Reviews of the books I've read

A list of all the books I've read this year. For these reviews, this is my book review scale:

burn Burn any copy you find of this book, it is horrific.
mock This book is awful. Don't read this book and mock anyone you see reading this book.
don't Don't read this book.
desert If you're on a desert island and are bored out of your mind, this book is okay to read.
fan If you're a fan of this author / genre, this book is worth reading.
worth This book is interesting, fun, entertaining, and thus worth reading. I would hand this book to a friend who asked for a _____ type book.
strongly I strongly recommend this book
amazing OMG, this book is amazing and/or life-changing, let me buy you a copy.

Post date:

I am Number Four

Book Review

After reading four non-fiction books in a row, thereby nearly guaranteeing my goal of "1/3 of my books read this year should be non-fiction," I needed brain candy. I needed a book that was just plain fluff, that wasn't going to be anything but an adventure. I had I am Number Four on my list for a bit, likely some Book Riot recommendation, and had started reading it in Montreal when Snook and Ara were busy catching up on tattoos and such in the local bookstore's Starbucks. I had read up to page 47 in the book, and wanted to continue it. TMI? Possibly, but it wins me brownie points.

My plan was to read this book today (check), and watch the movie tonight (less check). The former I managed, the latter I mostly managed. The book is better. Way better.

Anyway, there are 18 known inhabitable planets in the universe (how they know this in the UNIVERSE and not merely our galaxy, I have no idea, but let's go with it, this is brain candy, not discovering gravitational waves or some such. One of them was destroyed by its own race, which then destroyed a second of them, and is coming for its third, Earth. The previous planet's occupants had some pretty fantastic abilities, and these are what John Smith, the 15 year old protagonist, might developer. Or maybe does develop? Okay, fine he does.

The book was exactly what I needed, brain candy. The movie was an experience in frustration and confusion - why would they change the father-son, guardian-trustee, friendly relationship between Henri and John in the book, and make it adversarial and secretive in the movie? The change did not improve the movie at all.

If you're a fan of science fiction, this is a fast, easy read. If not, skip it, and likely the remaining six books in the series. I'll be skipping the remaining six books myself.

Sarah laughs. She places a new egg in my hand and takes my hand in hers and shows me how to crack it on the rim of the bowl.
Page 89

No, that is a crappy way to break an egg. Breaking an egg along the rim of a bowl shatters the shell, increasing the likelihood of shell in your bowl and your batter (or whatever you have in the bowl).

Crack the egg by knocking it against the countertop to create a broken flat area of shell. Press both thumbs into this broken circle area, and pry apart as if the egg has a hinge on the opposite side of the egg from the broken flat area where you are putting your thumbs.

"She was a late sleeper, and I always woke before she did. I would sit in the den and read the paper, make breakfast, go for a walk. Some mornings I would come back and she would still be sleeping. I was impatient, couldn't wait to start the day together. She made me feel good just to be around her. I would go in and try to rouse her. She would pull the covers over her head and growl at me. Almost every morning, always the same thing."
Page 139

Dis me.

"Hope?" he says. "There is always hope, John. New developments have yet to present themselves. Not all the information is in. No. Don't give up hope just yet. It's the last thing to go. When you have lost hope, you have lost everything. And when you think all is lost, when all is dire and bleak, there is always hope."
Page 148

"Do you think it's possible for us to be loved?" I ask.

"What are you talking about?"

"By humans. Do you think we can be loved, like, truly be loved by them?"

"I think they can love us the way they love each other, especially if they don't know what we are, but I don't think it's possible to love a human the way you would love a Loric," he says.


"Because deep down we're different from them. And we love differently. One of the gifts our planet gave us is to love completely. Without jealousy or insecurity or fear. Without pettiness. Without anger. You may have strong feelings for Sara, but they aren't what you would feel for a Loric girl."
Page 315

Can you imagine such a love?

"What happens if we try to have children with humans?"

"It's happened many times before. Usually it results in an exceptional and gifted human. Some of the greatest figures in Earth's history were actually the product of humans and the Loric, including Buddha, Aristotle, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, THomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein..."
Page 316

"No more running. No more fighting. Blood from the knife wound runs down my back; my hands and legs are both shaking. The dagger is still tucked into the waistband of my jeans, but what's the point in grabbing it? What faith is there in a four-inch blade against a forty-foot beast? It would be the equivalent of a splinter. It'll only make it angrier. My only hope is to bleed to death before I am killed and eaten.

I close my eyes and accept death. My lights are off. I don'ot want to see what is about to happen."
Page 463

Geez, this kid accepts his death easily. And repeatedly. He kept accepting it, and accepting it, and accepting it, even as everyone around him kept fighting. Maybe Henri should have worked on those grit lessons, too.

Weapons of Math Destruction

Book Review

Okay, this book has been on my to-read list for a long while. I bought it I don't know when, with the intent of reading it, but it just lingered. When Suzanne said her session of the book club she and Bob are in, is reading it, and that the session would meet the Monday I'm there, well, I pulled out the book and started reading.

It was not what I was expected, which is fine, really, most books aren't quite what I was expecting. This one, however, caught me more off-guard than I was expecting. I thought this was a book describing the mathematics used in the different ways big-data affects society. Instead, it is a book describing the ways mathmatics is used in big data to disadvantage the already disadvantaged.

It is, at its core, a book about the growing unfairness of big-data in our lives. It is about the ways the poor are kept poor, the rich can stay rich, the powerful abuse their power, and society continues to stratify, all with the help of numbers and math and statistics and data.

The first session of the book club summed up the book as, "It reads like a novel, and is mostly about the unfairness of big-data, it's a social justice book." Bob commented, "Yep, we're done, I don't think there's anything else to talk about." I agree. The book was example after example of the ways big-data is problematic. The examples are important to know. I recommend the book.

Math provided a neat refuge from the messiness of the real world.
Page 1

I can understand this desire to leave the messiness for the beauty of mathematics.

There would always be mistakes, however, because models are, by their very nature, simplifications. No model can include all of the real world’s complexity or the nuance of human communication.
Page 20

A model’s blind spots reflect the judgments and priorities of its creators.
Page 21

Here we see that models, despite their reputation for impartiality, reflect goals and ideology.

Our own values and desires influence our choices, from the data we choose to collect to the questions we ask. Models are opinions embedded in mathematics.
Page 21

Racism, at the individual level, can be seen as a predictive model whirring away in billions of human minds around the world. It is built from faulty, incomplete, or generalized data.

Whether it comes from experience or hearsay, the data indicates that certain types of people have behaved badly. That generates a binary prediction that all people of that race will behave that same way. Needless to say, racists don’t spend a lot of time hunting down reliable data to train their twisted models. And once their model morphs into a belief, it becomes hardwired. It generates poisonous assumptions, yet rarely tests them, settling instead for data that seems to confirm and fortify them.

Consequently, racism is the most slovenly of predictive models. It is powered by haphazard data gathering and spurious correlations, reinforced by institutional inequities, and polluted by confirmation bias.
Page 23

The second false assumption was that not many people would default at the same time. This was based on the theory, soon to be disproven, that defaults were largely random and unrelated events. This led to a belief that solid mortgages would offset the losers in each tranche. The risk models were assuming that the future would be no different from the past.
Page 41

I was already blogging as I worked in data science, and I was also getting more involved with the Occupy movement. More and more, I worried about the separation between technical models and real people, and about the moral repercussions of that separation. In fact, I saw the same pattern emerging that I’d witnessed in finance: a false sense of security was leading to widespread use of imperfect models, self-serving definitions of success, and growing feedback loops. Those who objected were regarded as nostalgic Luddites.
Page 48

And this is the a-ha moment, the inception, for this book.

In a system in which cheating is the norm, following the rules amounts to a handicap. The only way to win in such a scenario is to gain an advantage and to make sure that others aren’t getting a bigger one.
Page 63

Emphasis mine. Welcome to human nature.

the University of Phoenix targeted poor people with the bait of upward mobility. Its come-on carried the underlying criticism that the struggling classes weren’t doing enough to improve their lives. And it worked.
Page 70

If it was true during the early dot-com days that “nobody knows you’re a dog,” it’s the exact opposite today. We are ranked, categorized, and scored in hundreds of models, on the basis of our revealed preferences and patterns. This establishes a powerful basis for legitimate ad campaigns, but it also fuels their predatory cousins: ads that pinpoint people in great need and sell them false or overpriced promises. They find inequality and feast on it. The result is that they perpetuate our existing social stratification, with all of its injustices.
Page 70

A 2012 Senate committee report on for-profit colleges described Vatterott’s recruiting manual, which sounds diabolical. It directs recruiters to target “Welfare Mom w/ Kids. Pregnant Ladies. Recent Divorce. Low Self-Esteem. Low Income Jobs. Experienced a Recent Death. Physically/ Mentally Abused. Recent Incarceration. Drug Rehabilitation. Dead-End Jobs—No Future.”

Why, specifically, were they targeting these folks? Vulnerability is worth gold. It always has been.

Once the ignorance is established, the key for the recruiter, just as for the snake-oil merchant, is to locate the most vulnerable people and then use their private information against them. This involves finding where they suffer the most, which is known as the “pain point.”
Page 72

Because there is always someone willing to exploit the less-well-off.

But zero tolerance actually had very little to do with Kelling and Wilson’s “broken-windows” thesis. Their case study focused on what appeared to be a successful policing initiative in Newark, New Jersey. Cops who walked the beat there, according to the program, were supposed to be highly tolerant. Their job was to adjust to the neighborhood’s own standards of order and to help uphold them.

Standards varied from one part of the city to another. In one neighborhood, it might mean that drunks had to keep their bottles in bags and avoid major streets but that side streets were okay. Addicts could sit on stoops but not lie down. The idea was only to make sure the standards didn’t fall.

The cops, in this scheme, were helping a neighborhood maintain its own order but not imposing their own.
Page 88


In this sense, PredPol, even with the best of intentions, empowers police departments to zero in on the poor, stopping more of them, arresting a portion of those, and sending a subgroup to prison. And the police chiefs, in many cases, if not most, think that they’re taking the only sensible route to combating crime. That’s where it is, they say, pointing to the highlighted ghetto on the map. And now they have cutting-edge technology (powered by Big Data) reinforcing their position there, while adding precision and “science” to the process. The result is that we criminalize poverty, believing all the while that our tools are not only scientific but fair.
Page 91

While looking at WMDs, we’re often faced with a choice between fairness and efficacy.

Our legal traditions lean strongly toward fairness.

The Constitution, for example, presumes innocence and is engineered to value it. From a modeler’s perspective, the presumption of innocence is a constraint, and the result is that some guilty people go free, especially those who can afford good lawyers. Even those found guilty have the right to appeal their verdict, which chews up time and resources. So the system sacrifices enormous efficiencies for the promise of fairness.

The Constitution’s implicit judgment is that freeing someone who may well have committed a crime, for lack of evidence, poses less of a danger to our society than jailing or executing an innocent person.
Page 95

Back when arguing meant discourse, not bullying or outight lies. Go fig.

They try in vain to measure “friendship” by counting likes and connections on Facebook. And the concept of fairness utterly escapes them. Programmers don’t know how to code for it, and few of their bosses ask them to.
Page 95

The question is whether we as a society are willing to sacrifice a bit of efficiency in the interest of fairness. Should we handicap the models, leaving certain data out?
Page 95

But a crucial part of justice is equality. And that means, among many other things, experiencing criminal justice equally. People who favor policies like stop and frisk should experience it themselves. Justice cannot just be something that one part of society inflicts upon the other.
Page 96

What’s more, for supposedly scientific systems, the recidivism models are logically flawed. The unquestioned assumption is that locking away “high-risk” prisoners for more time makes society safer. It is true, of course, that prisoners don’t commit crimes against society while behind bars. But is it possible that their time in prison has an effect on their behavior once they step out? Is there a chance that years in a brutal environment surrounded by felons might make them more likely, and not less, to commit another crime? Such a finding would undermine the very basis of the recidivism sentencing guidelines. But prison systems, which are awash in data, do not carry out this highly important research. All too often they use data to justify the workings of the system but not to question or improve the system.
Page 97

This was one of the pillars of the original “broken-windows” study. The cops were on foot, talking to people, trying to help them uphold their own community standards. But that objective, in many cases, has been lost, steamrollered by models that equate arrests with safety.
Page 103

Even putting aside the issues of fairness and legality, research suggests that personality tests are poor predictors of job performance.

Frank Schmidt, a business professor at the University of Iowa, analyzed a century of workplace productivity data to measure the predictive value of various selection processes. Personality tests ranked low on the scale—they were only one-third as predictive as cognitive exams, and also far below reference checks.

This is particularly galling because certain personality tests, research shows, can actually help employees gain insight into themselves. They can also be used for team building and for enhancing communication. After all, they create a situation in which people think explicitly about how to work together.

That intention alone might end up creating a better working environment. In other words, if we define the goal as a happier worker, personality tests might end up being a useful tool.

But instead they’re being used as a filter to weed out applicants. “The primary purpose of the test,” said Roland Behm, “is not to find the best employee. It’s to exclude as many people as possible as cheaply as possible.”
Page 109

The practice of using credit scores in hirings and promotions creates a dangerous poverty cycle. After all, if you can’t get a job because of your credit record, that record will likely get worse, making it even harder to land work. It’s not unlike the problem young people face when they look for their first job—and are disqualified for lack of experience. Or the plight of the longtime unemployed, who find that few will hire them because they’ve been without a job for too long.

It’s a spiraling and defeating feedback loop for the unlucky people caught up in it.

Employers, naturally, have little sympathy for this argument. Good credit, they argue, is an attribute of a responsible person, the kind they want to hire. But framing debt as a moral issue is a mistake.

Plenty of hardworking and trustworthy people lose jobs every day as companies fail, cut costs, or move jobs offshore. These numbers climb during recessions. And many of the newly unemployed find themselves without health insurance. At that point, all it takes is an accident or an illness for them to miss a payment on a loan.

Even with the Affordable Care Act, which reduced the ranks of the uninsured, medical expenses remain the single biggest cause of bankruptcies in America.
Page 149

(Wealthy travelers, by contrast, are often able to pay to acquire “trusted traveler” status, which permits them to waltz through security. In effect, they’re spending money to shield themselves from a WMD.)
Page 150

To which, as someone who has been sexually assaulted by a TSA officer, yes, I will pay my government $20 a year not to sexually assault me.

