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Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Sat Jan 06, 2018 at 04:42:19 PM EST) Reading, MLP, Me (all tags)
Reading: "Painting the Sand", "Making a Success of Brexit and Reforming the EU", "Too Like the Lightning", "Black and British: A Forgotten History", "Mind Games", "Ashes of Candesce". Me. Links.


What I'm Reading
Painting the Sand by Kim Hughes. Memoir by a British bomb disposal expert focussing on his time in Afghanistan. Quite tense and interesting, seems realistic and down to earth.

What I'm Reading 2
Making a Success of Brexit and Reforming the EU by Roger Bootle. Updated 'Brexit Edition' of "The Trouble With Europe" by the same author which got quite favourable reviews all round as a sensible critique of Europe: I doubt it would get such good treatment post-Brexit.

Bit of a mixed bag really. Bootle acknowledges some successes of the EU, in particular the incorporation of and assistance to of the Eastern European states. He has a pretty good summary of the problems of the creation of the Eurozone without sufficient mechanisms to deal with imbalances. He highlights some problems of EU governance like the inefficiency of rotating chairs, and the lack of skilled staff from some of the smaller nations.

He makes a reasonable stab at some of the problems of democracy, for instance the weakness of the European Parliament, though I think Peter Mair's "Ruling the Void" did it better.

The economic side is less convincing. He makes some good points in there, like the lack of evidence that EU membership boosts growth, though it's very hard to find evidence that anything boosts growth. He points out that some of the claims for the benefits of EU membership are just down to time and place, and non-EU members have done as well or better. However he buys strongly into the idea that over-regulation is an economic problem without citing much evidence. From blogs like Flip Chart Fairy Tales that's probably because the evidence doesn't exist. He also makes his own misleading comparisons occasionally, comparing developed economies to the growth rates of countries in catch-up growth.

Bootle points out that the EU has surprisingly few free trade deals with large economies outside it: there are smaller countries that have much more free trade. He also points out that catch-up growth over the next few decades will mean the EU is relatively much smaller that emerging economies like India and China. This is the only plausible economic argument I can see for Brexit, that over the long term we could benefit from turning towards these growing markets.

Overall, a fairly good book covering a lot of material with some interesting insights, but one that needs to be read with some skepticism.

What I'm Reading 3
Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer. Science fiction set a few centuries in the future. Physical nations have been replaced by virtual nations called Hives because of a network of flying cars that makes distance obsolete. Within these virtual nations people live in "bashes", of extended groups of families. Society is based on the principles of the Enlightenment and the prose is written in a ponderous 18th century style.

I started out really enjoying it. The worldbuilding is well done, the central character is interesting. But the plot is grindingly slow-moving and I found it hard to keep the large cast of supporting characters straight: we're told that they're interesting and remarkable but don't actually seem to do or say anything very memorable. It doesn't help that it's the first volume of a series and not a whole lot happens to advance the plot or resolve anything.

As as result I got less and less interested until it felt like a grim chore to pick up the book again. Not sure whether to try other volumes in the hope the plot starts going somewhere or give it up. There's enough daring and original stuff here that I'd like it to work. Review, review.

What I'm Reading 4
Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga. I wasn't expecting too much from this: it's apparently a tie-in with a BBC documentary series and I thought it would be fairly superficial and familiar. In fact though it has a lot of information that was new to me, and unusually it doesn't shy away from the complexity of the way the British interacted with others.

The slave trade is a good example. When Britons first encountered it in Africa theyw were horrified. Then when it became clear how much money was invovled, they became the most enthusiastic slave traders around. When the movement to abolish the slave trade (but not slavery, as is carefully noted) started it rapidly went from an eccentricity to a powerful movement regarded with horror by the establishment. But a couple of decades after abolition, the controversy was forgotten and it became a great source of patriotic pride. That in turn gave many white Britons the idea that being racially tolerant was a great British virtue.

This tolerance started to fade in the 1850s with the growing prevalence of "Scientific Racism". Black visitors noted that Britain was less welcoming. I think histories of imperialism can sometimes miss the turbo-charging of imperialism around this time, driven by the Maxim gun as well as ideas.

