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Song of a Traveller: the courtesan's salon
Ran-Net-Fem-Cha. Thieving conniving seducing stabbing fighting fucking bastard.
Hello, Internet! I have recently been thoroughly delighted by one of my finds from the Garden District Book Shop, "Intimate Enemies: The Two Worlds of Baroness de Pontalba". This book was *magnificent*. The author's site does a pretty good job of summarizing it, as well as giving you a guide to her authorial style. Up-front disclaimers: the events depicted in the book are horrible in parts -- attempted murder, children that died in infancy (they don't get a lot of coverage, but pretty much any factual book about that time period that focuses on family life and law is going to have some... the titular Baroness has five children in her marriage, three of whom make it), widespread societal sexism and denial of a woman's right to self-determination, theft of fortunes. But the book's treatment of some of those difficult topics is one of its great strengths -- the author brings to life the contrasts between the assumptions of most nineteenth-century mindsets versus our own modern assumptions, and that allows the reader to broaden their experience of the book. She's also helpful in pointing out how things that horrify us would have been "meh" to most people of the time and vice versa (privacy! it worked differently!), due to those worldview deltas. I particularly liked her explanation of the family-centric asset managements vs. individual control of money in the French courts. (Like, law court, not waiting-on-the-king Empire court, though it was often the nobility of the Emperor's court who went to the law court to argue about money and property.)

Dr. Vella provides a thorough background of New Orleans further back than I had read in detail, which finally made clear to me the intersections and cultural tensions between the French New Orleans government to the Spanish-Creole government back to France and then finally Louisiana Purchased into America. Aha! One side of the heroine's family (her family by blood) were Spanish nobility, the other (her family by marriage) French nobility, and she goes back and forth in the book between New Orleans and France, investing heavily in real estate and inheriting property in both. It's the best book I've read on the changing economics of the aristocracies of the time, and how that shaped the city. Literally -- the heroine's New Orleans holdings included the buildings around what is now Jackson Square. She was the architect. It's a deep look at property rights, the rights of women, the differences in marital law between France and Louisiana, urban planning, charitable giving, and a complicated love-hate relationship that defied both families in turn and inspired an opera. I'm loving it. I'm seeking out everything else the author has written -- apparently she's got a book on George Washington Carver coming out this year that I'm totally going to read. I love her authorial voice -- she gives you what's known of the facts, and describes how she got this data, but she doesn't hesitate to pass judgment when that's appropriate, and her sly wit is *hilarious*. Five soaring transatlantic iron arches out of five.

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12 forks or fork, exec?
The Last Man on the Mountain: The Death of an American Adventurer on K2Collapse )
The Palace of IllusionsCollapse )
HellgoingCollapse )
The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of CrueltyCollapse )
Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual RenegadeCollapse )

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1 fork or fork, exec?
Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about Our Everyday DeceptionsCollapse )
Steelheart/FirefightCollapse )
Half-Resurrection BluesCollapse )
AshCollapse )
Washington Scrambles: Selected Nontechnical AscentsCollapse )
The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the OutdoorsCollapse )
PartnerCollapse )

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1 fork or fork, exec?
Hello, Internet! I have just finished savoring the first book of a new-to-me delightful poet, Meg Bateman. (Yes, still the book of poetry that I bought when Mayhem was changing our tire on Harris.) Her "Soirbheas/Fair Wind"is a marvelous eye, a song of aging and loss, gentleness and discovery as old things pass away, having touched the world as they moved through it. It acknowledges the passing of an old lifestyle while not declaring that everything is doomed forever now, it allows itself to mourn without gathering a future bleakness. She follows it up with poems on love and on friendship that keep a similar overwash; there's often change and loss in there, but it doesn't remove the closeness. Her intimacies are often in negative space, and the facing-page translation seems to help with that. (My Ghàidlig is minimal at best, and comes from what Gaeilge I have. For Romance language readers, imagine that you speak tourist Spanish and you're trying to read poetry in Italian. About like that. You... know what some of the words mean! You have some idea of how it's meant to sound when read out loud! But you're missing nuance and texture and sometimes correct grammar. Better than nothing, but you're keenly aware of what you don't see in the original. Still, the only way to get better is to keep on.) So my sense of usage there might be due to my deficiencies as a reader, rather than something she intended as a poet... but I don't think she'd grudge me it. I will definitely be hunting up her subsequent "Transparencies" the next time I want to immersively treat myself. In the meantime, here's her final poem of the collection, so you can see what I mean.