THAT said, I STILL get the "random" checks when I go through the TSA Pre line. "Random" really means, "we will prove we are not racially profiling travellers by always targeting the slender, big boobed, conservatively dressed woman in cords, because hey not a Muslim dude."

Not all WMD backlashes are accurate either.

As we saw in recidivism sentencing models and predatory loan algorithms, the poor are expected to remain poor forever and are treated accordingly—denied opportunities, jailed more often, and gouged for services and loans. It’s inexorable, often hidden and beyond appeal, and unfair.
Page 155

According to a report in Forbes, institutional money now accounts for more than 80 percent of all the activity on peer-to-peer platforms.

For big banks, the new platforms provide a convenient alternative to the tightly regulated banking economy. Working through peer-to-peer systems, a lender can analyze nearly any data it chooses and develop its own e-scores. It can develop risk correlations for neighborhoods, zip codes, and the stores customers shop at — all without having to send them embarrassing letters explaining why.
Page 159

Of course it is. Banks go where the money is.

Quoting this book is becoming tiring, tbh. Might be easier to read the book than all my extracted quotes.

Hoffman’s analysis, like many of the WMDs we’ve been discussing, was statistically flawed. He confused causation with correlation, so that the voluminous data he gathered served only to confirm his thesis: that race was a powerful predictor of life expectancy. Racism was so ingrained in his thinking that he apparently never stopped to consider whether poverty and injustice might have something to do with the death rate of African Americans, whether the lack of decent schools, modern plumbing, safe workplaces, and access to health care might kill them at a younger age.

Nearly a half century later, however, redlining is still with us, though in far more subtle forms. It’s coded into the latest generation of WMDs. Like Hoffman, the creators of these new models confuse correlation with causation. They punish the poor, and especially racial and ethnic minorities.
Page 162


How can that be?

Mathematicians didn’t pretend to foresee the fate of each individual. That was unknowable. But they could predict the prevalence of accidents, fires, and deaths within large groups of people.
Page 163

... for the first time, the chance to pool their collective risk, protecting individuals when misfortune struck.
Page 163

The move toward the individual, as we’ll see, is embryonic. But already insurers are using data to divide us into smaller tribes, to offer us different products and services at varying prices. Some might call this customized service. The trouble is, it’s not individual. The models place us into groups we cannot see, whose behavior appears to resemble ours. Regardless of the quality of the analysis, its opacity can lead to gouging.
Page 164

In other words, how you manage money can matter more than how you drive a car.


And in Florida, adults with clean driving records and poor credit scores paid an average of $ 1,552 more than the same drivers with excellent credit and a drunk driving conviction.
Page 165

Emphasis not mine.

But consider the price optimization algorithm at Allstate, the insurer self-branded as “the Good Hands People.” According to a watchdog group, the Consumer Federation of America, Allstate analyzes consumer and demographic data to determine the likelihood that customers will shop for lower prices. If they aren’t likely to, it makes sense to charge them more.

And that’s just what Allstate does. It gets worse. In a filing to the Wisconsin Department of Insurance, the CFA listed one hundred thousand microsegments in Allstate’s pricing schemes. These pricing tiers are based on how much each group can be expected to pay.
Page 166

The stated goal of this surveillance is to reduce accidents. About seven hundred truckers die on American roads every year. And their crashes also claim the lives of many in other vehicles. In addition to the personal tragedy, this costs lots of money. The average cost of a fatal crash, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, is $3.5 million.
Page 168


When I talk to most people about black boxes in cars, it’s not the analysis they object to as much as the surveillance itself. People insist to me that they won’t give in to monitors. They don’t want to be tracked or have their information sold to advertisers or handed over to the National Security Agency. Some of these people might succeed in resisting this surveillance. But privacy, increasingly, will come at a cost.
Page 170


At some point, the trackers will likely become the norm. And consumers who want to handle insurance the old-fashioned way, withholding all but the essential from their insurers, will have to pay a premium, and probably a steep one. In the world of WMDs, privacy is increasingly a luxury that only the wealthy can afford.
Page 170

Insurance is an industry, traditionally, that draws on the majority of the community to respond to the needs of an unfortunate minority.
Page 170

In the villages we lived in centuries ago, families, religious groups, and neighbors helped look after each other when fire, accident, or illness struck. In the market economy, we outsource this care to insurance companies, which keep a portion of the money for themselves and call it profit.
Page 171

As insurance companies learn more about us, they’ll be able to pinpoint those who appear to be the riskiest customers and then either drive their rates to the stratosphere or, where legal, deny them coverage. This is a far cry from insurance’s original purpose, which is to help society balance its risk. In a targeted world, we no longer pay the average. Instead, we’re saddled with anticipated costs. Instead of smoothing out life’s bumps, insurance companies will demand payment for those bumps in advance.
Page 171

Once companies amass troves of data on employees’ health, what will stop them from developing health scores and wielding them to sift through job candidates? Much of the proxy data collected, whether step counts or sleeping patterns, is not protected by law, so it would theoretically be perfectly legal.

As we’ve seen, they routinely reject applicants on the basis of credit scores and personality tests. Health scores represent a natural—and frightening—next step.
Page 175

The national drugstore chain CVS announced in 2013 that it would require employees to report their levels of body fat, blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol—or pay $ 600 a year.
Page 175


It gives companies an excuse to punish people they don’t like to look at—and to remove money from their pockets at the same time.
Page 177

In fact, the greatest savings from wellness programs come from the penalties assessed on the workers. In other words, like scheduling algorithms, they provide corporations with yet another tool to raid their employees’ paychecks.
Page 178

By sprinkling people’s news feeds with “I voted” updates, Facebook was encouraging Americans — more than sixty-one million of them — to carry out their civic duty and make their voices heard.
Page 180

Studies have shown that the quiet satisfaction of carrying out a civic duty is less likely to move people than the possible judgment of friends and neighbors.
Page 180

Of course.

Facebook is more like the Wizard of Oz: we do not see the human beings involved. When we visit the site, we scroll through updates from our friends. The machine appears to be only a neutral go-between. Many people still believe it is.
Page 183


Using linguistic software, Facebook sorted positive (stoked!) and negative (bummed!) updates. They then reduced the volume of downbeat postings in half of the news feeds, while reducing the cheerful quotient in the others. When they studied the users’ subsequent posting behavior, they found evidence that the doctored new feeds had indeed altered their moods.

Their conclusion: “Emotional states can be transferred to others…, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness.” In other words, Facebook’s algorithms can affect how millions of people feel, and those people won’t know that it’s happening.
Page 184

The engines they used were programmed to skew the search results, favoring one party over another. Those results, they said, shifted voting preferences by 20 percent. This effect was powerful, in part, because people widely trust search engines. Some 73 percent of Americans, according to a Pew Research report, believe that search results are both accurate and impartial.
Page 184

Trying to please everyone is one reason most political speeches are boring (and Romney’s, even his supporters groused, were especially so).
Page 185

Basking in the company of people he believed to be supportive and like-minded, Romney let loose with his observation that 47 percent of the population were “takers,” living off the largesse of big government. These people would never vote for him, the governor said—which made it especially important to reach out to the other 53 percent.
Page 186

I find it interesting that this incident is in this book, as it is in Dark Money, too. Different spins happening, though.

Modern consumer marketing, however, provides politicians with new pathways to specific voters so that they can tell them what they know they want to hear. Once they do, those voters are likely to accept the information at face value because it confirms their previous beliefs, a phenomenon psychologists call confirmation bias. It is one reason that none of the invited donors at the Romney event questioned his assertion that nearly half of voters were hungry for government handouts. It only bolstered their existing beliefs.
Page 187

In late 2015, the Guardian reported that a political data firm, Cambridge Analytica, had paid academics in the United Kingdom to amass Facebook profiles of US voters, with demographic details and records of each user’s “likes.” They used this information to develop psychographic analyses of more than forty million voters, ranking each on the scale of the “big five” personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
Page 191


The scoring of individual voters also undermines democracy, making a minority of voters important and the rest little more than a supporting cast. Indeed, looking at the models used in presidential elections, we seem to inhabit a shrunken country. As I write this, the entire voting population that matters lives in a handful of counties in Florida, Ohio, Nevada, and a few other swing states. Within those counties is a small number of voters whose opinions weigh in the balance.
Page 196

Instead of targeting people in order to manipulate them, it could line them up for help. In a mayoral race, for example, a microtargeting campaign might tag certain voters for angry messages about unaffordable rents. But if the candidate knows these voters are angry about rent, how about using the same technology to identify the ones who will most benefit from affordable housing and then help them find it?
Page 197

Because, you know, money.

Change that objective from leeching off people to helping them, and a WMD is disarmed—and can even become a force for good.
Page 197

At the federal level, this problem could be greatly alleviated by abolishing the Electoral College system. It’s the winner-take-all mathematics from state to state that delivers so much power to a relative handful of voters. It’s as if in politics, as in economics, we have a privileged 1 percent. And the money from the financial 1 percent underwrites the microtargeting to secure the votes of the political 1 percent. Without the Electoral College, by contrast, every vote would be worth exactly the same. That would be a step toward democracy.
Page 197

This might need to be my next mission.

Along the way, we’ve witnessed the destruction caused by WMDs. Promising efficiency and fairness, they distort higher education, drive up debt, spur mass incarceration, pummel the poor at nearly every juncture, and undermine democracy. It might seem like the logical response is to disarm these weapons, one by one. The problem is that they’re feeding on each other. Poor people are more likely to have bad credit and live in high-crime neighborhoods, surrounded by other poor people.
Page 198

Our national motto, E Pluribus Unum, means “Out of Many, One.” But WMDs reverse the equation. Working in darkness, they carve one into many, while hiding us from the harms they inflict upon our neighbors near and far. And those harms are legion.
Page 198

We cannot count on the free market itself to right these wrongs.
Page 198

Indeed, all too often the poor are blamed for their poverty, their bad schools, and the crime that afflicts their neighborhoods.
Page 198

Big Data processes codify the past. They do not invent the future. Doing that requires moral imagination, and that’s something only humans can provide. We have to explicitly embed better values into our algorithms, creating Big Data models that follow our ethical lead. Sometimes that will mean putting fairness ahead of profit.
Page 198

Clearly, the free market could not control its excesses. So after journalists like Ida Tarbell and Upton Sinclair exposed these and other problems, the government stepped in. It established safety protocols and health inspections for food, and it outlawed child labor.

These new standards protected companies that didn’t want to exploit workers or sell tainted foods, because their competitors had to follow the same rules. And while they no doubt raised the costs of doing business, they also benefited society as a whole.
Page 198

The government, using tax dollars, attempts to compensate for it, with the hope that food stamp recipients will eventually be able to fully support themselves. But the lead aggregators push them toward needless transactions, leaving a good number of them with larger deficits, and even more dependent on public assistance.
Page 198

And the same is often true of fairness and the common good in mathematical models. They’re concepts that reside only in the human mind, and they resist quantification.

And since humans are in charge of making the models, they rarely go the extra mile or two to even try. It’s just considered too difficult. But we need to impose human values on these systems, even at the cost of efficiency.
Page 198

To disarm WMDs, we also need to measure their impact and conduct algorithmic audits. The first step, before digging into the software code, is to carry out research. We’d begin by treating the WMD as a black box that takes in data and spits out conclusions.
Page 198

There’s no fixing a backward model like the value-added model. The only solution in such a case is to ditch the unfair system.
Page 198

In this case, it’s simply a matter of asking teachers and students alike if the evaluations make sense for them, if they understand and accept the premises behind them. If not, how could they be enhanced? Only when we have an ecosystem with positive feedback loops can we expect to improve teaching using data. Until then it’s just punitive.
Page 198

They predict an individual’s behavior on the basis of the people he knows, his job, and his credit rating—details that would be inadmissible in court. The fairness fix is to throw out that data. But wait, many would say. Are we going to sacrifice the accuracy of the model for fairness? Do we have to dumb down our algorithms? In some cases, yes. If we’re going to be equal before the law, or be treated equally as voters, we cannot stand for systems that drop us into different castes and treat us differently.
Page 198

Movements toward auditing algorithms are already afoot. At Princeton, for example, researchers have launched the Web Transparency and Accountability Project. They create software robots that masquerade online as people of all stripes—rich, poor, male, female, or suffering from mental health issues. By studying the treatment these robots receive, the academics can detect biases in automated systems from search engines to job placement sites.
Page 198

Academic support for these initiatives is crucial. After all, to police the WMDs we need people with the skills to build them. Their research tools can replicate the immense scale of the WMDs and retrieve data sets large enough to reveal the imbalances and injustice embedded in the models. They can also build crowdsourcing campaigns, so that people across society can provide details on the messaging they’re receiving from advertisers or politicians. This could illuminate the practices and strategies of microtargeting campaigns.
Page 198

Auditors face resistance, however, often from the web giants, which are the closest thing we have to information utilities. Google, for example, has prohibited researchers from creating scores of fake profiles in order to map the biases of the search engine.
Page 198

Facebook, too. The social network’s rigorous policy to tie users to their real names severely limits the research outsiders can carry out there.
Page 198

Of course they do. Again, money.

These regulations are not perfect, and they desperately need updating. Consumer complaints are often ignored, and there’s nothing explicitly keeping credit-scoring companies from using zip codes as proxies for race. Still, they offer a good starting point. First, we need to demand transparency. Each of us should have the right to receive an alert when a credit score is being used to judge or vet us. And each of us should have access to the information being used to compute that score. If it is incorrect, we should have the right to challenge and correct it.
Page 198

Next, the regulations should expand to cover new types of credit companies, like Lending Club, which use newfangled e-scores to predict the risk that we’ll default on loans. They should not be allowed to operate in the shadows.
Page 198

If we want to bring out the big guns, we might consider moving toward the European model, which stipulates that any data collected must be approved by the user, as an opt-in. It also prohibits the reuse of data for other purposes. The opt-in condition is all too often bypassed by having a user click on an inscrutable legal box.

