Friends Spoiled Triennially – answers

Here are the answers to the puzzles in my last post. All of these involve words formed by the odd and even letters of each of the examples.

TRIENNIALLY is the longest English word in which all the odd-numbered letters spell a word (TINILY) and the even ones do, too (RENAL). In this case, both spell the words forward, but other examples do not. FURRINESS, BALLOONED, and FLEETNESS are the next longest ones with this property.

FRIENDS has this same trait, but with a twist. The two odd/even words, FINS and RED have letters in alphabetical order. FINS in forward order, RED in reversed.

SPOILED has the same trait except its words SOLD and PIE both have letters in reverse alphabetical order.

SINNING is interesting in that its internal words SNIG and INN have the alphabetical orderings reversed/forward, but it also has the property that SNIG (which is a British slang term) also spells a word backward (GINS).

The longest word I’ve found where the two words are both spelled backward and in alphabetical order is UTOPIA (IOU, APT) if you count IOU as a word. If you don’t care about the alphabetical order, the longest words I’ve found with both odd/even words spelled in reverse order is THICKEST (SKIT, TECH) and GIANTISM (STAG, MINI) although there were dozens of words of this length with one word forward and one backward. I may have overlooked other examples.

Friends Spoiled Triennially

The three words in the title are all odd. They have unique characteristics. Try to guess what they are. I’ll give you some hints and in a few days I’ll post the answers.

Hint 1: Each is the longest English word with a particular trait.

Hint 2:  the latter two words’ traits are each unique at that length, i.e. no other English words of that length has those traits.

Hint 3: Friends has two other words of the same length with its trait:  innings and moonset

Hint 4: Afield and heists, as well as several other words, have a related property.  The word sinning has yet another, if you’re British.

Hint 5: the traits of these words are related but each differs from the others except as indicated in Hints 3 and 4. There are multiple shorter words that share the same traits with all of these.

Go ahead and put your guess in the comments section.


Anyone following the news in the U.S. will be aware of two recent horrific mass shootings, one racially motivated one in Buffalo and one slaughter of schoolchildren in Uvalde, Texas. Both were committed by disturbed teenage males. Since that time there have been two significant changes in gun laws. First, the U.S. Supreme Court declared New York’s restrictive gun law unconstitutional, effectively wiping it off the books. The other was a federal law adding new restrictions to gun purchases and giving aid to states who pass “red flag laws”.

America is something of a pariah in the developed world for its archaic gun laws, and understandably so. We suffer many times the per capita gun deaths of nearly every other developed country. But there is a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about our gun laws. The question I hear asked the most often by talking heads on TV is “Why is America so out of step with the rest of the world on guns?” That has an easy answer and it’s the answer to almost every question critics put up: The Second Amendment.

It’s right there in the Constitution that Americans have the right to keep and bear arms. Legislatures can’t overrule the Constitution by passing laws. Laws that restrict that right keep getting struck down by the courts. The only real solution is to amend the Constitution and that’s politically impossible since it is very difficult to do even for very popular policies. Let’s examine for a moment why we have that right in our Constitution. America was born in revolution. It was oppressed by an English king and fought for its freedom by arming itself. Americans wanted to make sure that could never happen again, so they made sure they would always have the right to take up arms against their own government. It’s a stupid, short-sighted provision passed in the heat of passion out of hatred for England. Blame lies at least as much with King George (and for that matter all the European colonial powers) as it does with America’s founders, but there it is. Personally, I believe it was unwise to make the Constitution so difficult to modify, but I also believe it is wrong to expect courts to disregard its plain language because they disagree with it.

People on both sides of “the gun issue” are right and both are wrong. The pro-gun people are right that they have a constitutional right. They’re wrong when they say things like “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” or that restrictive gun laws wouldn’t prevent these mass shootings or gun deaths in general. Both are proved false by the death rates in other countries that have enacted such laws and restricted the number of guns. Those on the opposing side are wrong when they say it shouldn’t be legal to own guns, especially assault weapons. The whole point of the Second Amendment was to make sure Americans could take up weapons of war to fight an oppressive government, not for personal protection, hunting, or recreation. However, they are right that the court could interpret the Second Amendment differently. I haven’t yet mentioned its preliminary language: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, …” A progressive court could very well interpret that to mean that the keeping of arms is guaranteed only to the extent it is part of a militia dedicated to protecting a free state, not individuals. So those assault weapons should be part of a well-regulated militia of a state. The Supreme Court has not adopted that view, but it could, and many constitutional scholars do.

The only practical way America will ever be able to change this is to elect Presidents and Senators who will appoint and confirm multiple Supreme Court justices who have this view.

