Category Archives: Uncategorized

Artemis by Andy Weir

ArtemisArtemis by Andy Weir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Artemis is chock full of brilliant improvised technical solutions to life-threatening situations on this fictional moon community. This much I expected from Weir, the author of The Martian. What I didn’t expect was the amusing banter and snappy dialogue between the characters. Jasmine “Jazz” Bashara is a sexy, smart-mouthed young woman who grew up in Artemis, a lunar town. She makes her living officially as a porter, but unofficially as a smuggler of contraband. She’s rebellious and reckless and occasionally foul-mouthed. She is inveigled into a risky and illegal scheme to get rich quick and things go wrong. I’ll leave the rest to you to find out.

This book hits just the right blend between reality and fantasy. It’s much more imaginative and exciting than a NASA technical manual and much more plausible than the average space opera. Weir obviously did a lot of research into arcane scientific or technical subjects like how to weld in outer space, what the by-products of aluminum smelting are, how the low lunar gravity affects those who grew up in it, and so forth. He gets it close enough to be credible, although I doubt an astronaut would rely on the representations in this book alone. But focusing on the science would be a mistake. The book’s charm is in the snappy dialog, colorful characters, and exciting plot. It’s a fun read. I’ll leave it at that.

View all my reviews

Cliffhanger A Cliff Knowles Mystery

Cliff Knowles is back! Ten geocachers are invited to an exclusive all-expense paid adventure on a private island owned by the controversial new owner of the geocaching company. What could possibly go wrong? Geocaches that are death traps. A ferocious storm. A body. A murder? Some adventures can be too thrilling, as Cliff Knowles learns once again.
Kindle link: Cliffhanger (Kindle)
Paperback link: Cliffhanger (paperback)

Sapiens by Yuval Harari

Sapiens: A Brief History of HumankindSapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It’s books like this that made me hate history in college. The author is an historian and suffers from the same arrogance and condescension of every history professor or teacher I’ve ever had. Sure, most of what he writes is well-established as true, but he is constantly going beyond the factual and asserting that such and such happened when really it’s speculative at best. He certainly gets a number of things wrong about American History. The author is Israeli and seems to have a picture of American history taken from tabloids, not historical documents. Like most people, he fits history into his world view, ignoring inconvenient facts. For example, he describes how happy hunter gatherers were tens of thousands of years ago. Happy, really? How about all those parasites and infectious diseases and animal attacks that killed their children at alarming rates. How frightened were they of unexplained natural phenomena like lightning, floods, forest fires, earthquakes. They may have been in constant terror of the gods they worshiped. We don’t really know, but modern-day hunter-gatherers who have recently joined the civilized world seem very happy to have left behind the brutally difficult life they led. He predicts the future as though it is already fact. I appreciate the fact that he thoroughly debunked religions and other modern day self-righteous value systems in favor of scientific knowledge, but he then proceeded to paint his own value system as the only correct one, falling prey to the same false premises.

View all my reviews

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

Before I Go to SleepBefore I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Christine wakes up every morning with no memory of where she is or who the man is in the bed next to her. He explains that he is her husband Ben and that she has amnesia. He clearly loves her but she cannot reciprocate that love because he seems like a stranger. The woman in the mirror looking back at her is 20 years older than she thinks she is. Soon a doctor researching her unusual case provides her a way to connect with the past – by writing down in a journal what each day is like. Every day after Ben has gone to work he calls her and tells her to look in the closet to read the journal so she can get a sense of what her life has been and who she is. The next morning the same thing happens, but there is always a little more written in the journal. It is an intriguing set-up for a plot.

This is the best mystery I’ve read in months. The suspense builds page by page as we learn more about her past. She begins to have flashes of memory – or are they her imagination? Ben is caught lying to her about things, but does he do it only to spare her having to relive traumatic events? Because he can’t bear to go through the same explanations day after day? Her doctor lies too. For the same reason? She once had a best friend. A son. Why aren’t they in her life now?

The pacing is sharp and so is the writing. I had to force myself to put the book down to make it last longer. This is one I recommend to every mystery fan.

View all my reviews

Guns and Natural Selection

Recent school shootings have brought into public debate the wisdom of widespread gun ownership and the failure of American gun laws to prevent such tragedies. Let me make clear that I consider such shootings of innocent children terrible tragedies that could have been prevented if America had stronger gun laws. The experiences of other industrialized countries like England, Sweden, Australia, etc. have proven that beyond doubt. I am angered and saddened by such events. However, the movement to ban assault weapons or impose other restrictive gun laws is doomed to failure, in my opinion. Even so, not all is bad news in that arena. People advocating for stronger gun laws or who hate the National Rifle Association (NRA) can take solace in some seldom-considered facts.

First, as to why I think reform (if that’s the right word) of gun laws is doomed to failure, it can be summed up in three words: The Second Amendment. I happen to think the Second Amendment is bad policy and I would vote to repeal it if I had the chance, but I see no chance of that happening. It is worthwhile to consider why we have the right to bear arms embedded in our most fundamental legal document. It is because the British banned the American colonists from having guns. They did this so that they could dominate “us” Americans (our forefathers at least). They housed their armed soldiers in our houses and took our food. They taxed us without representation. They were an oppressive national government. The colonists wanted to make sure that never happened again, that they could take up arms – military quality arms – to rebel against an oppressive national government. Banning assault weapons goes directly against the very purpose the Second Amendment was created. The gun rights people have prevailed in the courts too often for me to believe meaningful change can happen. I think Britain has failed to recognize its part in creating this mass shooting problem. British tyranny was largely responsible by motivating the Second Amendment.

So what is the good news for those opposed to gun violence? Like it or not, widespread gun ownership is an instrument of natural selection.  Of course tragedies like Parkland and Columbine catch the headlines, but the fact is that personally owned guns are three times more likely to kill their owners or close family members than they are burglars or other criminals threatening the owner of his family. I believe the large majority of gun owners are responsible people. I carried a gun for 25 years while I was in the FBI because it was a tool of my trade. I have no problem with hunters or recreational shooters, although I never saw the appeal in either. Let’s face it, though – some gun owners, a minority, are irresponsible, or even outright criminals. What research has proven is that this segment is relatively efficient at removing their contribution to the gene pool by killing themselves, their family, or others like themselves, i.e. idiots and thugs.

Take a look at the statistics. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) did a study in 2010 of cause of death from guns in the U.S. and published the results. The NRA promptly got Congress to pass a law prohibiting them from doing it again. But what it showed was very informative. It was also consistent with another study from Time magazine. I remember reading a special issue many years ago (1990s or 2000s) where Time described every single gun death in the U.S. for one week. Per the CDC, 62% of gun deaths were suicide. Yes, suicide, and by a large majority. Most in the Time case study were elderly people who were either suffering from a painful and fatal disease or who had just lost a beloved spouse. This says a lot about our health care system and its lack of a humane, painless way for us to exit the world when our time has come. Gun law reformers would be advised to change the laws about euthanasia and doctor’s obligations so that we all know for certain that we have an easy way out. Opposition to gun law reform would diminish significantly, in my opinion. Teens going through the normal hormonal rages and depressions were also numerous. Those are more tragic, but the natural selection aspect is undeniable.

The next largest category of gun deaths is accidents. The most common type according to the CDC was juveniles playing with their parents’ weapons, especially older brothers killing younger siblings. Of course that’s tragic, too, but the grim reality is that the idiot parent, by failing to secure the weapon, has reduced his or her contribution to the gene pool. I’m not trying to be funny. Most of us can see the dark humor, or at least some justice, in the Darwin Awards where some fool kills himself through his own stupidity or criminal behavior. The death of an innocent child like in these cases is no laughing matter, but from an evolutionary standpoint, the effect is almost the same: fewer idiot genes in the next generation. The same is true where an intruder steals the owner’s gun and shoots him with it, something that is more common than the other way around, I believe, although I couldn’t find hard stats on that.  Most homicides were also within the family, usually between spouses or lovers. Other homicides are often criminals (e.g. gang bangers) or drunken low-lifes shooting others of their ilk, or police shooting criminals. Sure there are racist cops and some of the Black Lives Matter shootings were not justified, but the vast majority of police shootings, regardless of the color of the person shot (not necessarily a “victim”), are justified. I know this from personal experience investigating civil rights cases. Even when unarmed, the decedent was often engaged in unlawful behavior such as fleeing in a vehicle at high speed while drunk or on drugs, thus putting the general public at significant risk of death or serious bodily injury. Whether the shooting is legally or morally justified or not, the gene pool is better off without these members in all these cases.

The remaining cases – those where someone with a gun intentionally kills totally innocent unrelated others – are actually very rare, at least in comparison to the types of gun deaths just described. The randomness of those killings and the sense of unfairness add to the feeling of tragedy and to our malaise, so my words may not provide much solace but it is something to consider. I put most gun deaths (not the Parklands and Columbines) in the same category as smokers, drivers who don’t wear seat belts, or motorcyclists who don’t wear helmets. You made your choice and now you and your passenger, or your child who breathes the second-hand smoke, die by that choice. So be it. It’s natural selection. Go ahead, buy a gun. Make my day.

