Isaac Asimov wrote the Lucky Starr series of books for the juvenile market using the pen name Paul French. I only read the first half because I’m not ten years old any more, but I could see where kids would enjoy it. It’s somewhere in the range of a Superman comic to early Star Trek. It’s also quite dated technologically and socially. It does introduce some interesting facts and concepts about space and physics that might inspire youngsters to enter into science more seriously. There were a few things along those lines that I didn’t know, or, more likely, once knew but have forgotten. If you’re an adult who enjoys reading old comics from the 50’s and 60’s, you might enjoy this, too. The book is very short, so a quick read, but stylistically it might try your patience.
Yesterday I posted a U.S. map showing the raw numbers of deaths from Covid-19 by states. It may be somewhat misleading. I have taken the same CDC data (yesterday’s) and adjusted it by population. The map below shows the death rate on a statewide per capita basis. This map has some surprises, showing that states like Oklahoma and Nevada are being hit harder than California, for example. I believe it gives a more accurate picture than raw number maps shown by the major news outlets.
CDC Death data as of 3/30/2020
The following map is based on figures from the CDC as of 6:00 PM EDT 3/30/2020. By the time this is posted, it will probably be out of date.
The following map shows the number of deaths from Covid-19 by state as of 3/30/2020 6:30PM EDT according to CDC data (as reported in the New York Times). The count changes hourly.
Other maps I’ve seen online and on television news show the number of cases. This can be misleading because that number depends a lot on the availability of testing and the willingness of people to get tested. I believe the number of deaths is a better indication of the spread of the disease. What is most notable in this map is that California, despite being the most populous and the second to be hit, has fewer deaths than New York, Washington, Louisiana, Michigan, and New Jersey. I attribute this to the early use of business closures, social distancing, and the public acceptance of the health authorities’ orders along those lines. Other states seemed to be somewhat in denial and delayed those measures. There may be other factors involved, such as the density of the populations and the readiness of the medical facilities, but I have seen authoritative commentators also attribute the relatively slow increase here in California to our successful early measures.
Not shown on the map: Puerto Rico: 6; Guam 1
This classic courtroom drama was made into a blockbuster movie in 1959 starring Jimmy Stewart as the main character, defense attorney Paul Biegler. The facts of the killing are well-known from the beginning. The defendant’s wife, Laura, was raped by the local innkeeper and the defendant, an army lieutenant, took a gun, went to the bar, and shot the rapist dead. He reported that he had done so and was taken into custody. It becomes Biegler’s duty to try to get him off. The plot revolves primarily about the defense of temporary insanity.
I never practiced criminal law, but as a retired FBI agent, and attorney, I am very familiar with the issues in the case. I found the tactics and legal theories very well done, as the author is a former prosecutor. That part was fascinating to me, although I’m not sure so much to the average reader. The story is populated with some colorful characters – a crusty old drunk of a defense lawyer helping Paul, a couple of beautiful women, including the rape victim, a sassy secretary, an unrepentant defendant, a weaselly prosecutor, a folksy sheriff, and a comical deputy.
The author writes with too much wordiness for my taste, prolific in his descriptions almost to the point of purple prose. A sterner editor would have made this a better book. The author does not try to present a balanced perspective on the case. He stacks the deck in favor of the defense. It is clear from the beginning that we are supposed to root for the defendant to get off. The judge and sheriff seem to bend over backwards to favor the defense, too. All the clever ploys of the defense worked and all those of the prosecutor backfired. Nearly all the judge’s ruling favored the defense. That part was a bit hard to believe and rankled me both because of its unbelievability and because it’s the kind of thing that makes people distrust the legal system.
I enjoyed the drama of the story, but in the end my biggest disappointment was the blurring of the lines between good and bad. The “good guys” weren’t as good as the reader might have hoped and the “bad guys” weren’t nearly so bad as we are led to believe. I found the ending both predictable and unrewarding, but all in all, the book is worth a read.
Originally called Trilby Rag, this song only became popular when arranged and recorded by Cow Cow Davenport as Atlanta Rag. This guitar arrangement is by Ton Van Bergeyk. It uses a standard tuning and is played in D (except I capo it up to E).
I have created a small (8 question Y/N) survey to see whether and how much Covid-19 may have affected my friends and family and extended circle of friends. Please click on the link below to take the survey. The responses will not be traceable to specific individuals. Forward the survey link to anyone you want.
Here is a link to the results. Bookmark this page to see updates to the responses.
All the doomsayers on the news are telling us that our world will be very different from now on due to the Covid-19 virus, that we may be entering a “new normal.” What they aren’t doing is making predictions about what that will look like. I have no crystal ball and don’t know either, but I’ve speculated about a few things.
The talking heads don’t dare say things that make them look other than compassionate. The technologists, speculators, and accountants in the background, however, are doing a lot of thinking in pretty cold-hearted ways. Here’s what I think some are thinking but not saying publicly.
The economic effects are going to be bad for business in general and for small business in particular. This is already evident, and will only get worse if the outbreak persists for months or years. This has not been kept secret. However, there will be some up sides, too. If we lose a significant percent of the elderly population, but not the younger people, that will help many sectors of the economy. Actuarial tables will change drastically. Social Security may become fiscally self-sustaining, at least for a while. Life insurance and maybe health insurance premiums will go down or Medicare for all may become feasible after all. Many top jobs like CEOs will become vacant and filled by younger people, leading to a rapid shift up the ladder for many workers.
Hair styles will change. Long hair on men will become the fashion again when millions of men can’t get haircuts. An Afro will not be seen as an anti-establishment black power challenge, but a sign of compliance with authority. The rebels will be the ones to violate the shelter in place orders and get haircuts.
Natural selection will have its day again, at least for a bit. I don’t know how, exactly, but it will happen. Some of those reckless college students on spring break in Florida will get sick and die or possibly suffer permanent debilitating conditions preventing them from reproducing. For all we know, Covid-19 reduces sperm count or makes people sterile. Only time will tell. The anti-vaxers may die off more rapidly once a vaccine is produced because they refuse to get it, or they may flourish because their unassisted immune system may be naturally hardier. The End of Days preppers may very well survive quite well while the rest of us don’t. You could see a lot of people return to following Biblical apocalyptic verses like Revelations, Thessalonians, and Proverbs. People who have been prudent and saved a nest egg or whose parents have, may do okay while their peers suffer deprivation which bring about its own risks. Desperate people with guns could change life in a lot of places, although I’m not predicting a Mad Max type lawless society. America could become a lot more like a third world country, or the Great Depression, with out-of-work cosmeticians and waiters in the fields picking crops especially if the borders are truly sealed.
Air travel may come to a near complete end, save only for military and some cargo aircraft. People with property, even ordinary suburban houses, may start growing their own vegetables and keep chickens for the eggs. Some do now, but that number could balloon. I see that as a possible good thing. I just vacuumed my whole house today because our cleaning lady can no longer come here. That’s the first time in decades I’ve done that. People who have learned how to cook will do better than those who never bothered to learn how. The domestic arts will suddenly become much more important. People will be exchanging recipes in vast numbers.
The diverging paths in China and Italy will change people’s views about totalitarianism. It’s not all bad. We’ve already seen some movement in that direction with the lockdown orders here in the U.S. and Europe. If you think our current president is bad, our next one could be a Jim Jones or David Koresh or Adolf Hitler or Kim Jong-un bent on saving the “true believers” or “master race” or “anointed” or really such seeking absolute power, wealth, and control.
These are musings, not predictions. Stay well and have a nice day. By the way, I’m not producing daily crosswords any longer. Not enough people were reading/doing them. They’re quite a bit of work to make.
Daily crossword for March 20, 2020:
Flip the Bird
Daily crossword for March 19, 2020:
Click on the image to go to the interactive puzzle or click on the PDF link below for a printable copy.
Here in the Bay Area we are in a “shelter in place” mode, so I thought people might need things to do while cooped up. Here is my crossword Pandemic. Click on the puzzle to go to the interactive version, or click on the PDF link below to get a printable copy. I’ll try to keep these coming during the restriction period, so watch this blog. Please feel free to share or forward.
My sister taught me, “When the mites crawl up, the tights come down.”
Are there such things as women’s words and men’s words? An article I read in Stanford Magazine recently about children’s language development got me curious. I have found some books irritatingly “chick lit” in nature, usually relating to the frequent use of long fashion and makeup descriptions for the characters. I decided to see if I could measure this. Consider the following illustration.
