Monthly Archives: December 2018

Command Authority by Tom Clancy

Command Authority (Jack Ryan Universe, #16)Command Authority by Tom Clancy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’d call this vintage Tom Clancy except it’s very current, not vintage. It is, however, true to form: lots of combat at all levels – hand-to-hand, small arms, and military force. The story involves the doings of both Russian and western spy agencies in Ukraine during the period of Russia’s takeover of the Crimea, threatening to move on Kiev. That story line stars Jack Ryan, Jr., son of President Jack Ryan. At the same time there is a back story starring Jack Sr. when he was a CIA analyst. The chapters switch back and forth in time. Major players are the Russian FSB and a fictional(?) organized crime syndicate called the Seven Strong Men as well as the CIA and British IO’s. The combat scenes are detailed and very credible as Clancy shows his encyclopedic knowledge of armaments and tactics. The political side is also more sophisticated and at least a bit more nuanced than some of his early books. Like those, this one is too long, but sometimes that can be good, especially if you’re listening on a long drive. Clancy’s writing style has improved, too, or perhaps he’s gotten better editors. I can give it a solid three and a half stars.

I listened to the audiobook (14 disks). It was narrated by Lou Diamond Phillips (Henry from the Longmire series), who did an excellent job.

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I See You by Clare Mackintosh

I See YouI See You by Clare Mackintosh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A woman sees her own photo in an advertisement in the personals section of the newspaper along with a phone number. It’s a non-working number. She is disturbed because it would appear to others that she is a prostitute. It turns out there are more women to whom this happens. Then we learn that some are victims of rape or murder. The police are slow to accept this as a serial crime and there is rivalry between the meek transit policewoman and the tough homicide cop running the main investigation. I can’t give this a strong recommendation as the ending was too predictable and the evil character running the mysterious “Find the One” website was overdone. The dynamics between the officers seems very artificial, too. Up until the end, though, it was engaging enough and kept me interested, so I can give it three stars. I listened to the audiobook and the reader was good.

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Kinship and Distance

The above chart shows the relationship between my relatives and their physical distance from me. If you read my preceding post you’ll see that 23andMe provides a map showing the location of one’s DNA relatives (for those who have shared that information). That made me wonder how far (or close) people people generally move or settle in relation to their family.

I’ve lived in several cities around the country including Seattle and New York, and even Tokyo, Japan for my senior year abroad, but I ended up settling for my adult life about eight miles from where I grew up in the San Jose area. In the above chart, degree 1 includes my closest relatives, i.e. those people who share 50% of my DNA, which is my children, siblings, and parents. Degree 2 is those with 25%, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews. Using my own genealogical information and family knowledge, along with a few Google searches, I was able to go out as far as some second cousins (Degree 5). The 6th level shown is taken from that 23andMe map. I used all the 3rd cousins I could find on that map, and no doubt that relationship is only estimated based on shared DNA, not actual generational kinship. Most of those shown on the map were 4th cousins or higher.

The vertical axis is logarithmic, so the actual increase in distance as the kinship increases is much greater than it appears. The trend line shown is exponential, which ironically looks straight because the Y-axis is already logarithmic. In my case, then, it seems clear that generally the more distant the kinship (i.e. “blood” relationship) the farther my relatives are from me. I suspect that is true generally, but I’d be interested in seeing demographic trends for the U.S. and world populations. I’d guess that in the less developed countries, families stay closer together for more generations. I found dozens of charts and articles online, but none that answer this question directly. Of course, such demographic trends change, and can do so rapidly. A number of recent articles mention how more millenials are living with their parents, reversing the trends of recent years. Whatever the trends, it’s fun to see how widespread my family is, even if I don’t know many of them.

DNA Relatives Map

I had my DNA sequenced by 23andMe. There are earlier posts about the rather interesting findings, so feel free to search the blog for those. The search box is to the upper right. They now have a cool new feature: a map showing the current location of all of a customer’s DNA relatives who have agreed to share that data. The map below shows a screenshot of mine. A customer can zoom in closer and see the initials or profile pictures of those relatives and for some of them, even their full name if that’s shared. When zoomed out like this it shows circles with the number in that area, but one can get the individual data for those just by clicking there or zooming in there. I only have one listed in Europe – a woman in London (if that’s still considered Europe) – although there are others there who probably aren’t sharing that information. There’s one in Alaska, one in Hawaii, one in Canada, and several in the U.S. cut off at the edges. None of the ones I checked out were any closer than 4th cousin, though. There are two or three living within twenty miles of me. Maybe I’ll find an excuse to contact them someday. Here’s the map.

