Self-Reflection: "Thumps - Reviews and Essays 2016" by MySelfie
NB: I’m the author of this book. And this is not a review. So don’t you start huffing and puffing about me rating it…
The silver-foil room and the 1977 aesthetic ... Things howl on the frontier, not just the wolves ... And the dustpile ... The 21st Century howls I thought ... but a Portuguese publishing marketing person? ... An EXCEL spreadsheet? ... Then I thought: Clammy handshake, unedited ... You can smarten yourself up with twenty five Euros and a visit to PRIMARK ... I don't know what I am on about either ... a desert of dung, preserving mediocrity ... This is not a quote ...
I self-publish because my writing doesn't fit a particular genre. I write across age groups and styles (i.e., I write book reviews). I don't write 'mainstream'. I am what I am and therefore I cannot box myself in for the sake of money. Thus, I write what I want, self-publish, shrug my shoulders if there are editorial errors, (it's not like I don't edit 1000 times, & all my work, even that which I've already published, is under constant revision, editing & upgrading)....more
Ancient Greek Cynicism: "The Father of Lies" by K. J. Parker
“’I’ve done a lot of bad things.’ ‘Define bad.’ He looked at me, then nodded. ‘A lot of illegal things,’ he amended. ‘I’ve told a lot of lies, defrauded a lot of people out of money, cheated, stolen. Never killed anyone—’ I cleared my throat. ‘Deliberately,’ he amended, ‘except in self-defense.’ ‘That’s a broad term,’ I said. ‘No it’s not. I got them before they got me.’
In "The Father of Lies" by K. J. Parker
Cynics, Confucius, Buddha and Lao-Tzu (Taoism founder) all lived at about 500 BC, and were all of a view that we should dispassionately view the world as it really is, and act upon it in a helpful way, whilst living a simple life. They said that the dissatisfied human state is the result of our actions which are often self-centre, to become satisfied you have to become other-centred. Very hard to do/be. A modern cynic thinks that other people act cynically, which is fine, the problem arises when they get righteously indignant about it, making themselves out to be saint like which it is unlikely they are. So they're end up endlessly winding themselves up. The optimist can't be bothered thinking that everyone is up to no good because they might not be. The only solution is for the modern cynic to become as disciplined as those dudes from 500 BC. But then that is very hard to do/be. In fact the reason for the definition of the word changing is that people tried to be just that and failed or others just pretended to be that so they could get an advantage....more
Hemingwayesque Style: "Frankenstein in Baghdad" by Ahmed Saadawi
Finished Ahmed Saadawi's "Frankenstein in Baghdad." It’s worth contrasting with Shelley's Frankenstein. Shelley writes about Frankenstein's misuse of Science, i.e., galvanism, in creating an ultimately vengeful Creature, existing primarily in a Romantic world of wild nature, the background of which is the setting for the novel. Saadawi's Frankenstein in Baghdad, OTOH, is set in an urban hell of murders, car bombings, massacres and various varieties of sectarian warfare....more
Time is in Reality's Blurring: "The Order of Time" by Carlo Rovelli
In some ways, Rovelli's writing is as influenced by Calvino as it is by Einstein or Feynman - this is not simply writing in the tradition of explicating or popularising scientific inquiry; but rather writing which seeks to open new spaces of possibility for thinking through the very endeavour of the writing itself. There does seem to be an appetite for knowledge out there, although the problem (so it seems to me at least) with physics for a wide audience is that ultimately there is only so much that you can do without resorting to maths....more
Railway Barons: "Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder" by Caroline Fraser
I am well into “Prairie Fires” by Caroline Fraser, a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder who is best known as the author of the Little House children’s books. I have not read these books nor have I seen what I believe to have been a rather saccharine TV series “The Little House on the Prairie.”...more
Saviours: "The Future of Work: Robots, AI, and Automation" by Darrell M. West
Imagine the scene: It's 2025 and a school student is visiting their careers adviser.