But the “not reusable” clause is very strong: it makes it illegal to sell user data. This keeps it from the data brokers whose dossiers feed toxic e-scores and microtargeting campaigns. Thanks to this “not reusable” clause, the data brokers in Europe are much more restricted, assuming they follow the law.
Page 198


Finally, models that have a significant impact on our lives, including credit scores and e-scores, should be open and available to the public. Ideally, we could navigate them at the level of an app on our phones. In a tight month, for example, a consumer could use such an app to compare the impact of unpaid phone and electricity bills on her credit score and see how much a lower score would affect her plans to buy a car. The technology already exists. It’s only the will we’re lacking.
Page 198

Dark Money

Book Review

While I do have a reading goal this year of having one third of the books I read be non-fiction books, I was really planning on reading more science books than politics books. When Bob said this was one of the books he was reading for his local book club, I checked the library and was delighted that it had a short wait time for the book. The next day, I had the book. Unfortunately, I managed to finish it only just before arriving in Pasadena.

Reading this book is like talking with Dad about politics, which was interesting to me because I now understand where he gets the crap he spouts. I had commented to him a couple years ago that he doesn't have any original thought it in head, he parrots back whatever hate he's getting from somewhere without thinking through the unintented (or intended, actually) consequences of his ideas. Well, the political agenda this book chronicles is pretty much what Dad is parroting. Dad is the type of person the conservatives targetted with their hate. This book describes the origins of that hate, not the reasons for it, but how it came to be and how it grew into the abomination that it is.

Abomination? Is that the correct word to use? When you have 27 families in a country of 360,000,000 million people able to stop the government and services of said country, yeah, you have an abomination.

This was a hard book to read, mostly because I kept wanting to throw it against the wall. I wanted to participate in Bob's book club, though, so I kept reading.

It comes down to this: liberals fundamentally believe that everyone can govern themselves, conservatives believe only they can govern and everyone else should bow to them. It's a matter of trust.

What I missed, and what Bob also agreed was missing from the book was what to do about the problem of dary money in the political system. People like my Dead Brother have given up, they are sheep with no will for change. People like Bob have not given up. As such, they, too, seek ways to undo the damage of the abomination.

I didn't like the topic of the book, but the book, wow, way worth reading. Strongly recommended.

The gap between the top 1 percent of earners in America and everyone else had grown so wide by 2007 that the top 1 percent of the population owned 35 percent of the nation’s private assets and was pocketing almost a quarter of all earnings, up from just 9 percent twenty-five years earlier.
Location 410

It is unclear what Fred Koch’s views of Hitler were during the 1930s, beyond his preference for the country’s work ethic in comparison with the nascent welfare state in America.
Location 768

Of a visit home, she wrote, “As soon as we arrived I felt an overwhelming urge to prostrate myself on the floor and eat dirt in order to illustrate how grateful I am for everything they’ve done for me, that I’m not the spoiled monster they warned me I’d become if I wasn’t careful.”

She described “chasing” her father around the house, trying to impress him with her interest in economics, and “staring down that dark well of nothing you do will ever be good enough you privileged waste of flesh.”
Location 866

A generation before, stern admonitions against becoming spoiled had emanated from Fred Koch to his offspring as well. Even as he laid plans to leave huge inheritances to his sons, he wrote a prophetic letter to them in 1936. In it, he warned,

When you are 21, you will receive what now seems like a large sum of money. It will be yours to do what you will. It may be a blessing or a curse.

You can use it as a valuable tool for accomplishment or you can squander it foolishly. If you choose to let this money destroy your initiative and independence, then it will be a curse to you and my action in giving it to you will have been a mistake.

I should regret very much to have you miss the glorious feeling of accomplishment and I know you are not going to let me down. Remember that often adversity is a blessing in disguise and certainly the greatest character builder. Be kind and generous to one another and to your mother.


“Never did such good advice fall on such deaf ears.”
Location 878

Ironically, the organization modeled itself on the Communist Party. Stealth and subterfuge were endemic. Membership was kept secret. Fighting “dirty” was justified internally, as necessary to combat the imputed treacherousness of the enemy.
Location 915

Of course. That is the way of people in power when what they do is not honest.

One ploy the group used, he said, was to set up phony front groups “pretending to be other than what they were.”
Location 918

Among those delivering papers on how the fringe movement could obtain genuine power was Charles Koch. The papers are striking in their radicalism, their disdain for the public, and their belief in the necessity of political subterfuge.
Location 1210

It called for the repeal of all campaign-finance laws and the abolition of the Federal Election Commission (FEC). It also favored the abolition of all government health-care programs, including Medicaid and Medicare. It attacked Social Security as “virtually bankrupt” and called for its abolition, too. The Libertarians also opposed all income and corporate taxes, including capital gains taxes, and called for an end to the prosecution of tax evaders. Their platform called for the abolition too of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the FBI, and the CIA, among other government agencies.

It demanded the abolition of “any laws” impeding employment—by which it meant minimum wage and child labor laws.

And it targeted public schools for abolition too, along with what it termed the “compulsory” education of children. The Libertarians also wanted to get rid of the Food and Drug Administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, seat belt laws, and all forms of welfare for the poor.

The platform was, in short, an effort to repeal virtually every major political reform passed during the twentieth century.
Location 1274

Which is what rich people want: more ways to abuse the poor.

Scaife’s great-grandfather Judge Thomas Mellon, the founder of the family fortune, had worried about the corrupting influence that inherited wealth might have on future heirs.
Location 1351

For good reason, apparently.

Surveying his great fortune, however, in 1885, Mellon fretted that “the normal condition of man is hard work, self-denial, acquisition and accumulation; as soon as his descendants are freed from the necessity of exertion they begin to degenerate sooner or later in body and mind.”
Location 1354

Years later, he would nonetheless help fund the social critic Charles Murray, a leading proponent of the theory that a superior work ethic and moral codes account for much of the success among the affluent.
Location 1447

Which is such complete bullshit. Luck plays a much more important role in the success of the affluent. Hell, being born white male in the United States makes you lucky.

In developing regulations, the EPA was directed to weigh only one concern—public health. Costs to industry were explicitly deemed irrelevant.
Location 1580

Income in America during the mid-1970s was as equally distributed as at any time in the country’s history.
Location 1597

Enraged that his own son had become a hippie at the school, he railed during a commencement address against “pleasure-minded parasites… living off the state dole.”
Location 1658

Interestingly enough, the "pleasure-minded parasites" are also found amongst those people who have money from an inheritance.

The hazard, however, was that partisan shills would create “balance” based on fraudulent research and deceive the public about pressing issues in which their sponsors had financial interests.
Location 1737

Yet one former aide to Scaife, James Shuman, told The Washington Post that had Scaife not inherited a huge fortune, “I don’t think he had the intellectual capacity to do very much.”
Location 1759

Cracks me up.

And saddens me.

Scaife’s extraordinary self-financed and largely tax-deductible vendetta against Clinton demonstrated the impact that a single wealthy extremist could have on national affairs, and served as something of a dress rehearsal for the Kochs’ later war against Obama.
Location 1809

Contrary information rarely penetrated it. Instead, Scaife’s family fortune enabled him to build a political bulwark reinforcing his ideology and imposing it on the rest of the country.
Location 1822

Lower taxes, looser regulations, and fewer government programs for the poor and the middle class all corresponded to the Kochs’ accumulation of wealth and power.
Location 1856

Andrew Mellon himself would have been pleased with the succession of hefty tax cuts that Reagan pushed through Congress. He slashed corporate and individual tax rates, particularly helping the wealthy. Between 1981 and 1986, the top income tax rate was cut from 70 percent to 28 percent. Meanwhile, taxes on the bottom four-fifths of earners rose. Economic inequality, which had flatlined, began to climb.
Location 1906

Simon disparaged these “college-educated idealists” who claimed to be working for “the well being of ‘consumers,’ the ‘environment,’ ‘minorities,’ ”and other nonmaterial causes, accusing them of wanting to “expand the police powers of the state over American producers.” He challenged their purity. Noting that they claimed to care little for money, he accused them of being driven by another kind of self-interest. Quoting his colleague Irving Kristol, the neoconservative intellectual, he charged that these usurpers wanted “the power to shape our civilization.” That power, he argued, should belong exclusively to “the free market.”
Location 2112

Also known as "the born rich."

Bradley was also a keen supporter of the Manion Forum, whose followers believed that social spending in America was part of a secret Russian plot to bankrupt the United States.
Location 2409


“Almost the worst part,” she said, was that “he died thinking he’d let us down financially.” She added, “My husband was the sort of man who truly believed that if you worked hard and did a good job, you would be rewarded.”
Location 2496

How to blackmail the poor, convince them that working hard leads to success, while the system manipulates to keep them in poverty. See also Weapons of Math Destruction.

Even before the new congressional session began, Eric Cantor, a lawyer from Richmond, Virginia, who was about to become the new minority whip in the House, told a handful of trusted allies in a private planning meeting in his Washington condo, “We’re not here to cut deals and get crumbs and stay in the minority for another forty years.” Instead, he argued, the Republicans needed to fight. They needed to unite in opposition to virtually anything Obama proposed in order to deny him a single bipartisan victory.
Location 3443

This is so enraging. That the Republicans don't want to actually lead, they just want to obstruct.

Right, because that's how things get done.

As he flashed through a slide presentation at the Annapolis Inn, he asked his colleagues, “If the Purpose of the Majority is to Govern… What is Our Purpose?” His answer was simple: “The Purpose of the Minority is to become the Majority.” That one goal, he said, was “the entire Conference’s mission.”
Location 3453

I would argue his true answer was "The Purpose of the Minority is to rule the Majority," but you can't really say that out loud, can you?

The Republican leadership, according to an anecdote related by Grunwald, told GOP members of the House that as one of them, Jerry Lewis, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, put it, “We can’t play.”

David Obey, the Democratic chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, was incensed at the lack of cooperation. “What they said right from the get-go,” he said, was that “it doesn’t matter what the hell you do, we ain’t going to help you. We’re going to stand on the sidelines and bitch.”
Location 3472

Frank argues that “the Tea Party wasn’t subverted,” as some have suggested. “It was born subverted.”

Still, he said, “it’s a major accomplishment for sponsors like the Kochs that they’ve turned corporate self-interest into a movement among people on the streets.”
Location 3614

Fanning the flames were the right-wing radio hosts. “It’s not about saving the planet,” Rush Limbaugh told his audience. “It’s not about anything, folks, other than raising taxes and redistributing wealth.”
Location 4316

Well, he was accurate about that redistributing part, from the poor and middle class to the rich.

In Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, the journalist Chrystia Freeland describes how those with massive financial resources almost universally use them to secure policies beneficial to their interests, often at the expense of the less well-off.
Location 5313

“Wealthy people self-tax,” he argued, by contributing to charities. “It’s a question—do you believe the government should be taking your money and spending it for you, or do you want to spend it for you?”
Location 5659

Dying laughing! What a line of bullshit.

But according to the cultural critic and Jewish scholar Leon Wieseltier, who has taught several university courses on Maimonides, “This is false and tendentious and idiotic.” He explains, “Maimonides did indeed prize the sort of charity that made its recipient more self-reliant, but he believed that the duty of charity is permanent” and that the responsibility to help the poor was “unequivocal and absolute.” In fact, he points out, Maimonides declared that “he who averts his eyes from the obligation of charity is regarded as a villain.”
Location 5665

Cantor later told the real story to Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker. Blowing up the grand bargain had been his idea. He said it was a “fair assessment” to say that in the critical final moments he had talked Boehner out of accepting the deal for purely political reasons.

Cantor had argued, why give Obama a win? Why aid his reelection campaign by helping him look competent? It would be more advantageous for the Republicans to sabotage the talks, regardless of the mess it left the country in, and wait to see if the next year’s presidential election brought them a Republican president who would give them a better deal.
Location 5845

A political minority, responding to the interests of its extreme sponsors, had succeeded in rendering the most powerful democracy in the world dysfunctional.
Location 5858

The staggeringly lopsided situation made 2012 the starkest test yet of Louis Brandeis’s dictum that the country could have either “democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few,” but not both.
Location 6124

Charles Koch often described his support for slashing taxes as motivated by a concern for the poor. “They’re the ones that suffer” from “bigger government,” he argued in an interview with his hometown paper.
Location 6150

If anyone believes this, they are deceiving themselves. The poor benefit from the help of government.

Obama denounced the “breathtaking greed” that had led to the housing market’s collapse, as well as the Republican Party’s “you’re-on-your-own economics.” He also had some stinging words for big money’s influence on politics. “Inequality distorts our democracy,” he warned. “It gives an outsized voice to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions, and it runs the risk of selling out our democracy to the highest bidder.”
Location 6259

In an early 2012 meeting in the Roosevelt Room, his campaign manager, Jim Messina, shocked the president by sharing the bad news that they now expected outside Republican spending against him to reach $ 660 million. “How sure are you?” Obama asked. “Very sure,” replied Messina.
Location 6269

As he described them, they were people who were “dependent upon government, who believe they are victims, who believe government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe they are entitled to health care, food, to housing, you name it.”
Location 6316

Gerrymandering was a bipartisan game as old as the Republic. What made it different after Citizens United was that the business of manipulating politics from the ground up was now heavily directed and funded by the unelected rich. To get the job done, they used front groups claiming to be nonpartisan social welfare groups, funded by contributions from some of the world’s largest corporations and wealthy donors like the Kochs.
Location 6523

In theory, redistricting was supposed to reflect the fundamental democratic principle of one person, one vote.
Location 6538

The legislature slashed taxes on corporations and the wealthy while cutting benefits and services for the middle class and the poor. It also gutted environmental programs, sharply limited women’s access to abortion, backed a constitutional ban on gay marriage, and legalized concealed guns in bars and on playgrounds and school campuses.

It also erected cumbersome new bureaucratic barriers to voting. Like the poll taxes and literacy tests of the segregated past, the new hurdles, critics said, were designed to discourage poor and minority voters, who leaned Democratic. The election law expert Richard Hasen declared, “I’ve never seen a package of what I would call suppressive voting measures like this.”
Location 6615

This segment of the American population tended to believe that liberals cared more about ordinary people like themselves. In contrast, he said, “big business they see as very suspicious… They’re greedy. They don’t care about the underprivileged.” Assuming that he was among friends, Fink readily conceded that these critics weren’t wrong.

“What do people like you say? I grew up with pretty much very little, okay? And I worked my butt off to get what I have. So,” he went on, when he saw people “on the street,” he admitted, his reaction was, “Get off your ass and work hard, like we did!”

Unfortunately, he continued, those in the “middle third” — whose votes they needed — had a different reaction when they saw the poor. They instead felt “guilty.” Instead of being concerned with “opportunity” for themselves, Fink said, this group was concerned about “opportunity for other people.”
Location 6977

Difference between looking up and looking down.

