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Old 20th May 2016, 06:32 PM   #321
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Catastrophe by David Keys
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Old 21st May 2016, 03:02 AM   #322
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And a bit lighter reading

Neal Asher's "Transformation" series set in his Polity universe. (That wiki link is a pretty accurate summary).



The Transformation series (two so far - I think it's a trilogy) are good reads, but you do need to have some background - "The Skinner" is a good place to start.




The name of his human/AI civilisation ("the Polity") is deliberately reminiscent of "the Culture" and he does have some similar themes - sentient war drones and ships with AIs running the show. It is *far* more concentrated on action than any of the Culture novels, and with less ideas, however it is enjoyable,

I wouldn't class it as military SF, because it is probably more rounded than that, but it does have a lot of action (possibly more than some that are described as military SF). It is definitely space opera.

There are about three key themes.

The Polity is a human/AI civilisation run by moderately benign but cold-blooded AIs (except where the AIs are malign). Humanity has spread and is spreading beyond the bounds of The Polity, and these human-run societies are generally pretty unpleasant and with a lower technological base; planets are continuously joining Polity if they vote to, sometimes these votes are covertly performed by agents of the Polity against the wishes of the planet's rulers. Separatist terrorists are trying to break up The Polity or take over in-Polity planets.

Against this background there is another active civilisation that are roughly peers (the Prador) which likes to eat humans (and each other) - humans become aware of their existence in the first book, which is about the subsequent "Prador war". The rest of the series has a cold war that sometimes gets hot.

As well as the Prador, the so-called Jain* civilisation destroyed itself 5-million years previously but in the process of doing so, left booby-trapped nanotechnology gifts that have advanced the handful of other civilisations but then caused them to self-destruct.

The stories all involve how the Polity negotiates these challenges.

I had to suspend disbelief as to the ecologies of some of his planets as they seemed far too vicious to be plausible but in a later book he explains that they are generally the result of deliberate engineering by one of the extinct civilisations.




*I am not sure whether this name is deliberate irony either within or without the in-book universe.
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Old 22nd May 2016, 03:49 AM   #323
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The Danish Werewolves, by police sergent Erland Leth Pedersen, describing the futile attempt to implement WerwolfWP in Danish territory post-WW2. That plan largely failed, as the Germans simply capitulated, instead of a foreign army (be it the Western Allied or Soviet) invading the country.
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Old 23rd May 2016, 04:44 AM   #324
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G. S. Denning: Warlock Holmes - A Study in Brimstone. Yep a Holmes pastiche with magic. Not the first either.
Jodi Taylor: Lies, Damned Lies, and History, the seventh novel in the The Chronicles of St. Mary's series.
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Old 23rd May 2016, 01:08 PM   #325
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Not a book but a rather brilliantly ranty blog

http://angry-chef.com/about

He was a scientist who left to be a chef 25-years ago and he doesn't like

Quote:
  • People making unscientific claims about the health benefits of diets, recipes or ingredients.
  • Celebrity chefs making platitudes about of obesity and then broadcasting recipes that contribute to the problem.
  • Food manufacturers making false health claims about their products.
  • Food manufacturers and retailers that disregard their importance in keeping the nation healthy.
  • Chefs, bloggers and food writers with a ridiculously inflated sense of their own self importance.
  • Restaurants that are out of touch with reality.
  • Any misinformation in the world of food.
  • Journalists and media outlets that publish incorrect or poorly researched articles about food.
  • Chefs or food bloggers who shamelessly endorse commercial products without being completely honest about what they are doing.
  • People who present themselves as experts, complete with made up qualifications and titles, who then spout made up food science for commercial gain.
ETA:

Quote:
I am sure that many of the people whom I direct my anger against are victims only of their own ignorance. Many people actually believe that their new alkaline diet can cure a variety of ailments. Others are genuine in their belief that their new super ingredient has huge health benefits. Many of the most intelligent people I know struggle to understand that correlation is not always causation – on occasion I am victim of that misunderstanding myself. Chefs are convinced they are telling the truth when they talk about sealing meat in a hot pan to lock in the flavour. A genius Italian chef I know is convinced that risotto should only ever be stirred anti-clockwise.
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Last edited by jimbob; 23rd May 2016 at 01:11 PM.
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Old 24th May 2016, 08:41 AM   #326
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Richard Kadrey, The Everything Box

Did you like Good Omens? Then you will like this book. Different story, different setting, remarkably similar atmosphere.