Other interesting things. There was controversy in the abolition movement over the Dolben Act, which attempted to impose better conditions in slave ships: was this a useful amelioration or would it undermine abolition? It seems like a similar issue to the ones that crop up today. (Apparently hostorical opinion is divided over whether the act did any good). Women were important to the abolition movement. And West India Wharf was renamed Canary Wharf as part of the general tendency to airbrush out the slave trade. Between the abolition of the British slave trade and the American Civil War, Britons found themselved feted in America, much to the annoyance of pro-slavery Britons. After a revolt on the American slave ship Creole the slaves sucessfully took the ship to the British Bahamas and obtained their freedom: apparently "the largest successful slave rebellion in American history".

Overall, a fascinating book, well worth a read for its detail.

What I'm Reading 5
This Love by Dani Atkins. Weepie about a woman haunted by the death of her brother as a teen, learning to love again. Bit formulaic but seems reasonably done.

What I'm Reading 6
Mind Games by Pamela Kole. Short book about the techniques abusive partners use to keep control. Makes a few interesting points, in particular about how their fear of being exposed can be a weakness. Most of the techniques are just slight variations on "if criticised attack viciously with something irrelevant" though. Not particularly good.

What I'm Reading 7
Ashes of Candesce by Karl Schroeder. Final volume in the Virga science series, set in a weightless sphere of air where a device prevents the advanced technology of the rest of the universe from working.

Pretty slow starting, with a lot of political manoeuvring and not as much action as usual. Things pick up pace in the second half as the conflicts come to a head. The remaining questions that have been waiting from the start are resolved, with Artificial Nature finally explained and the factions from outside the universe revealed.

Overall, a solid and rewarding finale to the series. Well worth reading for science fiction fans.

Me

Survived Christmas in Germany. Kid seemed OK, managed to transport enough presents to keep him happy, and he survived the not very child-safe house. Rained a lot and I had a horrible cold and lost voice. Felt a bit imprisoned: being stuck out in the countryside is a drag when incessant rain means you can't leave the house. Very glad of the Kindle.

Links
The Last Jedi. Paleography of the Jedi texts. Lightsaber battle. Why So Many Men Hate the Last Jedi But Can't Agree on Why.

Sci/Tech. 2017: the safest year on record for air passengers.

Politics. What Putin really wants.

Reminder. I posted my Books I've Read This Year 2017 later than usual.

< Stuff | To The Emperor! >
Everybody wants to rule the world | 27 comments (27 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
"over-regulation is an economic problem" by ambrosen (4.00 / 2) #1 Sat Jan 06, 2018 at 05:21:42 PM EST
One thing that I've thought about this fallacy is that one under-recognised advantage of sensible and well designed regulation is that it ends up as a kind of reference implementation of a good business model.

So instead of every business having to e.g. scratch their heads over how much holiday or maternity leave maximises their employees' work-life balance, they can go "eh, what about 4 weeks plus bank holidays" or insert minutiae of UK maternity leave policy.

Yes by Herring (2.00 / 0) #15 Sun Jan 07, 2018 at 01:27:45 PM EST
Interesting discussion on teh slack about GDPR and how it seems like a sensible framework for everyone - not just companies who do business with the EU - to aim for.

I need to learn a bit more about it since that's what I seem to have been contracted to do. Good CV fodder though.

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

[ Parent ]
regulation is slavery. by gmd (2.00 / 0) #17 Mon Jan 08, 2018 at 07:48:52 AM EST
 In exactly the same way that taxation is theft. Don’t like the work/life balance in your current job? go somewhere else. There’s no need for cumbersome regulatory regimes, liberty and the free market fixes everything.

I will never understand why leftists are so keen to impose stuff on us for “our own good” whether we like it or not. Classic example: The EU working time directive.


