I decided to pick up a book from one of those “Intellectual Dark Web”…people. Since pretty much everyone here is familiar with Jordan Peterson I picked something different. Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker is what I picked, and ordered here. I finished it while traveling home last weekend from Kansas City. What interested me was his interview on Joe Rogan (leave me alone) where he came across as a soft-spoken, somewhat bumbling professor type which more or less is his persona. The podcast left me thinking he was a left-wing professor that happens to stick his head out of his bubble every now and then and honestly reports what he sees. He does have a lot of good musings over individual rights, free markets, and authoritarian governments. His overall message is to look at the history, look at the data and be smart about how you form your opinions because where many fall short is their opinions are not backed up by objective fact. Where he will probably fall short around here are his arguments against libertarianism, a good rundown of his arguments in his book are located at this link here. One thing that I kept noticing is while he recognizes where the rights for the individual have led to positive impacts, he still advocates for actions on certain issues that some here will find antithetical to his message.
Otherwise, his premises are explained clearly, cited thoroughly, and he shows them visually (there are 75 graphs and 40 pages of notes). If there is any interest I can do a more thorough review.
As part of our hate-reads, SF dared Jesse and I to read Happy Doomsday. This is the worst professionally written book I have ever read. Seriously. There is nothing good about it. Two too many of the characters survive the apocalypse. Do not read it. No, no. Don’t get curious about how bad it can be. DO NOT READ IT. SF did make it up to me by passing on to me Hardwired by Walter John Williams. This is 80s Mirrorshade Cyberpunk at its most fun. Aside from an irrational hatred of Texans common to many border-staters, it is great. Cyborgs jacked directly into hovercrafts, street samurai with cybernetic snakes implanted in their throats, a monomaniacal corporate titan who thinks he’s plugged into the heart of the silicon. I loved it. I also read Nathan Lowell’s latest two books in the Solar Clipper series. Suicide Run and Home Run. I really like the original story line. You just have to believe me when I say that he makes working the mess deck on merchant marine in space seem interesting. It gets more interesting from there, but somehow getting the coffee out on time seems like a worthy challenge.
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal. Not gonna lie, I was grabbed by the name and the first third of the story felt interminably slow. The main character was a wee bit too SJW and the person we assume is her antagonist a little too self-satisfied and traditional. There were erotic short stories embedded throughout, which I suppose I should’ve expected, but was a little scandalized by. Once the story starts rolling it’s engaging and endearing and you’re satisfied with the ending even if it’s a bit fairy-tale perfect.
The World of Null-A by A. E. van Vogt. I had to keep reminding myself that this was classic sci-fi…and that the copy I purchased on Amazon still managed to be a shittily transcribed/scanned version. It was a jaunty read and the [scifi jargon] + [household item] formula was charming in an old-timey way.
All New Square Foot Gardening (2nd Edition) by Mel Batholomew. One of these days I’ll get my ass in gear and at least grow tomatoes again. This book is pure garden-project pornography. One disappointment is that the book seems better suited for people who have a winter, and while they make occasional mention of plants that’ll grow in more temperate climates, instructions about harvesting after the first light frost but before the first hard frost are…unhelpful in climate zone 10b.
Happy Doomsday: A Novel by David Sosnowski. Someone’s mother (not mine, obviously) always used to say “if you can’t say anything nice about a book, don’t say anything at all.” I did not prefer the characters in this book, which made it difficult to finish. I blame SugarFree’s enthusiasm for “this will be so bad it’s good” which he then abandoned in favor of “it’s so bad I refuse to continue” leaving Brett and me to struggle through. SP wisely chose a different Kindle First Reads book and mocked Brett and me for our “suicide pact.” I notice Brett has recommended that you not read it, but he’s just being a little theatrical, I’ll point out that it’ll continue being free to Prime members until the end of the month.
While engaging in some Happy Doomsday avoidance I listened to the first (and second) novel in the Whiskey Business series, which SP is also listening to. It’s a fun light mystery with a built-in explainer for making and drinking whiskey. I also listened to Andrea Vernon and the Corporation for UltraHuman Protection, which could’ve been written by one of you. I don’t know that it’d hit everyone’s funnybones the way it hit mine, but I would recommend it if you’re looking for a very light superhero caper in a world where superheroes are privatized and an uplifted lady-rhinoceros with an assault rifle discusses her masturbatory habits during a mandatory sexual harassment training.
Chelsea Clinton – She Persisted
I have nothing interesting to report as my reading time has been taken up by a pharmacology textbook. Not exactly a bedtime page-turner.
Oh, I am also listening to this book’s Audible version this week while working out, cleaning, and folding laundry. (It’s a full life.) The story itself is OK, but the female narrator sometimes loses me between the heavily-Scots-and-English-accented male characters, making me have to hit the 10-second rewind button, which annoys me when I am wearing nitrile gloves.
Great Googly-Moogly, Happy Apocalypse was terrible. I made it 15% in and had to stop. Just bad. Bad, bad, bad. I could only read about 500 words at a time before I had to put it down. In-between the pain, I read James Tiptree Jr.‘s Her Smoke Rose Up Forever story collection. Tiptree is the most celebrated act of literary transvestitism in science fiction, being the nom de plume for Alice Sheldon. It was a fairly open secret that Tiptree was a woman, and I have a hard time believing that anyone of any sophistication who read more than a couple of stories by her couldn’t have figured it out.
Still not able to shake trying to read Crappy Apocalypse, I turned to intellectual comfort food and re-read the first Uplift Trilogy, by David Brin. Despite Brin’s turn to loathsome politics,* my dozenth pass through his universe of plucky humans, adorable neo-Dolphins, and courageous artificially-evolved Chimpanzees is like a meaty, starchy, filling plate of Thanksgiving food. (The 2nd Trilogy sort of disappears up its own ass in striving for cosmic apotheosis, and I can’t recommend it.)
*Brin has deleted his call for “climate justice” tribunals, so I’ve linked to an H&R thread where I posted some of his deranged screed. Brin used to write for Reason, by the way, before the madness settled in.
Old Man With Candy
There were two authors from my childhood who set me on my life-path to become a scientist. One was Roy Chapman Andrews (truly one of the most interesting humans to ever walk the Earth). The other was Arthur C. Clarke. When I was about 8 years old, my father handed me a copy of Profiles of the Future, which totally captivated me. It was an overview of common futuristic tropes of the sort that would fascinate an 8 year old science geek (invisibility, giants and Lilliputians, alien intelligence, matter replication, interstellar exploration) with some technical analysis of what was possible and what was sheer fantasy, and why. I read and re-read it so many times that it eventually fell apart. So I was determined to give this to my son as well, and found out that there was an updated edition from about 2000. I bought it for him and… well… let’s just say he’s more of a YouTube guy than a reader. It languished on our bookshelves for some years until I picked it up and dusted it off last week, then put it in the Room of Honor. Re-reading it, I can see why it grabbed my attention. Much of it hasn’t aged well, but much of it is frighteningly prescient. And of course, it’s Clarke, which means superbly clear and absorbing writing. I had the chance to meet Clarke once (as a college student) and was not disappointed, other than him avoiding the question about what the Ramans looked like. I cannot be the only one who has told him that he was the one who made them choose a career in science, but he acted as if I had said something special. What a great person.