Mar 05

He himself liked the variables best

From Willard McCarty, Modeling: A Study in Words and Meanings in A Companion to Digital Humanities, ed. Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, John Unsworth. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.

Out on site, you were never parted from your plans. They were your Bible. They got dog-eared, yellowed, smeared with mud, peppered with little holes from where you had unrolled them on the ground. But although so sacred, the plans were only the start. Once you got out there on the site everything was different. No matter how carefully done, the plans could not foresee the variables. It was always interesting, this moment when you saw for the first time the actual site rather than the idealised drawings of it.

He knew men who hated the variables. They had their plans and by golly they were going to stick to them. If the site did not match the drawings it was like a personal insult.

He himself liked the variables best. He liked the way that the solution to one problem created another problem further down the line, so that you had to think up something else, and that in turn created another problem to solve. It was an exchange, backwards and forwards. Some men thought of it as a war, but to him it was more like a conversation.

Kate Grenville, The Idea of Perfection

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