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Last few months’ reading

I stopped listening to podcasts recently and switched to audiobooks. Apparently my listening has been stacking up:

  • Midnight at the Well of Souls by Jack L. Chalker – Read this book in high school and it’s still got a ton of imagination. The plot isn’t as interesting as I remembered, and Chalker sure got some Centaur sex in there.
  • Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio – I tore through this series. Books four and five are a lesson in beating the crap out of a main character, and it definitely feels like Ruocchio was pushed to divide a book into two parts. One of the things that felt fresh about the Howling Dark was how it simply glossed over a whole novel’s worth of material. Still great stuff and I’m looking forward to book six.
  • Howling Dark by Christopher Ruocchio
  • Devil in White by Christopher Ruocchio
  • Kingdoms of Death by Christopher Ruocchio
  • Ashes of Man by Christopher Ruocchio
  • Mountain in the Sea by Ray Naylor – A very dystopian story that was sold as being about octopuses, but more about corporate control in the near future. The ideas in this book have hung with me, and it’s got some great action set pieces.
  • Pattern Recognition by William Gibson – I’ve been re-reading William Gibson, starting at Neuromancer, and finally got around to the Blue Ant trilogy. On re-read, I enjoyed Pattern Recognition and Spook Country the most. Zero History has interesting ideas but felt a lot like “Gibson Takes Zoolander Seriously.” Still, he was ahead of his time on various ideas, like the spread of Tacticool gear.
  • Spook Country by William Gibson
  • Zero History by William Gibson
  • The Agency by William Gibson – I re-read the Peripheral last year for the Amazon series and really enjoyed it the second time, even if the stubs never quite make sense. The Agency had more of the stubs, which I like, but introduced an emergent AI that felt like the movie “Her.” It ended on a hopeful note that wasn’t quite satisfying for me, since the Jackpot of terrible things is still hanging over everyone’s heads. If there’s a third Jackpot book, I’m going to be curious how it all ties together.
  • Wool by Hugh Howey – Listened to this after watching the first episode of Silo on Apple TV. This book has more plot twists than any book I’ve read. It felt like someone took Vault-Tech from Fallout seriously and wrote the consequences. I enjoyed it, but not sure if I’ll read Shift.
  • Gate of Ivrel by CJ Cherryh – Another book from high school. I enjoyed the characters and Cherryh definitely enjoys writing about horses.
  • The Dawn of Everything – Dave Grueber and David Wengrow​ – Still dipping in and out of this one. It’s a big read, and I picked up the hardback so I can go back through what I’ve listened to. The TLDR on this book is that it’s a reassessment of hunter-gatherer society and its “evolution” into agriculture, and the eventual codifying of inequality we experience today. Grueber and Wengrow point out that hunter-gatherer humans were certainly smart enough to pursue agriculture, but they chose to live more “free” lives. I’m only a quarter into this book, so I’ll write more later.
  • Frankenstein in Baghdad – Ahmed Saadawi​ – This felt like it should have been a short story, but I was still intrigued by the characters in Baghdad during the initial U.S. occupation. I’m very interested in those stories, but I felt like the book was mis-marketed as horror, and it’s only answer to violence seems to be more violence…
  • The Many-Colored Land – Julian May​ – I’ve had this book on my shelf for years and never got around to reading it. Now that I’m finally into it, I’m really enjoying the portal aspect and the twist in the middle, though it does take a long time to get to its hook of sending people back to the Pliocene age. You think you’re getting away from a Space Opera story, but that’s not what happens. May is great at spinning up believable characters. (Unfortunately, it looks like Many-Colored Land is the only one of May’s books available in audio.)

Hitler’s Antarctica Expedition


ABSTRACT. In January-February 1939, a secret German expedition visited Dronning (or Queen) Maud Land, Antarctica, apparently with the intention inter alia of establishing a base there.

Between 1943 and 1945 the British launched a secret wartime Antarctic operation, code-named Tabarin. Men from the Special Air Services Regiment (SAS), Britain’s covert forces for operating behind the lines, appeared to be involved. In July and August 1945, after the German surrender, two U-boats arrived in Argentina. Had they been to Antarctica to land Nazi treasure or officials?

In the southern summer of 1946–1947, the US Navy appeared to ‘invade’ Antarctica using a large force. The operation, code-named Highjump, was classified confidential. In 1958, three nuclear weapons were exploded in the region, as part of another classified US operation, code-named Argus.

Who needs science anyway?

