Doing any recreational reading? v.5.8

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justine Elitist Beer Lover
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I have so many books to read, but i think my next one will be The Girl On The Train.
Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson (2010).

This is a weird book.

Most of this novel is a straightforward chronological retelling of the story of Galileo from his mid-30's when in a market in Venice he was told by a stranger who had recognized him about how there was a Dutch lens maker who had lined up a pair of his lenses to make the first primitive telescope, to the time of his death nearly 40 years later. Of course this includes the period when he was held by the Vatican for questioning the stability of the Earth by arguing for the Copernican model of the universe. These parts are interspersed with period writings--most by Galileo himself though translated into English (though according to Robinson most of such texts that Galieo wrote remain untranslated out of their original Tuscan Italian or period Latin)--that were contemporaneous with the story. Included with this is a partially humorous look at his daily life having to deal with the fights between his mother and his longtime mistress, his largely unsuccessful brother and the payment of the dowry for his sister, his illegitimate children from said mistress (a boy who Galileo was able to set up a marriage, and two girls whom he had sent to a nearby nunnery). While this look is likely largely made up by Robinson, they do help humanize Galileo.

Interspersed through this is his "Dream": I do not know this to be true, but in this book Galileo was subject to long periods when he would lay in something like a coma for up to hours at a time. Robinson explains this by describing how in some bodily form--Galileo's body still remained in the 17th century--Galileo was visiting the 34th century having been sent by the "entangler" which was sent back into time from around that future time so that the people of that future date could take advantage of advice from the man whom they regard as the First Scientist. These people are also living on/in what Galileo had called the Medicean Stars: our Galilean satellites of Jupiter of Io, Callisto, Ganymede and Europa (that collective name bringing a mixture of disappointment and pride to Galileo, the first being that the name he had proposed didn't stick). The people of the 34th century recognize "proto-scientists" before Galileo like Archimedes, but they still revere Galileo as the First Scientist because he had been burned at the stake by the Vatican but whose death was fundamental to the reduction of the importance of the Roman Catholic Church.

Hang on, you are saying, Galileo was NOT burned at the stake. Well, that is true in OUR universe, and I think this is partially where Robinson loses me: if ALL things are possible in the multiverse as it is explained to Galileo, then while this particular me may not be in the best of all possible worlds, should I celebrate anyway? At one point Galileo asks if it would be possible for him to convince Pope Urban to the Copernican view, but one of the people in the 34th century who befriends Galileo tells him basically no because that way would lead to science becoming an assisting "little brother" to the Church which would not help the next time learning required a paradigm shift. Science would then be just another branch of the Church which would help stifle such shifts (AND--within the multiverse--that HAD happened along with ALL other possibilities).

Especially interesting to me was the argument at Galileo's time of how atomism (the view that there were fundamental particles that made up all matter) was considered heresy in view of the transubstatiation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ (meaning that such actually became the Body and Blood ALL the way down forever). The politics within and outside the Church REQUIRED a confession from Galileo and he HAD to suffer some punishment. In "Dream" if Galileo had persisted in his claim that his "Dialogues" which contrasted the Aristolean and Copernican views actually were arguments for the former despite it being supported by the character Simplicio, then he would have been brought up on charges of heresy due to his support of atomism (which was one of the charges that got Giordano Bruno burned at the stake within Galileo's adulthood). I do not know how true this argument was, and any of Galileo's papers which survived certainly would NOT include any of this as he had been forbidden by the Church to even speculate on such matters.

"Galileo's Dream" is an unsettling book. Certainly required reading if Robinson is among your authors, but I am hard-pressed to say that I had enjoyed this.
Old Yoda agitator
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'Anthropocene or Capitalocene?
Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism'
(Open access book) http://arena-attachments.s3.amazonaws.com/772469/2f4f13a96536be79f602f1906d5d5660.pdf

“A revolutionary new phase of earth history, the Anthropocene, has been unleashed by human action, and the prospects for this blue sphere and the mass of humanity are not good. We had best start thinking in revolutionary terms about the forces turning the world upside down if we are to put brakes on the madness. A good place to begin is this book, whose remarkable authors bring together history and theory, politics and ecology, economy and culture, to force a deep look at the origins of global transformation. In short, the enemy to be met is not us, dear Pogo, but capitalism, whose unrelenting exploitation of (wo)man and nature is driving us all to the end(s) of the earth.”
—Richard Walker, professor emeritus of geography, University of
California
TOS
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Old Yoda posted:
'Anthropocene or Capitalocene?
Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism'
(Open access book) http://arena-attachments.s3.amazonaws.com/772469/2f4f13a96536be79f602f1906d5d5660.pdf

