Albert Einstein’s first wife Mileva is the beleaguered and mistreated protagonist in this novel. [Spoiler alert!] The author has imagined a life for her of neglect and emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her famous physicist husband. In the book she is the one who discovers or founds the theory of Special Relativity while Albert takes the credit. The story line is engaging and based on some credible research, but according to sources such as Wikipedia and the author’s own postscript, there is little or no direct evidence of Albert Einstein being the abusive and selfish person portrayed in the book. Rather the book is more of a metaphor for how women were marginalized by men, especially in science, not only then, but to this day. No doubt that has largely been true in general, but it doesn’t mean it happened in Einstein’s case. Reading it, I felt the author was trying to make a modern-day women’s empowerment statement rather than an accurate historical account. This gave the story a rather creepy “let’s speak ill of the dead” feeling. I would say the story is one-sided, seeing things only from Mileva’s view, except it really is no-sided since there is little or no evidence Mileva felt in any way abused or overlooked in her contribution to science. For all we know she was happy to leave the world of physics and become a devoted mother and hausfrau. The book is well-written enough to have allowed me to keep reading to the end, but it took on more of a feeling of a rant rather than an attempt to entertain. Had it not been a book club selection, I would probably not have finished it.
Watch any local newscast and you’ll hear or read at least a dozen errors in English, but usually the national news is more professional. Usually. Tonight, however, I had the displeasure of listening to Alpine skiing commentator Bode Miller and some other NBC sports guy.
Sports guy: “This is his first time at the Olympics. He’s in unchartered territory.” (should be uncharted).
Miller: “He’s being really laxadaisical.” (should be lackadaisical or lax, but not both combined)
This superb thriller has been called a “twisty mystery.” That is perhaps a pretty good description, but it’s not really a murder mystery … or is it? The main character, Lo, a travel magazine writer, is on a promotional cruise to see the northern lights off the Norway coast. She hears a splash in the middle of the night, what she thinks is a body being thrown overboard from the cabin next door, Cabin 10. But is it a murder or an artifact of her drunken state? There was a young woman in that cabin but she seems to have disappeared.
I think of this as more of a thriller than a mystery, although the plot is mysterious enough. There are no police and there is no body. The suspense comes from trying to determine whether Lo is delusional, whom she can trust, and what dark doings are going on aboard, if any. Is this a psychological thriller about a disturbed woman’s mental state or a tale of avarice and killing? I’m not telling.
I am a victim of sex discrimination. I participate in my neighborhood Nextdoor.com group. For the most part it has been useful. Recently they introduced a feature known as interest groups. One such group was called Book Lovers, which sounded like a rather conventional category of people interested in participating in a book club. One woman posted that she was holding an organizing meeting to form such a book club and asked people to sign up if they were interested. I read a lot and enjoy the one book club I’m in so I emailed her. I got a response from her that she had received a lot more interest than she had anticipated and they would be forming four separate clubs. She said she’d be back in touch with me.
A week later she emailed me and said that I was the only man who had expressed interest and the women had voted to exclude me. I found this disturbing. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not outraged or going to sue or anything like that. The organizer said no one wanted to discuss the same kinds of books I read (fiction and non-fiction). I read a wide variety of books and I had sent her a link to my Goodreads reviews which show that variety. I find it hard to believe that not one of these groups would be reading any of the books I enjoy. I asked her what kinds of books the groups would be reading. She never replied. I’ve been in a mixed male/female book club in the past and everyone got along just fine. I actually don’t want to belong to a book club that reads nothing but romances or women’s empowerment issues, so perhaps one or two of those newly formed clubs would not be suitable for me, but all four? In the end, the inverse of the Groucho Marx rule applies: I wouldn’t belong to any club that wouldn’t have someone like me for a member, so it’s probably all for the best. If I’m not wanted for any reason, I don’t want to force my way in. It’s not a glass ceiling I feel compelled to break. It’s supposed to be for fun and that doesn’t sound fun.
But the really disturbing thing about this is that my exclusion was based simply on my sex, without a single one of the anonymous voters knowing me. This is indicative of what’s happening in politics and all aspects of modern life in America, it sees – people don’t want to associate with anyone who doesn’t share their own beliefs and preferences. It may not be as bad as the slavery in the deep south of yesteryear, but the general attitude more and more now is if that person is different from me, they’re bad. It’s called bigotry.
