Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World by Laura Spinney. Interesting account of the deadly flu epidemic which killed 3-5% of the world population. Makes some points that I didn't know. The epidemic spread in three distinct waves, the second being the most deadly. The source is still unclear, with multiple different proposals, but everyone seems to be certain it wasn't actually Spanish in origin.
To try to prevent some of these problems, in 2015 the World Health Organization issued guidelines stipulating that disease names should not make reference to specific places, people, animals or food. They should also not include words that engender fear, such as 'fatal' or 'unknown'. Instead they should use generic descriptions of symptoms such as 'respiratory disease' combined with more specific qualifiers such as 'juvenile' or 'coastal' and the name of the disease-causing agent.It was unusual in that it killed a lot of people in the prime of life, not just the old. There are several possible explanations: older people might have had antibodies to older versions of it; or since it was an immune response overreadction that was deadly, younger people's strong immune response may have made them more vulnerable.
The effect was highly unequal depending on whether the authorities managed to contain it or stop it entering: American Samoa was largely untouched whereas Western Samoa had a huge death rate.
Overall, an interesting and informative book.
What I'm Reading 2
Raven Strategem by Yoon Ha Lee. Sequel to Ninefox Bandit which I loved. As I sort of expected, this middle volume is not nearly as good. There are fewer space battles, and the intrigue is slower and duller. More importantly it lacks the focus on a single character, splitting attention between three people none of whom is as interesting as the last. The elderly general is the most interesting, the younger officer a bit passive and whiny, the decadent politician quite annoying.
Maybe it's just me but I'm getting a bit fed up with twee imperial rulers as seen in Ann Leckie, Ada Palmer and here, who are constantly sipping tea, obsessing over food and languidly bantering with their lovers while deciding matters of state. In real life I remember reading about cabinet ministers who after office find themselves bemusedly stand in front of doors waiting for them to be opened, or wonder why they're wet when there's no aide to open an umbrella. Rich and powerful people tend to take luxuries for granted, find servants invisible and choose policies after advice from large teams; they don't act like hipsters on a coffee shop sofa.
Even so I will look up the third volume, which hopefully will improve.
What I'm Reading 3
Plato and the Tyrant by Anselm Audley. Short book (Kindle Single) about Plato's attempt to educate and civilise Dionysius the Younger, the ruler of Syracuse. Fairly interesting but not quite as good as The Day Democracy Died. It's a bit annoying that it just tells the story without explaining what comes from what source, makes it hard to judge how how plausible each part was given the difficulties of ancient history.
What I'm Watching
Saw Mission Impossible: Fallout. Good action movie with great stunts. Ending tries a bit too hard to put some variety into something very very familiar. Solidly entertaining.
These days though, quite disturbing to think how terrible the actions of a spy agency would have to be for "The Secretary to disavow all knowledge".
Took the kid to see The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse at the Puppet Theatre Barge. He seemed entertained. Didn't think the puppetry or story was quite as good as the last thing we saw there though. Was more of a boatlike experience as wind bobbed the boat around and rustled the tarpaulins.
Busy at work again as we try to get a tough project in against a deadline. Every time we move into a new country they seem to assume that "this time it will be easy because we've built in enough flexibilty now", every time we hit a new raft of local complications.
Illnesses seem over and running injury might be improving: only been doing very short runs and run/walking so far.
Going to Germany to visit wife's family in a week and a half. Already dreading the stress of travel and trying to keep the kid entertained.
Sci/Tech. Ghost characters of unicode
Politics. Who owns the city?
Articles. On laziness.
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