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By TheophileEscargot (Fri Jun 19, 2020 at 11:37:17 AM EST) Reading, MLP, Me (all tags)
Reading: "Velocity Weapon", "Between the Stops", "Boots and Saddles", "Born to Run", "Little Fuzzy", "Zonal Marking", "Models", "Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City". Me. Web.

What I'm Reading
Velocity Weapon by Megan E. O'Keefe. Science fiction which starts off with a character's escape pod picked up by a sentient spaceship which revives her from stasis. It's told in three strands with different sets of characters in different locations.

Started off really liking this one, but my enthusiasm drained away. I only found one of the characters (Sanda) interesting and the other strands a bit dull. Then Sanda's storyline changed and I stopped being so interested even in that one. It starts off with her being told her pod has drifted for decades and everyone else in the system is dead, which seemed like a cool setup, but that turns out to be a fakeout: it's just been months and everyone else is fine. Has a bit of an ending but saves up a lot for sequels.

Not really recommended.

What I'm Reading 2
Between the Stops by Sandi Toksvig. Autobiography of the comedian and TV presenter. It's structured as the bus journey she takes from her home to work, with facts about London revealed on the way.

Has some bits of interesting material, especially about her early life, and a few good anecdotes. I didn't find her humour worked that well in print though: without her laconic presentation a lot of it somehow feels like boasting.

Also, I'm not anti-feminist (I liked Harriet Harman's autobiography a lot) but the constant complaints about women not being famous enough got a bit much for me.

Overall, quite interesting but not unmissable.

What I'm Reading 3
Boots and Saddles by Elizabeth Custer. Book by the wife of General Custer about life in military camps in the Nineteenth Century. Pretty interesting for its accounts of everyday life which is a topic that usually gets little attention. She is obviously devoted to her husband and paints an idealised portrait of him. It's hard not to feel sympathy for Elizabeth Custer: she had a tragic childhood with much of her family dying.

What I'm Reading 4
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. Classic running book which lives up to its reputation. It discusses ultrarunning with some gripping descriptions of races.

The main story is how the author and others tracked down the Tarahumara, a people living in Mexico who famously run their own tough endurance races. Tarahumara runners were enlisted them into running in an ultramarathon in the US. Then a tiny group of US runners headed to Tarahumara land and ran in one of their races.

The book also discusses the theory that humans evolved to run long distances as part of persistence hunting. One interesting nugget is that Australopithecus didn't have the tendons to run, it seems to have been Homo Erectus that could. Apparently in humans the head is used for balance and stabilization in running in the same way kangaroos use their tales. I'm wondering if humans evolved their large heads as a way to balance while running bipedally with no tails, and large brains were just a side-effect.

The book is sometimes credited as kickstarting the barefoot running movement, but it actually has little to do with that. The barefoot runner "Barefoot Ted" is treated as an eccentric, though the author talks a lot in favour of unstructured shoes with little padding. Also at the time of writing Nike were already marketing minimalist shoes and Vibram five fingers were being used for running, so this book can't have been that significant at the start.

Overall, a deservedly classic running book, well worth reading if you're interested in running and haven't read it already.

What I'm Reading 5
Listened to the audiobook of classic science fiction novel Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper. A cute alien race is discovered on a colonized planet, but the corporation running it tries not to recognize them as sentient.

Has some nice touches and appealing characters. Pretty dated though and the plot doesn't really seem well structured: reads like it might have been fixed up from a serial. The inept corporation doesn't provide that much menace.

What I'm Reading 6
Zonal Marking: The Making of Modern European Football by Michael Cox. Book about the evolution of European football tactics from the Nineties to the present. Goes pretty deep into tactical theory, but balances it out with intriguing stories of rivalries between clubs and managers.

I'm not a big enough football fan to really evaluate how correct it is: I do wonder if sometimes he's overstating the importance of tactics over having talented players.