Origin by Dan Brown

Origin (Robert Langdon, #5)Origin by Dan Brown
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This comic book for adults is vintage Dan Brown. I don’t usually check out other reviews before writing mine, but I couldn’t help noticing that they mostly started with something along the lines that Brown can’t write worth beans but the book is entertaining. I agree he can’t write well, but I did not find the book entertaining. I read it only because my book club chose it. I thought The DaVinci Code was mildly entertaining, but I only read that years ago because it was used as the key to a puzzle I was trying to solve. I’m a big cryptology hobbyist, so maybe that made it seem interesting. Then I read Digital Fortress, his first book, and that was so bad I swore I’d never read another. That was maybe 15 years ago. Finally, my book club forced me to break that vow.

Brown’s idea of suspense is to tell you that so-and-so read/saw/heard something astounding and reacted with wonder/horror/awe but doesn’t tell you what it is. Person A whispers to person B, whose jaw drops in astonishment. A video is being presented but just as the big reveal is starting, the computer system goes blank. You get the idea. 400 pages later you finally find out what all the fuss is about. The 400 pages are populated by various nefarious characters who are trying to suppress the great revelation and maybe kill our hero, Robert Langdon who is being chased most of the time, of course accompanied by a beautiful woman.

Interestingly, I recently compared two maps of the U.S. on a state-by-state basis. One is the popularity of conspiracy thrillers like Dan Brown’s books (map provided by Audible.com) and one of Donald Trump’s approval rating (Gallup). Although not identical, they are strikingly similar, i.e. people who like conspiracy books like the Donald. Make of it what you will.

View all my reviews

Rules of Civility by Amor towles

Rules of CivilityRules of Civility by Amor Towles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Katey, the central character, is a secretary in 1937 New York. Intelligent, witty, and good-looking, she blends into the smart set despite her humble beginnings. A dashing banker named Tinker Grey catches her fancy, an attraction that seems reciprocated, but Katey’s close friend has her eye on him, too. The plot explores the often complex relationships between girlfriends, lovers, and the highly stratified classes of that time and place. The vivid pictures of the era are captivating and the life lessons worth heeding, but ultimately the joy of this book is the astoundingly delightful dialog.

Towles is more than a good writer; he is superb. The characters banter with a wit we would all want to possess. (He wouldn’t stoop to such clumsy alliteration, either). Wit is often paired with intelligence, but rarely with good cheer. Too often it is barbed. Somehow this author manages to dispense with meanness in the repartee. The characters all seem to be having fun the entire time and this constant delight rubbed off on me as I made my way through what at first seemed a rather slow-moving story. An additional plus is that they all to one extent or another were likeable, notwithstanding some rather unlikable behavior from time to time. They all display the titular civility that characterized that societal strata. Such a refreshing thing that is, too.

Stripped of its wittiness and lush metaphors and descriptions, the plot is not so original. I could name one or two similar stories, but I don’t want to give any spoilers. Still, it is rare for a book to grow so much on me. I could easily stretch this to five stars were it not for the fact I think much of its value, its sheer erudition, will be lost on the average reader or even some above-average readers. I know that sounds rather conceited, but as a novelist I know fine craftsmanship when I see it. I listened to it in audiobook form and the reader, Rebecca Lowman, was outstanding.

View all my reviews

Our Ignorant Newsies – radio edition

My wife heard a couple of gems recently. The reporter said that the interviewee was “of the green eye shadow class – an accountant.” Do all accountants wear green eye shadow now? I think she meant green eyeshade, but maybe I’m being a sexist. I’m sure there are some accountants who wear green eye shadow. Some of them probably aren’t female, for that matter, but I doubt those subtleties were understood by the reporter. I think green eyeshades for accountants went out with men’s sleeve garters, too.

The other one was a different radio reporter who was interviewing someone named Ena. He began by greeting him, “Hi, Ena.” Say it out loud. Maybe he was trying to be funny.

Yet another faux pas that several reporters and anchors repeat is calling recent storms “potential dangers” to burned out areas. They aren’t potential dangers, they are actual dangers. This sometimes comes in the form of “potential risks.” They are actual risks that have the potential for harm. “Potential danger” is like saying a coin flip has a potential 50-50 chance of being heads. It’s an actual 50-50 chance.