The Perfect Weapon by David E. Sanger

The Perfect Weapon: How the Cyber Arms Race Set the World AfireThe Perfect Weapon: How the Cyber Arms Race Set the World Afire by David E. Sanger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sanger has done an excellent job of reporting, and now accumulating, accounts of cyberwarfare for many years now. History has shown that generals and presidents or rulers the world over have always prepared for the previous war, not the one that confronts them. Today’s war is being fought remotely through networks. Sanger does a good job of explaining how devastating an all-out attack could be. The United States is more vulnerable than any other nation because we are more connected than any other. Just consider what life would be like permanently without electricity or your local water system. Gas stations will have no gas or no way to pump what they have, so even generators won’t work long. The book is not written with an alarmist aim, but it is sobering. It can seem repetitive, but it is informative and readable.

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The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

The Rose CodeThe Rose Code by Kate Quinn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This absolutely delightful novel of WWII Bletchley Park is marvelously researched and skillfully plotted. I’m a true nut for codes and ciphers, but you don’t have to be to enjoy it. The plot centers around three very different British women, each of whom served at Bletchley but in different capacities: one, a shy spinster-in-the-making with little education but with a cryptographer’s brilliance, the second a tall Amazon whose main asset was the height to operate the top levels of the bombe machine, and the third, a wealthy debutante/linguist who has a dalliance with Prince Phillip.

The relationships among the women change drastically throughout the book and bring human interest to the forefront of the story. It is about the very human and very British victims of the Nazi bombing and threat to invade, not a technical treatise on the Enigma cipher machine. At the same time, the operations of Bletchley Park and its enormous contribution to the Allied victory are richly detailed. I learned more about the nuts and bolts of how it all worked from this novel than I have from reading several dry non-fiction works about it. Don’t let my enthusiasm for that part dissuade you from reading the book as pure fiction. It’s full of love, suspense, violence, humor, and tragedy. It is every bit a war story worth reading.

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Anyone following the news at all is aware of several recent truly awful incidents of mass shooting in America, in particular, one in Uvalde, Texas and one in Buffalo, New York. It’s not clear what motivated the Uvalde shooter, but the Buffalo shooter was quite candid about his motivation. He went to shoot black people because he believed white replacement theory. I’d never heard of it before. It’s clearly racist, false, hateful, and disturbing. But having said that, we should be hesitant to demonize the theory or anyone who believes it. For that matter, the same caution applies in other cases of hate crimes. Let’s look at the causes if we can and remove them.

What many liberals don’t want to recognize are the natural human instincts and demographic reality of a changing America, that are behind such beliefs. Fear of change is a natural instinct. Violent response to change, especially sudden change, has been with us for millennia. The Luddites are a prime example. The haters are correct about one thing: America is becoming more diverse, and that means less white. They’re ridiculous in thinking it’s a Jewish plot and incapable of grasping the reality that migration is a constant throughout history. It’s inevitable, and therefore not a bad thing. We should try to educate people to that fact. Everyone in the world, with the possible exception of a soul in Olduvai Gorge, is descended from immigrants.

Take my block, for example. We live in what is now known as Silicon Valley. When my wife and I moved in in 1981 there were twenty houses and twenty white families, ten on each side. So far as I know, all were born and raised in America. I don’t remember anyone having an accent. On the Fourth of July, one of the neighbors would rent barricades and get a license and we would all come out and barbecue, visit, and get to know each other. American flags would fly. All of them, I think, owned their homes and many were long-time residents. The neighborhood kids would play in our pool. The first change was a German man, an engineer. Then he married a Chinese woman. No one thought a thing about it. Both are still our good friends today. But over the years, things inevitably changed, driven largely by the tech boom. Most of the houses were extensively remodeled or leveled to be replaced by bigger, fancier ones. Next to us now is an Indian family with a nanny. Next to them: an Irishman with an Indian wife. Then two more Indian families, then the German man and on the corner, a Russian. On our left we’ve had a slew of renters from various countries including China and Israel. There’s a Russian family on that end, too. Across the street we have two Chinese families, a Japanese-American, two more Indian families, and a Pakistani family. We’re the only house that flies the flag on any national holiday. The street parties are no longer, although one of the Indian families has attempted to resuscitate them. I believe they are the only ones I called Indian who were born and raised in America. The house directly across from us is owned by an Indian family but is about to be rented to a Mexican family. Many of the immigrant families come and stay for two or three years at a tech firm and move on. Many are renters, not homeowners.

I can understand how people bemoan the loss of cherished traditions they were comfortable with. People feel safe with sameness and distressed at feeling like an outsider.  Some people react with fear and loathing. I miss the shared traditions we used to have, but I also enjoy the diversity of my “new” block. When the house across from us went up for rent, I chatted with two Japanese fellows who were interested. I was hoping they’d rent it so I could practice my poor Japanese. They were able to understand it. Instead, my wife, who speaks Spanish, will be the one to practice her language skills when the Mexicans move in. She regularly walks with a French neighbor and speaks French with her. My wife is the linguist in the family. My neighbors are all good people. I feel fortunate to live in such a wonderful neighborhood. I’m able to accept and welcome change even while missing the old. Not everyone can. I don’t condone any sort of hate crime or racism, and certainly not these awful murders, but demonizing the instinct to make American white again is unproductive. We should be educating, not vilifying.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)All Systems Red by Martha Wells
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

SecUnit is a rebuilt murderbot rented out as security to an NGO survey team exploring a new planet. It was designed as a ruthless killing machine, but prefers to sit in its cubicle and watch the entertainment feed, especially Sanctuary Moon, which appears to be some sort of sci-fi telenovela. SecUnit (he? she? it?) tells the story of the survey in the first person as all hell breaks loose. The new planet is not uninhabited and dangers await. We find SecUnit to be painfully shy about showing any emotion and almost apologetic that it feels an obligation to actually protect its clients. A murderbot, it seems, is mostly robotic but also has “organic” (never “human”, god forbid) parts, although without its armor and inorganic parts showing, it can pass for one. Its worst nightmare is having to converse with humans, make eye contact, and answer their questions about whether it is okay and especially how it is feeling. Entering into mortal combat with man-eating fauna or other murderbots is all in a day’s work, but showing emotion? … no way. Despite all its denials, SecUnit’s soft heart peeks through.

The book is ridiculously short and all fluff, but I really enjoyed it. All the artificial techspeak about feeds and hubs and governor modules and beacons is very well done and somehow plausible if you let yourself suspend disbelief and enter into the story. It’s the first in a series (The Murderbot Diaries) but I doubt I’ll read more of them. Any future ones are bound to be a disappointment after this charming introduction.

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Safe sad 75

Three years ago I wrote a blog post called #Safe70 lamenting slightly about how I’ve reached that age where attractive young women now find me old enough to be harmless. When running back then, a good-looking young redheaded lady ran with me and chatted for a bit before leaving me in the dust. I very much enjoyed it.

Today I had a similar moment, but with a sadder twist. As I was running, a young woman came running by and called out from just behind me “You’re doing great!” in the tone of voice used by mothers to toddlers who successfully used the training potty and then she went zipping on by. I looked around to see if there was someone else she was talking to, but, alas, I was alone, and no, she wasn’t on the phone. She also didn’t bother to jog along with me. At 75 I suppose I am even slower than I was at 72, but I didn’t think I quite yet looked like a doddering old fool in need of confirmation I wasn’t on my deathbed. I was three miles out from the nearest parking lot, which meant it was at least a six mile run.

My ego won’t let me post this without at least mentioning that I ran the San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll 10K five years ago and even with an injured leg, placed first in my age group. True, there was a guy in the 75+ group who ran faster, and several in the half-marathon group my age who ran faster for twice the distance, but still. This girl (and she was only about 20 or so) called out her disheartening praise before she even saw my face. My running cap was covering my bald spot, too. I would have thought I could have passed for 65 or so from behind. I suppose we all need a reality check and today was mine. But I’ll settle for any attention from a pretty girl. Thank you, miss, for that at least.

Cliff Knowles rides again

A number of people have been asking me when I’m going to write another Cliff Knowles novel. Well, I’m writing one now. No promises on when it will be done. My best guess is December, but if I’m lucky it might be as early as September.

The Song of Our Scars by Haider Warraich

The Song of Our Scars: The Untold Story of PainThe Song of Our Scars: The Untold Story of Pain by Haider Warraich
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book was somewhat disappointing for me. Like many others, I have chronic pain (osteoarthritis, off and on lower back pain) and my wife does, too (Peripheral neuropathy). I was hoping to read about breakthroughs, promising treatments or at least experiments, in short, a beacon of hope. It is not that. The book is largely an outpouring of the author’s own experience as a chronic pain sufferer and as a pain doctor. It focuses largely on the psychological aspects, e.g. the difference between nociception (the biological process of detection of pain) and suffering, which is the broader mental effect the nociception has on the sufferer. There are many stories of individuals who experience chronic or severe pain (which are different things) but that becomes little more than a series of anecdotes. Some of it was interesting, but I believe the main purpose of the book is the catharsis the author felt in offloading his lifelong anguish.

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The Underground Man by Ross Macdonald

The Underground Man (Lew Archer #16)The Underground Man by Ross Macdonald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Macdonald writes with an earthy Chandler-like style. His main character Lew Archer is a tough but decent private eye in Los Angeles. The book is written in the first person. It’s my first MacDonald novel. I enjoyed the writing style, despite some quirks. He never met a simile he doesn’t like and has no compunction about creating more, sensible or not. There’s a lot of dialog, so in that sense it’s an easy read, but there are many characters who have, or in the past, had, relationships both open and hidden. This makes it hard to follow. There are multiple murders but Lew Archer is on the job. The detective work is rather simple but also pretty realistic, speaking as an ex-FBI agent. That makes it more enjoyable for me. It reminds me of the Sue Grafton alphabet series in that respect. In fact, it also reminds me of that same series because it takes place largely in Santa Teresa, the fictional city representing Santa Barbara that Grafton also uses. The ending was a bit too neat and tidy for my taste, but I enjoyed how the author worked in the investigation of Archer with the local murders and the ongoing wildfire that served as a backdrop. It was unrealistic the way everybody seemed to tell Archer whatever he wanted to know, whether officials revealing official info, or involved persons who repeatedly told him to get lost and clammed up, only to start blabbing again and answering all his questions. If only it were that easy.

