Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. Somewhat misleadingly titled book. She wrote an angry essay with the title which went viral, but since then says she's ended up talking to white people about race quite a lot.
Does a reasonable job of explaining the basics of social justice, but doesn't have that much for people who already know it, and those that don't will presumably be hostile to it.
What I'm Reading 2
All Systems Red by Martha Wells. Short SF novel or novella, first in the "Murderbot Diaries" series about a cyborg who self-reprograms to be outside corporate control, but mostly just wants to stream TV dramas.
I liked this a lot, a very enjoyable read with a great main character. Plotting isn't particulary tidy, but was good fun. Will look out for the others though they're a bit expensive at full price.
What I'm Reading 3
The Secrets of Ghosts by Sarah Painter. Sequel to "The Language of Spells" in a series about a family of witches in a small town in the modern day. Another light, fun read, with a tiny bit of menace under the cosiness.
What I'm Reading 4
The Mangle Street Murders by M.R.C. Kasasian. Darkly comic detective novel set in Victorian London. The protagonist is March Middleton a young woman sent to be the ward of the misanthropic detective Sidney Grice. Grice is capable but cynical, rude and mercenary; Middleton smart enough to be a match for him.
Rather than romanticising the era, the book highlights the poverty and prejudice of the Victorian era. In spite of that, the great dialogue and conflict between the characters keep it an entertaining read.
Well worth a look, I'll be looking out for the sequels.
What I'm Reading 5
Prism Stalker by Sloane Leong. Science fiction comic about a young woman living in a kind of refugee colony in an asteroid after her planet. Has gorgeous, colourful artwork that's unique in depicting the strangness of the environment. The story is decent but in this first volume doesn't reach much of a conclusion. I liked this a lot, good to see something innovative in comics that isn't trying to be either gritty social realism or superheroes punching baddies.
What I'm Reading 6
Finest Years by Max Hastings is a curious book that does almost the opposite of what it's supposed to. The book is written to defend Winston Churchill's record as a war leader in WW2 from people who have apparently criticised it. So the book largely amounts to a long list of massive fuck-ups, many of which I wasn't aware of, followed by excuses of why that wasn't really Churchill's fault, or it didn't matter that much, or was inevitable or anyway was outweighed by other things he didn't fuck up.
So, I knew that El Alamein wasn't that important, but I didn't realise that was essentially a battle staged for PR purposes to give Britain a victory: within a fortnight the Torch landings by US forces would have made the German position in Egypt untenable. I'd never heard of the disastrous defence of Leros when a numerically inferior German force quickly defeated British defenders. I already knew about Singapore of course, but Hastings is scathing about that defeat too.
Hastings view is that the Royal Navy and RAF were quite effective in World War Two, but the British Army was basically terrible. When you put everything together: Dunkirk, Singapore, the Dieppe raid, Leros etc that does seem to be the correct view: the British army didn't seem to win battles unless they enjoyed massive superiority in forces. When faced with equal or only moderately inferior opposition they tended to flee or surrender.
I get the feeling that general perception that the British army was effective in WW2 and ineffective in WW1 is basically the opposite of the truth. WW1 was fought well, WW2 badly.
Hastings defence of Churchill's dealing with other leaders is partially convincing. He makes a good case that Churchill used his persuasive powers effectively to get support from Roosevelt in the early part of the war. On the other hand Hastings admits that he wasn't able to get Roosevelt to be sufficiently skeptical of Stalin in the later part. Hastings also points out that American assistance in the first years of the war was more limited than sometimes thought: the Americans demanded high prices for limited material, and the British government had to liquidate assets at low value to pay.
Where Hastings is convincing is where he highlight Churchill's domestic political skills. The British establishment seems to have been firmly pro-appeasement. Churchill's use of rhetoric and charisma to keep Britain committed to the war, and sideline opponents, does seem to have been critical.
Overall despite his many faults, it does seem to me that Churchill was an essential individual to defeating Nazism. The British Empire was still a powerful force at the time: Hitler didn't want to fight it, and its rulers didn't want to fight Hitler. It was Churchill as an individual who committed the RAF and Royal Navy against Germany, and kept them committed. The other great powers Russia and America only fought the Axis when they were attacked or had war declared on them: they didn't choose to fight because of the decisions of a particular leader. So, without the diversion of resources to the West, it seems possible that Hitler's war in the East would have unfolded differently.
Overall, a pretty interesting book.
What I'm Watching
Saw A Quiet Place on disk. Classy post-apocalypic thriller with a nice gimmick: monsters that hunt by sound so you have to stay quiet. Well worth seeing. Wish I'd seen it in the cinema though, without the atmosphere I did start pondering some of the implausibilities though. How come he managed to build totally silent systems for electric light and running water but couldn't soundproof a nursery?
What I'm Watching 2
Skyscraper has Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as one-legged military veteran trying to save his family in a burning skyscraper. Not at all original but quite fun and decently done. Giving him just one leg also makes it slightly more plausible that he might lose a fight.
My wife took the kid on a week's holiday to Germany for half term, which gave me a nice break from childcare. Didn't do anything very exciting bug got so much more sleep.
Ran my first race, a 10km around a local park. I really loved it. Got a new personal best, knocking a minute off my previous 10k time even though it was a bit hilly. Of the men in my age group I came in almost dead in the middle. I was expecting to do a lot worse based on looking at previous times, so felt very good to know I'm average. I followed the plan and started off slowly with most of the field overtaking me in the first half kilometer, but I gradually picked off half of them over the rest of the race. As everyone says it's very tempting to start off too fast. Especially in this course, the first mile or so is a gentle uphill which wears you down. There was a great downhill around 9km where I was just surging past people having saved my energy. I really enjoyed the adrenaline rush of a big race.
Work is OK. We're under a fair amount of pressure for a high profile project which is having some problems, but we seem to be getting through it and I haven't had to do too much overtime.
Socioeconomics. In praise of Tax Inspectors Without Borders. Germany's 'money for nothing' experiment raises basic income questions. Algorithms learn to collude on price.. The "skills gap" was the consequence of high unemployment rather than its cause.
Sci/Tech. The Cancer Personality Scandal: 30 year old scientific fraud. Sports Science Is Finally Talking About Its Methodology Problems. Detecting Agile BS.
Articles. Is it the end for Britain's dockless bike schemes? Rochester: the debauched poet who mocked the king. I'm Running 10 Marathons This Year And I Still Get Fat-Shamed. Medieval nun faked own death to escape convent.
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