What's on your reading/listening list?

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September 7th, 2017 at 2:12:48 PM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
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BTW I saw a show on a channel of the Discovery network where they tested Aztec weapons vs Spaniard ones. One main weapon the Aztecs used was a broad, flat piece of wood with very sharp obsidian (volcanic glass) lining the edges. They demonstrated it on a pig carcass, and the wound inflicted was quite impressive.

But then they tried it against iron armor. It barely made an impression, but the board split and the obsidian shattered.

This pretty much explains the disparity involved.

It's worth mentioning obsidian can be made much sharper than steel. According to Herodotus, the Egyptians used it instead of knives for mummification (and likely for other things, like farming tools).
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
September 13th, 2017 at 1:44:04 PM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 332
Posts: 11982
I'm not sure what to go with next.

there's Tuchman's "The Guns of August," Diamond's "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed," and a tome I found while perusing the Real Clear site, called "The Internationalists."

The premise of the latter is a bit odd: that the Kellogg-Briand pact of 1928 did in fact outlaw war as an instrument of policy. That's intriguing as hell. more so is the fact the authors are law professors rather than historians.

I probably should upgrade my Audible membership to at least 2 credits per month.
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
September 15th, 2017 at 8:20:17 AM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 332
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While I decide about Audible, I came across a Futurama radio play podcast (really!) with all he original actors published yesterday in the Nerdist Podcast (never heard of it before).

I'm halfway through. It's funny thus far. The plot involves the Deleted File Planet ("Does there have to be a planet for everything?"), a resurrection of the 31st Century TV show "All My Circuits" in podcast form (where have I heard that before?), and Bender's mother (the robotic arm, not Mom).

There's a dig about XXI century podcasts, which grew so numerous humanity couldn't keep up (nice), and someone had to come up with a Podcast Containment Device.
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
September 16th, 2017 at 9:56:31 AM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
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From the latest Freakonomics Radio episode:

"Very often people ask me because people have heard bilinguals have increased cognitive control, or they can do a little bit better on the Wisconsin Card Sorting task— which is a task of switching ability. “Should I learn another language so I can get these benefits?” To me, that always sounds like, “Should I climb Mount Everest so that I can tone my calves?” "
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
September 18th, 2017 at 8:05:20 AM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 332
Posts: 11982
I found a novel I wanted to read on sale in Audible ($5) and decided to get it. I figured I could return it if I found myself unable to follow it. Thus far it's going well. It's "Red Shirts" by John Scalzi, narrated by Will Wheaton.

Thus far there's only one problem. About every line of dialogue ends or begins with an indication as to who is speaking. In print you learn to ignore these when they're not necessary. In audio it seems like a signal as to when someone's dialogue ends. I can see the need, But in long scenes with short exchanges it does tend to get in the way.

The novel is a kind of Trek parody, tackling many of the story-telling tropes in the show.

Today being Monday, though, Mike Duncan's latest installment of Revolutions took precedence.
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
September 19th, 2017 at 5:53:35 PM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 332
Posts: 11982
I'm getting the book. The argument is intriguing:

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/sep/14/making-war-illegal-changed-the-world-but-its-becoming-too-easy-to-break-the-law
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
October 10th, 2017 at 12:51:40 PM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 332
Posts: 11982
At odd moments I'm reading "The great Space Race" by Don Dennis, about the early days of space exploration.

I'm familiar with the general timeline, but was largely unaware of the details. For instance, the US could have launched a satellite a lot sooner, like 6 months sooner, than the Soviets, had 1) there existed a unified rocket/missile program rather than one per armed service and 2) not been so concerned with appearances.

What's interesting is that the Americans were so contemptuous of the USSR, they thought they would launch a satellite first even if they did a half-assed job during development.
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
October 18th, 2017 at 8:03:53 AM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 332
Posts: 11982
I stumbled half by accident into Lexicon Valley, a podcast by Prof. John McWorther. It's about the English language, as you can deduce from its name.

McWorhter is full of interesting tidbits I would never even ahve suspected. For example, certain words we now consider profanity were rather common in children's cartoons in the 1930s. In one ep he plays a clip of an early Loony Tunes production where the cutesy cartoon protagonist calls the dastardly cartoon villain "the dirty f***k!"

Wow!
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
October 25th, 2017 at 7:40:45 AM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 332
Posts: 11982
Mike Duncan's debut book "The Storm Before the Storm" was released yesterday. I downloaded the audio book and began reading it today. At only slightly over ten hours, I expect to finish it by the weekend.
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
October 30th, 2017 at 8:44:51 AM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 332
Posts: 11982
Quote: Nareed
Mike Duncan's debut book "The Storm Before the Storm" was released yesterday. I downloaded the audio book and began reading it today. At only slightly over ten hours, I expect to finish it by the weekend.


As expected, I finished it Sunday almost exactly at noon.

The theme of the book is the series of events that led to the fall of the Roman Republic. the fall itself was the doing first of Julius Caesar and then of his heir Octavian. Duncan mentions this at the end of the book. The book itself deals with the dispossession of small land owners, and the attempts at revolution, populism, civil wars, foreign wars and barbarian invasions that preceded it.

Among the lessons in the book, I'd highlight these:

Unwritten norms in a political system can be as important, and sometimes more so, than the written laws. Exhibit A: The intransigent battle between Tiberius Gracchus and Marcus Octavius over the Lex Agraria. Though the law would be eminently beneficial for Rome, Octavius acted within the norms by imposing a veto on it and refusing to back down. The norms dictated Gracchus accept this and try again later, in the meantime doing what was necessary to garner broader support. Instead he had Octavius removed from the Tribunate (not against any law, but unprecedented), and then passed his law. This led to a further series of events which ended with Gracchus clubbed to death by a bunch of angry Senators.

The early Republic (pre-Second Punic War) was dominated more by events than by men. The latter Republic is the reverse. Certainly there were important men in the earlier part, like Cincinnatus or Appius Claudius, but they did not dominate. For example, Cincinnatus is famously remembered for laying down the HUGE powers of the office of Dictator twice (BTW, the city of Cincinnati is named after him). While Gaius Marius is remembered for hanging on to power quite literally to his dying day.

Well worth reading.

One thing, I need to go back to Duncan's original History of Rome podcast and see whether he even mentions the Cimbri. I suppose he did, as they feature in Marius' rise to power, and I do recall the whole progression of events in the podcast involving Marius and Sulla. But when in the book Duncan brings up the Cimbri, and the Cimbrian wars, I felt myself in completely unexplored territory.
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
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