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Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris

Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk RoadLands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road by Kate Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This very interesting book is a combination travelogue, history lesson, philosophy primer, and farce. The author, a Canadian, and her best friend Mel biked across Asia along what is loosely the modern vestiges of Marco Polo’s Silk Road. Beginning in southeastern Europe and proceeding through the Stans to Tibet and China she experienced the trials, tribulations, and joys of adventuring in a land of skyscraping mountains, corrupt governments, warmly hospitable people, and extremely open landscape. At times it borders on being ponderous but it is frequently punctuated by light moments of mistranslation, bike crashes, stomach-turning food offers, lecherous men unused to seeing white women, or any women unaccompanied by men. There was enough sameness to much of it as to lose my interest from time to time, but it was an enormous benefit to have along with me in audiobook form as I made my own journey by car from the Bay Area to Olympia and back. There was an unmistakable touch of braggadocio permeating the story, but the author’s academic credentials are impressive, assuming she represented them truthfully. I found the reader’s breathiness a weak attempt at inserting suspense where there wasn’t any, but all in all she did a good job.

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Road Trip in my Volvo XC40 Recharge – Part 2

My return trip to California taught me a few lessons. I’ll be giving some hard numbers and recommendations at the end. But first, this trip was different from the first leg. To start with, I contracted Covid somewhere on my trip north. I was feeling under the weather by the time of the return leg, but not horribly sick. Fortunately, my son and his wife tested negative, and still do, so I must have picked it up in one of the crowded restaurants I visited en route. Still, I was traveling alone and could buy food at drivethroughs so as not to infect anyone, so I decided to make the journey home.

My first stop was at Woodburn Premium Outlets in Woodburn, OR. This mall is very long and the app only said the towers were near the Coach store. Of course, I had no idea where the Coach store was, but I will say that’s a good idea to include the store because as tall as the charging machines are, they are not as tall or obvious as the store signs. I found the station at the very end and charged easily. It was fast (23 minutes) but I only charged to 56% full. In a continuing trend, my first stop was dictated more by my need for a bathroom break than a charging stop.

Stop 2 was the same Target store as before in Springfield. I took in 57 kw in 57 minutes, the longest on-road charge of the whole trip, but I knew staying an extra fifteen minutes would obviate the need for another stop before Grants Pass.

Back at the motel that night I charged 69 minutes to get 71 kw. My symptoms were getting worse. I hit the road the next morning with the battery 95% full. One odd thing was that my car’s range indicator said I had only 140 miles of range. It normally showed 190 miles when charged to 90% or more. I thought it was an error that would correct itself once I started driving. I was hoping to make it to Anderson without a stop, but the car kept warning me I wouldn’t. The range is estimated based on the past 100 miles of driving, or so I thought. I expected it had been uphill to Grant’s Pass, skewing the number. However, I was mistaken. The motel was at less than 1000 feet elevation. The high point ahead was Siskiyou Pass at over 4000 ft. The range estimator must actually have taken into account that long climb. The car performed great on that climb, as it had the entire trip, but I’ll forgo the non-charging review for this post.

I heeded the warning and asked Google to find me a charging station. It recommended a Chargepoint station in Weed, CA. I was ready for another break and some coffee anyway. Once again, relying on Google’s directions sent me in a circle around the truck stop because it was telling me to turn where there was no obvious turning spot. The Chargepoint station turned out to be a single machine dwarfed by nearby trucks, so it was hard to spot. I found it in the parking lot of a motel. It was well-placed for my car, so I backed up to it and plugged it. I have a Chargepoint account and app on my phone but had no card with me. Supposedly the machine can read the account info with near field communication (NFC) if you hold the phone to the scanner panel, but that didn’t work. I wasn’t sure if it took credit cards, but I remembered reading something about Chargepoint accepting other EV cards. I had my Blink card, but that didn’t work. I got a little nervous. I had one more with me, an EVgo card. I tried that and the charger started right up. Whew! The screen on the charger said Welcome to EVgo, even though it was a Chargepoint machine. I was also pleasingly surprised by the speed of charging, a decent 63kw. My impression was that EVgo chargers, which I had used once before, all had a maximum of 50kw, usually much less. In 37 minutes I left with 38kwh and 92% charged.

At Anderson I used the same EA charger as before and dared to go inside the Safeway briefly to pick up some food. I wore a mask, used self checkout, and hoped I didn’t infect anyone. In 67 minutes I pulled down a disappointing 43KWh charging to 96%. Those last few percentage points really kill the average charging speed. I’ve seen the charge rate drop to single digits after 90% even on EA machines.

