Finished The Escapement, last book in the Engineer trilogy by K.J. Parker. Definitely one of the best fantasy-ish series I've read lately.
In some ways it's more alternate-world than fantasy, with imaginary geography and civilizations, but no magic, monsters, non-human races and so on. In one interview Parker says she's inspired to write fantasy by "Being able to write history how it should have been."
Another line from the interview is in response to the question "If you could write your own quote for the front cover of your novel, what would it be?", and the answer is: "'Technically accurate' Siege-Engine Builder's Monthly." The books don't really go into Tom Clancy territory on technical detail, but you get a pleasant impression that plenty of research has been done and the machines hang together.
The Hari Seldonish plot requires a little bit more suspension of disbelief, but the good thing about it is that it does fit intricately together. No pointless McGuffin chases or quests for the magic plot-resolver here. There is quite a lot of warfare, depicted in a realistically brutal way for some of it.
It also has a fair amount of character and plausible relationships between the character. Even has some philosophical musings at the end.
Overall, it's just a very well-balanced series. Well worth reading.
What I'm Watching
Saw cult comedy The Gods Must Be Crazy. Features various African plot-strands, of which the most famous is the Bushman tribe who discover a Coke bottle, one of whom decides to journey to the edge of the world to return it to the Gods after it disrupts their peaceful life with greed.
Charming in places with some nice wildlife photography. Couldn't really get into the slapstick though, which made very heavy use of speeded-up footage for pretty much every scene. Overall, nice idea but not very watchable.
Also tried watching the first two episodes of WW2 doc "The World At War". Seemed OK. Noticed a lot of the footage was in colour despite the recent trend to advertise colour as if it was very rare. Despite that sent back the disc with the last one unwatched. Just too saturated with WW2 to bother.
What I'm Reading 2
Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn. Autobiographical book by a man whose estranged alcoholic father eventually turned up in a homeless shelter where he worked. Had a few decent insights into the lives of the underclass in Massachusetts. Ultimately though, not really enough material to sustain a whole book: feels very padded-out by creative writing school gimmicks.
Principle 6: The market acts like an individual.
I notice that whenever we talk about the market tending to do something, "the market" is always interpreted as being an individual called The Market. In other words, the market is assumed to act like a monopoly.
So in the case of the vaccine example: if a single company has a monopoly on a vaccine, it can maximize its profit by charging a relatively high price that not everyone can afford.
However, if there is no monopoly on a vaccine then any manufacturer can make it. So, since there is an open market, there is an incentive for some other provider, or even a new provider, to come in and start making the vaccine at a lower price.
Now there are monopolies, cartels and imperfect markets. But you can't assume that every market is automatically a monopoly, any more than you should assume that every market is perfect.
I think this also came up back when we were discussing the Rover bailout ages ago. People were basically saying that even The Market had decided Rover wasn't salvageable, that didn't mean the government should step in.
The thing is, it's not that one single entity called The Market had decided that Rover was unsalvageable. The problem is out of everyone in the market: the other car makers, the banks, the venture capitalists; none of them believed it was a viable business.
Tried to think of another one about not differentiating exogenous and endogenous variables, but I think that might be too hard for practically anyone to understand.
The halfpenny coin was officially abandoned in 1984, though most banks had refused to handle such small change for a while.
According to this, a ha'penny then would be worth 1.00552 pence today.
Time to drop the penny I think.
It's interesting that people and banks are still handling pennies though. I think while services and property prices have gone up, the price of small goods and food has dropped relatively speaking.
"You have got the wrong person" finally gets outed.
The myth of Putin's competence.
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