Envoi, in GaelicCollapse )


Envoi, in EnglishCollapse )

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6 forks or fork, exec?
Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about OurselvesCollapse )
Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson MandelaCollapse )
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin OlympicsCollapse )
A Butler"s Life: Scenes from the Other Side of the Silver SalverCollapse )
Floating City: A Rogue Sociologist Lost and Found in New York"s Underground EconomyCollapse )
Laws in ConflictCollapse )
Thief of SongsCollapse )

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8 forks or fork, exec?
The Ramal Extraction/The Vastalimi Gambit/The Tejano ConflictCollapse )
Jane YellowrockCollapse )
Stranger/HostageCollapse )

Also on a book related note, I have learned that Borderlands Books in San Francisco is closing. This is super sad, and I won't be able to get down there again before they do, but I figured that locals would want to know if they didn't already so that they could go.

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13 forks or fork, exec?
Still way behind on book reviews (I have an entire list open in another tab), but these two books were so unusual that they deserve their own post. I spent a lot of last week babysitting *nix installs, which has long periods of waiting in it. I learned through Sherwood Smith's blog that her co-author on their recent book, the "Yes Gay YA" one, had written a bunch of other things too under different pen names. Among those were two romances about werewolf Marines. I cracked up at the premise; it's such a trope collision that it's got to be glorious. But despite not being a big fan of romance (I particularly dislike the stock Harlequin het scripts, ugh) and not being a big fan of werewolves (so much werewolf stuff is either straight-up horror, which I dislike, or stupid fights for dominance which make me roll my eyes), I went for it. Basically, I trusted the author to do a good job despite the typical conventions of the genres... and she did. Werewolf Marines! [grin] During the writing of this post, I discovered that she talks about the books here. Things that made me like the books enough to buy the second one after having read the first one: a list.Collapse ) But overall, I was surprised to like the books so much given that basically everything in the one-sentence genre description suggested that I'd hate them. I'm glad I decided to trust the author! Like haikujaguar's romances, maybe I don't dislike romance, I just dislike the mainstream formulas for same. With sympathetic awesome characters who don't run around being inexplicable jerks to each other the whole time, I kind of appreciate the happy endings. (Also, I have had fun blowing the minds of all of my friends this week telling them that I'm reading romance novels about werewolf Marines. [grin] It just rolls off the tongue; it's fun to say.)

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25 forks or fork, exec?
Sooooo behind on book reviews. These are substantially from my summer's flurry of book purchases concerning Scotland and Iceland, or by authors from the same.

School of the Moon: the Highland Cattle-Raiding TraditionCollapse )
Stone of DestinyCollapse )
AmericanahCollapse )
My Year of MeatsCollapse )
LoveStarCollapse )
The Draining LakeCollapse )
Independent PeopleCollapse )

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6 forks or fork, exec?
Still working my way through the review backlog! But I got most of the books I didn't like out of the way in my post of a few days ago, so these are all but one books I would lend someone I liked. [grin]

CruxCollapse )
Souls in the Great Machine/The Miocene ArrowCollapse )
Alif the UnseenCollapse )
A Wild Sheep ChaseCollapse )
Mountain Weather: Backcountry Forecasting and Weather Safety for Hikers, Campers, Climbers, Skiers, and SnowboardersCollapse )
The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist"s Guide to Success in Business and LifeCollapse )
The CircleCollapse )
The Control of NatureCollapse )

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4 forks or fork, exec?
Hello, Internet! I read a couple of terrible books as well as several that I liked. In an attempt to whittle down my backlog of book reviews some, have a post. Books I disliked:
The Idiot Girls" Action-Adventure ClubCollapse )
A Princess of RoumaniaCollapse )
Better books:
Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of HistoryCollapse )
Athena"s Daughters: Women in Science Fiction and FantasyCollapse )
The Colorado KidCollapse )
The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Though the Heart of the Grand CanyonCollapse )