“A revolutionary new phase of earth history, the Anthropocene, has been unleashed by human action, and the prospects for this blue sphere and the mass of humanity are not good. We had best start thinking in revolutionary terms about the forces turning the world upside down if we are to put brakes on the madness. A good place to begin is this book, whose remarkable authors bring together history and theory, politics and ecology, economy and culture, to force a deep look at the origins of global transformation. In short, the enemy to be met is not us, dear Pogo, but capitalism, whose unrelenting exploitation of (wo)man and nature is driving us all to the end(s) of the earth.”
—Richard Walker, professor emeritus of geography, University of
California


hm, nice, looks mighty interesting
Galileo's Revenge: Junk Science in the Courtroom by Peter Huber.

Not very well written but very influential book on the use and abuse of expert witnesses in courts of law.
This post is only peripherally related to reading.

After starting the Aubrey and Maturin series of books by Patrick O'Brian (which I first reviewed here), I went out to my local Barnes & Nobles stores to find the other 20 books in the series. I managed to find only 10 of them and I have read the series up to book 6 because the other 4 volumes I picked up are from later in the series. I have waited for months to see if my B&Ns might put on their shelves any more from the series, but all I have seen have been the same books, some with rather badly torn corners.

For Christmas a relative gave me an Amazon gift card for $50 so I decided to use that. It has been about 5 years since I had last ventured into Amazon.

Man, it has gotten confusing.

First, while all of the books I was looking for are available in trade paperback form, upon first seeing some of the listings there you would not have guessed that. Eventually I figured out that I had to click on the "View all formats" line to see that there were trade paperbacks at all.

Second, what happened to the simplicity of listings? Now I have to trudge through a list of booksellers who are making their books available through Amazon. Yes, I can select the option of only seeing those sellers with free shipping, but this was only after seeing a list of sellers offering the books for as low as 2 bucks but seeing in the fine print that they were charging $3.99 or more for shipping for every book ordered through them. And for some reason I cannot get a list of sellers in lowest-to-highest price order.

Third, after I had set up my order, at EVERY step during the process of paying for my order I got the offers for getting $50 off my purchase by getting an Amazon Visa card, and offers for free expedited shipping if I got Amazon Prime (which they were promising wouldn't cost me anything because I could cancel it first thing). Funny thing, after I put in the info from my Amazon gift card I noticed that the Visa card got reduced to only the 32 bucks or so that remained.

While I got my order set up (no shipping fees), the overall experience was very annoying. No plans on returning.
...and somehow I messed up.

I got my first shipment of the Aubrey/Maturin novels. Because I had to order them via Amazon through 2 different companies, my books came/are coming through 2 different shipments. Books 7 and 11 are yet to come so I haven't started to read them yet.

I stacked all of them so far only to find that somehow despite my double- and triple-checking that I had missed that I already had volume 8, The Ionian Mission.

So anyone who has been encouraged to pick up this series but hasn't yet gotten volume 8 want a free book? I'll even pay for shipping.
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly (2016).

I have not (yet) seen the movie based on this book so I am making no comparisons with that.

This is a wonderful retelling of the story of how smart black women managed through brainpower and obstinacy and the imperfect meritocracy of the Langley Research Center to overcome the area's racism (Langley is near Newport News, VA) and the general paternalism throughout the era of human computers.

Read this even if you have seen the movie ('cause that will have to leave out stories and details).
DEyncourt posted:
[snip]
Books 7 and 11 18 are yet to come so I haven't started to read them yet.
[snip]

These books came in today and I'm not happy. While not terribly mangled these books are NOT what I would consider to be new condition with the covers rather bent and corners roughed up a bit.

The OTHER books in the other shipment were fine. Not pristine perfect but acceptable.

I am returning these. I will certainly will cross off J.J.Products from any future purchases via Amazon.
TOS
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thinking of popping out to the bookstore and getting myself a bit of nonfiction ... a very rare treat indeed
dv
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TOS posted:
thinking of popping out to the bookstore and getting myself a bit of nonfiction ... a very rare treat indeed

Wait... Like a store? Building? A place for you go to pay retail price for books?

Did Amazon stop servicing Canada while I wasn't looking?
DEyncourt posted:
DEyncourt posted:
[snip]
Books 7 and 11 18 are yet to come so I haven't started to read them yet.
[snip]

These books came in today and I'm not happy. While not terribly mangled these books are NOT what I would consider to be new condition with the covers rather bent and corners roughed up a bit.