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gmd - HuSi's second most dimwitted overprivileged user.
[ Parent ]
Jesus fuck by Dr Thrustgood (4.00 / 5) #18 Mon Jan 08, 2018 at 07:56:55 AM EST
Can you just write a bot and be done with it?



[ Parent ]
Really irritating aren’t I? n/t by gmd (2.00 / 0) #19 Mon Jan 08, 2018 at 03:50:19 PM EST



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gmd - HuSi's second most dimwitted overprivileged user.
[ Parent ]
I've got two kids under five; you're not anything. by Dr Thrustgood (4.00 / 3) #21 Mon Jan 08, 2018 at 06:14:10 PM EST



[ Parent ]
congratulations by gmd (2.00 / 0) #22 Mon Jan 08, 2018 at 06:56:15 PM EST
 

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gmd - HuSi's second most dimwitted overprivileged user.
[ Parent ]
Poor work ethic there. by ambrosen (4.00 / 1) #20 Mon Jan 08, 2018 at 06:08:56 PM EST
It took you 38 hours to shit in this particular punchbowl.

[ Parent ]
It’s almost like my heart’s not in it any more by gmd (2.00 / 0) #23 Tue Jan 09, 2018 at 02:47:22 AM EST
 

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gmd - HuSi's second most dimwitted overprivileged user.
[ Parent ]
I really like Hillman's analysis by lm (4.00 / 2) #2 Sat Jan 06, 2018 at 05:58:50 PM EST
But one other thing I'd throw in there is that this is the first Star Wars movie where the protagonists have to face the consequences of their bad decisions.

It moves the genre from myth-lite (e.g. Joseph  Campbell) to myth (e.g. Sophocles).

That leaves a lot of Real Men™ feeling left out in the cold.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
The thing is... by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #3 Sat Jan 06, 2018 at 07:40:15 PM EST
Speaking as someone who enjoyed watching it, and had no troubles with the female characters...the plot was terrible.  The entire plot arc with Finn and Rose Tico was both nonsensical and ended up having no bearing on the plot whatsoever.   It was just bad writing. 

Thematically, yes, it interesting, but the plot was a disaster of holes and idiocy.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
I've read a lot of articles about plot holes by lm (4.00 / 1) #4 Sat Jan 06, 2018 at 08:13:16 PM EST
But they all boiled down to "I don't like this" rather than being an actual plot hole.

I think by the Rose/Finn comment you really mean to say that the film violated Chekov's Rule.

I don't have a problem with that. If you go back to ancient Greek tragedies, they violated Chekov's rule all the time.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
My issues by ucblockhead (4.00 / 2) #5 Sat Jan 06, 2018 at 08:37:29 PM EST
  1. It made no sense.  Having two characters leave a chased battle fleet on a long journey that has them sneaking around on foot, etc. in order to make it back in the nick of time.  Yes, this is fantasy, but you've got to at least have the appearance of consistent rules.
  2. It was pointless.  You could have removed the entire arc and not changed the larger plot at all.   Better writing would have given Finn something to do that was actually related to the main plot.
I don't, in general, have a problem with "violating Chekov's rule" or otherwise subverting viewer expectations...but bad writing is bad writing.  The Rose/Finn arc is just an entirely unrelated series of events shoved in to the center of the film.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
I don't think (2) holds by lm (4.00 / 2) #6 Sat Jan 06, 2018 at 09:21:47 PM EST
Take away that arc and far fewer people die and a particular character doesn't have to sacrifice herself to save the remainder which, in turn, would  prevent a certain other character from having to sacrifice himself. That bad decision altered the entire course of the plot.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Maybe by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #8 Sat Jan 06, 2018 at 10:22:04 PM EST
It felt like a hell of a lot of film to make a point that could have been done much more simply.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
Don't get me wrong by ucblockhead (4.00 / 2) #9 Sat Jan 06, 2018 at 10:33:33 PM EST
I didn't think it was terrible.  Just ham-handed.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
everything can be done much more simply by lm (4.00 / 1) #10 Sat Jan 06, 2018 at 10:34:02 PM EST
You could reduce most movies to 15 minutes or so if you just brought everything down to the ultimate bare essentials.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
You seem to be talking about plot structure by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #12 Sun Jan 07, 2018 at 05:43:54 AM EST
Where ucblockhead is talking about verisimilitude.

