Monday, September 16, 2019

Brennan, Gerald. Public Loneliness. Chicago: Tortoise Books, [2014] 2017. ISBN 978-0-9986325-1-3. This is the second book in the author's “Altered Space” series of alternative histories of the cold war space race. Each stand-alone story explores a space mission which did not take place, but could have, given the technology and political circumstances at the time. The first, Zero Phase (October 2016), asks what might have happened had Apollo 13's service module oxygen tank waited to explode until after the lunar module had landed on the Moon. The third, Island of Clouds (July 2019), tells the story of a Venus fly-by mission using...

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Sunday, September 15, 2019

Here’s just about the craziest financial chart I’ve seen in some time. Courtesy of Deutsche Bank, via CNBC, this is a plot of the total face value of government bonds (not, as the chart is mis-labeled, all debt) which now trade at negative yields. In other words, if you buy the bond today at its market price, hold it to maturity, and add all of the interest it will pay from now until it matures, you’ll end up with less than the price you paid for the bond. And this is in “nominal currency”, not accounting for any depreciation in...

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Chittum, Thomas. Civil War Two. Seattle: Amazon Digital Services, [1993, 1996] 2018. ASIN B07FCWD7C4. This book was originally published in 1993 with a revised edition in 1996. This Kindle edition, released in 2018, and available for free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers, appears to be identical to the last print edition, although the number of typographical, punctuation, grammatical, and formatting errors (I counted 78 in 176 pages of text, and I wasn't reading with a particularly critical eye) makes me wonder if the Kindle edition was made by optical character recognition of a print copy and never properly copy edited before...

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Thursday, August 29, 2019

Butler, Smedley D. War Is a Racket. San Diego, CA: Dauphin Publications, [1935] 2018. ISBN 978-1-939438-58-4. Smedley Butler knew a thing or two about war. In 1898, a little over a month before his seventeenth birthday, he lied about his age and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, which directly commissioned him a second lieutenant. After completing training, he was sent to Cuba, arriving shortly after the end of the Spanish-American War. Upon returning home, he was promoted to first lieutenant and sent to the Philippines as part of the American garrison. There, he led Marines in combat against Filipino...

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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Griffin, G. Edward. The Creature from Jekyll Island. Westlake Village, CA: American Media, [1994, 1995, 1998, 2002] 2010. ISBN 978-0-912986-45-6. Almost every time I review a book about or discuss the U.S. Federal Reserve System in a conversation or Internet post, somebody recommends this book. I'd never gotten around to reading it until recently, when a couple more mentions of it pushed me over the edge. And what an edge that turned out to be. I cannot recommend this book to anybody; there are far more coherent, focussed, and persuasive analyses of the Federal Reserve in print, for example Ron...

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Monday, August 12, 2019

Carr, Jack. True Believer. New York: Atria Books, 2019. ISBN 978-1-5011-8084-2. Jack Carr, a former U.S. Navy SEAL, burst into the world of thriller authors with 2018's stunning success, The Terminal List (September 2018). In it, he introduced James Reece, a SEAL whose team was destroyed by a conspiracy reaching into the highest levels of the U.S. government and, afflicted with a brain tumour by a drug tested on him and his team without their knowledge or consent, which he expected to kill him, set out for revenge upon those responsible. As that novel concluded, Reece, a hunted man, took to...

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Saturday, August 10, 2019

Shlaes, Amity. Coolidge. New York: Harper Perennial, [2013] 2014. ISBN 978-0-06-196759-7. John Calvin Coolidge, Jr. was born in 1872 in Plymouth Notch, Vermont. His family were among the branch of the Coolidge clan who stayed in Vermont while others left its steep, rocky, and often bleak land for opportunity in the Wild West of Ohio and beyond when the Erie canal opened up these new territories to settlement. His father and namesake made his living by cutting wood, tapping trees for sugar, and small-scale farming on his modest plot of land. He diversified his income by operating a general store...