Student: Hey there, so do you have any advice for me in choosing a career? Adviser: Well, we've monitored your performance over the last 13 years of schooling, your interests and abilities and used our software to predict which roles you would be best suited to. Student: Ok, so whats the result? Adviser: We are terribly sorry, but it seems you are what is commonly called a 'spare' Student: Umm..a spare?...more
I have said elsewhere that crime fiction seems to flourish in times of stress, such as our era now. I fully expect more great detective fiction in the near future as it is one of the few genres that can show society from top to bottom: the detective, investigator or whatever, in many of the best novels, talks to both the monied and the moneyless at the same time against a puzzling foreground as broad and as complex as the society, or the human beings, that carry out and solve seemingly deeply baffling crimes at the outset of any great novel....more
N-Dimensional Topology: "Cosmosapiens" by John Hands
Me: 'Whatever happened to Occam's Razor? This stuff makes Plato's Forms look like one of the most sober and parsimonious metaphysics imaginable! I would like to point anyone interested in this stuff to an amazing non-performance of a book called "Cosmosapiens" by John Hands. Hands has the nerve to subject all these theories (the Big Bang, Inflation, multiverse theories and much more) to the actual evidence we have, rather than arcane mathematical models that try to extrapolate from it in various directions, or else wild speculation (or both). None of them come out well. The universe looks as if it is much other than these theorists try to paint it....more
M87: "Einstein's Shadow: A Black Hole, a Band of Astronomers, and the Quest to See the Unseeable" by Seth Fletcher
“The so-called hair-theorem maintains that they can be entirely described by three parameters: mass, angular momentum, and electric charge. They have no bumps of defects, no idiosyncrasies or imperfections – no ‘hair’.”
In “Einstein's Shadow: A Black-Hole, a Band of Astronomers, and the Quest to See the Unseeable” by Seth Fletcher
“There are actually three principles that come into conflict at a black-hole horizon: Einstein’s equivalence principle, which is the basis of general relativity; unitarity, which requires that the equations of quantum mechanics work equally well in both directions; and locality. Locality is the most commonsense notion imaginable; everything exists in some place. Yet it’s surprisingly hard to define locality with scientific rigour. A widely accepted definition is tied to the speed of light. If locality is a general condition of our universe, then the world is a bunch of particles bumping into one another, exchanging forces. Particles carry forces among particles – and nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, including force carrying-particles. But we know that locality sometimes breaks down. Entangled quantum particles, for example, would influence one another instantaneously even if they were in different galaxies. […] And after all, the whole reason black holes hide and destroy information is because of the principle of locality – nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, and therefore nothing can escape a black hole. If some sort of non-local effect could relay information from inside a black hole to the outside universe, all was well with the world.”
In “Einstein's Shadow: A Black-Hole, a Band of Astronomers, and the Quest to See the Unseeable” by Seth Fletcher
“The 20th century produced two spectacularly successfully theories of nature: general theory of relativity, and quantum theory. General relativity says the world is continuous, smoothly evolving, and fundamentally local: influences such as gravity can’t travel instantaneously. Quantum theory says the world is twitchy, probabilistic, and non-local – particles pop in and out of existence randomly and see to subtly influence one another instantly across great distances. If you’re a scientist who wants to dig down tot eh deepest level of reality, the obvious question is: which is it?”
In “Einstein's Shadow: A Black-Hole, a Band of Astronomers, and the Quest to See the Unseeable” by Seth Fletcher...more
ΔE Δt ≥ ℏ/2: "Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum" by Leonard Susskind, Art Friedman
I was on a train the other week and I was sitting opposite Einstein who asked me if I would mind changing seats because he liked to see where he was going for a half a journey and then he liked to see where he had been for the other half of the journey and I told him I didn't mind changing seats and I asked him if he minded me asking him if he was dead and he said, "When?"
Why was the universe in such a low entropy initial condition? As many have pointed out, that might be even more unlikely than random macroscopic decreases in entropy. Also, if the universe had a low entropy initial condition, might it have a similar boundary condition at the other end? If so, then someday, entropy will start to decrease! ...more
Closed Time-like Curves: “Brief Answers to the Big Questions” by Stephen Hawking
“Is there any point in hosting a party for time travelers? Would you hope anyone would turn up? Hawking’s answer: In 2009 I held a party for time travelers in my college, Gonville and Caius in Cambridge, for a film about time travel. To ensure that only genuine time travelers came, I didn’t send out the invitation until after the party. On the day of the party, I sat in college, hoping but no one came. I was disappointed, but not surprised, because I had shown that if general relativity is correct and energy density is positive, time travel is not possible. I would have been delighted if one of my assumptions had turned out to be wrong.”
In “Brief Answers to the Big Questions – The Final Book” by Stephen Hawking.
