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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Books

Thursday August 16 2018

The Devil’s Dice is a debut work of crime fiction, written by my niece (which I mention to make clear that I am biased in her favour) Roz Watkins, and published earlier this year.  I enjoyed it a lot when I read it, but I did complain about the cover design:

This earlier posting reinforced that point with a photo of a big display of books in Waterstone’s Piccadilly, from which you can only tell that The Devil’s Dice is The Devil’s Dice when you crop out that one title from that bigger picture and blow it up, thus:

image

This illegibility effect is also all too evident in this photo, taken by Roz’s brother.

All of which means that this (this being the relevant Amazon link) is good news:

image

That’s the cover of the paperback version of The Devil’s Dice, which which will be available in January of next year.  Okay, it’s not a huge change, but putting the same orange lettering on a black background instead of a near white background is much more likely to get the attention of the fading-eyesight community, of which I am a member, and which is surely a quite large chunk of the public for crime fiction.  This is also the kind of thing that just might sway a decision about whether to put a book in a bookshop window display.

I bet I wasn’t the only one grumbling about that earlier hardback cover, and it would appear that the grumbling has had exactly the desired effect.

I know little about book publishing, but I’m guessing that paperbacks are where the volume sales are, driven by those early glowing reviews (The Devil’s Dice got lots of glowing reviews) penned by the readers of the hardback version.  And from that volume comes the magic of a serious word-of-mouth wave.  Most readers are probably willing to wait a little in order not to have to devote scarce bookshelf space to great big chunks of cardboard, and for the sake of having something a bit easier to carry around.

And, if you really insist of your books being ultra portable, or if your eyesight is even worse than mine and you need seriously to enlarge the text, The Devil’s Dice is also now available in Kindle format, for just £1.99.  I am biased (see above), but for what it’s worth I agree with all those glowing reviewers, and recommend The Devil’s Dice in all formats, even the hardback with its dodgy cover.

Friday July 20 2018

Indeed:

image

I encountered this on Twitter this afternoon.  This is now all over the www.  But, I could not discern who had first taken this photo, or what they had said about it.  Twitter is bad like that.  People shove up photos like this one, but never say what their provenance is.  The worst offender when it comes to not linking when they should is “You Had One Job”, a gang of internet thieves, basically.  Whom I will not dignify with a link.

This has been a holding operation.  I have three quarters finished at least two different postings, but I don’t want to rush them.

This one, on the other hand, I do want to rush.  You want a funny caption?  Do your own.

You what?  I’m angry, and taking it out on you people?  Damn right I’m angry.  Surrey amassed a stupendous 250 in their T20 innings against Kent earlier this evening, and then instead of Kent failing to chase this down (Kent would definitely have failed to chase this down), it bloody rained and the two points were shared between the two sides.  There ought to be a rule that says if you make that many, and then it rains, you automatically win.  But is there such a rule?  Is there?  Of course not.

Monday June 11 2018

The talk in question being this.  I show this photo of my notes here more to remind me to keep thinking about this stuff, than to tell you what I was talking about.  For that, maybe better wait for the video.

image

I spent most of my spare time today working on that, even though it may not look like it.  In the end I had far too much I wanted to say, but I did manage to blurt out a decent proportion of it.  The thing to remember in such circumstances is that they don’t know what you forgot to say.  They only know what you did say.  If that was okay, then it was okay.

There is one big misprint, towards the end.  Where it says “Era 2 effects”, twice over, the second “Era 2” should be “Era 1”.  This did not throw me.  I only just noticed it.

Sunday June 03 2018

One of my favourite public sculptures in London goes by the official name of Assembly.  This, or perhaps it should be “these”, stand outside of the Woolwich Arsenal, on the south side of the river, downstream of the centre of London.

I photoed these militaristic characters a while back.  Here is how they look, in their local context:

image

I did a posting here about them.

Here is one of the photos I showed in that posting:

image

That’s actually the inside of the head of one of these men, but your eye is telling you that this is a regular head, rather than any sort of concaveness.  Yet concaveness is what it is.  Your brain insists on telling you it’s a regular head, and you can’t successfully tell it any different.