Plot synopsis: in 4000 BC, an angel is dispatched to end Earth. He is given Armageddon-in-a-box. Which he misplaces. In 2000ish AD, a thief is blackmailed to steal a certain box. Then blackmailed to steal it back from the person he stole it for. Then blackmailed again to steal it again. Then it really gets complicated.
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Old 25th May 2016, 06:35 AM   #327
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Marius' Mules Book 2' The Belgae

By S.J.A. Turney

The books are a dramatised account of Caesar's Gallic Wars. They mainly revolve around the story of Marcus Falerius Fronto the commander of the Tenth Legion. (Caesar's favourite along with the 8th, They fought with him in Spain)
They bring the campaign to life in a way that Caesar’s dry de Bello Gallico never did.
Book 2 is set in 57bc and covers the second year of the campaign including the battle of the Aisne River against the combined Belgae Tribes, Siege of Bibrax, Battle of the Selle River where Caesar got caught in an ambush by the Nervii Tribe, it got so close that Ceasar had to use his own sword in battle and concludes with the siege of Aduatuca.

Well written, exciting and historically accurate but with enough license to make them personal and exciting rather than just a dry narrative.
Start with book 1 of course The Invasion of Gaul. Be prepared for the deaths of some favourite characters as the series goes on though, you can't change history

Edit to add, finished book 2, starting book 3 Gallia Invicta.

Last edited by Captain_Swoop; 25th May 2016 at 06:37 AM.
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Old 25th May 2016, 06:37 PM   #328
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Until yesterday it was Barbara Tuchman's March of Folly, but the section on America's involvement in Vietnam reminded me that these guys were trying to *********** KILL me. At the time I begged off Uncle Sam's polite, but not insistent, invitation, and I continued the tradition.
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Old 30th May 2016, 12:58 AM   #329
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"Roma", by Steven Saylor.

Fictionalised history of the early days of Rome. It has a sort of James Mitchener vibe to it but it's just not very engaging. The one thing I might say in its favour is that will make a person seek out historians like Polybius because the events are fascinating if, like me, a person doesn't know a lot about the early days of the Republic. The characters, however, are about as stimulating as a bowl of good Roman porridge.
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Old 30th May 2016, 02:33 AM   #330
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Originally Posted by BaaBaa View Post
"Roma", by Steven Saylor.

Fictionalised history of the early days of Rome. It has a sort of James Mitchener vibe to it but it's just not very engaging. The one thing I might say in its favour is that will make a person seek out historians like Polybius because the events are fascinating if, like me, a person doesn't know a lot about the early days of the Republic. The characters, however, are about as stimulating as a bowl of good Roman porridge.
Tom Holland's "Rubicon" is worth reading for the last century and a half* of the Republic, before the Empire.



*IIRC
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Old 30th May 2016, 04:52 AM   #331
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Originally Posted by jimbob View Post
Tom Holland's "Rubicon" is worth reading for the last century and a half* of the Republic, before the Empire.



*IIRC
I have that as an e-book somewhere- I've heard some good things about it. I have to thank "The History of Rome" series of podcasts for rekindling my interest. That and watching the "uncut" release of "I, Claudius", as well...
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Old 17th June 2016, 04:31 PM   #332
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Trench Warfare 1914-1918: The Live and Let Live System, Tony Ashford.

Apparently this is part of a series on warfare. It's a little dry, and the author's need to explain everything in exhaustive detail gets a little old (as in, "There were trench fighters X,Y and Z. Sometimes X would work with Y. Sometimes X would work with Z. Sometimes Y would work with Z. Sometimes Z would work with another Z).

But that's not saying I wouldn't recommend it. It's very informative, and at no point have any of the cons made me want to put it down.
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Old 17th June 2016, 09:54 PM   #333
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"Midnight in Peking" - a retelling of the murder of a young European woman in 1937, just before the Japanese takeover of the city. Her mutilated corpse was left at the Fox Tower (a legendary and spook-haunted remnant of the old city wall). I'm only up to page 70 and a joint Chinese/British investigation is underway. I heard an interview with the author, a (young) China hand. He seemed well-informed and I thought I would learn about a particularly fraught time in history as well as, I hope, reading that a famous crime has been solved:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/20...-french-review


"Bitten" - by an internet collaborator of mine. She says it is not for sooks:
https://www.amazon.com/Bitten-Medica.../dp/0312318235
I am just up to the bit about spiders. Had no idea they were all venomous - that's the last time I tenderly capture one with a glass and a sheet of paper so as to release it outside. Mind, I do murder the redbacks in the clothesline.
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Old 19th June 2016, 12:16 PM   #334
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After Hitler: The Last Days of the Second World War in Europe by Michael Jones, which covers the event that took place in the European theater of WW2, from the time Hitler committed suicide until the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/After-Hitle.../dp/1848544960

I was already vaguely familiar with most of the events, but still an interesting read.
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Old 21st June 2016, 04:06 AM   #335
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Two books I didn't much like.