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Sunday, August 4, 2019

Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Skin in the Game. New York: Random House, 2018. ISBN 978-0-425-28462-9. This book is volume four in the author's Incerto series, following Fooled by Randomness (February 2011), The Black Swan (January 2009), and Antifragile (April 2018). In it, he continues to explore the topics of uncertainty, risk, decision making under such circumstances, and how both individuals and societies winnow out what works from what doesn't in order to choose wisely among the myriad alternatives available. The title, “Skin in the Game”, is an aphorism which refers to an individual's sharing the risks and rewards of an undertaking in which they...

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Monday, July 29, 2019

Units Calculator is a Web interface to the GNU Units utility which allows conversion among thousands of physical units, constants, and currencies. Units Calculator may be used to perform complex scientific and engineering calculations involving physical units and guards against common errors due to dimensional incompatibility. Units Calculator is 100% compatible with GNU Units, but as a Web application can be used from any platform with a Web browser. Currency exchange rates and precious metal prices are updated daily. See the Introduction for a tutorial, or proceed directly to the Expert page, which contains a click-to-copy table of common units....

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Monday, July 22, 2019

Brennan, Gerald. Island of Clouds. Chicago: Tortoise Books, 2017. ISBN 978-0-9860922-9-9. This is the third book, and the first full-length novel, in the author's “Altered Space” series of alternative histories of the cold war space race. Each stand-alone story explores a space mission which did not take place, but could have, given the technology and political circumstances at the time. The first, Zero Phase (October 2016), asks what might have happened had Apollo 13's service module oxygen tank waited to explode until after the lunar module had landed on the Moon. The present book describes a manned Venus fly-by mission performed...

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Friday, July 19, 2019

Rothbard, Murray. What Has Government Done to Our Money? Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, [1963, 1985, 1990, 2010] 2015. ISBN 978-1-61016-645-4. This slim book (just 119 pages of main text in this edition) was originally published in 1963 when the almighty gold-backed United States dollar was beginning to crack up under the pressure of relentless deficit spending and money printing by the Federal Reserve. Two years later, as the crumbling of the edifice accelerated, amidst a miasma of bafflegab about fantasies such as a “silver shortage” by Keynesian economists and other charlatans, the Coinage Act of 1965 would eliminate...

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Monday, July 15, 2019

Dick, Philip K. The Man in the High Castle. New York: Mariner Books, [1962] 2011. ISBN 978-0-547-57248-2. The year is 1962. Following the victory of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in World War II, North America is divided into spheres of influence by the victors, with the west coast Pacific States of America controlled by Japan, the territory east of the Mississippi split north and south between what is still called the United States of America and the South, where slavery has been re-instituted, both puppet states of Germany. In between are the Rocky Mountain states, a buffer zone between...

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Friday, July 12, 2019

Thor, Brad. Backlash. New York: Atria Books, 2019. ISBN 978-1-9821-0403-0. This is the nineteenth novel in the author's Scot Harvath series, which began with The Lions of Lucerne (October 2010). This is a very different kind of story from the last several Harvath outings, which involved high-stakes international brinkmanship, uncertain loyalties, and threats of mass terror attacks. This time it's up close and personal. Harvath, paying what may be his last visit to Reed Carlton, his dying ex-CIA mentor and employer, is the object of a violent kidnapping attack which kills those to whom he is closest and spirits him off,...

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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Egan, Greg. Schild's Ladder. New York: Night Shade Books, [2002, 2004, 2013] 2015. ISBN 978-1-59780-544-5. Greg Egan is one of the most eminent contemporary authors in the genre of “hard” science fiction. By “hard”, one means not that it is necessarily difficult to read, but that the author has taken care to either follow the laws of known science or, if the story involves alternative laws (for example, a faster than light drive, anti-gravity, or time travel) to define those laws and then remain completely consistent with them. This needn't involve tedious lectures—masters of science fiction, like Greg Egan, “show,...

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Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Fourmilab reading list document tree is generated automatically from source documents kept as flat text files in a format similar to that of a Movable Type blog export file. These files are read by a Perl program called rlmake.pl which generates HTML files for the Web tree and compiles the various indices through which the list may be accessed (most recent, by year, month, topic, author, and title). The reading list management software is available for downloading and may be used in any manner you wish, but is utterly unsupported—you're entirely on your own. The Perl code will probably...

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