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.
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.
I’ve posted on Facebook sites and sent out notices to my fan mailing list, but not here yet. Until now. My latest Cliff Knowles novel (#10), Cold Case, is now available on Amazon both as Kindle and paperback. It’s also available for free on my Cliff Knowles website as a PDF. Here’s the scoop:
Cliff is intrigued by a geocache description about a murder site in posh Los Altos Hills dating back eighteen years. When the victim’s granddaughter approaches Cliff and Maeva to find the killer, they accept. Soon they are drawn into the esoteric world of DNA and genealogy to try to track down “Cole Case,” the killer. Chasing a murderer can be a dangerous business and this time is no exception, but Cliff can always find time to pick up a geocache or two.
A recent news item about the author, whose name I’d heard or read often, spurred me to read one of her books, namely this one, her first big hit. It’s imaginative and well-written, but a bit creepy, too. Tom Ripley is a penniless but ambitious young man in 1950’s New York. He’s always on the hustle. He works when he has to, but prefers to mooch and schmooze his way through life. He has no woman in his life beyond a domineering aunt who considers him a “sissy,” a common euphemism for gay in those days, at least compared to the less euphemistic terms like fairy and pervert that also appear in the book, mostly from Tom. Tom’s sexual preference is never fully explored and we don’t know what it may be, but he latches onto wealthy Dickie Greenleaf and insinuates himself into Dickie’s life while at the same time trying to edge out Marge, Dickie’s would-be girlfriend. All three are in a small town in Italy where Dickie has retreated to become a painter and Marge a novelist. Any more elucidation would be a spoiler. Suffice it to say the story is a fascinating psychological study of sociopathic Tom Ripley.
There are plenty of sites that tell you the most popular baby names for the current (or last) year. Here’s a good one for 2019, if that’s what you want . What interests me is identifying which names are the most trendy, i.e. rapidly gaining or falling in popularity. You may want to get in on the trend, or avoid a name that is on the downward slide. I used Social Security Administration data for 2015 and 2018, the most recent year they’ve released as of this writing, and compared the top 100 names for both and girls in 2015 to see where they ranked in 2018. Here are the results.
Biggest losers for girls:
|NAME||2015 Rank||2018 Rank||Drop|
Biggest gainers for girls:
|NAME||2015 Rank||2018 Rank||Gain|
Biggest losers for boys:
|Name||2015 rank||2018 rank||Drop|
And gainers for boys:
|Name||2015 rank||2018 rank||Gain|
Every once in a while I review which posts get the most views. Below is a list of posts that were most clicked on in 2019. Many were posted in earlier years. These are ordered by popularity.
As the title suggests, this book concentrates on resilience, which in this context means resilience against the consequences of climate change. The authors who are experts in the field, describe various ways organizations and governmental entities can provide that resilience. They address such issues as building on or near shorelines or in flood plains, modifying laws to shift liability for climate disasters to incentivize parties to build in more resilient ways, or to relocate, preparing the health care system better to respond to floods, hurricanes, investing in better climate and disease modeling, and so forth. Most of their suggestions are sensible and useful.
Some of the better ones are: to encourage architecture schools to include climate risk and methods to ameliorate it in its curriculum; government subsidies to insurance companies faced with catastrophic losses should be phased out so that insurance companies weigh the true risks of climate disasters better and raise rates to incentivize developers and homebuyers to make better choices; local community leaders should develop and implement heat emergency plans and centers. Some are little more than wishful thinking or meaningless technobabble, like “governments should apply insights to advance climate resilience” or “business leaders should lead a process to develop a protocol that enables companies to better understand climate risks.”
The book is aimed entirely at governments at all levels and people in a position to influence policy on a large scale such as industry leaders. It is an advocacy piece. There is little here for the average reader. I had hoped that after reading it I would be more prepared personally for coming climate-related risks, but I was disappointed in that respect.
I decided to check out Google’s N-gram predictive stories for the five leading Democratic candidates in the Iowa caucuses. If you need an explanation of how this works, see my earlier post here.
Joe went to the door and opened it wide to let in more light.
Elizabeth started to say something but could not find it.
Bernie went to see the King in his beauty.
Pete was a good man and a great warrior.
Amy had been so kind to me that I had not been able to find any other way.
I had a hard time rating this five stars because it’s not a fun read – or in my case, fun to listen to, since I heard the audiobook read by the author. The subject matter is awful stuff. But the story is so important it must be read and heeded. The book in excruciating detail lays out the cases of woman after woman being raped and sexually molested by serial rapists in powerful positions. The guilty men are on the political right and left – Harvey Weinstein (big Hillary contributor) and Matt Lauer (“liberal press”), AMI (the National Enquirer) and Donald Trump on the right. Perhaps more frightening is that people around them knew full well what was going on and were in a position to stop it, but turned a blind eye to protect their careers or company profits. If it were only one or two cases I might be somewhat skeptical, but the book recounts interview after interview, totaling over a hundred, and even includes the recording of Weinstein’s voice admitting to his repeated molestation of women made by one of his victims. The companies engaged in the massive witness intimidation and cover up effort include NBC, AMI, the David Boies law firm, and, of course The Weinstein Company and Miramax. Les Moonves of CBS also took a hit, although that wasn’t something Farrow uncovered, but it shows the problem is industry-wide and probably exists almost everywhere. The women who resisted the predators or reported the assaults were blackballed from the industry and usually slut-shamed with all sorts of false rumors and accusations. Don’t view this merely as sleazy tabloid stuff. This is a book about organized crime by powerful people. You may be sitting on a jury someday. You need to know that this stuff really does happen and how awful it is.