_When the Sun Bursts_ -- Christopher Bollas,

Bollas is a psychoanalyst who has worked with autistic and schizophrenic patients.

I haven't read this carefully all the way through, but I'm skeptical.

These are his selected case histories, embedded in speculation. There's no guarantee that he's any more honest and scientific than Freud. That is, this book is persuasion. How many therapies failed? Was Bollas ever less heroic, less kind, less insightful than the way he presents himself?

How does playing strange quasi-Freudian word-games (Volvo = vulva, silence = fly on wall = therapist, etc.) actually benefit a schizophrenic patient? These exchanges seemed like pure lunacy to me, and the interpretation seems like pure confabulation.

Maybe his patients benefit from the human contact or the attempt at understanding, or the atmosphere of radical permission. Or maybe they don't really benefit at all.

I'd like to hear a frank exchange of views between someone like Bollas and someone armed with some facts.

----------

_Originals_ -- Adam Grant

At first glance at the library, this looked just like a real book. It had a good title and a pretty cover. So I checked it out.

Upon further examination, however, this is just a pseudo-tome. A business book. That is, trivial trendy stuff is hyped up. Breathless intro by Sheryl Sandberg!

Creative non-comformists do creative non-comforming things!

Next visit to the library, I should remember: avoid call numbers in the 153's. This is the dead swamp of business-school rhetoric.
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Old 21st June 2016, 11:08 AM   #336
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Lorica Segmentata Volume 1: A Handbook of Articulated Roman Plate Armour - M C Bishop
To follow I have
Lorica Segmentata Volume 2: A Catalogue of Finds
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Old 22nd June 2016, 11:21 AM   #337
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The new Clive Cussler, Oregon files
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Major Ashley-Pitt: In our experience, Americans are uncouth misfits who should be run out of their own barbaric country. Matthew Quigley: Well, Lieutenant...
Major Ashley-Pitt: Major. Matthew Quigley: Major. We already run the misfits outta our country. We sent 'em back to England.
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Old 23rd June 2016, 03:58 AM   #338
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I was reading Dostoevsky's 'The Idiot' and enjoying it. But about 1/3 through it descended into countless pages per social situation (and there are many of them), describing in intricate detail all the social posturing and jousting going on and the plot itself totally disappeared. After ploughing on for a bit it became unbearable and I gave up. Shame.

p.s. this was after firing up my Nook for the first time in bloody ages and finding that Barnes+Noble UK had sold out, and I couldn't buy new eBooks from them. Have to sign up with Sainsbury's and I read that the signup system is pretty shagged. Cheers, B+N.
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Old 23rd June 2016, 06:06 AM   #339
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The Black Dhalia. Of course there's a movie and I know what happened, but it is a very good book. The author wrote just like they spoke in the mid 1940s.
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Old 23rd June 2016, 08:36 AM   #340
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Goldsworthy, Adrian.The Complete Roman Army. London: Thames & Hudson, 2003. ISBN 0-500-05124-0. Very good overview of numerous aspects of the army.
Focuses on the first and second centuries AD, with briefer sections on the Republic and later periods up until the end of the Western Empire.
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Old 25th June 2016, 05:50 AM   #341
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Kerin Freeman's The Civilian Bomb Disposing Earl; Jack Howard and Civilian Bomb Disposal in WW2. Pretty much what the title suggests.
Also starting to re-read Dickson Carr's Merrivale stories.
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Old 27th June 2016, 10:29 AM   #342
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Moved on to Kresten's letters and diaries - A Dane on WWI's Western Front - yet another collection of letters and diary entries by a Danish* soldier in the Imperial German Army. The author was reported MIA near the Somme on August 8th, 1916.