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8 forks or fork, exec?
It probably says something about me that I had already read about every study cited in Robert Kurzban's pop science work "Why Everyone (Else) Is A Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind" and all of the philosophers, but 75% of his movie references were lost upon me. I fail at pop. (Pretty funny, since that's what most of the Amazon reviewers loved about the book.) I was predisposed to like his book, though, because his thesis of the complexity/multiplicity of mind pretty much tallies with my own experience of consciousness. Briefly, he posits that we are not each one solitary controlled actor, but rather each a collection of competing and cooperating neural responses and cognitive processes (he refers to these as modules of the brain) which don't necessarily share information with each other. So we aren't always (or even often) consciously aware that we have done something (heart beating, breathing, etc.), or how we have done it (detectable decision making is not the first neural activity associated with that decision) or, most crucially, why we have done it. He tackles confabulation and split-brain patients, touching on the work of my favorite neurologist V.S. Ramachandran, and then extends this thinking to other neural processes that aren't strictly hemisphere-limited.

The central useful idea of the book discusses cases where we simultaneously hold two conflicting ideas, and explains this as different modules of the brain being adapted for different purposes. That certainly happens and has clear ties to Ramachandran's split-brain work, and when asked how we resolve these seemingly conflicting pieces of information, we usually just make shit up (technical term: confabulation). He explains our brains as adapted for living as social animals, and so one module (he calls it the press secretary) has as its function the favorable presentation of ourselves to others. If this were true, it would sometimes be to our advantage for that module to be strategically ignorant of other things we do or think, much as politicians tend to deny knowledge of whatever inconveniently unpopular thing is advancing their agenda. So in Kurzban's framing, the self-interested modules that are pursuing our own advantage simply don't inform the press secretary module of this, and this explains why you get family values politicians having affairs, Eliot Spitzer, etc. (He didn't reference the GLBT versions thereof, I suspect because some readers will think that's a harder evolutionary sell than het sex.) The thing I would have loved to see discussed that didn't get covered is how these various brain modules arrive at a decision when there is conflict between them. I suspect that the answer is "Nobody knows!", but he spends so much time debunking the little-decider-brain-within-a-big-brain approach that I felt like he owed the reader an alternate hypothesis for how this decision making actually happens, or at least an admission that we haven't the faintest idea.

Kurzban is a straight-up materialist and nothing else is considered, just referenced as history... he comes within a hair of titling a section "Why Your Religion Is Wrong And There Is Nothing But The Brain". But if that doesn't bother you or if you agree with him, you'll probably like this book. I think he's too exclusionary there -- even if you're a materialist too, he doesn't reference or look at the known effects of digestive bacteria on mood or neural activity, for example, and only kinda touches on the substantial body of literature on hormones and their expressions. When you're writing a 220 page book I can kind of understand not wanting to open those cans of E. coli, though. I appreciated his clear delineation of the differences in playing a game against other humans (where you may win via persuasion even if you are wrong) versus playing a game against nature (honey badger don't care about your press secretary) and the cases where that does and doesn't work out for people. But I do think it would do most of us good to be able to think of ourselves more as ecosystems rather than as singly motivated beings... we pretty clearly are. I have found it cognitively useful when thrashing through a complicated problem to not kick myself for "Why do I hold both A and in-this-case not-A?" -- realizing that it's a case of dual inputs which happen to conflict rather than "you suck at logical consistency" helps me figure out what I'm actually going to do. I didn't learn a lot from reading this book -- the one new-information takeaway that I got from it was that Stephen Jay Gould attributed ideas his fellow evolutionists never held to them just so that he could "debunk" them. Pretty annoying to have someone try to prove to you adversarially your own position! Heh. "Gould's strategic errors, painting himself a defender of a completely sensible view in opposition to views held by no one, was thoroughly effective. He died famous, wealthy, and wrong." Dang. (Stephen Jay Gould was one of my childhood heroes; I was reading and loving his books about the time that all this was going on in academia.)

Four monogamy-policing nesting birds out of five.

