Summer reading

What am I reading this summer?

Read Katharine Hayhoe’s Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World. A useful read. I skipped a fair bit of the science part as I’m familiar with it; her discussion of how to talk with people from “different sides” was very useful, practical, thought-provoking.

Read much of Speed & Scale: An Action Plan for Solving Our Climate Crisis Now. I like the emphasis on practical action and the OKR framework. It’s very concrete. There is plenty to argue with, but that’s preferable to the posturing inherent with less specific discussions.

Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò’s Elite Capture, a slim volume that I’m going through slowly now (read it quickly initially, now want to think about it). It dovetails very well with the systems thinking approach I’ve been trying to take with the environmental reading above and the reading I’ve been doing about the commodities markets. Insightful and challenging. Táíwò’s characterization of the systems by which this elite capture happens are so crisp that I feel that I could model some of these phenomena using agent-based models; haven’t tried it, but it would be awfully fun. By describing these structures so vividly, I can see the same patterns in many areas of life (public elementary schools, diversity efforts in corporate settings, academic research, etc). It’s basically a category theory approach — look at the relationships not the objects.

Had been reading The Well-Trained Mind, on classical education. Also thought-provoking! I am not particularly interested in homeschooling; I think getting out of the insular family unit is very important for many children. However, I do like the structure outlined in The Well-Trained Mind and I like the emphasis on history.

I’m learning about the commodities markets that play such an important role in finance, agriculture, manufacturing, politics, etc, so reading The World For Sale: Money, Power, and the Traders who Barter the Earth’s Resources. Perfect trifecta with the climate books and Táíwò’s work on power/people/structures. It seems to me that commodities markets are situated exactly at the nexus of power, food, economic progress, and climate change. Here I have been doing some math modeling, playing around with time series models of commodities prices and financial derivatives.

All of this is half-time, max; I’m doing some programming and Coursera stuff and growing tomatoes and eating black currants and gooseberries and trying to figure out when I should pick a melon. WHEN IS A MELON RIPE? I can’t get underneath the supports for the vine to smell the thing, so the supermarket “smell it” advice is not helpful. I’ve got three of them, which is a great start! Lots of tomatoes, lots of oregano, a fair bit of basil, lots of sunflowers….

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