ewx: (penguin)

General notes:

  • Major spoilers for everything on the ballot!
  • Reviews in order of reading/watching.

My current ranking is:

  1. Six-Gun Snow White
  2. Wakulla Springs
  3. Equoid
  4. No award.
  5. The Butcher of Khardov
  6. The Chaplain’s Legacy
Read more... )
ewx: (penguin)

General notes:

  • Major spoilers for everything on the ballot!
  • Reviews in order of reading/watching.

My current ranking is:

  1. The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling
  2. The Lady Astronaut Of Mars
  3. The Waiting Stars
  4. The Exchange Officers
  5. No award
  6. Opera Vita Aeterna
Read more... )
ewx: (penguin)

General notes:

  • Major spoilers for everything on the ballot!
  • Reviews in order of reading/watching.

My current ranking is:

  1. Saga, Volume 2
  2. Girl Genius, Volume 13 (but hard to rank this with Saga)
  3. Time
  4. The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who
  5. No award
  6. The Meathouse Man
Rather thin reviews here due to lack of time )
ewx: (penguin)

General notes:

  • Major spoilers for everything on the ballot!
  • Reviews in order of reading/watching.

My current ranking is:

  1. Selkie Stories Are for Losers
  2. The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere (but it’s hard to order this with Selkie Stories).
  3. If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love
  4. The Ink Readers of Doi Saket

Reviews )
ewx: (penguin)

General notes:

  • Major spoilers for everything on the ballot!
  • Reviews in order of reading/watching.

My current ranking is:

  1. Ancillary Justice
  2. Neptune’s Brood
  3. Parasite (but it’s very hard to order this with Neptune’s Brood!)
Reviews )
ewx: (penguin)

Spell It Out: The Singular Story Of English Spelling, David Crystal, ISBN 978 1 84668 567 5

The bulk of this book (and for me most of the interest) is an account of how English spelling got the way it is today. Although superficially a mess, a lot of the steps from the (relatively) straightforward Anglo-Saxon conventions to the present made a reasonable amount of sense in the contexts in which they were made - but the composition of those steps yields a rather complex system, and the context has changed a lot.

For example, the C16th introduction of a silent b into debt wouldn’t have been particularly confusing in an age when many literate people knew Latin, but today most users of the language aren’t likely to have any idea why the word has such a bizarre spelling.

The historical chapters are divided up by quotes from various authors touching on spelling one way or another. The end of the book discusses how detailed knowledge of the history of spelling might be used to improve its teaching.

There aren’t any citations for the specific statements about the develop of English spelling, but there is a “further reading” section.

Well worth a look if you’re at all interested in the subject.

ewx: (penguin)

(A bit sketchy in places but if I don’t post it now I suspect I never will...)

Books )

Afgantsy

Oct. 27th, 2012 05:17 pm
ewx: (penguin)

Afgantsy: The Russians In Afghanistan 1979–89, Rodric Braithwaite

I didn’t really know much about the Soviet campaign in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and what I did know was, of course, very from much a Western viewpoint. Despite the British author this book presents a Soviet perspective.

There is a good chunk of narrative history here; if you want an overview of why the USSR went in and why it eventually gave up and left, there are surely worse places to start. Whether the KGB backed the original communist coup is left uncertain (people who ought to know deny it), but it did not do the USSR any favours; it badly destabilized the country. The initial Soviet reaction was not soldiers on the ground but advice and support for Taraki’s new regime, which they considered to be brutal and incompetent and with thoroughly counterproductive policies and methods. Matters came to a head when the internal power struggle among the Afghan communists resulted in a second coup. The Soviet reaction was to (equally violently) replace Amin’s government with one more to their taste, and put in (at its peak) over a hundred thousand troops in an attempt to put down the anti-communist rebellion.

In retrospect of course this was a disastrous error but it’s less clear what a realistic better policy would have been once the first coup had happened - staying out from the beginning would probably have resulted in an unstable, fundamentalist or American-backed regime on the southern border of the USSR, none of which will have been attractive prospects in Moscow.

Much of the book is concerned with the Soviet men and woman who served Afghanistan. There is an interesting section on the music and poetry composed by serving soldiers, for instance. Of more political significance are Anatoli Tkachev’s negotiations with Ahmed Shah Masud. At a lower level Alexander Kartsev’s experiences are an insight into the on-the-ground relations between the Soviet troops and the locals; at one point he is kidnapped to help out a mujahedin commander who has shot himself in the foot; later he persuades the same commander to release some prisoners he had been planning to kill.

In the end despite the fact that it “won all its major battles and never lost a post to the enemy” the Soviet army in Afghanistan withdrew in defeat; the current American campaign has largely the same goals and many of the same opponents, arguably making it a single conflict of three decades and counting. I can’t say this book offers a great deal of hope for the outcome.