The Kochs’ extensive research had shown that what the American “customer” wanted from politics, alas, was quite different from their business-dominated free-market orthodoxy. It wasn’t just that Americans were interested in opportunity for the many, rather than just for themselves.

It also turned out, Fink acknowledged, that they wanted a clean environment and health and high standards of living, as well as political and religious freedom and peace and security. These objectives would seem to present a problem for a group led by ultrarich industrialists who had almost single-handedly stymied environmentalists’ efforts to protect the planet from climate change.
Location 6994

Again, huh.

These political problems would seem to have been compounded by new statistics showing that the top 1 percent of earners had captured 93 percent of the income gains in the first year of recovery after the recession.
Location 7002

Freedom fighters, as Fink labeled the donors, needed to explain to American voters that their opposition to programs for the poor did not stem from greed, and their opposition to the minimum wage wasn’t based on a desire for cheap labor.
Location 7014

Dying laughing again. OF COURSE IT WAS.

The financially pressed Topeka school system, for instance, signed an agreement with the organization which taught students that, among other things, Franklin Roosevelt didn’t alleviate the Depression, minimum wage laws and public assistance hurt the poor, lower pay for women was not discriminatory, and the government, rather than business, caused the 2008 recession.
Location 7116

So, a bunch of liars.

Flat Broke With Two Goats

Book Review

This book was a Libby app Big Read, where pretty much every library on Libby (might have been all of them, might have been only five, my sample size is small) offered the book to read or listen to, regardless of the number of copies the library actually had. It was billed as a worldwide book club, with this as The Book.

I thought, uh, okay, sure, why not. I'm trying to have a quarter of my books this year be non-fiction, and this is a memoir, so, okay. I checked it out from the library, then was surprised when it was auto-returned for me less than two weeks later. Turns out, that was a glitch, and the book was back in my reading queue a day later.

I read it today and was entertained. The book is the arc of a woman going from the "typical" American suburban (not really) housewife to a level of acceptance and enlightenment of the world. While there is some level of "ehhhhhhh, how could you not know?" McGaha does comment many times that, yeah, she should have known, should have done this or that, probably this and probably that.

Included in most chapters are recipes related to goats, who don't appear until the end of the book, and there are mreo than two of them, or the topic in the chapter. While most of recipes weren't particularly interesting to me, the presentation and story around them were amusing.

This isn't a book I would normally pick up, and wouldn't have read if it weren't blasted in my face every time I loaded Libby on my phone (which would be blasted in my face 3-4 times a day), but it was a fun read. If you're stuck on a desert island, you could read this one multiple times and still be entertained.

I would think back on those years at the Cape Cod house with a critic’s eye, dissecting every moment, looking for affirmation that I had, in fact, been a decent mother, that my kids had had happy childhoods.
Page 8

Maybe the other kids would be more ambitious than many of our peers had been. Maybe their ambition would rub off on our children.
Page 8

All those years of overspending, of thinking we would pay things off next month, next year, start a savings plan sometime in the future, finally caught up with us.
Page 9

And while what I should have learned from living a relatively privileged childhood was the value of hard work and frugality, what I learned instead was that money was not something with which I needed to be overly concerned.
Page 14

Welcome to America, this is what most people here are like.

It reminded me of my rootedness, of the deep and abiding knowledge that who I was was inextricably tied to where I was.
Page 116

It wasn’t fair, but I was angry, and I needed someone other than myself to blame for my unhappiness.
Page 161

When someone you love dies, that person comes to you in spurts, in bleeps and flashes you never see coming until they are there.
Page 200

If they found anything that met that criteria, they sent in a smaller helicopter, one that could get a closer view. An aerial search, apparently, did not require a warrant...
Page 241

Good to know.

“If you could go back to any age, any age at all,” I asked my grandmother on my forty-fourth birthday, “what age would you choose?”

“Fifty-five,” she said without hesitation. She was ninety years old then, and her answer surprised me then as it did now. Why not seventeen or twenty-five or thirty-two? Why, if you could go back, wouldn’t you go to a time when you had your whole life ahead of you, when you were young enough to alter the course of your future, to make better choices, be a better person?
Page 292

Years ago, we had had a fourteen-year-old corgi, Julie. She was very healthy and happy until a blood-borne disease left her needing repeated transfusions, a process our then-vet had encouraged. Never once did the vet suggest that we let her die peacefully, and never once did I consider that myself.

I had thought it was my duty to keep Julie alive, but the way she had finally died—in a cage at the vet’s office—had haunted me ever since.

After that, I came to believe that my role was not to keep my animals alive but to, when the inevitable time came, let them leave this world quietly and tranquilly, surrounded by people and animals who loved them.

It was, in fact, how I one day hoped to go, the very best death I could imagine.
Page 303

When you have gone through a sort of travesty of your own making, failure begins to feel like part of you. You get used to it. People around you expect you to fail, and you learn to expect it from yourself, to see it as almost comforting in its familiarity. You begin to believe you are destined to make a mess of things. But then there are those unexpected kindnesses, those moments when someone does something to make you believe that perhaps you are more than the sum of everything you have done wrong, that perhaps you are worth more than you think.
Page 309

Of course, we still owed the IRS a staggering amount that seemed no less insurmountable than it had four years ago. It was not cancer or heart disease or Alzheimer’s, yet it was something we both thought about every day, a bitter, pungent haze that hovered over our lives. We lived through it, around it, in spite of it, but we were always aware of its presence.
Page 331

... still wrestled with feelings of guilt and betrayal. Not one or the other, but both. Grief has a way of doing that — of forcing you to see everything more clearly.
Page 332

The Book of Dust

Book Review

I hadn't realized Philip Pullman had a new book out until I, quite by accident, listened to his interview on NPR. I haven't been listening to NPR much recently, so catching the interview was quite delightful. In it, Pullman mentioned that he had felt the story wanting to come out (or some variation of that feeling), after he had finished Lyra's tale.

Well, I enjoyed the His Dark Materials series, so purchased this book and was delighted when it came up on my reading queue. I had set it back down again a while ago, but picked it back up this week and zipped through it.

I enjoyed Malcolm's story. I enjoyed how one can read the foreshadowing from this book for events happening in His Dark Materials. I enjoyed the subtle character development.

I didn't really enjoy the Deux ex Machina moments, nor some of the more exaggerated plot elements, but I can see how they might be necessary in order to introduce certain characters or provide motivations in later books. I'm speaking of the sewer rescue in particular here.

I don't know if this book stands on its own, as I've read it after His Dark Materials. I did, however, enjoy it, so recommended if you're a Pullman fan.

“Those parcels. How d’you make ’em so neat?”

“Neatly, Malcolm.”

He didn’t mind; this was a sort of game they had. “I thought ‘neat’ was all right,” he said.

“It depends on whether you want the idea of neatness to modify the act of tying the parcel, or the parcel itself, once tied.”
Location 121

There were two or three commercial subscription libraries in Oxford, but no free public library, and Malcolm wouldn’t be the only young person whose hunger for books had to go unsatisfied.
Location 1266

How awful, a world without free access to books.

“It shouldn’t be about how we feel — guilty, feeble —”

“No, and it isn’t. It’s about wrong and less wrong. Bad and less bad. This is about as good a cover as anyone could find. Leave it at that.”
Location 1278

He hadn’t changed much, of course, and Malcolm found that if he asked the right questions, Eric would tell him things that were supposed to be secret, because the pleasure of knowing secrets was doubled by telling them to people.
Location 1956

“Did you seriously think for one moment,” she said, sounding fierce now, “that I would let this little baby, who has been given into our care, be taken away by three strangers on the strength of a single piece of paper?

Three men who practically forced their way into this holy building without any invitation? Who frightened the oldest and the least well of us with threats and weapons—yes, weapons—waving your guns in her face? Who do you think you are? What do you think this place is? The sisters have been giving care and hospitality here for eight hundred years.

Think what that means. Am I going to abandon all our holy obligations because three bullies in uniform come shouldering their way in and try to frighten us? And for a helpless baby not six months old? Now go. Get out and don’t come back.”
Location 2153

Yeeeee-haw, Tiger Nun!

And it was very slowly getting bigger. It wasn’t a spot anymore. It was a line: a curved line, like a loosely scribbled letter C, and it was sparkling and flickering in a zigzag pattern of blacks and whites and silvers.
Location 2196

When I read this, my first thought was, "Welcome to migraines, kid." Turns out, slightly later in the book, I was right. What I don't know, however, is why this was brought into the story.

The steamy, noisy kitchen was the safest place in the world, it seemed to him. Safety had never been anything to think about before; it was something you took for granted, like his mother’s endless, effortless, generous food, and the fact that there would always be hot plates ready to serve it on.
Location 2402

He sat back, feeling slightly dizzy. Her familiar room was warm, the chair was comfortable, the plate of biscuits was to hand. He felt as if this was the place where he was truly at home, more so than his mother’s kitchen or his own bedroom, and he knew he would never say that to anyone but Asta.
Location 2675

Again with the comfort of mothers. Universal.

He stopped. The circle in the diagram, divided into its little sections, reminded him of something.

“There’s what?”

“It’s sort of like something I saw….” He described the spangled ring that he’d seen on the night Lord Asriel had come to the Trout. She was interested at once.

“That sounds like a migraine aura,” she said. “Do you have bad headaches?”

“No, never.”

"Just the aura, then. You’ll probably see it again sometime."
Location 2689

Yep, migraines.

“Are the gyptians against the CCD, then?”

“We’re not all the same, Malcolm. Some are, and some aren’t.”
Location 2761

In the increasingly tribal society we stratify into, remembering this is important.

He sat there happily with his parents, thinking of nothing, content with the warmth and the smell of frying food.
Location 2908

"This is a deep and uncomfortable paradox, which will not have escaped you: we can only defend democracy by being undemocratic."
Location 3187

“Yes, it is,” he said. “War asks many people to do unreasonable things. And make no mistake, we are at war.
Location 3223

Asta sleepily nipped Malcolm’s ear, and he came awake like someone struggling to swim to the surface of a lake of laudanum, where the strongest delights were the deepest and there was nothing above but cold and fear and duty.
Location 5008

This describes waking pretty well to me. Another really good description of waking up is in Pet Sematary, where waking up is an effort to claw oneself up from being six feet under to reach the air.

“What? Where is she?”

“By the fire. Just come quietly. Don’t make a noise.”
Location 5752

I CANNOT STAND THIS BEHAVIOR. Don't tell met to come look at something, just fucking tell me what is going on.

“Just dizzy. What’s she doing?”

“I can’t… But you gotta come and look.”
Location 5755


“What’s the matter? Why are you angry?”

“Everything. What d’you think?”

He shrugged. There was nothing he could do about everything. He didn’t want to argue.
Location 6435

He could still do simple, everyday things, then. He hadn’t lost the power to live from second to second and to take pleasure, even, in the warm yellow light that filled the canoe.
Location 6509

The Twentieth Wife

Book Review

Along with a couple other books, I picked this book up from the library because it was listed in an Audible "First Book In A Series" sale. Yay for libraries, saving me $25!

I wanted to like this book. I really wanted to like this book. The book is a fictionalized retelling of the story of India's emperor Jahangir's twentieth wife, Nur Jahan. I'm not really giving away the ending by mentioning that part, as the title of the book, and every history book that discusses her, gives away the ending.

I did not particularly enjoy this book. The fictionalized story part I don't mind, and can overlook. The perfect hair, perfect teeth, perfect man swooning of Mehrunnisa / Mehr-Un-Nisa for Salim, however, I do mind.

That and the sudden insertion of elaborate descriptions of the foods being placed in front of the Prince, without context or lead-in just BOOM let's talk food! was too jarring to read easily.

I liked the exposure of a new part of Indian / Pakistani history. I went down the Wikipedia rabbit hole for a while, which I appreciate this book for the introduction. The book itself, however, not a fan. If you're a fan of swooning, Indian history, and historical fiction, sure, this book is a good one to add to your list. Otherwise, skip it.

Ghias would not even think of her, not even by name. What use was it, when someone else would look after her?
Page 7

Imagine the internal devastation resulting from the knowledge that you couldn't take care of your own child?

Ghias stared at him, unable to believe what he had just heard. After so much trouble, when one problem seemed to come at the heel of the other, here was a gift from Allah.
Page 10

“Ghias, we must be careful not to teach the girls too much. How will they ever find husbands if they are too learned? The less they know, the less they will want of the outside world. Mehrunnisa already insists that she should be allowed to go out with you.”

Ghias smiled slowly. “I know. She asks why a woman has to stay in the house when a man can go and come as he pleases.”
Page 48

Yeaaaaaaah. :glare:

The older she became — she was now fourteen — the more Bapa and Maji imposed restrictions on her. Do not go out too much; keep your voice down; pull your veil over your head when a strange man, one not of the family, comes to visit. These restrictions would be part of her life from now on, for she was a woman.
Page 51


He had been content until now to be heir to the throne. But during the last few months, his courtiers had pointed out, quite rightly, Akbar’s extreme injustice in remaining steadfastly alive while Prince Salim was mature enough to take over the duties of state.
Page 55

More glaring from me. As if a parent owes anything to a child upon death.

He had everything he could want: handsome looks; virility, which had been proved twice by the birth of two sons; several wives; and an equal number of concubines. Yet, he had nothing without the crown. He should rebel, as Mahabat Khan and the others had suggested.
Page 55

What a burden the crown was, he thought. Kings had always fought brothers and fathers and sons for it.
Page 64

“Listen and learn, Mehrunnisa,” she said. “A woman must not be completely reliant on a man, either for money or for love.”
Page 67

"We have decided to honor him, Ghias. And what better way to do so than to give him the hand of your daughter in marriage? It will be a good alliance."
Page 76

Okay, this was completely rage-inducing. I know it is a pervading belief, that daughters are property of their fathers, but it is so completely and totally wrong.

"But daughters belong to someone else, right from their birth. We are only temporary guardians of girl children, beta,” Asmat said. “They grow up; they marry. They go to their real homes. They have children of their own.”
Page 112

See above. Rage. Inducing.

“When you go home tomorrow, you must tell Ali Quli. He should have been the first to know. There must be no sense of impropriety in what you do, Nisa. No one should be able to point a finger and say that what you did was wrong. Appearances must be maintained at all costs.” Mehrunnisa sighed.

