Sunday, January 13, 2019

Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond, by Sonia Shah

book cover After I've read Barry's The Great Influenza I had resigned myself to never read a book as well researched, as interesting and as viscerally informative, so when I started reading Pandemic, by Sonia Shah I had low expectations. And the book blew me away!

While I did notice some factual errors along the way, stuff that was either insufficiently researched or used for dramatic purposes, Pandemic was amazingly good. And terribly disgusting. If Barry took the high road of celebrating the heroes in the fight against pathogens, Shah writes so that every chapter destroyed more and more of my fate in humanity. By the end of the book I was rooting for a disease that just comes and kills us all to spare us the embarrassment of being human.

I mean, the investigation starts with cholera and the undignified way in which it makes you involuntarily squirt every liquid you have until you look and feel like a desiccated corpse and if you don't die the chances are people will confuse you with a corpse and bury you alive. But then it got to the horrid conditions that existed before the 20th century even in New York, a place where the population density exceeded that of modern Tokyo five times and people would wallow in their own excrement thrown in the streets and infesting their water supply. Then it described an epidemic of cholera in such a hellish place; can't get any more disgusting, right?

But wait, then there is a chapter on corruption and how financial interests caused the death of thousands just so some people can build a bank corporation like JPMorgan Chase, the biggest US bank today, built on literally feeding shit to people until they died. Diseases not allowed to come into the public eye for the sake of tourism and all that crap. Can it get worse? Yes, because once the disease is there, the blame game is on. The cause of the disease is not germs, the blame is not on a corrupt medical or political system, the fault lies solely on dirty immigrants, gays, minorities and if all else fails, the aid workers that are trying to help, but probably brought the contagion themselves on some sinister agenda.

And then we get to the point where we learn our brilliant present is based just on the ignorance or indifference to present dangers or current super bug pandemics. After all the horror the book presents, the end result is but a whimper, business as usual, ineffective uninformed lethargic reactions to attacks that started decades ago and were completely ignored (pooh-poohed, to use Shah's expression, alarmingly suggestive of choleric excrement). The science is way better, the attitudes remain pre 19th century.

I feel like The Great Influenza, Pandemic and I Contain Multitudes are three books that need to be read together, like a pack. Followed or perhaps preceded by Sapiens. I know, these are all books I've recently read and there are probably hundreds more that could join a list based on topic, but to me all of these stories clicked like puzzle pieces and opened my eyes to a complete picture.

In conclusion, I highly recommend reading Pandemic. It's good for the people in the medical field, it's good for people that couldn't care less (they will after reading it), it's a must read.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Dans les forêts de Sibérie, by Sylvain Tesson

Romanian book cover I started to read the book in French, so as to remember the language from my high school years, but then got lazy and after a chapter read it in my native Romanian. The literal translation would be In the Forests of Siberia, but for some reason it was translated as The Consolations of the Forest in English. Either title is misleading, as the forests are not really relevant to the story and the whole thing is a personal journal of a French misanthrope who decided to spend six months alone on the shores of lake Baikal.

I am unfamiliar with the work of Sylvain Tesson, he is a journalist and a traveler and I couldn't compare this with other things he wrote, but judging by Goodreads' description of him, this must be his most famous book. Did I like it? I didn't dislike it. In itself is a daily journal and has very little literary value other than the metaphors Tesson uses to express his feelings. Some land true, some simply don't work. There are no detailed descriptions of the landscape either. The author does not paint with his words, he mostly whines. If there are people around, he will insult their nation and their presence in his thoughts, while being civil and hospitable to them; if there are no people around, he will complain about the nature of society, humanity, religion or state. Left alone for a while, though, he will start to be more positive, inspired by nature, but also by the books he devours and then annoyingly feels compelled to quote from.

Some of his emotions ring true, it makes the read compelling and generates thoughts of how the reader would feel or act in the author's stead. Some descriptions sound exactly like what most people, alone in the (proximity of the) woods would produce if their only company were liters of vodka. What I am trying to say is that the book is a journal written by an egotist, therefore describing only him. The beautiful lake, the woods, people, dogs, the wild bears or anything else are just props so we can all bask in his personality... which is pretty shitty. Just as a small example: in four months of journal he mentions his need of random women coming into his hut twice. He mentions he has a girlfriend once. After getting dumped via SMS he whines continuously about how he lost the love of his life which now has no meaning and only his two dogs (received as pups when he got there) helped him through it. After the six months pass, he just leaves the dogs there, proclaiming his love for them.

So, an informative book about how a random French writer asshole felt while living alone in the cold Russian wilderness, but little else. Apparently there is a 2016 movie made after the book. You might want to try that.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Shoggoths in Bloom and Other Stories, by Elizabeth Bear

book cover I've always had the nagging feeling that someone who writes well could do wonders with the Lovecraft "mythos". A lot have tried and most have failed miserably, because Lovecraft was weird and his horror feelings came from being really intolerant of almost anything, but I am still trying to read things inspired by the man in hope I would find something very good.

Unfortunately, Shoggoths in Bloom is one of the shortest stories in this collection of short stories by Elizabeth Bear, is only loosely based on Lovecraft's ideas and is not horror. In fact, none of the stories in the book were horror and some weren't even fantastical, but verged on personal or perhaps historical fantasy. The quality was inconsistent, with some shorts being nice and others a nightmare to finish. Funny thing is one of the stories I liked, Tideline, I had listened to before on the Escape Pod web site.

Bottom line, Bear seems to be an accomplished writer and her writing is good, but I wouldn't recommend this collection, from the standpoint of quality, but also because it uses a Lovecraft concept to sell something completely different.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Sonar Source rule 3906 Event Handlers should have the correct signature

Sonar Source code static analysis rule RSPEC-3906 states:
Delegate event handlers (i.e. delegates used as type of an event) should have a very specific signature:
  • Return type void.
  • First argument of type System.Object and named 'sender'.
  • Second argument of type System.EventArgs (or any derived type) and is named 'e'.

The problem was that I was getting the warning on a simple event declared as EventHandler<TEventArgs>. Going to its source code page revealed the reason in a comment: // Removed TEventArgs constraint post-.NET 4.