The OTHER books in the other shipment were fine. Not pristine perfect but acceptable.

I am returning these. I will certainly will cross off J.J.Products from any future purchases via Amazon.

Oh, I should have added that those "[n]ot pristine perfect but acceptable" books were from big_river_books. I could not order the other 2 books because this company wasn't offering them.
TOS
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dv posted:
TOS posted:
thinking of popping out to the bookstore and getting myself a bit of nonfiction ... a very rare treat indeed

Wait... Like a store? Building? A place for you go to pay retail price for books?

Did Amazon stop servicing Canada while I wasn't looking?


sometimes it's nice to browse, okay?

i ended up getting a copy of paris 1919 by margaret macmillan, asbolutely wonderful lose-myself-in-it history book

i bought it, then sat down at starbucks with a cup of tea and did some reading -- just loverly
dv
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TOS
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I am about to start reading Antony Beevor's Fall of Berlin book. It is a huge tome, but at 18.99 for a digital copy, I will live with the hardcover book. I am also finishing Pierr Berton's Vimy book.
TOS
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how strange, i've been wanting to read that berlin book too but was put off by the price ... i just love his work

and good ol' pierre berton, he was best buds with my grandpa (well maybe "pals in drinkin' and whorin'" is more accurate) so we had all his books growing up

vimy was great, but i think his book on the yukon gold rush was my fave, especially the big coffee table version with amazing photos
I've been reading Steven Crowell's collection of essays on Husserl and Heidegger's phenomenological philosophy, as well as a collection of essays on Husserl's philosophy of mathematics and logic that reexamines the traditional gloss that Frege corrected Husserl's way of seeing things and posits that Frege was mistaken and possibly retaliating for previous criticism Husserl gave on Frege's methodology. While Frege conclusively linked mathematics and logical sense, his project to ground mathematics ultimately failed. Gödel thought Husserl's methodology was more sound, something which was very surprising to many analytic philosophers when it was disclosed in the biographies written by Hao Wang.
TOS
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recreational reading, homie

r-e-c-r-e-a-t-i-o-n-a-l
TOS posted:
recreational reading, homie

r-e-c-r-e-a-t-i-o-n-a-l

You mean like the Bible? lol.

Last fiction I read was the MaddAdam trilogy by Atwood and Ready Player One. But I'm the kind of weirdo who thinks bringing a book on combinatorics or perception to the beach is fun.
jkahless Custom Title
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Grinding my way through the Discworld series at about one a day. Entertaining little reads. I love the wordplay, even the terrible puns.
TOS
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StaticAge posted:
TOS posted:
recreational reading, homie

r-e-c-r-e-a-t-i-o-n-a-l

You mean like the Bible? lol.

Last fiction I read was the MaddAdam trilogy by Atwood and Ready Player One. But I'm the kind of weirdo who thinks bringing a book on combinatorics or perception to the beach is fun.


i guess i'm one to talk, i'm happy to lose myself in the historical arcana ... my idea of heaven is accessing an archive
TOS posted:
StaticAge posted:
TOS posted:
recreational reading, homie

r-e-c-r-e-a-t-i-o-n-a-l

You mean like the Bible? lol.

Last fiction I read was the MaddAdam trilogy by Atwood and Ready Player One. But I'm the kind of weirdo who thinks bringing a book on combinatorics or perception to the beach is fun.


i guess i'm one to talk, i'm happy to lose myself in the historical arcana ... my idea of heaven is accessing an archive


Learning can be fun!
The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi (2017).

This is the first book of a proposed NEW book series from Scalzi, so it is unrelated to any of his previous books.

As was the case with Scalzi's other books that I have attempted to review, I am finding it difficult to adequately describe the set-up as it is too complex to do so fully. Let me leave it as an interstellar human empire is facing an existential crisis which threatens its very existence (though NOT from aliens, invasion or otherwise). Scalzi accomplishes this with a mixture of greed and humanity and humor (and a lot of "fiddlesticks"s throughout much of the text). I am very much looking forward to all future books in the series.

Also let me leave you with this line which made me snort with humor when I read it:
"I worked in marketing."
That probably won't spoil the book much because its effect depends a lot on context, but save that until after you have read The Collapsing Empire and see if you agree.
The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut's Windlass (2016) by Jim Butcher.

tl;dr version: I like this book a lot and am looking forward to future books to come. There is something of the flavor of Patrick O'Brian's "Master and Commander" (which I reviewed here) to this book although MUCH lighter in nautical terminology. Butcher does a good job of explaining this society without having to explicitly explain how or why it is different from ours.

