Monthly Archives: May 2016

Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer

RubberneckerRubbernecker by Belinda Bauer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In general this was an engaging read. It takes a while before you know where it’s going, but there’s a murder mystery waiting for you if you have the patience for it. The central character is Patrick, a Welsh lad with Asperger’s Syndrome, that is, autistic but supposedly high-functioning. He has a fascination with death and is driven to find out why his father died. We find him in a dissection room with a group of pre-med students. As expected, he’s the one to have the critical insight, although the average reader will have it figured out at least 50 pages before he does.

I suspect that most of the reviews and interest in this book will focus on the Asperger’s aspect. Frankly, I’m a bit tired of that syndrome. It’s become the affliction du jour for movies, books, TV, and even video games (The Big Short, The Bridge, The Rosie Project, Cole Phelps, among others). I’m afraid that with a severely autistic close relative, I don’t find it amusing. The portrayal of it in this book is wildly inaccurate. Even severely autistic (i.e. non-Asperger’s) people Patrick’s age have better social skills and awareness of others than Patrick and true Asperger’s sufferers are much better, i.e. more normal, than that. He’s an insensitive caricature at best. If you can set aside the insulting portrayal, the plot is interesting if far-fetched and the writing style is very readable. I enjoyed the descriptions of the Welsh countryside, although there wasn’t a great deal of that. I have more than a little Welsh blood in me, but I’ve never been there. I did have to look up a few Britishisms like Marmite and Vladivar. Another thing I liked about the book was the absence of violence, sadism, and excessive foul language, although be prepared for a good dose of gore in the dissection room.

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Our Ignorant Newsies – Lester Holt edition

NBC news today had a story about food trucks for dogs. It specialized in treats, very similar in appearance to ice cream sundaes. Lester Holt, the anchor, ended the piece by saying that everyone loves ice cream trucks and it’s good to know that “there’s never one far away.” Hmm think about that. So if I’m in San Francisco, there’s never one far away, like in Miami or New York. Ever? I think he must be mistaken. What he no doubt meant was there’s always one nearby, or, more precisely, there’s always one not far away. That’s not the same thing.

This mistake is an example of the misplaced negative. Some thinks that “never” means the same thing as “always not,” which is generally true when both the “always” the “not” are referring to time. However, here, the “not” refers to something different – distance – not time. This mistake is most commonly made by people who just aren’t very smart. They don’t understand the logic of what they are saying. I have to admit, though, that it sounds right if you aren’t paying close attention. It slipped right by me the first time and I noticed it only because my wife scoffed when he said it. Just because the listener can understand what you mean doesn’t mean that it’s okay. He’s the primary news anchor of a major network, for Pete’s sake. He should be able to use proper grammar and pronounce words right, but then Dan Rather did okay for himself when he couldn’t do either. One hopes that such iconic figures would serve as positive examples for our youth. Fat chance.

On an unrelated note, the local news reporter who came on right after with a breaking story about a shootout on the highway said the police were there looking for gun casings. Hmm, again. I’ve never seen a gun casing. What does it look like? Might you mean shell casings? Then she repeatedly said that one of the cars involved was a Jagwire. Yes, Jagwire, not Jaguar. Sigh.

No Cherokee in me

I just got my genetic results back from 23andMe. I have 0% Native American (i.e. American Indian) genetic markers. I’m 99+% European. That squelches a rumor I heard from a genealogist/distant relative that one of our common ancestors was a Cherokee Indian who Anglicized his name. I do have quite a lot of Neanderthal in me, though, more than 85% of the 23andMe population. I also carry a recessive gene for a nasty disease that I’ve never heard of before. No one in my family has that disease so far as I am aware.

The results were moderately interesting, but held fewer surprises than I expected. A lot of what they said I could tell by looking in the mirror (complexion, hair, eye color, no dimples, etc.) Some of it was actually “wrong,” i.e. the genes said I was likely to have something I didn’t have or vice versa, but for all of those traits, it wasn’t a 100% correspondence.

Comments enabled

Long ago I disabled the comment feature of this blog because I was getting so many spam comments. I decided to try opening it up again for comments, so if you feel so inclined, go ahead and comment on this or any other post. You can always reach me personally by clicking About the Author/Contact link at the top and filling in the form.

No more Saudi Arabia?

One thing this video barely hints at: the possibility that the western world may soon cut its ties with Saudi Arabia and the other hateful, Stone Age oil-producing countries of the Middle East that we now have to pretend we’re friends with. We can leave it all to ISIS or Al Qaeda. The Israelis can take care of themselves. We can finally stop going to war over there. When their oil becomes as valueless as their sand, we can rejoice. Buy an electric car!

Will Shortz Picks His Favorite Puzzles

The New York Times Will Shortz Picks His Favorite Puzzles: 101 of the Top Crosswords from The New York TimesThe New York Times Will Shortz Picks His Favorite Puzzles: 101 of the Top Crosswords from The New York Times by Will Shortz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The puzzles Shortz has chosen are indeed quality puzzles with clever clues and a very unique twist or theme. We expect this much from the NYT. However, I’m a little disappointed that they are mostly chosen for the art of the puzzlemaker rather than the enjoyment of the solver. It’s like a musician who chooses music based on the technical brilliance of the performer or the original nature of the composition rather than whether or not it sounds good. I create crosswords, too, and really appreciate the difficulty in making some of these work, such as having all the clues form a sentence with their first letters. Clever, but the solver doesn’t know this while solving and the cleverness is largely lost on those of us who work the puzzles. There also aren’t very many in the book. It’s so thin it isn’t even stout enough to serve as a surface to work the puzzles on. You have to work on a table or brace the book against your knee if in bed or a recliner. Notwithstanding these shortcomings, I am enjoying it a great deal.

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Actually, gmail does an excellent job filtering out spam for me, but I thought the cartoon was clever.

Teacher Appretiation Week in Chicago

I just watched the CBS Evening News coverage of a demonstration by striking teachers in Chicago. One teacher was carrying a large sign that said:

You call this appretiation?

I’m not feelin’ it.

Make of that what you will. It’s sad almost any way you look at it.


My son and daughter-in-law went on a weekend vacation the last few days and my wife and I volunteered to keep their new dog. He’s a full-grown rescue, not a puppy, and looks like a mid-sized mongrel mutt of black, white, and a little brown. His name is Calvin. My family had dogs when I was little, not always with good results (runaways, one got run over), but it’s been 50 years plus since I had any doggy care and feeding responsibilities. We’ve had cats during my married life.

All the cliches are true. The dog craves affection and is (usually) very obedient. He likes to play. He cringes when scolded. He poops in the yard, or, alternatively, when we walk him. Poop scooping takes some getting used to when you haven’t done it for a few decades. Our cat is pretty affectionate for a cat, but that’s a whole different ballpark. His affection is generally intended to get us to feed him or do some other chore. He’s easier to take care of, that’s for sure. He pees and poops somewhere we’ve never figured out, but it’s not in our yard or in his litter box. The dog ate our hamburger buns when we weren’t looking. It’s a good thing my wife didn’t leave the patties out on the counter. She normally does let them warm up to room temperature before I put them on the barbecue. The cat won’t touch anything we eat, even chicken or fish, although he has brought us mice, rats, birds and lizards, usually disemboweled, occasionally alive.

We’ve really enjoyed the affection and playfulness of the dog this weekend, but we’ll also be glad to let him go back to the kids. If this is practice for grandchildren, I’m all for it.