247/365 Pages

247/365 Pages
247/365 Pages by rutty is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

I have a tendency for reading very long books. They take me an age to get through, but I often choose lengthy fantasy epics, rather than shorter form books.

I’m nearing the end of the Wheel of Time books (just two left to read) but I suspect much of 2018 will have gone by before I am done. I just don’t read as fast these days, and I also think the size of these books often puts me off picking them up.

I think I need to read a few more brief stories after Wheel of Time. I’ve got some Pratchett and Stross to read, great books but less then half the length of these. Perhaps I would get on better with those, rather than just arsing about on my phone instead.

Links for November 4th

Childhood vaccines, autism and the dangers of group think

Wallace has run smack into an abiding, perhaps growing, phenomenon of the Internet Age: Citizens armed with information are sure they know better. Readers who brush up against expertise believe they have become experts. The common man rebels against the notion that anyone — not professionals, not the government and certainly not the media — speaks with special authority.

Where it stops, nobody knows. But already we see a wave of amateurs convinced they can write a pithier movie review, arrange a catchier song, even assess our planet’s shifting weather conditions, better than the professionals trained to do the job.

Unhappy with the scientific consensus that man’s activities have exacerbated global warming? Then just find and promote the academic naysayers. Or merely post your personal musings: “Climate change, bah, there’s a foot of snow on my lawn.”

Heavy illegal downloaders buy more music – Boing Boing

A new British independent poll conducted by Ipsos Mori concluded that the people who do the most illegal downloading also buy the most music. This is in line with many other studies elsewhere and is easy to understand: people who are music superfans do more of everything to do with music: they see more live shows, listen to more radio, buy more CDs, buy more botlegs of live shows, buy more t-shirts, talk about music more, do more downloading — all of it.
And of course, these are the people the music industry’s supergeniuses have set their sights upon for bizarre enforcement regimes like the one that British Business Secretary Peter Mandelson has promised

3 Silly Religious Beliefs Held By Non-Silly People

Not everything is a matter of opinion or perspective. Not everything can turn into something completely different if you just look at it differently. Some things are either true or not true. It is not true that the universe was created 6,000 years ago. It is not true that the sun goes around the earth. And it is not true that evolution is shaped by the hand of God, or that consciousness is animated by an immaterial soul, or that the universe is sentient.

Denying physics won’t save the video stars

Peter Mandelson’s proposal to disconnect the families of internet users who have been accused of file sharing will do great violence to British justice without delivering any reduction in copyright infringement. We’ve had 15 years of dotty entertainment industry proposals designed to make computers worse at copying. It’s time that we stopped listening to big content and started listening to reason.

An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All

To hear his enemies talk, you might think Paul Offit is the most hated man in America. A pediatrician in Philadelphia, he is the coinventor of a rotavirus vaccine that could save tens of thousands of lives every year. Yet environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. slams Offit as a “biostitute” who whores for the pharmaceutical industry[…] Recently, Carrey and his girlfriend, Jenny McCarthy, went on CNN’s Larry King Live and singled out Offit’s vaccine, RotaTeq, […] administered, they said, for just one reason: “Greed.”

[…]

So what has this award-winning 58-year-old scientist done to elicit such venom? He boldly states[…] that vaccines do not cause autism or autoimmune disease or any of the other chronic conditions that have been blamed on them. He supports this assertion with meticulous evidence. And he calls to account those who promote bogus treatments for autism — treatments that he says not only don’t work but often cause harm.

European Internet sinking fast under 3-strikes proposals – Boing Boing

Things look bad for the European Internet: “3 strikes” (the entertainment industry’s proposal for a law that requires ISPs to disconnect whole households if one member is accused — without evidence or trial — of three copyright infringements) is gaining currency. Efforts to make 3-strikes illegal are being thwarted by the European bureaucracy in the EC.

