by Doctor Science
This has been going around on livejournal and dreamwidth, and seems a reasonable way of keeping track of my reading. Especially given that I'm surrounded by unfinished post drafts, and now the Accord's transmission is circling the drain -- and since it's a 2001 with 130K miles, replacing the transmission may be throwing good money down a hole. But I *hate* shopping for cars, and shopping for a used car is the worst.
It's particularly aggravating because it emphasizes one of the things I hate about America: lack of public transportation. The car will be for Sprog the Elder (and with her money, thankfully), which she cannot do without because, even though she works in a building with several hundred employees, on a major road, only a couple of miles from a train line and in a continuous urban area, there is no bus she can use to get to work. She couldn't expect to live less than 1.5 miles from work, and there's not even a way to walk there that would put her on sidewalks all the way. Basically, even in a fairly urbanized area of the Northeast, you can't hold most jobs if you don't have a car.
Is it unusual in other countries for people in great financial trouble to live in their cars? I'm pretty sure every American over 30 knows someone who's lived in their car at one point or another.
Anyway, on to the meme:
What are you reading now?
Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds , by Bernd Heinrich. A good combination of naturalist's story-telling and scientific insights. Reminds me of Konrad Lorenz's King Solomon's Ring, one of the most influential books in my life.
Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovich. UK title: Rivers of London. Very good so far, a noir magic-detective dripping with London atmosphere, frequently amusingly witty, and with a modern, multi-racial cast. I can see why the e-friend who recced it said Aaronovich was her comfort-reading discovery of 2012.
What did you recently finish reading?
China Airborne by James Fallows. Fallows is both a licensed pilot and maybe the best American journalist writing about China; this book is two for the price of one. Great insights into the aircraft industry and to Chinese industrial and political development. Most important quotes:
The main surprise of living in China, as opposed to reading or hearing about it, is how much it is a loose assemblage of organizations and aspects and subcultures, an infinity of self-enclosed activities, rather than a "country" in the normal sense.and
The smiley curve ... indicates the relative profitability of each stage of the process. The highest values are at its two extremes--the extra profit that goes to an Apple- or Mercedes-branded product, and the margin from retail sales and service. The lowest value is at the bottom of the curve, where the actual manufacturing takes place. And that lowest niche is the one that China has occupied [for the last] thirty years of its growth. The work was done in China, and the money went everyplace else.Also, the idea that aerospace is an "apex industry", as big cats or eagles are "apex predators": they rely on, and so reflect the health and development of, the whole system.
One of the biggest problems in developing a Chinese aerospace industry is philosophical and emotional. To successfully build and run commercial aircraft requires many people buying into the goal of rigorous, even nit-picking, attention to long lists of rules in manufacture and maintenance. For instance, one reason there are only three core manufacturers of large civil aircraft engines in the world (GE Aviation, Pratt & Whitney, and Rolls Royce) is because six sigma quality standards aren't enough, they need eight sigma.
Chinese culture is still closely tied to the Confucian values of thrift, "making do", tolerance for small errors, flexible response to situations, respect for other people's status, and human understanding. This may be an effective way to run a society, but it's a terrible way to build a jet engine.
What do you think you'll read next?
Fiction: it will be my turn for Dodger by Terry Pratchett. Word from the rest of the family is that it's amusing, though predictable.
Non-fiction: probably Common as Air: Revolution, Art, and Ownership by Lewis Hyde, which is waiting for me at the library (mem. to self: must pick up this eve). I've got History of Beauty by Umberto Eco, but it's looking a bit precious for my current mood.