The Ionian Mission by Patrick O'Brian. Another Aubrey/Maturin novel. This one takes a slightly different tack than most. Usually Aubrey is sent off in a small, fast ship for a mission in an exotic part of the world: but this one has him assigned to a slow ship of the line (Worcester, 74) doing dreary blockade duty in the Mediterranean; where barnacles, boredom, naval politics and a diminishing supply of spars are the chief enemy.
Despite this realism, O'Brian manages to keep enough plot elements in play to keep things going. There are a couple of nicely comic scenes. Aubrey buys a job-lot of gunpowder from a bankrupt firework company, illuminating gunnery practice with coloured flames and smoke. Unwilling to break the neutrality of a port by shooting first, Aubrey futilely sails his squadron up and down opposite a French force, only to find that his opposition is equally disciplined: without the excuse of even a single musket shot he is forced to sail away in peaceful humiliation.
Action heats up a bit towards the ending.
What I'm Listening To
Latest TTC course was the Rise and Fall of Soviet Communism. Bit disappointed by it. Spends a lot of time on the Bolshevik Revolution, Stalin's famines and WW2, all of which is pretty familiar to me. Might work better if you're a complete newbie.
It's also one of the older 45 minute ones: dated 1998 so doesn't have any very recent information. 16 lectures.
What I'm Reading 2
A History of Negro Revolt by C.L.R. James. Picked it up on a whim at the library: reprint of an apparently classic 1930s Marxist pamphlet on the subject.
Quite interesting in places, especially his argument that Britain's abolition of the slave trade was essentially an attempt to attack French trade, since they were much more reliant on slave labour. Also has some useful stuff on colonial oppression, and an insightful discussion of the differences between colonies with permanent settlers and those without, which echoes the TTC course I did a while back.
There's a bit of a lack of notes on sources though, which makes it hard to evaluate some of the claims. Also the Marxist analysis seems to be a bit of a Procrustean bed as James struggles to extract sequential revolutions, and to identify bourgeois and proletarian classes, in African and Caribbean situations where they don't really seem to fit.
Overall, seems more of a curiosity than an useful reference.
Unsurprisingly, a month without keeping a food diary, the Xmas season, going on holiday and going to see the parents has messed up the regimen. Need to lose about half a stone.
Not sure yet what the plan is. That's a bit much for Slimfast: would mean a month on it which would get boring. Might be better to just maintain a 500 kcal per day deficit for two months.
Could maybe try something different and try exercise. According to this I could burn 500kcal in a 30minute run (at 8mph). Don't think I've really got the time though. I'm already doing 5BX every day and a bit of weights every three days. Adding in more exercise (and warm-up and showering and changing clothes and all that crap) would take a big chunk out of my reading time.
Why are gender personality differences more extreme in "prosperous, healthy, and egalitarian cultures in which women have more opportunities equal with those of men"?
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