Feb 23, 2018

the art you cannot avoid

The profession of architecture critic is a small one, and not one scheduled for growth, but the ability to write about architecture—either as a language or a stage—is relevant to...

Feb 8, 2018

say instead

Reader, when you have spent some time in the presence of someone using a wheelchair, or flapping their hands, or wielding a cane, or bearing up under a cloud of...

Feb 1, 2018

the elasticity of grief

Twenty or so years ago, I was casual acquaintances with a woman who, in the space of a year, lost one of her three children to an accident and her...

Jan 17, 2018

the least enlargement of ideas

From Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1838 lecture on nonviolent resistance, entitled “War.” I got this from Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows, about which more to come. But it’s this notion...

Jan 17, 2018

a rat is killed, a man broken, a horse splashes

It’s hard not to read James Scott’s Seeing Like A State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed without thinking about the hubris, the homogenizing effects, the...

Jan 16, 2018

crip time is time travel

From Ellen Samuels, “Six Ways of Looking at Crip Time,”:

Dec 19, 2017

a cutting of chai

Dec 12, 2017

alexa / snips

Sometime in the past year my son, nearly 12 and has Down syndrome, got to play with Alexa at a friend’s house. I only knew this once I went to...

Dec 11, 2017

love's austere and lonely offices

I went to hear Matthew Zapruder and Alex Zapruder at the Houghton Library last week, both of whom were interviewed by Michael Downing—and what a terrific conversation, about language, memory,...

Dec 11, 2017

sycamore key

—what is she to him, after all? He cannot settle his mind. He does not miss her, since she seems so insistently present, in the yellow lichen wrapping the bare...

Dec 1, 2017

the performing of a very complicated act

John Chris Jones’s 1992 book, Design Methods has a selected historical list of the definitions for design work. Jones offers us these, gathered from the era just after the 20th...

Nov 30, 2017

on a cloud

Gizmodo has a story on the last remaining users of the iron lung—a 1950’s technology that forces the human body to breathe, used by some who contracted polio in that...

Nov 30, 2017

grad school advice

I have a longer post in me about this, but for now, adapted from my sent folder:

Nov 28, 2017

available in response

Rob Giampietro’s Lined and Unlined had this excerpt from Lawrence Weschler’s terrific book on the artist Robert Irwin, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, way back...

Nov 23, 2017

math melodrama

My colleague Oscar Mur-Miranda has been kind enough to walk me through some basics of higher mathematics in the last couple of years: the conics especially, as I try to...

Nov 21, 2017


Jarrett Fuller has an excerpt from an interview with Dan Hill here, but it’s this idea from Stewart Brand’s How Buildings Learn that grabbed me the most:

Nov 4, 2017

common language

I’ve spent the last 72 hours in Montreal and in southern Belgium. In these places, every encounter starts with the question of which language we’ll proceed to speak, and always...

Oct 31, 2017

grief, rage

“What was this? Not grief. Grief she knew. Grief was the stepsibling they’d grown up with, unwanted and inevitable. Grief the amniotic fluid of their lives. Grief she could look...

Oct 27, 2017

a reminder to sponsor

Autumn 2017 seems to be as good a time as any to remind you: there’s a difference between mentoring and sponsoring women and their work. This is for men and...

Oct 18, 2017

reminiscence of being a woman

Oct 18, 2017

that lego aesthetic

I had to sit through the latest LEGO Ninjago movie recently: a treat for two of my children but not for me. The story elements were hopelessly thin, but I...

Oct 17, 2017


Couldn’t help but love coming across novelist Jim Harrison’s saying that he’d “rather give full vent to all human loves and disappointments, and take a chance on being corny, than...

Oct 6, 2017

summoning a public

Lisa Brawley recently pointed me to Corey Robin’s 2016 essay, How Intellectuals Create a Public. I can’t believe I didn’t see it before now, because it names something so vital...

Oct 4, 2017

designer as

Sep 30, 2017

ninety percent of the job

I loved this interview with Rory Hyde:

Sep 28, 2017

the uses of history

“A culture comprises unfinished intellectual and emotional journeyings, expeditions now abandoned but known to us in the tattered maps left behind by the explorers; it is composed of light-hearted adventures,...

Sep 23, 2017

don't look

While reading to my three children at night, my youngest, age 7, will often be lolling in bed while I narrate. Or maybe he’ll be fiddling with Legos or other...

Aug 11, 2017

to grow and cook a message

“Meaning is not what you start out with but what you end up with. Control, coherence, and knowing your mind are not what you start out with but what you...

Jul 24, 2017

all grown up

“I always reel for a few days after I witness someone’s personal truth. I walk around feeling like I’m wearing their essence like a tight sweater. With Greta, it’s a...

Jul 24, 2017

muybridge, animal locomotion

Jul 21, 2017

the past is another country (again)

From Bill McKibben’s introduction to the 2010 reissue of E. F. Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered:

Jul 20, 2017

avoiding the high-brow freak show

Oliver Sacks is probably the only author many people have read about disability at length. Sacks wrote many books with such a keen eye for description and also a literate,...

Jul 13, 2017

seeing-as, and free indirect style

Michael Berube’s book, Life As We Know It, was an absolute lifesaver for me after my eldest son, Graham, was born with Down syndrome in 2006. I was looking in...

Jul 11, 2017


The last couple of years have been a busy season for weddings in my immediate circles. These seasons come and go, and I’m always thrilled when they come back around....

Jun 28, 2017

radically careful, or carefully radical

I’m working on a book in earnest now, and for that I’m getting caught up on my woefully patchy knowledge of design history. The last bunch of years have been...

Jun 5, 2017

a walrus on the beach

Lawrence Weschler in the edited collection called The New New Journalism:

May 31, 2017

better citizens

“In 2006, the municipal president of Neza, a tough area of two million people on the easter edge of Mexico City, decided that the members of his police force needed...

May 9, 2017

the invisible editor

Jill Lepore talks about translating academic work for wider audiences, and more over at Public Books.

Apr 20, 2017

something to say

Last year I read—inhaled, really—the newest novel from Ann Patchett, Commonwealth. I went deep into interviews with Patchett afterwards, including this great conversation on the Lit Up podcast, from whence...

Feb 20, 2017

the moon and the tide

Leslie Jamison has one of many essays in the new collection on writers and money, Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living. It’s a good one in...

Jan 4, 2017

rip edith ackermann

Everyone knows 2016 was just one big heartbreak of loss after another—so many brilliant and creative people who died in those 12 months. These days I’m thinking a lot about...

Oct 1, 2016

academic structure and safe spaces

Lots to think about in this piece by Henry Farrell over at Crooked Timber:

Sep 28, 2016


“When you are not the person for whom a piece of technology is ‘user-friendly,’ you experience its limitations at a visceral level, so deep-seated that it can often feel as...