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diricawl
Looney

United Kingdom
1078 Posts

Posted - 09/02/2010 :  16:13:10  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I've been binge-reading recently.

I just completed the Millennium Trilogy by Steig Larsson. Liked it, even though it was rather awkwardly written (may have been the translation), and the "finale" really wasn't that inspiring- it took an obvious conclusion and stretched it on and on beyond braking point. That said, Lisbeth Salander is a great character, one with whom, as someone with Asberger's syndrome, I can relate.

I've tried to get into the Sookie Stackhouse novels but they just don't work for me, not after True Blood. Practically nothing of any interest happens in those books. People just sit around and talk and then occasionally get into fistfights.

I've just read "Tickling the English" a book by an Irish comedian named Dara O Briain (had to check that spelling) about living in England and what he feels the English are like. No ground-shattering conclusions but it was nice to see an Irish perspective on the English that wasn't bitter.

I recently read "Globish" by William McCrum, a sequel or really an update, to one of my favourite books, "The Story of English", which discusses the future of English as a world language.

The one book I have become obscenely obsessed with is "World War Z" by Max (son of Mel) Brooks. A year ago I would never have considered reading it, but took me completely by surprise. It is, I can safely say, the best work of zombie apocalypse fiction since the first one, Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend" (find that if you can, by the way, it's great- the movie failed it utterly).

I should say that despite Brooks's pedigree, "World War Z" is not a comedy, nor is it really a horror novel; rather it is an examination of how ready our world is to face an extinction-level apocalypse. I first came across it as an abridged audiobook on youtube

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGzFaENzhf8&feature=PlayList&p=4E96EF7A8E6327B9&index=0&playnext=1)

and, as someone who is obsessed with current affairs, was utterly shocked by its globalist perspective and its detailed examination of world politics. It essentially takes the world as it existed in 2006 and hurls an apocalypse at it. The leadup to the Iraq War, the rise of China and India, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, all are referenced and discussed. The full novel goes into far more detail. By the end, Russia has become a totalitarian theocracy, China has become democratic after a nuclear civil war triggered by the collapse of the Three Gorges Dam, Cuba has become the world's richest nation, and Iran and Pakistan have annihilated each other in a nuclear exchange triggered by a dispute over infected refugees. Many world figures are mentioned but never named; Queen Elizabeth II and Nelson Mandela both have reverent cameos, and the heroic President of the reformed US is transparently Colin Powell. He even gives amusing death scenes to Paris Hilton and Geraldo. The ways humanity copes (and doesn't cope, or fails to accept) the threat of its own demise make this book a hugely relevant primer on the end of the 21st century, as we come to grips with the reality of climate change. With this, and its more technical predecessor, the Zombie Survival Guide

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKCi9D88qpo)

I have already woven a very detailed in-universe fanfic in my head in which I have become the spiritual leader of a group of independent survivors bent on creating a utopian society based on enlightenment values.

Order of the Bookmark

As to the avatar, well, if you girls can all have Alan Rickman...

"They don't want the Easter Bunny's power; The children in our generation want Harry's power, and they're getting it." - Laura Mallory

Edited by - diricawl on 09/02/2010 17:28:43
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Theowyn
Looney

1078 Posts

Posted - 09/04/2010 :  19:45:46  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I loved "The Story of English" too, Diri, though Bill Bryson's "The Mother Tongue" is also on my short list of great books about the English language. I will definitely have to check out "Globish".

World War Z sounds quite interesting, though I'm not sure how any society could possibly be prepared to face an extinction-level apocalypse. That's a bit different from preparing for a hurricane or earthquake. Still, his fictional analysis of various nations does sound fascinating. Do write your fan fiction; it sounds as if it has great potential.

I've been creeping my way through "A History of Christianity" by Paul Johnson, an interesting, but scholarly read with loads of information to process and remember. My current obsession though is not a book at all, but a television series which is shocking since for years I have only watched tv occassionally in passing. Even Dr. Who hasn't been a "must see". But that changed when my older son introduced me to Top Gear. For everyone who doesn't know, this is a BBC series about cars, usually very fast cars, and often cars that cost more than my house.

Now one might ask how a woman who drives a minivan and dreams of owning a Prius could possibly become addicted to a show by three men (none of whom could be described as sexy) who wax eloquent about 5.4 liter engines and 640 break horsepower. All I can say is you have to watch it.

The hosts, Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond, are three of the funniest, most engaging people on tv. They know their cars, but mostly they come across as three good mates having the time of their lives. Whether they're putting the latest super-car through it's paces, slogging through the rain forests of South America in the best SUVs 1000 pounds will buy or playing humiliating pranks on one another, they are at once funny and endearing. I have never watched an episode that I didn't find myself laughing out loud and occasionally smiling wistfully. These guys are genuinely likable which is no doubt why Top Gear has been going strong for 8 years.

