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:

Feed

Book Notes

This book, by Anderson not Grant, was indirectly recommended in the XOXO slack, after a fellow attendee, community member, slacker posted about how his kid was setting up a large number of privacy-focused technologies in the home, and how either proud or nervous the parent should be. The consensus was proud, but, hey, was the kid inspired (terrified?) by Feed by M. T. Anderson into being more privacy conscious? Something that could inspire a kid to be more privacy focused? Yes, I will read this book.

The book follows Titus and his friends as they venture off to the moon for a weekend jaunt. Without explaining the various technologies (they just are), Titus and his friends go to a big party, where their neurological connections to the internet, their feeds, are infected. There are repercussions from the infection (gosh, five of them go a whole week without constant distractions), mostly surrounding Violet who is the awkward social outcast of the tale.

While Titus's family is rich and privileged, Violet's is not. The book does a great job contrasting the two of them while exploring privilege, the obliviousness of the privileged, the exploitation of corporations for our attention, the abuses by corporations of the data we provide, the potential disaster of media with the suppression of journalism, the dumbing down of society as a whole even as technology progresses, and the absurdity of mindless consumerism. Violet is the breath of fresh air, the voice of reason in the disaster that is this American culture (and let's be real, a completely believable prediction given the us vs them mentality and anti-science rhetoric that pervades our current culture). As a result, we know that Violet shall be the tragic character in this tale.

Oh, look, she is.

But with that tragedy, Anderson does a great job also of portraying just how we deal with death, bad luck, depression, anything negative: we flinch, we run away from it. While I can't say I'd recommend this book to many people, that lack of recommendation is more because I don't know of many people in the target audience for this book. However, for the juxtaposition of the surprisingly deep topics portrayed amongst the inane characters, this book is worth reading.

Diary of a Bookseller

Book Notes

This is the second Books on Books Book Club book that I read. The book is a diary / blog / FB posting collection of experiences of Shaun Bythell, the owner of The Bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland. Having worked in bookstores in high school and all through college, I would like to say, oh good lord, I am having flashbacks with this book. The people that come into the stores, wow. "You had a book out front two, maybe three years ago, it was blue, do you still have it?" Why, yes, YES WE DO, and actually, after a couple years, I did know which book they meant. I worked in bookstores pre-Amazon, and pre-Internet, so, of course my experience was different than Bythell's, but, wow, so yes the same.

I love bookstores. I'm the customer who always buys a book when I visit a bookstore. I'm the customer that straightens the shelves when I browse. I'm the customer who, indeed, enters the bookstore and declares, "I am in my element!" Fortunately, I declare that quietly, so as not to disturb others.

While my bookstore experience was from an employee, not an owner, I relate to this book in ways I wasn't expecting. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The Eyre Affair

Book Notes

Book one of the Thursday Next series, I don't think I will be reading the rest of the series. The book is a book about books, in as much as the plot revolves around a fictional England, mid-1980s, where time travel is a thing, and everyone is a book lover. I mean, let's start there with the difficulty of suspending disbelief, really.

The plot goes along the lines of Next being called to a secret service who is trying to apprehend Acheron Hades, who is immune to bullets, can waft through glass, and can control weak minds. Next is called up because she took a class from Hades in college. We learn of Next's history fighting in the Crimean War between England and Russian, of how her brother died in the war, and she went back for him after leaving him. Next's uncle is an inventor who has developed book worms who create worlds based on the words they consume (read: poetry and prose, fictional worlds made alive). Hades uses this invention to rewrite fictional characters, using the original manuscripts and the worms to make the fictional characters real. His rewrite of Jane Eyre would have had a large impact with me if I had actually, you know, read Jane Eyre and knew the original plot. I didn't, so I didn't have the same gut punch that other people may have.

Because of her personality (do the right thing, follow through, strong willed, etc.), Next helps a number of people in the story, which leads to the revelation needed to defeat Hades. Because, let's face it, the man was pretty much unbeatable.

I enjoyed the book, but not enough to continue reading the series.

ROAR

Book Notes

I picked this book up on the casual recommendation of a number of mountaineering women talking about being women on the mountains. The challenges women face on the mountain include most of the challenges men face, and them some different ones: menstruation, peeing, nutrition that isn't designed for a women's body because all of the research is historically done on fit, young men. Research on women is "too messy," which is EXACTLY THE REASON TO DO THE RESEARCH, but, you know, men.

Right, the book.

The recommendation was spot on. Whether the guidelines and suggestions in the book help me has yet to be determined, as I'll need to try them out and see if they work for me. However, if nothing else comes from the book, the repeated statement, "Women are not small men" (and here's how) is worth the book. There are a number of diet, nutrition, and recovery recommendations that are worth trying. I appreciated the insights, and the (let's be honest, currently imaginary) connection I have to other women (mountain) athletes as a result of the recommendation and reading.

Strongly recommend the book for female athletes (and maybe coaches of female athletes, but am unsure on that latter recommendation. couldn't hurt?).

Math Without Numbers

Book Notes

This book was recommended by another micro.blog reader as a book that describes math without weighing the reader down with, well, numbers. I agree: it was a lovely read. Even some of the book reviews are lovely reads, for goodness' sake!

I mean, start at the beginning with shapes and manifolds. Who knows of manifolds? Ask me about manifolds and I'm going to start telling you about intake manifolds and possibly exhaust manifolds, not mathematical manifolds. And yet, here we are talking about manifolds and shapes and different dimensions, and the whole of me swoons.

And then infinity comes into the story, along with "what's bigger than infinity?" and hooboy. I want to sit Jonathan's boys down and read this book with them, explore the nature of math and show just how amazingly beautiful it is, and how amazingly big it is.

I, too, strongly recommend this delightful, fun read, especially to anyone who thinks (or was told) they suck at math. You likely don't suck, you more likely had an uninteresting, detached teacher who failed to demonstrate the joy of math.

Wintering

Book Notes

This book came to me circuitously via reader responses to Austin Kleon's post I'm not languishing, I'm dormant.. The two posts were mentioned in S's RSS feed, and I rather enjoy S's article curation, so I read Austin's post, and checked May's book out from the library.

Wow, this is such a lovely book. The story isn't as it seems. It seems to be the tale of a woman with stomach cancer suddenly needing to slow down, because, well, stomach cancer. Isn't that at all, though the misdirection fits so amazingly well, and there are a lot of health issues involved in the telling. The book is about slowing down, but also about growth. I was a little uncomfortable with just how much anxiety May has in certain situations that I either don't have anxiety in or about, or have learned to jump in feet first, the depth be damned. I recognize that discomfort is entirely mine, and I loved noticing it as I read the book.

There are so many beautiful parts to this book that I was recommending it after reading not even half of it. Mm immediately started reading it, and shortly began sending me beautiful quotes from the book. I loved that synergy.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is or has been wintering (the title of a Sylvia Plath's poem about bees). Resting is okay. Promise.

Multipliers

Book Notes

This book was a women-in-tech book club book that I read, and missed the discussion about. I am disappointed I missed the discussion, as I really did not like this book. The basic premise of the book being that people in power positions (not going to say leader, because a lot of managers manage, they don't lead, and a lot of leaders don't lead, they manage, so let's call a duck a duck, and say people in power) are either diminishers or multipliers, either you cut down and reduce the productivity and usefulness of your subordinates, or you multiple the productivity and networks of your people.

And the two broad categories just don't work. I came to the book wanting to believe in this simplistic view, and just can't.

The first inclination of "eh.... your facts are incorrect" came with a tale of Apple:

For example, when Apple Inc. needed to achieve rapid growth with flat resources in one division, they didn’t expand their sales force. Instead, they gathered the key players across the various job functions, took a week to study the problem, and collaboratively developed a solution. They changed the sales model to utilize competency centers and better leverage their best salespeople and deep industry experts in the sales cycle. They achieved year-over-year growth in the double digits with virtually flat resources.

This is, quite frankly, complete and utter bullshit. A basic tenet of Apple culture is Harvard's definition of stress: accountability without authority. You are literally taught this in the new employee training classes. You are responsible for getting things done above and beyond any sort of reasonable expectations, and you are not given the resources or authority to get these tasks done, and you do it anyway. The whole "took a week to study the problem, and collaboratively developed a solution" is so far away from Apple culture that the Gell-Man Amnesia Effect punches you in the face. Twice.

So, keep reading. Soon, we come across the Shackleton tale of the newspaper ad:

In 1914, Ernest Shackleton, the venerated British explorer, embarked on an expedition to traverse Antarctica. His recruitment advertisement in The Times (London) read: Men wanted: For hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success. Surprisingly, hundreds of men applied. Shackleton, with the wisdom of an experienced captain, staffed his crew with men of a certain orientation—men who were attracted to adventure and recognition but who were also realistically prepared for the hardship they would face. No doubt Shackleton’s ability to attract the right team was one key factor in the survival of every member of the expedition.

The ad was never actually placed. It is a great element of the legend of Shackleton, widely told, and false.