I had planned to charge at Dunnigan again, but once more I made a fateful error. I still had 50% of a charge as I approached there, so I thought I’d let it get down more and charge at Vacaville, which I had seen on my EA app and knew I had the range for it. Unfortunately, I didn’t know my geography well and missed the turnoff for 505, the straight shot from Dunnigan to I-80. I thought it was farther down the road. So when I asked Google to navigate to Vacaville, it said I didn’t have the range. That confused me until I looked at the map and realized that I was headed all the way into Sacramento before turning west. So I asked for it to find me another charging station. It told me of three EVgo stations. I chose the closest. It turned out to be in an urban park. The machines were right at the curb. The first one turned out to be dead. I called the service number for help and was on hold for almost 15 minutes. I was directed to another machine next to it and plugged in there, but it didn’t start up for me. The service rep kept giving me directions based on what was on the screen of the charger, but I kept replying I couldn’t read anything on the screen because it had been vandalized and was totally unreadable. With considerable effort, together we got it going and it was charging. I soon saw that it was charging very slowly, though (36kw). In 15 minutes I got only 9 kwh. I checked the range and saw I could make it to Vacaville, so I unplugged early and left.

This turned out to be a smart move. At Vacaville Premium Outlets  I had trouble locating the chargers among the 87 stores. I found the Tesla ones right off, but eventually found EA in front of the Coach store. This charger turned out to be the fastest of the entire trip. Even though it was rated at 150kw maximum, my app (and the car, which was always consistent with the app) showed it at 153-154kw for a long time. I left there after 18 minutes of charging and got 36 kwh of energy, enough to get me home.

Total time charging for the round trip (not counting at home): 695 minutes. If you exclude the ones at the motel when I wasn’t in on-road mode, it’s 545 minutes. That’s roughly 9 hours stoppage for 1800 road miles, counting the navigation errors I made, or a half hour of stoppage time for every 100 miles of travel. Much of that, but not all, is time I would have spent getting food, using the bathroom, etc., in any event, but it’s definitely more than I would have in a gas car. The cost of gas, though would be much greater than the electricity cost. I’ll leave that calculation to you, since it varies a lot by car. The total kilowatt-hours received was 636 for a total cost of $275.77. [Edit: I realized later that this could have been cut by at least $100 if I had joined the EA monthly plan for $4.] A round-trip ticket from San Jose to Seattle-Tacoma Airport runs about $197. But then you have to account for extras. Driving, there’s two nights of lodging. Flying, you have the last mile problem. The lowest Lyft fare one-way from Sea-Tac Airport, the closest to my son’s house is $127 and takes two hours. Or a rental car, if you can get one, would cost even more. On my end an airport shuttle ride could be had for $60 or so, or long-term parking is available, so add $350 or so for ground transportation unless you have rides from friends or relatives on both ends.  That’s more than the motel cost. Then there’s the problem of the heavy stuff we wanted out of our garage and had no way to ship. One was a treadmill mat I could barely squeeze into my car and could never have packaged for shipping. Paying for a moving company to come pic k it up would have been prohibitive. It would have had to have been thrown out, sold or given away. My son would have had to buy another, and there were sentimental items as well. All in all, I think I made the right choice driving. Having done it, I know I could do it a lot more efficiently the next time, even on a different trip.

EA chargers are by far the fastest units around here, but only when your charge state is low. They quickly level out to a similar speed as Chargepoint or EVgo once you get over 80% or so. Route planner apps like ABRP take this into account and recommend charging when you’re in the range of 20%-80%. Chargers are also inconsistent, ranging from 36kw to 154kw for me on this trip with similar initial states of charge. When you add in the time finding the charging stations, waiting to get service help sometimes, or waiting for a slot to become available, you need to add at least five minutes for every stop, probably ten, unless you’re very familiar with the station. A Chargepoint station right by the freeway exit may be quicker than an EA station in a Walmart or mall parking lot three miles away and hard to find. Staying and charging an extra 15-20-30 minutes to avoid another stop may be worth it. The most important lesson to take from this is that electric cars have made it. They can replace gas cars even on road trips and the Volvo XC40 is a fine car for that.

Road Trip in my Volvo XC40 Recharge

Over the weekend I took a road trip in my Volvo XC40 Recharge, an electric vehicle (EV). I want to share with others the pluses and minuses of doing this trip using public charging infrastructure. The goal was to drive from Los Altos, California to Olympia, Washington for a visit with my son and his wife, and to drop off some heavy (~150 lbs) items they had left behind when they moved up there.

I began by charging my Volvo to 100% at home the night before leaving. My first stop was to charge at an Electrifying America (EA) charging station in Dunnigan, CA, a distance of 127 miles. My first charging experience did not go very smoothly. For starters, I was relying on Google to give me spoken directions. When I got off the freeway, it sent me around in a circle because I did not realize when it said to turn at the next left, that it meant into a restaurant driveway. The charger turned out to be behind the restaurant in the parking lot of a motel. Once I got there it was difficult to position the car the right way because the tall charging machines (towers)  here were positioned for cars pulling in forward. My car’s charging port is on the left rear. I gave up on the first tower I tried because its screen faced due south directly into the sun and was unreadable. I moved my car to the one on the other side, backing in, and tried again. I used the EA app but I couldn’t get it started. I called the 888 help number and an EA support person walked me through the process. Much of the delay could have been avoided if I’d been more familiar with the app. I did get the car charged to 85% of capacity in 44 minutes of actual charging time. Call it an hour with the delays. I needed coffee and a bathroom break anyway, so it wasn’t totally wasted time.