I'm not really asking a question - a lot of what Hawking talks about really isn't even theoretically testable. Theoretical physics does tend in that direction - often it talks about ideas that are not testable yet, and may not be for a long time, or which are mathematical speculation as much as observation. ...more
Hang on a second, I just need to head over to RTP1 channel to check on the weather. The rain that was forecast ten minutes ago might not be coming after all. Oh look, there's a cat juggling mice. I wonder what Donald Trump is up to. And there's someone talking shite about gun laws in the USA. He's wrong, he needs to be corrected. He's wrong again. And again. And again. What do you mean, it's tea time? Focus on what? Oh, look, a squirrel!...more
In böser Absicht: "Ethical Porn for Dicks - A Man’s Guide to Responsible Viewing Pleasure" by David J. Ley
“But many more people are told today that watching porn makes them a bad person, and it’s something they should be ashamed of. We are told that watching porn is bad for society, women, and women’s role in society. It warps kids’ brains and is destroying all that is beautiful about sex and love. Basically, we are told that every time we watch porn, a baby seal gets strangled with XXX-rated videotape. […] But I believe it is possible to be a gentlemen and watch porn. It’s possible to be an ethical, responsible person and treat oneself and others with dignity and integrity, AND to watch hot, no-holds-barred sex on screen.”
In “Ethical Porn for Dicks” by David J. Ley
The war on pornography strikes me as a game authoritarians play ... an ideology of embedding dependence, infantilisation and aversion to risk and pleasure in society. In this case, the problem is not the porn but what makes young males and females so conflicted about sexual representation that one walks out just because another is interested in sexual representation as pleasure. Removing pornography appears now to be necessary to ensure that we remain a sex-negative culture dependent on priests and their social science surrogates. Sad really. ...more
I wanted to say I have finally just about finished reading Jan Morris' Venice and the one thing that struck me more strongly about it than any other impression, was how much it reminded me of Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon. Of course, Morris is frequently in the business of evocative, poetic prose, something Hemingway would never allow himself, but the everyday prose style is very similar. ...more
Quantum Entanglement Radio : "Gate Crashers" by Patrick S. Tomlinson
The Quantum Entanglement Radio is one of the great accomplishments of mankind, although it had so far failed to supplant sliced bread for the top spot in popular colloquialism. The QER operated through the principle of quantum entanglement. At the core of each set of devices sat a pair of neutrons. Once entangled, these neutrons precisely imitated each other’s behavior instantly and over any distance as if by magic - which, if you’re honest, is all quantum mechanics is, minus the hats, rabbits, and bisected lovely assistants, but only because these things don’t exist at subatomic scales. The rest of the device was comprised of an impossibly small gravitational manipulator that controlled the spin directions and speed of the particle, and very sensitive Heisenberg detectors to record the reply. These functioned by surreptitiously observing the entangled particle from behind a nanoscale newspaper and dark sunglasses, so as not to arouse suspicion.”
Modern Meditations: "12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos" by Jordan Peterson
OK. Let me put it this way. Peterson decries the rights agenda and the railing against patriarchy, partly with the argument that Western society is the least partiarchal and the most free there has ever been. But he never asks himself why this is so, because the answer of course is that those freedoms have been won by people in the past railing against oppression and proclaiming their own right to a place at the trough - workers, women, minorities. If there hadn't been those 'progressive' moves, for want of a better word, we would still have slavery, we would have less worker representation than we do (though we're heading the wrong way again), women would still be tied to the home, and so on. He doesn't do patriarchy because he doesn't suffer from it, only benefits. ...more
Gentleman-in-waiting: "So Good They Can't Ignore You" by Cal Newport
"Working right trumps finding the right work."
In "So Good They Can't Ignore You" by Cal Newport
After having finished "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck", I wanted to read this one to work as a counterpoint. I'm glad I did.
When I was younger, I watched Jurassic Park one and two, and I wanted to be Steven Spielberg! Doing well in my dance classes made me want to be a professional tap dancer. Watching Top Hat and West Side Story made me want to combine both aspirations to become a director of musicals, both film and theatre! By the time I was in secondary school, the arts were not viewed as a viable career option, and out of law, engineering, and other traditional subjects, I choose to become a Computer Scientist. I was in my final year at university studying Computer science, and I'd happily have remained a gentleman-in-waiting for several more years to save up and see the world! (I didn't have a career goal that I was passionate about). ...more
The Art of Unfuckdness: "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck" by Mark Manson
Ah, that reminds me of an old joke: Two guys meet their former colleague at a street corner and one of them says: “ Joe, we have a good laugh every time we talk about the day you told the boss you were fed up of daily project meetings and unmet milestones”
It is an invariable fact of life that the vast majority of people that go around declaring to the world at large that they don't give a fig about others opinions actually care more about them than those that stay quiet on the issue.