I didn’t have access to the full texts of modern novels, so I decided to take public domain works from both men and women authors from gutenberg.org and total the words used by each. I didn’t want to be comparing different genres, so I chose four mysteries by women and four by men (list below). For some of the longest ones, I took only a section of the book roughly equal in size to the average of the other books, so that the weights should not be skewed heavily by a single book. For each word I measured what percentage of the total words in the male authors’ books it represented; then I did the same for the women authors. I then compared the men’s percentage to the women’s percentage and graphed the results as shown above. The words on the right (blue) side were used more often by men and the left (pink) side more often by the women authors. Bear in mind these books are quite old and surely do not represent modern views about women’s roles, but they are interesting. The words shown in the graphic are selected purely as illustration. The complete list is given below, and includes every word that appears at least five times in the women’s combined and five in the men’s combined novels. Names of persons and places have been ignored.
The blue section represents the percentage of appearances of a word that were by the male writers. The most male-leaning word, brother, was used nine times as often men as by women. The line thus shows it connected to the 90% mark. The most female-leaning word was Mrs., for which 13% of the uses were by the men and 87% by women when normalized. Gender-related words tended to skew toward the writers of the same gender, although that wasn’t completely consistent. One might object on the grounds that this tendency is only because of the characters in the books, but that’s rather the point: women populate their novels with more female characters than men do, and have them more central to the story. What I find more interesting are the non-gender related words that skew heavily. Why, for example, is our the second most male-skewed word? That was consistent with all the male writers and female writers. And why everything the third-most female skewed? As the graphic shows, the words be and rose were used almost exactly equally by the men and women. I didn’t check to see if rose referred more to the verb or the noun.
The four male books were The Red House Mystery, by A.A. Milne (1922), The Man Who was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton (1908), The Sign of Four, by Arthur Conan Doyle (1890), and The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (1869). The women’s were Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers (1923), The Mystery of Mrs. Blencarrow by Margaret Oliphant (1890), The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (1916), and The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart (1907).
The list of words is ordered with the most male-used at the top and most female-used at the bottom. Everything before the word be was used more by men and below by women.
I haven’t made any new guitar videos in the last couple of years. I have arthritis in my hands now and don’t play enough to keep my skill level up. I’ve even lost the calluses on my fingers. But I realized I have some I put up on YouTube years ago that I never posted here, so I’ll be putting one up from time to time. This one is Deep River Blues.
I read this because my friend Becky recommended it. I enjoyed it very much. The author is a North Korean “defector.” I use the quotes because there was no political aspect to her leaving North Korea. She was an impulsive teenager who wanted to visit relatives in China. She waded across the Yalu River intending to return, but got trapped on the other side due to a crackdown at the border. This is actually typical of so-called defectors there. The brainwashing in North Korea is so complete, so successful, that the citizens there think of South Korea, America, and the west as evil and impoverished – not some place of freedom and wealth, not a place anyone would want to live.
The life she describes in North Korea is so appalling it is mind-boggling, yet growing up in that environment, it seems normal. She had a happy childhood. The book is worth reading just to appreciate how evil the Kim regime and all totalitarian states are. The author was undoubtedly bold and resourceful, yet also foolish in many of the choices she made. Most had little forethought and potentially dire consequences. She was taken advantage of many times and almost ended up as a white slave. She taught herself Mandarin and English out of necessity after becoming stranded abroad. She changed her identity many times to avoid capture and repatriation, hence the book title.
The writing style is a quirky combination of eloquent English (probably crafted by her co-writer, e.g. ghost writer, David John) and some phrasings that must have been translations of Korean phrases, like “the rain came down in lead rods.” It was at times charming and other times awkward.
Someone on Nextdoor posted this:
Covid-19 risk is very low for people under 50 in good health
Age of Coronavirus Deaths Based on all 72,314 cases of COVID-19 confirmed, suspected, and asymptomatic cases in China as of February 11, a paper by the Chinese CCDC released on February 17 and published in the Chinese Journal of Epidemiology  has found that the risk of death increases the older you are, as follows: COVID-19 Fatality Rate by AGE: *Death Rate = (number of deaths / number of cases) = probability of dying if infected by the virus (%). This probability differs depending on the age group. The percentage shown below does NOT represent in any way the share of deaths by age group. Rather, it represents, for a person in a given age group, the risk of dying if infected with COVID-19.