* Danish-minded citizen of German Northern Schleswig, which would return to Denmark in 1920.
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Old 27th June 2016, 03:43 PM   #343
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Rincewind has introduced me to the Discworld series by Terry Prachett. im starting #4 and have the next 7 ordered at my library.
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Old 28th June 2016, 01:04 AM   #344
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Originally Posted by RogueKitten View Post
Rincewind has introduced me to the Discworld series by Terry Prachett. im starting #4 and have the next 7 ordered at my library.
Oh dear...

What have I created here?





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Old 28th June 2016, 02:41 AM   #345
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Current NF pile:
David Allyn: Make Love, Not War; The Sexual Revolution; An Unfettered History
D. Peter MacLeod: Northern Armageddon; The Battle of the Plains of Abraham
Dominic Sandbrook: White Heat - A History of Britain in the Swinging Sixties
Geoffrey Howse: History of London's Prisons
Richard L Currier: Unbound - How Eight Technologies Made Us Human, Transformed Society, and Brought Our World to the Brink
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As human right is always something given, it always in reality reduces to the right which men give, "concede," to each other. If the right to existence is conceded to new-born children, then they have the right; if it is not conceded to them, as was the case among the Spartans and ancient Romans, then they do not have it. For only society can give or concede it to them; they themselves cannot take it, or give it to themselves.
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Old 28th June 2016, 05:40 AM   #346
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Currently The Magicians by Lev Grossman. I enjoyed the SyFy TV production so i thought I'd give the books a try.
Quite good so far.

Also, re-reading Greg Bear's Queen Of Angels... A very speculative effort from Bear. Nanotechnology, essentially perfected mental "therapy", Artificial Intelligence, and vigilantes with electronic "Hellcrowns" to punish criminals extra-judicially.
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Old 29th June 2016, 02:29 AM   #347
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I am on book 8 of the Marius Mules series. by Simon Turney.
They are historic fiction centred on Marcus Falerius Fronto the Legate of the Tenth Legion in the Gallic Wars.
Book 8 follows on from the defeat of Vercingetorix and is more concerned with politics, conspiracy and intrigue than some others.
Turney is a Yorkshireman like myself. His wife is from a village just up the road from me. He can often be found in legionary gear marching with the 9th in York and Deva Victrix in Chester with fellow author Anthony Riches.
Turney tells me he has 15 books planned altogether taking the Legate as far as Caesars assassination.
After that he may jump back to the campaigns in Spain where the young Fronto first fought with Caesar as a young Tribune.
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Old 29th June 2016, 04:06 AM   #348
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Originally Posted by Captain_Swoop View Post
I am on book 8 of the Marius Mules series. by Simon Turney.
They are historic fiction centred on Marcus Falerius Fronto the Legate of the Tenth Legion in the Gallic Wars.
Book 8 follows on from the defeat of Vercingetorix and is more concerned with politics, conspiracy and intrigue than some others.
Turney is a Yorkshireman like myself. His wife is from a village just up the road from me. He can often be found in legionary gear marching with the 9th in York and Deva Victrix in Chester with fellow author Anthony Riches.
Turney tells me he has 15 books planned altogether taking the Legate as far as Caesars assassination.
After that he may jump back to the campaigns in Spain where the young Fronto first fought with Caesar as a young Tribune.
Hey!

Spoiler alert!
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Old 29th June 2016, 04:46 AM   #349
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What spoiler?
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Old 29th June 2016, 06:21 AM   #350
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Originally Posted by Captain_Swoop View Post
What spoiler?
Caesar's assassination, obviously!
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Old 29th June 2016, 06:32 AM   #351
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Lol, And Vercingetorix being defeated
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Old 29th June 2016, 07:45 AM   #352
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Originally Posted by Captain_Swoop View Post
Lol, And Vercingetorix being defeated
Yeah!

Please be more careful in future...

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Old 29th June 2016, 02:03 PM   #353
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Dead Wake, by Erik Larson, about the last voyage of the Lusitania. Pop history, but I like Larson's approach. In Thunderstruck, he set Marconi's invention of wireless communication against one of its first dramatic uses, the capture of Crippen across the sea from the scene of his crime- a juxtaposition that gives the history an immediacy. There's a similar feel here, with Woodrow Wilson's pursuit of Edith Bolling Galt set against U-20's pursuit of its prey. (I doubt that's the tension Larson had in mind, it's just what I got)

Queen Isabella, by Alison Weir, a biography of the "She-Wolf of France," the wife of (English) King Edward II. She (Weir) seems to buy into the idea that Edward wasn't, in fact, murdered in 1327, but managed to escape his captors to end up, eventually, as a hermit in Italy and dying around 1341 (and dismisses entirely the "red-hot poker up the bum" death scenario as, IIRC, anti-Lancastrian propaganda). She bases this mainly on the Fieschi Letter; I haven't read enough about Edward II or his time to really judge, but it's at least a nicer story with a better ending.

