My reading list hasn’t exactly been high-minded lately. I just got through Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal. I wouldn’t urge anyone to buy the book, which I probably skimmed more than half of. It does have a few choice quotes, one or two that made me laugh out loud.
Here’s Lars Ulrich with an observation on Cliff Burton:
Cliff and Kirk brought incredible depth into the band. Cliff went to music school. We would sit there and talk about Venom or Angel Witch. He’d sit there and talk about Bach, Yes, and Peter Gabriel.
Now I’m on to You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me: Phish, Insane Clown Posse, and My Misadventures with Two of Music’s Most Maligned Tribes. I’m still in the early pages, but I think this one’s a winner.
Posted by Gillies on June 13, 2013
I’m re-reading The Subtle Knife. That is some powerful fiction.
Posted by Gillies on June 5, 2013
Smart design is not necessarily high-tech.
Posted by Gillies on May 4, 2013
From The Upcycle, which I’m reading at the moment:
What if we used existing highways for renewable energy distribution? Imagine ribbons of road running through the desert covered with lightweight shading devices made of solar panels, or with the panels stationed adjacent to the highways in the public rights of way.
Posted by Gillies on April 24, 2013
Cradle to Cradle:
Just as there is no corner of the globe untouched by human presence, there is almost no land habitat, from harsh desert to inner city, untouched by some species of ant. They are a good example of a population whose density and productiveness are not a problem for the rest of the world, because everything they make and use returns to the cradle-to-cradle cycles of nature. All their materials, even their most deadly chemical weapons, are biodegradable, and when they return to the soil, they supply nutrients, restoring in the process some of those that were taken to support the colony.
Posted by Gillies on March 22, 2013
Email from William McDonough:
I am pleased to announce that my new book, The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability—Designing for Abundance, which I wrote with Michael Braungart, will be published next month. Four years in the making, the book re-joins the conversation sparked by Cradle to Cradle in 2002, one which, I am grateful to say, is as lively and meaningful as ever.
Posted by Gillies on March 15, 2013
From Steve Jobs
In eight grade, [Wozniak] built a calculator that included 100 transistors, two hundred diodes, and two hundred resistors on ten circuit boards. It won top prize in a local contest run by the Air Force, even though the competitors included students through 12th grade.
Posted by Gillies on February 4, 2013
About a page and half into this book, I thought I might abandon ship. Speck states at the outset that Walkable City is “about what works in cities. And what works best in the best cities is walkability.” It occurred to me then that, since I really have no disagreement with that statement, maybe I should just skip slogging through the remaining 629 pages.
Well, I stuck it out, and I’m glad I did. For one thing, having read this one, I feel more at ease perusing the posts and comment sections at Greater Greater Washington. I also learned some stuff, like this:
Paris is one place that has determined that its future depends on reducing its auto dependence. The city has recently decided to create twenty-five miles of dedicated busways, introduced 20,000 “city bikes” in 1,450 locations, and committed to removing fifty-five thousand parking spaces from the city every year for the next twenty years.
A few things bothered me about the book, though. In fact, it was the first I’ve read on my iPad where I used two different highlight colors: blue for passages I liked, and pink for passages I didn’t.
One aspect that got the pink treatment was the occasional whiff of Slate-style contrarianism. Hybrid cars actually cause more pollution! Streets without any road signs are in fact safer! Speck backs it all up with studies and so on, and I guess city planning involves challenging assumptions and occasionally turning them on their head. Still, I found myself rolling my eyes here and there.
Ultimate test: was it worth the price of download? Yes.
Next up is Steve Jobs.
Posted by Gillies on January 29, 2013
From Jeff Speck’s Walkable City:
Most current [D.C.] residents are unaware that at one time, the Washington area was slated to receive 450 miles of interstate highways, 38 of which would have plowed through the District itself. Thanks to an epic twenty-two year political battle, only 10 miles were ever built. Instead, much of the federal funding was diverted to to the 103-mile Metrorail system, now considered central to the city’s recent resurgence.
Posted by Gillies on December 20, 2012
I finished up Last Call this week. Couple of thoughts.
- Overall, excellent. A+. I’d recommend it to just about anyone.
- As I read, I kept thinking that the book could well have been titled, “Prohibition: The Dumbest Thing That Has Ever Happened Anywhere.” Okrent recounts instance after instance of absurdity, unintended consequences, and perverse outcomes. Example: In 1917, two years before Prohibition, the American Medical Association passed a unanimous resolution stating that therapeutic use of alcohol was baseless, scientifically. But five years later, as doctors made a killing writing “prescriptions” (permitted under Prohibition law) for pints of liquor, the AMA reversed itself and came out strongly against any tighter restrictions on medicinal booze. Doctors suddenly extolled the benefits of alcohol for treating diabetes, cancer, and other illnesses.
- I’m sorry Okrent didn’t devote time to America’s current approach to drugs, but I think the implications of the book are pretty clear. Okrent writes that “in almost every respect imaginable, Prohibition was a failure.” The exception, he says, is that Americans did end up drinking less after repeal in 1933, thanks to new codes and rules around alcohol consumption that didn’t exist prior to Prohibition. So, the answer seems to be legalizing and regulating (and taxing!).
In a way, the story of Prohibition is heartening. It may have been the dumbest thing ever, but Americans were smart enough to get rid of it eventually.
Posted by Gillies on December 13, 2012