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Thread: What book are you currently reading?

  1. #101
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    I just finished Citizen Scientist: Searching for Heroes and Hope in an Age of Extinction by Mary Ellen Hannibal. It was certainly interesting, and anyone interested in science might find it interesting. It has a lot of information about how people without formal training have contributed to the advance of scientific knowledge, and how they can continue to do so. I think the community-focused conservation model it advocates is one of the best hopes for the future.

    I also recently read the first two novels in the second Uplift trilogy by David Brin. I highly recommend them--the psychology of the traeki is really interesting. They're a stack of rings, each of which has a separate consciousness. The entity that people interact with is a gestalt entity made up of the rings.

    I read part of Half Earth a while back. I didn't actually like it--while he seems to make a perfectly good case for why setting aside half of the Earth for wildlife is a great idea (I skipped over these sections because I largely agree with it), I don't think he put enough effort into illustrating how it would be accomplished. I just remember a bunch of claims that continuing technological advancement would enable it, without much detail or evidence. Came off as too techno-utopian.
    "If you are worthy of his affection, a cat will be your friend but never your slave. He keeps his free will though he loves, and will not do for you what he thinks unreasonable; but if he once gives himself to you, it is with absolute confidence and fidelity of affection." -Theophile Gautier

  2. #102
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    Warriors. I know, I should be reading more...'complex' books, but Warriors has a nice amount of bloodshed and character development lol. Also, I don't know any good animal perspective books that are dark and semi-entertaining.

    Also reading my own stories and writing new ones.
    Timber wolf therian-- changeling-- horse hearted/therian
    ~Being kin is a journey of finding yourself, loosing yourself, searching and doing it all over again.~

  3. #103
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    Try some of what Clare Bell and Jane Lindskold have written.
    "If you are worthy of his affection, a cat will be your friend but never your slave. He keeps his free will though he loves, and will not do for you what he thinks unreasonable; but if he once gives himself to you, it is with absolute confidence and fidelity of affection." -Theophile Gautier

  4. #104
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    Been reading a lot of crap on the Spanish Civil War lately. I started with the intention of just getting some background because I wanted to read Hemmingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, but I kind of got engrossed in it. To think that some people still think our civil war was brutal... ain't got nothing on those Spainards.

    Quote Originally Posted by cheetah View Post
    I read part of Half Earth a while back. I didn't actually like it--while he seems to make a perfectly good case for why setting aside half of the Earth for wildlife is a great idea (I skipped over these sections because I largely agree with it), I don't think he put enough effort into illustrating how it would be accomplished. I just remember a bunch of claims that continuing technological advancement would enable it, without much detail or evidence. Came off as too techno-utopian.
    Dude, you definitely need to check out Carbon Ideologies by William Vollmann. Incredibly informative, but it's also got a lot of gripping prose. Takes a very candid look at our situation with plenty of facts and figures, although I think he is too pessimistic in regards to nuclear energy, especially the possibilities of nuclear fusion. It's a bit melancholy, but I think you'd like it.

    Part of the problem is that the world economy is based on exponentially increased production. You can't really increase production and consumption without increasing emissions. No proposed solution really addresses this reality, which led William Vollmann to conclude there just isn't a good alternative to the status quo. It's something of an elephant in the room. He mentions the absurdity of companies like Apple bragging about being environmentally friendly. Our new phone takes 30% less energy to manufacture, but we're just going to manufacture ten times as many!

    I recently read that one researcher predicted that the internet-of-things is supposed to take up 20% of global power consumption by 2040. Really good example of the the kinds of things that are going wrong right now. IOT is just a silly luxury that nobody really needs. One of the the little facts brought up in Volume 1 of Vollmann's Carbon Ideologies is that 10% of Japan's power consumption is keeping appliance lights on. Literally the little green lights on coffee machines, the lights of vending machines, etc; not actually running the machines, just powering the actual light bulbs and LEDs on them.

