Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
An entire encyclopedia
A reader's submission, which I liked enough to share. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
Folks, we’re sponsored today by Ally Robotics. I hope you’ll check them out.
Ally Robotics CEO Mitch Tolson was leading a $500 million food robotics titan when he realized that robots were getting too complicated and expensive for most businesses to automate.
So, Mitch and his team went against the grain and designed a simple, universal robotic arm with endless potential.
This robot learns by simply watching and imitating human movement.
It’s easy to use and 70% cheaper to produce than the competition.
And that means you’re likely to see more businesses use it for building cars, constructing high-rises, handling luggage at airports, etc.
From Bill: I’d like to share a story today from a reader named Tom Hudson. It’s about one of those moments in life that stretches a lot longer than it seems on the surface. Actually, I think it will be more poignant if I just step aside and let his words speak for themselves. Here’s Tom:
When I was starting high school, the Acme grocery store offered two weekly promotions: you could buy an entire encyclopedia, one volume per week for $1.99 (tells you how old I am!), and you could buy a collection of classical music records that went into a thick album with empty sleeves that you also filled up one week at a time.
My mother thought both of those would be good for my education, and she was right.
I used to page through each weekly volume of the encyclopedia, amazed at how much knowledge there is in the world—and how little I knew. And I played those vinyl records—symphonies and concertos by the most famous composers played by the great artists of the day—until Mom told me to go outside and play.
I sound nerdy, but that’s more or less who I was, and those weekly purchases shaped my learning and also I suppose, my direction in life.
I can’t remember what happened to those records, but they are long gone, probably given away or left behind somewhere as I moved to college, work, apartments, and houses. But for some reason I can’t explain, I took the encyclopedia with me through all of that. Until now.
Cleaning out my basement to make room for some new storage units, I found the full set, containing all my knowledge of the world in the 1960s.
I paged through some of the volumes, trying to recapture the awe and enjoyment of reading them, but it didn’t work. I found myself mentally correcting and adding to article after article.
I was also aware of how much was not in those pages: the war in Vietnam, civil rights, Watergate, AIDS, the fall of the Soviet Union, the moon landing, or any of the events that shaped my life. That set of tomes was a snapshot taken a long time ago, and it was no longer of interest to me, except perhaps as a souvenir.
But it took up a lot of space, and I was downsizing, clearing out things that had sat around for years.
And therein lay my dilemma. I have loved books all my life. Even though I have a laptop and a smartphone, I buy or borrow physical books and hold them in my hands as I read them.
I regard the written word so highly that my hands shook as I packed that encyclopedia into a big box. Each volume, bound in faux leather, weighed about a pound. Collectively, they made the box heavy, and to me that represented the weight of history, science, religion, politics, and human relations.
We bear that weight. We carry the burden of the successes and failures of history. We cannot ignore those realities. We can’t toss them away and pretend they aren’t essential parts of who we are today.
I googled “how to dispose of books.” Of course, the first suggestion was to donate them, but who would want a 70-year old encyclopedia set, when all knowledge today is on a tiny screen, searchable with a few clicks, and updated instantly with new developments and interpretations?
I briefly considered burning them—treating them with the same respect we would give to an old flag, but the idea horrified me.
I finally decided simply to take the box to the landfill, where the books would still be together and would slowly return to the elements from which they were made. It sounded somehow honorable.
The word encyclopedia comes from Greek, meaning “training in a circle.” That brings up an image of students sitting around a mentor, but I prefer to believe that knowledge is part of the arc of human experience.
My books were a link in a chain that goes back to the first human being who asked a question and found an answer. Along the way, life happened, people were born and died, and human knowledge grew and expanded. What happened in the past is formative of what is going on today. I like to think the circle goes on for as long as we humans don’t make ourselves extinct.
And after that... well, I hope there’s something as substantial as a box of books that represents all we did and knew.
Tom Hudson is a retired IT professional who was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 2008, and who serves as the part-time minister to a small, rural parish in Maryland. He and his wife live on seven acres on the side of a mountain in Appalachia, surrounded by woods and deer, and the odd bear.
7 other things worth knowing today
Google searches for "how to break an arm at home" surged in Russia after President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization of the population to fight in Ukraine. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who spoke after Putin's address to the nation, said 300,000 men with "previous military experience" would now be called up. (Newsweek)
Police in California arrested a man caught on video "sucker punching" an American Airlines flight attendant on a flight from Mexico. I have nothing to add. (SacBee)
People who had COVID-19 are at higher risk for a host of brain injuries a year later compared with people who were never infected by the coronavirus, a finding that could affect millions of Americans, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday. (Yahoo News)
A Jan. 6 rioter who has dressed up as Adolf Hitler and held a security clearance as an Army Reservist was sentenced to four years in federal prison Thursday. "I disgraced my uniform and I disgraced the country," Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, 32, of New Jersey said in court. "I do say ugly things" that are "repugnant" in the eyes of many, he said. He assured the judge that he would "never see my face in court after this" and that the time he spent in solitary confinement had changed who he was. (NBC News)
The Little Mermaid casting backlash: "shameful, ridiculous—and all too predictable." (AV Club)
Defense officials and lawmakers painted a grim picture of military recruiting efforts this week, as a recent study suggests worrisome shortfalls could grow worse if more women decline to serve over restrictive abortion laws in many Republican-led states where U.S. personnel are based. (Wash Post)
Just over half of passenger cars sold in the U.S. will be electric vehicles by 2030, according to a report from BloombergNEF, thanks in part to consumer incentives included in the $374 billion in new climate spending enacted by President Joe Biden, including a point-of-sale tax credit of up to $7,500 for a new EV purchase. (Bloomberg)
Thanks for reading; have a great weekend. Photo courtesy of Pixabay. See you in the comments!