And, in fiction (which I don't read much of nowadays), Stephen King's The Wind Through The Keyhole, what he calls "the Dark Tower 4.5." I'm a King fan who came only reluctantly to the Dark Tower series, since I don't care much for fantasy; but I got hooked on the stories, and this one didn't disappoint. (Either of them, actually, since this is a "story within a story" thing)
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Old 1st July 2016, 06:56 AM   #354
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Just finished Jodi Taylor's latest Chronicles of St. Mary's short story, The Very First Damned Thing. Almost entirely without the usual protagonist (Dr. Madeline 'Mad Max' Maxwell).
Though the references to "the night they threw the Fascists out of Cardiff" and the revolution in Britain are topical given the signs of a brexit inspired rise of the right in Britain.
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Old 1st July 2016, 10:29 PM   #355
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Mad, bad, and dangerous: the eccentricity of tyrants by Tom Ambrose

Apparently, after having absolute power for a few years, tyrants start to emulate Donald Trump.
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Old 2nd July 2016, 03:00 AM   #356
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Originally Posted by Noztradamus View Post
Mad, bad, and dangerous: the eccentricity of tyrants by Tom Ambrose

Apparently, after having absolute power for a few years, tyrants start to emulate Donald Trump.
Have you read any translations of The Prince?

I often think of BF Skinner's pigeon-guided missile when thinking about some of the more capricious behaviour of tyrants.

If you set clear boundaries and are consistent in your rewards and punishments, then people will tend to feel secure because they know what they can do to avoid severe punishment.

If you are capricious in your rewards and punishments, including for imagined slights, then people will fear you. As long as you are powerful enough, then that is an effective way of getting a cowed population.

ETA: And the idea that you should do what the tyrant wants because of the uncertainty about what would happen to you. If you know the punishment, you can discount it if you do want to rebel. If you have no idea...
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Old 3rd July 2016, 02:21 PM   #357
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The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross - the latest book in the Laundry series.

It's pretty enjoyable and early on one discovers that CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN* is only one of the CASE NIGHTMARE RAINBOW situations.


This book deals with another of those "necromantic War of the Worlds" territory - in this case by what people used to regard as Elves.


Imagine "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" but with the Circus trying to deal with this instead of the Eastern Bloc.

And then add in a romcom - with a description of about the most awkward "meet the parents" dinner ever.



*Magic is a subset of computation, and as more people are alive and more computers are around, it is getting more common - "CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is the Twinkie singularity" sufficiently large numbers of people develop magic powers and break the world "It's like letting a Primary One class mainline Sunny Delight, then handing out brightly coloured semiautomatic grenade launchers. Outcome: we exterminate each other either retail or wholesale (the latter by inviting in the Elder Gods)"
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Old 3rd July 2016, 02:29 PM   #358
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Oh yes, I forgot to mention that for perfectly logical reasons, the chief protagonist (Alex) ends up driving his girlfriend to the family dinner on his housemate's Kettenkrad, which is a bit out of place in a Leeds suburb.

The book does have a plot, as well as these rather surreal elements, but is quite amusing.
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OECD healthcare spending
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Every year since 1990 the US Public healthcare spending has been greater than the UK as a proportion of GDP. More US Tax goes to healthcare than the UK
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Old 4th July 2016, 05:25 AM   #359
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Originally Posted by jimbob View Post
Oh yes, I forgot to mention that for perfectly logical reasons, the chief protagonist (Alex) ends up driving his girlfriend to the family dinner on his housemate's Kettenkrad, which is a bit out of place in a Leeds suburb.

The book does have a plot, as well as these rather surreal elements, but is quite amusing.
And that Kettenkrad was a souvenir of a trip by Bob and co to a different universe. With a nuke...
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Old 27th July 2016, 02:55 PM   #360
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The First World War, Martin Gilbert.

Continuing with my WW1 kick, I decided to go back to basics with a general history. I've read this one before (one of the only times I've actually re-read a book), well over a decade ago, and I appreciate it even more with the ten years' additional reading.

It's an excellent book.
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