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5 forks or fork, exec?
Unlike my last set, here are three books I liked better. [grin]

Lake Chelan: The Greatest Lake in the WorldCollapse )
Codes of the Underworld: How Criminals CommunicateCollapse )
The Song in the Dream of the Hermit: Selections from the KanginshuCollapse )

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2 forks or fork, exec?
Entertainingly, both sections here have two fictional books and one nonfiction. Getting the three that I just didn't like out of the way first:

Darkship ThievesCollapse )
Jack GlassCollapse )
Into the WildCollapse )

Three that were at least okay:

The Lives of TaoCollapse )
NexusCollapse )
The Shadow Warriors of Nakano: A History of the Imperial Japanese Army"s Elite Intelligence SchoolCollapse )

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7 forks or fork, exec?
After hearing or reading that Nancy Kress's "Beggars in Spain" was an answer to "Atlas Shrugged", I picked it up. I found it just about as convincing as "Atlas Shrugged", in that I seriously questioned the thinking of just about every character at some point. ("Argh, no, don't do that!" Heh.) But it was meta-interesting to me because they're not that different! I was surprised that it got reviewed as a refutation when the works were to me something like 80% similar. Kress is easily a better writer than Rand, though, her characters are far less flat and one-dimensional. The conceit is that we have genetic engineering, and some small number of people have their kids designed so they don't need to sleep. It turns out that not needing to sleep is really great. You get more done, of course, but also apparently it predisposes you to cheerfulness and intelligence. So there's society grappling with people who are all superachievers because they are smart and have more time than the rest of humanity that still sleeps. Some sleeping people hate them all, and some of the sleepless hate being hated, so they build a Gulch Sanctuary away from the rest of the world who tries to pull them down for just being better. Like Rand, in the book, the sleepless are just better than an average sleeping human. All of them. And this is substantially if not perfectly correllated with moral rectitude; you can tell who's a good person and who is not pretty much right off. The great philosopher that everyone loves in the book prioritizes the importance of freely chosen contracts as the engine of society, and connects spirituality and fulfilment with one's ability to produce and trade. There's a lot of discussion about whether or not the superior people (mostly but not entirely sleepless) owe others anything.

Spoilers and projection.Collapse ) Four out of five navel-gazes; I would particularly recommend it to/welcome the opinions of X-Men fans and anyone who's read "Atlas Shrugged".

I also read one of the starker history books I've ever read... when prepping for a potential Latvian trip later this year, I came across "Between Giants: The Battle for the Baltics in World War II". I wanted an introduction to recent Latvian history, and I got one, but oof. I liked* it so much that I got Mayhem a copy too, but oof. Essentially, imagine this: it is early 1940. You are stuck between Stalin's Russia and Hitler's Germany. They are about to have a fight in your yard. You cannot hope to match the military power of either side. No one wants to help you diplomatically; they don't want that fight either. What do you do? (Here is what happened.) So it's a thoroughly difficult read about hard choices and terrible fallout. If you're a fan of alternative history, it's rich fodder for trying to imagine ways out of that Scylla-and-Charybdis... but the people who were highly vested in the best possible outcome there paid a terrible price for essentially being there at all. Worth reading, absolutely, and I'll be thinking about it for a long time wishing I had better answers. Five o.O moments of sheer horror and furious thinking out of five.

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22 forks or fork, exec?
ilcylic and I discuss whether if George Washington were immortal he would have been a good President, as seen through the lens of sci-fi aliens.

ilcylic: I'm re-reading all the Kherishdar books. Well, I re-read the first two and I'm on the third now. It occurs to me that there are probably quite a few people who read them and think "Man, it would be great if we lived in that society, socialised medicine, the concern for fulfilling work, etc."
Raven: Oh, tons of them.
ilcylic: Without realising quite some of the underlying issues in trying to fit humanity to that mold.
Cut for chatlog. Nobody ever lets me be god-emperor.Collapse )

So, what do y'all think? Is the unlikely part some tremendously long-lived people, or incorruptible good over 3,000 years, or something else? Would you want a reincarnating spiritual leader for President or god-emperor? (Is he a god, or is he an emperor? That totally seems like it should lead into "Particle Man".)