The author reads very well. There is no doubt he is a bit of a prima donna, but he not only reads with excellent dramatic technique, he also does foreign accents very well, giving life to some colorful characters like the Israeli security guys who tailed him. The book would be a better book without his repeated interjection of his love life with his boyfriend. That really did make it seem like tabloid fare and detracted from the serious journalism in it.
This very readable non-fiction exploration of the world of reuse, repurpose and sharing is both meaningful and enjoyable. Want to know where that old iPhone you donated to Goodwill ended up? Find out here. Learn why importers in Ghana or India like Canadian fashion clothes better than American ones. See why well-intentioned laws pushed by Greenpeace actually harm the environment and are arguably racist. Discover the complexities of the rag business. I found it all fascinating. Minter writes well. He brings to life a number of colorful characters and reveals how some unlikely spots around the globe are important to the secondhand business, places like Missisauga, Ontario; Petaling Jaya, Malaysia; Newark, New Jersey; Lebanon, Tennessee; and Agbogbloshie, Ghana. Here you can learn the difference between an antique, a collectible, and junk. Find out the devious tricks manufacturers use to make it difficult or impossible to fix their products, thus forcing people to buy new ones, and how enterprising entrepreneurs are defeating those techniques.
Minter’s first book, Junkyard Planet, dealt with recycling and waste disposal. This does not, except a bit tangentially. It is all about how things after a first use can be, and often are, acquired and put to a second use, or even third and fourth and fifth. This book will appeal to those who are environmentally conscious and those who just like to learn new stuff not written about elsewhere.
I haven’t done a baby name analysis for a while, so I thought I’d check to see if any of the Democratic hopefuls have inspired a naming trend. Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration data sets only go through 2018, so it is unsurprising that the answer is no. The charts below illustrate the point. I only checked the five leading candidates. I checked Joseph, Peter, and Bernard in addition to the more popular names shown in the charts, but the trends were mostly the same. Oddly, both Joe and Pete had a resurgence around 1960 and then a steady downward trend, while Joseph and Peter peaked again in 1980, but then also fell off in steady decline. For what it’s worth, Donald, Hillary, and Nancy all have failed to show any significant increase during 2014 – 2018. However, Hillary and Melania both showed spikes in popularity when those women became first lady. The same did not happen with Michelle, although her name was always much more popular than either of the other two.
Note: different graphs are not to scale. Use Maximum popularity numbers to assess actual popularity. In case you’ve been living in a cave, the names represent Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Amy Klobuchar. The order is not indicative of anything.
The plot of Dark Matter explores familiar territory for any Sci-fi fan: the doppelganger or evil twin trope. The idea of two identical or nearly identical appearing people co-inhabiting the same world and interfering with the life of the other by impersonating them or unintentionally being mistaken for them goes back centuries. Twelth Night by Shakespeare is the earliest one I remember. I did a search online and immediately got a website that lists the 30 best films with twins or doppelgangers. That means there are even more than 30, although not all are science fiction. I can think of Twilight Zone and Star Trek episodes that did it too, not to mention many sci-fi books. So Crouch gets zero points for originality.
The beginning is well-written and exciting as Jason is attacked and kidnapped, not understanding what is going on. [mild spoiler warning – but this is early stuff you’ll learn soon if you read it]. He wakes up in a strange lab where everyone knows him, but he knows none of them. He’s a physicist who in this new world has supposedly won a prestigious prize, but he knows that instead he is merely a physics professor at a mediocre Midwest college. Crouch then leads us to understand that Jason has been subjected to quantum superposition, in effect inhabiting another world, one of the infinite number of possible worlds that exist simultaneously. It seems he, or the alternate version of him, invented a machine that can put objects or people in such a multiverse state. The rest of the book involves Jason trying to figure out what happened to him, why, and how to get back to his old life. The book became more tedious and implausible as it went on. I listened to the audiobook, which had a good reader, but all in all I found it unsatisfying. As I said at first – it’s well-explored territory and there are no new ideas here. Recursion, a later work by this author, has a very similar plot, only in that one, it’s time travel, not quantum superposition. This one is somewhat better written than that one, but that’s the best I can say for it.
I read this and loved it in the 1970s and it was just as good this time around. This is the first Horatio Hornblower novel, although later novels were set earlier in his life as a Midshipman and Lieutenant. Here Hornblower is the captain of an English frigate circa 1803. He is sent around Cape Horn to Central America on the Pacific side to assist El Supremo, a local despot who is trying to free his natives from Spanish rule since England and Spain are at war. The idea is to stop the flow of gold and other riches from the New World and Asia that is funding the Spanish war effort. A Spanish ship of the line is patrolling the waters and Hornblower’s tiny Lydia must take on the larger Natividad.