Edit: after I posted a link to this blog post on Nextdoor.com my post was reported for violating Nextdoor’s guidelines. Although it’s not spelled out, I can only presume one of the women who voted to exclude me didn’t like the implication she was a bigot. Here’s a quote from the email I received from the group organizer:
“I need to let you know that you are the only male that responded to this book club start-up; … With 30+ women responding, there was a vote at the first meeting to have it be ladies only.”
Now imagine the following:
“I need to let you know that you are the only black that responded to this book club start-up; … With 30+ whites responding, there was a vote at the first meeting to have it be whites only.”
“I need to let you know that you are the only Jew …”
“I need to let you know that you are the only gay …”
Judge for yourself.
Today I ran at Rancho San Antonio from the horse trailer lot through the farm up the creek side of the Wildcat Loop to the fork for the lower Wildcat Loop and back, a total of about 4.5 miles. This is something of a milestone for me. It’s the longest run I’ve done since the Rock n Roll 10k I shouldn’t have done (but did) and since my surgery. I feel like I’m finally getting back to normal. It was a beautiful 70 degree day there, by the way.
I’ll back up. On 8/27/17 I signed up for the San Jose Rock n Roll 10K scheduled for Oct. 7. My son was running the half marathon and I saw it as a great father-son event. I’d been running well and thought I was in good shape for it. 10K was a distance I could handle. On Sept. 5 I was running at a nice slow jog and felt a sudden stab like a knife in my left upper Achilles tendon/lower calf. In any event, I couldn’t run. I limped back to my car. I couldn’t run for the next month. Two days after the injury I had a biopsy for something unrelated. It came back positive. The doctor prescribed Cipro (an antibiotic) for the biopsy, apparently unaware that a black box warning for that drug warned that Cipro can cause increased risk for Achilles tendinitis or rupture, especially in men over 65 who are physically active and have blood type O. I am all of the above. Sure enough, I got excruciating tendinitis in the right tendon two days later despite no physical activity. That lasted about 10 days, until the drug left my system. My left tendon, meanwhile, still hurt badly from the injury. Needless to say, I couldn’t run. I couldn’t even walk farther than from my easy chair to the bathroom. My doctor ordered me not to run the 10K. My entry fees were non-refundable, but the race was a month away, so I thought maybe I could walk it by then. The day before the race I picked up my race packet and had no trouble walking two miles, the longest I’d walked since the biopsy.
I did the race. I tried to walk it at first, but the crowd was so dense around me that I had to jog lightly to avoid collisions with people around me. I felt good and both tendons weren’t hurting so I couldn’t resist the urge to keep jogging. After about a third of the race I realized I’d made a mistake. My injured left tendon began to hurt pretty bad, so I started walking. It continued to get worse. After another third or so I was limping badly. I broke into a halting limp/jog just so I could get back to my car sooner. Somehow I finished first in my age group (70+). Everyone else must have crawled it. Anyway, my injury was exacerbated and I could barely walk for a month, much less run. By mid November I was just getting able to jog short distances again, although my tendon still hurt and I was out of shape. I did maybe two or three short runs.
On November 21 I had “minor” cancer surgery which turned out to be not so minor. Don’t worry, I’m not dying or anything. If you really want the grisly details you can search this blog and find them. It did require me not to run for a month. So my conditioning got even worse. When I did resume running weeks later, I couldn’t run more than a mile without becoming completely winded. There were other unpleasant side effects from my treatment, too, which limited my ability to run. Slowly over the last six weeks or so I have resumed running. It hasn’t been fun, but I knew that if I didn’t force myself to get back in shape, it never would be. I’m still a long way from where I want to be, and my left Achilles still hurts some, but today was the first day since Sept. 5 that I actually enjoyed running like I used to. I swear I’m not going to do any more races and not going to try to run fast. My goal now is just to avoid injury so I can continue to run regularly and appreciate the beautiful country and gorgeous weather we have here.
I have a hobby of solving ciphers. I also solve and create crosswords. I have several tools I’ve written using the Delphi programming language to assist me in these hobbies. It recently occurred to me that there may be faster ways of doing certain functions I need, such as character counts. So I decided to test three methods of determining whether a given character is contained in a word, phrase, or collection of text characters. For purposes of my test, I decided to test whether a given character is a lower case letter in the English alphabet (a through z). I tested a loop containing five characters a,z,m,n, and 7 which I designated as ch1 through ch5;
The first method is to use Delphi’s reserved word ‘in’. This is a set function. To use this you must first create the comparison set. So define alph as the set [a]+[b]+[c], etc. Note that these elements are not ordered. “In” is a boolean function, so the statement ch1 in alph will return a true or false.
The second method is to use an array. Define the array as an array of characters with an index from 1 to 26 (or 0 to 25 if you prefer). Use the statement for i2 := 1 to 26 do if alph2[i2]>ch1 then break else if alph2[i2]=ch1 then …; You don’t want the loop to keep searching after it has found the character, so that is the reason for the first if clause. I tested the method both ways, using that if clause and not using it.
The last method is the string function Pos. This returns the position of a character or substring in another string, or, if it is not there, a 0. To use it define the comparison string S1 as ‘abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz’ and the statement Pos(ch1,S1)>0 will return a true or false.
I ran a loop of 100,000 iterations testing each of the five characters using each of the methods. The first method was the fastest at 15 microseconds. The array with the first if clause was next at 16 microseconds. Third was the array method without the first if clause at 31 microseconds, and last was the Pos method at 78 seconds. Although the set method is the fastest, it has a big drawback. It doesn’t tell you where in the set the character appears. Sets in general are also limited to types byte or character meaning only 255 elements. The array method is almost as fast and has neither of these limitations. It is not as powerful, however, as the Pos method because that method can test not just characters but substrings of any length, such as whole words and it identifies where it occurs if it’s there. This is probably the most often needed of the three. All three methods can be useful, but they are best suited to different purposes.
Recently a friend started a Facebook thread about whether using punctuation, namely, a period, is proper or insulting in a text. Here’s an article about it: Article
Here’s what I posted as a comment to the thread:
I solved this long ago: I don’t text. I used to have texting blocked on my phone so others couldn’t text me, either, but too many web accounts require texting as a second form of security that I had to relent. However, I still consider a text an insult, an indication that someone doesn’t think I’m worth writing to in full, proper sentences. It’s tantamount to someone calling me on the phone and when I answer telling me not to answer so he can just leave a message on my voice mail and not have to talk to me.
This mishmash of science fiction, horror, and thriller is set in post-WWII, sometimes in Detroit, sometimes in Iowa or Africa. Phillip and his rock band, The Danes, are conscripted to help the military identify and perhaps neutralize some strange musical sound that disables all weapons. They travel to the Namib desert to find its source. Further description of the plot would be pointless because that’s what the plot is. The author tried and failed to conjure up suspense and prickles up the spine. I don’t know who or what recommended this book to me, but if I could remember, I would discount all their further recommendations.
Ng has written with insight and compassion about teenage angst (and lust), about the artist’s unconventional world view and lifestyle, but most importantly about the nature of motherhood. The plot revolves largely around issues of adoption, surrogate mothering, child abandonment, and how parents can be blind about their own children due to their bias (which we call love). I thought the trial story line handled these issues in a fair and balanced way. Even so, I can’t say I found the plot very compelling. There were several times I considered giving up on it out of boredom; I’m glad I didn’t, though. It was more plodding than plotting, but if you stick with it, it gives you food for thought.
I’ve been playing with auto crash data from NHTSA again. The image below identifies every fatal crash in 2016 by make of the vehicle(s) involved. Click on the image to see it full size in good resolution.
I find it interesting in several ways. First, I notice the makes seem to cluster a bit. The expensive makes tend to locate around Los Gatos, an expensive area, so not too surprising, but overall luxury brands seem to be underrepresented based on my experience seeing what’s on the road. In other words, they seem to be involved in fewer fatal crashes than expected based on numbers on the road. This may be because they are safer vehicles, because the owners drive more safely, or even because they are stolen less often than other makes.