The Pirate Party, which holds a seat in the European Parliament, proposed legislation that said, essentially, that no one could be disconnected from the Internet without a fair trial. When the proposal when to the European Commission (a group of powerful, unelected bureaucrats who have been heavily lobbied by the entertainment industry), they rewrote it so that disconnection can take place without trial or other due process.

‘Bracelets’ useless in arthritis

Copper bracelets and magnetic wrist straps are useless for relieving pain in people with arthritis, say University of York researchers.

In the first tightly controlled trial to look at both alternative therapies, there was no benefit to their use for pain or stiffness.

All 45 patients tested a copper bracelet, two different magnetic wrist straps, and a demagnetised version.

An arthritis charity said people should not waste their money on the therapies.

Jabs “as bad as the cancer”

“Jab ‘as deadly as the cancer’” roared the giant black letters on the front page of the Sunday Express this week. “Cervical drug expert hits out as new doubts raised over death of teenager” said the subheading, although no such new doubts were raised in the article. We will now break with tradition and reproduce a whole paragraph from the Express story. I’d like you to pay attention, and perhaps build a list of its claims in your mind. This is one of those stories where every single assertion made on someone else’s behalf is false.

Reading Kafka improves learning?

New research suggest that exposure to bizarre, surreal storylines such as Kafka’s “The Country Doctor” can improve learning. Apparently, when your brain is presented with total absurdity or nonsense, it will work extra hard to find structure elsewhere. In the study by the University of British Columbia psychologists, subjects read The Country Doctor and then took a test where they had to identify patterns in strings of letters. They performed much better than the control group.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The last few years have seen me reading fewer and fewer books. There are only so many hours in the day and my reduced book-reading activity seems to have been replaced with an increased internet-browsing addiction. I’ve also been watching less television too.

Less TV is probably a good thing but fewer books perhaps not so much. I used to really enjoy reading a good novel and I’m not sure why my attention has shifted away from fiction quite so much.

However, I’ve now read two books in under two weeks. That’s good going for me even when compared to my previous reading habits. I had my interest re-piqued by the fabulous Old Man’s War by John Scalzi and now I’ve finally succumbed to finishing off the tales of Harry Potter.

It’s amazing that I’ve not found out what happens in The Deathly Hallows before now. The book has been out for ages and I’d managed to see one of the major plot-twists for book six before I’d got around to reading that one. This made the book far more interesting that the Half Blood Prince.

Overall, I was mightily impressed. JK Rowling has managed to round everything up in under 600 pages (just!) and has trimmed down a lot of the unnecessary chaff as seen in previous efforts. It could still have been a lot shorter (I have no idea how younger readers manage to plough all the way through these books sometimes) but it was a rather exciting read.

Most of the plot-twists are predictable but there are still a few surprising moments in store. Rowling has made an astonishing effort to plant certain seeds from the very first novel and it all seems to come together very well indeed in this final volume. There are some rather tedious stretches in the middle but there’s usually some fight or dangerous situation not too far away.

The series has become darker and darker as it went on and The Deathly Hallows usurps all previous efforts in that regard. Remember all those magical creatures introduced in the earlier novels? Well just about every single one of them returns for the final battle, helping to bring all seven novels to a satisfying close.

I don’t think that JK Rowling would win any prizes for her prose, but she knows how her characters work and she’s been very clever with her plotting. Even this cynical 38 year-old  was dragged into the excitement of some scenes and I had to stay up until 1am last night to finish it off, even though I had to start work at 6am.

It’s been a while since I read The Goblet of Fire but I think this final entry in the Potter story probably pips it to the Best Novel prize of the seven. Only the fifth book disappointed me (it was very tedious mostly) and it’s been well worth the effort of reading them.

However, I think it’s time to be reading some proper adult fiction for now. I have some Dark Tower novels to read and some more Thomas Covenant to get into, along with all these free novels from Tor. I’m sure that some further purchases from the Tor back-catalogue will also be forthcoming.

It looks like I shall be “unplugging” more frequently so that I can insert my nose into more books. That’s a good thing right?