Monthly Archives: May 2023

How to Blow Up a Pipeline by Andreas Malm

How to Blow Up a PipelineHow to Blow Up a Pipeline by Andreas Malm
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Malm is a Swedish climate activist. This book may be fairly characterized as his manifesto. It is an advocacy piece, but it’s not an actual directive. It’s not written in the imperative mood. It’s mostly a history of climate activism and a fatalistic assertion that we’re nearly doomed and the only logical thing left to do is destruction of the carbon-based fuel infrastructure. It does NOT give actual instructions on how to blow up a pipeline, although it does describe the various successful pipeline attacks that have occurred in the third world, mostly due to regional conflicts, not motivated by eco-terrorism.

For the record, I do not support blowing up pipelines or any sort of property destruction or any lawbreaking in any form for that matter. I drive an electric car and have for the last 12 years and have flown only twice in that time. That’s my contribution. Even so, I see value in a work like this in highlighting how bad the global warming situation has gotten and how our inaction has radicalized people. Perhaps governments will take further action. That said, the writing is rather pedantic, preachy, and obnoxious.

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The Twyford Code by Janice Hallet

The Twyford CodeThe Twyford Code by Janice Hallett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This very original novel is clever but also a difficult read. The story is presented through a series of transcripts of audio recordings made by “Little Smithy,” a semi-literate old school London gang member. The recordings describe his quest to find out what happened to his old high school Remedial English teacher after she disappeared during a field trip. The transcripts are phonetic and the imprecise patois is often transcribed inaccurately, e.g. “must have” becomes “mustard” and so on. There are numerous typographic symbols representing pauses, breath sounds, etc. The story is chopped up piecemeal. That’s much of what makes it a hard read.

What makes it a fun read is that there is a mystery to solve, several in fact, with elaborate clues set forth in various ways. Purportedly Edith Twyford, a British children’s author, left coded clues in the text and illustrations in her WWII-era books. It was one of her books Smithy had once found and given to his teacher that had led to the field trip where she disappeared. What were those coded clues for? Was Twyford a Nazi collaborator? A British spy working undercover? There are numerous references to the real-life Operation Fish where the UK transported is gold bullion Canada for safekeeping during the war. What happened to Miss Isles, the teacher? At the same time, the recordings described Smithy’s early life in a London gang and a big theft of gold and jewels that remains unsolved to this day. But there are inconsistencies throughout the transcripts. The ending is fanciful, but satisfying, as it does resolve what needs to be resolved.

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If It Sounds Like a Quack by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

If It Sounds Like a Quack...: A Journey to the Fringes of American MedicineIf It Sounds Like a Quack…: A Journey to the Fringes of American Medicine by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This sarcastic survey of the fringes of alternative medicine is often funny and sometimes frightening. The author explores how wacko, unscientific medical theories have gained widespread acceptance in the United States. These include zombie cures, prayer healing, leeches and much more. The snake oil salesmen and women cooperated fully with the author in many cases, sharing stories of how they came to be such great healers (e.g. one guy came from the Andromeda galaxy), and even their failures (e.g. multiple criminal convictions and court orders that didn’t stop them from pushing their wares or their miracle cure sessions at luxury spas and luxury prices). The FDA fights these quacks valiantly, but the book explores how certain political elements (e.g. an unnamed “former game show host” who became president as the book phrases it) have fought to keep them on the market. I was surprised to find out how invested that political element is in the “alternative medicine” (i.e. alternative TO medicine) industry. Certain senators I won’t name sell their mailing lists to the snake oil salesmen according to the book. They also receive hefty campaign contributions from them. I can’t verify that, so I presume such details come from financial disclosure forms. The whole industry has merged with antivax and conspiracy believers in general.

Personally I don’t have a beef against the antivax and alternative medicine folks. I see it as natural selection in action. If they’re right, they’ll survive at higher rates than those of us who believe in actual medicine. If they’re wrong, they’ll be the ones dying off at higher rates. In either case, the gene pool is improved by definition. So far the statistics suggest by about 9 to 1 that they’re doing most of the dying. I have a healthy skepticism about medical doctors, too, since too many are clearly focused more on making money than healing or helping patients. So, choose your poison and drink up. Back to the book: the writing is too snide to be all that enjoyable, but the content is too delicious not to give it a high rating.

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How to Avoid Mixing Your Metaphors

It’s not rocket surgery.
First, get all your ducks on the same page.
After all, you can’t make an omelette
without breaking stride.

Be sure to watch what you write
with a fine-tuned comb.
Check and re-check until the cows turn blue.
It’s easy as falling off a piece of cake.

Don’t worry about opening up
a whole hill of beans:
you can burn that bridge when you come to it,
if you follow where I’m coming from.

Concentrate! Keep your door closed
and your enemies closer.
Finally, don’t take the moral high horse:
if the metaphor fits, walk a mile in it.

Brian Bilston

Writers’ Strike vs. Debt Ceiling

Interesting search trend in Google. As one might expect, the debt ceiling is searched more in the D.C. area and the screen writers’ strike is searched more in California and New York. But outside those areas, it seems that the topics are of similar importance, but there is still some regionality shown.

This chart represents the one day Google search results as of May 8, 2023.