I had a similar reaction to uc to the third act, but it wasn't a Chekhov rule thing.

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
There are elements of (1) that I agree with by lm (4.00 / 1) #7 Sat Jan 06, 2018 at 09:24:15 PM EST
But I wouldn't say it was nonsensical. It made sense. It just strained credulity in some ways.

Nevertheless, I didn't think it past a normal willing suspension of disbelief.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
We were talking by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 3) #11 Sun Jan 07, 2018 at 12:46:50 AM EST
About 18th century naval analogies to science fiction the other day, the long chase reminded me of that. I guess if small ships have hyperdrives there's no reason you can't hop in and out of the chase.

What bugged me was the lightspeed kamikaze attack. If that works, why don't they do that all the time with ships on autopilot? The Empire thought the Millenium Falcon might be on autopilot when it landed on the first Death Star, so they exist. Fireships were used similarly in old naval warfare.
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
My thoughts by gzt (4.00 / 1) #13 Sun Jan 07, 2018 at 08:07:46 AM EST
On that issue are that it only really works with large ships, ones that are about the same size as the ones attacking them. So it's not going to be the case that you're often in that situation with most people off the ship. And typically engines are getting disabled before it seems like self immolation is worthwhile.

[ Parent ]
evidence on this: by gzt (4.00 / 1) #16 Sun Jan 07, 2018 at 03:41:19 PM EST
at least in Rogue One, there was a case where the fleet dropped in right in front of ships as they were about to jump out of there and some smaller ships jumped right into the shields of a large ship and just blew up with little or no damage to the large ship. It is also of course quite probable that nothing is big enough to jump into, say, the Death Star and make it blow up. So it's only the case that something big can effectively jump into one of these very large ships. And that would be extremely costly.

[ Parent ]
Yeah, I think we would see more of that by lm (4.00 / 2) #24 Tue Jan 09, 2018 at 09:38:32 PM EST
... if more of the space battles in the Star Wars movies were between equal powers.

As it were the rebels/resistance in the Star Wars films are are all hard up for ships. They go "all in" in most of the movies.  Especially in The Last Jedi, the numerical decline of the resistance fleet is a major plot point.

Now if the resistance can make contact with the borg ...


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
While I haven't bothered with much research by wumpus (4.00 / 1) #14 Sun Jan 07, 2018 at 12:11:18 PM EST
I was recently shown a humorous youtube take on such. They had to dig into scientific errors in a series that started with "did the Kessel run in less than 5 parsecs" and never got better (and set the standard for Hollywood SciFi from then on). Compared to "The Force Awakens" it was vastly better (in terms of stupid things the plot was based on) but still pretty silly.

My completely unscientific guess is that Last Jedi has less plot holes than typical in Hollywood and much less than your typical J.J.Abrams fare (Force Awakens tasked with Star Wars 9).

Wumpus

[ Parent ]
The Last Jedi by jimgon (4.00 / 1) #25 Wed Jan 10, 2018 at 07:38:30 PM EST
I didn't care for The Last Jedi.  My reason?  I didn't have any sense of hope.  I know some folks say the same about The Empire Strikes Back, but that ended with the rebel fleet and a plan kicking off to recover Han.  There was a sense of hope there.  This one?  No sense of hope.   




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Technician - "We can't even get decent physical health care. Mental health is like witchcraft here."
Well by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #26 Wed Jan 10, 2018 at 11:32:15 PM EST
I missed it the first time, but the kid wearing a Rebel ring, using the Force to grab his broom then gazing at the stars was a good moment.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
That scene was a little too ... by lm (4.00 / 1) #27 Sat Jan 13, 2018 at 02:14:14 PM EST
... sorcerer's apprenticey for me. But it was certainly supposed to indicate hope.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Everybody wants to rule the world | 27 comments (27 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback