Saturday, January 20, 2007


I ended up deciding on the books I wanted to get. I changed around some that I had selected before. A few didn't have exactly what I wanted and others I simply just changed my mind about. That said this order was nontrivial in size. I did end up picking up more than a couple SF books this time. That's been atypical of me for a while. I simply decided that I wanted to let the brain hang loose a little bit this time.

I continued my Deep Time fascination/education. I picked up Vincent Courtillot's work on mass extinctions: Evolutionary Catastrophes. I also picked up Peter Ward's Out of Thin Air: this one had some modeling in it and that makes me - the HPC type I am - very curious. I also grabbed Horns And Beaks. Cerotopsians are my favourite dinosaurs and I simply couldn't resist. I also picked up Modeling Extinction. That ought to be interesting as well from the HPC modsim geek PoV. I also picked up Alvarez's T. Rex and the Crater of Doom. I gave up on (for the moment) Dragons in the Dust, but I am waivering again. I really want to know about big beautiful varanids (maybe I can tickle Darren Naish's interest enough to post something on the subject?). I really want a copy of Biotic Recovery from Mass Extinction Events. However the $200 price tag makes me wary.

In the book research department, I picked up Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World, but abandoned Ancient Maya. The issue being I am getting a little Maya'ed out. I'd really like to learn more about the El Mirador basin and early-preclassic Maya, but I am floundering in finding a good book on the subject.

In the general education arena - something I am kinda not following through on recently as I've been focused on reading all those books on house building, I picked up The Collapse of Complex Societies at Carlos' recommendation to contrast with that person that "lies with maps". I also picked up a copy of The Insular Cases And the Emergence of American Empire.

The SF books that I picked up are pretty mundane. I decided on Charlie's Accelerando, to give Reynold's another try with Redemption Ark, to contrast C&R with an older Brit writer's work with Clarke's Songs of Distant Earth (a story I read a loooong time ago, but haven't returned to), and finally to delve into some oldies, but goodies with Asimov's Caves of Steel and Robots of Dawn.

I am still reading the book on foundation design - it's slow going for me because it doesn't hold my interest when mass extinctions are calling! - and First Person. Putin's...interesting...on a personal level. I related a few things back to my wife and she all but hissed with dismay. Her opinion of him went down even more.

This will be my last book collection until at least April and probably May or June even. There's lots to read there, but the SF stuff is basically mind candy and gets eaten uberfast. It's the other stuff that I have to stop and think about to one extent or another.


Carlos said...

Hey Will,

Belated happy birthday!

You know, the Insular Cases aren't all bad; after all, they helped prevent Ferdinand Marcos from becoming President of the United States. They're pretty repellent otherwise.

(A while back I became interested in how Guantanamo developed its exceptional-even-for-being-extraterritorial status. It's very recent, and has its roots in the Haitian refugee crisis in the 1990s.)

The Tainter is still good, but a lot of the Mayan stuff has been superseded, and more Roman continuity is thought to have remained in the Western Empire than previously thought.

On the other hand, I think that the recent discoveries pointing towards post-Columbian Amazonian and Cahokian complex societal collapse would make a worthwhile inclusion.

Incidentally, I discovered an Asian inverse of that Diamond fellow's geographical determinism: it's hypothesized China (and to a lesser extent, Japan) didn't expand because they had already incorporated all the major ecozone resources needed by that society; while European nations, much more ecologically limited, needed to travel to other ecozones to obtain their resources.

You can see how it's related to Russia-and-the-warm-water-port theory of Halford Mackinder's descendants; and also to Pomeranz's New World timber-and-calorie-substitutes idea.

And it sure as hell beats Diamond's "The China coast is as smooth as an egg" lie.

Hopefully, free time will open up for good reasons in the near future, and I'll post more. (Unfortunately, there's a chance that free time will open up for bad reasons.)

Will Baird said...

You know, the Insular Cases aren't all bad; after all, they helped prevent Ferdinand Marcos from becoming President of the United States.

pah. He'd not be El Presidente, but rather the head of a defense contracting business that buys and sells Congress critters.

They're pretty repellent otherwise.

That's what I've always suspected. Time to get aquainted for reals.

re Diamond, Tainter et al.

The more I read, the more Diamond pisses me off. He misrepresents a lot of hud. and average people - hell, even I am not necessarily educated enough - to catch him all the time. I wish we had someone that could write something as readable for the nontechnical audience that refutes him.

Anonymous said...

As of yet, there are no books out on the Mirador Basin in the northern Guatemalan Department of Peten. However, Richard Hansen, the Mirador Basin Project Director is finalizing a book about the Mirador Basin and it promises to be a very good one.

I have written two narrative articles about my experiences in the Mirador Basin. They are not your typical travel narratives, but more explanatory with background information on the significance of some of the major sites, and the forest and wetland environments of the basin. I will email them to you if you are interested.


Will Baird said...

I'm interested, Mike.

anzhalyu - at - gmail dot com.