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Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Sun Jun 28, 2015 at 01:17:14 PM EST) Reading, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "A Wanted Man", "Never Go Back", "Lawrence in Arabia". Me. Links.


What I'm Reading
A Wanted Man by Lee Child. This Jack Reacher novel returns to the present. Hitchhiking away from the scene of the last present day one, still with a broken nose from the criminal gang he last tangled with, he gets picked up by two men and a women trying to beat police roadblocks. Another good entry with plenty of twists and some nice claustrophobic tension in the scenes when they're all in the car.

What I'm Reading
Never Go Back by Lee Child. After several books crossing America with the usual difficulties (having to defeat a gang of baddies practically every time you stop for the night) Reacher finally gets to Washington DC on his latest whim, meeting the new CO of the investigative military police unit he used to command, who helped him out. When he gets there he finds she's under arrest, and he's rapidly redrafted and charged himself. Can he somehow break out of detention, solve the mystery and beat up a bunch of people parking lots and crowded airliners without anyone noticing? You'll just have to read it or make an educated guess.

What I'm Reading
Lawrence in Arabia by Scott Anderson. Long book that covers T.E. Lawrence and compares his career to three others active at the time: American Standard Oil agent William Yale, German agent Carl Prufer and Zionish agronomist Aaron Aaronsohn.

The book has a lot of fascinating detail on the politics of the time, in particular the notorious Sykes-Picot agreement that secretly divided the Middle East up between Britain and France. I've always heard of Sykes-Picot as if it were a routine part of Imperial skulduggery, but even as it was created it seems to have been considered notoriously ill-judged and badly thought out. At first even high officials were ignorant of it. Later, others assured each other that it was too ridiculous to ever be implemented. Even keen imperialists thought that it was absurd and dishonourable that Britain was secretly promising the same areas of land to France, to Zionists and Arab nationalists in the hope they wouldn't find out about it.

While the content was interesting, I found the book a bit of a slog. The grinding, bloody stupidity of the First World War in action is depressing when contemplated at length. The style is a little odd too with some strange folksy Americanisms in the otherwise formal text.

Overall though, a useful book if you want a thorough discussion of the subject. Review, review.

A couple of extracts:

Kitchener had a pretty good idea. At that Cabinet meeting on August 7, where some other ministers imagined a conflict lasting months or even weeks, the newly appointed War Secretary predicted years. "It will not end," he told his colleagues, "until we have plumbed our manpower to the last million."
...
His name was Mark Sykes... Few people in history have so heedlessly caused so much tragedy... In Picot's defense, he couldn't have known how much his territorial demands conflicted with those of Emir Hussein. That's because his British counterpart never chose to tell him. As incredible as it might seem, during those crucial days of early January 1916 when much of the future map of the Middle East was being drawn , there was just one person in the world who knew the full details of both the McMahon –Hussein Correspondence and the emerging Sykes– Picot compact, and who might have grasped the extent to which Arab, French, and British goals in the region had now been set on a collision course: Mark Sykes. But if Sykes did grasp this, he wasn't saying.
Me
Exhausted and depressed. Had a major release at work which had big problems, though it's finally shipped. Didn't help that everyone else was doing long hours but I need to look after the baby. That release is shipped but I've now been moved onto another project which is also missing its deadlines.

Links
Articles. Matt Kahn's 100 years of bestsellers project finally finished. Superpower pill story. Classics for the people. Sarah Waters on writing "The Paying Guests".

Sci/Tech. Your spam filter won't save you.

Random. Let’s Take This Open Floor Plan to the Next Level. Etymology of "eleven" and "twelve". Ask Metafilter: Did my boyfriend just get married? Sea bishop.

Politics. Left wing Spanish mayors. Early report on why the election polls were wrong: "Most companies thought there was little evidence of late swing being a cause... Most of the pollsters seemed to be looking at turnout as being a major factor in the error, but this covered more than one root cause...No one claimed they had solved the issue". Xenofeminism (txt).

Video. Hamster is a Giant Monster All 6 Star Wars films at once. Action Man: Battlefield Casualties. German satire show on Brexit.

Pics. Balloon animals. Noooooooooo!

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An unwanted man | 2 comments (2 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Inevitable comments: by wumpus (4.00 / 1) #1 Sun Jun 28, 2015 at 08:41:47 PM EST
(I guess its been awhile)

Superpower pill story: there is a link to "cannibal great whites": I'm pretty sure I've seen a link where a big shark (probably a great white) got too close to an Orca cow & calf. Chomp! Calf seemed to like eating chomped shark and mom gave room.

On classics. In college, on of my electives was "Roman literature in translation". As far as I know, nobody in the class was aware that it should probably have been subtitled "sex lit". The Romans were not the most subtle people to have ever lived.

hili cheesedog" Open floorplan. Good, but I prefer the "clense your system with chili cheesedogs" from the same page.

Giant hampster. Good. Fuzzy bunny fighter pilot. Great.

Wumpus

Classics by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #2 Tue Jun 30, 2015 at 09:58:22 AM EST
I didn't realize Gilgamesh was only rediscovered in 1853.

I heard the other day on In Our Time that we have more complete works of Sappho than we have for perhaps 1500 years. There is a similar effect with the aggregation and analysis of Zhou dynasty steles and other texts.

It is strange, I am used to thinking of our knowledge of history being inherently lossy and decaying over time. But actually we know more as the cost of copying and editing fragments together from obscure collections has come together.

The more recent example of this I saw the other day was an entire book of the neglected enlightenment philosopher Emile Du Chatelet was thought completely lost, but two copies have since turned up in different collections, because people now realize she's important.

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