The author has just taken the title of a best-selling book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, and chosen an alternative that will stand out in the bookshop and encourage newspapers to run excerpts that look good in bookshops. I think it's an attempt to piggyback on the success of Marie Kondo's book by being "inspired" by the title and hoping people will pay money without looking too hard at the contents of the book....more
Rump and Rexit: "Dark Sacred Night" by Michael Connelly
Connelly even tries to paper over it later, having one of his character vaguely muse about how stupid it was. This is just lazy writing. “Literary” novels can get away with a lot if the language is impressive enough. Crime novels are hard. If I was a crime fiction writer I'd want the fact that I could write Literary Crime Fiction hushed up. I wouldn’t want anyone to know I could turn into another John Banville…...more
Swinburne's Lesson: "Noumenon" by Marina J. Lostetter
I would encourage you to consider the potential for speculative fiction to help us all drop our lazy assumptions about Realism, mimesis, and how any writing made up of words upon a page ever really relates to or captures some discernible, locatable "real world."
As someone who prefers poetry over novels, I turn to speculative fiction, weird fiction, science fiction for the same sort of liberation from the tyrannous fantasy of the Real. Forget the mirror; look to the Lamp. ...more
Capellanus: "Her Smoke Rose Up Forever" by James Tiptree Jr.
It's a great question isn't it (and one I don't remember C.S. Lewis posing!) but I guess the 'kind of society' would be a ruling class one, whereas I doubt whether the same freedoms and female agency would be envisaged or countenanced for the rest of society. While the female in what Lewis saw as the 'allegory of love' was attributed with powerful choice and discretion, I tend to see the elevated role of the woman in these traditions as operating a kind of chivalrous choreography, affording exercise of knightly qualities and an iconic object of knightly desire that doesn't quite sit comfortably with me (though I admit I love the concept of gentilesse). ...more
Old-As-Dirt-SF Prop: "Gunpowder Moon" David Pedreira
I used to like Asimov as a kid but grew out of him. All of his characters sound the same ('Now see here') with the worst example being his later "Foundation" books where Asimov-as-he-is and Asimov-as-he-wishes-he-was fly around the universe searching for Earth and meet a shared-consciousness lass with a nice bottom. All of his books are detective novels and end with the hero spending three chapters explaining how he cleverly worked out the mystery to an incredulous antagonist who then throws an extra twist in there ('Ah but we are the Second Foundation/Mule/mind controlling robots'). ...more
Let Them Be: "Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 1: 1940-1956" by Sylvia Plath
“My biggest trouble is that people look at me and think that no serious trouble has ever troubled my little head. They seldom realize the chaos that seethes behind my exterior. As for the who Am I, what am I angle...that will preoccupy me till the day I die.”
In "Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 1: 1940-1956" by Sylvia Plath
Prior to the publication of the second volume in October 2018, I finally finished reading this mammoth of a book. And I didn't feel too good reading it for reasons too complex to delve into here. I'm not sure I'm up to the task of tackling the 2nd volume to be honest. It's rather depressing reading. That's why it took me almost two months......more
Bulkshit: "Out BS!: Overcoming and Understanding Today’s BullSh!t" by Elevia DeNobelia/Syl Sabastian
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from one of the authors in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own, and no monetary compensation was received for this review.
“Our most earnest intent with this book, is to make sure you, our reader, you personally, don’t suffer needlessly, as a result of a bullshitter or a bullshit-manipulator-narcissist [BMN] in your personal life. We dearly wish you find some assistance here when it comes to empowering yourself to recognise and deal with bullshit. We see the resolution to the problems of the world, starting with you, the individual, at that personal and local level. If we each, in our small way. Develop that discernment which leads to the awareness and understanding of bullshit, we prevent this corruption on the world from spreading and growing, weeding it out at the source, and improving the lives of good persons like yourself in the process.”
In "Out BS!: Overcoming and Understanding Today’s BullSh!t" by Elevia DeNobelia/Syl Sabastian
Our system is broken.