There were always strictures in society: how one must live, eat, even what to talk about and what to keep silent on. When she had been younger it had been easier, sheltered as she was under Bapa and Maji. But now, as a married woman, she came under very close scrutiny.
Page 116

When her hands and her mind were busy, she did not have time to think — of what might have been.
Page 116

Maji had always been practical. There was too much else to do to spend hours in idle contemplation of how life could have turned out, if not for this or for that.
Page 117

Now she would no longer have to watch other women with their children and feel as though the ache would consume her. She too would have a child, so she could grow old and fretful and have that child indulge her whims. Mehrunnisa laughed.
Page 118

When they reached the house, Mehrunnisa saw most of the servants gathered in a crowd in the front courtyard, their faces hostile. Some of these women were mothers themselves. Surely they would have more knowledge of childbirth and birthing than she did? Why did they not go to help Yasmin?

It was nothing but prejudice and sloth and a small kind of meanness. Yasmin was an orphan with no protector, pregnant without being married. They had ostracized her for the last six months.

And Mehrunnisa had allowed them to, angry herself, in a deep deep pain that this woman should carry her husband’s child, while she could not keep one within her for more than a few months.
Page 148

For Akbar taught him also that kings always kept their appointments and followed orders. If one did not know how to follow orders, one would not know how to give them.
Page 165

Now, with his desire for a son, Mehrunnisa was tormented. What if she did not give him a son?
Page 215

Deep breath. Deep breath.

“Maji...” Mehrunnisa whispered over and over again, wanting the cool comfort of her mother’s hand on her brow, wanting to tell her of the fears that ambushed her.
Page 216

For most, there is no safer place in this world than in a mother's arms.

The initial euphoria of being an Emperor had worn off, and the enormity of his obligations now came crashing on Jahangir. Millions of people depended on him.
Page 218

Chapter Twelve

“I want it now. It is rightfully mine; my father has no right to rule. Even Emperor Akbar wished it.”
Page 222

Yeah. Power, the great corruptor.

Life at court was this unending circle of give and take. You took from one person and gave something back — to that person, or another.
Page 282

His was one of the greatest minds in the empire, but even he was fallible... and human.
Page 285

Ghias watched her in silence, forcing back his own tears. What good would crying do? Ease the heartache for a few hours, perhaps, but the worry would always be there.
Page 301

Why Allah, why did trouble come to ambush when one was already down?
Page 301

“There is only one way.” Nuruddin glanced back again to assure himself that the guards were out of earshot.
Page 308

No. There is rarely "only one way," especially in the games of power.

The zenana was always thus: prying eyes everywhere, whispered conversations in the air. To try and escape it was futile. The only thing to do was to live with it as best as one could—alert, vigilant, for ignoring it was also dangerous.
Page 333

There was already talk about her wiles in capturing the Emperor’s interest and holding it for so long. She was a sorceress; she had cast a spell on him. These rumors were hurtful and mean, but they came from mouths that were otherwise filled with envy.
Page 345

The Cruel Prince

Book Review

This is book one of the Folk of the Air series, which has only this book published so far. I had seen this book on multiple recommendation lists on Book Riot, so reserved it at the library and read it this week when it dropped into my book queue.

I wanted to like this book more than I actually liked it after reading it.

I wanted the main character to have some sort of growth, some sort of conflict from which she learns and grows, and then I wanted to see the application of said growth.

Instead, it was mostly a couple weeks of teenage angst in Fairy Land, a bunch of world building, and a twin who isn't anything like her copy.

I enjoyed thinking about the similar characters in this book (Mab, Red Hat) and their portrayals in The Dresden Files. But, well, I am not enamoured of the characters in this book, and am, thus, not likely to continue reading the series.

If you're a fan of The Mortal Instruments, say, well, the author is, too, so you'll have a similar read to those books. And, if you're a fan of fiction set in Faerie, this is an enjoyable read.

Sadly for this book, I am neither.

I don't think he realizes just how angry I am or how good it feels, for once, to give up on regrets.
Page 79

"I think we could both bear it better if no one else had to see," she says, then takes a long pull of her tea.
Page 81

"So what do you want me to do?" I ask.

"I want you to fix things with him," she says. "Prince Cardan's got all the power. There's no winning against him. No matter how brave or clever or even cruel you are, Jude. End this, before you get really hurt."
Page 81

"Desire is an odd thing. As soon as it's sated, it transmutes. If we receive golden thread, we desire the golden needle..."
Page 97

"No, nothing bad," I tell her. "I don't know exactly what he came for, but he kissed my hand. It was nice, like out of a storybook."

"Nice things don't happen in storybooks," Taryn says. "Or when they do happen, something bad happens next. Because otherwise the story would be boring, and no one would read it."
Page 150

"You don't need to believe me. There are a dozen more rumors just as terrible. When there is a lot of power concentrated in one place, there are plenty of scraps to fight over. If the Court isn't busy drinking poison, then it's drinking bile."
Page 217

This is part of my training - probably the aspect the Ghost thinks is most essential, after slyfooting. He has told me again and again that most of being a killer and a thief is waiting. The hardest thing, according to him, is not letting your mind drift to other things. He seems to be right.
Page 226 - 227

But we all want stupid things. That doesn't mean we should have them.
Page 231

"Its maker called it Nightfell, but of course you are welcome to call it anything you like or nothing at all. It's said to bring the wielder luck, but everyone says that about swords, don't they?"
Page 234

Most often what I failed to do was accurately anticipate his next moves. I had a great stratgey for me, but not for the game I was in.
Page 341

Somehow, Balekin has drawn Cardan into his convesation with Severin. Cardan laughs at something Balekin said, looking as comfortably arrogant as I've ever seen him. I am shocked by the recognition - if you live your life always afraid, always with danger on your heels, it is not so difficult to pretend away more danter.
Page 359

Outmaneuvering Madoc wasn't nearly as satisfying as I wanted it to be, especially since I was able to do it because he never thought of me as someone who would betray him.
Page 366

"Think of being here with Vivi as an apprenticeship. You learn what you need to know, and then you come home."

"How will I know when I've learned it, since I don't know it now?" he asks.

The question sounds like a riddle. "Come back when returning feels like a hard choice instead of an easy one," I finally answer.
Page 377

It's Even Worse Than You Think

Book Review

Before I started reading this book, my thought was, "I'm pretty sure this book is going to thoroughly piss me off. Reading anyway."

Post reading, yep, this book is rage-inducing.

It is also, at the end, hysterical, because of the absurdity of the whole thing. That someone so incredibly incompetent even thinks he is remotely competent makes me realize just how thankful I am that most smart people are essentially good. Had Trump actually been smart and this psychopathic, we'd all be in far, far worse trouble than we are in now.

Found out yesterday that if you signed up for the Trump campaign emails, they send out “buy this trump stuff” emails now. What I REALLY want to happen is that the Emoluments Clause to trigger a billion dollar tax bill on Trump when he leaves office, to pay back all his gains during his tenure. Then have it all go to education.

That would be sweet, sweet justice.

Or impeachment now. That would be okay, too.

The book is worth reading, even if the subject matter is the step-by-step dismantling of American Democracy. It's a painful story to read, so read fast or borrow the audiobook from your library (before even those are defunded). I just wish that the people not blind to rational thinking but who had voted for Trump "for a political change," read the book. That would be great. I'm not holding my breath for it, though.

The couple also complained that Trump was in violation of the sixty - year lease of the Old Post Office , which was owned by the federal government. Section 37.19 of the lease“ specifically forbids ”any federal employee from receiving any gain or benefit from the lease."
Page 18

“The Foreign Emoluments Clause was forged of the Framers’ hard - won wisdom. It is no relic of a bygone era , but rather an expression of insight into the nature of the human condition and the essential preconditions of self-governance.
Page 27

The next day the Daily Stormer “Summer of Hate edition” described the murder victim as a “fat, childless, 32-year-old slut.” Heather Heyer should have been killed, the article argued: “Most people are glad she is dead, as she is the definition of uselessness. A 32-year-old woman without children is a burden on society and has no value.”
Page: 236

Franklin’s point was that self-governance requires people to accept the burdens as well as the benefits of freedom. It means they are responsible for their fate and cannot just blame a crazy king or an uncaring despot or anyone else. They must, to be free, take personal responsibility and be actively engaged in shaping the policies that will affect not only their lives, but those of generations to come.
Page: 262

Under our Constitution we determine our political fate. If we wish to turn in our citizenship responsibilities and outsource the work to power mongers, we can do so.
Page: 262

Democracies do not die dramatically. They slowly fade away.
Page: 262

Two Kinds of Truth

Book Review

Harry Bosch, Book 22, by my count, which, again, is inaccurate, but we're still going with it.

YEEHAW, I am, once again, all caught up in Bosch's world, having read these last three books. Yeah, the Lincoln Lawyer is in these books, but that's kinda unsurprising to anyone who is growing older: the older you are, the more you want your family around, for whatever definition of family works for you. Why would a fictional detective be any different? Answer: he wouldn't be.

So, yeah, I'm caught up. And Harry (this Harry, anyway, there are four you know) seems to have found his place: a department where he's respected and wanted and, most of all, believed when the shit hits the fan.

Slight spoiler alert (but only slight, since I'm spoiling only the first chapter, so I don't think it really counts), but an old case is reopened when a guy Bosch put away thirty years before is petitioning for release on the grounds of false imprisonment based on new DNA data. The question becomes where did this new DNA that was tested come from.

I know, I know, you're thinking TUNNELS! and BAD COPS! but it actually wasn't (I'm shocked, too), AND I didn't get the "how was this new DNA placed in a sealed box" technique quite right. My solution would have worked, but it was far too elaborate for what actually happened. Dammit.

If you're a Bosch fan, these last three books have been fun. I've been sick, so they have been fun reads during my "I really can't do anything but lie here" convalescence. If you're not yet a Bosch fan, go ahead and start at the beginning, most of the books are fun.

He knew that there were two kinds of truth in this world, the truth that was the unalterable bedrock of one's life and mission; and the other malleable truth [that] a politician's charlatan's, corrupt lawyer's, and their clients, bent in order to serve whatever purpose was at hand.
Chapter 13

The Wrong Side of Goodbye

Book Review

Harry Bosch, Book 21, by my count, which is apparently inaccurate, but that's my count, so let's go with it.

Fast on the finishing of The Crossing, I kept going on the Bosch books. I can think of no fictional person to keep me better company when sick than a guy named Harry, with this being one of the last three books about Harry {Dresden, Potter, Hole, Bosch} that I haven't read yet. Now that I think about it, there was that other Harry series with a surprise new book. Hmmmmmm....

As with the last one, I enjoyed this one, too. It is far more contemporary, and we have Harry less internally twisted about working on a defense case, and more with him solving a bad-guy case as well as a not-so-bad-guy-but-still-bad-guy case. The two separate cases, however, work well together, with just enough internal strife to keep them plausible as happening at the same time.

What cracked me up, no it didn't crack me up, was, however, and I really wish I could say I was spoiling this book for you by saying this, but I'm really not if you've read any of my other reviews, the book is classic Bosch: someone dies, a bad cop did it, tunnels.

Okay, okay, okay, not really. But a bad guy did do it. And there were tunnel references!

Anyway, I enjoyed this book, too. I, on my sick bed, immediately started the next one upon finishing this one.

The Crossing

Book Review

Harry Bosch, Book 20 by my count, which I've been informed is inaccurate, but whatevs.

A group of my friends were recently ranting about how they have to go through a number of pages, IF NOT DOZENS to get to the meat of the article they are trying to read, or the recipe they are trying to find, and how frustrating this is. Given my book reviews really are just my discovery of the book, and not really reviews, per se, hell, you could call these blog posts that I write when I finish a book, even, I'm good with my lack of book-reviewing-book-reviews.

What does that have to do with this latest Bosch book? Absolutely nothing.

I've been sick the last five days. Today, I read this book, start to finish, because doing anything else required too much effort. That said, I enjoyed this book. Yeah, it was a crossover with the lawyer dude, which is where I think my book count is off, with the books that have the half-brother in them, but the book is mostly Bosch, and it was a good detective adventure.

Unsurprisingly, BAD COPS! No tunnels, though. Odd that.

If you're a fan of Bosch or happen, like me, to have all twenty something books available and you're reading them, keep going. This was fun.

All of the patients Bosch saw leaving were women, all of them middle aged or older, all of them by themselves.

All of them probably trying to hold onto an image of youth, pushing back that moment they feared when men would stop looking at them. It was a rough and tough world out there.

This was the only part in the book that caught my attention. I was reminded about how much we need love, need attention, are willing to subjugate ourselves for the approval of another, how much we are willing to mutilate ourselves physically emotionally mentally for the illusion of a perfect love.


Book Review

Okay, so, this was not the book I was expecting.

It is, however, the book I needed.

I knew vaguely about the outrage over Thiel's backing of Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker. I knew vaguely that Gawker was a piece-of-shit website. I knew vaguely that Thiel was an asshat who backed Cheetoh. What I didn't know was all three were involved in a modern-day Machiavellian Power Struggle™.

I am very glad that Ryan Holiday wrote this book. I am very glad I read this book. The book won't change anyone's life, but this book is an incredible tale about power, conspiracy, and the brilliant long-term maneuvering of someone Doing The Right Thing™.

Before this book, I pretty much thought Thiel was the Bad Guy™. He's not, by the way.

Like the ™s? Me, too.


This book reads like Machiavellian case study. It is brilliant in its telling. Yes, one side was arrogant. Yes, one side messed up. Yes, one side was Wrong™. Yes, one side was whatever. Yes, yes, yes. But is it really ever "one side"? The brilliant, illustrative nature of this tale cannot be understated. I understand why Holiday had to write this book. I'm glad he did.

I strongly recommend this book. It may or may not change your life, but is far far far worth reading.