Order of the Bookmark

s.i.n.e. qua non

"Always"

Edited by - Theowyn on 09/05/2010 03:45:32
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diricawl
Looney

United Kingdom
1078 Posts

Posted - 09/05/2010 :  05:08:06  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Jeremy.... CLAAARKSOOOOOON?!

That man is totally vile. I initially thought he was funny, but he rapidly began to putrefy in my estimation when I realised that not only does he not believe in global warming, hate the environment, and anyone who isn't English (and that includes Americans, Theo), but also treats any form of knowledge not gleaned from some bloke in a pub with utter contempt. Just watch him on QI; his scorn for any knowledge that doesn't coincide with his worldview is sickening.

Order of the Bookmark

As to the avatar, well, if you girls can all have Alan Rickman...

"They don't want the Easter Bunny's power; The children in our generation want Harry's power, and they're getting it." - Laura Mallory
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Theowyn
Looney

1078 Posts

Posted - 09/05/2010 :  20:53:58  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I've never seen QI or anything else Clarkson has done apart from Robot Wars, but I know he's abrasive and quite opinionated. He reminds me quite a lot of Simon Cowell in that respect. And yes, Diri, Clarkson's disdain for America and Australia is legendary as is his opposition to the EU. Now all that would be grating if I were watching him spout off on politics or some such. But cars are a much less polarlizing subject - Clarkson loved the new Corvette and is oddly fond of Fords. However, it is the chemistry with May and Hammond that is gold. May is always unflappable and Hammond has the enthusiasm of a puppy - and loves America. I imagine there's a reason why the producers put this team together.

Order of the Bookmark

s.i.n.e. qua non

"Always"

Edited by - Theowyn on 09/06/2010 11:40:40
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diricawl
Looney

United Kingdom
1078 Posts

Posted - 09/09/2010 :  15:11:38  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Well, I hate cars. Of course, I can't drive, which might colour my perceptions somewhat, but I'm sick and tired of motorists (in this country, particularly) constantly complaining that they get a short shrift when every other form of transportation has effectively been subverted to their desires. The government spends billions to improve the roads, but leaves the maintenance of the rail system to private companies, who, suddenly finding themselves local monopolies, are quite happy to charge their trapped market into oblivion.

Order of the Bookmark

As to the avatar, well, if you girls can all have Alan Rickman...

"They don't want the Easter Bunny's power; The children in our generation want Harry's power, and they're getting it." - Laura Mallory

Edited by - diricawl on 09/09/2010 15:13:02
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Theowyn
Looney

1078 Posts

Posted - 09/10/2010 :  19:31:40  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Well, hopefully at some point the government will rein in the excesses of the private companies running the rail system, especially since the train really does seem a great way to get around Britain. Surprisingly, here in Northern California our rail system, AMTRAK, is quite useful - something that doesn't leap to mind when you think of America. Both of my sons can take the train (plus connector buses) back and forth to their repective universities which is a great boon.

Unfortunately, nothing beats a car for freedom of movement. If you live in a densely populated area such as San Francisco or London, buses and subways are fabulous. But get out into the suburbs and they're hopeless. By car I can make it to work or my daughter's school in under 30 minutes. Using public transportation would add an hour to my commute and I'm not actually sure my daughter could even get to her school from our house - certainly not in under two hours. Clearly that's not an option.

Growing populations put increasing pressure on our roads and transit systems. Governments are hard pressed to keep up so natually we all get frustrated as our own favored form of transport seems to get less than its fair share of transit money. The thing to keep in mind (and I have to remind myself of this on many occasions when I'm stuck in traffic) is that all of us are just trying to get from point A to point B the best way we know how. Motorists aren't intentionally clogging the roads any more than the buses are intentionally trying to run them off it. Is there room for improvement? Of course. But there aren't any bad guys here - well except for those greedy rail companies.

Order of the Bookmark

s.i.n.e. qua non

"Always"
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Siobhan
Chief Healer

USA
2157 Posts

Posted - 09/11/2010 :  08:57:53  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
If we all didn't need to leave and return at the same time things would be a lot simpler, but that's not going to happen.

Deliberatley causing mayhem in Snape's Potions class.
Member of the HPEW & HPCS Appreciation Society
s.i.n.e. qua non
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diricawl
Looney

United Kingdom
1078 Posts

Posted - 09/11/2010 :  12:00:35  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Before this got too impassioned, I thought I might introduce one of my favourite voices into this conversation, David Mitchell:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKUPUznJZoE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8VCy_cofh8

Order of the Bookmark

As to the avatar, well, if you girls can all have Alan Rickman...