Lying has a long history and examples of this are endless, but what stands out to me in DeNobelia’s and Sabastian’s book is the implicit Orwell's warning: “The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one: don’t let it happen,”... “It depends on you.” The pernicious influence of lies upon world history and contemporary cultures is immense and it is my suspicion significant lies are a crucial component in most of the world's preventable suffering. It is no small matter. Ultimately it is up to us to care about lies, especially from those who are paid to inform and represent us, but also in critical person to person communication. We as individuals and as a culture might find our lives much improved if we rejected demonstrable lies and liars, and rewarded those who tell the truth. Especially difficult truths. Our future depends on it....more
As the little sister in "Lair Of The White Worm" exclaimed: "Ooh! Me spotted dick!"
'Artemis' read like a Haines manual. The main narrator had no personality beyond hating disco (so I wished death on her from about page five - better than no reaction, I suppose) and then it switched to Mission Control in America c.1995. The book was an elaborate daydream for people who watched enough 'MacGyver' to think they could fix everything with gaffer-tape and a Swiss Army knife, modified by NASA's website regurgitated almost verbatim....more
Tickboxing exercise: "The Fifth Season" by N. K. Jemisin
"Back to the personal. Need to keep things grounded, ha ha"
in "The Fifth Season" by N. K. Jemisin
Surely most decent SF is unique, each story is different from other stories, each writer is different from each other writer?
Most of the speculative/dystopian/ science fiction I've read has been written by women and queer people, including non-white women and queer people. It's all been "different". But having got used to reading those imaginings (e.g., Alice Sheldon/James Tiptree Jr.), encountering the kind of white-hetero-male-dominated mainstream stuff mentioned in some comments regarding recent SF does feel really limited/limiting. There's often an absence of racial difference or gender variance in the story lines, lazy stereotyping and dialogue whenever these "others" do appear (and in many stories they don't) and no thought given to how whatever changes have taken place in society might impact on those with less of that kind of privilege. ...more
Just got this book and I’m starting to think I'm reading a different book than all the reviewers. Seems like Z writing at best to me. Nona is an interesting character at times and a terrible anime like character in others. There is a horrible amount of repetition in the book in terms of X shows up, X happens, few chapters later X shows up (different character) X happens (pretty much exact same outcome). There are large chunks of chapters that seem like wasted space where he describes a mundane task just for a girl to say "I don't like her" or something. ...more
Fuck-Spaces: “A Philosophical Approach to Quantum Field Theory” by Hans Christian Öttinger
“According to Henry Margenau , “[the epistemologist] is constantly tempted to reject all because of the difficulty of establishing any part of reality” (p. 287). But, again in the words of Margenau, “It is quite proper for us to assume that we know what a dog is even if we may not be able to define him” (p. 58). More classically, a similar idea has been expressed by David Hume: “Next to the ridicule of denying an evident truth, is that of taking much pains to defend it” (see p. 226 of ). In this spirit, I try to resist the temptation of raising more questions than one can possibly answer, no matter how fascinating these questions might be. Philosophy shall here serve as a practical tool for doing better physics. I try to use philosophy in a relevant and convincing way, but I am certainly not in a position to do frontier technical research in philosophy.”
In “A Philosophical Approach to Quantum Field Theory” by Hans Christian Öttinger
The way Öttinger derived his Quantum Master Equation is nothing short of masterful..."Melikes" it......more
The Accepted Aliens: “The Tea Master and the Detective” by Aliette de Bodard
“When you’re out there, with no one and nothing to stand in your way - when you realise how small you are - you also realise that everything that ever was, that ever will be, is connected to you. That we’re all, in the end, part of the same great thing.”
In “The Tea Master and the Detective” by Aliette de Bodard
I find it extremely funny that in some reviews regarding "The Tea Master and the Detective", there are still people that blatantly produce such a snobbish abhorrence of the SF genre. Should everything in life be of such a pragmatic acumen, we would live in a "Brave New World"! Hello ALPHAs ... remember Aldous?...more
“’I don’t want to be human.’ [...] Dr. Mensah said: [...] ‘We tend to think that because a bot or a construct looks human, its ultimate goal would be to become human.’ ‘That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.’”
In “Exit Strategy” by Martha Wells
SecUnits are sentient constructs, part machine, part organic, largely human in form and created in part with human tissue, that are owned by companies and used to provide security or protection to humans and/or property as needed....more