So, if Wiseman is going to use this tall tale as an example of being a multiplier, and we refuse, again, to succumb to the Gell-Man Amnesia Effect, well, all of Wiseman's anecdotal evidence for the hypothesis of multipliers and diminishers becomes suspect.

Worse than either of these two tales, many of the examples of "diminishing" are actually full-on asshole behaviour. One doesn't need to think "diminisher" when experiencing assholes, one should think, "fuck off" and leave. In this case, The No Asshole Rule becomes a better book to recommend.

So, yeah, did not like this book, do not recommend this book. It is soft, it is impractical, and it is frustrating to read. A better read would be: "Be kind. Trust your people. Expect greatness. Have accountability. Don't borrow unhappiness."

The Hidden Habits of Genius

Book Notes

Near the beginning of this book, Wright asks his students, "Would you like to be a genius?" Given the school he was teaching at, many of the students raised their hands indicating yes. After the class on genius, most people realize that to be a genius, defined as a world changer not merely smart or have some arbitrarily high IQ, you kinda need to suffer: you're an asshole, or socially incompetent, or mentally off to the point of dysfunction, or some such. So, while actually being a genius might not be a goal worth attempting, some elements and characteristics of genius are worth the effort. Wright tells us those in this book.

What I can appreciate most about this book is the early chapter and direct callout of just how much women have been and are screwed in the areas of publishing, medicine, invention, politics, science, and, well, pretty much anything that isn't birthing babies and catering to the whims of men. Literally, the chapter is "Genius and Gender, the game is rigged." And it is. One can easily see that, "to be sure, the timeless stupidity of ignoring the intellectual potential of half of humanity is deeply embedded in our culture." Wright gives example after example of women screwed over by men. Just how stunningly fucked over Rosalind Franklin was by Watson and Crick and the "discovery" of the DNS helix, a discovery made by and with the research of Franklin, pisses me off stunningly even after reading the book. Like, because Franklin refused to be subservient to a less-gifted man, "Clearly Rosy had to go or be put in her place."

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

Yeah, so, the biggest habit one can adopt to being a genius is clearly "be a guy."

The other habits are a bit easier to do, including the cases when you weren't born with a penis:

  1. Work hard.
  2. Avoid being a prodigy (or at least letting that prodigy shit go to your head)
  3. Maintain a child-like wonder (imagination) of the world
  4. Stay Curious (develop a lust for learning)
  5. Find your missing peace (or the journey IS the destination)
  6. Leverage your difference (if you're weird, go with it)
  7. Recognize being different (rebel, misfit, troublemakers) is the hard road, take it anyway
  8. Think the opposite (sorta the diffferent way of approaching problems
  9. Fail often and frequently, but keep going
  10. JFC, get lucky

And a couple more habits. I have to say I found the FB references more than a little offputting. Zuck is a horrible person on a number of levels, his criminal acts included. The FB parts of this book did not dissuade that fact. If one can endure those parts, this is a great book. Strongly recommended.

The Midnight Library

Book Notes

I expected the Caltech Book Club to be pretty much all science and technology. So, imagine my surprise when I read this book, about death and the opportunity to live a life that undoes your biggest regrets. Start with the biggest and see where you end up in life with that correction. Holy shit, that reality sucks. Well, what about this second biggest regret, undo that one. Huh, this reality isn't what I expected it to be. Continue with this regression, and eventually you learn the lesson that every life has its downsides, disappointments, heartaches, choices, and losses. No life worth living is without some sacrifice. By looping through all the regret-fixes she can stand, Nora figures this out, and decides she wants to live.

The timing of this book for me was good. I strongly recommend this book.

The Eating Instinct

Book Notes

This book was mentioned in another book, though I don't recall which recently-read one it was. The book discusses just how detached we are from our normal hunger signals, to the point we all have some sort of eating dysfunction. From trauma-induced aversions (L's dislike of asparagus and bacon is a strong example similar to the ones listed in the book, where L ate too quickly and choked on both asparagus and bacon at different times, and now "doesn't like them"), to media-induced distorted body images inspire us into often-unhealthy restriction diets, the Eating instinct is a great starting point for "finding your food freedom," a Whole30 tagline.

I enjoyed the book, and immediately went to the freezer, pulled out a dozen cookies, and ate them without guilt.

Circe

Book Notes

We, the Books on Books Book Club members, read this book as the third or fourth book, first for me. It was the first one in the book club that I read. Unsurprisingly, I enjoyed this book. I was, however, hit much harder with the dismissal of women's voices, opinions, and experiences portrayed in the book. It continued the trend of reading books that pissed me off, even as I enjoyed it.

I enjoyed the subsequent conversation with D about the womens' roles in the book, and the curse of Odysseus for his pride.

Mediocre

Book Notes

Well, I keep reading books that piss me off. This book continues the trend.

Pretty much a glorious rant on how we as a collective are subjugated to the "leadership" of mediocre white men. No, not all leaders are mediocre, but one can give a very, very, very long list of mediocre men suppressing the more brilliant subordinates of all genders and races.

If you're interested in reading this book and can't a find a copy at your library, I will buy you a copy. If you read it and see yourself in the book, be better.

Lost In Thought

Book Notes

As a recommendation engine, the XOXO conference group slack books channel does not disappoint with this book. A lovely book about learning and reading for the sake of learning and reading, that the activities don't have to lead to increased wealth or better productivity or higher social status. One can read because she enjoys reading.

Good Drinks

Book Notes

Okay, so, the first question you may have is, "Did she really read a cookbook from the beginning to the end?"

Yes, yes, I did.

I read this book from cover to cover. I marked up recipes I had to try immediately, the ones I had to try soon, and pretty much just read the ones that were uninteresting. I pondered with a number of those if I could change the coffee out for chocolate, but figure I'll have enough joy with the previous two categories of recipes that modifying recipes can wait.

This book is a wonderfully delicious collection of make-at-home non-alcoholic drinks. One doesn't need to be a recovering alcoholic to decide not to drink, one can simply decide one is done drinking for the day, week, month, year, decade. When one decides it, having a collection of recipes that make drinks that can be sipped over a conversation, that have a heavy-enough mouth feel to be pleasant, that aren't just a flavored simple syrup with soda water, is a fantastic way to keep to that decision.

I adore this book. I like it so much that I will buy you a copy, it is amazing. I knew that you could have non-alcoholic drinks and be just fine, but this cookbook has so many delicious recipes without the alcohol, it'll make you see that mind-altering substance (read: drug) differently.

Invisible Women

Book Notes

Okay, fundamentally, this is an incredibly difficult book to read. It starts with a smack upside the head with how women are historically dismissed, ignored, not believed, undercounted, gaslit, and written out of history. It continues with the data to support the claims, then examines the various areas and ways women are invisible through out history, today, and likely for a long time.

Despite being roughly half the population, women do not have the representation in government, access to opportunities, power, or resources that men do. Accomplishments by women are often ascribed to men, or dismissed as luck.

Worse, women are considered "inferior men," who should "just be more like men." Instead of recognizing that women are fundamentally different, we are dismissed as "too messy," told to "be less emotional," instructed to "not be a bitch" after asserting ourselves.

Truly, being a woman is a no-win situation.

This book should be required reading for any researcher, hard or soft sciences, that deals even remotely with people. This book should be required reading for EVERY machine learning researcher.

I want you to read this book. Buy one at your bookstore. Check your library. If they don't have a copy, let me know. I will buy you a copy I want for much for you to read this book

At the turn of the twentieth century, award-winning British engineer, physicist and inventor Hertha Ayrton remarked that while errors overall are ‘notoriously hard to kill [. . .] an error that ascribes to a man what was actually the work of a woman has more lives than a cat’. She was right. Textbooks still routinely name Thomas Hunt Morgan as the person who discovered that sex was determined by chromosomes rather than environment, despite the fact that it was Nettie Stevens’ experiments on mealworms that established this – and despite the existence of correspondence between them where Morgan writes to ask Stevens for details of her experiment.75
Page: 17

Starkey’s position rests on the assumption that what takes place in the private realm is unimportant. But is that a fact? The private life of Agnes Huntingdon (born after 1320) is revealed through snippets in public documents from the court cases concerning her two marriages.82 We discover that she was a victim of domestic abuse, and that her first marriage was disputed because her family disapproved of her choice. On the evening of 25 July 1345 she ran away from her second husband after he attacked her; later that night he turned up at her brother’s house with a knife. Is the abuse (and lack of freedom of choice) of a fourteenth-century woman private irrelevancies, or part of the history of female subjugation?
Page: 20

We lack consistent, sex-disaggregated data from every country, but the data we do have makes it clear that women are invariably more likely than men to walk and take public transport.1 In France, two-thirds of public transport passengers are women; in Philadelphia and Chicago in the US, the figure is 64%2 and 62%3 respectively. Meanwhile, men around the world are more likely to drive4 and if a household owns a car, it is the men who dominate access to it5 – even in the feminist utopia that is Sweden.
Page: 29

