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[sticky post] 55 Simple Rules for Debate in the Modern World

It’s my own fault really. Because I like to see different sides to an argument before making up my own mind (see Rule 9 below) then I am unfortunately exposed to comments from people whose opinions are badly argued, uninformed, prejudiced, immature and just plain stupid. And this does annoy me at times.

I like to think that the 55 rules below are ones that I at least try to stick to when commenting online. I wish other people would too, even though a few of my ‘rules’ are actually opinions. Some of the rules are not so much rules for debate, more rules you should live by if you want me to value your opinion. Put it this way, the more of my rules that you break, the less highly will I rate your opinion.

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Phligm Phlagm

Here's a clever way to make interstellar travel real.

"Around 50% 'hold authoritarian views'". Sounds shocking. What’s more shocking is the ignorance of the researchers (three politics professors no less, albeit from second rate universities) as to what constitutes “authoritarian”. Authoritarians would presumably favour powerful state control, right? You know, like Stalin or Hitler or Mao. Not according to these three clowns. Apparently “ideological sympathy for… rolling back the state” is an authoritarian point of view. Incredible.

Thankfully I wasn't the only person to spot this.

Did you own a copy of Buckaroo or MouseTrap when you were a kid? There's a good chance it was assembled by Irish slaves. Seriously.

The new president of the National Union of Students sounds like a lovely girl.

The Game of Thrones Mock Draft.

The Stevland Angus Appreciation Society

Brave socio-political commentary in 'My Little Pony'. Yes, really.

The man who put 50p on Leicester City to win the Premier League at 5000/1 and cashed it out for 45p after one match (which they won 4-2).

Richard 'fuckwit' Murphy had to publically apologise to Lord Ashcroft and make a donation to his charity for being wrong. I wish the legal system could force him to make an apology every other time he’s been wrong.

Paramount is trying to claim copyright over the Klingon Language. The Language Creation Society's legal reply is wonderful.

Why are we so understanding towards the crimes of Communism? A suggestion I’ve seen elsewhere is that International Labour Day should be replaced with a day of remembrance for the victims of communism and socialism. Good idea.

Gerry Adams apologises for tweeting the word "nigger". I’m amazed at the fuss about this. Might it not have occurred to the twitter commentariat that heading a terrorist organisation responsible for the deaths of 1,800 people is ever so slightly worse than typing a naughty word into social media?

10 things the bookies thought were more likely to happen than Leicester City winning the Premier League.

When the US Navy had flying aircraft carriers.

I can't quite make up my mind about this. It's the first in a trilogy. Quite long. Hugely popular. Clearly lots of people love it. I seem to remember getting into it quite well when I was reading it, and then going out and buying lots of books by the same author, but I haven't rushed to read the next book. Why not? I think the biggest fault is the slow pace. It really does take ages (in terms of words) for anything to happen. And it's hardly a startlingly original premise - young boy with mysterious background has magical powers, ends up being mistreated, but comes good. Oh, and for such a long book, I didn't feel that I learned much about the world in which the story is set. I could tolerate the second and third faults were it not for the first. It simply should have been much shorter.* Three stars. Probably.

* This is a fault common to many recent fantasy and science fiction novels and series.
The random number generator (bunn) seems to be turning up a lot of Stevie Nicks at the moment. This fabulous song is actually from former Fleetwood Mac lead guitarist Rick Vito's 1992 solo album. Vito was one of Lindsey Buckingham's replacements in the late 80s. He's a chronically underrated blues guitarist. And since the song is a duet with Stevie Nicks, it's almost like uncovering a lost track from Fleetwood Mac's Behind the Mask album (which I like a lot even if nobody else does). It's obscure enough that I can't find a proper video, so you'll have to make do with this.

Two reviews for the price of one - the first two volumes of Robert Jordan's enormous fantasy epic 'The Wheel of Time'. It's odd that these were the books randomly chosen by amychaffinch because a) I only finished The Great Hunt at 1 0'clock this morning and b) it was amychaffinch who recommended the series to me in the first place (she's a big fan). The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills...