Comments on: https://archive.org/details/lev-tarasov-the-world-is-built-on-probability-mir-2023


My Hypothesis: All matter exists in a sphere of probability. Our brains are masters of computing probabilities to tell us the most likely location for any object. It is not that we collapse the wave form, but that our brain ignores the wave form for our convenience.Light is always a wave, never a particle. And a wave is just a probability.
Do you account for the fact that probability distributions can have multiple peaks with equal probability? If multiple brains were involved, they’d somehow have to coordinate on what they deem the most likely outcome.
Our brains all use the program, but we can see when some of these programs have a glitch. Take some LSD and you will see what I mean.> probability distributions can have multiple peaks with equal probability?I think I know where you are going, but can you be more clear so I do not confuse things with my assumptions?
Say there is a quantum system – a particle or something – that has an equal probability to collapse in either of two classical states if measured. Say there are two scientists in a laboratory who perform a measurement on that system. If your hypothesis is true, how do they agree on what they perceive when looking at the result of the measurement? Each brain would have to make an arbitrary decision on which of the two equally likely outcomes to perceive.
Our brains would then exist in a state of probability too.
Yes, they do. But our minds do not. The brain creates the mind, the ego, and this is another collapse of a wave form.
The wavefunction is deterministic. If you take the MWI as the most straight forward interpretation of the math, then the universe if fundamentally deterministic. Probability on a physics level would represent our ignorance of the other branches. reply
I don’t think you can reason like this. As far as I understodod, standard quantum mechanics does not make any statement about how the measuring process and the collapse of the wavefunvtion happens. So while the waveform evolves deterministically, you can only ever apply this model when you are in the position of performing measurements on some quantum mechanical system. As I understand, Quantum mechanics is not meant to also model you together with the experiment as a wavefunction, because the act of you performing a measurement does not have a definition in the form of the wavefunction interacting with itself somehow. So without extensions to QM, you should not reason with universal deterministic waveforms. reply
Simplicity of mathematical models at the expense of falsification… who needs science, anyways?


David Deutsch’s “Physics Without Probability” covers the history of probability, it’s legitimate and misconceived uses and concludes that according to MWI there is no such thing in reality – it’s basically that probabilities correspond to how measures of the multiverse proportion themselves as differentiation occurs.

I watched it a few years ago so may be misremembering bits but I think that is the gist…

Worth a watch especially if you balk at this idea just to to see a strong counter argument.

Weight = Lifted

Yesterday I deleted 108,000 emails from the gmail account I’ve had since 2004.

It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while.

I did archive them, since legal proceedings have taught me you never know what you might need, but not having them just a search away on any device in front of me is a weight off my mind.

I don’t have to see email from fifteen years ago that pops up in the odd search.

I remember how exciting it was to “never delete another email” and then it became an albatross.

An Armageddon Science Reading List

Here’s a list of books extrapolated from Armageddon Science by Brian Clegg

  • The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner by Daniel Ellsberg: A gripping insider’s account of America’s nuclear program in the 1960s and the development of a doomsday machine.
  • Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser: A detailed examination of the history of nuclear weapons and the numerous near-miss accidents that could have led to catastrophe.
  • The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes: A comprehensive account of the development of the first atomic bomb, from the initial scientific discoveries to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • The Science of Discworld by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen: A fascinating blend of science, fantasy, and humor that explores the scientific concepts behind the popular Discworld series.
  • Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel by Michio Kaku: A thrilling exploration of the science behind popular science fiction concepts and the possibilities for their future realization.
  • Pandora’s Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong by Paul A. Offit: A collection of cautionary tales about scientific advancements that led to unintended, often disastrous consequences.
  • The World Without Us by Alan Weisman: A thought-provoking examination of what would happen to Earth if humans suddenly disappeared, offering insights into the long-term impact of human activity on the planet.
  • The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones—Confronting A New Age of Threat by Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum: A timely exploration of the changing nature of violence in the 21st century and the technologies that enable it.
  • Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb by Richard Rhodes: A detailed account of the development of the hydrogen bomb, focusing on the political, scientific, and military aspects of its creation.
  • The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert: A compelling investigation into the ongoing extinction event driven by human activities, exploring its causes and potential consequences.
  • The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells: A sobering look at the potential effects of climate change on our planet and the urgent need for action.
  • Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari: A fascinating examination of the potential future of humanity as we develop advanced technologies and grapple with existential challenges.