And the differences don’t stop at the mode of transport: it’s also about why men and women are travelling. Men are most likely to have a fairly simple travel pattern: a twice-daily commute in and out of town. But women’s travel patterns tend to be more complicated. Women do 75% of the world’s unpaid care work and this affects their travel needs.
Page: 30

But women don’t report these behaviours, because who could they report them to? Until the emergence of groups like ‘EverydaySexism’ and ‘Hollaback’, which give women a space in which they can talk about the intimidating-but-just-short-of-criminal behaviours they face in public spaces on a daily basis, public awareness of this behaviour was more or less non-existent. When police in Nottingham started recording misogynistic behaviour (everything from indecent exposure, to groping, to upskirting) as a hate crime (or if the behaviour was not strictly criminal, a hate incident), they found reports shot up – not because men had suddenly got much worse, but because women felt that they would be taken seriously.
Page: 55

The invisibility of the threatening behaviour women face in public is compounded by the reality that men don’t do this to women who are accompanied by other men – who are in any case also much less likely to experience this kind of behaviour.
Page: 55

So men who didn’t do it and didn’t experience it simply didn’t know it was going on. And they all too often dismissed women who told them about it with an airy ‘Well I’ve never seen it.’
Page: 55

The type of security transport agencies install also matters – and there is also a mismatch here. Transit agencies, possibly for cost reasons, vastly prefer technological solutions to hiring security officers. There is little available data on what impact CCTV has on harassment, but certainly repeated studies have found that women are deeply sceptical of its use, vastly preferring the presence of a conductor or security guard (that is, a preventative solution) as opposed to a blinking light in the corner which may or may not be monitored miles away.72 Interestingly, men prefer technological solutions to the presence of guards – perhaps because the types of crime they are more likely to experience are less personally violating.
Page: 60

When planners fail to account for gender, public spaces become male spaces by default. The reality is that half the global population has a female body. Half the global population has to deal on a daily basis with the sexualised menace that is visited on that body. The entire global population needs the care that, currently, is mainly carried out, unpaid, by women. These are not niche concerns, and if public spaces are truly to be for everyone, we have to start accounting for the lives of the other half of the world. And, as we’ve seen, this isn’t just a matter of justice: it’s also a matter of simple economics.
Page: 66

Iceland has also been named by The Economist as the best country to be a working woman.6 And while this is of course something to celebrate, there is also reason to take issue with The Economist’s phrasing, because if Iceland’s strike does anything it is surely to expose the term ‘working woman’ as a tautology. There is no such thing as a woman who doesn’t work. There is only a woman who isn’t paid for her work.
Page: 70

And as women have increasingly joined the paid labour force men have not matched this shift with a comparative increase in their unpaid work: women have simply increased their total work time, with numerous studies over the past twenty years finding that women do the majority of unpaid work irrespective of the proportion of household income they bring in.
Page: 71

This observation may go some way to explaining why a Finnish study26 found that single women recovered better from heart attacks than married women – particularly when put alongside a University of Michigan study27 which found that husbands create an extra seven hours of housework a week for women. An Australian study similarly found that housework time is most equal by gender for single men and women; when women start to cohabit, ‘their housework time goes up while men’s goes down, regardless of their employment status’.
Page: 72

In any case, fifty year’s worth of US census data46 has proven that when women join an industry in high numbers, that industry attracts lower pay and loses ‘prestige’,47 suggesting that low-paid work chooses women rather than the other way around.
Page: 76

A recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study found that the gender pay gap in hourly wages is substantially higher in countries where women spend a large amount of time on unpaid care compared to men.
Page: 76

Women are also asked to do more undervalued admin work than their male colleagues
Page: 98

and they say yes, because they are penalised for being ‘unlikeable’ if they say no. (This is a problem across a range of workplaces: women, and in particular ethnic minority women, do the ‘housekeeping’ – taking notes, getting the coffee, cleaning up after everyone – in the office as well as at home.33) Women’s ability to publish is also impacted by their being more likely than their male colleagues to get loaded with extra teaching hours,34 and, like ‘honorary’ admin posts, teaching is viewed as less important, less serious, less valuable, than research. And we run into another vicious circle here: women’s teaching load prevents them from publishing enough, which results in more teaching hours, and so on.
Page: 98

The inequity of women being loaded with less valued work is compounded by the system for evaluating this work, because it is itself systematically biased against women.
Page: 98

Unless search committees specifically asked department heads for names of outstanding female candidates, they may not put women forward. Many women who were eventually hired when special efforts were made to specifically find female candidates would not have applied for the job without encouragement. In line with the LSE findings, the paper also found that standards were not lowered during periods when special effort was made to hire women: in fact, if anything, the women that were hired ‘are somewhat more successful than their male peers
Page: 110

Worker health should be a public health priority if only because ‘workers are acting as a canary for society as a whole’. If women’s breast-cancer rates in the plastics industry were documented and recognised, ‘if we cared enough to look at what’s going on in the health of workers that use these substances every day’, it would have a ‘tremendous effect on these substances being allowed to enter into the mainstream commerce’. It would have a ‘tremendous effect on public health’.
Page: 129

But the disparity in the relative female-friendliness of plough versus shifting agriculture is also a result of gendered social roles. Hoeing can be easily started and stopped, meaning that it can be combined with childcare. The same cannot be said for a heavy tool drawn by a powerful animal. Hoeing is also labour intensive, whereas ploughing is capital intensive,10 and women are more likely to have access to time rather than money as a resource. As result, argued Boserup, where the plough was used, men dominated agriculture and this resulted in unequal societies in which men had the power and the privilege.
Page: 146

Despite what academics, NGOs and expatriate technicians seem to think, the problem is not the women. It is the stoves: developers have consistently prioritised technical parameters such as fuel efficiency over the needs of the stove user, frequently leading users to reject them, explains Crewe.49 And although the low adoption rate is a problem going back decades, development agencies have yet to crack the problem,50 for the very simple reason that they still haven’t got the hang of consulting women and then designing a product rather than enforcing a centralised design on them from above.
Page: 154

Speaking to people informally, he said, the ‘standard response’ was that phones were no longer designed for one-handed use. He’s also been told that actually many women opt for larger phones, a trend that was ‘usually attributed to handbags’. And look, handbags are all well and good, but one of the reasons women carry them in the first place is because our clothes lack adequate pockets.
Page: 159

it’s rather odd to claim that phones are designed for women to carry in their handbags when so many passive-tracking apps clearly assume your phone will be either in your hands or in your pockets at all times, rather than sitting in your handbag on your office desk.
Page: 159

What women need, he said, was ‘lengthy training’ – if only women ‘were willing’ to submit to it. Which, sighs Schalk, they just aren’t. Just like the wilful women buying the wrong stoves in Bangladesh, women buying cars are unreasonably expecting voice-recognition software developers to design a product that works for them when it’s obvious that the problem needing fixing is the women themselves. Why can’t a woman be more like a man?
Page: 163

studies have found that women have ‘significantly higher speech intelligibility’,27 perhaps because women tend to produce longer vowel sounds28 and tend to speak slightly more slowly than men.29 Meanwhile, men have ‘higher rates of disfluency, produce words with slightly shorter durations, and use more alternate (‘sloppy’) pronunciations’.30 With all this in mind, voice-recognition technology should, if anything, find it easier to recognise female rather than male voices – and indeed, Tatman writes that she has ‘trained classifiers on speech data from women and they worked just fine, thank you very much
Page: 163

Speech-recognition technology is trained on large databases of voice recordings, called corpora. And these corpora are dominated by recordings of male voices. As far as we can tell, anyway: most don’t provide a sex breakdown on the voices contained in their corpus, which in itself is a data gap of course.
Page: 164

Human eyes use two basic cues to determine depth: ‘motion parallax’ and ‘shape-from-shading’. Motion parallax refers to how an object seems bigger or smaller depending on how close you are to it, while shape-from-shading refers to the way the shading of a point changes as you move. And while 3D VR is pretty good at rendering motion parallax, it still does ‘a terrible job’ of emulating shape-from-shading. This discrepancy creates sex differences in how well VR works, because, as boyd discovered, men are ‘significantly more likely’ to rely on motion parallax for depth perception, while women rely on shape-from-shading. 3D environments are literally sending out information signals that benefit male over female depth perception. The question is: would we be so behind on recreating shape-from-shading if we had been testing 3D VR on equal numbers of men and women from the start?
Page: 182

