Monday 19 November 2018

Book review: Rosewater

Rosewater is an expertly judged cyberpunk-biopunk-Afropunk thriller is set in Nigeria in the aftermath of an alien invasion, according to Adam Roberts in the Graun; and Goodreads seems to like it. Miriam recommended it, or at least pointed me at it; I read it over the past weekend and enjoyed it. But. Ah yes as ever the but.

As a technical bookwriting matter, the flashbacks become a little confusing, because the flashback chronology is a bit textureless, so it is very hard to remember one piece of the past story from another, and keep them in sequence. That isn't desperately important but could have been better managed I think.

I think the book picks up ideas from White Queen - I don't have a review of that, but I do have Divine Endurance - and I'd recommend either of them above this; especially WQ, which is stunning (for example, this review).

The "but" I began with is the flaw so common in sci-fi nowadays, that the eventual revelation can't live up to the build-up. Unlike WQ. Nonetheless the book continues nicely for about 4/5 of its length; if you had the self-discipline to stop at that point, you'd win.

For the positives, well, see the Graun or Goodreads.

Saturday 10 November 2018

At the dentists

Just personal stuff.

For years I have not gone to the dentists. I forget exactly how long; more than a decade. Sometimes I have had little twinges but they go away and I fooled myself that all was well. But about a month ago I got a twinge that didn't go away, and looking I realised that the edge of my molar looked like a limestone cliff undermined from beneath.

And so I booked an appointment with Miriam's dentist, Hurst Park, a private practice, having decided not to even try jumping through the NHS hoops. And a week later I had three fillings in my lower right. It turned out that the "undermined cliff" was a previous filling that had fallen out. A few days after that I was de-scaled by the hygienist. And a week later I had a smaller filling in the top right. Apart from the not-at-all-fun feeling of being injected, all was well.

Since then I've had a couple of sleepless nights with mild but continuous pain in my jaw, which have taken a couple of hours downstairs to cure, much to the surprise of the cat. Hopefully those will die away.

Monday 5 November 2018

911 truthers

Recently - to my horror - I discovered that one of my friends is a 911 truther. Or conspiracy theorist. Or, as he might put it (since he was a pains to say that he didn't actually have a coherent theory, he just thought things didn't stack up) a just-not-stack-upper1.

To me, it sounded so, so tediously similar to all the GW denialist nonsense that I'm wearily familiar with. I pointed out the analogy, of course. And of course it just bounced off. I had hoped it might make him think but no such luck: the response was simple rejection of the analogy. Not that he was opposed to analogies in general: he made several himself.

Anyway, let's write some of this down, since I bothered to do at least some research.

Not reading the mainstream view

Just like the GW denialists, who won't read the IPCC reports; or indeed like the people who don't trust GR (or even SR) but have never worked through the maths themselves, my friend hadn't read the mainstream view; which I take to be the NIST report. I haven't either, but I don't need to, since I don't want to dispute it. When I pointed out that it was a good idea to at least read the thing you're supposed to be disagreeing with he did accept that.

Trillions going missing

One of the conspiracy theories needed to explain what happened, is that the plane that hit the Pentagon mysteriously hit the accountancy department, and that Rumsfeld had only days before announced that the DoD had lost trillions. The implication is that the plane - or, ha ha do you see explosives - were used to remove the evidence. Cunning. Except: why do it immeadiately after. If you're trying to do it, why not destroy the evidence and the investigation first, and then not have to announce the problem at all? But that's not the most serious problem: the serious problem is that multiple trillions is too big a number. You cannot lose that much (aka: so-called "skeptics" not being skeptical of things that they should be).

What is the mainstream view? Fairly simple: the trillions aren't lost, they just aren't accountable to high auditing standards (arch). The truth page sez Interestingly, the Bush Administration did not seek to place any blame on the Clinton administration for the missing assets. They really do think this is all "missing". They do know about the mainstream explanation, since the page also quotes although the numbers seem large, it’s not because we really don’t know what happened with the transactions. The problem has tended to be that we just didn’t record them properly, or at least they're capable of quoting the words, but only to scorn them. My friend was either unaware of the mainstream view, or chose not to mention it, I don't know which.

Why would you believe the mainstream view? Firstly, it seems (to me) immeadiately plausible. Not-up-to-date accounting standards, led by inadequate computer systems, is exactly what you would expect from the DoD. It also fits other facts: if they really had lost trillions, it wouldn't be quietly forgotten, even in the context of 911: that much money is enormous; it would have been a years-or-decades-long highly visible scandal.

To be continued?

If my friend keeps pushing this, I'll add to this page. And maybe show it to him one day.


1. Are you upset by the "tone" of this article? Well tough titty for you then fish face. In normal face-to-face conversation I'm polite; even online, when talking to named individuals I am fairly polite; but otherwise online I take no prisoners: no quarter asked or given. Compare, for example, Scott Adams is a tosser.