Reddit Comment: Author vs. Writer

A Reddit comment on Brandon Sanderson’s reply to the recent Wired article about him.


My uncle (who’s written some bestselling books) says that there is a difference between an author and a writer.

An author is who they are in public. A writer is who they are in private.

Most writers are pretty much the same: a person sits in a dirty bathrobe staring at a word doc while trying desperately not to start playing a browswer game.

Whereas an author can be anything. Because humans have limitless variety in who they are and where they come from.

But also, the author is a story. You’re asking a storyteller to tell you a story about themselves, but it’s still a story! They might tell that story in one way that comes across as totally different from if they told it a different way. (And they might – rust and Ruin! – even make stuff up!)

An author’s story can be just that of a writer, dirty bathrobe and all. Or it can be very far away – can be anything. Mr. Sanderson’s author-story is very close to being just the story of a writer.

The person behind this article doesn’t like that. He struggles a little to articulare why. Perhaps he thinks Mr Sanderson’s story of himself should be as exciting as his stories of Vin and Venli and Vivenna. Perhaps he just disagrees with Oscar Wilde. Perhaps he’s just disagreeable – or that is the story he’s telling.

Personally, I like Mr. Sanderson’s story of himself. I like who he is as an author. I think it’s a good story! He seems like a hard-working, thoughtful, pretty normal guy. He seems like he tries to be a good person – to his family, to his many employees, and to his many many fans. Personally I find it pretty inspiring. Not in the same way that Kaladin’s story is inspiring. But not necessarily more or less. Because there’s – gasp! – different kinds of stories!

But also – there’s so much that’s interesting here! How does a pretty normal, decent guy, build such incredible worlds and tell pretty moving stories? A person could ask How! A person could ask Why! A person could explore that apparent dissonance – and quite possibly find that it isn’t dissonant at all! A person could talk to other similar writers. Gather datapoints! Look for patterns! Be interesting!

After reading this article, I am left with one overriding thought: I so look forward to reading an article about Mr. Sanderson that is interesting.

This got me thinking about what kind of story I might tell about myself. I’m often trying *not* to talk about myself. I can’t deny that many of the more successful authors I know have a very strong, appealing story about themselves that is a big part of their marketing. I’ve always shied away from this.

A Reading List of US/Vietnam-era War Novels

On March 29, 1973, some of the last U.S. soldiers in Vietnam lined up at an outprocessing center in Saigon, preparing to leave the country. (AP)

I asked ChatGPT to expand a list of novels from recommendations in this article and comments on the story.