The Eye of the World didn't really grab me at first. The first part of the book is very obviously written as a tribute to The Lord of the Rings. In fact, some events are almost copies of events in The Fellowship of the Ring. Once I got past that, I realised two things. The first is that actually, I really like The Lord of the Rings, so a tribute by a talented author is not a bad thing at all. Secondly, as you carry on into the first book, you start to get glimpses that actually this isn't quite the straightforward LotR copy that it starts out resembling. The world-building, while not up to Tolkien's standard, stands comparison with most fantasy epics. And Jordan's writing style is very readable.

When you get into the second book, rather more aspects of the world are revealed, with many more hints that there are all sorts of complex undercurrents. I'm trying very hard not to be spoilered for the rest of the series because I'm looking forward to seeing what is revealed and how all the factions fit together. That's two really quite long books read and I feel that I'm only scratching the surface.

So if you're thinking that I'm liking this series more the more I read of it, you'd be right. A lot of Tolkien fans don't seem to read many similar works at all, but if you like LotR and you're looking for something vaguely along the same lines, you may well like this. But try to avoid reaching a firm conclusion until you've read the first two books.

(amychaffinch tells me that "it keeps improving" from this point on and that "there are lots of things that you read now that will make lots of sense later". I hope so, on both counts.)

Song 40: I Can't Wait, Stevie Nicks

My usual random number generator is still out walking the dogs, so tonight's random numbers are brought to you by the person previously known on LJ as amychaffinch. And this is the song she randomly selected:

Not especially representative of Miss Nicks's solo work and also something that sounds nothing at all like a Fleetwood Mac song. If anything I think it sounds a bit like a Cynid Lauper song. Proper 80s fashions. And is it me or does one of the male dancers look a bit like Richard E. Grant?

Probably not that famous over here (the single peaked at 54 in the UK). On the other hand, if you think it's strangely familiar, it might be because you recognise it from one of the adverts for Grand Theft Auto V:


Most of the books on my list-of-books-to-be-reviewed-without-the-use-of-pseudish-cockwaffle are not history books. However, the review randomiser (i.e. asking bunn to think of a number) has come out with another history book.

You might think, given the title, that this is not a serious history book at all, but some kind of children's book in which a plucky girl called Emma outwits and outfoxes nasty rough vikings. It is a serious history book, but actually, that description isn't far off. You probably haven't heard of Emma, unless you're already well read in early 11th century English history. You'll come away from this book thinking that she should be a really famous and important person in English history. She was after all, Queen to two different Kings of England (one of whom was also King of Denmark and of Norway), mother to two more Kings of England and stepmother to two more Kings of England (and great aunt to William the Conqueror). She was the richest woman in England and wielded considerable diplomatic influence across England, Normandy, Denmark and Norway. She seems to have been particularly influential in the transition from Viking rule of England to English rule.

The book itself is nicely written and despite its title it does a good job of explaining the various factions and the political and diplomatic situation. I was particularly intrigued by it because this isn't a period of history that seems to be covered much, either in popular culture, or by popular historians. For example, Simon Schama's 'History of Britain' makes no mention of Sweyn and Cnut's conquest of England. I knew a bit about Cnut, but I bet to most people he's the guy who couldn't stop the tide coming in. There seems to be a big gap between Alfred the Great and 1066 that nobody writes novels about and nobody makes films about and nobody writes history books about. That's surprising because a hell of a lot happens - and most of it is described in this book.

Very readable and I found it a very interesting period that I previously knew relatively little about. Highly recommended.
This is something that people have asked me in the past. Of course my view is that basic introductory economics should be taught as a core subject in school. I had mandatory music, drama, needlework, metalwork, woodwork and religious education, all of which strike me as less important parts of education than understanding how people behave and interact. But that's a subjective opinion, and this is an objective educational post.

So, where to begin?

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