The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison. Post-apocalyptic novel where a disease kills off far more women than men, and the surviving women's children all die at birth. Many of the surviving women are subjected to sex slavery, the protagonist is a midwife who pretends to be a man to survive.
Quite good in some ways. The book is refreshingly grim, not much sign of the Cosy Catastrophe or Cleansing Apocalypse. Things are pretty terrible for the survivors, and its the best-organised communities that do best: a Mormon town, a military base. The stubborn protaganist is a good character.
The author seems to have thought through more of the social implications than some. She writes that she was homeless for part of her childhood, and some of the sense of danger in the books comes from that.
This is a first novel and it does have a few flaws. The point of view is uneven: it starts with students in the future reading the Midwife's diary, then mixes the diary with some third person accounts of the protagonist, but late in the book shifts awkwardly to events neither of them could know about. I think it would have been better to stick to one point of view. Also might have been better to leave the future reader to the end: it reduces the tension when you know from the start that childbirth is going to start up again somehow.
Overall though, a good book. Article.
What I'm Watching
Saw the Thomas Pynchon adaptation Inherent Vice: quirky Seventies story about a stoner detective trying to track down an ex-girlfriend. It's a bit rambling and doesn't go anywhere, but the world it depicts is fun to watch.
Finally getting around to losing some weight: been too busy to face it for far too long. Trying a slightly different approach this time where I have a normal breakfast and lunch but a much smaller supper. (I previously used to have a 200kcal breakfast and lunch and keep the dinner fairly normal.) The theory is that I'm less hungry and distracted in the daytime: now I'm under a lot more pressure most days I think it helps.
Took toddler to Legoland Windsor with my sister's family. She was having a birthday outing for one of her four boys, and they also brought along several friends of the birthday boy. The big kids thankfully split off and we went off with the little ones: it's a bit chaotic with so many. Toddler had a great time: he loved the rides, even the Scarab Bouncer which I thought might be too scary for him. He's great friends with one of his cousins: they hold hands and have to do everything the same: if one has a coat unzuppied or a hat brim folded up the other has to be the same.
We mostly stuck to the small rides with less queueing though: I think they're happier than if forced into long lines in a spirit of getting though everything. We only saw a fraction of the park though: people keep asking me if we went on X or Y but we didn't get through most sections.
Not sure I could take him on his own though: without another kid to play with in the queues I think he'd get bored and frustrated.
Socioeconomics. Has insecurity peaked? Sir Stephen Nickell's research on immigration and incomes. Minimum wage wars heat up. The American workplace is marked more by hierarchy and domination than democracy and freedom. East Germany's population is shrinking.
Politics. Tories need a grassroots army to match Labour's. No link, but I thought this bit from Tony Blair's autobiography on negative campaigning was interesting:
The charge of being an opportunist may seem a bit of a low-key attack. And in that also lies a lesson. With each successive Tory leader I would develop a line of attack, but I only did so after a lot of thought. Usually I did it based on close observation at PMQs. I never made it overly harsh. I always tried to make it telling. The aim was to get the non-politician nodding. I would wonder not what appealed to a Labour Conference in full throttle, but what would appeal to my old mates at the Bar, who wanted a reasonable case to be made; and who, if it were made, would rally.Tories... cannot carry on expecting people to be capitalists if they have no capital. Journalists' lack of curiosity about Corbyn was professional malpractice. The rise of the Thought Leader. Labour and Immigration:
So I defined Major as weak; Hague as better at jokes than judgement; Howard as an opportunist; Cameron as a flip-flop not knowing where he wanted to go. (The Tories did my work for me in undermining Iain Duncan Smith.) Expressed like that, these attacks seem flat, rather mundane almost and not exactly inspiring -- but that's their appeal. Any one of these charges, if it comes to be believed, is actually fatal. Yes, its not like calling your opponent a liar, or a fraud, or a villain or a hypocrite, but the middle-ground floating voter kind of shrugs their shoulders at those claims. They don't chime. They're too over the top, too heavy, and they represent an insult not an argument. Whereas the lesser charge, because it's more accurate and precisely because it's low-key, can stick. And if it does, that's that. Because in each case, it means they're not a good leader. So game over.
Liberalism has always been distinguished by its logic of exclusions; there is always someone for whom the universal doesn't apply...Sci/Tech. Physicists battle archaeologists for ancient Roman lead. Tide predictors. Cooling the Tube - Engineering heat out of the Underground:
There is a marxist political economy, rooted in the study of migrant economies in apartheid South Africa, which can explain some of it. In particular, the costs of reproducing migrant labour in a 'free movement' zone are much lower than the costs of reproducing domestic labour. The price of labour is suppressed by a number of factors, including the fact that for short-term migrants, the inputs are determined in part by prices in Warsaw or Bucharest -- so, if you have a family to send money back to, a little extra money made in London counts for a lot more back home. There are also the collective conditions of housing and transport for many workers, which reduces costs even more.
But, of course, 'the economy' is never free-standing, never exists apart from its political and legal constitution. The impact of welfare policies, labour market laws, and 'managed migration' collectively help constitute hierarchies in work. Successive British governments since the Thatcher-era have made a competitive advantage out of low wage labour, relying on supply-side improvements to reduce the 'natural' level of unemployment. They have rolled back state protections and wage bargaining, imposed competition in local services, and relied on markets to discipline the bottom end of the labour market and impose flexibility. Changes to the welfare system, hailed as 'workfare', have been designed to promote this flexibility and low-wage culture. This means that where labour markets are tight, and shortages need to be filled, it is less likely that they will be filled by raising wages: that is not what is meant by 'making work pay'.
In fact, when the early tube tunnels were dug, they were so cool down there that the cool tube was seen as a respite from the summer heat on the surface. Why suffer on a bus in the heat when there's a cool tube to take instead, said the marketing men...Random. A business manager's love story.
Over the years, the heat from the trains soaked into the clay to the point where it can no longer absorb any more heat. Tunnels that were a mere 14 degrees Celsius in the 1900s can now have air temperatures as high as 30 degrees Celsius on parts of the tube network.
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