    Current solar, hydro, and wind power generation technology is incapable of supporting our civilization as it exists, production would have to be dramatically scaled down. There would still be the issue that there are a lot of carbon-positive necessary things. Agriculture for example, is a huuuuuge source of emission, not even accounting power(carbon based) needed to run the machines necessary for it. Steel and cement production are huge sources of emissions as well. Those things are all necessary and can't be done away with, but in the long run they'll lead to the same thing we're heading towards anyway. Carbon emissions have a continuing effect on the atmosphere for somewhere between 2,000 and 6,000 years. It's pretty crazy to think that a fire someone burned to cook a stew while building the Great Pyramids could still be having an effect on the atmosphere, but the data suggests this is a possibility.

    It seems there is basically no solution that doesn't involve literally sucking carbon dioxide out of the air. The good news is that machines that do this already exist. The bad news is that they're so inefficient that the power needed to run them generates a lot more carbon than they're capable of sucking out of the air.

    It's interesting stuff to read about, but it's easy to see why people prefer to not think or talk about it, or just go after high-in-the-sky utopian alternatives.

  5. #105
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    Quote Originally Posted by TopBrass View Post
    Been reading a lot of crap on the Spanish Civil War lately. I started with the intention of just getting some background because I wanted to read Hemmingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, but I kind of got engrossed in it. To think that some people still think our civil war was brutal... ain't got nothing on those Spainards.
    Any books in particular you'd recommend about it?

    Quote Originally Posted by TopBrass View Post
    Dude, you definitely need to check out Carbon Ideologies by William Vollmann. Incredibly informative, but it's also got a lot of gripping prose. Takes a very candid look at our situation with plenty of facts and figures, although I think he is too pessimistic in regards to nuclear energy, especially the possibilities of nuclear fusion. It's a bit melancholy, but I think you'd like it.
    I'll stick that on my list.

    Quote Originally Posted by TopBrass View Post
    Part of the problem is that the world economy is based on exponentially increased production. You can't really increase production and consumption without increasing emissions. No proposed solution really addresses this reality, which led William Vollmann to conclude there just isn't a good alternative to the status quo. It's something of an elephant in the room. He mentions the absurdity of companies like Apple bragging about being environmentally friendly. Our new phone takes 30% less energy to manufacture, but we're just going to manufacture ten times as many!

    I recently read that one researcher predicted that the internet-of-things is supposed to take up 20% of global power consumption by 2040. Really good example of the the kinds of things that are going wrong right now. IOT is just a silly luxury that nobody really needs. One of the the little facts brought up in Volume 1 of Vollmann's Carbon Ideologies is that 10% of Japan's power consumption is keeping appliance lights on. Literally the little green lights on coffee machines, the lights of vending machines, etc; not actually running the machines, just powering the actual light bulbs and LEDs on them.

    Current solar, hydro, and wind power generation technology is incapable of supporting our civilization as it exists, production would have to be dramatically scaled down. There would still be the issue that there are a lot of carbon-positive necessary things. Agriculture for example, is a huuuuuge source of emission, not even accounting power(carbon based) needed to run the machines necessary for it. Steel and cement production are huge sources of emissions as well. Those things are all necessary and can't be done away with, but in the long run they'll lead to the same thing we're heading towards anyway. Carbon emissions have a continuing effect on the atmosphere for somewhere between 2,000 and 6,000 years. It's pretty crazy to think that a fire someone burned to cook a stew while building the Great Pyramids could still be having an effect on the atmosphere, but the data suggests this is a possibility.
    This has been one of my biggest frustrations with mainstream environmentalism (and even a lot of left-wing environmentalism). It's very focused on "How can we have our current society, with some relatively minor tweaks [I consider moving away from constant growth to be a minor tweak, if you're simultaneously trying to over a luxurious Western lifestyle to the entire planet] while not wrecking the planet?" But I don't think we can. At this point, I don't think that we'll transition to a society that can in anything approaching an elegant manner, either. I think we could, if there was an overwhelming will to do so and the very powerful weren't an obstacle, but I don't see either of those conditions coming true.

