Category Archives: Uncategorized

Google Trends – Remdesivir v. Hydroxychloroquine, 10th Amendment v. 2nd Amendment

The searches for the 10th Amendment spiked on April 14, after Donald Trump claimed he had absolute power to reopen the country. The 10th Amendment is the part of the Constitution that says powers not mentioned in the Constitution are reserved for the states or the people. The 2nd Amendment searches spiked after Trump tweeted on 4/17 “Liberate Virginia, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!” It is unclear whether he was encouraging gun rigthts activists, which is what the 2nd Amendment is about, or if he mistook the 1st Amendment for the 2nd, since freedom of speech and assembly are located there.

Hydroxychloroquine is the drug Trump has been touting to treat the coronavirus. Remdesivir is the one doctors have been cautiously enthusiastic about due to early results. The map is surprisingly close to the political red-blue maps of 2016. This pandemic is turning out to be fulfilling my prediction as a real-life experiment in natural selection.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

The Dutch HouseThe Dutch House by Ann Patchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This elegantly written story is about a grand house and its pull – and push – on two families. The narrator is Danny, a young boy at the beginning living in the Dutch House, a middle-aged man at the end, a skilled surgeon who never practiced medicine. It’s about ambition, betrayal, love and hatred, grudges and forgiveness. It’s not a beautiful story, but it is beautifully written. Neither is it a sad story, but more of a prism looking obliquely into how different people see things very differently and how that is inevitable and shouldn’t stop people from loving each other or from being happy.

I usually review mysteries and non-fiction books, especially about science or technical matters, so this is a bit of a change for me. There is no deep dark family secret to be uncovered, yet there are a number of plot surprises, and a number of answers to questions that unfold to mysteries that you didn’t realize were mysteries. Although this may not be in my usual wheelhouse, I enjoyed it very much.

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If You Tell by Gregg Olsen

If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of SisterhoodIf You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood by Gregg Olsen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I hated the story, but the author produced what he intended to write in a workmanlike fashion. It’s the horrific story of a sadistic woman who manipulated and tortured others and eventually killed them or drove her weak-willed third husband to do so. The book is much like the many true crime stories on tabloid TV. It is worth knowing that such people exist and that something needs to be done about them. You may be on a jury someday. Still, it was awful to read about, worse than anything I saw as an FBI agent, even the child porn. After about a third of the way through I had to start skipping until I found out how her crimes were uncovered. The sheriff or his deputies in this case failed in their duty shamefully. I could easily have rated this a 1-star, but I think that would be misleading. It gives readers who like that sort of story what they are looking for.

The book was an important lesson for me in one way. I recently joined Amazon Prime largely because the library is now closed and it’s harder to get books. I thought I could get one free book a month, which I can, but only cooks the author or publisher chooses to be on Kindle Unlimited. None of the books on my reading list are there. After many unproductive searches I decided to “settle” and downloaded this one. It was not a good choice. I have expanded my television viewing choices, though, with Prime video.

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Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids by Paul French (Isaac Asimov)

Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids (Lucky Starr, #2)Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids by Paul French
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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.

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U.S. Covid Deaths per Capita

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

Covid Deaths in the U.S. by State

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

Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver

Anatomy of a MurderAnatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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.

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Covid-19 reach survey

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.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Q7W3T3J

Here is a link to the results. Bookmark this page to see updates to the responses.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-S5QJ2CQM7/

Musings on the Post-Covid New Normal

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.

Crossword: Pandemic

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.

PANDEMIC


PDF version

 

Women’s words, Men’s words

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.

