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Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten
Boomsday - Christopher Buckley The British newspapers the last few days have been full of dire figures about our national balance sheet. Officially, Britain owes £903B, which already doesn't sound good. But, if you take into account the fact that a large proportion of Britain's pension obligations aren't funded, the number goes up to a terrifying £5T - about another £200K per household. One article said that, in order to balance the books, we would need to raise taxes by 30%.

Clearly that isn't going to happen. The problem is that everyone's suddenly woken up to a rather unpleasant truth. It's been an article of faith for a long time that economic growth is good: you rely on the fact that people in the future will be richer than they are now, and borrow against it. Alas, it turns out that this is just another version of the standard pyramid scheme, and has the same weakness; things go fine for a while, but in the end you run out of suckers to recruit. If you actually happen to know something about macroeconomics, please don't point out all six errors in what I just said. I know I'm ignorant. All the same, I don't think it's completely at variance with reality.

So what are we going to do? I'm afraid I have no idea. But Christopher Buckley presents an imaginative solution! It would be so convenient if all those expensive and useless pensioners just went and killed themselves. Perhaps, with the right tax incentives, they could be persuaded to do so?

It's really funny. Not quite as funny as Doctor Strangelove, though it isn't Buckley's fault that unfunded pension obligations aren't as amusing as global thermonuclear war. He makes the most of his material.