Medical practice that doesn’t account for female socialisation is a widespread issue in preventative efforts as well. The traditional advice of using condoms to avoid HIV infection is simply not practicable for many women who lack the social power to insist on their use. This also goes for Ebola, which can remain present in semen for up to six months. And although a gel has been developed to address this problem,43 it fails to account for the practice of ‘dry sex’ in certain parts of sub-Saharan Africa.44 A gel which also acts as a lubricant will not be acceptable in areas where women de-lubricate their vaginas with herbs in order to indicate that they are chaste. Failing to account for female socialisation can also lead to women living for decades with undiagnosed behavioural disorders. For years we have thought that autism is four times more common in boys than in girls, and that when girls have it, they are more seriously affected.45 But new research suggests that in fact female socialisation may help girls mask their symptoms better than boys and that there are far more girls living with autism than we previously realised.46 This historical failure is partly a result of the criteria for diagnosing autism having been based on data ‘derived almost entirely’ from studies of boys,47 with a 2016 Maltese study concluding that a significant cause of misdiagnosis in girls was ‘a general male-bias in diagnostic methods and clinical expectations
Page: 222

And excluding women does warp the figures. Coyle points to the post-war period up to about the mid-1970s. This ‘now looks like a kind of golden era of productivity growth’, Coyle says, but this was to some extent a chimera. A large aspect of what was actually happening was that women were going out to work, and the things that they used to do in the home – which weren’t counted – were now being substituted by market goods and services. ‘For example buying pre-prepared food from the supermarket rather than making it from scratch at home. Buying clothes rather than making clothes at home.’ Productivity hadn’t actually gone up. It had just shifted, from the invisibility of the feminised private sphere, to the sphere that counts: the male-dominated public sphere.
Page: 241

There is an easy fix to this problem. One study found that, with consistent childcare, mothers are twice as likely to keep their jobs. Another found that ‘government-funded preschool programs could increase the employment rate of mothers by 10 percent’.
Page: 251

Transferring childcare from a mainly unpaid feminised and invisible form of labour to the formal paid workplace is a virtuous circle: an increase of 300,000 more women with children under five working full-time would raise an estimated additional £1.5 billion in tax.
Page: 252

We like to think that the unpaid work women do is just about individual women caring for their individual family members to their own individual benefit. It isn’t. Women’s unpaid work is work that society depends on, and it is work from which society as a whole benefits. When the government cuts public services that we all pay for with our taxes, demand for those services doesn’t suddenly cease. The work is simply transferred onto women, with all the attendant negative impacts on female paid labour-participation rates, and GDP. And so the unpaid work that women do isn’t simply a matter of ‘choice’. It is built into the system we have created – and it could just as easily be built out of it. We just need the will to start collecting the data, and then designing our economy around reality rather than a male-biased confection.
Page: 252

Three of the recommendations in the Women and Equalities report concerned the implementation of quotas, and
Page: 274

it was not surprising that these were rejected: British governments have traditionally been opposed to such measures, seeing them as anti-democratic. But evidence from around the world shows that political gender quotas don’t lead to the monstrous regiment of incompetent women.28 In fact, in line with the LSE study on workplace quotas, studies on political quotas have found that if anything, they ‘increase the competence of the political class in general’. This being the case, gender quotas are nothing more than a corrective to a hidden male bias, and it is the current system that is anti-democratic.
Page: 274

But male politicians don’t have to escape to all-male safe spaces to sideline women. There are a variety of
Page: 277

manoeuvres they can and do employ to undercut their female colleagues in mixed-gender settings. Interrupting is one: ‘females are the more interrupted gender,’ concluded a 2015 study that found that men were on average more than twice as likely to interrupt women as women were to interrupt men.43 During a televised ninety-minute debate in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election, Donald Trump interrupted Hillary Clinton fifty-one times, while she interrupted him seventeen times.44And it wasn’t just Trump: journalist Matt Lauer (since sacked after multiple allegations of sexual harassment45) was also found to have interrupted Clinton more often than he interrupted Trump. He also ‘questioned her statements more often’,46 although Clinton was found to be the most honest candidate running in the 2018 election.
Page: 277

Analysis of 182 peace agreements signed between 1989 and 2011 demonstrated that when women are included in peace processes there is a 20% increase in the probability of an agreement lasting at least two years, and a 35% increase in the probability of an agreement lasting at least fifteen years.14
Page: 294

This isn’t necessarily a matter of women being better at negotiating: it’s at least in part what they negotiate for. Clare Castillejo, the specialist in governance and rights in fragile states, points out that ‘women frequently bring important issues to the peace-building agenda that male elites tend to overlook’, such as the inclusivity and accessibility of processes and institutions and the importance of local and informal spheres.15 In other words, as ever, the presence of women fills in a data gap – and an important one: recent quantitive data analysis has found ‘compelling evidence’ that countries where women are kept out of positions of power and treated as second-class citizens are less likely to be peaceful.16 In other words: closing the gender data gap really is better for everyone.
Page: 295

We didn’t have firm data on the sex disparity in natural-disaster mortality until 2007, when the first systematic, quantitative analysis was published.34 This examination of the data from 141 countries between 1981 to 2002 revealed that women are considerably more likely to die than men in natural disasters, and that the greater the number of people killed relative to population size, the greater the sex disparity in life expectancy. Significantly, the higher the socio-economic status of women in a country, the lower the sex gap in deaths.
Page: 300

It’s not the disaster that kills them, explains Maureen Fordham. It’s gender – and a society that fails to account for how it restricts women’s lives. Indian men have been found to be more likely to survive earthquakes that hit at night ‘because they would sleep outside and on rooftops during warm nights, a behavior impossible for most women’.35 In Sri Lanka, swimming and tree climbing are ‘predominantly’ taught to men and boys; as a result, when the December 2004 tsunami hit (which killed up to four times as many women as men36) they were better able to survive the floodwaters.37 There is also a social prejudice against women learning to swim in Bangladesh, ‘drastically’ reducing their chances of surviving flooding,38 and this socially created vulnerability is compounded by women not being allowed to leave their home without a male relative.39 As a result, when cyclones hit, women lose precious evacuation time waiting for a male relative to come and take them to a safe place.
Page: 301

They also lose time waiting for a man to come and tell them there’s a cyclone coming in the first place. Cyclone warnings are broadcast in public spaces like the market, or in the mosque, explains Fordham. But women don’t go to these public spaces. ‘They’re at home. So they’re totally reliant on a male coming back to tell them they need to evacuate.’ Many women simply never get the message.
Page: 301

Do Nothing

Book Notes

Similar to How to Do Nothing, this book (full title is "Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving") is a woman's journey into the realization that, hey, hamster on the hedonic treadmill is not the way to a happy life, and neither is killing ourselves for our capitalist overlords (my phrasing, not Headlee's).

This book goes through Headlee's journey to, not slowing down per se, more like recognizing that all of this attention grabbing stuff is adversely affecting your well-being. I appreciate that Headlee also specifically calls out luck for her success: there are millions of people working hard to be successful, and it's the good luck that springs them over the top into success. The parts where Headlee says, "this is true for me, so it is true for other people," well, I unsurprisingly both noted that and disagreed with them.

Also similar to How to Do Nothing, there's the history of work: how we used to work less, Industrial Revolution changed the economic landscape, labor fought for fewer hours, labor negotiated fewer hours for us, we drifted back into longer hours. And talk about longer hours: Headlee completely dismisses women's unspoken, unregistered, unpaid workload. While reading this book, I wanted to mail her a copy of Invisible Women and ask her to rewrite the book. As a single mother, I was hoping Headlee would not have been as dismissive of the unpaid work women do, as, as above, she has a "this is true for me, so it is true for other people" elements. Maybe she didn't recognize that the overwhelming amount of work she did includes that unpaid work, and that the workload is different for men and women? I don't know.

So, which of How to Do Nothing or Do Nothing would I recommend? Eh... depends on what age you want your protagonist to be. The messages are the same, one feels like it's from an early 30s point of view, the other from a mid-40s point of view, more time in the trenches. I have no idea of either of those impressions are true. This book resonated more with me, but I don't know if that was because of the parts of this book that irritated me (so I paid attention to this book than Odell's), the seemingly different age point of view of the authors, or if Odell's How to Do Nothing primed me for preferring this book by planting the thoughts of "do less."

One or the other, pick one. it is worth reading.