What I'm Reading 7
Models by Mark Manson. Dating advice book that focuses on "attracting women through honesty". Tries explicitly to be a counter to the PUA movement. Though it would be considered problematic in its embrace of some traditional gender roles, the book does make some good points and is generally more respectful of women.

What I'm Reading 8
Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K.J. Parker. Good standalone dark/gritty/humorous fantasy. A engineer in a fictionalized quasi-Roman state ends up in charge of defending the city against invaders. Brisk, has some good technical detail. A bit weakened by a standard Parker-ish cheerfully psychopathic villain and I didn't particularly like the deliberately ambiguous ending and coda but a good fun read.

Kid is back at school three days a week which is a huge relief. Was going crazy trying to keep up with the home learning, the usual chores, and the demanding job. Still have to do two days worth of teaching which is a bit of drag but I'm not quite as hammered.

Work is tough, current release cycle is/was particularly crazy and there are a bunch of org structure changes. I have a new line manager who wants to change things, not unreasonable but I think he underestimates the contradictory pressures from above. I suspect he thinks the frantic running around like headless chickens in response to constantly changing priorities and hopelessly inadequate resources is a symptom of the release cycle, rather than just the way we do things.

Running is going OK, have sped up a bit after my problems, pretty close to my old speed I think. Work has a weekly 5k challenge, which I was slowly improving at. Decided I needed to lose some weight though as put on some over Christmas and a bit more over quarantine. Running a calorie deficit seems to be worsening my times, but hopefully once I'm getting a full dose of carbs again the weight loss will speed me up a bit.

Socioeconomics. David Edgerton: The new age of autarky. Medieval blog on odious debt.

Video, All My Rockets That Didn't Work. Do not use popcorn button. Knight Rider theme on 8 cellos.

Sci/Tech. Mental Disorder In A Healthy Brain: The Goose, The Fox, and Addiction. After 10 Years in Tech Isolation, I’m Now Outsider to Things I Once Had Mastered.

Random. Running Reddit: What's the best drug to do before a long run? Topologists map of the world. Papercraft computers

< Angels come in various sizes. | A book I wrote >
Duck duck duck duck duck | 6 comments (6 topical, 0 hidden)
Little Fuzzy by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #1 Fri Jun 19, 2020 at 12:29:35 PM EST
One of the few sf novels that is also a courtroom drama. Piper revisited that in A Planet For Texans which has a fair amount of humor.

And while definitely dated, what with everyone smoking like a stack, it’s not too bad on gender and race issues. Which is amazing considering it’s around 60 years old. I really like Piper’s stuff.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

His Lord Kalvan by georgeha (4.00 / 2) #2 Fri Jun 19, 2020 at 01:38:55 PM EST
is one of the few sf stories I've read that take place somewhere I'm familiar with.

[ Parent ]
Little Fuzzy by ucblockhead (4.00 / 2) #4 Fri Jun 19, 2020 at 09:24:33 PM EST
Yeah, read it and, say, Heinlein of that same era side by side, and it feels much better on gender issues.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
Between the stops by Merekat (4.00 / 1) #3 Fri Jun 19, 2020 at 03:13:42 PM EST
I have it as an audiobook and it works nicely in Sandi’s voice. Also I’m not sure there’s much leg to stand on complaining the founder of the women’s equality party highlights inequality in her own autobiography;)

Little Fuzzy by ucblockhead (4.00 / 2) #5 Fri Jun 19, 2020 at 09:26:55 PM EST
I adored it when I encountered it at 13 years old.  I read it again ten years back, and yes, while dated, at least wasn't embarrassing.

I didn't care much for Scalzi's remake.  It wasn't actively bad, but like a lot of Scalzi, it was a bit too pat.  One of the things that made the original better was that the villains weren't so much actively evil as they were deluding themselves because it was convenient to do so, which is oh so damn common in the real world.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

duck reaction np by gzt (4.00 / 1) #6 Wed Jun 24, 2020 at 10:31:20 AM EST

Duck duck duck duck duck | 6 comments (6 topical, 0 hidden)