A few of my interests.
[This page still under construction.]
- Alternative education
- Argentine tango
- Attachment theory
- Bike travel
- Fusion dance
- History of science
- Ping pong
- Political theory
- Settlers of Catan
- Trail running
- Tree climbing*
- Water in the West
(* = retired interest)
Okay, this one is kind of obvious. But here are a few books I frequently recommend:
- A Different Kind of Teacher (John Taylor Gatto)
- The Teenage Liberation Handbook (Grace Llewellyn)
- Summerhill (A.S. Neill)
- Free at Last (Daniel Greenberg)
- The Teacher Liberation Handbook (Joel Hammon)
- Learning is Natural, School is Optional (Ken Danford)
- Free to Learn (Peter Gray)
- When Kids Rule the School (Jim Rietmulder)
My love affair with tango began in Buenos Aires in 2008 when my very first Unschool Adventures group took two weeks of private lessons with Alicia Pons, a world-class tango instructor and performer recommended to me by Grace Llewellyn. Following that trip I moved to Portland, Oregon, and immersed myself in the tango scene, learning mostly from Rob Hauk. (Here is a video of Alicia & Rob dancing at Rob’s studio, Tango Berretin.) I also joined Portland milongas (social tango dances) and one high-level tango festival, all of which were way over my head.
More Unschool Adventures trips gave me more excuses to learn tango—South America 2011, Argentina 2012—with more lessons from Alicia and other instructors. But the real boost came from a 2014 UA trip totally dedicated to learning tango in Buenos Aires. My group worked with a new instructor who I discovered online, Alejandro Puerta, who was an absolute gem.
In 2016 I returned to Buenos Aires solo, flying there directly from New Zealand after a 2016 UA program, and took five weeks of private lessons with Alejandro. My friend Zoe Vlastos joined me for much of this time, and I strongarmed myself (with a $500 Stickk commitment) to go out to milongas six nights a week.
Fresh from Buenos Aires, I participated in the 2016 BurningTango festival, and in 2017 I took more private lessons with Alejandro while running the UA Argentina Semester. Many of the young adults on that program worked with him too. Later that year I led a beginner’s tango project at Not Back to School Camp.
In The Art of Self-Directed Learning I wrote about the connection between tango and self-directed learning, including entertaining glimpses of my first lessons with Alicia; here’s the chapter.
I was an astrophysics major for my first two years of college at UC Berkeley. Absolutely fascinating stuff. But then I discovered alternative education, and there was no turning back.
Relationship dynamics are fascinating. Here’s a pattern I’ve often found myself in… guess which attachment style I am!
Lots more on the adventures page. A few important milestones:
- The book Beyond Backpacking by Ray Jardine introduced me to ultralight fastpacking
- This article deepened my already-deeply-romantic associations with the Pacific Crest Trail: The Unbearable Lightness Of Being Scott Williamson
- Yogi’s guide inspired my (aborted) 2005 PCT thru-hike, as did the ADZPCTKO community.
- Volunteering as a backcountry ranger in the Trinity Alps @ age 19
- Getting certified as a WFR and W-EMT through NOLS WMI
- Off-trail hiking in the Sierras is the best
Always curious but hesitant to invest the $$, I didn’t do my first long bike trip (across the eastern and southern USA) until 2020. Later that year, two weeks across Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.
- A comparative religion class in community college kindled the fire (2000).
- Reading The Dharma Bums created a blaze. (2001)
- Be Here Now, D.T. Suzuki, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Alan Watts stoked it (2003).
- Much later (2014), a Tibetan Buddhism retreat at Kopan Monastery sucked some oxygen out of the room.
- And the Vipassana retreat (2019) took it down to embers.
The profile says it all.
A few of my influences: Russ Roberts’ podcast EconTalk, Deirdre McCloskey, Thomas Sowell, The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy.
A few key moments:
- Reading Fast Food Nation, becoming vegetarian (for the next 10 years)
- Stumbling upon Cadillac Desert (see: Water in the West, below)
- Reading the pessimists:
- Derrick Jensen (A Language Older Than Words)
- Daniel Quinn (Ishmael series)
- Reading the optimists:
A long-time love: inspired by my dad, developed in college, honed ever since.
I even ran a Frisbee project at Not Back to School Camp.
Tango was my gateway. Then I dabbled with Blues. And then I discovered Fusion.
- What is fusion? It’s hard to describe; watch this
- My fusion dance playlist
- Find a social event: FusionCal
- Big thanks to Justin Riley & Recess (especially the 2016 High Sierra Massive)
History of science
Inspired by a UC Berkeley course of the same name. Utterly fascinating. All-time favorite: The Making of the Atomic Bomb.
As I write in Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids to School (2020):
A few years ago, I told my friend Tessa, a young adult who had previously joined a few of my adventure programs, that I was writing about parenting. She laughed. “Blake, you don’t have kids. Why would anyone listen to you about parenting?” Fair question, Tessa—and perhaps one that passed through your head too, dear reader. Here’s the best answer I can offer. Despite the fact that I’m not yet a dad, I have served as a sort of temporary “crazy uncle” to hundreds of teenagers since 2003 through my work at camps and travel programs. This, I believe, has granted me a detached, birds-eye view of youth that lets me make general observations in a way that parents may struggle to do, considering the natural bias toward one’s own children. John Holt, the father of unschooling, didn’t have any kids himself, but he spent enough time around kids and listened to enough parents to give him an informed opinion on parenting. I’m no John Holt, but I do aspire to follow a similar path—at least until I have a kid of my own.
Titles I adore:
- David Lancy’s The Anthropology of Childhood
- Alison Gopnik’s The Gardener and the Carpenter
- Judith Rich Harris’ The Nurture Assumption
- Tom Hodgkinson’s The Idle Parent
- Meghan Daum’s Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids
- Babies (2010 documentary)
Inspired by dad, played all over the world.
The prize for best location goes to…
Yes! (more coming eventually)
Yes! (more coming eventually)
Settlers of Catan
So much yes! I even ran a NBTSC project, Settlers of Catan: Theory and Practice.
A lifelong “interest” (a.k.a. addiction).
I’ve tried to quit:
- $500: Not eating refined sugars for a whole month
- Summer 2020 gambit w/ Laura
- Reading Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes
- Middle school infatuation, high school club trips, self-funded college trips
- CASI Snowboard instructor certification 2002
- Heavenly marketing research dream job (a.k.a. getting paid to snowboard for an entire season)—pretty much quit after that!
- Peak experiences:
- Regular favorites:
- Cold Creek to Monument Pass (South Lake Tahoe, CA)
- Kartäuserstraße to Roßkopf (Freiburg, Germany)
- Shut-in Trail (Asheville, NC)
- Volunteering at Western States Endurance Run (2015/6)
Yeah, okay, obviously. Not sure why this is here.
- Learning + teaching @ DCC
- Guatemala tree climbing trip
Water in the West
After stumbling upon the book Cadillac Desert while in college (and the associated documentary), I developed a deep curiosity and awareness of water issues in the Western USA.
An article I wrote in 2021: Developments on the Colorado River: A Crash-Course
Learned it at Deer Crossing Camp, taught it at Deer Crossing Camp.
Haven’t done much since 2010, but I’d love to get back into it.