Finished A Red Death by Walter Mosley. Second in the Easy Rawlins mystery series, about a black LA private detective.
This one is onto the Fifties. Rawlins has invested his gains from the last book into property and rentals, and is only private detecting part-time. Facing an unpayable tax bill, an FBI man offers to help him out if he investigates a suspected Communist infiltrator. Rawlins is triple-racked with guilt: he likes his Commie friend, a woman dies after he evicts her from his apartment building, and he has an affair with his friend's wife.
A bit slow starting. All that guilt seems a bit depressing: surely down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid? But like the last book, it does evoke the period and place very well. The plot is wrapped up very well by the end, without any excess sentimentality.
Next one is "White Butterfly".
What I'm Watching
Saw Body of Lies at the cinema. Ridley Scott thriller. Pretty good. Nice desert photography as you'd expect. Reasonable plot though could have done with more twists. Great performance from Russell Crowe as an arrogant CIA man. Leonardo DiCaprio seemed OK despite the bad press.
What I'm Watching 2
Saw the DVD of stoner comedy sequel Harold And Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. Seemed to me mildly amusing, with few decent stereotype-based jokes, spaced a bit too far apart. However, I watched it straight and sober, might be better watched as intended.
After reading this book (diary) and this article, it's striking how little seems to have changed. Pirates still use shallow-draught vessels with high short-range speed: sloops and galleys back then, speedboats now. Navies still have problems in that the powerful, long-range vessels they like to win wars and get promotions aren't much use against them: pirates just zoom off into the shallows and melt into the population.
Suspect that as before, the piracy problem won't be fixed until firstly the major powers agree to cooperate and suppress pirate-friendly land powers; and secondly the navies reluctantly start building or buying specialist anti-pirate vessels.
Was curious what the blogosphere would say about the government's proposed prostitution law changes. The Magistrate's blog is skeptical that there will be any convictions. Punternet's response is more mixed than I expected. One escort seems delighted, reckoning she'll be able to raise prices being pimp-free. The punters themselves are against though.
It seems to me the effect will be to squeeze the middle of the market. There seem to be three basic classes in the UK.
- Escorts, working from their own premises or doing outcalls, charging £100 to £200 or more, but paying overheads for advertising and maids.
- Massage parlour girls seem to charge around £50 but pay a rent or commission to the owner
- Street prostitutes, charging £20 or so
So, the effect of the law seems likely to fall on Group 2: the workers will either move out onto the street in Group 3, or up into Group 1. Probably more will move down than up: the Group 1 client base is more limited and it's harder to organize.
Have linked before, but there was some interesting speculation on where are the trafficked women earlier. They're curious about why they don't think they've encountered forced prostitution, and their theory is that the client base for such brothels is amongst the same ethnic subculture as the prostitutes. That is, the same gangmasters who import male agricultural workers from South China, will run a brothel extracting money from their workers. If so, the changes to the law seem unlikely to be effective against forced prostitution. The focus of the law is to criminalize the users of prostitutes. But if this theory is correct, the users are largely illegal immigrants themselves, who are already outside the law.
The consensus seems to be that if this law is effective, upmarket prostitutes will benefit from higher prices and increased demand. Middle-rank prostitutes will suffer from being forced into the street where they're more easily targeted by pimps, robbers and rapists. The bottom rank and forced prostitutes will be unaffected. The overall size of the industry may decrease due to the harsher sanctions against users.
However, I'm not sure if the law is meant to be more than a token gesture. Some of these laws are passed but rarely or never used: not sure whether they'll try to draft it in a practical way.
What makes the Bush administration neoconservative, I think, is its tendency to conduct policy as if every problem has to be solved immediately, and can be. It's shown precious little knowledge of history, culture, or strategic thought: failing to make distinctions between small threats and large, between threats that need to be addressed immediately, like al-Qaeda, and long-term projects to be pursued peacefully and patiently, like Arab political reform. In other words, like a kid who's scared of the dark, it can't assess risk.Why the increasing computer science gender gap? (/.)
...Al-Qaeda is almost entirely a product of the Egyptians, Saudis, and Pakistanis; all our allies. The Iranians view themselves as victims of Sunni extremism, which makes them our natural allies in the fight against al-Qaeda. We also had much to gain by allowing them to bid on reconstruction contracts in Iraq, but the Bush administration tried to freeze them out, and only reluctantly hosted meetings in Baghdad between U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and his Iranian counterpart. As realists have always understood, sometimes adversaries can be friends and friends can be adversaries.
Nixon, the consummate realist, went to China because he recognized that you don't have to approve of all a regime's behaviors to cooperate with it in areas of common interest. The point is that you're advancing common interests. At some point, neoconservatives stopped caring about interests. That's causing us all kinds of undue difficulty.
What's particularly puzzling is that the explanations for under-representation of women that were assembled back in 1991 applied to all technical fields. Yet women have achieved broad parity with men in almost every other technical pursuit. When all science and engineering fields are considered, the percentage of bachelor's degree recipients who are women has improved to 51 percent in 2004-5 from 39 percent in 1984-85, according to National Science Foundation surveys.
When one looks at computer science in particular, however, the proportion of women has been falling. In 2001-2, only 28 percent of all undergraduate degrees in computer science went to women. By 2004-5, the number had declined to only 22 percent.
At least we know one thing: it's possible to have about the same number of men and women in computer science classes. That just about describes classrooms of 25 years ago.
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