- AGE DEATH RATE
80+ years old 14.8%
70-79 years old 8%
60-69 years old 3.6%
50-59 years old 1.3%
40-49 years old 0.4%
30-39 years old 0.2%
20-29 years old 0.2%
10-19 years old 0.2%
0-9 years old no fatalities
The following map shows which states are likely to gain or lose seats after the 2020 Census and by how much. The two big gainers are Texas (3 seats) and Florida (2 seats). They were also the biggest gainers after the 2010 Census. All the other colored states either gain one seat (pale yellow) or lose one seat (dark green). The white ones stay the same.
These results are based on estimates of the populations of the various states by the census bureau. The actual Census results may differ. Assuming they are accurate, the influence of the yellow states in Congress will increase after the redistricting takes effect. The states are required to complete redistricting after the 2020 Census and before the filing deadline for the 2022 Congressional elections so they will have more representatives in 2023.
Considering the current 2016 Presidential race, many people will likely be interested in how this will affect future presidential elections. All the yellow states except for Oregon are generally considered red, or Republican, states, which could lead one to conclude Republicans will have improved chances for the 2024 presidential race. This is not necessarily the case. The green ones are mixed on the red-blue political scale. The colors do not necessarily indicate which states have gained or lost populations. The large majority of the states gained population, but some gained more than others. California gained in population, but will lose one seat, while Alaska lost population but will stay the same. The complicated formula for apportionment and the extreme population differences between states cause these anomalies.
Many things contribute to how this will affect the voting preferences. Bear in mind that most population increases occur in urban areas and those areas tend to be blue, or Democratic, strongholds. The Increases in Texas, for example, might indicate high numbers of young people moving to jobs in cities there, resulting in a shift from red to blue politically, but in Florida it may be older, more conservative, voters retiring. Another factor is gerrymandering. Most of the yellow states have GOP-controlled state legislatures, which gives that party an advantage in drawing favorable district lines. It may be fun to speculate, but it is really impossible to know how the census will shift the political makeup in Washington.
Some interesting results from Google trends on the terms coronavirus, flu, primary, and caucus:
The top map is for the period 12 months. The lower one is for the past 7 days.
As a retired FBI agent who worked both foreign counterintelligence against China and Economic Espionage cases, I found this book fascinating. I did not know of this particular case before reading the book, and have no preconceived notions about the case itself. The prose flows smoothly here with the author’s engaging style. Her research is good but I got the impression there was a slight pro-China or at least pro-Chinese individuals leaning in her writing, which is only natural for someone who spent years there and no doubt has many friendships and deep roots there.
Investigating and prosecuting economic espionage cases is a very complex business and much of the investigator’s job cannot be brought out or appreciated in a book of this nature. Still, I think the author does a good job of discussing how victim companies are in a bind when the FBI or any law enforcement becomes involved and almost adversarial to the government in such cases. I wish she had spent a little more time on that. The criminal prosecution complicates their business, often threatening to reveal their trade secrets in court. If civil litigation is in process, which it usually is, the defense is handed the argument that the victim company is using the government as their agent or their investigator. The argument goes that the government shouldn’t put its finger on the scales of what is essentially a business dispute. My view is that a theft is a theft whether the victim is Molly’s Hair Salon or Megacorp and law enforcement should investigate crimes and prosecute thieves. A crime victim should be allowed to cooperate with law enforcement without being punished for it.
One glaring omission for those of us in the field is the issue of adequate protection. In order to have a crime under the EEA of 1996, whether trade secret theft or economic espionage, it is necessary to prove that the trade secret was in fact a secret, i.e. that it was sufficiently well-protected. The defense will always claim that it wasn’t really a secret, or not well-protected enough to be considered secret. In effect the argument becomes, “if my client was able to steal it, then it must not be a trade secret and therefore not a crime.” The crime, in effect, doesn’t ever exist. I consider the argument to be specious. The author confuses this issue with the technological value of the thing stolen. A trade secret doesn’t have to be technology at all. In fact, the most valuable trade secret in most companies is a Rolodex with names of customers or suppliers. It can be internal pay records and personnel performance reviews. It seems to me that the issue of protections afforded (or not) to the corn seed lines was, or should have been, a major issue in this case, yet it was little discussed.