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On a not-unrelated note to my last, Colin Devroe wrote this last month:

All pop-ups on page visit should be blocked. I don’t care if you’re giving me 100% off, I don’t want to see the pop-up. No, wait, how about only if you’re giving me 100% off is it OK to show me a pop-up. Thanks.

Colin Devroe, Untitled

I agree 100%.

The Adventures of Luther Arkwright and Heart of Empire by Bryan Talbot (Books 2020, 16 & 17)

I suppose I could have counted this as four books, since the first part is in three volumes. A reread of a great set of graphic novels about the timestream-jumping psychic adventurer, and (then) his offspring.

Well worth checking out if you haven’t, and if the above description sounds like your sort of thing.

A Reply From the Masks Petition

That’s interesting. I don’t think I’ve had a reply like this from a UK parliament petition before:

Dear Martin McCallion,

You recently signed the petition “Make it mandatory to wear a face mask in public during Covid-19 Pandemic”:

The Petitions Committee (the group of MPs who oversee the petitions system) have considered the Government’s response to this petition. They felt that the response did not directly address the request of petition and have therefore written back to the Government to ask them to provide a revised response.

When the Committee have received a revised response from the Government, this will be published on the website and you will receive an email. If you would not like to receive further updates about this petition, you can unsubscribe below.

The Petitions team
UK Government and Parliament

That’s from the one I linked to a week ago.

It’ll be interesting to see if we get anything more back. In the meantime, it’s still at just over 14,000 signatures: keep signing.

And keep wearing a mask.

The Monster (Wear a Mask!)

Dr Sayed Tabatabai writes beautifully about the horror of working in an ICU at the moment.

Sometimes when people sound quieter and calmer during a respiratory issue it’s a sign of impending doom.

You can’t make noise if you can’t breathe.

Go read. It’s a Twitter thread. Only 22 tweets. ThreadReaderApp doesn’t seem to be working.

And please: start wearing a face covering if you ever go out.

The Cold War Never Ended

Charlie Savage, Eric Schmitt and Michael Schwirtz, writing in the New York Times:

American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter.

The Cold War continues. And Trump’s on the Russian side of it:

The intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump, and the White House’s National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March, the officials said. Officials developed a menu of potential options — starting with making a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and a demand that it stop, along with an escalating series of sanctions and other possible responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the officials said.

Tell Them to Tell Us to Wear a Mask

The government has already replied to this petition, but it’s still worth signing if, like me, you think people should be wearing masks in public:

Make it mandatory to wear a face mask in public during Covid-19 Pandemic

My mask protects you, your mask protects me.’ It’s the public-spirited thing to do, but most of the public aren’t doing it. The least the government could do is to encourage it.

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal el-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (Books 2020, 15)

This has won all the awards, and rightly so. Or not quite all: it’s a finalist for the Hugo novella award. At the time of writing, we don’t know whether or not it will win.

Unless I’ve travelled downthread and found out.

It’s a novella, which may be the perfect length of story, in some sense. It’s a love story across time and space and multiple parallel existences… It’s pure dead brilliant.

The actual nature of the war, of the sides, even of the protagonists, Red and Blue, is ambiguous at best. But that doesn’t matter because the writing is so exquisite.

The Wikipedia article describes it as an epistolary novel. That’s only partly true, and not just because it’s a novella. The letters are there, and are fundamental, but I feel that to be truly ‘epistolary,’ the whole story must be told in letters, and that is not the case here. But that doesn’t matter.

One minor oddity I alluded to above: The future is referred to as ‘downthread’ and the past ‘upthread.’ That seems the wrong way round to me, but maybe it reflects the fact that, normally, we can’t stop sliding down into the future.

Go. Get. Read. VVG. They’re adapting it for TV. I can’t quite imagine what that will look like, but I’m keen to find out.

Friday by Robert A Heinlein (Books 2020, 14)

Friday Baldwin is genetically engineered ‘artificial person.’ Indistinguishable from a conventional human, she nonetheless is psychologically constrained by the way her society discriminates against her type.

That’s pretty much her only constraint, though. Her engineered nature also gives her enhanced strength, reflexes, sight, hearing, and smell, as well as genius-level intelligence. She starts out as a courier and soon becomes a fugitive.

This stands up pretty well, all these years since I first read it. The fragmented, Balkanised future North America is interesting. Easy travel everywhere by ‘tubes,’ which are presumably underground trains, and suborbital rockets. Corruption so pervasive that the characters don’t even notice it. You hand over your passport with ‘the appropriate squeeze’ folded inside it, and are waved through.