The next stop was at a Safeway in Anderson, CA to charge at another EA station. This one was easy to find. I had no trouble positioning the car, but it stuck out a bit into the parking lot aisle. I needed another break. The charger here ran a little slower than most of the other EA chargers. They are rated at either 150 kw or 350 kw. My car can only handle 150 kw, If the battery level is low, it can take 150 kw, but it slows down considerably as the battery gets more “full.” That’s one reason not to charge your car to 100%. The other reason is that it hurts the battery life. This charge took 63 minutes to get 48 kwh (compared to 36 min. for 44kwh at Dunnigan).

One problem I had with all the chargers, regardless of brand, is the difficulty of handling the cable that attaches to the car. It’s heavy, stiff and thick. I have arthritis in my hands and a bad back. I know that many women are not strong enough to wrestle them into position. That’s something to test before undertaking a road trip in your EV or even before buying one. This applies only to the high-speed chargers (Level 3) out on the road. The home units are manageable although there is still a rather hefty cable.

Stop three was at a Walmart in Yreka, CA. The chargers were a little hard to find in the lot. It’s worth taking some time with the app to zoom in and orient yourself with respect to the buildings. You can have the app give you oral directions using Google Maps. They can be confusing though because it just gives a series of lefts and right. It never says how far away you are, even if you’re 20 feet away. They are normally quite visible, but a large truck, building, or trees can block your view. This was the fastest charging station on my trip north: 52 kwh in 39 min. This charge took me to my overnight location in Grants Pass, Oregon. That’s 425 miles in eight and a half hours, including meal and charging stops.

I chose this motel because there was a Walmart with an EA charger nearby. Only “nearby” turned out not to be that close and there was a highway I had to cross on foot. It was windy, cold, and drizzly, too. You don’t need the speed of an EA charger for an overnight stay. In fact, it’s a disadvantage in a way. I went to eat at a nearby restaurant while it charged, and I was getting alarmed to see it nearing full while I was still eating. EA costs you an arm and a leg if you don’t unplug within 10 min. of the end of the charge. I let it charge up to 94% while I finished my meal. The motel was okay, but not great.

The next day my first stop was at the Target in Springfield, Oregon. The first charger plugged in and started up okay, but stopped immediately. My EA app wouldn’t let me start charging again. I had to move my car to another unit. I couldn’t start there, either, so I called for help. The service person got the machine started.  It was of average speed (57 kw in 44 min).

Next I made a blunder that cost me a lot of time. I told Google to navigate to the Walmart in Vancouver, WA, which was my next planned stop for an EA charger. What I didn’t know was that there were several Walmarts in Vancouver. I was directed to the wrong one, which did not have a charging station. If you’re relying on Google or Apple, you have to be very specific. Then  it got worse. I gave Google the correct address, which was still 20 miles away or so. It started me on my way there. I got nervous with my low state of charge so when I was stopped at a light I pulled up the EA app and asked it to find the nearest EA station. It said there was one 3 miles away. I selected that and asked for Google Maps to direct me there. What I didn’t realize was that didn’t cancel the existing navigation direction. So when I started driving, I was getting conflicting directions in the same Google voice. At one point as I came to a split the voice told me to go left at the split and to go right at the split. I ended up taking some right and some wrong turns and wasted time and energy getting nowhere. It was dangerous. I told the car to cancel all navigation and just headed north on I-5. after a couple of minutes I asked it for directions to next Walmart north of my position. It directed me to one shortly ahead. It wasn’t the one I’d originally intended, but it did have a charging station. Great! I started the charge going and went inside to get a late lunch. There were no restaurants nearby, so I had settle for the awful Subway inside. I was inside for over 20 minutes when I noticed on my EA app that it was charging at a rate of 36 kw. It should have been going at 150 kw or close. I finished my meal quickly and went out to the car. I verified the slow rate and called EA service. The rep there confirmed it was unusually slow and suggested I move to a different tower. I did that and it began charging faster, at around 63 kw, which is still not great. Then another driver pulled into the slot I had left and his car began charging at a rate of 90 kw. Go figure.

This got me to Olympia. I needed to charge up before getting to my son’s house because he did not have a 240V plug accessible to me to charge there. I stopped at the Capital Village Shopping Center to charge. I had real trouble finding the charging units. I learned from my prior experience and asked the app to direct me. Unfortunately, it was the usual problem with a bunch of “next left” or “then right” commands that are confusing since they may mean at the street, or to turn up the next aisle. For these big malls, it’s helpful to find out which store the charger is near. You can usually do that on the EA website before you go, but then you have to remember that when you get there. The store names are not shown on the EA app. In any event, I got there and had dinner at a Red Robin while the car charged. Just as in Grants Pass, I was worried it would charge up fully while I was eating and I’d have to run over there (several hundred yards) to unplug and then come back. This ended up having an overall slow charging rate, but that was mainly because I let it charge all the way to 97% as I ate. The last 5% can take an hour even when the first 50% can take 20 minutes. I finished up and drove to my son’s house.