Our tendency to shy away from this truth creates a profound ignorance of how things really work, and what it means to be strategic, to be powerful, and to try to shape events rather than simply be shaped by them.
Location: 51

Seneca is the author you read when your life’s work has been destroyed,
Location: 131

The question of justice is beside the point; every conqueror believes their cause just and righteous—a thought that makes the fruits taste sweeter.
Location: 151

The existentialists spoke of ressentiment, or the way that resentment creates frustration which fuels more resentment. Philosophers might have said this feeling was pointless, but they knew it was a fearful force.
Location: 233

There is an old Scottish motto: nemo me impune lacessit. No one attacks me with impunity. Plots of revenge and justice plots both begin, in their own way, with a transgression, against a person or the whole. And then someone deciding that they aren’t going to take it.
Location: 381

They think someone should do something, but never them. Not me. It’s a classic collective action problem: we know things are bad, but they only affect each of us a little bit. So who is going to take care of it for us? Plenty of people believe in the theory of so-called great men of history, but who believes I am that great man?
Location: 437

Gawker reminded Thiel of the self-righteous people he had been railing against since he was a conservative polemicist in college: the people who claim the moral high ground, who claim to be about freedom of choice, but who bully everyone who doesn’t choose their way of freedom.
Location: 481

Twenty-five hundred years ago, Thucydides would say that the three strongest motives for men were “fear, honor, and self-interest.” Fear. Honor. Self-interest. All covered.
Location: 555

Eddie sees that Thiel’s main problem isn’t a legal one, it’s that he’s an outsider: not only does Thiel not like playing the game, he doesn’t even understand the game.
Location: 580

At eight, he has the look of someone who has already seen enough of the world to know what bullshit is, and to know that he’s smarter than most of the people he has met, including the adults.
Location: 633

Girard’s theory of mimetic desire holds that people have no idea what they want, or what they value, so
Location: 639

are drawn to what other people want. They want what other people have. They covet. It’s this, Girard says, that is the source of almost all the conflict in the world.
Location: 639

Or perhaps it was simply the traditional arc of the bully who becomes empowered the more he picks on others, grows to like the feeling it creates, and the longer he goes unchallenged, the more he comes to convince himself the status quo is tolerable for everyone involved.
Location: 647

One will come upon situations in life where it becomes increasingly clear that the normal
Location: 685

playbook will not work. No working out of differences. No backroom deals. We reach the point where we believe that the normal remedies will not be enough. Where we are significantly outmatched or unsympathetic. We reach a point where even the out-of-the-ordinary remedies will not suffice.
Location: 686

“Anyone who is threatened and is forced by necessity either to act or to suffer,” writes Machiavelli, “becomes a very dangerous man to the prince.”
Location: 697

The strategic benefit of adding a new coconspirator comes at the cost of substantially increasing the chance of getting caught.
Location: 801

While it’s dangerous to conspire with people who have a lot to lose, you can’t conspire without someone who is afraid to bet on themselves, who isn’t willing to take a big stake on something that very well
Location: 869

could fail. Where these two traits overlap there is often a sweet spot: the man or woman who has something to prove and something to protect, the strong sense of self-belief coupled with that killer instinct.
Location: 870

A start-up is, in Peter’s definition, “a small group of people that you’ve convinced of a truth that nobody else believes in.”
Location: 882

Just because you decide to operate along a line of interior ethics, however, doesn’t mean you’re stupid about it. You don’t have to disclose your intentions, for instance. No one said the fight needs to be fair, or that punches should be pulled.
Location: 959

Maginot Line.
Location: 1,000

The great strategist B. H. Liddell Hart would say that all great victories come along “the line of least resistance and the line of least expectation.”
Location: 1,005

No one knew if it
Location: 1,083

was actually impossible to beat Gawker in court. Gawker had taken this uncertainty to mean something else, too: that no one ever would challenge them, and that if someone did, the challenger was destined to lose.
Location: 1,083

and public
Location: 1,100

It has been the great collective self-deception of Silicon Valley, and perhaps of our age, that a person can engage in aggressive “disruption” of existing industries while pretending that they are not at least similar to the ruthless capitalist barons of the previous century, that there is not a drop of Carnegie or Rockefeller or Vanderbilt DNA in the whole business.
Location: 1,133

When someone categorizes something evil, as Sherman did, as Peter and Mr. A repeatedly did, he implicitly gives himself permission to do what needs to be done to destroy it.
Location: 1,207

choose your enemies wisely, he had been told, because you become just like them—but
Location: 1,240

No, fate sends to the conspirators of the world the best of its Murphy’s Law and entropy and crises of confidence.
Location: 1,690

Nick Denton is an inherently curious person, the kind of person who though he might not seek out such opportunities, when given the chance for a conversation with people who have radically different opinions from his own, he at least
Location: 1,836

likes to take advantage of it.
Location: 1,838

A few dopamine-filled seconds of catharsis turned into fingerprints that ruined his chances of a clean getaway.
Location: 2,113

Most conspiracies are not found out. They are betrayed. Or they collapse from within, a betrayal of the cause itself.
Location: 2,425

And though we’d like to think that planning and resources—or righteousness and worthiness—determine who wins and who loses, they don’t.
Location: 2,830

I have heard Peter Thiel say over and over again that in the trial, Gawker argued the law while Hogan’s case argued the facts. “You argue the law to show how much you know about the
Location: 3,155

law,” he would say, “but it’s not how you win a case in front of a jury.”
Location: 3,156

He had proven that “nothing you can do about it” is just what people who don’t want to do anything about it like to say to make
Location: 3,371

themselves feel better about their inaction.
Location: 3,372

Machiavelli warns conspirators that the most dangerous time is after the deed is done.
Location: 3,479

Loss inherently makes the loser sympathetic.
Location: 3,483

But like so many conspirators, they seem not to have stopped to ask, Okay, then what?
Location: 3,502

Cunning and resources might win the war, but it’s the stories and the myths afterward that will determine who deserved to win it.
Location: 3,526

The people who actually had to do the cleaning up, who needed to fight the war to a close, knew that this kind of language would only make the job harder. It had deprived Germany of a way to end the war earlier, it had united a collapsing enemy in desperation. Without a way out, tensions only increase and combatants have no choice but to fight on.
Location: 3,648

They worried that people would be less free to say what they think and feel for fear of being held accountable for it.
Location: 3,714

It would be a little more elegant if the reading public recognized their own contribution, that they get precisely the media that they click on and talk about.”
Location: 3,826

The Book of Joan

Book Review

Warren Ellis has a weekly newsletter, in which he talks about writing, reading, and things of interest to him. In last week's episode, we found our intrepid hero talking about The Book Of Joan in a way that sounded fairly interesting, so I looked for it in the library.

And there it was!

Well, if this isn't the world telling me to read this book, I don't know what is. Okay, maybe the world is telling me this book isn't in high demand, or that it was at one point and the library has excess copies.

Anyway. Ellis' book description is much better than I would have done. It reads differently than I expected the book to read, but his description is spot on. The way Yuknavitch weaves history into the story (uses history as a template?) is just wonderful.

Trying to figure out where I put it on my scale, it's definitely "fan" or above, but would I recommend it to a friend? It was interesting, so I'd have to say it is worth reading.

How’s that for a cosmic joke of the ruling class? The meek really did inherit the Earth. And the wealthy suck at it like a tit. There’s no telling how many meek are left.
Page 6

And anyway, I’ve got that gnawing human compulsion to tell what happened.
Page 9

No one on Earth was ever literally white. But that construct kept race and class wars and myths alive.
Page 11

Everything in a life has more than one story layer. Like skin does: epidermis, dermis, subcutaneous or hypodermis. My history has a subtext.
Page 12

We are what happens when the seemingly unthinkable celebrity rises to power. Our existence makes my eyes hurt.
Page 14

People are forever thinking that the unthinkable can’t happen. If it doesn’t exist in thought, then it can’t exist in life. And then, in the blink of an eye, in a moment of danger, a figure who takes power from our weak desires and failures emerges like a rib from sand.
Page 14

We consume and become exactly what we create. In all times.
Page 14

Men are among the loneliest creatures. They lose their mothers and cannot carry children, and have nothing to comfort themselves with but their vestigial cockular appendages.
Page 17

This is perhaps the reason they move ever warward when they are not moving fuckward.
Page 18

But people will make belief out of anything, especially if it comes with a good story, and despite my cynicism and age, I want to believe in her. Like the way old people on Earth used to turn to a story we made called god.
Page 19

But not all legend becomes history, and not all literature deserves to become legend.
Page 20

His voice and words make my whole body ring. He makes me laugh. Sometimes I think that’s the deepest love of all.
Page 30

There is no place to hide or run to in a closed system.
Page 34

I don’t care which careful slice of history you choose to cling to, there is no part of being human that does not include the death spectacle: the resort to killing, through war or “justice” or revenge.
Page 41

The fastest way to drive living beings mad, then as today, is to confine them to a small, stimulus-less place and deprive them of any interaction with their species.
Page 42

Maybe we were always meant to come to this part of our own story, where the things we thought we created were revealed to have been within us all along, our brains simply waiting for us to recognize the corresponding forms of space and technology “out there” that we dumbly misread as distinctly human organs.
Page 44

Joan took her T-shirt off. Her jeans. “You’re gonna freeze your ass off!” Her brother laughed, but his clothes came off, too. They were siblings, after all.
Page 58


There wasn’t time to educate the children. As in medieval times, and during other world wars, children simply had to learn to live within the miasma of violence. Pick up this weapon. Don’t think. Act.
Page 74

When the first nuclear drone attacks erupted, for a while, and counterpart drones returned fire, the War was waged almost without soldiers. But all agon eventually reduces itself to human violence. It was almost as if humans couldn’t bear their distance from the killing. The drama. The theater of war.
Page 76

The rhetoric of protecting children from war, shielding those most vulnerable from our most horrific truths, was always a hypocrisy designed to protect the illusions that adults carry that we care more about our children than we do about ourselves, until finally that pretense, too, fell.
Page 76

To be human, the film suggested, was to step into the full flurry and motion of all humanity: to bear the weight of circumstances without flinching, to surrender to the crucible—to admit that history was not something in the past but something you consciously step into. Living a life meant knowing you might be killed instantly, like one who wanders into the path of a runaway train.
Page 82

Inside of war, or dream, or memory, a warrior emerges.
Page 83

If we look at history—those of us who study it, who can remember it—we understand the reason why those who come to power swiftly, amid extreme national crises, are so dangerous: during such crises, we all turn into children aching for a good father. And the truth is, in our fear and despair, we’ll take any father. Even if his furor is dangerous. It’s as if humans can’t understand how to function without a father.
Page 99

But Joan knew one thing we never learned: to end war meant to end its maker, to marry creation and destruction rather than hold them in false opposition.
Page 105

Terrorists, she thought, laughing inside. When they own languages, she thought, we are terrorists. When we own them, we are revolutionaries. People who turn over the earth.
Page 107

On his side, there lived a hatred for what humanity represented with its diversities and differences, and his pathological desire to abandon the planet, to re-create humankind in a different image. His own.
Page 108

On her side, there was a hatred there, too, if she was being honest with herself: for what we had made of ourselves, for the fictions we consistently chose that forced our own undoing; for our fear of otherness; for our inability to conquer ego, our seemingly tsunami-like thirst for never-ending consumption at the price of the planet.
Page 108

Once there was a girl from France. She heard a song and became a warrior for her country, but her country lost its shape and aim in the Wars, as all countries did, and then there were just combatants and civilians, and then just civilians gone brutal against one another, endless violence. Then the girl made a choice.
Page 116

In the dark, a person’s shadow is nothing. Like the past losing its light.
Page 121

She didn’t believe him, but she did believe in letting him have his story. To have a story was to have a self.
Page 128

In death, adults reveal some of their childhood selves. The eyes and cheek muscles going slack, back in time to a face without history.
Page 178

It isn’t that love died. It’s that we storied it poorly. We tried too hard to contain it and make it something to have and to hold.
Page 192

Love was never meant to be less than electrical impulse and the energy of matter, but that was no small thing.
Page 192

The stuff of life itself. Life in the universe, cosmic or as small as an atom. But we wanted it to be ours. Between us. For us. We made it small and private so that we’d be above all other living things.
Page 192

At the heart of torture there is a brutality beyond inflicting pain. It is the brutality of stealing an identity, a sense of self, a soul. The pain-wracked body is only a symbol of a deeper struggle that is bodiless. It is the struggle to be. Not just to cling to consciousness, but a kind of radical compassion to exist as a self in relation to others. The torturer attempts to murder that desire for compassionate relationship. To erase even its possibility. The tortured body is the opposite of the newborn. Instead of a will toward life and the stretch to bond with an other, there is a brutal will toward death and the end of that longing. When torture succeeds, that is.
ree > Page

To be human. What if being human did not mean to discover, to conquer. What if it meant rejoining everything we are made from.
x > Page

"One life is all we have, and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are, and to live without belief—that is a fate more terrible than dying."
ven > Page

I’m weeping again.
o > Page

Always crying. It has become a state of being rather than an emotionally isolated experience.
o > Page

Do Not Disturb

Book Review

Why did I pick up this book? It's book two of the Deanna Madden series (there are currently three books in the series).

I didn't think I liked the first one enough to warrant reading the second one, but the GoodReads reviews were consistently "This one is better!" so I went with it. That, and, other than the sex part, I like the Madden character.

This one still doesn't have any suspense. We know all the actions of all the characters. It does, as the first one, have a fast moving plot. There's an attempt at suspense, but it lasts like 4 pages, so it wasn't a great success. Again, a fast moving plot.

Nothing to write home about, nothing to rave about. If you're looking for a mindless distraction, this'll do.

Never had the hot, wet sensation, vibrating suction, the delicate play of a talented tongue against pleasure-packed bundles of nerves.
Page 23

I am like my clients—on the edge of danger, playing with the fire of fantasy and hoping I don’t slip. Hoping I don’t fall over that dangerous edge and act out on my desires.
Page 83

VILLAINS COME IN all shapes and forms.
Page 104

I bet he’s a good hugger. A good, responsible hugger who makes you feel like he is taking some of your worry with the embrace.
Page 149

A lot about human nature, how caged humans, despite our upbringing, drug habits, or skin color, are all the same. We want to fuck, to eat, to live. We want freedom, we enjoy control, we want to kill.
Page 230

She stands, a twinge of jealousy moving through her. Realizing, as she stares into his eyes, that he, by kicking her out, by closing the laptop, is protecting Deanna more than her.
Page 293

He doesn’t know why he loves her. But does anyone know why they love? We don’t love people for their traits—traits are common. We love them for their unique ability to tug at our soul, to connect to us in a way that no other person can. Love
Location 3610

I am being hunted. And, in the face of that danger, am releasing all constraints. War has no room for indecision.
Page 250

We don’t love people for their traits — traits are common. We love them for their unique ability to tug at our soul, to connect to us in a way that no other person can. Love is unexplainable, unpredictable, and often unreasonable. It doesn’t make sense, and doesn’t care to explain to us its thought process. He hears is unexplainable, unpredictable, and often unreasonable. It doesn’t make sense, and doesn’t care to explain to us its thought process.
Location: 3,612

His eyes squint a bit as he focuses on me. “Just because we are in love doesn’t mean you have to share all your secrets.”

