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Currently reading The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi.

In the novel plagues, sea level rise and the depletion of carbon fuel sources have altered the face of the planet. Biotech megacorps seek to hack together genetic information from what few crops remain in order build foods resistant to the new diseases and monopolize the calorie market. It’s a sort of agricultural cyberpunk. Like all good cyberpunk, it takes place in a familiar feeling future that may not be too far distant.

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Currently reading The Accidental Guerrilla by David Kilcullen.

Kilcullen draws on his decades of experience in asymmetric warfare to develop his theory of fighting small wars in the midst of a big one and the failure of both classical counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency on the modern battlefield.

The local fighter is therefore often an accidental guerrilla — fighting us because we are in his space, not because he wishes to invade ours… he is engaged in “resistance” rather than “insurgency” and fights principally to be left alone.

…The dynamic interaction between the modern international system of nation-states (especially its self-appointed defender, the United States) and these two discrete but often interconnected and loosely cooperating classes of nonstate opponent — terrorist and guerrilla, postmodern and premodern, nihilist and traditionalist, deliberate and accidental — may be part of what gives todays’ “hybrid wars” much of their savagery and complexity.

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Currently reading The Mauritius Command by Patrick O’Brian.

O’Brian’s Aubrey–Maturin series is a daunting twenty novels, which I was finally motivated to begin after reading a comment on a blog post last year. I am now on the fourth book and — despite not having read historical fiction before this (excepting The Difference Engine and The Baroque Cycle) — have been quite enjoying the relationship between the characters of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, along with O’Brian’s meticulous detailing of Napoleonic-era naval life and combat.

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Across Asia on a Bicycle

In 1891, Thomas Gaskell Allen and William Lewis Sachtleben set out from St. Louis, Missouri to ride their bicycles around the world. Across Asia on a Bicycle is the account of the Asian leg of their 15,044 mile journey — from Constantinople to Peking. It is an excellent read and, along with Journey to the Centre of the Earth, sits as my favorite cycling book.

Illustration from Across Asia on a Bicycle: Evening halt in a village

Despite their journey having taken place over 100 years ago, when the safety bicycle was little more than a decade old, their luggage is recognizable as a modern bikepacking setup: a framebag, small seatpost bag, and a bedroll strapped to the handlebars. In preparation for their ride through the Gobi into China, they stripped their load down further.

Our work of preparation was principally a process of elimination. We now had to prepare for a forced march in case of necessity. Handle-bars and seat-posts were shortened to save weight, and even the leather baggage-carriers, fitting in the frames of the machines, which we wourselves had patented before leaving England, were replaced by a couple of sleeping-bags made for us out of woolen shawls and Chinese oiled-canvas. The cutting off of buttons and extra parts of our clothing, as well as the shaving of our heads and faces, was also included by our friends in the list of curtailments. For the same reason one of our cameras, which we always carried on our backs, and refilled at night under the bedclothes, we sold to a Chinese photographer at Suidun, to make room for an extra provision-bag.

This book was another recommendation by Joe Cruz, who also has some photos of Allen and Sachtleben on his blog.

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