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Joined 2 months, 1 week ago

A mix of academic (philosophy, cognitive science, some science and technology studies) and science fiction or fantasy. A bit of pop science for giggles. Just getting started here, and slow to get going...

Academic tastes: Enactive approach, embodied cognitive science, ecological psychology, phenomenology Fiction: Iain M. Banks, Ursula le Guin, William Gibson, Nnedi Okorafor, China Miéville, N.K. Jemisin, Ann Leckie

Love space opera but mostly disappointed by what I read there. Somehow didn't read Pratchett until recently, and now methodically working my through in sequence (I know sequence is not necessary, but ...).

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Before the Coffee Gets Cold (Paperback, 2021, Hanover Square Press) 4 stars

Charming and sweet, if a little on the nose at times.

4 stars

The premise, there's a seat in a coffee shop that allows you to travel to any other moment in time. The constraints - you can't leave the seat, and you only have as long as a cup of coffee stays warm.

The rules of the café are a bit silly, and repeated a few too many times, but the characters and the themes of the book are warm as a good cup of coffee, charming as a small out of the way café, and mostly very sweet in a way that coffee isn't. A time travel story that makes the simple point that what we really want when we fantasize about doing it is not a change to change the world, but to speak with someone.

Worth the short read.

reviewed The World We Make by N. K. Jemisin

The World We Make (Hardcover, 2022, Orbit) 3 stars

All is not well in the city that never sleeps. Even though the avatars of …

Closure, satisfying, but you can feel the author's struggle with it.

4 stars

Jemisin has a talent for characters you can care for and care about, and a smoothness to her writing that makes difficult ideas and abstract notions seem intuitive. All of that is on show here, and at a pace to get a story done before the world (our one) takes itself to pieces.

Its predecessor, The City We Became is a better book. It takes more time to develop the characters, their cares and arcs, though we barely get to see one of the most interesting ones (I won't go into too much detail in case you haven't read that one). We see them here, but mostly in small snatches of narrative and events rather than as a full point-of-view thread through the book. This is still a rollicking good read and a full, rich story, though. That the book isn't quite what it could have been is just made …

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"Female 'Samurai'

While 'samurai' is a strictly masculine term, the Japanese bushi class (the social class samurai came from) did feature women who received similar training in martial arts and strategy. These women were called “Onna-Bugeisha,” and they were known to participate in combat along with their male counterparts. Their weapon of choice was usually the naginata, a spear with a curved, sword-like blade that was versatile, yet relatively light.

Since historical texts offer relatively few accounts of these female warriors (the traditional role of a Japanese noblewoman was more of a homemaker), we used to assume they were just a tiny minority. However, recent research indicates that Japanese women participated in battles quite a lot more often than history books admit. When remains from the site of the Battle of Senbon Matsubaru in 1580 were DNA-tested, 35 out of 105 bodies were female. Research on other sites has yielded …

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Hidden Systems (Paperback, 2023, Penguin Random House LLC, Random House Graphic) 5 stars

Revealing the hidden side of these systems that we use in our daily lives.

4 stars

An interesting illustrated book that look that three things we take for granted: the Internet, electricity and water. It shows the history of how we created the Internet and how we now harness it and electricity and water to power our modern society. But the book doesn't shy away from showing the damaging effects all three have had on parts of society (like the underprivileged and marginalized).

On the internet, the book shows that our desires to use it to gather information and to broadcast our thoughts (yes, I'm aware that this review is part of that desire) lead to huge resource requirements to store and transmit the information.

The discovery and harnessing of electricity, from the initial small groups to the huge modern conglomerates that generate and distribute electricity, have damaged the environment and people whose lands are now gone (flooded by electricity generating dams, for example).

Water has …

reviewed Sky Is Falling by Peter Biskind

Sky Is Falling (2018, Penguin Books, Limited) 2 stars

In The Sky is Falling! bestselling cultural critic Peter Biskind takes us on a dizzying …

Rare nuggets of insight lost amidst torrents of careless punditry

2 stars

Oh this was bad.

I was given this as a gift years ago and I would have stopped less than halfway through if it weren't. Decided to knock it off the list as a light non-fiction to finish out the summer, and while it was easy enough to get through it is a god-awful mess.

Biskind takes on all and sundry in a cocaine rush of allusions to pop-culture, whiplashing from modern superhero films to 50s B-movies, Westerns (old and some younger) to science fiction. The thesis on the cover of the book is that icons of pulp culture have 'made America great for extremism'. The book makes no clear statement of the same - there is no argument that representations in popular culture shapes or forms what is likely or easy for people to imagine as possible. Nor is there a clear argument that things work the other …

The perks of being a wallflower (Paperback, 1999, MTV Books/Pocket Books) 4 stars

A tale of adolescence whose hero is Charlie, a high school freshman in Pennsylvania. The …

Warm, affecting, and non-patronising - a very good teen novel

4 stars

Content warning Minor spoilers