“You might not love me if you knew all of them.” I smile sadly.

He pulls at my hand, tugs my mouth to his. “I will always love you,” he whispers.
Location: 3,770

Rage Against The Dying

Book Review

Okay, much like The Girl in 6E, I picked this book up because it was the listed on-sale in the Audible "First In A Series" Sale for $5 a book. I checked the book out from the library instead of purchasing the book (yay saving those funds for priorities), and read it that way.

This book is pretty much take Kay Scarpetta or Kinsey Milhone or any other rough and tumble PI, and age her thirty years. Add in the Case that Broke Her, and and you have this book. While the book says "age her twenty years," Brigid Quinn is in her late fifties, I have to say age her thirty years, because anyone who has the history that Quinn has is not going to be the aged woman described in this book. The only way the late fifties woman could be that frail is if she stopped being who she was, and the rest of the book indicates she had not.

Clearly, the book wasn't written by someone active in her late fifties (just checked, yes, late fifties, so maybe not an athlete, not an active person, whatevs).

I sorta enjoyed the book. It was a fun read, but one I'd prefer to do on the beach or on a long plane ride, not one I'd devote any serious time to reading. The book wasn't bad, not at all, just not my style. I enjoyed this one, but won't be reading any further in the series.

Keeping secrets, telling lies, they require the same skill. Both become a habit, almost an addiction, that’s hard to break even with the people closest to you, out of the business.
Location: 156

“You shouldn’t have been there,” I said again, at the same time stalling and wanting to go, like the last friend at a wake.
Location: 801

He didn’t have to explain about going to the bottom. I understood, and knew I couldn’t follow him there.
Location: 804

She was right. You convicted someone for their crimes, not their nature.
Location: 1,007

I’m sure there are other people who have experienced The Moment themselves. The kind where you’ve been one sort of person up to this point in your life. Then you’re in a doctor’s office, or at home, or at work, and someone, someone you might have always trusted, walks into the room and makes what is likely an offhand remark they’ll never remember, but the comment rocks you at your deepest, unhinging whatever you had been. You think you’re so tough, never realizing how fragile you are until you break. It happens that easily, that quickly. Paul was one of the moments.
Location: 1,220

“You don’t look like FBI,” he said, explaining his shotgun. Privately I disagreed; I would have thought Coleman looked like FBI even if she wasn’t. But we both did that little side head tic that gets past the allusion to our not being male, and Coleman shot me an arch look that said, “I should have worn the black suit.”
Location: 1,714

Always tell as much truth as possible, but no more than necessary. Liars always want to embellish and it gets them into trouble.
Location: 2,041

Carlo listened without speaking, without trying to quick-fix things.
Location: 2,190

“I don’t think of myself as a Pollyanna, but I have to say I’ve seen blessing come out of pain before.”
Location: 2,193

“Trying to derive meaning from hardship isn’t exclusively Christian. There’s Viktor Frankl. And I like what someone once said: ‘there’s a crack in everything, and that’s how the light gets in.’”
Location: 2,196

“Sure. Sure, Mom.” I hung up, trying to get back the several decades of maturity I’d misplaced during our few minutes of conversation.
Location: 2,828


Always and forever my parents' daughter.

When someone has a temper, like my father for instance, you get used to the slamming and the shouting. It’s the calm and controlled people who unnerve you.
Location: 3,309

Here was Kitty (really Kitty, not Kathryn) Vaught, found June 30, 2001.
Location: 3,889


We didn’t speak much, hardly even looked each other in the eye; two people being alone in the same house only intensified the loneliness.
Location: 4,425

With more sadness than anger Carlo said, “Please put down your defenses, dear. Our marriage hangs in the balance,” and opened the door for me to go first.
Location: 4,524

If this was his show, let him talk. I was too depressed and tired to help him.
Location: 4,532

“What I mean to say is, when you’ve lived with lies for so long, it’s hard to know how to express things so that they can be trusted. It’s hard to know what the truth is.”
Location: 4,540

“You never wanted to know,” I said, hating the whine in my voice. “I just did what you wanted me to do.”
Location: 4,543

At first I hardly knew I was shot. There was that numbness that comes before the pain, when everything drains out of you in your shock.
Location: 4,553

“This is not a healthy relationship.”

“I’m beginning to see that, but in my defense, I’ve never had any other kind.”

“Maybe with a lot of honesty I think there’s a strong probability that I will not leave you, yes.”
Location: 4,587

Oh, to hear those words.

“Listen, we can go slowly on this, but for starters—and forgive the aphorism, but for the past twenty-four hours I haven’t been able to come up with a different way to say it—you have to trust the people you love. And you have to trust their love for you."
Location: 4,592

The raw exposure of a man in love is frightening, even to me.
Location: 4,604

“After young men see you they dream dreams without realizing why."
Location: 4,613

You Need A Budget

Book Review

Okay, this is the book that goes with the YNAB budgeting website. Kristin recommended the site to me at some point in the last year or so, strongly recommended, and I have since recommended it to other people who have had some level of monetary stress (where "some level" is greater than zero). This book came out in December of last year, though I hadn't picked it up from the library until last week.

The website that describes the different approach to budgeting, and handholds you through the process is at with the guides at

So, you know that I'm not giving anything away by saying YNAB has four rules (since they are right on the website):

1. Starting with the money you have right now (not the paycheck coming up, not the invoice you sent, what you have right now), Give Every Dollar A Job.
2. Don't be all wishful thinking and hopeful and "this month I will be good with my money," Embrace Your True Expenses
3. Accept that you are human and that life is unpredictable, Roll With The Punches
4. See how long you can hold on to your money, make it a game, and Age Your Money.

The shift in thinking is goooooooooood. Doing the exercises, setting all of this up, is haaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrd. . I believe the process is worth it. I liked the chapters on budgeting as a couple and teaching kids how to budget, which is more than a bit ironic.

This book is everything that I expected to be, which is awesome. I believe adopting the strategies in the book will change your life. If you can't check the book out from the library (my library had a 14 week waiting list), let me buy you a copy.

You haven’t failed at budgeting, you’ve adapted with the best of them.
Location 270

That cruise is a pipe dream if you don’t know where you stand with the basics that make you a functioning member of society.
Location 568

Write down all of the places your money needs to go. Focus on payments you’re obligated to make to keep your life running. Think food and shelter, loans, school payments, and any necessary work expenses(for example, an Internet connection if you work from home, commuting costs, etc.).
Location 569

To start, make sure you’re separating honest-to-goodness obligations from habits disguised as necessities. It can be hard to distinguish between the two at times.
Location 598

So try this: Imagine your future self having done each thing on your list. Which feels better? Seeing the kids and their friends enjoying the yard? Bike riding through Amsterdam as a family?
Location 694

The sense of security knowing you’re helping with college? Or imagine your future self explaining to a good friend why you chose one over the other. Does it feel right?
Location 695

Maybe you spend more than the “recommended percentage” on rent, but you also don’t own a car and you bike to work. Boom: car insurance, car payments, fuel, and gym memberships have no place in your budget. This is just one way that cookie-cutter advice rarely works.
Location 735

Lifestyle creep is when the cost of your lifestyle rises in tandem with your income.
Location 820

Once a year (I like to do this in January), question every one of your expenses. Question the “givens” like housing, transportation, and insurance. Question the vacations you always take, the gifts you always buy, and the food you always eat. Every single item should be on the table.
Location 828

Rule One hierarchy: Take care of your immediate obligations first — a roof over your head, food, for you and your family, and bills like electric and heat that mean bad things if you don’t pay them.
Location 858

Then move to the true expenses. These are large, irregular expenses that surprise you(you know the feeling) but really shouldn’t.
Location 860

What are your highest priorities after your obligations?
Location 863

The question stops being "Can I afford this?" You can likely afford lots of things if you have the cash on hand, but that’s not the point. You’re now asking yourself, “Does this move me closer to my goal(s)?”
Location 977

You may not like the truth, but you’ll be better off.
Location 1062

Budgeting forces you to make decisions you’d otherwise avoid when you think you’re steeped in cash. You need this clarity on a variable income, or else the agony of your low-income months will be so much worse than the joy that comes with big payments.
Location 1062

Predictable expenses aren’t frequent but we know exactly when they’ll hit and how much they’ll cost.
Location 1102

Unpredictable but inevitable expenses are things like car repairs, impulse donations,
Location 1106

Whether you’re dodging blows or coming up with your game plan, you’re always strategizing, adapting, and working to accomplish a big goal. You wouldn’t think of just standing there. And like any challenging activity, you’ll do your best only if you take care of yourself in the process. That means being kind to yourself when you need it, sticking to your values, and staying focused on the big picture.
Location 1293

If a budget sounds worse to you than talking about money on its own, hang with me. It really does help. On a very basic level, it’s much easier to talk about your money when it’s through the lens of a budget. Now it’s not about your debt or my debt, my spending or your spending. It’s about how it all works within the budget. The budget is like a neutral third party that keeps the conversation grounded in reality.
Location 1558

If you’re struggling to convince your partner that budgeting is important, be sure you’re very clear on what you mean by “budgeting.” Nobody will be micromanaged or put on a leash. The point is to actually feel free and empowered. Budgeting together will mean you’re working together to achieve your shared goals — not your goals for your partner. You’re asking him to budget with you because you want him to have a voice in what happens with your money. Not the other way around.
Location 1579

Your idea of peace may involve freedom to order takeout most nights so you don’t have to worry about cooking. Your partner may look forward to cooking each evening as a way to unwind.
Location 1594

You can use your first budget date to explore Rule Zero in three ways: what’s most important to you as an individual, what’s important to your partner, and what you value together as a couple. These will evolve into your budget priorities, because when you’re budgeting as a couple, your budget will have three sets of priorities: yours, mine, and ours.
Location 1660

The only way to reveal all those priorities is to talk. Think big. Be open. Share your hopes and concerns. These conversations do end up looking a lot like first date material, only now you don’t have to worry as much about scaring the other person away.
Location 1663

Assumptions will get in the way if you aren’t clear with each other about what’s important to you as an individual, and which goals you share as a couple. It’s too easy to assume that your priorities are the same as mine. Or that our priorities are always more important than mine. These quiet assumptions are what make budgeting as a couple stressful when it absolutely doesn’t have to be.
Location 1675

You need these sessions to be a safe space where you can talk openly, listen to your partner, and compromise.
Location 1754

Before each of them started on their debt paydown journey, reaching the end seemed impossible. But they set their goals and put in the work every day, consistently, for a long time.
Location 1993

The hardest part of teaching my kids to budget was teaching myself to let go. Once the money is theirs I fiercely believe we should not try to manage or control it for them.
Location 2091

Usually a restart just involves putting away your old budget and starting a new one. Simply looking at all of your money as a clean slate, nothing attached to any jobs, is a powerful exercise.
Location 2479

The Girl in 6E

Book Review

I want to say I don't recall where I picked this one up from, but, in reality, I recall that Audible was having a "First Book In A Series On Sale For Five Dollars" sale, and I looked through 54 pages of first-book-in-a-series books to see if any were interesting or of interest. This one, and Rage Against The Dying caught my attention, so I checked them out of the library.

For the record, I didn't know this was going to erotic suspense. Had I known, I likely would not have picked it up to read, and I really wouldn't have checked it out from the library.

That said, I read it in one sitting.

THAT said, I read it in one sitting partly because I was a captive audience. It was the only book I had with me on a four hour flight. I know, I know. How the hell do I have ONLY one book with me on a flight? Poor planning and frazzled attention, that's how.

So, how about this book? Well, "Dexter meets Fifty Shades" is the blurb. Having not read Fifty Shades, I can't comment on that part. The Dexter part, yes. The overt sex parts were, well, jolting. Upside of being able to read quickly? Being able to read even faster over the parts that are eyerolling.

If you are a fan of this genre, I suspect this is a good book. It's a fast read, to be sure. There is no mystery in the book, but there is plot and it is fast paced. The sex parts, well, they are anatomically well described, and the swooning parts well absurd.

It’s amazing how much people give away on their way from the elevator to their apartment. Sometimes people step out of their apartment for “privacy,” a fact I find hilarious. From my doorside seat, I hear the fights, the secret phone conversations, and the everyday normalcy that gives away so much about a person.
Page 17

For some reason, men feel more comfortable divulging their secrets when they are invisible.
Page 25

I’ve taken those drugs, and I don’t want the life they would bring. To have a free body but a caged mind? To stumble through the world in a zombielike state, never feeling anything, never conscious enough to really know anyone? I’d rather live my life as it is. Where I experience everything, even the horrific fantasies of my psychotic mind.
Page 96

I hate my former self; hate her selfishness and her lack of appreciation for her perfect suburban life. I had everything in the palm of my perfect, lazy hand and didn’t even realize it.
Page 100

He didn’t understand that despite her actions toward my family, despite the fact that she took away everything good in my life, I love her. She is my mother, and one night of hell doesn’t take away the seventeen years of memories.
Page 115

Self-pity. Millicent Fenwick describes it as a terrible squirrel cage of self. For me, it is a futile waste of time.
Page 178


Lonely? Yes. Miserable? At times. But that is what being content is. Comfortable enough with the situation not to prompt change.
Page 200

Thinking about a return to society is as dangerous as holding on to that scrapbook. Hope, in general, is dangerous. Hope can be the loose thread that pulls apart your sanity.
Page 200

“I haven’t asked anyone about this. You know this kind of thing, Carolyn. Once you throw it out there, the thoughts, the suspicion, never goes away.
Page 222

I am not afraid of justice. Justice is a good thing, even if I am on the losing end of it.
Page 256

Hope is dangerous. Hope leads to expectations, which lead to disappointment. Disappointment in others is tough. But disappointment in yourself is far worse. I’m not expecting others to disappoint me. No—I am my own dream killer.
Page 267

It is the first time, in as far as I can remember, feeling fear. When you are the darkest presence in the room, there is very little to fear.
Page 287


Book Review

I have no idea how this book came to my awareness. If I had to guess, it was mentioned a number of times on Bookriot, causing me to go, "Hey, science fiction recommended by several people? Okay!" Or something like that.

