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Stewart Brand: How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built (1995) 4 stars

Review of "How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built" on 'Goodreads'

No rating

The rare book relevant to both my YIMBY work and open community work. MediaWiki is very much a building that has learned; I hope the next generation of Wikipedians can keep that alive. XKCD’s “guy in Nebraska” is also a part of a structure that learns, but precariously and with less provision for systemic, cross-ecosystem learning than Wikipedia. On the flip side, we’re never going to build what Brand calls “low” buildings in SF again; at best we’ll get some ADUs but mostly we’ll get a lot of big buildings. That’s good and needed but they’ll never be great buildings in the way our Edwardians are.

Andreas Malm: How to Blow up a Pipeline (2020, Verso Books) 4 stars

Why resisting climate change means combatting the fossil fuel industry

The science on climate change …

Review of 'How to Blow up a Pipeline' on 'Goodreads'

No rating

Everyone should read this; not necessarily because everyone should start blowing up pipelines, but because when you read a headline about those who do have the moral courage to blow up pipelines, you should put it in the proper context—as morally laudable and strategically important work. Which is not something you’re going to hear nearly enough.

Review of 'History of Montana in 101 Objects' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Highly recommended as an easy place for any newcomer to Montana to start getting acquainted with the history of the place. The pieces are well-selected and the essays concise while still being interesting and informative. Makes me wish San Francisco had something similar.

Dale Martin: Ties, Rails, and Telegraph Wires (Hardcover, 2018, Montana Historical Society Press) 4 stars

Review of 'Ties, Rails, and Telegraph Wires' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

A lovely, place-focused entry in the genre of “tech changes us”, sub-category “transportation tech changes us”. The amazing use of archival photography separates this from many other, drier, less human books of the genre, and I recommend it for that reason-the photography often evokes what mere words can’t.

Besides the pictures, the book is at its best when it sparkles with little stories and data that make this a particularly Montana book, evoking how the state’s size and emptiness made the railroad so important and it’s usage different from how people in other states may think of this. For example, from page 34: “During their
twelve-hour run between Havre and Williston, North Dakota, a distance of 309 miles, [a pair of daily local trains] stopped at up to sixty-one places, of which fifty-six were in Montana … in places ranging in size from the incorporated town of Wolf Point, with …

Rebecca Roanhorse: Fevered Star (2022, Center Point Large Print) 4 stars

Review of 'Fevered Star' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

I’ve made a classic blunder: not starting a land war in Asia, but starting an epic fantasy series. It’s terrific, engaging, well-drawn characters, interesting mythology, but I also had somehow gotten the impression it’s only two books and it very, very much is going to be way more than two books — all the pieces are in place for something huge and sprawly. So, yay, more very good stuff to read… someday?

Review of 'Springfield Carbine on the Western Frontier' on 'Goodreads'

2 stars

Picked up from the Bozeman Historical Museum’s little free library on a whim, because (following my reading in Lakota history) I’m interested in the 1800s West as a space of technological change. Patents came up in the first paragraph, so in that sense not disappointing.

This very slim book is extremely focused on the gun and its technical change over time—powder weights, sights, metals used in shells, production volume, etc. Discussion of its usage is restricted to analysis of what the troops liked and disliked about it. Interest in the gun itself is assumed; that the interest stems in large part from the weird hero worship of the genocidal Custer is so far out of scope that it almost seems unfair to critique the book for it.

Suspect there’s an interesting book to be written on the gun in the West (especially one that follows Pekka Hamalainen in taking indigenous …