brother
london
our
cannot
road
street
father
paper
also
blue
secret
red
police
spoke
cumberland
become
understand
arrived
papa
instant
women
truth
sister
silence
beard
questions
opposite
ordinary
question
high
human
myself
already
papers
feet
shot
nearly
rapidly
world
hardly
strange
sense
answer
wall
least
heard
letters
low
opinion
repeated
master
meeting
fear
thoughtfully
set
word
men
four
glad
comes
faces
chance
moved
evidently
french
river
anyone
necessary
subject
broken
send
remember
windows
money
afterwards
white
stop
fair
begin
returned
lost
yes
because
position
direction
eagerly
trust
drink
doorway
inspector
case
may
whose
has
between
now
slowly
surprise
talking
mad
kindness
handed
shoulders
expression
library
give
miss
curiosity
bright
fathers
my
wanted
revolver
really
ah
thank
smile
carefully
struck
often
care
altogether
ground
vague
received
instinctively
his
present
isnt
prospect
shadow
finding
common
blood
post
foot
smiling
himself
once
sort
point
smiled
else
situation
mystery
suppose
yourself
friend
above
knowing
ought
remained
live
garden
staying
simple
while
certainly
hear
call
straight
order
life
he
your
again
new
voice
replied
soon
you
dark
yet
are
passage
across
turn
sudden
within
help
servant
appeared
inside
read
appearance
station
character
knocked
pulled
impression
lamp
knowledge
passing
lets
general
excited
duty
astonishment
giving
walking
listened
allowed
habits
boots
throat
seriously
speaking
gloom
approaching
atmosphere
box
keeping
especially
attitude
kindly
length
move
loud
coming
watch
nature
getting
thrown
upon
am
is
mr
me
well
ask
dead
woman
will
than
minutes
we
drive
short
waiting
from
keep
these
forward
led
want
let
more
whole
manner
experience
further
tonight
TRUE
stranger
hand
can
houses
ago
much
table
matter
hair
listen
natural
frightened
entirely
rather
mind
only
way
say
fact
peculiar
talked
months
write
school
sat
show
words
first
most
cases
city
cool
personal
generally
respectable
reply
form
observation
beside
chair
towards
i
even
indeed
exactly
pocket
nodded
course
certain
this
him
might
shall
almost
means
wrong
mouth
court
profession
cup
imagine
pressed
placed
sooner
handle
presence
reached
appear
nights
join
stared
living
us
death
please
heart
note
hesitated
change
surprised
aunt
other
why
another
added
evening
says
crime
man
told
each
second
an
circumstances
mine
water
tried
died
heavy
right
have
hour
hall
should
distant
expected
shut
company
seems
opening
asked
of
looking
themselves
lips
curious
know
however
room
possible
as
that
about
which
here
black
view
wait
seem
somewhat
sorry
marriage
wondering
features
suggested
line
ears
yours
hed
by
perhaps
such
open
do
given
quite
through
held
sight
passed
end
window
quietly
try
interest
bring
bedroom
if
see
others
sir
good
hes
accident
remarkable
teeth
murmured
today
naturally
touch
nervous
calling
false
escape
different
information
particularly
liked
same
far
stopped
looked
at
mysterious
hard
fell
difficult
the
for
to
kind
reason
asking
enough
left
friends
youre
in
pleasure
air
walked
name
round
place
didnt
few
some
moment
story
close
gentleman
think
small
afternoon
wonder
start
used
directly
tall
threw
lodge
killed
done
under
said
so
what
rose
be
like
clear
large
front
ever
began
during
save
years
any
thats
three
locked
extraordinary
explain
opened
and
one
but
being
turned
great
together
having
tears
unless
pass
watson
difference
dignity
mothers
breakfast
own
better
importance
suddenly
a
saying
thought
best
mean
make
itself
whatever
sake
clothes
written
state
putting
calm
telling
door
no
with
too
were
gave
behind
or
taking
it
went
part
met
history
beyond
property
into
against
took
light
hat
followed
detective
top
ready
seen
before
back
head
since
could
down
two
park
who
time
feel
does
lived
big
notice
spirits
heads
carriage
showed
cut
entered
remembered
eyes
tell
just
face
seemed
out
never
able
drove
closed
found
how
then
when
not
thus
occurred
news
stay
wouldnt
pause
pretty
finally
all
bit
leave
pale
little
those
on
thing
going
dont
side
speak
poor
away
was
up
still
im
until
hope
ten
ladies
discovered
grateful
among
laughing
instead
car
country
five
six
account
worse
village
visible
knows
stepped
many
did
there
night
alone
get
perfect
very
last
love
outside
walk
bad
glass
had
its
where
meet
pointed
day
gone
came
book
mans
arms
likely
rooms
guests
late
always
empty
names
pay
eye
known
run
nothing
old
taken
half
house
business
cold
kept
times
been
they
put
usual
terrible
after
morning
brought
wish
meant
go
chapter
called
would
whom
them
work
something
nor
believed
son
several
sigh
tired
leaning
forgotten
hurried
take
trouble
come
stood
later
nobody
corner
step
fellow
must
long
feeling
need
easy
except
got
hands
person
sometimes
sent
turning
dropped
over
body
next
town
both
their
making
fine
either
happened
doubt
perfectly
seeing
shoulder
anybody
ill
every
less
dear
days
young
saw
doctor
knew
idea
doing
without
somebody
sure
cried
till
neither
off
figure
tea
felt
things
wasnt
happy
sun
finished
shook
ive
drew
pleasant
early
theres
suspicion
tomorrow
afraid
believe
oclock
family
mother
moments
people
lock
became
anything
standing
cant
made
wont
look
train
quarrel
use
home
servants
full
caught
gentlemen
lay
oh
everybody
along
quiet
lady
whether
dress
ran
she
near
find
stairs
though
attention
her
herself
children
sound
fire
bed
everything
girl
mrs