The Invention of Air by Steven Johnson. Short biography of Joseph Priestly: scientist, religious and political reformer, and the (kind-of) discoverer of oxygen.
Interesting subject for a biography. I didn't know that Priestly was so involved with critical figures in American history like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Sam Adams; eventually fleeing to America after hostile reactions to his ideas while he lived in Birmingham.
The author makes a case that he was an important influence on them; though it's a little weak, drawing on his optimistic attitude. Johnson also makes a point that these Enlightenment figures saw science as integrated with politics; contrasting this with the isolation from science of modern American politicians. (He cites Mike Huckabee in particular).
However, the style of the book is irritatingly BoingBoingy at times: there's lots of enthusiastic handwaving over the Power of The Network and the importance of Energy Flows. For instance, he attributes the importance of London over Birmingham before the industrial revolution to it being further South and receiving more solar energy; the importance being reversed when Birmingham accessed coal energy. (Birmingham is 102 miles North-West of London).
Overall though, a pretty good account of an important figure.
Broken computer followup
Took it into the shop. Turned out it was just the graphics card that was broken, not the whole motherboard: replaced it and seems to be working now.
Have lost the weight I put on over the holidays now. Might keep going a bit longer if I've got the energy, to give myself some leeway.
After I complained about a printers error in the book "Perverting the Course of Justice", the publishers Monday Books read my diary and sent me an email offering a new copy.
I declined, don't like to spread my real address over the Internet attached to this name. But it seems like good customer service. Apparently it affected a couple of hundred copies, but most were recalled.
On a whim, grabbed some Marks and Spencers Best Value pyjamas, since pyjamas are in the news. Not sure they really work for me with the 5BX plan. Don't want to sweat them up, and there's not much point waking up and wandering around toasty warm when you've got to whip them off and start doing press-ups ten minutes later anyway.
Must be getting old though. My ten-year-old flip-flops broke, and I replaced them with a pair of slippers. There's no heater in my kitchen, and the lino's pretty cold on winter mornings.
I suppose a pipe is the logical next step...
Also ordered a surge protection tower in case that was what blew up my graphics card. (Happened while the computer was in Sleep mode and I was doing some vacuuming).
Blogs. Disabled blogger Eva deals with bad review of dogwalking service. Fiona Phillips and the martyrdom of Andrew Wakefield. CEO sues after being sacked like one of the little people. Old Peter Oborne opinion on Islamophobia. Charles Stross: Amazon-Macmillan kerfuffle still ongoing? (I'm tending to think Amazon is the lesser evil: as a middleman they're more constrained in how hard they can rape you).
Socioeconomics. "Guard Labour" skews the efficiency/equity tradeoff? (via) Wall Street Journal on London's continuing property bubble. Women eat more salad if with men. Osborne's AAA fetish? Kaletsky: the Beijing Consensus?
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