I’ve been studying for the CompTia A+ certification and entertaining a new lady friend in recent weeks, so my reading and reviewing has gotten a bit…torpid, shall we say. I haven’t been totally absorbed in specs and dates, though:
Make Russia Great Again by Christopher Buckley parodies the Trump administration, being a memoir of a former hotelier tapped as Trump’s chief of staff, there to serve until being arrested for…well, no spoilers. It’s classic Buckley, a mix of vulgarity and farce — fairly appropriate for the Trump years, I suppose, but aside from some mild interest in the plot (involving a rogue AI program sabotaging the Russian elections), the inanity didn’t make for an enjoyable story.
More interesting was Spying on Whales, which didn’t quite live up to its premise despite the promise of the subject. Although the author delves a little into whale behavior and the origins of these magnificent creatures, a lot of the content recorded his paleontology fieldwork, and I found myself just dragging along.
Broke USA: How the Working Poor Became Big Business examines the rise of check-cashing firms, pay-day & title loan joints, tax return loans, and the like — as well as the efforts of those who have checked their growth in places like Ohio. One of the more depressing aspects of managing a computer lab used by the public is witnessing people getting into debt spirals by applying for these things: I’ve tried to run interference over the years by casually pointing out how much they’ll actually be paying at those interest rates, but many people just…plug ahead. Although the book is largely critical of what the author calls “Poverty, Inc”, he does attempt to give some of the proprietors their fair shake, because much of their business does fill holes in the market overlooked by traditional banks — so much so that traditional banks have started getting into this business, and even closing down conventional branches to allow their shadier subsidiaries to move in with the title loans and such. Pleasingly, the book also covers the growth of an alternative-financing credit union that fills that same need without the predatory fees and aggressive collection racket. The book has a faint connection to the subprime collapse of ’07-08.
Speaking of which, I also read Russ Roberts’ Gambling with Other People’s Money, a 2010 analysis of the subprime collapse and the resulting recession. Although the complexities of high finance are still beyond me, Roberts’ essential argument — that corporations’ recklessness was spurred not only by lack of oversight, but because of DC’s track record of continually bailing out banks who made reckless investments –is one I’ve been convinced to over the years. If those who act irresponsibly are sheltered from the consequences, they will continue acting irresponsibly. It’s as true for corporations as for teenagers.
Today I expect to finish Captain’s Oath, by Christopher L. Bennett, a look at the early Captain Kirk. I’m enjoying it tremendously, as it includes a look at Kirk’s formative friendship with Gary Mitchell.
I’ve mostly abandoned/DNFed Devolution, which is supposedly a World War Z type thing about Bigfoot. It’s more of a conventional novel and the beginning was so filled with self-satisfied elites preening over their uber-green eco-village that I just don’t care. I may take another pass it it in October for Halloween-type reading. I’ll also be investigating She Comes by it Natural, a work related to Dolly Parton and the women she inspired.