Getting to the essence of a book

November 4th, 2009

Because someone brought up A World Lit Only by Fire in a Facebook post, I thought I'd check out the reviews on amazon. This brilliant snippet is from a 4-star review, and tells me everything that I need to know about the book:

"It is easy and interesting to read unless you try to remember everything that is in it."

I love it. I'm assuming it's just an unintentionally hilarious bit of reviewing, and they didn't mean to make it sound like it's an excellent book for people who don't want to have to think while they read a book about medieval history.

More editing, not less

November 3rd, 2009

As further evidence that as an author becomes more successful, they require the services of a non-obsequious editor more than before and not less, we can apparently look to John Keegan's recent history of the Civil War.

John Keegan, author of the excellent The Face of Battle (1976) and many other books, is possibly the most widely-respected military historian alive. James M. McPherson is an eminent historian of the American Civil War; his Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom (1988) is often called the best single-volume history of that conflict.

Keegan has now published his own history of the American Civil War, and McPherson has reviewed it in the New York Times. And by “reviewed,” I mean “discredited it for the ages,” if even only a portion of the factual errors McPherson cites are in fact present in Keegan’s book.

(From Making Light)

The full review itself is over at the New York Times.

Ouch.

Bridges, and the lack thereof

November 1st, 2009

So, the Bay Bridge is still closed. Which means that commuters will be moving south (and north, but I don't care about that), and clogging my bridge. Yes, mine. I've been commuting across it for over 13 years, so I think I have a pretty good claim to it.

Now, the Bay Bridge broke, and, obviously, it needs to be fixed. But it sort of was, except...

A quick fix - a brace designed to take pressure off the eyebar - was installed over Labor Day weekend, but engineers failed to appropriately factor how weather and traffic would affect the repair.

Really? "Failed to appropriate factor" little details, like tens of thousands of cars every day, traveling across a bridge that spans a bay that has been known to get a little bit damp, and just a bit windy? Perhaps they could have overbuilt that repair?

Because at this point, they could have built a new Bay Bridge out of gold, mithril, and unicorn horns. And it would have cost 1/10 as much. Well, at least 1/2. Unicorn horns are probably fairly expensive, even when you buy them in bulk.

Detroit + Palestine = Brilliant!

October 28th, 2009

So neal just pointed me to this article about a huge land auction in Detroit going largely unsold. And it mentions that the amount of vacant land inside Detroit is almost the size of Boston; the properties for sale in the auction amounted to the size of New York's Central Park.

And I had an absolutely brilliant idea.

Give all that land to the Palestinians.

Bring them over here! Give them the land, let 'em build houses and shops and what have you. Sure, they can't grow olives, but Michigan is good for growing other stuff. Palestine is one of the few places where the unemployment rate is already worse than Detroit! And yet, it's not like importing a million Palestinians would make Detroit any worse than it is. (There are about 3.3 million Palestinians in the West Bank & Gaza).

I am so ridiculously in favor of this idea.

Free transport over for any family that includes a married woman over 35. Unattached young men and Hamas members need not apply.

The savings in aid to Palestine ($300 million), Egypt ($1.5 billion / year), Israel ($3 billion / year) - all of which should be cut dramatically - could pay for the whole thing several times over. And I have faith in the ability of the American Melting Pot to have them watching the Super Bowl and complaining about immigrants in only two or three generations.

I'm writing my Congressman.

Best... Downfall... Parody... Ever...

October 28th, 2009

I've enjoyed the various "Downfall" parodies that I've seen... the World of Warcraft one, the Burning Man one, others.

But now comes the very best "Downfall" parody of all, engendered by Constantin Films (the creators of "Downfall") DMCA takedown of the various other parodies from Youtube. Oh, the funny! Oh, the irony!