Obviously some of the difficulties wouldn’t apply if you know the area well and especially if you are familiar with the specific chargers. On my return trip, I used some other chargers. I’ll detail that in my next post.

Origin: A Genetic History of the Americas by Jennifer Raff

Origin: A Genetic History of the AmericasOrigin: A Genetic History of the Americas by Jennifer Raff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Raff sets forth alternative theories about the origins of Native American populations and the evidence supporting or weakening them. She is a geneticist, not an archaeologist, and focuses on the genetics but there is a lot of archaeology, too. I enjoyed the detailed descriptions of her lab work. Recovering, replicating, and analyzing ancient DNA is a much more daunting and labor-intensive task than I had imagined. Dealing with modern DNA samples is less so, but still an impressive endeavor. The book is aimed at the scientifically-inclined and educated lay reader. Be prepared for a great deal of technical and geographic terms including ethnic ones that look odd and unpronounceable to most Americans. I also learned a lot about the various discoveries in the field and I’m encouraged that many of the disputes between scientific factions will be mostly resolved in the near future.

The same cannot be said about the various indigenous peoples’ stories. The author bends over way too far, and spends way too much time, telling us all to respect these various traditions and myths (which she calls origin stories). She undercuts her scientific credibility in doing so. For example, in Chapter 5 she describes the elaborate procedures used to garb up and sanitize the workbench which she calls a “specific mindfulness” that “acknowledges responsibility for past transgressions and unscrupulous methodologies.” No. Sorry. The gowns and bleach and controlled airflow are to prevent contamination of the DNA, not to admit to being a racist. The sins of the father are not visited on the son and all that. The duty of a scientist is doing science, not baby-sitting the fictions of less educated people. Perhaps that sort of “woke” mindset, or pretense of one, is a mandatory prerequisite to working in the field, since cooperation from various tribes and academia in general is necessary, so it’s forgivable, but I notice that other reviewers had the same reaction I did.

One last peccadillo is worth mentioning: it has not been carefully proofread. I noted several errors like “adler” trees and doubled words. Even so, it is generally well-written and educational. I found it interesting.

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Pervasive illiteracy

Every day I see misspellings, wrong word, and grammar errors. My wife usually points out two or three amusing ones each day, too. They’re everywhere. Today I heard or read four within a span of a half hour so I thought I would share my despair.

  1. A real estate mailer advertised its resedential properties (a home for sedentary people?)
  2. A news report said a court printer had mixmatched names and juror numbers (almost makes sense)
  3. A radio pundit declared that he was reading between the tea leaves (a mixmatched metaphor?)
  4. A published hard copy science book I’m reading mentioned an ancient pine and adler forest (discovered by the Austrian psychotherapist?)


Electrify America

I have an electric vehicle (EV), my second, in fact. My first, a 2011 Nissan Leaf, could charge from several format chargers and different levels: level1 (120V house current, normal plug), Level 2 (240V J1772 plug), and Level 3 (480V CHAdeMO plug). Level 1 and 2 are alternating current (AC) while level 3 is the much faster direct current (DC). Its theoretical fastest rate of charge is 46 Kw, but I never got it to charge that fast. The fastest I ever did get was about 19kw. I sold the Leaf. Now I have a Volvo XC40 Recharge. It has a much bigger battery and longer range. It also has the ability to charge much faster. This is important because I am about to take a long road trip.

Today I tried charging at an Electrify America (EA) charger.  It went well. EA is the network of EV chargers set up by Volkswagen. That company is trying to rectify its major booboo that got it in trouble with Uncle Sam. You may recall a few years back it was discovered that VW had installed a software feature that allowed it to cheat on its mileage numbers on US test machines. As part of the settlement of charges, VW agreed to lower its average fleet MPG in all US cars by a large amount. One of the main ways to do that was to increase the number of EV models it sold. And that in turn led to it ramping up efforts to spread EV charging stations in necessary locations to encourage EV sales.

I don’t have a VW, but I appreciate the effort. It turns out that EA chargers not only charge at Level 3, but their chargers are typically 150kw and even 350kw units. My Volvo can only charge at the 150kw rate, and that’s what I did today. That still turns out to be more than six times the rate of charging that I typically did with my Leaf. I was impressed.

The charging station was at a large shopping center anchored by a Walmart. There were six stations and all six were full when I got there. Within five minutes a car pulled out and I was able to pull in to charge. I went from 56% full to 90% full in a half hour. I probably could have gone from 20% to 80% in about that same time because it charges a lot faster the lower the beginning state of charge and slows down a lot as the battery gets close to fully charged.