Here’s another of these head-shaped holes, and this time it is a lot easier to see what is really going on, because there is a bit of context.  Also present is a spider’s web, visibly flat, which couldn’t be if the head was sticking out like a regular head.

image

And now here is another photo which makes everything clear, by turning the head entirely black:

image

No chance, therefore, for the brain to misinterpret what’s going on.

The reason I was reminded of these sorts of optically illusional images is that I am currently reading this book, which is about how the brain in particular sees things, and in general makes sense of things.  This was recommended by Alastair James, commenting on this earlier posting.

The point being that it isn’t just the brain that “makes” all this sense.  The process of “making” sense takes place at all levels within the brain/nervous system.  Your retina, for instance, is already prejudiced, so to speak, in how it looks at things.

Put it this way.  The phrase that has kept on rattling around in my head while I’ve been reading this book is the title of another book, by Karl Popper, Conjectures and Refutations.  We don’t just passively soak up information, and then only a bit later “make” sense of it.  Our sense organs are all the time imposing intelligent guesses upon what we are experiencing.

That summary probably isn’t that good.  But I’ve only on page 40 and I’ve been finding it pretty hard going.

The last photo above reminds me of the picture in this Samizdata posting that I did a year ago.

Monday April 16 2018

Twitter is causing ever more interesting things to pile up on my computer screen, and slow everything down.  (I know, “bookmarks”.  Hate them.) So, here is a blog posting consisting of such links.  Which I can come back to and follow through on but probably never will, but possibly just might.

Eyebrows - we all have them, but what are they actually for?

The Kremlin has a Reckless Self-Image Problem.

Via 6k, how to take bizarre photos by stuffing wire wool into a egg whisk, setting the wire wool on fire, and swinging all that around on a rope.  Do not try this at home, unless you want to burn down your home.

Next, a Twitter posting about cactus patterns:

So frustrating! My cactus patterns are going viral on FB, but the person who posted the photo of them a) didn’t credit me and b) deletes any comments I write responding to people asking for the patterns.

But what if she made that up? As a ruse to get the world to pay attention to her cactus patterns?  Or, what if she hired, in good faith, some sleazy “internet marketer” who deliberately posted her photos on some faked-up Facebook site, minus any credit, told her about it, and then blocked her complaints?  The sleazy internet marketer then advised her to complain about this to all and sundry, knowing that all and sundry would sympathise.  She seems like an honest person, doing honest business, which is why I pass this on.  But a decade of internetting has made me cynical.

Next, a Spectator piece about someone called Scaramucci, who is writing a book about Trump.  The piece says more about Scaramucci than it does about Trump, but his book sounds like it will be quite good.  Scaramucci sounds like he has his head screwed on right, unlike a lot of the people who write Trump books.

Also in the Spectator, Toby Young realises that his wife is smarter than he is.  And she chose to stay at home and raise their kids because that’s what she wanted to do.  You can feel the tectonic plates of Western Civilisation shifting back towards stay-at-home mumhood, even as mere policy continues to discourage it.  Jordan Peterson, take a bow.  That man is already raising the birth rate in rich countries, by encouraging both fatherhood and motherhood.  The only question is: By how much?  Trivially, or significantly?  My bet, with the passing of a bit of time: significantly.

George Bernard Shaw tells it like it was and is about Islam.  I lost track of how I chanced upon that, but there it is.  These days, GBS would probably get a talking-to from the Thought Police, a talking-to which might well include the words: “We’re not the Thought Police”.  If the Thought Police were to have a go at her, they just might get an earful themselves.

Mike Fagan liked this photo of Mont Saint Michel with sheep in the foreground.  I can’t any longer find when he liked it, but he did.  Reminds me of this Millau Viaduct photo, also with sheep in the foreground.

Boaty McBoatface got turned into David bloody Attenborough, but Trainy McTrainface proudly rides the railway lines of Sweden.  As usual, You Had One Job supplied no link (so no link to them), but here’s the story.

Thank you Paul Marks for telling me about someone telling me about Napoleon’s greatest foe.  His name?  Smith.

