Wednesday What We’re Reading (Jan. 22, 2020)

Winter Wargaming may be slightly delayed—I have a lot of writing left to do on that front, and tonight in which to do it.


  • Rainbox Six, a re-read. The last time I read it was also post-9/11, but I’m much better informed about the state of the world today than I was last time, and the starkness of the divergence between that fictional timeline and our real one is worth mentioning.
  • Castles of Steel, a re-read in progress. I’m up to just past the Dardanelles. That particular campaign (the naval side, not the ugly, unproductive land side) strikes me as one we can’t really game out. Could the Royal Navy have forced the straits alone? Maybe so. But, if so, would the Ottoman Empire have collapsed? Nobody knows for sure, and neither can we design a wargame which gives us an impartial answer.
  • The Mauritius Command, which I thought was a re-read, but now that I’m halfway through I’m not so sure. You can’t go wrong with Patrick O’Brian.


  • Return of the Obra-Dinn, a rollicking good nautically-themed murder mystery. The conceit: an empty ship floats into harbor circa 1807. You, an insurance investigator, go aboard, with a watch in your possession which permits you to view the moment at which a person died, given a bit of their body (or a vision of their body in a vision of someone else’s death). Worth the price of entry.
  • A Painted Ocean. It’s not so much a game as a toy, but it’s a brilliant little toy: you’re the skipper of a full-rigged ship with detailed physics, and you sail it around. That’s the whole game. It’s delightful. The only thing that seems a bit off to me is that she has a habit of ‘sticking’ by the wind as you come out of a tack, not making enough way for the rudder to bear her up; I usually have to reef the mizzen-sails and the spanker to get her head to come away from the wind.



Science and Technology



Grab Bag

  1. I’m not much of a gambler myself, beyond the socially acceptable kind where you hold a basket of mutual funds for 40 years, but if I did want to engage in Pennsylvania’s most recently legalized vice, it would be on the back of a neural network trained to predict, say, hockey games. Sports betting is nice in the same way that poker is, in that you’re not playing against a house who is permitted by law to fleece you, but against the rest of the betters. With a little elbow grease, you can be better at it than they are. 

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