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June 23, 2009

Complexity

I have a random note on my desk that I think came from a discussion at the Museum of Science Book Club for the Curious. I unfortunately didn't write down who said it but still find the thought intriguing enough to capture it here.

Is our ability to create complexity increasing faster than our ability to understand complexity?

Tags: quote

June 21, 2009

How We Decide

"How We Decide" by Jonah Lehrer is an exploration of all the nuances that go into the decision-making process. It is an approachable blend of cutting edge science an anecdotes about how decisions people made influenced their lives (both in life-and-death situations and the ordinary). He explores the decision making process through various facets, among them: dopamine, feelings, thinking, morals, internal argumentative dialog, and thinking about thinking. I suspect a second reading is in order as I usually find reading on airplanes to be a distracting.

Some quotes from the book that I wanted to capture:

159: Herbert Simon said it best: "A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention."
188: As Mother Teresa put it, "If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will."
244-249: the author lays out decision-making guidelines:


  • Simple problems require reason

  • Novel problems also require reason

  • Embrace uncertainty

  • You know more than you know

  • Think about thinking


253: decision-making strategy known as Cockpit Resource Management (CRM)


Tags: books thinking

The True History of Tea

Victor H. Mair & Erling Hoh explore one of favorite beverages in their book "The True History of Tea." I read this book during my visit to China which allowed me to better connect with the material as I was able to visit a tea planation and see statues of Lu Yu, who is a central figure in the book. While the general outline of tea's history was covered in A History of the World in 6 Glasses, this book more richly follows its path through China, Japan, and the rest of the world. An approachable and rewarding read for any tea lover.


Tags: books tea

China

At the end of May I took a two week trip with my Mother to China. As I've been trying to do with most of my recent trips, I took a few pictures. My initial reaction to the trip was that it was good. The cultural sites in China are amazing. What disturbed me though was the visible environmental impact of China's growth. In particular visiting the Turtle-Head Peninsula it was hard to make out the islands only a few hundred yards away due to the smog in the area. I never got a good view of Shanghai's sky-line and the only nice day we had around Beijing was due to 30 MPH winds blowing all day.

The tour company we went with is state owned but privately controlled. I felt like most of the material presented to us was overly sanitized and scripted, as evidenced by two guides telling us the same material independently. Needless to say while I went with an open mind the reenforcement of "stereotypical western demonization" was hard to escape at times. I'm glad I visited and I suspect that I'd want to return for a much more rural an unstructured exploration.

Tags: china life pictures travel

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