In 1859, Frederick Douglass first gave a speech that he would repeat multiple times in the ensuing years. It was a lecture on the “self-made man.” “There is nothing good, great, or desirable,” he said, “that does not come by some kind of labor.” This vision of a man (let’s be honest: it was almost always a man at that time) who achieved great things solely through toil and grit became an essential part of the American Dream, and some version of it took hold in many parts of Europe as well. “My theory of self-made men is, then, simply this: that they are men of work,” Douglass said. “Whether or not such men have acquired material, moral or intellectual excellence, honest labor faithfully, steadily and persistently pursued, is the best, if not the only, explanation of their success.” His argument is that the success of someone who achieves great things is mostly due to blood, sweat, and tears. Conversely, someone who is unsuccessful is obviously not working hard enough.
Location: 599

Even today, despite the income gap being higher in the United States than in almost any other nation, many Americans believe they can rise to riches through honest labor, and that belief fuels a willingness to work too much, even when we’re not reaping the profits of our labor.
Location: 622

A separate study from Princeton revealed that the stronger your belief that you can rise through the income ranks, the more likely you are to defend the status quo. If you think your life could be a Horatio Alger story, you’re more likely to support the existing economic and political policies instead of pushing for change. Never mind that most of my friends and neighbors earn as much now as they did ten years ago, many think to themselves. I’ll be the exception.
Location: 631

This belief in hard work as a virtue and a life philosophy started on the door of a church in Germany. Over the course of a couple hundred years, the religious notion that working long and hard makes you deserving while taking time off makes you lazy was adopted as an economic policy, a way to motivate employees and get the most out of them. In the end, this story is about how the industrialist desire to have fewer workers doing more hours of work merged with the religious belief that work is good and idleness is bad, along with a capitalist faith in constant growth. When time became money, the need to get more time out of workers became urgent if profit targets were to be met.
Location: 643

If you examine all the surveys based on self-reporting, that is, asking people what they do with their time, you’ll get the sense that everyone is working almost all the time. The productivity expert Laura Vanderkam heard from many women that they worked sixty hours a week on average. But when she had them keep time logs, she found they actually worked about forty-four hours a week.
Location: 793

More than half of U.S. employees feel overworked or overwhelmed on a regular basis, according to a study from the Families and Work Institute. The president of this nonprofit research center, Ellen Galinsky, told ABC News that “many American employees are near the breaking point.” I really doubt that all of those people are imagining their stress so they have something to complain about. I believe they really feel that way because I feel that way too.
Location: 798

Hansson, the founder of Basecamp and the bestselling author of Rework, says, “Don’t tell me that there’s something uniquely demanding about building yet another fucking startup that dwarfs the accomplishments of The Origin of Species or winning five championship rings. It’s bullshit. Extractive, counterproductive bullshit peddled by people who either need a narrative to explain their personal sacrifices and regrets or who are in a position to treat the lives and well-being of others like cannon fodder.”
Location: 978

In a 2017 op-ed, he wrote, “Workaholism is a disease. We need treatment and coping advice for those afflicted, not cheerleaders for their misery.” If it is a disease, it’s the worst kind: the kind we won’t admit we have and therefore don’t seek to treat. Workaholic should not be a compliment or a humblebrag—it should be a cry for help.
Location: 984

Another misguided effort was the creation of open office plans. In this case, the motive was noble and positive: Executives sought to create more cohesive teams and to encourage social interaction. In the end, the effect has been exactly the opposite. Years of research show open office plans actually make people less likely to talk to each other. Having no possibility of privacy causes stress and therefore discourages creative thought. We put people on display and they retreated. Can you blame them?
Location: 1,011

A survey of golfers in 2015 showed most think it takes too long to play eighteen holes. Players younger than forty-five said they’d prefer to play for only ninety minutes or so, and many courses now offer nine-hole games. This impatience shows up in all kinds of industries: People even listen to podcasts and audiobooks at double or even triple speed in order to get through them more quickly.
Location: 1,128

In many ways, I think we’ve lost sight of the purpose of free time. We seem to immediately equate idleness with laziness, but those two things are very different. Leisure is not a synonym for inactive. Idleness offers an opportunity for play, something people rarely indulge in these days.
Location: 1,306

Please note that by “work” I don’t mean the activities we engage in to secure our survival: finding food, water, or shelter. I mean the labor we do in order to secure everything else beyond survival or to contribute productively to the broader society, the things we do in exchange for pay.
Location: 1,582

For generations, we have been told that our life’s purpose is work. Religious leaders often told the faithful that a lifetime of labor is how you earn an afterlife of respite, so idleness must be put off until after death. In truth, work ethics in the Western world have often been tied to faith, especially in the United States.
Location: 1,584

The University of Pennsylvania professor Alexandra Michel says people put in long hours not for “rewards, punishments, or obligation” but because “many feel existentially lost without the driving structure of work in their life—even if that structure is neither proportionally profitable nor healthy in a physical or psychological sense.”
Location: 1,594

So what happens to your identity when its defining characteristic disappears? Baby boomers are known for their work ethic and were motivated for decades by a drive to constantly get ahead. What happens when that drive is suddenly thrown into neutral? It certainly makes it difficult to answer one of the most common questions in the United States: “What do you do?” That question is considered rude in many other countries but is often one of the first things Americans want to know about others, mostly because knowing someone’s profession makes it easier to categorize them and rank them. It should come as no surprise that the connection between employment and identity can be traced back to the dawn of the industrial age. Prior to that time, people were more likely to ask about a person’s family than about their job. If you’ve been told for more than half a century that hard work is patriotic, that it is what separates a good person from a contemptible person, and that labor is part of the dues one must pay in order to earn entrance to heaven, what might happen when that labor ends and your life continues?
Location: 1,621

It’s quite true that having important work to do can lead to a mood boost. In fact, a survey of 485 separate studies demonstrated conclusively that people who like their work are more likely to be healthy in body and mind. Also, they are less likely to suffer from anxiety and depression than those who are either unemployed or who don’t like their jobs.
Location: 1,638

Turns out, people are often more relaxed in the office. Damaske explained in an interview that even the most urgent of issues at work is not as stressful as a crisis at home. Missing a deadline, for example, doesn’t usually take the same toll as the death of a loved one. What’s more, Damaske says, we always have an escape option in our working lives that we may not have at home. “You still know that you can quit, you can look for something else, that you can leave—leave your boss and your bad day behind,” Damaske said. Most people don’t walk out on their families because they’ve become irritating or find a new family when the old one is causing anxiety. You are usually tied to your family in ways that you’re not shackled to your job.
Location: 1,643

damaging. Many people in the industrialized world derive self-esteem from their jobs. Jobs confer status. It can be devastating to feel unwanted and useless. But does all this mean that work is a fundamental human need? Do we require productive work in order to remain healthy and viable? If we were supplied with food, water, shelter, and clothing, would we still need to work in order to thrive? My answer is no. I think the benefits conveyed by a meaningful career may stem from the value and emphasis placed on work by our culture, not by nature.
Location: 1,656

It’s not the emphasis on hard work that’s toxic, but the obsession with it. We now live in a culture in which we are not happy being and only satisfied when we’re doing. Maintaining that kind of guiding principle has unintended consequences. For one thing, it makes us less compassionate. For example, when Protestants are prompted to think about their jobs, they experience an immediate decrease in their empathy. (Remember that Protestants are among the most likely to believe hard work is its own reward.)
Location: 1,694

When we hear someone explain the same opinion in their own voice, we’re more likely to think they disagree because they have different perspectives and experiences. On a subconscious level, we make assumptions about the other person’s humanity based on the method they are using to communicate. If we’re reading a blog online, we tend to think of the author as less human than ourselves. Hearing someone’s voice helps us recognize them as human and therefore treat them in a humane way. Your voice might go up in pitch when you’re excited; your speech might slow when you’re trying to be deliberate. Tiny changes in tone, rhythm, and breath, the study report says, “serve as a cue for the presence of an active mental life.” Text, the researchers concluded, doesn’t provide the same cues that point to a human mind behind the message. So the possibility that a reader might dehumanize the author goes way up.
Location: 1,896

This is a big part of why our overuse of email and texting is contributing to dehumanization and hatred: We simply need to hear each other’s voices. Yet I’ve found that people have a very hard time accepting this. Globally, we have come to believe that email is more efficient, more convenient, and just better than the phone. Our addiction to email is a symptom of our obsession with efficiency and productivity.
Location: 1,910

We have a fundamental need to belong, a hunger for community, and we are choosing to starve ourselves.
Location: 2,049

Most people touch their phones about 2,600 times between waking and sleeping and spend about five hours browsing on them every day. Consider that when you’re feeling pressed for time. Out of a twenty-four-hour day, you probably spend about six to seven hours sleeping and eight hours at work. That leaves just nine hours, and you spend more than half of that time staring at your phone. Eighty-five percent of us use them while chatting with our family and friends.
Location: 2,111

The pace is even faster for texts. Ninety-five percent of them are read within three minutes, and it takes about 90 seconds to get a response. Ninety seconds!
Location: 2,150

Researchers at Yale conducted a series of experiments involving more than a thousand people. In one study, participants were told how zippers work. Half of them were instructed to confirm the details of the explanation by searching online. Then they were all asked a bunch of totally unrelated questions like “How do tornadoes form?” Those who’d been allowed to look online for information about zippers were more likely to think they knew more about everything they were asked, even weather, history, and food. Studies show that online research doesn’t make us much more knowledgeable, but it significantly increases our confidence in our knowledge. Looking up your symptoms online, for example, is overwhelmingly likely to provide you with an incorrect diagnosis. And yet people who use virtual symptom checkers are more likely to doubt their doctor’s advice and search for alternative remedies.
Location: 2,194

We can end this toxic habit of constant comparison. Stop checking the internet to look at how other people are doing things, for one. If you want to make cupcakes, grab a recipe and make them. Don’t scour Pinterest for the “ultimate cupcake recipe,” buy special tools to decorate them perfectly, and then forget about those tools in a drawer somewhere because you’ve exhausted your interest in actually making the cupcakes.
Location: 2,568