The book is not for the squeamish. There’s plenty of grisly naval warfare, not to mention descriptions of shockingly harsh living conditions and discipline aboard the ship, but the attention to detail is amazing, and very convincing. It’s astounding to think what men went through to amass and protect the British Empire. I found it refreshingly free of political correctness. The author writes in terms appropriate for the day – terms like Dago and Negress abound, and women are treated as incompetent children needing a man’s protection, or at least that’s the mindset of all the men at first. I especially like the ongoing theme of intelligence and good moral character prevailing over evil and brutality. Everything a captain needed to consider and plan for in those days is mind-blowing.
I only read 53 pages of this before I couldn’t take it any longer. I’d give it 1 star based on what I read, but it might have gotten better later on, so I’ll give it another for the benefit of the doubt. Every character in the book is a fantasy supernatural being. The main character is a defense lawyer who refuses to represent guilty clients. There is no such creature. That would be like an emergency room physician who refuses to treat sick or injured people. When I was in law school a criminal defense lawyer – a true believer in civil liberties, etc. – told our class that 98% of his clients “told me a guilty story and most of the other 2% were lying to me.” Another major character is a serial killer who is also a master actor, mimic, skilled makeup artist, accomplished hacker, and all-around genius. He is also willing to change his body weight and break his nose and his arm in order to accomplish his murders. I was in the FBI for 25 years and found that every serial killer was pretty much just a thug. Most of them were stupid although a few were skilled con men and some were good at avoiding detection by operating at night with masks, gloves, etc. In addition to that, the lawyer character was unethical as the opening scene proved, so I couldn’t get behind him from the beginning.
I saw this graphic in Science magazine and found it sobering.
The very clever plot makes up for a few shortcomings on this book. Claire has defective mitochondrial genes and has lost her first child to excruciating genetic disease. Her husband wants to try again. She agrees, but secretly manipulates him and her doctor into experimenting on her, using an egg donor with healthy mitochondria to implant the altered cell that combines her chromosomes with the good mitochondria and produce the world’s first three-parent baby, which in the story violates federal law. The result is Abby, a healthy baby girl. Claire’s husband Ethan, a prominent academic critic of gene manipulation, is unaware that his own daughter is a so-called “frankenbaby.” The egg donor Jill is the doctor’s research assistant, an ambitious and manipulative vixen who is also the doctor’s lover. She considers Abby her experiment to be “monitored.” Claire is forced to flee with Abby. I’ll leave off the plot summary to avoid spoilers, but it gets considerably more complex as the story unfolds.
The characters are a bit simplistic. The genetic details are surprisingly well-done, although a few inaccuracies pop up, mainly for valid plot advancement reasons. For example, in real life, it is not illegal to conduct such experiments on embryos, at least not in federal law. The states may be enacting their own laws on this. I suspect the genetics can be challenging to follow for those unfamiliar with genetic testing and basic reproduction biology, but they play a crucial role in the plot. Having had my own genome sequenced, I am quite familiar with the process and could point out a few other peccadilloes, but all in all, the author does a good job.
This wicked, twisty murder mystery is the best I’ve read in a long time. I was surprised several times, which is rare for me. The suspense and tempo are just right, not forced and overdone like so many other thrillers. The main characters include two beautiful women, a couple of preppy rich men, a detective, a blue collar guy, and plenty of murder. The settings are Boston and Maine, mostly the latter. It is told from different viewpoints, each chapter by another character. For the most part it is in chronological order although there are a couple of digressions to fill out the characters’ back stories. The writing is well-done – not elegant, but appropriate for the tone of the story. I’d love to tell you more, but I don’t dare give you a spoiler. I’d rather give you a strong recommendation so you can experience it yourself. I will mention that I liked most of the limericks near the end.
Goodreads has a nifty little feature that I enjoy. It provides its members with a list of all the books he or she has read during the year. It also creates a photo montage of the covers. They say I read 45 books over the year. I believe that’s how many reviews or ratings I posted. The reality is that a few of those I never finished or merely skimmed, On the other hand there are probably at least a dozen that I started and didn’t like enough to keep reading, and never posted or rated them, so the number is a loose one. Below is the photo montage reorganized a bit.
Edit: I just finished another book, so make that 46 this year. See my next post.
This is a biography of John Wesley Powell, a relatively unknown pioneering scientist and naturalist who was immensely important in the exploration and shaping of the western United States. Stegner’s unbridled admiration for Powell damages the historical value of the book as he is unabashedly biased toward Powell’s view of everything. He gives Powell credit for everything good, e.g. correct maps and descriptions, land use policies passed by Congress, pertaining to the region and vilifies all those who opposed him politically or scientifically, especially William Gilpin. Powell might be considered one of the first American environmentalists, but he was also very active in lobbying in Washington and held various positions there and had associations with the Smithsonian Institution and federal departments. Stegner writes well, so I don’t really have any complaints on that score, but I am no history buff so I can’t say I enjoyed the book. I read it only because it’s a selection of my book club. Another factor that turned me off to it is the vituperative descriptions of the politics of the day. We have enough of that going on today.