    Quote Originally Posted by TopBrass View Post
    It seems there is basically no solution that doesn't involve literally sucking carbon dioxide out of the air. The good news is that machines that do this already exist. The bad news is that they're so inefficient that the power needed to run them generates a lot more carbon than they're capable of sucking out of the air.
    And our most efficient carbon sequestration "machines"--ecosystems--are being destroyed. Allowing whale populations to rebound, by itself, would remove as much carbon as some ocean fertilization schemes. Prior to reading Mary Ellen Hannibal's book, I'd no idea. That sort of solution doesn't draw people's attention like even the most hare-brained geoengineering scheme does.

    Quote Originally Posted by TopBrass View Post
    It's interesting stuff to read about, but it's easy to see why people prefer to not think or talk about it, or just go after high-in-the-sky utopian alternatives.
    Yeah, it is. My "favorite" (I mean that sarcastically, of course) is BECCS--growing crops for biofuel and then storing the carbon dioxide. It doesn't exist at any real scale and is kind of stupid (you'd need to dedicate an area larger than India to it), but it's one of the main carbon negative technologies many of the less horrific IPCC models rely on.

    I've also heard of proposals to stick giant mirrors in space, or pump chemicals into the atmosphere to increase the albedo. It's really something when "Let's stick a giant mirror in space to cool the planet" seems like one of the less stupid ideas.
    "If you are worthy of his affection, a cat will be your friend but never your slave. He keeps his free will though he loves, and will not do for you what he thinks unreasonable; but if he once gives himself to you, it is with absolute confidence and fidelity of affection." -Theophile Gautier

  6. #106
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    Quote Originally Posted by cheetah View Post
    Any books in particular you'd recommend about it?
    It's funny you ask because I've been continuing to inhale books on the subject and I have never, ever seen any subject in history so politically polarized as the Spanish Civil War to the point that every single book I've read so far offers a narrative that is, in some way or another, fundamentally incompatible with every other narrative.

    There is basically the "right wing narrative" and the "left wing narrative". Both hinge around the role of the Communist Party of Spain(PCE) in the civil war. At the outbreak of the war in July 1936, the PCE had something like about 5,000 members in a country of ~20 million, so an absolutely tiny and insignificant force. The Soviet Union was the only country in the world which was willing to supply the Republic, while the nationlists were being supplied by both Hitler and Mussolini. France wanted to arm the Republic, but were warned by Britain that they would be on their own if it a provoked a war with Germany or Italy.

    Since the Soviets controlled the supply of arms, they and their proxy of the PCE were able to dictate military policy and political appointments with the implicit threat that supplies would be discontinued or diminished if the 'request' was refused, causing a lot of military people to join the party despite not being communists. Ironically the PCE was the most right-wing political organization in the Republic and also grew because they promised to protect landlords and factory owners from workers and peasants who wanted to collectivize industry and distribute farmland which had already mostly happened in many places, especially Catalonia, as many landlords and factory owners fled to the fascist zone. Later in the war, the PCE would outright break up collectives, murder any organizers responsible for them, and restore ownership to the old landlords and owners. They also established their own secret prisons, where they housed political opponents they illegally kidnapped, at least until executing them. The party did not want to take outright control over the Republic because having a Communist Party running things, they believed, would ruin any chance of eventual recognition or intervention by Britain and France, so they exercised their control through proxies.

    I only mention this because the both the left wing and right wing narratives deny this. The right wing historians mostly deny or ignore it because they want to portray the Republic as being as revolutionary as possible(with the implication that this justified the fascists' crimes), and the left wing historians ignore or deny it because they want to portray the Communist Party and Stalin as being immaculate and blameless. "Left wing" in this case is a bit of a misnomer since it specifically refers to the genealogy of a narrative advanced by Moscow and its sympathizers in the west.