That should be the new measure in most things: Is it good? Forget how it looks in photographs and ask yourself if you like it. Does it work? Instead of worrying about whether you stayed at the office longer than anyone else, focus on what tasks you accomplished and how well you completed them. Don’t look at your friends’ vacation photos and juxtapose them with your own. Instead, ask whether they enjoyed their time off.
Location: 2,576

If you’re going to compare yourself to others, look only as far as your friends, family, and neighbors. Pardon the TLC quote, but don’t search for a waterfall, “stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to.”
Location: 2,582

In this day and age, it’s unlikely that other people will strike up a conversation with you on the elevator or the subway, so take the initiative and say good morning. As the behavioral scientist Nicholas Epley has said, few people wave, but almost everyone waves back.
Location: 2,899

Brainstorm alone and evaluate or analyze as a group. A good rule of thumb is that diverse groups who are allowed to make decisions independently will outperform even the most expensive consultant. We often decide to make decisions alone because we feel it’s more efficient. “Design by committee” is a common insult, used to describe a project that’s flawed and uninspired because it included the input of too many people. Most of us have had some experience with meetings at work in which coworkers shot down good ideas, quibbled over meaningless details, or consistently supported the safest option. The error in these situations, though, was not in gathering input from many people but in trying to reach consensus without minimal conflict. Consensus is about being comfortable and avoiding arguments, but comfort is the enemy of innovation. Cognitive diversity is disconcerting to many people because it almost always brings differing opinions, but it is essential for creative problem-solving and accuracy. It is what our big Homo sapiens brains are designed to respond to and exploit.
Location: 2,926

Choosing means goals in haste can waste a vast amount of time. You solve this problem by starting on the other end of the spectrum. Articulate your end goals and then choose smaller, specific goals that you are reasonably sure will bring you closer to the bigger objective. Check in frequently to make sure your habits truly are helping you make progress. If they’re not, don’t waste any more time on them. Dump them and try something else.
Location: 3,059

So here is the complete list of solutions, all designed to break your addiction to efficiency without purpose and productivity with production. Increase time perception. Create your ideal schedule. Stop comparing at a distance. Work fewer hours. Schedule leisure. Schedule social time. Work in teams. Commit small, selfless acts. Focus on ends, not means.
Location: 3,065

The overriding message is this: Stop trading time for money. The simple act of placing a value on an hour has made us loath to waste even a minute, and the more money you have, the more expensive your time is and the more you feel you don’t have enough time to spare. Our perception of time is now horribly warped. Leisure becomes stressful when you subconsciously believe you are wasting money by not being productive. However, if one of your end goals is to be happy, then pursuing a bigger income is not necessarily going to get you where you want to go. Allow yourself to consider other options.
Location: 3,078

Battle Hill Bolero

Book Notes

This is the third (and last at the time of my reading) book of the "A Bone Street Rumba" series. I picked up all three books in the series at once, figuring even if I didn't thoroughly enjoy the series, at least I would have something to listen to on the drive back from Denver. The audio books were recommended to me, and I continue the recommendation: Older's reading is fantastic, which is unusual for most authors, tbh. If you enjoy audiobooks, Battle Hill Bolero is a good choice.

This book continues the end of the previous book, where the cockroach creepers are still around, there are still ghosts being turned into assassins, and the Council still sucks a large amount. Several of the ghosts can see more than a little bit of the writing on the wall (that is to say, Mama Esther), which means we read a number of delightful foreshadowings. We also learn of Carlos' and Sasha's past, their lives, their deaths, and Sasha's previous life husband who is more than a little bit creepy.

The whole book culminates in a Battle of the Good Guys vs the Bad Guys™, where, you know, the good guys win. The corrupt Council is routed, despite incredibly superior numbers, but you can't ever forget the bumbling hero, nor the competent hero, nor even the big-hearted hero, especially when they are some of the main characters.

Great road trip listening material. Worth reading if you enjoy urban fantasy, or Older's works.

"I had a meeting to attend. Two in fact. I hate meetings. Meetings are Satan's way of balancing out all the beautiful things in the world, like music."
Page: 71

It's insanity to reshape an entire life around a single night. But no more insane than wasting away in a broken marriage or drowning in lonelienss for fear of messing up, and plenty choose those paths.
Page: 75

What I was most looking forward to about seeing Carlos again? That ease we always shared, even from the very beginning. It's a strange and magical thing when two people can simply know how to be around each other without having to stop and learn.
Page: 142

Two weeks and the constant jackhammer of grief against my chest hasn't dulled so much as become the new normal.
Page: 241

I understand this. I desperately miss my Chaseachu.

I made peace with the ache, but that doesn't stop it from hurting.
Page: 264

Midnight Taxi Tango

Book Notes

This is the second book of the "A Bone Street Rumba" series. I picked up all three books in the series at once, figuring even if I didn't thoroughly enjoy the series, at least I would have something to listen to on the drive back from Denver. The audio books were recommended to me, and I continue the recommendation: Older's reading is fantastic (which is unusual for most authors, tbh). This book had some incredibly jarring lyric reading by Older's child. I wasn't a fan of that part of the audiobook.

The book starts out with a little bit of Kia's story, filling in some heartache where she and her cousin investigate the weird things happening at a love interest of the cousin: a bunch of ghoulish men are creeping around the kid's house. Well, the ghoulish men decide to attack on the night Kia and her cousin are watching. Kia and Gio become involved in the mayhem, and survive. Gio later disappears, and Kia misses him desperately.

Thus starts a strange loop in Kia's life as small details of her life wraps back upon her: she's attacked by a ghost in a park, which is weird, her cousin returns, which is great, she gains the sight, which just is. and the bad guys escape. Which is to say, the weird ghost in the front yard is part of the climax, Gio is not Gregorio, Caitlin is a bad guy, and the idea of pink roaches is just gross.

I enjoyed the book as much as the first one, and agree they are worth reading for the entertainment.

I find new life in each moment like this: the midnight brownstones breezing past me, the siren song of something foul dragging me forward. This is life, and really, anything is better than the sheer emptiness of so many lost memories.
Page 39

I know this is a terrible reason to be getting Cs, but the truth is, I'm bored out of my mind almost every day in school. I mean, most of us are, and believe me when I tell you it's not us, it's them. Half the kids in there could be teaching advanced computer coding to a roomful of the aging millenials that are supposed to be educating us.
Page 51

Except Charo himself, of course, because sometimes sheer wrath will take you farther than any workout video or Tae Bo bullshit.
Page 92

"When you do what I do for as long as I've been doing it, you learn to figure people out quickly and break down everything you need to know about them to two things."

"What things?"

"Doesn't matter."

"Huh?" I furrow my brow, and she smiles.

"Two essential things They're different things for everyone. But you don't have time to sit tehre analyzing eighty million little quirks and who loves their father. You have however many seconds to decide if they can kill you and if they will kill you, and then you either kill them first or you don't. And if you don't, you either die or you --"

"Have a four-hour cup of coffee at the diner."

"Basically."
Page 180

"White girls." The driver snickers. "They will destroy me one day, but I will die happy."
Page 201

"What just happened," Reza says, "is why you won't be going with us when we make contact with the Survivors." She doesn't say it cruelly; it's just a fact. When I meet her eyes, they're gentle.

"She..." But the words catch in my throat, and then instead of making a sesntence, I let out a low moan. The heaviness dislodges, rises. I put my head down in my arms and burst into tears.
Page 278

"I don't even really know what I'm mad about. I mean ... I got everything I wanted. You ever ... you ever get exactly what you wanted and then realize that you're still mad for not having had it all that time and it just doesn't seem fair at all?"
Page 327

For a woman with her babies in enemy hands, she's holding up impressively. Sasha's a warrior, though; I see it all over her. She knows where to store up that anguish and fear so it doesn't get in the way of what needs to be done. I just hope she knows how to let it out when it's all over.
Page 411

"Not a lotta spirits would be very sad to see the Council fall," Riley says.

"But way fewer would lift a finger to make it happen."

"My man." He slaps his chilly translucent hand against my outstretched one. "We got work to do."
Page 461

Midnight Sun

Book Notes

This book was slightly confusing at first, as it is the second book of the Blood on Snow series, but the protagonist of the first book died, but did he? The first book had two divergent endings, one of which was clearly delusional, but this second book initially has the reader (well, this reader) pondering the truth of that conclusion.

Eventually, I figured out, this book is the same world, but a different character set in that world, name change be damned, and then I was back into the tale.

We have Ulf, who is fleeing the Fisherman, after, quelle surprise, screwing the Fisherman in some small way. That the contract killer didn't and couldn't actually kill played a large part of that screwing and fleeing. The plot is your basic boy flees crime boss, boy visits small town, boy meets up with down-on-luck girl with issues and a kid, boy and girl like each other, crime boss' henchman shows up in small town, henchman is thwarted by small town's population, boy and girl live happily ever after plot, the same one that a dozen action movie plots use.