Second, Fords and Hondas cluster around the east side of the valley, Dodges and Jeeps in the central area near downtown. This may be coincidence or perhaps it has to do with dealerships. Most notable, though, to me is the high number in East San Jose on city streets, not freeways. This coincides with crime reports. That area tends to have a lot of bars and violent incidents involving drinking or drugs, although I don’t have hard numbers on that. For those not familiar with the area, the hills to the west are the more expensive areas to live, the east side more working class, although homes get more expensive again up in the eastern hills.
I was also surprised at how many were solo crashes, especially in East San Jose. I suspect drunk driving was involved in a lot of those. You can see some data points with two car makes listed next to them, but they are hard to spot. I created a KML file and loaded it into Google Earth for this. It was an interesting technical exercise, and if you want to know how to do it, contact me using the contact link above. This file allows the user to zoom in on Google Earth and see the crash marker in more detail. Sometimes more vehicles pop out that way. See the image below; I circled a few examples. I only loaded car makes into the data file, but it is possible to include other data in the KML file as long as it can be represented in an Excel file. For example, it might be interested to show this data marked with time of day.
Bear in mind that just because a car was involved in a fatal accident, it doesn’t mean anyone in that car died. Sometimes the death was a pedestrian or bicyclist or in a multi-car crash only one car had a fatality. This map does not show cause or fault, either.
This tome’s subtitle describes it better than its title. It is a history, not a book on genetics per se. The author describes how genetics emerged as a science with experimenters like Mendel and his pea plants and finishes up with the latest developments in gene splicing with the CRISPR tool. The writing is clear, easy-to-understand (at least for the relatively well-read with a biology class or two), and well-researched. There is quite a bit of repetition, so the reader can skip liberally, which is probably necessary for most people since it is a very long book. I think it was about halfway through the book before researchers even recognized the concept of a gene. If you are interested in the subject but want a deeper understanding of what’s happening today in gene research, I recommend Jennifer Doudna’s A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution which is more up-to-date but also more technical.
This is not a medical book, nor is it in any way related to ancestry or genealogy. To be sure, it does mention many gene-related diseases and some progress (or setbacks) in the area of gene therapy, but that is a relatively small part of the book. It does not explain how genome companies like 23andMe or Ancestry.com determine your ethnic ancestry from your genes. It is, however a broad treatment of the history of genetics research and discovery and well-written. I take some issue with the author’s final conclusions. I believe he has inserted his own moral judgments rather liberally into what he calls the “scientific, philosophical, and moral lessons of this history.” For example, his lesson 9 says every genetic “illness” is a mismatch between an organism’s genome and its environment. In other words, every such illness is, or would be, actually of benefit in some other environment. I disagree. That may be true of some diseases such as sickle-cell disease, which is harmful, but the sickle-cell trait (conferred when only one parent provides the gene) provides some protection against malaria which is no doubt why it hasn’t been expunged through natural selection. But there are other genetic diseases that confer no benefit. The child is born with horrible mutations that lead rapidly to a painful death. Some diseases are simply genetic mistakes.
Santa brought us a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle so now this is me:
I often hear news reporters say something like “John Young was only one of three people who have visited the moon twice” or “she was only one of two people to have survived the plane crash.” What they mean is “John Young was one of only three people who have visited the moon twice” and “she was one of only two people to have survived the plane crash.”
The word “only” signifies that the number to follow is unexpectedly or unfortunately low or otherwise shows rarity. Of course John Young is only one person. How many people can one person be? It makes no sense to say he is only one in this context, since there are two others. The number in the first example that is low is three, i.e. the number of people who have visited the moon twice. In the second example it is the number two. Those are the numbers that should have the word only directly before them. This is one subtype of a more general rule that modifiers should come immediately before the word they modify.
This is what a mystery/detective novel should be. The story is riveting, the detecting is superb, there is an affecting love story as a subplot, and all this without gore, sadism, f-bombs, or other objectionable material. The extensive vocabulary for once treats the reader as an intelligent, educated human being. I do wish Holmes wasn’t portrayed as a cocaine user, but that ship has sailed long ago. I wish publishers today would take a lesson from this book, but I fear this kind of quality is long gone. The reader, David Timson, is excellent, doing all the voices in different, easily distinguishable accents.