This is Butcher's attempt at something of a pseudo-steampunk novel though with a lot of twists aside from the usual singleton (e.g. they developed robots in the Victorian Era).

Generally the tech is mid-19th century with the addition of the use of what is called in the book "etherics". Etherics is the general field of generating, storing and using energy, so heat and recently discovered electricity are known but also covers a level of anti-gravity which enables the inhabitants--at great expense--to create airships which use specially grown crystals for this specific purpose for powered flight. This use is still relatively new tech so--like in our world there was a short period of time when ships were built with both sails and paddlewheels--there are still ships being built which use sails for wind-driven flight (at this point understanding how this culture could have wind-driven airships WITHOUT anti-gravity gets confusing so I'll leave that problem here). There are also gauntlets which are powered by a different kind of crystal which essentially can blast an explosive heat ray at a target. Over time when these gauntlets are used they will get very hot, so while they can be useful in limited situations for more extended fighting people still rely upon swords and knives and clubs. There is SOME gunpowder but this is at the level of flintlock pistols and rifles. There is also another kind of crystal for general lighting.

The culture is divided into separate spires made up of a very tough black spirestone. At some time in the distant past The Builders had created these massive structures which basically are round posts about 2 miles high and have a diameter of about 2.8 miles across. While the horizontal cross section is round, the cities at the top of each of the spires are formed into a square 2 miles across with those sections inside the circle but outside the square being used for cisterns and plumbing and air vents. The top is also covered by a shallow dome which means that most inhabitants never see the sky. As a consequence all of the food is grown in "vatteries" though there are a few eccentrics who like to grow their food from plants in the earth (BLECH!).

In some (all?) of the spires there is also another open layer about a few hundred feet above the base where there is a second city using the same square layout. This layer has the problem of some of generally regarded alien creatures from "the surface" taking residence in some of the harder-to-reach areas.

Each of these spires has a culture based on Earth cultures though no explanation (yet) of how this was developed or transferred. The Spire of Albion--where most of the ground action takes place--is largely British (though I don't recall if there had been anything obviously Scottish or Irish in the book, so maybe more properly English). Its main rival is the Spire of Aurora (Spanish) but there are brief mentions of other spires like that of Olympia (American).

There are three FOUR main characters:

1) Francis Grimm, captain of the "merchant" ship Predator, one of the titled Aeronauts. He had been recently drummed out of the Albion Navy for cowardice during a naval action but there are many people who feel that he had been wronged by rivals in the Navy. That "merchant" in quotes because he basically is a pirate raiding mostly on Auroran trade ships.

2) Gwendolyn Lancaster, heir to the Lancaster vattery which makes the anti-gravity crystals for Albion (and thus she belongs to a very important and wealthy family). She is spurred on by a sense of civic duty which leads her to enlist into the Albion Guards where as a cadet she meets...

3) fellow cadet Bridget Tagwynn, who is heir to an illustrious name in Albion history through her great-grandfather General Tagwynn but whose family has fallen into a more modest business of raising meat in the family vattery. Among the cadets Bridget is known as "the catgirl" because she is accompanied owned by...

4) Rowl, who as the reader meets him is just the Tagwynn family cat, but the cats in this world are intelligent creatures with high opinions of themselves as a group AND as individuals (just as you've always suspected). They also have a language which a few people can understand and a handful of people like Bridget can speak. Cats can understand the human language (which is just Terran-standard AKA English). These cats MAY acknowledge humans they regard as sensible at least some of the time, so most humans in this world are unaware of how intelligent cats are.
DEyncourt posted:
DEyncourt posted:
DEyncourt posted:
[snip]
Books 7 and 11 18 are yet to come so I haven't started to read them yet.
[snip]

These books came in today and I'm not happy. While not terribly mangled these books are NOT what I would consider to be new condition with the covers rather bent and corners roughed up a bit.

The OTHER books in the other shipment were fine. Not pristine perfect but acceptable.

I am returning these. I will certainly will cross off J.J.Products from any future purchases via Amazon.

Oh, I should have added that those "[n]ot pristine perfect but acceptable" books were from big_river_books. I could not order the other 2 books because this company wasn't offering them.

Just a follow-up: I ordered those 2 books through Wordery USA at Amazon and got them yesterday. Like the others these books were not pristine perfect but acceptable.
justine Elitist Beer Lover
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DEyncourt: do you buy a lot of used books on Amazon? Just curious because i like to browse used book stores and thrift stores for books.

