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June 14th, 2019

Kayak trailer project: Photos

Here's where we are right now with the bicycle-powered ocean touring kayak trailer project:

[personal profile] scrottie working on setup for test riding:

A-quaxing we will go

Current trailer iteration:

A-quaxing we will go

Problems: There's going to be too much torque on the tongue, one of the biggest issues with the previous trailers. The weight of steel used is also a little *too* flexible, so the whole thing is pretty darned wiggly and apt to drag on the ground. Right now, part of the tongue is also a bit too long. We can at least fix the third part pretty easily: S is going to shorten it so the trailer is centered behind the bike instead of offset to one side.

We are also thinking to add more diagonal supports between the rectangular frame and the arm. I have to admit I'm not particularly optimistic about this fixing the problems.

I suppose another possibility would be to build out the rectangular part and then get the towbar that goes with the hitch.

We shall see.

We can still manage to do quite a bit with our current trailers, although I wound up deciding to have the Despot cut the pictured 2 x 6 board in half because 8 feet is pretty long.

A-quaxing we will go

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1300774.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Note: While this is kind of about Life is a Miracle, it's mostly a rant about sloppy ideas guys, holding up E.O. Wilson as an example. He certainly isn't the worst culprit, but there are some glaring problems.

In December, I borrowed the book Life is a Miracle from my father. It had been on my list of books to read for a while, based on having read The Gift of Good Land and finding TGoGL insightful, and based on some conversations with my father about the distinctions between scientific insights versus individual lived experiences.

My father tucked some newspaper clipping reviews of E.O. Wilson's book Consilience inside of his copy of Life is a Miracle; these clippings kept on falling out of LIAM as I read it. From the clippings I gather that my father probably never read Consilience. That was probably a wise decision on his part.

I read Consilience when it first came out. I'd heard a lot of people speak with a tone of somewhat breathless awe and reverence about E.O. Wilson's books, and I work in a field where some of Wilson's ideas have had important and long-lasting impact. In the 1990's I think most of the breathless awe was about The Diversity of Life, a book I put down in the middle of a busy college semester and never picked up again (rare for me to set down a book and never finish it). On the shelf right above the computer where I'm typing, I've got a copy of The Ants and of The Insect Societies. Many sociobiologists will tell you that The Insect Societies is the book that got them interested in studying social insects and social behavior. While I own a copy, I haven't read it cover-to-cover; it's a historical reference work for me.

A lot of LIAM is a direct conversational response to Consilience, pointing out where the logic in Consilience is sloppy and wrong (hint: many, many places). The trouble with this is that because LIAM is in such direct dialogue with Consilience, a lot of LIAM's other important points won't necessarily reach audiences through time, because Consilience itself is a forgettable book (aside from where academic institutions are today, in terms of "blah blah interdisciplinary blah blah death to the humanities blah blah science all the things").

This is probably okay for LIAM. I think many of the other points in LIAM are things that Berry has worked to convey in his other writing, more effectively. So LIAM can exist as a counterpoint to another book from the same era.*

But I want to get back to this thing that irritates me tremendously. Here it is: Wilson is what I'd call an "ideas guy." He has lots of ideas, so he writes about all of them at great length and publishes lots of books. But he's sloppy. So some of his ideas hold up through time (island biogeography theory!), while others are just wrong, and then a lot of other people have to spend a lot of time and energy carefully clarifying why those other ideas are wrong, and hope they get listened to because they don't have the same halo of fame surrounding them that Wilson has. And Wilson typically doesn't come back to carefully revisit his previous ideas: he just moves on to having other big ideas on other topics. (typically.)

Here's another example. Wilson just wrote a book on "the deep origin of societies." Thankfully, a writer for the scientific journal Nature read, carefully reviewed, and critiqued it along with 2 other books on almost the same topic. If you are able to read the critique, I think you'll see you probably don't need to read this latest book by Wilson. Save your mind for other things.

But I'm curious. What do you think? Should the pen get wrested away from Big Ideas Guys? Am I too unforgiving?

[Part of my unforgivingness stems from the general publication glut. Keep your "minimum publishable unit" to yourself until it's substantive, people!]

And on that note, time to go back to grumpily reading way too many papers on the evolution of cooperation in groups.**


*One other difficult arena in LIAM for me: Berry is a White Male Colonist. I don't know if he's ever addressed this aspect of his identity directly, but through my current lens it's a little hard to read some of what he's writing from the basis of his identity as an American Farmer. On the other hand, he tries to be explicit and honest about who he is, and I do appreciate that, and he clearly advocates for being sensitive to the particularities of place and context. It's probably unfair of me to ask him to solve colonialism.


**Seriously, this topic has been a huge timesuck and mental drain in my life, starting in grad school when I first started working with ant queen foundress associations. There's too much muck to wade through.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1301089.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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