Superhuman by Rowan Hooper

Superhuman: Life at the Extremes of Mental and Physical AbilitySuperhuman: Life at the Extremes of Mental and Physical Ability by Rowan Hooper
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hooper examines people who exhibit extraordinary abilities in several categories, including intelligence, longevity, bravery, and many other dimensions. I found the treatment to be superficial, mostly anecdotes about some unusual individuals and what they attribute their own abilities to. He delves into the science, but it seems the science doesn’t really answer the main question that is the theme of the book: what makes these people so “superhuman?” For some of the dimensions, there is a clear genetic explanation at least to an extent. Intelligence and musical ability fall into that category, although genetics are only part of the explanation. The author never really resolves anything. The book has the feel of an assignment from his agent or publisher. I can’t live on my royalties from my last one, so what should I write about next? I know, “superhumans” sounds cool.

Once I realized that this isn’t a school assignment and I don’t have to read all of it, I began skipping around and reading about just the extreme abilities that interested me. He has them neatly organized into chapters. I began enjoying the book much more after that. It was like reading a few articles from a magazine. There are some interesting tidbits among the filler.

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I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State KillerI’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you just heard about this book recently and think it’s about how the so-called Golden State Killer (GSK) was finally identified, think again. It’s the story of his crimes, and of one now-deceased woman (the author, who was an amateur/civilian), who became obsessed with him. She writes well and describes his crimes in detail as well as depicting the detectives and many others whose lives intersected with him. However, the book was published in February 2018, two months before the GSK was identified and arrested. He is now awaiting trial. It is very frustrating to get to the end and find that you cannot find out which of the myriad theories was correct. Which profilers got it right? Which parts of the profiles were right? Was the name of the GSK ever in the database of suspects? How was he caught? These questions are not answered in this book.

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Doubt by C.E. Tobisman

Doubt (Caroline Auden, #1)Doubt by C.E. Tobisman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Caroline is a black hat hacker turned lawyer. She’s hired as a new associate at a big corporate firm involved in a multi-state mass tort case against a big pharma company, similar to Grisham’s King of Torts or The Summons. The book is billed as a legal thriller, and it is that. It is also a murder mystery and sort of YA romance. As a retired lawyer, I can tell you she has captured the tension and thrill of appearing in a court for the first time, especially where it’s a federal court and millions of dollars ride on it. She shows the complexity and difficulties a lawyer faces in complying with all the court requirements and obtaining the necessary evidence to prove a case. I enjoyed that part. I’m not sure the average non-attorney reader would.

Where the book falls short is primarily in the characterizations of Caroline’s relationships with her family and her black hat past. Personal descriptions are also one-dimensional and hackneyed. The handsome male associate is constantly referred to as having broad shoulders and a cute dimple, or skin like satin. The opposing counsel representing the drug company defendant has a hook nose and scarecrow features with jagged furrows up his forehead. Really? Why not put a scythe in his hand and have him cackle “Bwah-hah-ha”? I have enough background in computers to know she does not write about the tech side very accurately, either. The ending is predictable and the big surprises at the end aren’t very surprising. For these reasons I can only give this two stars.

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Geocaching Growth in Silicon Valley 2000 – 2018

This video demonstrates how geocache growth has expanded in Silicon Valley since the inception of the sport in 2000. Each red square represents the creation of a geocache. They appear in the order they were placed. I used a data file generated by GSAK. It includes all geocaches I’ve hidden and all I’ve found, and nearly all active caches as of about 12/1/2018. You can tell by the cluster around Highways 280 and 85 that I live near there. Archived caches on the eastern half of the valley did not get included unless I found them, which is why the red is denser on the western side near me. A more accurate record would show the eastern half equally heavily populated.

The music is Chicken Chowder by the Ragtime Skedaddlers.

Changing book buying trends

I write mystery novels and self publish them. I’ve been doing this since 2011. You can click the link above to see my book promotional page. I’ve now written nine books. Although the volume of sales has increased fairly steadily, the method by which readers acquire my books has changed dramatically in recent years. Readers as a group do not buy as many books as they used to. Now they tend to borrow ebooks to read them much more than they did before. Authors can earn royalties with all these methods.

I believe this trend is consistent with similar consumer trends such as for cars, music, and computers. More people lease cars now or use Uber/Lyft than formerly and they use more online or cloud services and products than before like Pandora or iTunes or Netflix. People used to take pride in owning things – books, cars, music albums, movies, software. It’s a general trend now to pay only for the use of something rather than ownership. See the graph below of sales and borrows of my books.

My first book in 2011 was not published in paperback form until 2012. That book and all subsequent ones were available in both formats after that. As is evident, the borrowing trend is growing while the buying, especially of physical books, is declining. I’m not complaining about this, only noting it as interesting.

The graph is not completely accurate as it doesn’t include all my foreign sales or paperbacks I sold personally from my house or at events, but the trend is clear.