Every so often I’ve used the predictive power of the Google Ngram Viewer to create a story from a seed phrase. I fed Ngram the italicized words in the story and the website predicts the next word based on the last three or four words. It gives the ten most frequent following words (if there are that many). Occasionally I had to use the second or third word instead of the first to avoid lengthy run-on sentences or loops, but other than the seed phrases, the story is google’s.
Who would have believed that the world was created by God. No one ever said that to me before I left for the United States. Nevertheless I couldn’t help but notice that the second and third centuries are the most common cause of death. Then, surprisingly, he was not a man to be a man of the world. On New Year’s Day in Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley in the early days of their marriage he had been a member of the family. That region was not a part of the body of the text is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.
The taint is elsewhere.
It is now a month after I had brachytherapy for my prostate cancer. I still have some unpleasant side effects, but they are much less intrusive than before. I also still have some unpleasant interaction with doctors. Read on.
A couple of weeks after the procedure I received a letter from my health insurance company that if I needed a long-term (90 day) prescription for Tamsulosin (generic Flomax) I needed to switch from the drug store I used for the first prescription to their mail order service or another local pharmacy that participates in their discount service. I could tell I would need a refill, so even though it was cheap at the pharmacy I used first (about $5.00 for a 1-month supply) I wanted to make it cheaper for the health plan as they had requested. I messaged Dr. A that I wanted to switch from the pharmacy he had sent the first Rx to and to send a 90-day one to Pharmacy #2. He replied quickly that he would. Three days later he still had not and I was down to my last five days worth. So I called my health plan’s drug service and explained and they said they would contact the doctor and get it renewed through them and they would send my refill by mail. Two days later I got an email from them saying the doctor had not responded. I was down to my last two pills and had decided I would have to get a refill at the original pharmacy. However, before I got around to that, that pharmacy called me and told me my prescription was ready. Dr. A had sent a 90-day refill there instead of to the one that participated in the discount program. Even though he had read my message, he apparently had not understood anything other than I wanted a refill. He totally disregarded which pharmacy I wanted it sent to, even though I included the name, address and phone number of that pharmacy in my written message. He also disregarded the request from the mail order people. Ironically, the new Rx cost the same amount ($5 a month) as before, and less than the mail order service provided, and it was for twice as much because the doctor had doubled the dosage. I didn’t need the double dosage, so now I have a six-month supply at what is effectively $2.50/mo but will probably only need another two or three weeks worth, based on my progress. What a waste; only drug companies benefit while your premiums and mine go higher. All because the doctor didn’t read my message carefully and didn’t do what he said he would. Doctors are clueless about insurance.
So a few days ago I was sitting at home and got a call from the office of Dr. K. The woman there asked if I could come in for my 1-month follow-up. She wanted to know if I could come right away. What the heck!? If I was supposed to have a 1-month follow-up, why didn’t they schedule that much earlier, at the same time they scheduled the procedure, for example? The patient is supposed to drop everything during the holidays and run right over if the doctor calls? She told me it would only take 15 minutes and if I couldn’t do it, I wouldn’t be able to get an appointment until mid-January (three weeks away). I had another doctor’s appointment (annual vision check) right after lunch, but fortunately I was free for the morning so I decided to get it over with. I took my book (foresight!) and went. I was quickly given a CT scan, which is standard procedure to verify the seed placement after the swelling has gone down, The attendant tried to put me in an examining room, but they were all full (which flummoxed her), so I sat in the waiting room reading waiting for the doctor. They obviously weren’t really prepared for me, which makes we wonder why they called me in. Half an hour later I was getting visibly peeved and the receptionist noticed it. She apologized for the delay. I told her I had another appointment and wasn’t going to skip lunch to make it, so if the doctor didn’t see me in the next five minutes I was going to have to leave. Two minutes later Dr. K emerged and asked “who’s next?” The receptionist pointed to me. I sat down with him in an exam room and he asked about my post-operative side effects, etc. It was pretty standard stuff, no surprises for me and apparently not for him. But when I asked him the results of the CT scan he told me “they’ll be fine – they always are.” He obviously hadn’t looked at them yet. I then asked him to confirm what I’d remembered about the number of seeds and needles used in the procedure. He didn’t remember and left the room to get my file, which he obviously hadn’t even reviewed before seeing me. He came back and confirmed that my recollection was correct as to those numbers. I asked him what my prostate size was, something that is sometimes important in rates of recurrence or future treatment options if the PSA goes up again. He didn’t remember that either and flipped through some pages, but couldn’t find it. That was what I had come in for the first time I saw him, to measure my prostate, but now he can’t find it. He obviously had no recollection of me as a patient and was making almost no attempt to answer my questions.