And, today i bought the book Thirteen Reasons Why. I saw it in trade form (not mass market paperback) and it was only $6 something. Having just finished watching the show, i wanted to read the book.
justine posted:
DEyncourt: do you buy a lot of used books on Amazon? Just curious because i like to browse used book stores and thrift stores for books.

And, today i bought the book Thirteen Reasons Why. I saw it in trade form (not mass market paperback) and it was only $6 something. Having just finished watching the show, i wanted to read the book.

All of the books I have bought through Amazon have been at least labeled as "new" though of course there isn't any absolute way of telling. I haven't had any obvious cases of finding that someone had scribbled notes or pressed a leaf between the pages.

I should note that the main reason why I bought these O'Brian books through Amazon is that I had gotten an Amazon gift card as a Christmas present, and that after months watching the bookselves at TWO Barnes&Noble stores they seemed to be unlikely to restock their shelves with any more books. I had bought the first 6 books and two more in the series at B&N but the rest of the series had cosmetic problems like torn corners and/or bent covers.

If instead I had gotten a B&N gift card I would have placed the book order through them.
DEyncourt posted:
The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi (2017).

This is the first book of a proposed NEW book series from Scalzi, so it is unrelated to any of his previous books.

As was the case with Scalzi's other books that I have attempted to review, I am finding it difficult to adequately describe the set-up as it is too complex to do so fully. Let me leave it as an interstellar human empire is facing an existential crisis which threatens its very existence (though NOT from aliens, invasion or otherwise). Scalzi accomplishes this with a mixture of greed and humanity and humor (and a lot of "fiddlesticks"s throughout much of the text). I am very much looking forward to all future books in the series.

Also let me leave you with this line which made me snort with humor when I read it:
"I worked in marketing."
That probably won't spoil the book much because its effect depends a lot on context, but save that until after you have read The Collapsing Empire and see if you agree.

Last night I went to a book signing with Scalzi and Cory Doctorow (who was promoting and signing his just-released book Walkaway which I haven't had a chance to read yet), and I got Scalzi to laugh by telling him after he signed my copy of The Collapsing Empire that I laughed aloud when I read that line above (which, again, probably will not make much sense out of context). Yeah, yeah, it's probably the 200th time he has heard that.

Both Doctorow and Scalzi are very entertaining and funny speakers. Some of the tales they told involved the fact that they both have daughters, Doctorow's being 8 now and Scalzi's being older.

Doctorow regretted that he made a rule that he would answer his daughter's "Why?" questions fully only 4 times, but on the fifth time he could answer "Because!" Of course after making that rule his child will now hold up her hand showing the current count of whys.

Scalzi said that was a bad move because when his daughter was 8 she went through a bad lawyer phase. He and his wife would tell her that she wasn't supposed to do something, and she would answer back something like "Well, I didn't know that THAT rule was supposed to apply to ME." After being corrected, she would then propose some hypothetical: "Well, if I was riding on a horse and did THAT, would it still be against the rules?"

Scalzi also said that his daughter had figured out how to manipulate her parents. For his wife, guilt was the route. His daughter would come up to her mother wearing a sad face and say, "Y'know, it's sad that we don't spend enough time together" then BOOM! A bowl of ice cream.

For him it's satire and smart humor. When she was 8, he first showed her the "FIRST Star Wars movie" ("I don't believe in that 'Part IV: A New Hope' nonsense" and "THAT is the appropriate age for first seeing that movie"). When the movie ended at around 9 pm she asked for some ice cream. Scalzi said, "No, it's already past your bedtime." She thought for a bit, then with that Obi-Wan Kenobi gesture waved her hand at her father saying "You will give the girl some ice cream." Scalzi said he was helpless to resist.
justine Elitist Beer Lover
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DEyncourt posted:
justine posted:
DEyncourt: do you buy a lot of used books on Amazon? Just curious because i like to browse used book stores and thrift stores for books.

And, today i bought the book Thirteen Reasons Why. I saw it in trade form (not mass market paperback) and it was only $6 something. Having just finished watching the show, i wanted to read the book.

All of the books I have bought through Amazon have been at least labeled as "new" though of course there isn't any absolute way of telling. I haven't had any obvious cases of finding that someone had scribbled notes or pressed a leaf between the pages.

I should note that the main reason why I bought these O'Brian books through Amazon is that I had gotten an Amazon gift card as a Christmas present, and that after months watching the bookselves at TWO Barnes&Noble stores they seemed to be unlikely to restock their shelves with any more books. I had bought the first 6 books and two more in the series at B&N but the rest of the series had cosmetic problems like torn corners and/or bent covers.

If instead I had gotten a B&N gift card I would have placed the book order through them.

