Nov 1, 2018

not a contrarian

From this series of questions to Zadie Smith comes Teju Cole’s question:

Oct 13, 2018

knowing the present

And speaking of history: I just rewatched my friend Anab Jain’s talk at PopTech from a few years ago, where she cites this passage from Lebbeus Woods:

Oct 12, 2018

history is contingency

In the early 2000s, I was in graduate school for the first time around, in the History department at UCLA. During a holiday break, one of my very smart relatives...

Oct 2, 2018

no replacement parts for this

So few people in my design-and-disability networks will read this devastating piece by Rachel Aviv for the New Yorker about the ways race compounds the mistreatment and neglect of children...

Sep 20, 2018

stop denigrating your early work

I came across this conversation between Porochista Khakpour and Salman Rushdie last year, and the character of this exchange about Rushdie’s first novel stayed with me:

Sep 14, 2018

and speaking of the unmarked default

Speaking of the unmarked default, this new profile of Rei Kawakubo has some interesting complexities to consider:

Sep 14, 2018


[T]o call Comey’s fashion “quirky” is less a description than an evasion. “It’s so rude, ‘quirky,’ ” she tells me over dinner at La Mercerie, the busy café at Roman...

Sep 7, 2018

rethinking table fellowship

Earlier this year, I read Sunaura Taylor’s book, Beasts of Burden—wolfed it down, as it were, in a couple of days. It’s full of excellent analysis all around, linking together...

Sep 4, 2018

a drop of blood in it

An acquaintance of mine, actor and theater director, likes to say that a good work of art has a drop of blood in it. And what I think he means...

Sep 3, 2018

form giver

I loved this conversation between Jarrett Fuller and Robin Sloan on Scratching the Surface, Jarrett’s podcast about design + writing and adjacent topics. Robin is an ideal guest there because...

Aug 15, 2018


Hear me out on this—I introduced my ten-year-old daughter to Legally Blonde recently. I wasn’t sure how it would go over, and I get it if you object to the...

Aug 14, 2018


Worldwide, wheat covers 870,000 square miles of the globe’s surface, almost ten times the size of Britain. How did this grass turn from insignificant to ubiquitous? Wheat did it by...

Jul 17, 2018


Israeli scholar Avivah Gottleib Zornberg [outlines] her own interpretation of the creation story. Pointing to the first day of creation in the biblical version, when God “separated the light from...

Jul 16, 2018

encumbered with survivals

“In thought as in life, the only surpassings we know are concrete, partial, encumbered with survivals, saddled with deficits.”

Jun 29, 2018

an unbodied abstraction

Olga Rachello has a perceptive review of Mark O’Connell’s To Be A Machine: Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death in the winter ‘18...

Jun 26, 2018

the language of newness

It’s now been 25 years since I first read Walter Brueggemann’s The Prophetic Imagination in a theology class. I still have my original copy, from the era when I first...

Jun 22, 2018


From a new collection of interviews between Ursula LeGuin and David Naimon called Conversations on Writing:

Jun 22, 2018

contagion and quality of life

From the Kansas City Star:

May 31, 2018

residency re-imagined

I recently returned from round two of my four-week residency at the Carey Institute for Global Good. I was a Logan Non-fiction Fellow, working in the company of journalists, documentary...

May 27, 2018

art at work: unselfing, donor figures, opiated adjacency

I’ve been revisiting Elaine Scarry’s On Beauty and Being Just, which I first encountered many years ago via Zadie Smith’s novel inspired by it, called On Beauty. The first part...

May 11, 2018

we stood saying I

Adrienne Rich’s “In Those Years,” which I came across today while re-reading some works of Maxine Greene, the late philosopher who wrote so well about the arts, ethics, and the...

May 8, 2018

they took us by surprise

More from Matthew Zapruder’s Why Poetry, which I have half a mind to give to my engineering students who will graduate in a couple of weeks:

May 7, 2018


Perhaps there is no social joinery more magical than the shared spotting of a heron, its legs shin-deep in the banks of the river that runs through the city, all...

Apr 27, 2018

openings and closures

One of the themes of my book is about how all states of the body and its gear make for what I’m calling openings and closures in a life—openings and...

Apr 26, 2018

"everything's a prosthesis"

One of the tricky things about writing on design and disability is trying to represent multiple truths: that 1) yes, the experience of using what might be called prosthetic tools...

Apr 22, 2018

the denial of time

Another bit in my fledgling collection of words that capture “one of the great under-narrated pleasures of living: long-term fidelity and love.” This is just a passing glimpse caught in...

Apr 12, 2018

nothing compares?

I always chafe at the notion that once a professional becomes a parent, all other ambitions fall a distant second to the new identity of caregiving. It’s not that I...

Apr 6, 2018

april is the cruelest month

Those of us on the east coast are starting April with snow and wind and rain, the stuff of deep winter. We lie in wait. So it was a particularly...

Apr 5, 2018

two halves for the writer

I think a lot about this passage from an old Paris Review interview with John Updike:

Apr 3, 2018

a pedagogy for the art of changing your mind

On my morning run, I was dreaming up an exercise for undergraduates in the art of changing one’s mind, as an early-semester experience that would ready them for a course...

Apr 2, 2018

stop literalizing the design process

This is your semi-regular reminder that collaborative, ethical design is not synonymous with customer service, taking orders from “users,” retail-style. It’s synthesizing and recombining ideas from insights gained by deeply...

Mar 21, 2018

ties and insight

Jill Lepore on the writing of Rachel Carson, in the new New Yorker:

Mar 6, 2018

not in any particular order, and not exactly a gospel, but

Some things the young people in your life might need to hear:

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...