This book is a lyrical treasure, rewarding brisk reading with a rapidly unfolding picture or the beauty of the world; a picture that does not bypass sThis book is a lyrical treasure, rewarding brisk reading with a rapidly unfolding picture or the beauty of the world; a picture that does not bypass scientific knowledge but uses it productively in building a larger and richer experience of nature. The power of sustained observation of nature to enrich our experience and gain an appropriately humble context is well demonstrated, and perhaps even passed forward. It provides another entry in "night-reading": a break from analysis and instruction to explore beauty, adult wonder, and personal significance that one will welcome after a long workday. Yet, to imply a break from instruction would fail to describe the remarkable synthesis of scientific knowledge and experience.
The book takes the form of journal entries, spanning the year of observation, each taking place on a particular day. Each entry is small enough to be read in a self-standing way, but I personally found it most satisfying to read from the middle of one to the middle of the next, giving starting some context and satisfying the urge for more after each conclusion. Reading it with a fair degree of pace allows for the picture to unfold without getting too hung-up on any particular metaphor and better build the experience.
I have heard the recommendation to, prior to any intervention, observe the land for a year to learn about its inhabitants and their relationships; this book presents a solid testimonial for this practice. ...more
This book is a big deal. There has always been the question: is permaculture actually physically and economically feasible as an agricultural practiceThis book is a big deal. There has always been the question: is permaculture actually physically and economically feasible as an agricultural practice on a large-scale, in a way competitive with conventional farming, while not compromising on ecological measures? This book makes a broad case that the answer is yes, both by qualitative and quantitative measures, and explains how this agriculture is done in an accessible way. In short, these practices takes both techniques from permaculture, such careful perennial plant combinations and keyline-style water management and plowing, with a natural farming approach to variety selection and pest control (namely, if a plant is going to die without constant tending, a working polyculture farmer doesn't have time to deal with it).
This book includes a great overview of the polycultures Mark uses, including silviopasture (integrated herd management), bee-keeping (the history-driven explanation of how bee colony collapses are caused by modern bee-keeping technology, and the alternative historical practice, was eye-opening), and fungi harvesting, but also points to other systems appropriate to other regions, and gives credit to further resources, such as the Center for Agroforestry. It describes the transition to these practices from annual agriculture. The book also provides a numerical comparisons of the yields seen today by conventionally-raised corn in terms of nutrition, useable caloric output, and input costs.
The book does repeat itself, but not in a way that I found off-putting to my reading, but more in the sense of "here is yet another example of X", continually marshaling evidence and pointing back to points made before, in a way I found kept a certain rhythm with my particular pace of reading.
Finally, besides explaining and defending, this book is also a call to action, urging farmers, ranchers, and land-owners to undertake these practices, others to support their efforts, and "doing-based" non-profits to build these efforts. I cannot help but be excited about the
Let's talk about what the book isn't. The purpose of this book is not to provide a complete agricultural-design practice or to be a step-by-step guide of what to do when. Others have found "The Resilient Farm and Homestead" to be better for this purpose, and so far I'm enjoying that too. I suggest it can't hurt to read both. It's also not written for conventional farmers to enjoy, though I can't tell exactly how inflammatory it is.
What readers may find astonishing is that this book does not exhaust all that Mark has to say. I've initially heard Mark speaking on a variety of podcasts, and I recommend maybe listening to a few of those first, so that you can hear the voice of the book. ...more
This book is the natural antithesis to "The Science of the Artificial", as it demonstrates where design science really stands (and in what poor shapeThis book is the natural antithesis to "The Science of the Artificial", as it demonstrates where design science really stands (and in what poor shape it is according to design practice). Turing-award winner Fred Brooks is a nice counterweight to the Turing (and Nobel) winning Herbert Simon, not a theoretical genius who revolutionized several fields but a practical project manager who assisted in making a corporation a lot of money. What this book is clearly leading up to is a synthesis, a decision theoretic treatment that can handle how the information of a design is gathered, which is trying solutions and seeing what interacts to make it break down.
The case studies of this volume are terrible, but terrible in a way that illustrates exactly what is being talked about: that there are elements in design but not a science in real design projects. The truth is that design isn't organized by the discovered elements, but by the discovery activities and when it is appropriate to take them so that they best make new findings from what was known before.
The writing is clear, real, and informal as befits a book of essays. Never count being easy to read against content.
