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By TheophileEscargot (Sat Aug 25, 2007 at 07:09:56 AM EST) Reading, MLP, ODGF (all tags)
Reading: "Imperium", "The Mauritius Command". ODGF. Web.

What I'm Reading
Finished Imperium by Robert Harris: novelised biography of Cicero up to his election as Consul. Rather good: dramatic, and making good use of Harris' thorough research and experience as a political journalist: the political tricks and manoeuvrings are astutely and realistically observed.

Weaknesses: feels a bit too contemporary, but no more so than most historical novels. It's also pitched at a pretty basic level so don't expect to gain much new knowledge if you're already familiar with the period.

There may be a couple of sequels covering the rest of Cicero's life, but I think it might be better to end here: the book ends before the most familiar period of the Roman Revolution with the Triumvirates and then Julius Caesar taking power. Carrying on could lead to both a depressing plot, and covering events that are over-familiar.

Overall, worth a look.

Tom Holland Review, Andrew Rawnsley review, Times review, interview, Digested Read, WP on Cicero.

What I'm Reading 2
Finished The Mauritius Command by Patrick O'Brian. It's one of the Aubrey/Maturin historical sea novels: read a bunch of them a while back but then got sidetracked. Coming to it after Imperium, it's very noticeable how much more authentically period the characters seem. Dr Maturin cheerfully bleeds his patients, spits on his hands before tricky operations; Captain Aubrey is humane for the period but still sees nothing wrong with the odd flogging and execution, has an unironic pre-WW1 patriotism; both are casually accepting of national stereotypes. In Harris's novel the characters seem rather modern: they regret the violence of the circus, and even given the corruption of the late Republic they seem to oblivious to the Roman virtues rather than rationalizing their actions to fit.

Plotwise, O'Brian follows quite closely the real campaign. This is hugely effective for most of the book; the action is thrilling, the strategy and tactics details and authentic. However, the ending is a little anticlimactic. As in reality, reinforcements turn up and the British win with the odds overwhelmingly in their favour, rather than against them.

Still a very good book though, a worthy entry in the series.

Me: Reading
So I usually post my annual reading list in early October, since that's when I did the first one. I keep the list in a spreadsheet, and feeling oddly pressured: if I keep up the current rate I might have read more books than since I started in 2002. I have two heavyweight technical books sitting around: tempting to leave them till October...

Seemed to have survived four days in Belgium with only a pound gained, luckily. Good thing I did all that walking around.


Pacman game where you play the ghosts.

Concentration camp Tarot.

How many engineers are really trained in China and India? (MeFi)

Slideshow analysis of shots in "Breakfast at Tiffany's"

Depressing. 10 steps to a more datable Facebook profile.

A horrible romance (Shortish webcomic with storyline.)

< Grasping at straws | BBC White season: 'Rivers of Blood' >
By Your Command | 7 comments (7 topical, 0 hidden)
Engineering by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #1 Sat Aug 25, 2007 at 08:30:00 AM EST
It is my impression that the quality of engineers educate India and China (especially China) is, on average, poor. This is not to say that there aren't good ones, and, indeed, I've worked with some. But doing a fair bit of interviewing, I've noticed that the average quality of people graduating from these areas seems to be low compared to American, or European schools. (Though my experience with the latter is mostly with Russian graduates.)
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
From the article by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #2 Sat Aug 25, 2007 at 08:39:56 AM EST
What we found is that even as enrollment in engineering programs has increased by more than 140% over the past five years, China has been decreasing its total number of technical schools and their associated teachers and staff. From 1999 to 2004, the number of technical schools fell from 4,098 to 2,884, and during that period the number of teachers and staff at these institutions fell by 24%. So graduation rate increases have been achieved by dramatically increasing class sizes.

We learned that only a few elite universities, such as Tsinghua and Fudan, had been allowed to lower enrollment rates after they noted serious quality problems as a result of increases they had made. The vast majority of Chinese universities complied with government directives to increase enrollment.

Our interviews with representatives of multinational and local technology companies revealed that they felt comfortable hiring graduates from only 10 to 15 universities across the country. The list of schools varied slightly from company to company, but all of the people we talked to agreed that the quality of engineering education dropped off drastically beyond those on the list. Demand for engineers from China’s top-tier universities is high, but employers complained that supply is limited.

Might be a temporary problem due to scaling up so quickly.
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 ]
I was glad to confirm my guess by garlic (2.00 / 0) #6 Tue Aug 28, 2007 at 06:49:37 AM EST
that the reason for hiring overseas is mostly related to cost and new markets, and not related to skills.

[ Parent ]
Skills and cost are the same thing by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #7 Tue Aug 28, 2007 at 06:07:06 PM EST
There were a lot of skilled people in India, etc. willing to work cheaply. They are mostly now working, and as those countries struggle with skills shortages, those salaries rise. Plus, there was and is a lot of deluded thinking as to the actual long-term cost savings moving stuff overseas.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
ATTENTION: MeFi-ite Infidel by Horatio Hellpop (4.00 / 1) #3 Sat Aug 25, 2007 at 01:39:39 PM EST
Would you please post a grammatical/ideological correction to this statement on MeFi, which is making me twitch so hard, that I may shed my skin.

Words of a Pakistani pop song Yeh Hum Naheen [This is not us] hitting the charts, attempting to spread the message that all muslims are not terrorists

Also, Are you still a Tom Strong fan? I have some TS swag I need to part with and I thought you'd like it.

"You can't really know something until you ruin it for everyone." -some guy who used to have an account here

Posted by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #4 Sat Aug 25, 2007 at 11:49:08 PM EST
Don't really need any Tom Strong swag though.

I read the post-Moore volume 5 and thought it was a bit weak. Haven't read 6 yet, though I'm intrigued as to what a Michael Moorcock-scripted story would be like.
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 ]
Every desk needs a plastic articulated Pneuman by Horatio Hellpop (4.00 / 1) #5 Sun Aug 26, 2007 at 11:44:14 PM EST
Suit yourself!

"You can't really know something until you ruin it for everyone." -some guy who used to have an account here

[ Parent ]
By Your Command | 7 comments (7 topical, 0 hidden)