site. There plenty early and an extra platform to setup the tarp and play cards.

And then this happened on day 2.

At least someone was enjoying themselves.

No one said anything about rock climbing!

This is what 2 miles in 4 hours looks like at the top of Mt. Madison.

Coldest night of the trip at The Perch (sort of…this is a stealth spot since the campground was “full” by the time we got there after recovering Kendall from her unplanned side trip)

Back at it Day 3 and not looking to worse for the wear.

Fighting off the tourist who drive to the top in the car to get a pick at the sign.

Sunset from Lake of the Clouds Hut

Ready to face the day after a hearty breakfast at Lake of the Clouds.

Last night for the full group on the trail at Nauman Tent site.
miscellaneous podcasts

Podcast: Appalachian Trail Section Hike part 2

Kendall and I sat down last night to record the second and final conversation about our section hike of the Appalachian Trail through Shenandoah National Park (part 1 here).  After the hike, the whole family took a week off (in Charleston, SC – highly recommended!)  and it’s been straight back to work for me since we’ve been back, so I wanted to get it done before much more time passed and we started to forget some of the details.
In this episode we cover the second half of our hike from Big Meadows campground to Calf Mountain Shelter. The second half of the hike was different from the first, with some high highs and low lows.  The best part was finally getting in sync with the original schedule and being able to bound from shelter to shelter each day.
The shelters are where you get to actually meet other hikers, so if you are going to be alone or course avoid them at all costs, but if you are going to meet people and hear their stories, make it a point to spend at least half your nights at shelters.  You don’t have to stay in the shelter itself – we tented a few of the nights we were at them – but just being there to share in a meal and swap stories as the sun goes down is an experience that makes the whole days hike worth it.  There are some fascinating people in the world and I know a few more of them from my time on the trail.
If you come across this and have suggestions for sections we should look at to hike next, I would appreciate any suggestions in the comments.  Looking to get a different experience from the SNP so I can get a more accurate view of what it would take to do a through hike.  No definite plans as of yet, but just an idea forming which was all it took to get us out there the first time.

A few pics from the last few days on the trail

After a long climb without stopping. I think that look on our faces is pride? Or pain. Not sure.

One of the unexpected benefits of hiking the AT was $1.37 (incl tax) Yuengling’s at the camp stores.

Key to hill climbs (for me anyway): Beastie Boys.  It just makes you dance.
Our last dispersed camp setup after day 5.

Each shelter has a log book that lets you see who was there before you and lets you say hi to those that will come after you.

You don’t realize how much better simple things like a table make your life until you don’t have them for a few days.

The only thing I saw that scared me more than bears. This was hanging over the trail, just out of view. Evidently (from a sign we saw later) there was a second one that we totally missed.

Last full day on the trail celebration lunch.

Calf Mountain Shelter on the morning of our last day.

One of the last blazes on the SNP section of the AT.

We are the champions! Now let’s get some lunch…and a shower.

Drying / airing everything out off the trail.

Show Notes / Gear Links:

miscellaneous podcasts

Podcast: Appalachian Trail Section Hike part 1

After years of thinking about it, months of planning and too few practice hikes, Kendall and I completed a section hike on the Appalachian Trail a week ago (or as I like to think about it a through hike of the Shenadoah National Park ;-).
We both learned alot about hiking, about ourselves and about each other.  I am not quite ready to say that I want to find a way to do a through hike quite yet, but I definately want to find a way to do another section sometime in the next year our so.  Thinking the Smokies since it’s close and also pretty well defined where to start / stop or maybe the Whites in New Hampshire (if we decide to go to Porcfest again I could combine it with that trip).
Probably not much here for seasoned hikers, since this was our first serious hike.  But if you haven’t developed trail legs or experienced hiker hunger, but are thinking about it, take a listen to hear about our experience fresh off the trail.  We got an hour into it and only got halfway through the trip, so there will be a part 2 (and maybe a part 3) coming soon where we will finish up and share some lessons learned.

A few pics from the first few days on the trail

At the trail head at VA 522 in Front Royal. So optimistic. So unaware of what lies ahead of us.

After a few miles from VA 522 we entered the SNP and filled out our back country permit paperwork.
After a few miles from VA 522 we entered the SNP and filled out our back country permit paperwork.

Only about 5 miles in on day 1 (which was a 14 mile day). Already tired of climbing. Long way to go still.

Where did the food bag go? This guy was our wake up call after our first night on the trail. he pulled our feedbag out of the tree which lead to a 30 minute staring contest. He trundled off and I grabbed the bag, then he came back and was confused as to where it went. This as the first of 16 bears we saw in our nine days on the trail.

What I imagined the trail to be like.

It was like this for maybe 5 miles of the 108 we did overall.

More often it looked like this.

Most often it looked like this.  Straight up and covered in softball sized ankle breakers.  Trekking poles were one of the must haves.

Our dispersed camping site for day 3, high on a ridge.
Our dispersed camping site for day 3, high on a ridge.

A pretty typical piped spring.

Show Notes / Gear Links:
miscellaneous podcasts

Syntopical podcast listening: why it's so hard to have a real conversation these days

Despite the cooler fall weather, I’ve still had to mow quite a bit which means podcast listening time.  It’s not all bad though since of late I mostly work from home, which has cut down on my commute related podcast listening time, so about the only time I get to catch up on the 30 or so podcasts I subscribe to is when I’m rolling around on my Dixie Chopper.
As I headed out to the shop to mow last night I saw that two of my “regular listens” had relatively recent episodes, so I added them to my play next, hopped, on fired up, and started to mow.
First up was Episode #309 from Dan Carlin’s Common Sense show (Dan’s new site is very pretty, but I can’t figure out how to link to specific episodes, hence the link to the top level page…if you are reading this later, you’ll have to scroll to find it if you want to listen to the whole thing).
Dan said something that really resonated with me early in this episode when talking about the “envy” he feels for his mom and her book club.  I think perhaps one of the reasons I have been doing book reviews here is to share the things I have read and to try to start up a conversation with people that have read the same thing.  I too am interested in having a conversation about what the facts mean vs. what the facts are.  Dan’s point seems to be this: how can we have a conversation about meaning if we don’t share any common conception of “the truth”?
Here is an excerpt of the audio from where he makes this point (I assume it’s OK to post this…if not, then this section of the post will disapear):

The rest of this episode is fascinating, pretty much like all of them are, so I highly reccomend you listen to it all and suscribe to his cast.
Next up was Episode #449 from the School Sucks Project , which is part 2 of a two part conversation wth Julia Tourianski about a video she created about “50 differences between men and women“.  Before he got into the main discussion, Brett included a clip of audio from a 1984 interview of a former KGB agent, Yuri Bezmenov by G. Edward Griffen, a member of the John Birch society (which every time I hear, I can’t help think of this).  Here is an excerpt of that audio (same note as above…if exceprting / reposting is not allowed by SSP, then I will take this down):

Again, SSP is one of my “always listen” to podcasts so if you find anything in the clip above interesting, make sure to subscribe.  And if you are interested in more of what Bezmenov had to say, you can get an electronic copy of one of his books for free from
I can sort of see why Brett decided to include that given where the rest of the conversation with Juliana went, but I found the connection between what I was listening to from Dan just an hour earlier even more interesting.  No I don’t think the lack of meaningful discourse is due to some vast KGB conspiracy to undermine the US (“Мы вас похороним!”), but I do find it interesting that the inability to discern truth is the exact outcome that Bezmenov says comes from the demoralization stage.
But of course this could all be disinformation.  Who can really say?