For what it’s worth, my eye exam was done quickly and professionally and everything was fine there. I have a great ophthalmologist. She and the optometrist in her office are female and had to stand near me, but I’m safe for a pregnant woman or anyone else to be near now. I’m able to run again, although I need to stay near a bathroom. My Achilles tendon is manageable, although there’s still some tendinitis. I’m way out of shape from the long layoff from running, but I feel like my life is returning to normal now.
Here’s one to start some arguments around the dinner table. I have statistical proof that women are better drivers than men. I downloaded from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) all cases nationwide in 2016 in which there were multiple cars and multiple drivers and at least one male and one female driver and where one driver had a factor listed of “careless driving” and the other did not. Of the tens of thousands of fatal accidents recorded there were exactly 432 that met these criteria. Of these the male was listed as careless 241 times, the female 191 times. When I select for factor “reckless” it’s even worse for men, 222 to 79 and for “aggressive driving/road rage” it’s male 69, female 13. I rest my case.
Bear in mind this only shows what a law enforcement officer reported to NHTSA in fatality cases. It doesn’t include fender benders or single car fatality cases or cases where both drivers were found to be careless. Nor does it include skills like parallel parking or navigating or traffic violations. These numbers compare only cases where careless driving, reckless driving, or aggressive driving was a factor (coded by the officer) but not other listed factors. I ran the data again where I included all cases where there was any driver factor that could be considered bad driving. There, the difference is much less, 5025 for men to 4916 for women. These raw numbers, however, aren’t very significant because they include such minor factors as “overloading” or “inexperience” along with some serious ones like alcohol-related and speeding. If one driver is reckless and the other inexperienced (apples to oranges) they would score the same for this test. That’s why I tested apples to apples limiting it to the three clearest fault indicators.
In California there is a meme (racist?) that Asian drivers are the worst drivers. There is even a fictitious offense of DWA (driving while Asian) bandied about frequently. So I did the same thing for the race of the driver comparing only listings of white vs. Asian. The data produced only three cases. In all three the Asian driver was listed as careless, not the white driver. None were in California. This is too small a data set to be convincing. I suspect that many accident reports do not list the race of the drivers, especially if one is non-white. I would not be surprised if politically correct California has a policy of not putting race on their form, at least in many departments. The vast majority of California reports had no listing or unknown in the race field. The NHTSA coding form specifies several specific Asian “races” (e.g. Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, which are really nationalities) but also a general category of “Other Asian.” I suspect that of those departments that do report the race, they choose that rather than ask or guess at a driver’s Asian “race.” It was the single most frequent Asian race category that was reported in California. I can tell you that I spent a year as a volunteer judge pro tem doing traffic court in Palo Alto, California and there were probably as many ticketed Asian drivers as white drivers in that courtroom. I don’t think native born Americans of Asian descent are any worse than other Americans but so many of the recent immigrants, especially adult women, have had so little experience driving in their native country that I think there is truth to the meme.
Consider the following chart showing the relative ownership of domestic makes of cars to foreign makes by state.
The data is taken from the NHTSA fatal accident data base for 2016. It is not surprising that Michigan and other states with or near U.S. make factories have higher ratios of domestic makes than the coasts. I was surprised the difference was as great as it is, however. North Dakota (the highest ratio) had more than five times as many domestic cars as foreign cars. Hawaii (the lowest) had only about 44% as many domestic makes as foreign. The medium blue of Washington and Oregon indicates about equal numbers of domestic and foreign makes; anything to the right on the color line indicates more U.S. makes.
I used fatal crash data mainly because it was readily available, but I also think it is a reliable indicator of ownership in general. The chart does not represent new car sales but what is on the road now. Since newer cars are safer in general than older cars, the data is probably skewed somewhat toward older cars. I don’t think there is a significant difference in safety between the two groups as a whole, certainly not enough to make the map look much different. The data is based on the state where the accident took place, not the state of registration.