What We Are Reading Today: The Mind of a Bee by Lars Chittka

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Updated 27 July 2022
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What We Are Reading Today: The Mind of a Bee by Lars Chittka

Most of us are aware of the hive mind—the power of bees as an amazing collective. But do we know how uniquely intelligent bees are as individuals?

In The Mind of a Bee, Lars Chittka draws from decades of research, including his own pioneering work, to argue that bees have remarkable cognitive abilities.

He shows that they are profoundly smart, have distinct personalities, can recognize flowers and human faces, exhibit basic emotions, count, use simple tools, solve problems, and learn by observing others. They may even possess consciousness.


What We Are Reading Today: The Loom of Time

Updated 29 September 2023
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What We Are Reading Today: The Loom of Time

Author: Robert D. Kaplan


Robert D. Kaplan’s The Loom of Time is a stunning exploration of the Greater Middle East, where lasting stability has often seemed just out of reach but may hold the key to the shifting world order of the twenty-first century. 

The Greater Middle East, which Kaplan defines as the vast region between the Mediterranean and China, encompasses much of the Arab world, parts of northern Africa, and Asia, existed for millennia as the crossroads of empires.

The Loom of Time is a challenging, clear-eyed book that promises to reframe our vision  of the global twenty-first century.
 


What We Are Reading Today: Reading It Wrong

Updated 29 September 2023
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What We Are Reading Today: Reading It Wrong

Author: Abigail Williams

Reading It Wrong is a new history of 18th-century English literature that explores what has been everywhere evident but rarely talked about: the misunderstanding, muddle and confusion of readers of the past when they first met the uniquely elusive writings of the period. 

Abigail Williams uses the marginal marks and jottings of these readers to show that flawed interpretation has its own history in understanding how, why and what we read. 

Reading It Wrong tells how a combination of changing readerships and fantastically tricky literature created the perfect grounds for puzzlement and partial comprehension. 


What We Are Reading Today: Love is a Dog From Hell by Charles Bukowski

Updated 26 September 2023
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What We Are Reading Today: Love is a Dog From Hell by Charles Bukowski

The poetry collection, “Love is a Dog From Hell” by Charles Bukowski, published in 1977, explores love, relationships, loneliness, and the dark side of human existence.

Bukowski examines the ups and downs of romantic relationships, often presenting a bleak and disillusioned perspective. He delves into topics such as heartbreak, longing, desire, and the pain that can arise from love.

The title reflects Bukowski’s view that love as a force can both uplift and destroy, much like a wild and unruly dog.

Bukowski reflects on his own experiences and observations of the human condition. He draws from personal encounters with the seedy underbelly of society, and moments of introspection, to craft his poetic narratives.

Two of his most captivating lines are: “There is a loneliness in this world so great that you can see it in the slow movement of the hands of a clock. People so tired mutilated either by love or no love.”

Bukowski was an American poet and writer known for his raw, gritty, brutally honest and cynical depictions of life.

He was born in Germany and moved to the US with his family when he was a child.

After completing high school, he attended Los Angeles City College for two years and took courses in art, journalism and literature.

Throughout his life, Bukowski continued to educate himself through extensive reading, exploring a wide range of literary works from both classic and contemporary authors.

He immersed himself in the works of writers including Fyodor Dostoevsky, Ernest Hemingway, John Fante and Louis-Ferdinand Celine.

As reflected in his works, Bukowski had a difficult childhood and adolescence, marked by poverty, abuse and alienation.


What We Are Reading Today: Butterflies of the East Coast

Updated 26 September 2023
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What We Are Reading Today: Butterflies of the East Coast

Authors: Rick Cech & Guy Tudor

Here is an accessible, informative, and highly illustrated book that offers a fresh view of butterflies in the East Coast states, from the Atlantic seaboard to the Appalachians.

In addition to providing a wealth of facts and photos, the book is the first to furnish detailed and up-to-date photo-illustrated information on the host plants favored by particular species.

With 234 full-page species accounts and accompanying range maps, plus more than 950 large-size color photos, it is an essential reference work for field observers, gardeners, educators, and conservation managers.


Review: Be prepared for deep story and complexity in ‘Baldur’s Gate 3’

Updated 26 September 2023
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Review: Be prepared for deep story and complexity in ‘Baldur’s Gate 3’

  • Latest incarnation of the 1998 series creates very human experience despite outrageous fantasy world

LONDON: The “Baldur’s Gate” series dates to 1998 and this latest incarnation (available for both PC and PS5) allows gamers into a vast and hugely complex fantasy world of Dungeons and Dragons, with hundreds of customization options as you weave your story from the depths of the Underdark, to the glittering rooftops of the Upper City.

For those unfamiliar with the series, adjusting to this world, its history and lore, as well as the practical aspects of turn-based role-playing game, or RPG, combat, can be difficult. But, if you are willing to persevere, you are rewarded with a story of incredible depth all shaped by your choices.

The story begins — following significant time choosing your character’s class and appearance — with you trapped on a nautiloid ship where you witness an Illithid also known as “mind flayer” place a tadpole into your brain. One dramatic air battle with dragons later and you are free and desperate to cure this contagion.

As ever with RPGs, you balance a central quest alongside a steadily increasing number of side quests. There is a fair amount of dialogue but the choices within it, which often involve going to the role of a dice, feel substantive and the silky tones of the narrator give you greater immersion into the impressive world that you find yourself in. 

Combat is turn-based and akin to a game of chess with each of your four-person team possessing certain skills and strengths that need to be knitted together for success. Again, the pace of this style of game is very different from the quick reactions of other more conventional fighting fantasies like “Elden Ring” but again after a time complexity becomes familiarity.

Movement around the battle space is limited, jumping becomes an important attribute and enemy spells or actions like throwing grease can force some of your party to miss their turn, sometimes with lethal implications. Leveling up is a serious affair offering a host of new skills, but patience is required to read and understand each. 

The dice mechanic can seem a bit arbitrary at first but once you get to grip with the logic of a character’s developing strengths it can reinforce the sense that your choices matter. Charismatic characters can persuade non-playable characters to do what they want, whilst stronger ones can try and use intimidation to get to a similar outcome. Again, it is worth spending time slowly understanding the menus, dialogue histories and item effects to really get the most out of the game. 

The world is varied and can be fast-travelled. Music and atmosphere are both solid but one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game is the relationship between your tadpole-infected group of four. It is your choices that determine who you travel with, and the world’s history will mean some companions will not get on with each other. Time spent resting in the game’s “camp” facility offers further dialogue and the chance for your characters’ relationships to become stronger. This all means that “Baldur’s Gate 3” creates a very human experience despite the outrageous fantasy world in which it is based.