How long does it take to form new habits?  I’ve done rock climbing off and on but never continuously for more than 4 months.  I’ve studied Korean multiple times for 3 months at the longest, then somewhat gave up.  I tried getting back into 3D modeling and after a month I lost the motivation around the same time the free trials expired.  I have had some success with habits, namely weightlifting which I did for 9 months then took a break and came back to, hiking and camping has been a continuous part of my life since youth, after a year in Korea my taste in food has changed significantly and now find myself craving foods that a year or two ago I wouldn’t have even put on my plate, let alone choose to eat myself.  With the new year comes hopes for new habits and developing oneself.

This year I started doing yoga 3 times a week.  It’s been great so far and I find it really relaxing and it works my core.  It’s nice because I can do it from the comfort of home, the only thing that is required is the motivation to start.  So me and Hyeon Mi made a little tip jar where we will put $1 for every exercise we skip that week.  For me it’s yoga, for her it’s a beginner body-weight exercise set.

I also started reading again.  In my youth I read survival and adventure books and they had a pretty big effect on me I think, but now I want to read some historical works.  I think there is a lot of value to be learned from history, because human nature has always remained the same.  Our problems, our motivations for doing what we do, are no different from people 200 or even 2000 years ago.  History is fundamentally the study of human nature in my opinion.  I just hope that I have the motivation to stick with it, I really would like to study the classics like Plato’s works and maybe I’ll buy an audiobook for the roadtrip.  I’ve decided to post a brief review from my first book.

This was a Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Andrew Jackson, our 7th president.  The book takes a closer look at the man, the people he surrounded himself with and his deeper motivations of what moved him and caused him to act.  It’s an all around biography that is easy to read and at times even entertaining.

From the beginning the thing that struck me the most was Jackson’s youth and terrible luck, but also his resolve and courage to see things though and fight for what he believed in.  Jackson lost his father as an infant, enlisted at age 13, fought with his brother against the British, lost his brother to the British, taken a prisoner of war, took a British saber to his face when he refuse to polish a British officers shoes, and lost his mother.  Oh yeah, ALL of this happened before he was 14.  People think they have it rough today?  They have no idea.  Not only that, he was able to rise up and though ambition and hard work and become the president.

Jackson had been a personal hero of mine for his noble fight to get money out of politics and to remove the central bank.  His time in office was the first incidents of serious trouble in the South and the possibility of a Civil War, a war that was delayed for nearly 40 years because of action he took.  Jackson’s speeches were a important source that even Lincoln would often consult.  Jackson’s on our $20 bill and he is one of the most important founders of the Democratic Party.

I wasn’t prepared to see the darker side of Jackson’s policies.  Jackson felt that his election was a direct endorsement from the people.  That the people had chosen him to rule and would support him in all his choices.  His critics called it mob rule and nicknamed him King Mob.  Before Jackson, the House of Representatives was seen as closest to the people, and the president as more of a figurehead, not a policy maker.  But that all changed, what followed under 8 years of Jackson would be extreme executive overreach and Jackson would set many dangerous precedents that have been used and abused since his time.

The Veto was used 10 times total by the 6 presidents that preceded Jackson, the legislation that the president received was seen as created by the wishes of the people though the Congress, therefore a veto would have been an act against the peoples wishes.  But during Jackson’s terms he used the veto 12 times, as in landmark case of the Bank, but also in cases where legislation would only benefit a single state.  We’ve had 3 presidents before Jackson that never used a veto.  We’ve had 1 president since 1854 that never used a veto.

His noble act to end the Bank (now know as ending the Fed) was a cause I believe in, but the way Jackson handled it was that of a King.  He veto’s the charter for renewal on the Bank.  Withdrew all the deposits and distributed them to state banks, all without the approval of congress.  For this he was censured, but with the bank deposits withdrawn, both congress and the Bank were powerless.

His treatment of the Indians was abhorrent and he asked Congress for the legislation known as the Indian Removal Act.  Jackson fought the Indians himself, but the part that upsets me the most is tribal agreements signed between states and tribes were declared invalid and the Native Americans were forced out even though they had agreements to stay.  Jackson kept slaves and even bought and sold them while occupying office, he censored abolitionist papers that were to be distributed in the South and had a corrupt post office that would help reduce the number anti-slavery papers.  Jackson knew the papers would inflame the South and likely saw censorship as one of the best ways to maintain the Union, but that doesn’t forgive him for the crime of censorship and stepping on a free press.  It’s amazing to see a moral Christian person ignore these moral transgression, ignore the constitution, and established executive precedent.  It’s easy to see why rivals called him a King.  I think much of what Jackson started has continued to plague the country and especially the executive office, Obama’s latest gun measure comes to light.  Destroying HIPPA laws that offer privacy and protection to people, for what?

Another consistency I found funny was that women sure love to gossip.  A cabinet member married an promiscuous women and all the females of Washington sort of turned against her, shunning her from social functions and the like.  Jackson always supported his friends and that support would cause much drama over four years.  It’s amusing to see that even the stupid details can cause much turmoil for even great men like Jackson.

In the end I still have respect for what Jackson did, but I’m much more critical of how he did it because I’ve seen the overreach it has encouraged.  I have a lot of respect for his difficult childhood and for fighting the British.  It is truly amazing that most of the people that fought in the Revolutionary War were volunteers.  We are absolutely living in a different time now.

The next book on my list Areopagitica a speech by John Milton in 1644 in Parliament, about free speech and the necessity of a free press.  This is the stuff we should be teaching kids in school.