Overall, for an engineer starting to work on their processes, this is a great place to begin. ...more
This book may not be the Moby Dick of professional basketball fandom, but shares many of the same characteristics: eccentricity, tangents, structuralThis book may not be the Moby Dick of professional basketball fandom, but shares many of the same characteristics: eccentricity, tangents, structural variation, and 100+ page bursts about a given topic, but different, in being chock-full of entertainment, humor, and vulgarity. Other readers have noted the Celtics bias, but I think that misses the point badly. It's bias is something that the book admits to and attempts to overcome, but cannot given the main premise, which is: championships come along rarely enough in the overall pace of the game that we cannot objectively tell what great basketball is from statistics or objective measures of any kind, but only the human connections and stories that are formed from those events; that is to say that greatness at the final moments is so rare we can only observe it. That his connections to basketball were formed by the Celtics at a tender age, and has stuck, is perhaps a point in favor. Ultimately, sports are games structured by institution to create occasions of impressive performance.
The book, for what seems to be a random structure, actually has a carefully thought through form: it establishes its criteria (that team, champions, and testimony matter more that numbers), demonstrates its criteria, observes the contingent structure of basketball with its drafts and trades, devises a formal way to structure the greatness of players (a new NBA hall of fame), evaluates the players according to this structure, evaluates teams, tries to build the best team of all time, and then concludes. I think establishing teams over individuals, attempting to claim a lack of bias by not putting a Celtic at the top, and then saying the best team of all time was a Celtics team, is sneaky, devious, and ultimately clever (maybe too clever).
To produce an entertaining and well-structured 700+ book is certainly an achievement. If this was fiction, it would truly be amazing, I cannot imagine the world-building to produce such a thing. As it stands, it is a great testament to an ordinary obsession.
(Edit: originally four stars, now five, as it's still a book I talk about)
This book would be great if it were only a compilation for the general public of a career of thinking about our psychological foibles, specifically thThis book would be great if it were only a compilation for the general public of a career of thinking about our psychological foibles, specifically the tendencies toward certain mistakes (or biases) that inhabit our judgment, by an absolute titan of the subject, as if capping off his long career with a summary of what he had learned (though to think of the quality of careers in how they end is itself a most terrible bias). Instead, what makes this book truly marvelous is that it is conceived of as a fiction: in order for us to understand the deeply alien way that the parts of us that we can't observe work, he instead tells of the tendencies of System 1 and System 2, two characters that describe components of ourselves as shorthand. This shorthand is deliberately created to exploit the tendency to see a world of agents, narrative, and pattern, even where they do not exist. He builds up a vocabulary for gossiping about these characters, as though around the coffee station at work, so that as we make decisions we imagine the criticisms of others about our own minds, which has been made necessary by our inescapable blindness to ourselves.
My only criticism is that although he admits that these biases come from an astonishing ability to form and maintain worlds of astonishing complexity, he does not explain the tremendous capabilities that these biases trade for, the benefits we enjoy today in learning with nearly unjustified statistical rapidity. Yet, I feel that this is a challenge for coming generations of psychologists, and that this work stands testament to a scientific career as successful as any could hope for....more
This book is an opaque, diffuse, sophisticated, rich, wry, and promethean profusion of thick phenomenological experiences of European and American citThis book is an opaque, diffuse, sophisticated, rich, wry, and promethean profusion of thick phenomenological experiences of European and American cities, rewritten and redrawn. It is a canonical book for enjoying what I call "night-reading", a vacation from the logic and rationality of the day, but instead an invitation to arcane beauty and free-form creativity, adult wonder and unexplained personal significances: profound but not so self-serious.
Peter Cook was a founding member of the legendary speculative architecture collective, Archigram, which produced walking cities, instant cities inflated and brought in balloons, plug-in cities under the continual arrangement of cranes, and in general a revision of what the city could be if it were dynamic and organic; in its way, a futurism. The question is, clearly these proposals are that of the young, suitable for those in their twenties. What this book is really about is how, with courage, age leads one to grow artistically, tempering, refining, and developing without destroying or abandoning one's pursuit.
What happens is that that these visions become more oblique, turning less to mechanism and dynamics and more to gardens and curated growth, less to parties and more to visits, less from diagrams and more to painterly compositions that have an unclear correspondence with anything built so much as they better suggest a soft cubism, more suited to greenery and water: ponds, rivers, waterfalls, and pools; etched and delimited by rock formations, paths, sheds, and windows to who knows where. It remains the visual equivalent of the atmospheric and worldly "Orbus Terrarum".
Here is what this book says about aging: don't worry about having too much of a plan; have great experiences, keep playing and keep creating. Your craft may no longer have the boldness of youth but it will have the profuse erudition of your years.