Gotcha.
The Memory of Whiteness: A Scientific Romance by Kim Stanley Robinson (1985).

Another weird one from Robinson but note that publication date: 1985. There is a section in one of the early chapters where Robinson--speaking directly to the "Dear Reader" as a narrator completely separate from the story--outlines a future history of the Solar System including the colonization of Mars (I'm guessing covered by his Mars trilogy though I haven't read that yet) during the early centuries of the Third Millennium, the slow expansion into less hospitable regions of the Solar System, the unsuccessful attempts at launching interstellar arks like in Aurora around AD 2600, the radical colonization of small moons and planets starting about AD 3000 culminating with millions (billions?) living in the outer Solar System like the Galilean moons of Jupiter by the 34th century as in Galileo's Dream. It should be noted that those later books I linked to were published decades after "Whiteness".

That colonization of the outer Solar System was begun in around AD 2900 when the Great Cyclotron was completed in the orbit of Mercury. That structure enabled mankind to make unspecified discoveries into the structure of the universe which led to the discoveries by Arthur Holywelkin during the first decades of the 3000's. Holywelkin's work led to artificial gravity generation and the creation of a differential force field. The former allowed the creation of controllable line singularities which can direct solar energy from power collection stations in a tight orbit around the Sun to "terras" anywhere in the Solar System and for those terras to have Earth-normal gravity; while the latter allowed those terras to be protected from the otherwise frigid environments in the outer Solar System. As a result by the 3200's there are thousands of such terras--which can be up to tens of miles across--spread from the larger asteroids in the Belt to Pluto and its moons, each of them replicating some environment on Earth depending upon the whims of the builders.

A thought occurred to me when considering that force field. A passage early in the book noted that a person could accidentally force his hand through the field because the mechanics of the field would prevent air and water from passing through. I suppose that losing one's hand could act as a reminder not to try the same with any other body part, but there are BIRDS flying around some (many?) of these terras, likely being vital to environmental maintenance. I had to imagine that many of these terras must be surrounded by bodies of dead birds which were flash-frozen after they blithely flew through the force fields.

But all of the above is merely background to another aspect of Holywelkin: he was a music composer of considerable talent and an engineer, with both aspects resulting in the creation of his Orchestra. This is basically a full robot orchestra set up in a roughly 10-meter-wide sphere around a central control area where the master of the Orchestra can program what each of the instruments will perform.

By AD 3226 when "Whiteness" begins, Holywelkin's Orchestra is located in a terra on Persephone, a moon of Pluto (Robinson apparently was unaware that a main belt asteroid was named Persephone in 1895 and thus believed that the name was available for a then-unknown moon of Pluto). By this time the Plutonian system is generally regarded as the center of avant garde music. The Ninth Master of Holywelkin's Orchestra decides that he wants to take it on a tour of the Solar System (though skipping the Neptunian terras due to orbital mechanics). There are intrigues due to the Greys, a cult-like group which claims to have originated with Mithraism which was a thriving cult in the Roman Empire during the 1st through 4th centuries of the Christian Era. There are also stresses between factions of Greys.

There are also explorations into 10-dimensional physics, but since I recently read Robinson's "Galileo's Dream" I did note that there were some significant differences between Robinson's explanations in each of these books.

So while I think that "Whiteness" is an important book to read for anyone who wants to track Robinson's "prehistory" for the Solar System, this isn't just a light read (despite the subtitle). I liked the novel more for its travelog aspect showing off parts of the Solar System, but I thought that the mystery involving the Greys was a bit contrived.
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I'm on the last book of the Fablehaven series. Reading it to my kids (6&8) and we are all enjoying it.

(Not sure what we are going to read next)
Walkaway by Cory Doctorow (2017).

tl,dr: a wonderful book about how distopia may not necessarily be a bad thing (at least in the long run). I'll chance a guess that Farmerkev will absolutely HATE this book.

It is set perhaps a bit more than half-century into the future. Basically Republican policies and economics have taken over the world, but with the nearly total takeover by computer automation of most jobs, most people are basically underemployed if not outright unemployed. The exception are the class of "zottas" which collectively is what all of the trillionaires and quadrillionaires are called (there is no such prefix in the powers of 1000, but it could be that Doctorow was only slightly exaggerating by combining zetta- [=10^21] and yotta- [=10^24]) because they basically own EVERYTHING. Governments around the world are merely tools for the zottas to enforce their rule (do note the lack of an ending "s" there).