I enjoyed the book. It was a fast, mildly engaging read. it'll make more sense with the previous book read first. Worth reading if you're a Nesbø fan.

I sold hash and saved up for that bastard miracle cure I forced myself to believe in because the alternative was unbearable, because my fear that the little girl with the blue light in her eyes would die was even stronger than my own fear of death. Because we take comfort where we can find it: in a German medical journal, in a syringe full of heroin, in a shiny new book promising eternal life as long as you subordinate yourself to whatever new saviour they’ve just come up with.
Location: 1,173

“Thanks for taking care of Knut after the funeral.”

“Don’t mention it. How is he taking it?”

“Well, really.”

“And you?”

She shrugged her shoulders. “Women always find a way of coping.”
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“I’ve changed my mind. I want to know what you’re running from.”

“Your original decision was probably more sensible.”

“Tell me.”

“What for?”

“Because I believe you’re a good person. And good people’s sins can always be forgiven.”

“What if you’re wrong, what if I’m not a good person? Does that mean I’d end up burning in that hell of yours?” It came out more bitterly than I intended.
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“Why are you still calling me Ulf?”

“That’s what you told me your name was, so that’s the name I use. Until you want to be called something different. Everyone should be allowed to change their name every so often.”
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“Well, congratulations. You’re Futa…Futa…”

“…bayama. And Futabayama salutes you, courageous Haguroyama.” He raised his head. He had sand stuck to his wet face.

“Who’s that?”

“Futabayama’s apprentice. Haguroyama also went on to be a master.” “Did he? He beat Futabayama?”

“Oh, yes. Toyed with him. He just had to learn a few things first. Such as how to lose.” Knut sat up. He squinted at me.

“Does losing make you better, Ulf?”

I nodded slowly. I saw that Lea was paying attention too.

“You get better”—I squashed a midge that had landed on my arm—“at losing.”

“Better at losing? Is there any point in being good at that?”

“Life is mostly about trying things you can’t do,” I said. “You end up losing more often than you win. Even Futabayama kept on losing before he started to win. And it’s important to be good at something you’re going to do more often, isn’t it?”

“I suppose so.” He thought about it. “But what does being good at losing actually mean?”

I met Lea’s gaze over the boy’s shoulder. “Daring to lose again,” I said.
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I didn’t remember much of my wasted years at university, but I did remember William Blackstone, the eighteenth-century legal philosopher who occupied much the same territory as Mattis, at the crossroads of justice and faith in God. I remembered him because Grandfather had used him, Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei and Søren Kierkegaard as examples of the fact that even the very sharpest minds are prepared to believe in the stuff and nonsense of Christianity if they think it offers a chance to escape death.
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The Math of Life and Death

Book Notes

Oh, I enjoyed this book so much. I am on a roll with choosing non-fiction books that delight me. I strongly recommend this book for its exploration of various ways different areas of mathematics can help us understand the world around us. This book also delivers a whole bunch of (previously unknown to me) biases, all dealing with math, giving me even more joy.

In a very approachable way giving many examples from the real world and history (none of these "two trains are on tracks going in opposite directions at forty kilometers an hour" problems), the various chapters discuss exponential growth and decay (Chapter 1), sensitivity and specificity specifically in medicine (Chapter 2), how math (statistics, in particular) is used in legal matters (Chapters 3 and 4), different numbering systems (Chapter 5), algorithms in general and how they can apply to one's life (the 37% rule is a very common algorithm used to illustrate how algorithms can make our lives better, see also Algorithms to Live By), and the most relevant topic of 2020: mathematical epidemiology, or the topic of epidemics, pandemics, and the spread of disease.

I mean, discussions of false positives and false negatives, how one can intimidate jurors with numbers, how to interpret stats you read in the news (hint: context matters a LOT), an overview of virus transmission (asshat anti-vaxers not understanding that vaccines don't cause autism, a leaky intestinal system causes autism, but that's another line of research that didn't get earlier funding because Jenny McCarthy decided murdering thousands of children was a better "mother feeling," leaving scientists to debunk her shit first for public health before finding the true cause of autism, but here we are), and ideas that can help people live better lives.

One of the good things, for some people anyway, about the book is that there are very few equations in the book, making the book approachable to anyone who doesn't like, or thinks he can't do, math.

Strongly recommended. Fun, informative read.

The application of the God Equation can be seen as an attempt to take difficult life and death decisions out of our subjective hands and place them under the control of an objective mathematical formula. This point of view plays on the seeming impartiality and objectivity of mathematics, but neglects to recognize that the subjective decisions are simply being diverted out of sight in the form of judgments on quality of life and cost effectiveness thresholds at earlier stages of the decision making process.
Chapter 2, English version, not in the American version of the book