I had accounts and cards for other EV charging systems (ChargePoint, Blink, EvGo) and at first I was reluctant to get yet one more. But I’ve come to learn that these other stations aren’t always working, often have only one or two chargers, and don’t give you advance knowledge as to whether it is working or being used. They also typically have a maximum rate of 50kw. The EA installation was modern and clean looking and all six units were working. There are also more of them along I-5, the route I’ll be taking on my trip next week. So I’m glad I chose to join EA and I applaud VW.

I also got to see a bunch of other EVs, some for the first time: two different KIA models, a Porsche Taycan, a Tesla (not using a Tesla charger!), a Rivian, and a VW id.4). Cool!

The Replacement Wife by Darby Kane

The Replacement WifeThe Replacement Wife by Darby Kane
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Elisa is suffering from the trauma of a workplace shooting a few months ago. She suffers from dizziness and nausea. The author does everything he can to make us consider her the now-trendy-in-novels “unreliable narrator.” She is convinced that her brother-in-law Josh killed his first wife and probably his second, Abby, who is now missing. Josh insists Abby left him. Her husband, Harris, takes Josh’s side and tells Elisa she needs therapy. Then we find out there was yet another wife for Josh before the “first” one. That’s the set-up.

Is she paranoid? I won’t spoil it. Elisa does some illogical things and clearly isn’t thinking straight, but she is frustrated at Harris’s disloyalty to her and is convinced she being gaslighted by Josh. Oh, yes, gaslighting is another trendy shtick in thrillers, especially in these dime-a-dozen unreliable narrator books. The author uses a lot of tricks to stretch things out, like Elisa getting interrupted every time she’s on the brink of something – reading a key text or telling Harris about a key incident. The reader is kept waiting so often you’ll be tempted to just skip to the last chapter to see how it all comes out.

The writing is fluid enough, even if it uses a lot of cheap tricks, and the plot no worse than others that came before it and which it shamelessly copies. It passed the time well enough that I can squeeze out three stars, although I can’t really recommend it.

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Varsity Blues weirdness – Amin C. Khoury

The last two parents charged in the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal recently agreed to plead guilty, or so press reports say. Gregory and Amy Colburn of Palo Alto face prison time and are scheduled to be sentenced today. I say they are the last of the parents’ cases to be wrapped up because that’s what the press reports say and the DOJ website on the case shows no others. But that’s not true. What about Amin Khoury?

Khoury was indicted in September 2020 for allegedly paying a bribe to get his daughter into Georgetown as a tennis recruit. He was one of many in a similar position in the large-scale scandal. His name appeared regularly. As of last December he was mentioned in news reports as one of the last parents to still be fighting the charges. Then all mention of him disappeared. The DOJ website no longer lists him among the defendants. The only other parent who didn’t get convicted either through a plea deal or being found guilty at trial was a Miami businessman named Zangrillo who was pardoned by President Trump on his last day in office. Another bribe maybe? But Zangrillo stills appears on the DOJ site as having been charged and then pardoned. So why is Khoury no longer listed there? I’m certain he was earlier. This is still weird. If the charges were dropped, that should still be shown on the DOJ site.

I checked for Khoury’s Wikipedia page but only found mention of his father, Amin J. Khoury, reportedly a billionaire. It is the son Amin C. Khoury who was indicted. There’s no mention of the case on the father’s page.  He doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, but he does have his own blogspot page. I found this:


Amin C. Khoury

Listed links:


He was suspended from Twitter and his blogspot posts have also been blocked for inappropriate content. The other pages don’t exist now.

I contacted the public information office of the U.S. Attorney in Boston but got no response. However, I was able to find on the court’s public docket that Khoury is scheduled to appear for a pretrial conference today in the courtroom of Judge Patti B. Saris. Obviously he’s still an active case and he’s still resisting the charges. Why is the press overlooking him? Why is DOJ so close-mouthed about his case? If he goes to trial, I suspect it will be an interesting case to follow. All the coaches have either pled guilty, agreed to do so, or been convicted. Of course the big fish, Rick Singer, the mastermind turned informant, has yet to face final sentencing.

Bonecrack by Dick Francis

BonecrackBonecrack by Dick Francis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My wife likes what she refers to as “factory movies.” We used to see those in school as kids. The term as she means it is a general one that applies to any movie or TV show that explains how things are made, or even more generally, takes an inside look at a field of endeavor. That’s the main appeal of this book for me. All the inside scoop on thoroughbred horse training and racing was fun to learn. The writing was well done, but the plot really was all too predictable to be ranked high as a mystery or thriller. In fact, there was no mystery at all. Neil, the main character, is beaten by a very bad man who threatens even more harm if his son is not allowed be the lead jockey on the best horse in England. The son is an arrogant little snot … at first. Then he and we readers are educated on the proper way to train horses and learn the jockeying ropes from the ground up. You can pretty much guess the rest. The ending was rather neat and lazy, but inevitable. I enjoyed the book, but now that I’ve seen the factory movie, I don’t have any desire to read another Dick Francis book.

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