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35 forks or fork, exec?
Here's two from my recent trip. At the Spy Museum bookstore, I picked up Gideon"s Spies: The Secret History of the MossadCollapse )

Balancing the difficulty of that read was the delight of discovering new-to-me author Samit Basu's foray into the world of superheroes with "Turbulence". Every passenger on a flight from London to Delhi falls asleep, has vivid dreams, and when they wake up they have superpowers related to what they dreamed about. The rest of the book is the fallout... superheroes are new to this world, so our protagonists have all the coming-out/secrecy issues as well as the what-now of emergent life changes. I really enjoyed how Basu handled the genre -- some of his heroes have unexpected reactions to their powers (Tia!), and handle them with far more aplomb than I would have imagined likely. But I was impressed by the casually pragmatic, unconflicted superhero. "Turbulence" has too much food for thought for me to call it an airplane book, but given its premise I feel like it might want to qualify anyway. [grin] At the least, I read it on a plane. I failed to fall asleep and dream anything interesting, though... if I got superpowers based on my dreams, I'd probably end up able to resolve the anxieties of your average six year old. Heh. Four wish fulfillments out of five.

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fork, exec?
The Crown Conspiracy/The Rose and the ThornCollapse )
Daughter of the Sword/Year of the DemonCollapse )
Divergent/InsurgentCollapse )
Code Name VerityCollapse )
Kingdoms of DustCollapse )
In the Name of SaloméCollapse )
HildCollapse )
MindlineCollapse )
Rose PointCollapse )

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7 forks or fork, exec?
At ilcylic's initial recommendation and [personal profile] novalis's later one, I have spent a bunch of time over the past few weeks reading the online web serial Worm. I liked it enough to overcome my general distaste for reading long form fiction online. (Eye strain. I can do it in pieces, but that was apparently several novels' length of text over about three weeks. Had I read it over the 2.5 years it was originally published, I'm sure I wouldn't have minded the length at all, but I liked it enough that I always wanted to know what happened next, and so yeah. I seriously considered bribing someone to read it to me so I could spare my eyes and still know what happened next, heh.) Superhero genre, pretty dark in places... its description of school bullying really got me, and I imagine a lot of nerds will relate. Kind of surprising that I found that more disturbing than all the cape fights where people are being shot with lasers and cleaved in twain and stuff, but I did. (I guess my real life experience with the consequences of laser fight injury are less extensive?) It's definitely an ensemble cast, but is mostly told through first-person viewpoint of a high school kid whose power sounds less than impressive... she can control all the bugs and arthropods within a radius of a few blocks.

I appreciated that they didn't make your protagonist someone Superman-like (there's an analogue in this world... one of the most powerful parahumans out there can fly, has super-strength, and she's apparently invulnerable, your classic Flying Brick). It's more interesting to read about someone with obvious weaknesses and problems. I particularly appreciated the well-done characterization... even with a ginormous cast, I cared a lot about the futures of several characters. (Tattletale was my favorite; I think she had one of the best powers.) The author did pretty well in character development, too... the characters grow, change, learn, fail, have believable emotional arcs, and it's not always predictable. I thought Taylor's relationship with her dad was well-done, and the kind of thing you rarely see in fiction. (Father as primary supportive nurturing parent! Emotionally available for real talking, not just "good job, son, I'm proud of you" at one manly-tear moment! Awesome.) The author stares down a bunch of the seriously creepy implications of various powers, and makes the characters do so as well. It's a work heavy on the moral ambiguity of what makes a hero, or a villain, and what you value most when you have to make hard choices about who and what to sacrifice for a greater good.

There are the usual set of worldbuilding nitpicks in a work so large -- after having read it, I had several "well, what about..." and "who WAS that woman on the bus?" and the like. There were a couple of things I didn't think logically followed, and one thing I definitely liked the ending better before the author did (to defy genre conventions or not to defy?), but still... it's the only online web serial I've ever liked enough to read as a unit on my phone because I was stuck in an airport somewhere and had to know what happened next. (Also, 2/3rds of the way through there's a Space Marines shoutout in the comments. Hahaha awesome.) There are also lighthearted meta-references... in-world, there's an online forum to discuss parahumans and I'm given to understand that some of the posters cited bear a resemblance to the blog's commenters. I didn't read most of the comments... it was already so long! But if I'd been reading realtime, I'm sure I would have. Four interesting powers out of five. Comment thread here should be non-spoilery; if enough people have already read it and are interested (read: if anyone asks me to) I will make a post for spoilery comments too.