In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes

In a Lonely PlaceIn a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The story is told through the eyes and mind of a serial killer. This book is often hailed as a pioneer in that genre of mystery and an influence on other writers. It was written in 1947 and that’s the setting as well. It has the appeal of a museum – giving the curious reader a glimpse into a different place and time. Unlike modern novels set in the past, this one doesn’t have to imagine life as it was, so it is more authentic. I’m old enough to remember some of it – the drinking and smoking by my parents, for example, and wearing suits or dinner jackets to go out, rather than jeans and T-shirts. I found that aspect entertaining in a nostalgic sort of way.

The only character that is really developed, however, is the narrator and killer, Dix. The author’s representation of his mindset is not what I’d call credible, but it is plausible. Her guess as to a serial killer’s tortured thinking is as valid as mine or yours, I would say. However, I found the other characters woefully undeveloped and the plot line not plausible. As a retired FBI agent, I am always bothered by novels (and movies and TV) that portray law enforcement in unbelievable ways. This book fits in that category. Still, the book is all about the psychology of Dix; it’s not intended as a police procedural.

There were a few stylistic oddities that grated at times, sometimes seeming pretentious, and other times, well, just klunky. For example, the repeated use of archaic words such as slattern and megrims, the use of the nominative case in similes (“as normal as I”), and the use of the word “like” as an adjective (“…drove a like car”). These cannot be chalked up to the writing style of the times. I’ve read Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain. Their writing was better and certainly free of these peculiar choices.

View all my reviews

What3words Name Game

What3Words is a company that provides a unique service. It has named every spot (3 meters square) on the globe using a set of three words. The intent is to provide a way of identifying locations, especially those without normal addresses, such as rural areas or ocean waypoints, with a unique identifier that is easier to remember than a set of coordinates. Click on the above link and enter a specific location, e.g. coordinates, address, or name into the search box, then click on the magnifying glass. The page will return a three-word “address” at the bottom of the page. The identifiers are randomly assigned. You can also search the opposite way. Enter three words, separated by periods, into the box and if all three words are in their database, the map will send you to the corresponding location. It has many uses, but I have devised my own: finding interesting or amusing word combinations that are oddly appropriate to the location, or perhaps ironic or even totally inappropriate. I will provide a few below, but I encourage you to add as a comment any surprising or entertaining combinations you find. Note that a location such as a building may have many combinations that apply to it, since if you move three meters (about 10 feet) any direction you’re in a different square. Feel free to change the punctuation or spacing to improve the result.

Examples:

continental.united.states = a spot in Wyoming. The chance of it being anywhere in the continental U.S. is only about 1.5%, but this spot is only about 500 miles from the geographic center of the continental United States (about a 4/10 of 1% chance).

enjoyable.civic.impact = Apple HQ in Cupertino, CA

jumpy? float? bump!, next loss: couple = Golden Gate Bridge (famous for its many suicide jumpers)

Petty, vast knots, stays same really = the U.S. Capitol Bldg.

Hill.Opera.debit = War Memorial Opera House (on a hill in San Francisco and still being paid for)

National.wildlife.refuge = a spot in E. Angola proposed for Mussuma National Park, to be joined with Liuwa National Park, a wildlife Refuge in Zambia 20 mi. away.

speeds.spoke.moves = The London Eye

prosecuted, spells restraints = San Quentin Prison

The White House has many, some to satisfy every political view:
regime: enjoyable income
mixer.lived.risky
rips.rift.laws
Guilty! Mental! Reduce
causes.speech.friday
poster saying “Cheat!”
answer? obey, agreed
result.hype.today (middle of the west wing)
comb.backed.bucket ( ” )
square.oath.melt (Oval Office)

lowest.level.since = middle of Washington D.C.

deep.ocean.trench = middle of nowhere near Great Falls, Montana at 3600 ft. elevation

grow.fats.tour = Graceland Mansion, Memphis, Tennessee

young.people.today live in Wheaton, Ill. but you may be surprised to learn that the public.broadcasting.service is in a remote area of Queensland, Australia, National.Public.Radio is in Kosovo, and the central.intelligence.agency is hiding out in a field in Barton, Ark.

W3W says that Sweden has rapid.economic.growth while Norway has health.insurance.coverage.

 

It turns out the word trump is one of the valid W3W words, so you can do a lot with that.

Trump.country.whites live in northeast Alaska, but then so do people.against.trump. Others may think Trump.saves.country but unfortunately the country is China (near Anhui).

Please add your own in the comments (if they’re entertaining).

I have a tool that will return up to 100 word combos for a location, such as your house or office. If you would like me to send you a list for a location of interest to you, contact me through the Contact link in the top menu and provide me with the address or other information sufficient for me to find it on a map and I will send you a list. Please refer to this post, since I get contacts about other unrelated posts.