Mathematics, at its most fundamental, is pattern. Every time you look at the world you are building your own model of the patterns you observe.
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Refusing to believe reports of the core’s explosion, Akimov relayed incorrect information about the reactor’s state, delaying vital containment efforts. Upon eventually realizing the full extent of the destruction, he worked, unprotected, with his crew to pump water into the shattered reactor.
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The greater our acquaintance with the routines of everyday life, the quicker we perceive time to pass, and generally, as we age, this familiarity increases. This theory suggests that, to make our time last longer, we should fill our lives with new and varied experiences, eschewing the time-sapping routine of the everyday. Neither of the above ideas explains the almost perfectly regular rate at which our perception of time seems to accelerate. That the length of a fixed period of time appears to reduce continually as we age suggests an “exponential scale” to time.
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Today, more people in the world die from being overweight than from being underweight.
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The main problem with BMI is that it can’t distinguish between muscle and fat. This is important because excess body fat is a good predictor of cardiometabolic risk. BMI is not. If the definition of obesity were instead based on high-percentage body fat, between 15 and 35 percent of men with non-obese BMIs would be reclassified as obese. For example, “skinny-fat” individuals, with low muscle but high levels of body fat and consequently normal BMI, fall into the undetected “normal-weight obesity” category. A recent cross-population study of forty thousand individuals found that 30 percent of people with BMI in the normal range were cardiometabolically unhealthy. The obesity crisis may be much worse than our BMI-based figures suggest. However, BMI both under- and over-diagnoses obesity. The same study found that up to half of the individuals that BMI classified as overweight and over a quarter of BMI-obese individuals were metabolically healthy.
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Alternatively, by blowing as much air as you can into an empty airtight bag and then sealing and submersing it in water, you can use Archimedes’s principle to estimate your lung capacity a few weeks into your new exercise program.
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Using this idea, all Archimedes needed to do was to take a pan balance with the crown on one side and an equal mass of pure gold on the other. In air, the pans would balance. However, when the scales were placed underwater, a fake crown (which would be larger in volume than the same mass of denser gold) would experience a larger buoyant force as it displaced more water, and its pan would consequently rise. This principle from Archimedes is used to accurately calculate body fat percentage. A subject is first weighed in normal conditions, then reweighed while sitting completely submerged on an underwater chair attached to a set of scales. The differences in the dry and underwater weight measurements can be used to calculate the buoyant force acting on the individual while underwater, which can in turn be used to determine the person’s volume, given the known density of water. This volume, in conjunction with figures for the density of fat and lean components of the human body, can be used to estimate the body fat percentage and provide more accurate assessments of health risks.
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False alarms typically refer to an alarm triggered by something other than the expected stimulus. A staggering 98 percent of all burglar-alarm activations in the United States are thought to be false alarms. This prompts the question, Why have an alarm at all? As we get used to incorrect alerts, we become more reluctant to investigate their causes. Burglar alarms are by no means the only warnings with which we have become overfamiliar. When the smoke detector goes off, we are usually already opening a window and scraping the soot off our toast. When we hear a car alarm outside, very few of us will even get off the sofa and stick our heads outside to investigate. When alarms become an inconvenience rather than an aid, and when we no longer trust their output, we are said to be suffering alarm fatigue. This is a problem because situations in which alarms become so routine that we ignore them, or disable them completely, can be less sensible than not having the alarm in the first place,
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This trade-off exists because we are typically testing for proxies rather than the phenomena themselves. The test that misdiagnosed Mark Stern as HIV positive does not test for the HIV virus. Rather, it tests for antibodies that the body’s immune system raises in an attempt to fight off the virus. However, high HIV-associated antibody loads can be raised by something as innocuous as the flu vaccination. Similarly, most home pregnancy tests do not look for the presence of a viable embryo implanted in the woman’s womb. Typically, these tests look for elevated levels of the hormone HCG, produced after implantation of the embryo. Such proxy indicators are often called surrogate markers. Tests can be wrong because markers similar to the surrogate can trigger a positive result.
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For some tests, a more accurate version is not available. In these cases, we should remember that even a second run of the same test can dramatically improve the precision of its results. We should never be afraid to ask for a second opinion. Clearly, even doctors—the perceived experts—don’t always have the firmest grasp of the figures, despite the illusion of confidence they exude. Before you start to worry yourself unduly based on assertions of a single test, find out its sensitivity and specificity and work out the likelihood of an incorrect result. Question the illusion of certainty and take the power of interpretation back into your own hands.
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Two events are dependent if knowledge of one event influences the probability of the other. Otherwise they are independent. When presented with the probabilities of individual events, common practice is to multiply these probabilities together to find the probability of the combination of the events occurring.
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A suspect is found whose license plate matches the five digits remembered by the witness. If the suspect is innocent, then only ninety-nine other cars are out there, out of the 10 million cars on the road, whose plates match the first five digits. Therefore, the probability that the witness observed such a license plate if the suspect is innocent is 99/10,000,000, less than one in one hundred thousand (1/100,000). This tiny probability of seeing the evidence if the suspect is innocent seems to overwhelmingly indicate the suspect’s guilt. However, to assume so is to commit the prosecutor’s fallacy. The probability of seeing the evidence if the suspect is innocent is not the same as the probability of the suspect being innocent, once that piece of evidence has been observed. Recall that ninety-nine of the hundred cars that match the witness’s description do not belong to the suspect. The suspect is just one of a hundred people who drive such a car. The probability of the suspect’s guilt given their license plate, therefore, is just one in a hundred—exceedingly unlikely. Other evidence tying the suspect to the area of the crime or eliminating the other cars from being in the area would increase the probability of the suspect’s guilt. However, based on the single piece of evidence, the overwhelmingly likely conclusion should be that the suspect is innocent. The prosecutor’s fallacy is only truly effective when the chance of the innocent explanation is extremely small, otherwise it is too easy to see through the fallacious argument.
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than ever. Simultaneously, there is a concomitant increase in the numerical skills required to interpret their findings. In many cases there is no hidden agenda, the statistics are just difficult to interpret. However, for many reasons it might benefit one party or another to put a spin on a particular finding.
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Small, unrepresentative, or biased samples, in conjunction with leading questions and selective reporting, can all make for unreliable statistics. More subtle still are the statistics used out of context so that we have no way to judge whether, for example, a 300 percent increase in cases of a disease represents an increase from one patient to four or from half a million patients to 2 million. Context is important. It’s not that these different interpretations of numbers are lies—each one is a small piece of the true story on which someone has shone a light from a preferred direction—it’s just that they are not the whole truth. We are left to try to piece together the true story behind the hyperbole.
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Advertisers know that numbers are widely perceived as being indisputable facts. Adding a figure to an ad can be extremely persuasive and lend power to the promoter’s argument.
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The apparent objectivity of statistics seems to say, “Don’t just trust what we’re saying, trust this piece of indisputable evidence.”
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A more appropriate question for Liddle to ask might have been, “If a black US citizen comes across someone while out walking alone, who should they be more scared will kill them: another black person, or a law enforcement officer?” To find out the answer we need to compare the per capita rates of black-victim killings perpetrated by black people and by police officers. We find the per capita rates, as presented in table 11, by dividing the total number of black victims killed by a particular group (black people or police officers) by the size of the group. Black people were responsible for 2,380 killings of other black people in 2015, but with over 40.2 million black US citizens, the per capita rate is relatively small—around one in seventeen thousand. Police officers were “rightly or wrongly” responsible for killing 307 black people in 2015. With 635,781 police officers, this amounts to a per capita killing rate that is just below one killing per two thousand police officers—over eight times higher than the rate for black US citizens. It seems that a black person walking down the street should be more alarmed to see a police officer approaching than another black person.
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Of course we have not accounted for the fact that encounters with the police are often confrontational, and US police are typically armed. It’s perhaps not surprising that those authorized to wield lethal force do so more frequently than the general population at large. By exactly the same mathematics, we can show that white people should also be more scared of law enforcement officers (per capita white killing rate of one per thousand officers) than other white people (per capita white killing rate of one per ninety thousand white people), despite more white people killing other white people than police officers killing white people. That police officers have twice as high a per capita rate of killing white people than black people is because the country has more white people.
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a statistic that is at the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement: that the 12.6 percent of the population who are black account for 26.8 percent of police killings, while the 73.6 percent who are white account for just 51.0 percent.
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Other subtle signs can indicate a manipulated statistic. If presenters are confident of the veracity of their figures, then they won’t be afraid to give the context and the source for others to check. As with Gorka’s terrorism tweet, a contextual vacuum is a red flag when it comes to believability. Lack of details on survey results, including the sample size, the questions asked, and the source of the sample—as we saw in L’Oréal’s advertising campaign—is another warning sign. Mismatched framing, percentages, indexes, and relative figures without the absolutes, as in the NCI’s Breast Cancer Risk Tool, should set alarm bells ringing. The spurious inferences of a causative effect from uncontrolled studies or subsampled data—as often seen in the conclusions drawn from trials of alternative medicine—are yet more tricks to watch out for. If an initially extreme statistic suddenly rises or falls—as with gun crime in the United States—be on the lookout for regression to the mean. More generally, when a statistic is pushed your way, ask yourself the questions “What’s the comparison?” “What’s the motivation?” and “Is this the whole story?” Finding the answers to these three questions should take you a long way toward determining the veracity of the figures. Not being able to find the answers tells its own story.
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When you arrive at the cinema and need to pay to park at the meter, the ticket machine probably won’t provide change. If you have enough coins in your pocket, you probably want to make up the exact price as quickly as possible. In one greedy algorithm, which many of us will reach for intuitively, we insert coins sequentially, each time adding the largest-value coin that is less than the remaining total.
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For all the 1-2-5 currencies, as well as the US coinage system, the greedy algorithm described
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above does make up the total using the smallest number of coins.
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Any currency for which each coin or note is at least twice as valuable as the next smallest denomination will satisfy the greedy property.
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Measures implemented to reduce employee absence, including reducing paid sick leave, are causing a marked rise in people coming to work regardless of how bad they might be feeling, leading unintentionally to more illness and overall lowered rates of efficiency. Presenteeism is particularly prevalent in health care and teaching. Ironically, nurses, doctors, and teachers feel so obligated to the large numbers of people they safeguard that they often put them at risk by coming in to work while under the weather.
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Perhaps surprisingly, diseases with high case fatality rates tend to be less infectious. If a disease kills too many of its victims too quickly, then it reduces its chances of being passed on. Diseases that kill most of the people they infect and also spread efficiently are very rare and are usually confined to disaster movies. Although a high case fatality rate significantly raises the fear associated with an outbreak, diseases with high R0 but lower case fatality may end up killing more people by virtue of the larger numbers they infect.
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One of the most effective options for reducing disease spread is vaccination. By taking people directly from susceptible to removed, bypassing the infective state, it effectively reduces the size of the susceptible population. Vaccination, however, is typically a precautionary measure applied in an attempt to reduce the probability of outbreaks. Once
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outbreaks are in full swing, it is often impractical to develop and test an effective vaccine in time.
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Similarly, it’s impractical in the real world to quarantine a high proportion of the population for a long time. Running a mathematical model presents no such concerns. We can test models in which everyone is quarantined or no one, or anywhere in between, in an attempt to balance the economic impact of this enforced isolation with the effect it has on the progression of the disease. This is the real beauty of mathematical epidemiology—the ability to test out scenarios that are infeasible in the real world, sometimes with surprising and counterintuitive results. Math has, for example, shown that for diseases such as chicken pox (varicella) isolation and quarantine may be the wrong strategy. Trying to segregate children with and without the disease will undoubtedly lead to numerous missed schooldays and workdays to avoid what is widely considered to be a relatively mild disease. Perhaps more significant, though, mathematical models prove that quarantining healthy children can defer their catching the disease until they are older, when the complications from chicken pox can be far more serious. Such counterintuitive effects of a seemingly sensible strategy such as isolation might never have been fully understood if not for mathematical interventions.
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Childhood diseases show these typical periodic outbreak patterns because the effective reproduction number varies over time with the population of susceptible individuals. After a big outbreak has affected large swathes of the unprotected-child population, a disease such as scarlet fever doesn’t just disappear. It persists in the population, but with an effective reproduction number that hovers around 1. The disease only just sustains itself. As time goes by, the population ages, and new, unprotected children are born. As the unguarded fraction of the population grows, the effective reproduction number becomes higher and higher, making new outbreaks increasingly likely. When an outbreak finally takes off, the victims to whom the disease spreads are usually at the unprotected younger end of the demographic, because most of the older populace are already immune through experiencing the disease. Those people who didn’t get the disease as children are typically afforded some protection because they fraternize with fewer of the infected age group.
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The most effective way to reduce the size of the susceptible population is through vaccination. The question of how many to vaccinate to achieve herd immunity relies on reducing the effective reproduction number to below 1.
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In general we can only afford to leave 1/R0 of the population unvaccinated and must protect the remaining fraction (1−1/R0 of the population) if we are to achieve the herd immunity threshold.
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