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Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Sat Mar 02, 2019 at 01:44:21 AM EST) Reading, MLP, Watching, Me (all tags)
Reading: "Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race", "All Systems Red", "The Secrets of Ghosts", "The Mangle Street Murders", "Prism Stalker", "Finest Years". Watching: "A Quiet Place", "Skyscraper". Me. Links.


What I'm Reading
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.

Me
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.

Links
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.

Random. Drawn image autocorrects to penis. How Fake movie money is made. How hologram tours are made.

Comics. About Face: comic about power in men's clothing, some inaccuracies but interesting. Healing alone.

Video. Animation of blank VHS cover designs. Death of the author (30 mins)

Politics. The foolishness of the old. Captured States: When EU governments are a channel for corporate interests. Disability benefit reform was supposed to save £2bn, costs £2bn.

< OUT of the BLUE
Clear your throat and pray for rain | 10 comments (10 topical, 0 hidden)
8ks and 10ks can be really fun by lm (4.00 / 2) #1 Sat Mar 02, 2019 at 08:25:23 AM EST
A lot of folks that only race 5ks show up and if you train longer distances, you end up surging past them sometime around 6k.

My first race of the year is next weekend. I should be ready but I'm a bit nervous.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
This one by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #2 Sat Mar 02, 2019 at 11:02:11 AM EST
Had a 5km version at the same time. They started 10 minutes earlier, and we just went round the course twice. Even so loads of people seemed to start too fast and crash out early. I guess they just get carried away with the excitement and adrenaline: I had to slow myself down in the first half, felt I was going slowly but the watch had me way faster than my usual pace.
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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 ]
Most people race faster than they train by lm (4.00 / 2) #3 Sat Mar 02, 2019 at 11:15:30 AM EST
With the adrenaline rush and race ambiance and competitiveness, most folks finish better than they do on training runs.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
I think the taper helps too by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #4 Sat Mar 02, 2019 at 12:11:51 PM EST
I only did one run, an easy one, the week before and by the end I felt like I could kick down mountains. That was the week my wife & kid were away though, might have been the extra rest.
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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 too by lm (4.00 / 1) #6 Sat Mar 02, 2019 at 08:05:48 PM EST
If you've been training every day - or nearly so - and you rest up for a few days, you turn into Superman.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
This is true by Herring (4.00 / 1) #10 Tue Mar 05, 2019 at 02:59:36 PM EST
I've also found, when I was fit, my best 10 mile TT my heart rate started off around 170bpm and sloped up nicely to 186bpm over the finish. If I get on the turbo or the rollers and try to hold 170bpm, I've had enough after 5 minutes.

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

[ Parent ]
Churchill and Murderbots by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #5 Sat Mar 02, 2019 at 01:33:32 PM EST
Seems to me the most important thing that Churchill did was to keep the British fighting through force of personality.  To give am American example: It's really easy to go through the career of George Washington and find tons of boneheaded mistakes and mediocre generalship, but it's pretty clear that without that man's charisma and leadership, there'd be no United States.

It's easy to bag on something as only a "PR victory", but wars are often as much about moral and the will to fight than anything else.

Calling Dunkirk a British defeat due to mediocre fighting ability is, frankly speaking, fucking stupid.  The British Army was in an untenable position because of a combination of politics (not being able to take strong positions in Belgium) and the defeat of the French armies on its left.

Also never underestimate the importance of the relationship between Churchill and Roosevelt.  Great Britain could not have survived without massive US aid.  My impression is that this aid, while costly, was on credit, so that it didn't hurt the British economy until post war.

The Murderbot Novellas maintain their quality.  The four together really should be packaged as a novel as yes, they are pricey.  Apparently a real novel is apparently in the works.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

Aid by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #7 Sat Mar 02, 2019 at 11:32:57 PM EST
From 1941 the Lend-Lease act gave aid on credit. But Britain had been at war since 1939 and the Battle of Britain was over in 1940. Until then, military supplies had to be paid for, there was hard bargaining over the money. The US squeezed Britain for money, Britain in turn squeezed its colonies, extracting forced loans from India for example.

Dunkirk wasn't a defeat due to mediocre fighting ability. But the leadership of the British Expeditionary Force decided unilaterally to evacuate while the French leadership were dithering for days over how to launch a counterattack. Hastings' position is basically that evacuating was a wise and essential decision because the British army weren't capable of winning whatever their numbers and equipment were on paper.
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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 ]
all systems red by sasquatchan (4.00 / 1) #8 Sun Mar 03, 2019 at 02:27:00 PM EST
library just got in for me yesterday, going to pick it up today.


I voted Good by Alan Crowe (4.00 / 1) #9 Sun Mar 03, 2019 at 05:00:25 PM EST
Welcome back :-)

I voted Good on long diary gaps because every-one deserves a holiday.

Actually, that's a lie. I'm hoping to manage a diary entry this year, limiting the gap to only nine years. Given my own gaps, voting that long diary gaps are bad would be sooooo hypocritical.

Clear your throat and pray for rain | 10 comments (10 topical, 0 hidden)