In Chapter 1: American Exceptionalism of Myth America (Basic Books, 2023) historian David A. Bell indicates that Jay Lovestone and Joseph Stalin originated the idea of American exceptionalism in 1920, but in Democracy: An American Novel (1880, p.72) Henry Adams seems to capture an early precursor of the sentiment:

“Ah!” exclaimed the baron, with his wickedest leer, “what for is my conclusion good? You Americans believe yourselves to be excepted from the operation of general laws. You care not for experience. I have lived seventy-five years, and all that time in the midst of corruption. I am corrupt myself, only I do have courage to proclaim it, and you others have it not. Rome, Paris, Vienna, Petersburg, London, all are corrupt; only Washington is pure! Well, I declare to you that in all my experience I have found no society which has had elements of corruption like the United States. The children in the street are corrupt, and know how to cheat me. The cities are all corrupt, and also the towns and the counties and the States’ legislatures and the judges. Every where men betray trusts both public and private, steal money, run away with public funds.

Had a flavor of American exceptionalism been brewing for decades before Stalin’s comment? Adams’ posthumous Pulitzer Prize for The Education of Henry Adams (1907, 1918) in 1919 may have brought his earlier writings back to the public conscious for the 1920 citation?

Adams, Henry. Democracy: An American Novel. Leisure Hour Series 112. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1880.

A fascinating combination of office furniture types in 1906! 

1906 Advertisement for a combination card index table and telephone stand featuring a desk with the satellite combination table next to it.

The Adjustable Table Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan manufactured a combination table for both telephones and index cards. It was designed as an accessory to be stood next to one’s desk to accommodate a telephone at the beginning of the telephone era and also served as storage for one’s card index.

Given the broad business-based use of the card index at the time and the newness of the telephone, this piece of furniture likely was not designed as an early proto-rolodex, though it certainly could have been (and very well may have likely been) used as such in practice.

This paper by Jason Lustig on Gotthard Deutsch’s was fascinating: While there’s an implication that its use didn’t make him as productive (from a writing perspective) as Niklas Luhmann or S.D. Goitein, I might suggest that it made him a more productive thinker and teacher, which in turn bore results in the form of his students who also picked up the practice from him.
Yesterday’s progress on the 4 drawer Shaw-Walker filing cabinet. I’ve emptied the drawers and removed them along with the rollers and hardware. I’ve also stripped all the original paint and a significant amount of rust, though I still have all of the bottom panel left, which is the worst of the rust. I’m still hoping that I can salvage the bottom.

An oblique view of a 4 drawer Shaw-Walker filing cabinet with the drawers removed. The original paint and rust has been stripped off the sides.

A or commonplace provides a catalytic surface to which ideas in the “solution of life” can more easily adhere to speed their reaction with ideas you’ve already seen and collected.
Once combined via linking, further thinking and writing, they can be released as novel ideas for everyone to use.
I suspect that it’s by design, but I’m noticing that there’s a well curated “Getting Started” tab on, but there’s absolutely no sign of any documentation about “Finishing”. Would someone just slip me into a box when I’m done?
📖 A new incarnation of Dan Allosso’s Obsidian Book Club begins this coming weekend with David Graeber’s last book Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia (2023). If you’re interested in history, anthropology, or our conceptualizations of freedom, racism, and erasure, this is sure to be your cup of tea. Come join us.

Quantum mechanics anyone? Dozens have been disappointed by UCLA’s administration ineptly standing in the way of Dr. Mike Miller being able to offer his perennial Winter UCLA math class (Ring Theory this quarter), so a few friends and I are putting our informal math and physics group back together.

We’re mounting a study group on quantum mechanics based on Peter Woit‘s Introduction to Quantum Mechanics course from 2022. We’ll be using his textbook Quantum Theory, Groups and Representations:An Introduction (free, downloadable .pdf) and his lectures from YouTube.

Shortly, we’ll arrange a schedule and some zoom video calls to discuss the material. If you’d like to join us, send me your email or leave a comment so we can arrange meetings (likely via Zoom or similar video conferencing).

Our goal is to be informal, have some fun, but learn something along the way. The suggested mathematical background is some multi-variable calculus and linear algebra. Many of us already have some background in Lie groups, algebras, and representation theory and can hopefully provide some help for those who are interested in expanding their math and physics backgrounds.

Everyone is welcome! 

Yellow cover of Quantum Theory, Groups and Representations featuring some conic sections in the background

Want to try out Mastodon? Thinking about hosting your own? Or maybe you’re new to the experience and need some help or want tips for better connecting?  Our kind friends at Reclaim Hosting and ALT are doing a 90 day Mastodon experiment/class/seminar series where you can sign up for an account on a server that will self-destruct at the end of their trial run. They’re doing three sessions (live with recordings after), have a Discord for discussion and questions, and a Google doc with details and tips.

  • Session 1: Mission briefing: 19 January 2023 at 16:00 GMT (Watch Live)
  • Session 2: Verifying your progress: 23 February 2023 at 16:00 GMT (Watch Live)
  • Session 3: 30 days until self-destruct: 23 March 2023 at 16:00 GMT (Watch Live)

Sign up on their server today to try things out:

social media (n):  /ˌsoː.ʃəl ˈmiː.di.aː/
A DDoS, usually perpetrated by surveillance capitalists, on a person’s attention preventing them from traditional sensemaking, clear thinking, learning, and generally otherwise experiencing life.