"They don't want the Easter Bunny's power; The children in our generation want Harry's power, and they're getting it." - Laura Mallory
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Theowyn
Looney

1078 Posts

Posted - 09/11/2010 :  20:51:16  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Mitchell is brilliant, Diri. I especially like the part about Clarkson driving his SUV to the North Pole being more fun than recycling. Of course it is - except that's not really the problem. Given my choice of routes to the North Pole, I'd have tagged along with Richard Hammond on the dog sled - surely one of the greenest modes of transportation ever invented and frankly a lot more fun than hacking a path for an SUV through a field of ice boulders.

Clarkson's stunts don't effect British efforts to reduce global warming. Neither does his audacious and unappologetic love affair with the car. I can't imagine anyone sees him zipping around Britain in his latest super-car and thinks, "Well, I was going to take the train, but now I just have to nick off and buy one of those." Neither do I think the average British commuter chooses to sit in snarled, rush-hour traffic because it's fun. All things being equal, I'd much rather take the train.

The problem is, all things aren't equal and until they are we aren't going to change people's behavior. The biggest obstacle to combatting global warming is the one Mitchell points out quite effectively on his rant about British Rail: this isn't something that can be left to the private sector or individuals. Governments have to do the heavy lifting on this. They have to make the commitment to provide mass transit that is as good or better than traveling by car and provide insentives for individuals to use it.

That the British government haven't done this in respect to rail travel is nothing more or less than a lack of political will. I'm frankly astonished that they've mishandled this so badly. This can't simply be a matter of the 'roadies' screaming louder than the 'trainies'. The MPs are all intelligent enough and they're certainly not uninformed. This is politics and denial - the sort of thing I'd expect from Congress.

Hopefully our governments along with all the others around the world will shift their efforts to reduce global warming into high gear soon. In the meantime, I've got a load of recycling to take in.

Order of the Bookmark

s.i.n.e. qua non

"Always"
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Theowyn
Looney

1078 Posts

Posted - 09/12/2010 :  00:31:01  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Siobhan

If we all didn't need to leave and return at the same time things would be a lot simpler, but that's not going to happen.

Actually this is a good thing when we're talking about mass transit since it's designed to move masses of people and isn't eco-friendly at all if only a few people are using it.

But when it comes to cars you are absolutely right and let's be honest - we will never get rid of the need for personal vehicles. Buses, subways and trains will never be all things to all people. That's why we have to promote extremely energy-efficient cars at the same time we're pushing mass transit. We need both. Our roads will never be free of cars, but we can reduce traffic through mass transit and ensure that the cars we do have on the road are as eco-friendly as possible.

Order of the Bookmark

s.i.n.e. qua non

"Always"
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Siobhan
Chief Healer

USA
2157 Posts

Posted - 09/12/2010 :  09:57:59  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Oh I agree entirely. I was thinking of the scene in Edward Scissorhands where the gossip party on the corner broke up only after the first of the returning husbands drove in, then the next, and the next.

Our local "public transit" is a joke. They are highly inefficient, and like most agencies refuse to look at more successful models from "big cities up [insert compass direction here]." They run huge buses that get half ridership on routes that do not correspond to need and stop every half block-- OK that's an exaggeration, but they stop far to frequently in some areas. Our problem is that traffic is still not a big enough issue for drivers to seek out public transport-- neither is air quality (since we live on the coast it blows away for the most part).

The single largest reason for moving to public transport in our area in recent history was the price of fuel. Those living near the edge of their budgets had to turn to the buses, but that still is not enough to support the mismanaged system where one bus route that covers all of the area west of the Ashley River is threatened with being cut. Otherwise there are a lot fewer fuel-hogs on the road now, but there are still a few NRA style (cold dead hand type) holdouts with Hummers, but not many. The main reason for the switch however, was not the price of fuel so much as peer pressure. When it became "unpopular" to drive Bigger-Than-They-Need-To-Be vehicles, and at least look like a responsible Greener, that's when the unnecessarily huge SUV's started thinning out. "Whatever it takes" is a nice idea, but when the next fad comes along, the changes will be lost.

Deliberatley causing mayhem in Snape's Potions class.
Member of the HPEW & HPCS Appreciation Society
s.i.n.e. qua non
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Theowyn
Looney

1078 Posts

Posted - 09/13/2010 :  11:32:29  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Yes, there are so many factors that effect how people commute and what they drive. Here in Sacramento we have a fairly decent bus/light rail system that services the major traffic corridors. But if you're not traveling those corridors you're out of luck for exactly the reason you point out: if there isn't enough ridership on a given route then bus service doesn't work. You can't have a bus driving around all day for the sake of a handful of people who might want to ride it. That's neither financially nor ecologically feasible.

