Knight of Shadows

[Amazon Link]

Number nine in Roger Zelazny's ten-book Amber series. And no relation to the new Jackie Chan movie.

I must confess that I've lost track of much of the series' continuity at this point. Every new book seems to introduce new characters, revealing and exploring new facets of the universe in which our protagonist, Merlin, is merely trying to survive. So there's not only Amber, but also Chaos. Amber has its Pattern, but Chaos has its Logrus. Both sides have Powers behind the scenes. Then there are the Shadow worlds (hey, that's us!). But there are also (I think I got this right) worlds between Shadows, not accessible by the usual Amberite legerdemain.

When you read the novels over the space of many months, it's tough to remember the characters and the rules of the universe (which seem to change from book to book anyway).

Frankly, it's kind of tedious. There are occasional flashes of humor, very welcome. But it's mostly Merlin speculating (usually ineffectively) about what's going on, broken up by occasional duels with swords and spells. He does make what is clearly a Bad Jewelry Mistake near the end of this section of the tale, but the denouement will have to wait until the final book. Assuming I get to that one in this lifetime, I will read it more with relief than anticipation.

URLs du Jour

2019-05-09

[Amazon Link]

  • At the (possibly paywalled) WSJ, Ryan P. Williams of the Claremont Institute writes on Our Brush With Google Censorship. (Previous Pun Salad mentions here and here.) He poses some relevant, so far unanswered, questions:

    • Why do Google’s censorship “mistakes” always seem to cut against conservative speech? Google should release in full its internal instructions and guidelines that were followed by the representatives with whom we interacted.

    • Google employees initially concluded the censorship decision was correct. But if the original “mistake” was indeed algorithmic, what search terms and phrases does Google police? Google should release them in full.

    • Why did Google’s representatives tell Claremont that there was no appeal? And how many speakers end up being suppressed because they lack our bullhorn?

    I'd like to see Google's "official" answers to those questions, too. But I bet their honest answers would be

    • "Our censorship cuts against conservative speech because it is designed and implemented by left-wing Torquemadas on a fanatical never-ending inquisition against heretics."
    • "We won't release details of our censorship algorithms, because doing so would make it obvious that they were designed to detect deviations from progressive orthodoxy."
    • "We thought we could get away with stonewalling the Claremont Institute on this. That was our actual 'mistake'."

    "And we would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for you meddling kids!"


  • At Reason, Eric Boehm asks: Will Trump’s Authoritarian Impulses Derail His Deregulatory Successes?.

    Trump has presided over two years of near-record low growth in the size of the federal regulatory state, and his administration has hacked away at both the total number and the annual cost of federal regulations, rules, and so-called "regulatory dark matter" like regulatory guidance letters and notices. According to an annual report from the Competitive Enterprise Institute assessing the size and cost of federal regulations, released Tuesday, Trump has delayed or withdrawn more than 1,500 Obama-era rules that were in the pipeline, and has kept his promise to repeal two rules for every new one passed.

    But there are warning signs that progress might be slowing, says Clyde Wayne Crews, CEI's vice president of policy and the author of the annual "Ten Thousand Commandments" report.

    "Despite the progress made on regulatory reform under President Trump, American consumers and businesses are still on the hook for the 'hidden tax' of federal regulation," said Crews in a statement. "And that progress is further threatened by President Trump's own regulatory impulses on issues ranging from antitrust enforcement to trade restrictions to food and drug matters, and more."

    Since Trump has (as near as I, or anyone else, can tell) no guiding principles other than narcissism, it's a pretty good bet that the answer to Eric's headline query is: "sure, probably."


  • Chris Edwards of Cato detects One Problem with Big Government: Often Run by Crooks and Liars.

    Presidential candidates are proposing ideas to expand government, including a Green New Deal and Medicare for All. One flaw with such schemes is that they would give government officials large new powers to be exercised not by angels but often by very shady characters.

    James Madison wrote that politicians sought office “from 3 motives. 1. ambition 2. personal interest. 3. public good. Unhappily the two first are proved by experience to be most prevalent.”

    Pun Salad Fact Check: absolutely true. Chris goes on to note two recent examples: Baltimore ex-Mayor Catherine Pugh and late diplomat Richard Holbrooke.

    Almost goes without saying that the character flaws of powerful "progressives" tend only to come to light after they are safely away from the levers. So in addition to the warranted distrust of pols, neither can the media be trusted to tell you about this stuff until it's too late.


  • From across the pond, Matt Ridley writes non-insanely on biodiversity and land sparing.

    Driven perhaps by envy at the attention that climate change is getting, and ambition to set up a great new intergovernmental body that can fly scientists to mega-conferences, biologists have gone into overdrive on the subject of biodiversity this week.

    They are right that there is a lot wrong with the world’s wildlife, that we can do much more to conserve, enhance and recover it, but much of the coverage in the media, and many of the pronouncements of Sir Bob Watson, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), are frankly weird.

    The threat to biodiversity is not new, not necessarily accelerating, mostly not caused by economic growth or prosperity, nor by climate change, and won’t be reversed by retreating into organic self-sufficiency. Here’s a few gentle correctives.

    For example: "Much of the human destruction of biodiversity happened a long time ago".

    The IPBES pronouncements were widely covered ("One million species at risk of extinction, UN report warns"). Ridley's rebuttal will be largely ignored.


  • And our Google LFOD News Alert rang for a Keene Sentinel story Booker sets sights on gun control ahead of NH return.

    Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker proposed sweeping reforms to gun ownership Monday and plans to pitch his prescription to New Hampshire voters this weekend.

    The New Jersey senator’s 14-part plan would regulate guns as a public health issue and require licenses for all gun owners, according to a blog post Booker wrote on Medium, a free publishing website.

    No surprise: It's the usual fear-driven "do something" set of proposals that would only impact law-abiding gun owners. Ah, but a LFOD defender has his say:

    But Republican state Rep. John Hunt said he sees Booker’s proposal as a misstep, particularly among “Live Free or Die” Granite Staters.

    “The Democrats have passed a lot of nanny bills this year, and gun control is certainly in the ‘nanny’ category,” Hunt said in comparing his Statehouse colleagues to Booker in what he considers legislative overreach.

    Hunt recalled another Statehouse anecdote to further his point.

    “I always find it ironic when everyone was talking about marijuana, and how everybody said ‘prohibitions don’t work,’ “ Hunt said. “And yet, you know, people want prohibition on guns as though that’s going to be a solution to gun violence.”

    Fortunately, Booker won't be our next president. Unfortunately, this means he'll probably continue in the Senate.