Hubert Vernon Rudolf Clayton Irving Wilson Alva Anton Jeff Harley Timothy Curtis Cleveland Cecil Ollie Edmund Eli Wiley Marvin Ellis Espinoza (yes, that literally is the first two lines in the book. Doctorow likes to play games with names. At that book signing I mentioned earlier in this thread he said that he was responsible for a joke that eventually became "Little Bobby Tables" in XKCD's "Exploits of a Mom")--for the purposes of this review I'll call him "Etcetera", the Walkaway name he later adopts--begins in a quandry. He has been persuaded by his longtime bestie Seth to go to a party, specifically a Communist party being an illegal rave held at a closed-down mattress factory outside of Toronto. Etcetera's problem is that just a quick glance around the floor of that factory shows that he is about a decade out of his element for this party has mostly late teenagers/early 20's. Seth tells Etcetera that he should get some beers. Etcetera complains because he brought no money ("Only a couple of million on me"), but Seth reminds him that THIS is a Communist party--"to each according to his needs"--so everything is free.

Etcetera goes over to the bar but is unable to figure out who is the bartender between the several girls--all of whom are wearing Marx (Karl, not Groucho) noses and beards--standing by the beer spigot (but Communist party, so serve yourself). He is helped by one of them who explains how she had helped to set up the party and why the beer is so fizzy:
Quote:
Because it's fast-acting. It was ditch water just an hour ago. We sieved it, brought it up to room temp, dumped in the culture. It's live, too--add some precursor, it'll come back. Survives in your urine. Just save some, you want to make more.

Seth comes by to pick up his beer and forces Etcetera to give his full name and explain: "The top 20 names from the 1890 census".

Through a series of circumstances too complicated to go through here, the party is raided by the authorities. Etcetera and Seth and that girl get out together and she persuades them to go to a 24-hour diner. While there an immaculately dressed gentleman comes to their table and introduces himself as Jacob Redwater (who Etcetera and Seth immediately recognize being one of the Redwater zottas--think of being introduced to one of the Walmart Waltons, at least if one of them had a more public profile). The girl--being Natalie Redwater, his daughter--naturally lodges another in what is obviously a long line of complaints that she HATES being constantly monitored by her father. As a gesture to soothe her anger, he invites Etcetera and Seth to their house to clean up.

While there and after some discussion with her parental unit, Natalie and friends retreat to are left alone in the "girl's wing" which she shares with her little sister who wasn't there at this time. Rebellion still being on her mind in part because of that discussion, one of them mentions "walking away". Being very much a counter-culture idea, there is a lot of propaganda against walkaways which what the people who walk away are collectively called, so there is a furious search through various online resources to determine which they could trust for MOSTLY truthful info.

The next morning they go to a walkaway camp called the Belt & Braces which is nearby Toronto and is said to be welcoming of newcomers. They luck into having Limpopo as their initial guide. While walkaway philosophy varies from camp to camp, the B&B is distinctly NOT a meritocracy. They try to keep to a theoretical Communist ideal of "from each according to his ability" which is helped by the B&B AI which points out where there might be problems like chores not being performed or areas that need to be cleaned up or building projects that need help. I will leave it to Doctorow to explain those details.

Here the newcomers are introduced to an onsen which is a "30 percent walkaway, 70 percent Japanese" public bath. Doctorow gives a very deliciously sensual description of the procedure as demonstrated by Limpopo (and I really wanted to try this after reading this section).

And I haven't even gotten to Walkaway University which is when the real action begins. I stayed up all last night to finish.

In a review someone wrote that in this book Doctorow puts in more ideas per page that some writers put into entire books, and I have to agree. While I'm not entirely persuaded by the ideals in Walkaway, I do want to give it a try (but I give myself good odds of being one of those who "walk back").

EDIT: corrected a small point and some spelling.

Last edited by DEyncourt on Wed Sep 06, 2017 9:05 pm.

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a generation of sociopaths: how the baby boomers betrayed america

started out interesting, and definitely lent a new perspective to the screwed-up-edness of contemporary america, and how things started turning to crap as the boomers began taking power

the author is a former silicon valley and financial whiz and started out by saying he's got loads of data to back up his provocative theory, but eventually it became evident that he really doesn't

it's certainly interesting to point to sociopathic tendencies as a major cause of today's shite-storm, but diagnosing an entire generation? i just can't buy it ... for instance he says the boomers had extremely permissive upbringings, and this made them incredibly narcissistic and unable to feel and act collectively, but he presents no survey or data to actually show how the average boomer was raised

that being said, he does offer some interesting takes on the past half-century, such as the case of vietnam ... he points to opinion polls that consistently showed attitudes among the boomers that were pro-war, even militantly so, right up to the time the draft began to make it harder to avoid service; he also says that the boomers who avoided the draft were mostly middle or upper-income kids, while those who actually served were mostly working-class and poor (and black)

