Recent Books (including WoT reread) and ‘casts

Books:

Republic, Lost by Lawrence Lessig. I think this would interest Bryan; it points out the fundamental corruption of our system. The capture of legislators by special interests is more interesting and more subtle than “here’s a sack of cash”– the dance of influence, the importance of indirectly signaling, and the prominence of lobbyists and connectors were all important notes that altered my thinking. The particular thought that legislator is one step on a career path: aide -> legislator -> lobbyist, was revealing… as was the note that our “underpaying” legislators (versus what else they can do with their degree and experience) probably plays into their desire to tap extra income. After all, it’s expensive to keep two households.

I agree that the solutions are somewhat far-fetched, but necessary. I hate the idea of trying to square that circle. Probably the best point made is the systemic slow deviation towards prioritizing what the people they talk to and interact with care about most–more “dividing the pie” taking their time and effort. The corruption of tax extenders was a great specific example of the overall thesis.

The Great Wheel of Time (re)Read:

After a few disappointing books dispirited me, I decided not to read the Wheel of Time until the series was complete. I’ve heard very good things about Sanderson’s wrap up of Jordan’s series, and I do want to see how it all ends. Reading a book in the middle, years after the previous book’s publication, left me cold–too much of my time was spent trying to remember who had done what and where they were when I left off. So this will be a full series reread and read.

The Eye of the World: This is a great book, introducing a vibrant world. For the first half of the book, the voice is Rand’s alone. It’s Rand who introduces us to the world, exposes the relations between the characters, and whose voice is charming.

In the middle of the book, we get a few new points of view when the characters are separated. These new POV chapters are true complements to Rand’s adventure– with interesting character development for the others. I think we top out at 4 points of view (Rand, Perrin, Nynaeve… and Egwene?), and the story moves. It feels like a breathless race at the very end–stumbling a bit as the final, built up “battle” was disposed of so quickly.

The Great Hunt: Another strong book, far more evenly distributed in viewpoint character chapters. The men and women spend the book doing entirely separate things. Visiting locations for the first time is rewarding; Tar Valon feels sculpted and beautiful–and very in contrast with its contents.

The number of view point characters increases substantially–even including Moraine for a chapter. I like the characters’ continued development; Rand’s struggle feels real and difficult, Perrin’s beating himself up feels authentic, Egwene’s development and voice becomes strong–even more so post leashing. Politics is tricky to write; both Cairhien and tower politics are (appropriately) difficult to understand from traveling teenagers’ points of view.

The book ends strongly, with everyone reunited and a victory… though lots of doubts about that victory, and consequences clearly telegraphed.

The Dragon Reborn: In memory this was one of the stronger books; now that I’ve reread it, it’s much less good. Rand gets almost no POV time and his actions are both distant and difficult to understand. Perrin is the star of this book, and Mat comes into his own–Mat really becomes interesting, doubling down on “rascally”, and showing tremendous competence with his quarterstaff out of nowhere.

The girls don’t get much time in the tower; it’s pretty jarring to see how quickly they cycle through and set off on another adventure. (There’s no real classroom time on screen, and few interactions with the other novices and accepted–it’s broad brush strokes, and well done, but feels way too slight given the tower’s centrality to their lives.)

The book structure feels overly deliberate by the end. The last quarter of the book draws everyone together–geographically–they only overlap and interact with each other in the final chapters. (Those chapters involve frequent POV changes, which really picks up the pace.) In this read through, this book first tickles my “wait, why are they doing that?” characterization problems button.

Podcasts

The Dice Tower 325: Returned to the show after a long break, and really enjoyed it. They talked about three games that I think our gamers would appreciate–at least one of which I wouldn’t mind trying.

TAL 506: Secret Identity — An interesting look at masks and roles. Diana sounds amazing but scary, as a vigilante should. It makes you think about what goes on when society, law, and order have broken down.a

Wait Wait and Ask Me Another were both good–as was getting to listen to it with Jennifer.

Roll for News: Enjoyable; I love the 5 minute interview podcast format. I’ve been going through old episodes, as it’s been a while since new ones were released.

End of September media

Books
Several issues of the Nation magazine: Several good articles that retain significance, and lots of articles about events that have passed. On to the articles about the government shutdown and debt ceiling.

Elizabeth Moon: Oath of Betrayal It turns out that this wasn’t a trilogy; the world and its struggles will continue on for another book or three. The themes of change and reconciliation are still strong; the book ends on a big reveal, bringing the hidden foe into the open.

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaimen. A good book; I can see why it won a Newberry Medal and the Hugo. I read it front to back, broken only by silly things like work. It was a quick read, quite engaging–and, much like Jennifer, I suspect there will be more to savor on a reread.

What, more listening?
TJ 1041 Madam I Blush: A good in character interview following last week’s, about Jefferson’s relations with the women in his life. The only problem was that it was too short.

TJ 1042 Hamiltonian or Jeffersonian: A discussion of what our nation currently practices and preaches. The move away from self sufficiency on isolated farms really moves us away from Jeffersonian ideals…

TJ 1043 Home Schooling: A good discussion of the tensions between individual liberty, a family’s right to raise their children as they choose, and the evolution of the public school system.

Ask me another: 223: Foodie: The Other ‘F’ Word — A fun show as always.
224: Planet money as the special guest.

TAL 504: How I got into college — Interesting, but dominated by one long story instead of the many viewpoints I expected (and would have appreciated.)

TAL 505: About acetaminophen, and the dangerous toxicity level… double the label dose is enough to cause kidney failure and risk worse. Good discussion of company policies, the FDA and its label requirements, etc.

Roll for News 2-8: Magpie Games and Indie +. I like the 5 minute format.

Ken and Robin talk at FanExpo Canada(57): A good live show for them; not very heavy on the local questions.