Bronze

Oct. 7th, 2012 09:24 pm
ewx: (Default)

We went to the Bronze exhibition at the Royal Academy Of Arts. This features dozens of works from all over the world, reaching back millenia into the past, and grouped loosely by what is depicted.

Pride of place, on entry, is given to a dancing satyr (which is rather more impressive than Wikipedia’s picture might suggest). The piece that most caught my eye however was the Trundholm sun chariot, made around 3,500 years ago and found in modern Denmark.

Most of the items were representative of some person or animal though in some cases the primary purpose was functional: weights shaped like (and apparently cast from) beetles, a strigil with an attached figure who is using a strigil.

There is a thin scattering of modern works, the more abstract of them seeming rather out of place, and suffering from the tendency of artists to provide wordy justifications for art or craft works made for their own sake.

We’d previously had afternoon tea at Brown’s for lunch, which was nice enough but really quite expensive l-)

ewx: (Default)

Addendum to previous post: don’t get the electronic version; someone did an especially terrible job of converting it from paper. Faults include:

  • Some of the non-ASCII characters are represented as images. This means that they don’t scale with the rest of the text, leading to a bizarre appearance.
  • Most of the tables are represented as images. Not only does this have the same scaling problem as above but worse, the ones that started out life as a full page aren’t very high resolution, making them quite hard to read.
  • Some of those images are the wrong one.
  • Some of the text is wrong, for instance there’s the occasional “p” for “þ”.
  • The ancient texts are missing hyphens at intraword line breaks, which are nevertheless preserved from the paper version, presenting an additional challenge to would-be translators. If I wanted to puzzle out essentially typographical issues I’d have gone to the originals!

Most of this is, in principle, user-fixable but it’s a lot of work. I bought a second-hand paper copy.

ewx: (Default)

Visigothic Spain, Roger Collins, ISBN 0-631-18185-7

Review )
ewx: (Default)

The Origins Of France, Edward James, ISBN 0-333-27052-5

Review )
ewx: (Default)

Montaillou, Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, ISBN 0-14-00-5471-5

Montaillou is a village in southwestern France. In the early 14th century many of its inhabitants were Cathars - a variety of Christian heresy - and as such came to the attention of the Inquisition. What makes it particularly special is that the written record of the resulting interrogations, made under the aegis of Jacques Fournier, Bishop of Pamiers and later Pope Benedict XII, survives to this day. The book at hand is a study of that record and its subjects.

Read more... )
ewx: (geek)

Coders At Work, Peter Seibel, ISBN 987-1-4302-1948-4

This is a collection of interviews with well known and successful programmers. Many of the names were already familiar to me (Knuth, Thompson, Zawinski, …) but others were new to me - though given the descriptions of their achievements, they are by no means out of place.

Read more... )
ewx: (edna)

We watched City Beneath the Waves: Pavlopetri. Pavlopetri is an ancient Greek city that was inundated, probably as a result of earthquakes, three millennia or so ago; various modern techniques are being used to map it and attempt (necessarily speculative!) reconstructions. There’s some evidence for trade with Minoan Crete, which given its location - you don’t get much closer to Crete on mainland Greece - is not very surprising.

One thing I don’t recall being mentioned is the reason given for the name of the city; it looks like it might be “Paul’s rocks” or perhaps “Paul Peter”. However (although I don’t actually speak Greek, and therefore going by a combination of Wikipedia, Wiktionary and Google Translate) the morphology doesn’t look quite for either.

I also watched Kissinger, which was excellent. The program consists largely of old footage, Kissinger’s remarks in more recent interview and extracts from the Nixon Tapes, with only the most occasional question from Niall Ferguson. (Surprisingly it had previously not occurred to me just what a treasure trove those tapes must be for historians.) As I may have remarked before a lot of modern documentaries waste a lot of time getting between the viewer and whatever subject material and genuine expertise they may have to hand, and this program did a good job of avoiding that error.

It must be said that there is not much independent analysis here. Ferguson is supposed to be producing a “warts and all” biography of Kissinger, which hopefully will rectify this. Still, as an insight into Kissinger’s own experience it is remarkable. Nixon’s goals, as articulated here, and the horrendous destruction incurred in achieving them, seem entirely relevant to America’s wars today.

The Popes

Oct. 9th, 2011 09:42 pm
ewx: (penguin)

The Popes: A History, John Julius Norwich, ISBN 9780701182908

Review )
ewx: (Default)

22 Days In May, David Laws, ISBN 978-1-84954-080-3

Review )
ewx: (Default)

Cables From Kabul by Sherard Cowper-Coles (ISBN 978-0-00-743203-5).

Review )

Kindle

Oct. 2nd, 2011 12:23 pm
ewx: (Default)

I’ve bought a Kindle. I love it.

Review )

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