I enjoyed this book. It had a number of eye-rolling technology descriptions, most notibly the "I can debug things that take mere mortals three weeks to debug, just be unfocusing my eyes and staring at the whole" idea of debugging. Good viruses take weeks if not years to decode, making the idea that someone can unfocus her vision and See The Bad Guy™ an absurd notion.

That said, I love the whole Black Swan aspect of the plot: that someone can glitch into the system with a hack, and end up being invited to the big leagues. I love the idea that merit is worth notice, that it isn't who you know or what hands you've bribed to get to the top. It appeals to the 12 year old girl in me.

I enjoyed the book. The ending, however, had me crying out, "No!" with its abruptness. I'll read the sequel, no way I'll be left hanging on this one. It's a cute Sci-Fi / Virtual Reality book.

Death has a terrible habit of cutting straight through every careful line you’ve drawn between your present and your future.
Location: 313

Everyone has a different way of escaping the dark stillness of their mind.
Location: 472

My contented mood wavers, and abruptly I have a sensation of unbelonging.
Location: 1,043

“I thought that was just some science fiction myth.” “Everything’s science fiction until someone makes it science fact,” Hideo says.
Location: 1,202

I bet I’ll be the last one picked.” Ziggy just gives me a good-hearted laugh and pats my shoulder. “What is that saying? Never say never?” she replies. “Besides. Do you remember one year when that player—Leeroy something—actually got drafted into the Stormchasers, even though he always just charged in and messed up his entire team’s play? My God, he was terrible.”
Location: 1,421

And no one goes into the Dark World unless they’re doing something illegal.
Location: 2,130

Hideo shakes his head. “I like to keep my home real. It’s too easy to lose yourself in an illusion,” he replies, nodding at his physical book.
Location: 3,118

His emotions crash against mine, roiling into one, and he is undone in this moment, the reserved, distant, proper version of him stripped away to reveal the part that is unthinking and savage.
Location: 3,194

I nod, as if in a dream, as if I can’t stop taking this drug. “Yes.”
Location: 3,215

“You remind me of myself from several years ago,” she says. “I always offered help—but I refused to accept any. My mother scolded me about that. Do you know what she told me? When you refuse to ask for help, it tells others that they also shouldn’t ask for help from you. That you look down on them for needing your help. That you like feeling superior to them. It’s an insult, Emi, to your friends and peers. So don’t be like that. Let us in.”
Location: 3,745

Why would anyone give up the perfect fantasy reality just because they have to give up their freedom? What’s the point of freedom if you’re just living in a miserable reality?
Location: 4,373

Rise of the Rocket Girls

Book Review

I started reading this book because Caltech had a new alumni book club starting up, and this was the first book to be discussed. My timing in the reading, however, wasn't so great. I was all SQUEEEEEEEE about reading this book, and placed a hold on the book from the library. The book club started on February 22nd, my loan was due on February 24th. Which is to say, I read the book on the 23rd. As I do.

This book is about the math women at what would become, and is, Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena. The people who computed. The computers.

Of this story, of their tales, I have mixed feelings.

The strongest feeling I have is of anger that smart, well-educated, ambitious women can't be engineers because, and only because, they are women. "Let me do all these amazing calculations, but I'm not allowed to design these things, or if I can contribute, my contributions aren't even a footnote in history." Every part of the book about this, about the history of this, is rage-inducing.

A close second to this feeling is appreciation. That I would go to college was never a question, of course I would. The question was always, "Which one?" That I was able to go to Caltech is to me these days, somewhat stunning. At the time, my thought was "of course," but that's the arrogance of youth and my ignorance of the world. Probably a good thing on the latter, not so much on the former, because it leads to the third feeling.

Sadness. Sadness that this rich history was there, that these women had blazed the path I so obliviously walked. I wish this book had existed when I was at Tech. I might have appreciated where I was an the opportunities in front of me more.

Or maybe not. Arrogance of youth and all.

I enjoyed this book a lot. The girlie parts, however, were REALLY CONFUSING TO ME. So much so, I had to write notes down about them as I read. My first note was about all the fashion stuff. It bugged me. Is this a book about the girls or the rockets or what? I wanted the history of the rockets. And THIS, ladies and gentleman, is a defining feature of Kitt. And one of the reasons I ended up at Tech, and not, say, Pomona.

I found much of the random details strange. The fireworks fire was weird. At one point, we hear about the chocolate shake and croissant one of the "girls" had for lunch. Because you remember that detail for a specific day? Did the woman keep a food journal, and have it tucked away in case she was interviewed 40 years later about that day and could tell the author exactly what she had for lunch that day of that one event? Those details pulled me out of the narration a bit.

That said, this was a fun read. I am glad this book exists. I am glad these women were able to use their intelligence, interests, and education; that they were able to walk the path, even if they couldn't soar in the skies. This book is worth reading.

It seemed incredible that in the midst of her crumbling existence, the world kept spinning and people went on with their daily lives.
Location 669

I understand this. The hardest part about death is that life keeps going.

JPL was used to hard-won success born from repeated failure.
Location 755

It didn’t feel like a job; it was more like being part of a secret society.
Location 820

One of the features of the teams I like to build and be on is this element, that you are part of a high-functioning team working towards a common goal, without ego.

Careers were rarely a topic of discussion among the women. Their importance was seen as marginal in comparison to their social lives.
Location 901

See? Rage-inducing.

They couldn’t help but feel that if they were using their own rocket, they would have better luck with it, or would at least be in control of their failures.
Location 2045

Employers argued that too many women vanished after taking a leave. Instead, she would use her saved vacation time and sick leave to be home with the baby. When those ran out, she’d come back to the lab.
Location 2071

F'ing short-sided asshats. If you'd provide child-care and flexible hours, HEY, they would stay. See above, secret society.

The engineers viewed the IBMs with suspicion, while the women embraced the new technology, largely because of their hands-on experience in using the machines. The world of programming kept drawing them in, expanding in both complexity and scope.
Location 2147

Yep. Why did we ever relinguish control over this amazing technology?

Janet Davis was about to leave too. Fulfilling Dr. Gates’s prophecy, she was eight months pregnant and knew she would have to quit soon. She hid the pregnancy as best she could, wanting to work right up to the end.
Location 2233

When a person enjoys what she does, she'll endure a lot to keep doing it.

As Carl Sagan said, “Observation: I can’t see a thing. Conclusion: Dinosaurs.”
Location 2238

When the news anchor announced that Kennedy was dead, they held one another, in shock and sobbing. They knew that neither the country nor the fledgling space program they belonged to would ever be the same.
Location 2336

Debugging a program at JPL in the 1960s simply meant talking through the problems. Margie would sit with Barbara, and they would run through the programs one command at a time.

Each equation, each string of text, was thought through logically. As Margie described the program aloud step-by-step she would usually come across the error herself. Even if she didn’t catch it, her friend Barbara was there listening and would be sure to spot it. But while
Location 2563

So, rubber ducky debugging? This process still exists, btw.

Meanwhile, a manufacturing flaw meant that structural panels began to fall off the lunar module adapter.
Location 2575


Sylvia had always loved to travel. Even as a child she felt the lure of leaving familiar places.
Location 2588

Returning to JPL and her friends, she was thankful to have no feelings of guilt at leaving her children. Her psychologist had told her this was a medical necessity, and it also helped that so many of her colleagues were working mothers.
Location 2646

When Margie struggled with some parts of the program, she did what she had always done—asked the other women. She loved having her friends to rely on.
Location 2741

O. M. G. What is this craziness? An environment where YOU CAN ASK FOR HELP? Where you aren't shamed because you're human? What the f, people, can we have one of these f'ing everywhere please?

Helen enjoyed being a mentor to the women in her group and wanted more for them, so she came up with a simple plan. She would find intelligent women and get them in the door by hiring them as programmers. Then she would encourage them to get advanced degrees in engineering. While they went to night school, she’d teach them to succeed within the framework of JPL.
Location 2753

And this is how you keep women in STEM.

Between their aptitude and her guidance, a generation of female engineers would emerge in the lab.
Location 2755

Muller was a complainer. He whined that the women monopolized Cora, the IBM 1620.
Location 2788

Asshattery knows no gender, btw.

Unfortunately for Muller, the women had priority on Cora since they were responsible for 90 percent of the lab’s computer programming. The men were just beginning to dip their toes into the technology, and they lagged behind their female colleagues.
Location 2790

Writing the program was so much fun that Sylvia could hardly call it work. She came into the lab each morning excited to get started.
Location 2823

Sylvia’s programming made sure the ship swung in line with the movement of the planets it passed, so that instead of using fuel, it would simply be thrown from one planet’s gravitational field to the next. Each step of the elegant dance was carefully choreographed.
Location 2828

When Macie hired new women she had often told them, “In this job you need to look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man, and work like a dog.” In some ways, her advice still rang true.
Location 3090

"In some ways" I eyerolled here. In pretty much all ways, unfortunately.

While it was a mild day in Pasadena, in Florida the weather was unusually cold. However, after six delays, everyone was eager for the launch to go forward.
Location 3141

This whole incident is rage inducing, too, by the way.

After the craft had spent five years in storage, no one had thought to check the lubrication and coating on the antenna’s rib apparatus.
Location 3253

No one had thought...

“They’re always focused on the control room at JPL. The people really doing the work don’t get on TV,” she remarks.
Location 3476

In 2008, the fiftieth anniversary of her starting at the lab, JPL changed the rules and dictated that all engineers were required to hold advanced degrees. Because Sue never finished college, they took away her salaried position and switched her to an hourly rate. However, once administrators saw how much overtime she was getting, they made an exception and switched her back.
Location 3479

Dying laughing here.

The Girl In The Spider's Web

Book Review

Why am I reading this book?

Eh, this is not Larsson's Salander. The names of the characters and locations are the same as the previous Lisbeth Salander books, but this is a fan fiction book. It takes all the interesting things about the characters, and smoothes out the rough spots, as if Lagercrantz is apologizing for Larsson's previous works, and wants to make the characters normal. The interpersonal dynamics between Berger and Blomkvist are "oh, woe is me I feel guilty for this thing I've been doing for the last thirty years, and which a part of my core, but woe" and apologies for it. The personality that gives Salander her edges are all "oh, woe is me, I'm a cola-guzzling, junk-food eating hacker who binge drinks alcohol and feels like crap" blandness.

The plot could have been good, but, geez, the writing and character destruction, blech.

Okay, apparently my review is going to be full of my groans I've been having while reading the book. Do we really need a description of the RSA encryption's origins? Or the dropping of the dragon tattoo? Really? This is such a crap fan fiction book. The origin of the book (Larsson's will wasn't honored so his thieving family stole his fortune and commissioned this piece of crap) also sucks.

Yeargh, and then Lagercrantz turns her into a comic book character? Gah!

This book is not worth reading, even if you're a Lisbeth Salander fan.

“They’re Grant’s recipe for creativity. By tolerance he means that you need to be open to unconventional ideas and unconventional people. Talent—it doesn’t just achieve results, it attracts other gifted people and helps create an environment that people want to be in. And all these talents have to form a team."
Page 60

You do know what the campaign against you is all about, don’t you? Your uncompromising attitude makes people feel pathetic. Your very existence reminds them just how much they’ve sold out, and the more you’re acclaimed, the punier they themselves appear. When it’s like that the only way they can fight back is by dragging you down.
Page 103

Most of them are just ordinary businessmen. They despise all talk of standing up for things that matter.
Page 105

Was it worth it, just to be able to say a few words? No, Balder wanted to shout out, possibly because he had always been prepared to do whatever it took to become a genius in his field. Anything but the ordinary!
Page 115

Almost absentmindedly he said to himself, “They’re after me.” He could see that it was not unreasonable, even though he had always refused to believe that it would actually come to violence.
Page 119

He had lost count of the number of criminal gangs in his home country that had gone under because they had resorted too often to violence. Violence can command respect. Violence can silence and intimidate, and ward off risks and threats. But violence can also cause chaos and a whole chain of unwanted consequences.
Page 157

Once, before he got to know her, he had suggested that she take up competitive boxing. The derisive snort he got in response stopped him from asking again, though he had never understood why she trained so hard. Not that he really needed to know—one could train hard for no reason at all. It was better than drinking hard. It was better than lots of things.
Page 178

She did not do grief, not in the conventional way at least. Anger, on the other hand, yes, a cold ticking rage.
Page 181

“Surely the great thing about life is that every now and then it springs a surprise on us.”
Page 262

“Ha, no, that it’s always the wrong people who have the guilty conscience. Those who are really responsible for suffering in the world couldn’t care less. It’s the ones fighting for good who are consumed by remorse.
Page 270

... all the jealous, twisted souls came crawling out of the woodwork again, spewing their bile on Twitter and online forums and in e-mails.
Page 305

With that tendency, if you operate in an unhealthy culture you risk becoming just as unhealthy yourself. Who knows, perhaps the will to please leads people to crime as often as evil or greed does. People want to fit in and do well, and they do indescribably stupid things because of it. Is that what happened here?
Page 317

He was reminded of an old riddle his mischievous cousin Samuel liked to put to his friends in synagogue. It was a paradox: If God is indeed omnipotent, is he then capable of creating something more intelligent than himself?
Page 322

"... no matter how highly our superiors rate our new mobile phone system.”

“They think it’s great because it cost so much to install,” Holmberg said.
Page 335

Hello, Psychology of Economics.

"We have many different loyalties, don’t we? There’s the obvious one, to the law. There’s a loyalty to the public, and to one’s colleagues, but also to our bosses, and to ourselves and our careers. Sometimes, as you all know, these interests end up competing with each other. We might choose to protect a colleague at work and thereby fail in our duty to the public, or we might be given orders from higher up, like Hans Faste was, and then that conflicts with the loyalty he should have had to us."
Page 336

Blomkvist was so worried about the boy and Salander that he had hardly slept.
Page 340

Okay, this is an example of the crappy writing in the book. Rather than show us the ways that Blomkvist is worried, demonstrate how he acts, what he does, what's changed in his behaviour, Lagercrantz just states it. Much of this book is like this, let me just tell you something instead of showing you the something.

Blomkvist knew better than anyone that if you dig deep enough into a story, you will always find links. Life is constantly treating us to illusory connections.
Page 343

“Powerlessness, Mikael, can be a devastating force."
Page 393