  • “Embers of War” by Fredrick Logevall: A comprehensive historical account of the French and American wars in Vietnam, exploring the decisions that led to the conflict and its lasting impact.
  • “A Bright Shining Lie” by Neil Sheehan: A gripping biography of John Paul Vann, a military advisor in Vietnam, that explores the complexities and failures of the war.
  • “Street Without Joy” by Bernard Fall: A chilling examination of the French Indochina War, revealing the brutal realities of combat and the tragic consequences for both sides.
  • “A Great Place to Have a War” by Joshua Kurlantzick: An in-depth exploration of the secret CIA-led war in Laos during the Vietnam War, and its lasting consequences.
  • “The Ugly American” by William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick: A political satire that critiques American foreign policy and diplomacy in Southeast Asia during the Cold War.
  • “The Quiet American” by Graham Greene: A British journalist and a naive American idealist are entangled in the moral complexities and intrigues of the Vietnam conflict.
  • “Matterhorn” by Karl Marlantes: A visceral, intense novel about a young Marine lieutenant and his platoon’s harrowing experience during the Vietnam War.
  • “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien: A collection of interconnected short stories exploring the emotional and physical burdens carried by soldiers during the Vietnam War.
  • “The Mountains Sing” by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai: A multigenerational saga of a Vietnamese family enduring the tragedies of war and striving for survival.
  • “Dust Child” by Alison Croggon: A poignant novel about a Vietnamese-Australian girl’s quest to uncover her father’s identity and her family’s war-torn past.
  • “The Sympathizer” by Viet Thanh Nguyen: A gripping spy thriller about a Vietnamese communist double agent navigating the end of the war and his exile in America.
  • “The Sorrow of War” by Bao Ninh: A haunting account of a North Vietnamese soldier’s experiences, exposing the devastation and trauma of war.
  • “The 13th Valley” by John M. Del Vecchio: A gritty and authentic portrayal of an American infantry platoon’s experiences during the Vietnam War.
  • “If I Die in a Combat Zone” by Tim O’Brien: A powerful memoir reflecting on the author’s experiences as a soldier in the Vietnam War and his moral struggle with the conflict.
  • “Dispatches” by Michael Herr: An influential and raw account of a journalist’s experiences covering the Vietnam War, revealing the chaos and surreal nature of the conflict.
  • “Tree of Smoke” by Denis Johnson: An epic novel spanning the Vietnam War, following a diverse cast of characters whose lives are intertwined by fate and circumstance.
  • “Going After Cacciato” by Tim O’Brien: A surreal and imaginative tale of a soldier’s pursuit of a deserter during the Vietnam War.
  • “Fields of Fire” by James Webb: A gripping and authentic portrayal of the lives of American Marines during the Vietnam War.
  • “Chickenhawk” by Robert Mason: A riveting memoir of a helicopter pilot’s harrowing experiences during the Vietnam War.
  • “The Lotus Eaters” by Tatjana Soli: A love story between an American female photojournalist and a Vietnamese photographer, set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War.
  • “Fields of Bamboo” by James R. Olson: A tale of a CIA operative infiltrating the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War, exploring the line between loyalty and betrayal.
  • “The 25th Hour” by David Benioff: A gripping novel about a man’s last 24 hours of freedom before beginning a seven-year prison sentence, exploring themes of friendship, loyalty, and redemption.
  • “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien: A collection of interconnected short stories exploring the emotional and physical burdens carried by soldiers during the Vietnam War.
  • “Rumor of War” by Philip Caputo: A powerful memoir that offers an unflinching account of the author’s experiences as a Marine officer during the Vietnam War.
  • “Dog Soldiers” by Robert Stone: A thrilling novel about a disillusioned war correspondent who becomes entangled in a dangerous heroin smuggling operation during the Vietnam War.
  • “The Street of a Thousand Blossoms” by Gail Tsukiyama: A moving family saga set in Japan during World War II, exploring the lives of two orphaned brothers and their dreams for the future.
  • “The Killing Zone” by Frederick Downs: A raw and unfiltered account of an American infantryman’s experiences during the Vietnam War, detailing the horror and brutality of combat.
  • “Bloods: Black Veterans of the Vietnam War” by Wallace Terry: An oral history capturing the experiences, perspectives, and voices of African American soldiers who served in the Vietnam War.
  • “In Country” by Bobbie Ann Mason: A coming-of-age novel about a young woman in rural Kentucky trying to understand her father’s death in the Vietnam War and the impact of the conflict on her family.
  • “A Rumor of War” by Philip Caputo: A harrowing memoir that provides an unflinching look at the author’s experiences as a Marine officer during the Vietnam War.
  • “The War Lover” by John Hersey: A psychological drama about an ambitious and reckless bomber pilot during World War II, examining the allure of combat and the darker side of heroism.
  • “The Green Berets” by Robin Moore: A gripping account of the elite U.S. Army Special Forces’ covert operations and daring missions during the Vietnam War.
  • “Dispatches” by Michael Herr: An influential and raw account of a journalist’s experiences covering the Vietnam War, revealing the chaos and surreal nature of the conflict.
  • “A Soldier’s Sweetheart” by William Boyd: A powerful novel about a young nurse’s experience of love and loss during World War I.
  • “The Odd Angry Shot” by William Nagle: A darkly humorous novel following a group of Australian soldiers during the Vietnam War, capturing the camaraderie and absurdity of the conflict.
  • “A Glimpse of Hell” by Charles C. Thompson II: An investigative account of the 1989 explosion aboard the USS Iowa, exposing the human and institutional failures that led to the disaster.
  • “The Best and the Brightest” by David Halberstam: An insightful examination of the key figures and events that led to America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, exploring the impact of their decisions.
  • “The Long Gray Line” by Rick Atkinson: A compelling chronicle of the lives and experiences of West Point graduates from the class of 1966, following their journeys through the Vietnam War and beyond.

    Note: This list went through several iterations. Sometimes the bot would add descriptions, and other times it didn’t. When I had the list of 30 some books, I asked it to generate descriptions and it kept timing out at around the 20th book.

    Then I asked it to generate an HTML list and it timed out as well.

    It also couldn’t search outside sites to add links to each title. This should get better with time.

I was also surprised that it never added “We Were Soldiers Once… And Young.” I figured every list of Vietnam books would have that one.