So the big question is what do we do about the car? How do we keep up the peer pressure to buy the most fuel-efficient cars available and how do we gracefully convert our infrastructure from fossil fuels to green fuels? The peer pressure thing is doable at a local level and can be helped by higher fuel prices and tax credits. But the infrastructure changes are where the big payoffs will be and governments need to be looking for ways to push these along. Hybrid cars and bio-fuels are good stop-gap measures, but ultimately we have to aim for zero fossil-fuel consumption and that's going to be big. It's tricky too because you can't mass produce cars that run on hydrogen, for instance, if there's no place to buy hydrogen fuel. And no one is going to build hydrogen fueling stations if there aren't any cars that run on it. It's a classic catch 22, one the government may have to break with massive insentives and mandates.

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s.i.n.e. qua non

"Always"
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Cour_Delafleur
Confunded

Canada
714 Posts

Posted - 09/15/2010 :  21:32:50  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
In Toronto they're trying to cut down on car use by making it prohibitively expensive to park. The parking rates in the city are outrageous, and you usually need two permits - one for your home (unless you're in the suburbs) and one for work. It worked for me. I very briefly considered living in the suburbs, where I could get a nicer apartment for less money, but when I factored in the commute time (on one of the busiest highways in North America) and the cost of gas (which is much more expensive in Canada than the US) and parking, it didn't make sense. A month of parking downtown can be as much as a lease payment on a car. It's certainly a lot more than my metropass costs. So I found an apartment a block from the subway. It's slightly bigger than a shoebox, but it's just me and I can be to work (which is quite far by Toronto standards - 15 km away) using public transit in about 20 minutes. If I do need a car for some reason, I use Zipcar ($55/year membership and $8/hour car rental that includes insurance and gas <200 km).

I grew up across the street from a farm, where I couldn't even walk to buy milk (unless it was fresh from the cow). I had to drive everywhere. The move to university, where everything I needed was within 2 km, was huge for me, and every time I went home I would find the necessity of driving hugely inconvenient. I've decided I want to spend the rest of my life in a place where I won't be a slave to my car. I'll probably get one eventually (I can't imagine taking an infant on the subway. I watch mothers maneuver their strollers and bawling babies onto the buses, trains, and streetcars and have decided a car might come in handy sometimes) but I hope I will never be in a situation where my only option is a car.


In book news - I just finished One Day by David Nicholls. It's chick lit, but really, really good, well-written chick lit. I got pretty emotional while reading it, which is unusual for me. At one point I had to put the book down for a bit before I could go on. The premise is very When Harry Met Sally-esque (shows snapshots of the lives of friends Emma and Dexter on July 15 every year from 1988 to 2007) but their story is different. It appealed to me because July 15, 1988 is the night they graduate from university and the story is about what comes next, which is kind of exactly where I am at the moment. It follows them as they try to find a place in the world, deal with success, deal with failure, deal with failed relationships, deal with new relationships, deal with parenthood, etc.

I also recently finished Four Fires by Bryce Courtenay, which I really, really enjoyed. I'm a fan of Courtenay, though I remember from a discussion about The Power of One a few years ago that not everybody is. Four Fires is set in Australia, mostly in the sixties, and follows the life of Mole Maloney and his family of garbage collectors as they try to climb the ladder of success (a metaphor used throughout the book). It also includes about 200 pages (it's a 1000 page book) on the Death Marches and the treatment of POWs during WWII. Some of the descriptions of the torture methods used had me squirming.

I'm currently reading The Manticore by Robertson Davies. It's the second of a trilogy, though each book can stand alone. I read the first book, Fifth Business, in high school and loved it. I'm not sure how well known Davies is, as he's a Canadian author and, Margaret Atwood aside, they don't seem to get much international press. In Canada, though, he's very well known and Fifth Business is a favourite among high school English teachers.

And Siobhan - The Good Earth is one of my absolute favourites. I left it at home when I moved so my mom could read it, but I might ask for it back soon so I can read it again.

"I think she's magic," said Nor.
________"You, you think everything's magic," Manek said. "Stupid girl."
____"Well, everything is," said Nor. - Wicked

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Edited by - Cour_Delafleur on 09/15/2010 21:45:14
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Theowyn
Looney

1078 Posts

Posted - 09/16/2010 :  17:44:57  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I'm intrigued, Cour. You must tell us why Fifth Business is a favorite of high school English teachers. My freshman daughter loves to read and I'm always on the lookout for new titles she might enjoy.

If I were single, I would definitely choose to live in the city instead of the suburbs. Not only does it cut down on commute time and expenses, but I love being close to the live entertainment and great restaurants downtown afords. Alas, my husband is a suburbanite through and through, so I don't think he could ever manage it. And you're right; it's next to impossible to have small children without a car even in a place like San Francisco which is famous for its public transit. My brother-in-law lives there with his family and while he typically bikes downtown to work, his wife has to have a car to get the kids to school and pre-school.

Order of the Bookmark

s.i.n.e. qua non

"Always"
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