The sun is now spotless, or it was on April 11th.

David Baddiel has doubts about the bloke who said “gas the Jews” rather a lot, to a dog.  As do I.  It should be legal, but don’t expect me to laugh.

Tim Worstall:

All of which leads to the correct Brexit stance to be taking. No deal. We’ll go to unilateral free trade and the rest of you can go boil your heads. We’ll give it a couple of decades and we’ll see who is richer, OK?

Quillette: The China Model Is Failing

The three temporarily separate Elizabeth lines.

Wisdom.

Anton Howes on Sustained Economic Growth.

John Arnold made a fortune at Enron.  He is now spending some of it on criticising bad science.

Human genes reveal history.  This book is number (about) twenty on my to-read list.

Philip Vander Elst on How Communism Survived Thanks to Capitalist Technology.

And finally, Bryan Caplan still thinks this is pretty good.

I now feel much better.  And more to the point, my computer seems a lot sprightlier than it was.  This has been the computerised equivalent of cleaning my room.  The job is not done, but I have taken a chunk bite out of it.

Tuesday April 10 2018

Yes, another illusion, to add to this one, and to make a similar point, by what appear to be rather similar means:

image

The blue stripes do not slope.  They merely look as if they slope.

I found this Here.  I recommend following that link and scrolling down to the .gif there, which proves that everything above really is horizontal.

Talking of horizontal, what happens if I do a horizontal slicing job?  This is just the top blue stripe:

image

The trick still works, even if not as strikingly.  Not that I care much about the details.  That things like this work is what interests me.

Commenting on the previous illusion, Commenter Alastair recommended this book.  It’s now on its way to me.

Sunday April 08 2018

Yes.  From yesterday’s Times, in the Review section:

image

Here is what Roz is making of this.

Sadly, that wonderfully admiring review is behind a pay wall.  But: remarkable.  I don’t know how much difference a thing like this makes to sales, but it surely can’t hurt.  All those favourable Amazon reviews also help a lot, as Roa, unsurprisingly, confirms.

Here is a piece I did for Samizdata, more about crime fiction generally, but provoked by – and giving a plug to – The Devils Dice.

Why all this fuss from me about The Devil’s Dice is because Roz is my niece and because The Devil’s Dice is very good.  See also this earlier posting here.  I have not posted an Amazon review, because If I didn’t say I’m her uncle that would be dishonest, and if I did, then it would be dismissed as hopelessly biased, as it would be.

Roz’s cat is less impressed.

Thursday March 29 2018

The other day, I photoed the Battle of Britain Monument.  This is across the road from the Victoria Embankment Gardens, which I also explored, to begin with just to find out if I could.  I could.  This contains various war memorials and statues, but also many things that you are either urged to do or urged not do:

image

That is a horizontal slice of a sign next to one of the entrances.  Click to get the whole thing.

It reminds me of an American book I read long ago entitled Please Don’t Eat The Daisies.  The point of that title being that every time the American parents described in the book left their American children to their own devices, they had to ask them to please refrain from an ever longer list of things that they had previously done which were bad.  One time, they ate the daisies.  So, that had to be added to the list of things they were begged not to do.

Each of the do-this don’t-do-this red circles above feels to me like a moment in the past when people started doing or to fail to do whatever it was in noticeable numbers, having previously not thus misbehaved.

