There are quite a few new words added to the dictionary every year. A few of the recent ones appear in this British-style cryptic crossword puzzle. Click on the puzzle to play interactively, or download the pdf file.
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.
Here’s a YouTube video I made a few years back of Police Dog Blues, played in open D tuning.
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.
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.
This map shows the spread of the virus over the last week. The map on the left is as of 3/30/20, on the right is 4/7/20.
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.