 

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Fierce KingdomFierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What I thought was a pure thriller was only partially so. Most of the book is spent on exploring the relationship between the main character, Joan, and her little boy, Lincoln (my son’s name, too). The two of them, along with other zoo visitors, become trapped inside the zoo after closing hours when some gunmen bent on a Columbine-type mass killing begin their shooting rampage. Joan’s resourcefulness and fierce love for her son drive the plot. Her thought process is detailed minute by minute as she tries to stay alive and she contemplates what a mother should do, must do, in such circumstances. Hide or run? Feed Lincoln (which means moving in the open and making noise) or not (which means him crying and complaining while the gunmen are near)? She second guesses herself often and other characters she interacts with have their own ideas. What is her responsibility toward them?

These are interesting philosophical questions but heavily fact-dependent, so I’m not sure how useful it would be to the reader to consider them, since no one is ever likely to encounter these exact facts. I thought the author could have spent less time on Joan’s thought processes and added a little more action, a little more decision-making. Exploring a mother’s love may be heartwarming for some but I found myself thinking “Get on with it” too often. The author writes well and I was fortunate to have the audiobook, because the reader Cassandra Campbell, did an excellent job. There is some carnage, but it’s not excessive, and book is free of sex and cursing for those who prefer that.

View all my reviews

The Planet Factory by Elizabeth Tasker

The Planet Factory: Exoplanets and the Search for a Second EarthThe Planet Factory: Exoplanets and the Search for a Second Earth by Elizabeth Tasker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The author has attempted to make a captivating but very technical subject accessible to the general reading public, with mixed success. I found it fascinating, but I have a math degree and was an A student in physics and astronomy; I suspect that others might find it too dense. The author makes a valiant attempt to make basic concepts understandable, including use of a great many metaphors and similes from everyday life, especially in the early chapters. Some of these could be helpful, I suppose, but I found them at times condescending (do we need to spin in an office chair with arms outstretched to understand you spin faster if you bring them in?), at times amusing, and occasionally confusing. The author often uses British colloquialisms for these, leaving a poor American like me to discern from context that a roundabout is not a traffic control device but some sort of merry-go-round. As for throwing a jelly at someone, I have no idea what that means; wouldn’t the jar crack his noggin?

Quickly, though, the author moves into the details of planet formation, fortunately without the equations. Rather, we must take her word, and that of countless other scientists, as to what is possible or impossible. For the 99.999% of us who can’t do the calculations ourselves, Clarke’s Third Law applies: the rules of planet formation are indistinguishable from magic. The problem with this is that what we/they thought was impossible is now being observed in distant star systems. Huge gas giants are orbiting very close to their stars. So are rocky superearth planets where they should not be able to form. There are planets whose density is between those of the rocky planets we know (Earth, Mars) and the gas giants we know (Jupiter, Saturn). So what are they made of? Water? Silicate rock? A rocky core surrounded by gas? What we “knew” about planets isn’t true anymore. The author explains all the theories that the experts have come up with, but she states right up front that we really don’t have good explanations for much of what the observational science is producing. The exciting part is that we are finding more and more exoplanets. New discoveries bring new knowledge.

If you are primarily interested in whether there is life out there or a planet capable of hosting us after we destroy the one we’re on, you’d be advised to skim liberally up to the last few chapters where these questions are addressed more directly. The short answer is that alien life is certainly possible, maybe probable, but it is unlikely to be in a form we could ever communicate with or even observe. A place where we could relocate would have to be closer to home and the only candidates seem to be moons within our own solar system, although none of them look all that promising. Still, it is amazing to consider all the factors that life as we know it require and how lucky we are to be in that Goldilocks zone. Once you do that, then consider those organisms like tube worms and anaerobic bacteria that do not require sunlight or oxygen. Life has a way of adapting to some very inhospitable environments.

The author and publisher have bravely aimed for what seems to me to be a very small slice of the reading public. The book is too simplified for researchers in the field and too technical for most other readers. She writes very well but there are a few errors. On p. 232 she states that the temperate zone in our solar system is conservatively estimated at 0.84au to 0.14au. That second number should be 1.14au. Otherwise we wouldn’t be alive. All in all I really enjoyed the book but I find it hard to recommend to most people. What I can say is that when you see the next headline that reads “Second Earth Found!” don’t believe it.

View all my reviews

The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

The Other EinsteinThe Other Einstein by Marie Benedict
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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.

View all my reviews

Our Ignorant Newsies – Winter Olympics Edition

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)

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

The Woman in Cabin 10The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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.

View all my reviews

Nextdoor and Sex Discrimination

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.

or

I need to let you know that you are the only Jew …

or

I need to let you know that you are the only gay …

Judge for yourself.