No daisy eating
Islam can’t be made nice
Assorted Twitterings
The Devil’s Dice in Piccadilly
And another crowd scene (in a bookshop)
A talk by me to Libertarian Home
Creature photos
Deidre McCloskey praises the Bourgeois Deal
The Gayer-Anderson Cat
A recognisable Lancaster and a recognisable Vulcan
Maps!
Le Corbusier gets Dalrympled
An interruption ends
A disruptive book about nineteenth century French painting
Me and Patrick Crozier talking about WW1: If only?
Doing what I have to do
Just how Polish Chopin was and how he played
Photos of Jamie Bartlett speaking to Libertarian Home last night
A picture of a book about pictures
Marc Sidwell on experts
Pictures of James Tooley last night
Softening the brutalities of brutalism with colour
Some more Christmas cheer
Fantastic Beasts has an alcove in W.H. Smith all to itself
The painted word
The internet is for telling me what’s on the telly
The cuddly killer
Illness and coolness
Recent taxis with adverts photos
Trump
Wainwright on facadism
Simon Gibbs on computer programming - me on how Alex Singleton has not written himself out of a job
Anton Howes on the idea of (and the unstoppability of) technological innovation
Londres
How David Irving put himself on trial
Moving speaker – unmoving listeners, video holder and books
Shard - Guys - Tate Modern - Blackfriars Bridge - photoed during Magic Hour
Made-up London detectives in real London places
Amazon review of Inflation Matters
How bet hedging explains the perpetual terribleness of everything
Pete Comley talking about inflation on Friday February 27th
The Bayeux Tapestry – the ultimate horizontalised graphic
BMdotcom What if? of the day
A feline Friday at Guido
Charlie Hebdo demo in Trafalgar Square
On the rights and wrongs of me posting bits from books (plus a bit about Rule Utilarianism)
A cat book and a feline front page
The death of email?
Happy Friday (eventually)
Postrel goes for Gray
Confirming my String prejudices
Will England get lucky?
Compact Cats buried under London’s poshest homes
Building as ornament
Bennett and Lotus on how Emmanuel Todd’s family provoked his Grand Theory of Everything
Well that’s a relief
Two bits of hospitality trivia
Alex Singleton at the ASI last night
Making sense of digital photography
Boris Johnson’s London
Scott Wiener on pizza boxes
Tough going in Australia
Jane Austen’s naval brothers
Daniel Hannan’s latest book(s?)
Guido in the Spectator (and in Free Life)
Cli-fi
Huge semi-submersible ships
Emmanuel Todd links
Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
So painters also used to “take” pictures
Typing on the new smartphone
The mystery of the one good photo
Better a year late than never
The Qur’an is not science – science cannot be ignored
Classical CDs from Gramex
Steven Pinker’s description of The Enlightenment
James Hamilton on self help and class
America 3.0
A review of Detlev Schlichter’s new book (multiplied by 4)
76 operas and a monument in the wrong place for Hermann the German
Emmanuel Todd’s latest book - in English
Science can relax about the harm done to it by Climategate
After the wedding
Pictures of Detlev Schlichter
The bike behind the theatre
Let us now trash infamous men
Julian Assange drove Daniel Domscheit-Berg’s cat Herr Schmitt crazy
I can now copy and paste from .pdf files
Bouncing bombs and spinning cricket balls
Lancaster
An amazon reviewer defends Alex Ross
Alex Ross on Hollywood film scores
English will not last for ever shock
Happy hundredth
Mmmmm … bookshelves!
At the launch of Alchemists of Loss
Sleeping rough and reading an SF classic
As strong and sweet as the free market itself
God is not One
Molly Norris was just kidding!
You know where you are with a book - usually
Cat tales
Talking about The Hockey Stick Illusion with Bishop Hill
In Alicante
Unravelling the puzzle – and making it into a movie
Trying to become an adequate interviewer of promising libertarians
Frank McLynn: “Counterfactual history is the essence of history …”
Under a hundred copies
Our shortening atten … ooh look!
What a difference a g makes
France falls in love with Hugh Laurie
“Vivid characters, devious plotting and buckets of gore …”
MBA - necessary but insufficient
Reading Kasparov
The Rand revival - and some thoughts about Rand’s failure to understand architectural tradition
What-iffing
And here is a real quotation
Quota quotes from Wodehouse
On autobiographical ruthlessness
Thoughts concerning FDR’s warmongering nature
Redirect
Not the book I want to read right now - maybe later
Official bias
Switching from dumb bombing to smart bombing
“I’ll build it with explosive bolts connecting the wings to the fuselage …”
If the Jews have been running the world they haven’t been doing it very successfully
A poetic Hornby
Me elsewhere
An impulse posting about procrastination
You must enjoy reading!
Professor Wenger
Theodore Dalrymple on the menace of honest public officials and much else besides
Bookcase staircase many books electric book manybooks.net