basically he says the better-off white boomers were in some ways reinacting the civil war practice of hiring substitutes (let the poor get killed!), but later on they all acted as though they heroically opposed the war when really only a tiny percentage actually marched

lots of stuff like that in the book

my thinking is that it might have been better to chart the growth of callousness and indifference in society rather than tie it to a particular generation
user Stupid cockwomble
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Yeah, it's still fun to blame it all on the hippies.
gd Ya boi, Guzma
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I'm reading Illuminae Files #1. Amazing book with a unique format.
TOS
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working my way through marvel's civil war comix

like it lots, much better than i expected
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson (2017).

TL;DR: if you like Tyson's breezy style of commentary then you'll likely enjoy this book.

Admittedly I'm probably not in Tyson's primary target audience for this collection of essays on mostly astrophysics topics being somewhat more knowledgeable in this field than most people, but I did learn several things that I didn't know:

1) Technetium is such that ALL of its isotopes are relatively short-lived on an astrophysical scale with its longest isotopes lasting only a few million years so that there are only trace amounts found in the Earth's crust (technetium is a possible fission by-product of some isotopes of uranium). Most of what we have is through filtering through a lot of uranium ore to pick out a tiny bit of technetium or generated through particle accelerators.

BUT weirdly that element has been seen through spectroscopic readings of some red giant stars. As Tyson points out: there is no explanation for why some of these stars must be generating some amount of technetium because any that existed when the star was formed would have long ago decayed radioactively into other elements, AND there is likewise no explanation as to why such technetium ash--which should be at the cores of such stars (along with most astrophysical "metals"--meaning everything with more protons that helium)--is being dredged up into those stars' photospheres enabling us to see it via those stars' spectra.

2) Somewhere in this forum I had cited the work of Vera Rubin without giving her proper credit. She was the astrophysicist who partly solved several problems involving gravity during the 1970's when she studied the velocity of stars in the spiral arms of surrounding galaxies and found that they were moving too fast to be accounted by just the visible matter within those galaxies.

What I didn't know is that this problem actually dates back to the 1930's when astrophysicists were spending a lot of time studying the spectra of galaxies to try to determine how far they are based on their red-shift. When studying galactic clusters the researchers had to look for an AVERAGE red-shift for that cluster in order to compensate for the fact that the individual galaxies within that cluster are moving at some slower speed relative to each other, BUT when those relative speeds were determined the researchers found that many galaxies were moving at what should have been much higher than escape velocities for the estimates of the mass for the entire cluster. So why would these galaxies still be in a cluster?

Rubin came up with the concept of dark matter which admittedly only partially explains both problems.

There was a move to award Rubin a Noble Prize in Physics, but unfortunately she died late in 2016 and Nobel Prizes are not awarded posthumously.

-----

BTW: now that I have all of the books, I have been continuing with the Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian, alternating a book in that series with other reading. Currently reading book 9: Treason's Harbour.
dv
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DEyncourt posted:

There was a move to award Rubin a Noble Prize in Physics, but unfortunately she died late in 2016 and Nobel Prizes are not awarded posthumously.

If they ever change that, they'll spend the next 20 years just rewarding posthumous Nobel prices to the women they ignored in the first half of the 20th century.
TOS
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daniel ellsberg -- secrets: a memoir of vietnam and the pentagon papers

only partway through but it's incredible

first off, his very first day at the pentagon was on the day of the (later determined to be nonexistent) second attack on us ships in the gulf of tonkin -- he literally watched the flow of cables come in, hysterically talking about swarms of north vietnamese torpedoes

secondly, he describes this horrifying dichotomy of public declarations assuring americans of peace while, behind closed doors, they were making plans for a massive commitment of forces to vietnam, with generals telling lbj they figured it would take a million soldiers and up to ten years to defeat the vietcong

all the secret memos and communications between white house and pentagon were all on the same page, but verbally, in meetings (only declassified many years later) top officials all told the president they were sure the war was completely unwinnable and the president tended to agree -- yet they all signed off on those massive troop deployments anyway

ellsberg points out that in the 1964 election, goldwater was portrayed as a militaristic madman for advocating a massive commitment to vietnam including the use of nuclear weapons -- but the only difference between goldwater's policies and johnson's (which were kept secret from the public) is that johnson and his team only planned to use nukes later, when china intervened (which they figured was inevitable at some point)

just frigging nuts ... no wonder that war proved to be so destructive to american politics
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