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1 fork or fork, exec?
On a recent flight, I accidentally left behind my fluffy pony novels, therefore stranding myself with a five hour flight and only my Serious Business book, "1 Dead in Attic", to read. It's a series of essays from Mr. Rose's Times-Picayune column detailing a year and a half of life in post-Katrina New Orleans. I was expecting it to be heartwrenching and grim, and it was, but I was not expecting it to be sidesplittingly funny, which it also was. (It really helps if you have a morbid sense of humor, but I do.) Rose speaks with empathy and compassion about the difficult times his city has gone through, the effects on the residents and their communities and mental health, and about the dogged determination to go on and have fun and keep the culture of New Orleans alive anyway. He's not afraid to tackle the difficult subject material -- after that lived experience, how could he be? But he also doesn't consider it problematic to talk about the petty refrigerator wars (everyone came back to a fridge of six-weeks-without-power food... you do NOT want to open that, and some folks dumped their taped-shut refrigerators in other peoples' neighborhoods and had them summarily returned to their driveways a little worse for wear and blocking in their cars) and small neighborly vendettas, the little details of life without many modern conveniences, and how people who have learned to do without get on by anyhow until things get better. For such a difficult topic, I really enjoyed the read. Four bathtub ring jokes out of five.

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6 forks or fork, exec?
On the recommendation of my local history book friend, I have just finished two of his. One is a meditation on clear thinking and cognitive bias, the other is a story about preparedness. The former: John Kelly's "The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time". I was expecting something rather like "The Hot Zone" circa 1348. While Kelly delivers on the promised grisly history, I came away from that book with two conclusions. One: don't ever touch a marmot if you can avoid it. They sure are cute, but there is strong evidence that the worst and most virulent plague out there was originally marmot plague, opportunistically spreading to rats (via fleas) and humans if the preferred marmots were not available. The Black Death may have swept through Asia and Europe shortly after an alternative trade route to the Silk Road struck a more northerly path... and skirted several marmot colonies. Mongol natives knew to avoid staggering marmots, no matter how prized their fur. Itinerant traders did not. This is still a problem today. We have marmots in our alpine environment. I have no idea if they have marmot plague or not, but I don't really want to discover that the hard way. (I know New Mexico has bubonic plague issues occasionally. I want a marmot overlay map!)

Conclusion the second: people facing the prospect of a horrible death freak out and start hating on whoever they hated on anyway, blaming that for the doom. I knew that anti-Semitism in Europe was a serious problem, but I had *no idea* of the scale of it during the plague years, or the horrors that ensued. The last third of the book which covered this was easily ten times as depressing as the first two thirds. I can read about people facing natural disasters together and root for Team People, but when it's people turning on each other for no reason other than that they are afraid and want to assert a sense of control, that's hideously disheartening and depressing. So round after round of "we might die? Kill the Jews horribly, bet it's their fault somehow!" was just awful. Even when Pope Clement sent around a bull saying, effectively, "Perhaps you have noticed that the Jews are dying of the plague just as much as the Christians, maybe you want to think about that and stop committing sins against them, YOU IDIOTS", the Catholic population of Europe widely ignored him and just kept torturing away. Aaaagh. I have been in nowhere near that severe high-stress situations and attempted to spread calm and assert reason. Good leadership can do a lot. But I don't have better ideas on how to back scared people down from the mob-and-atrocity mentality, and I wish I did.

In conclusion: keep calm and leave marmots alone. Four despairings of humanity out of five.

The second book, on preparedness, was Roland Huntford's "The Last Place on Earth: Scott and Amundsen's Race to the South Pole". This was engagingly written and thoroughly researched, with wonderful background pieces on both Scott and Amundsen. Scott is rather lionized as a tragic hero in British history, but this book makes a really convincing case for his failure in the Polar race being a highly predictable outcome of a thorough lack of research and an equal lack of preparedness. The British belief of the era that guts and improvisation were the keys to glorious success were ineffective against the terrain. The meticulous Amundsen comes off as a quiet, thorough planner, though at times rather on the paranoid side. He didn't even tell his crew they were goitg funding and a Type A control freak about everything else. Scott was rather the other way around... his money was locked up, but he just sort of guessed about dogs vs. skis vs. ponies in between socializing his way through Europe in preparation for his Glorious Expedition. Wonderfully written, and makes you not want to try any Arctic, ant or not, without a ludicrous amount of planning. Five staying in warm places with a cup of hot chocolate out of five.

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