    There are still a few good books on the subject. I'd recommend Hugh Thomas' Spanish Civil War, which is an incredibly gripping narrative that provides a great general overview, but no depth is sacrificed. It's over 1000 pages. At least as gripping as an Song of Ice and Fire novel. The second book I'd recommend is Burnett Bolloten's Spanish Civil War. This book goes a lot more into details about the intrigues and machinations of the Communist Party, but is a bit more long winded and less engaging than Thomas' book. The two are almost entirely in agreement about their general analysis of the war, with the difference that Thomas takes a positive view of Juan Negrin, Prime Minister from the Socialist Party for the second half of the civil war, while Bolloten argues(convincingly in my opinion) that Negrin was a Soviet stooge.

    Unless you plan on delving super deep into the subject, I'd say those are the only two books you'd ever need to develop a very indepth understanding of the war. I think you might also like it because both provide a pretty in depth exposition of the only time in history where anarchists have played a major role, where it mostly turned out to be a negative one. The anarchist CNT was probably the second most powerful political force in the Republic behind the Socialist Party, but they viewed politics as a "moral evil" and refused to be a part of the political process, which just made it that much easier for the Communist Party to take control.

  7. #107
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    Quote Originally Posted by cheetah View Post
    This has been one of my biggest frustrations with mainstream environmentalism (and even a lot of left-wing environmentalism). It's very focused on "How can we have our current society, with some relatively minor tweaks [I consider moving away from constant growth to be a minor tweak, if you're simultaneously trying to over a luxurious Western lifestyle to the entire planet] while not wrecking the planet?" But I don't think we can. At this point, I don't think that we'll transition to a society that can in anything approaching an elegant manner, either. I think we could, if there was an overwhelming will to do so and the very powerful weren't an obstacle, but I don't see either of those conditions coming true.
    This is my view as well. This is why Vollmann in his books speaks in a past tense: his manner of writing addresses a future audience who lives on an Earth that is very unsuitable to human life. Capitalism is in a way a faith based system: things go well when people(investors specifically) believe it is. Market crashes are, in part, crises of confidence. When people believe something is worth less, then the market adjusts. Any significant change that would be inconvenient to profitability would automatically cause an economic crisis since investors will withdraw their money and put it somewhere else where they believe they will get a bigger return.

    It's kind of like water: it's always going to take the path of least resistance. This is why I always say that greed is a result, not a cause of problems today. If the people running things weren't greedy, then they would just be replaced with someone else, and their replacements would be continually replaced until whichever candidate suitable for making the most money is found. This is dictated by the mechanisms of the market.. the only way past it is to just get rid of the market.

    I kind of feel for the dilemma of climate scientists in this position. On the one hand, they are fully aware that nothing can be solved with society remaining as it is, but on the other hand they know that there is no political will by the people running things for any fundamental change. To some people this might make these scientists seem like "doomsayers", but they can hardly change things on their own.. that's our collective responsibility.

    It was this year, or last year I think, that hundreds of thousands of kilometers of Siberian forest burned down.

    Star Trek is fiction, but there's something in it that I think is kind of realistic, or believable at any rate. Any real change in society is also going to have to have a 'spiritual revolution', in the figurative sense of our character, not supernatural beliefs. They have synthesizers that can create almost any object you could imagine or desire, but generally they are only used when something is actually needed. They could in theory be used for extravagance, but almost never are. It's difficult for people to imagine that people could give up consumerism, but I think it's possible under the right conditions.

  8. #108

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    I just picked up some books about Norse mythology and Norse Shamanism.

  9. #109

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    Yellowstone Wildlife:Ecology and Natural History of the greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

  10. #110
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    Quote Originally Posted by hotdogwolf View Post
    Yellowstone Wildlife:Ecology and Natural History of the greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
    Ooh, let me know how it is. I'm going to Yellowstone next September!

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