Countdown City

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

The second entry in Ben H. Winters' "Last Policeman" trilogy. It's kind of a downer, as described below. As the in previous entry, it's set mostly in Concord NH, with some side trips to Durham NH and Kittery, ME. More about that too. Unfortunately, the scenario in the previous book hasn't gone away either. There's an asteroid headed for Earth in a few weeks, and civilization (even in New Hampshire) is quickly falling apart. And a lot of people have acquired, or reacquired, a nasty tobacco habit.

And the hero, Henry Palace, isn't even a cop anymore. He's marking time, waiting for the apocalypse, when his old babysitter Martha implores him to look into the disappearance of her husband Brett. This seems hopeless; a lot of husbands have taken off for parts unknown, and Henry has lost his detecting resources.

But Henry's a pretty good detective after all, and following Brett's trail leads him on a tour of societal collapse, which is pretty interesting. Surprisingly, many folks have not decided to lay in a lot of cheap red wine and lurid fiction, and just wait for The End. That would be me.

Specifically, Henry's quest brings him to the University Near Here, which has (amusingly, to my eyes) been taken over by a bunch of (I think) anarcho-syndicalists. There's a certain grim humor here: they are relentlessly communal, following the "will of the people". Problem being that it's a long drawn-out process to determine exactly what that will is, and it involves a lot of people shouting "point of order!"

But what I really want to mention is Winters' literary license with UNH geography. It's pretty twisted: he namedrops some buildings that exist (Thompson Hall, Dimond Library, Woodside Apartments), but also throws in a bunch that don't (e.g., "Kingfisher Hall"). And, in reality, walking from Thompson Hall to Dimond is maybe 20 yards; in the book it's a much longer hike.

Similar things happen when Henry goes to Kittery via Portsmouth. Basically right, but in a universe where "Memorial Bridge" spans "high over the harbor". Uh, no. It's the I-95 bridge that goes high. Memorial Bridge is low (but it's a drawbridge to allow the occasional boat traffic).

Quibbles aside, it's pretty clear that this book is pretty much a set-up for the last entry in the series. Which I've already bought.

URLs du Jour


  • Lots of things turning 50 these days. Including the trends shown in this Tweet.

    Lots more pungent graphage at the link. I don't want to submit willy-nilly to post hoc propter hockery, but it's an interesting take. It's capped off with a quote:

    I don’t believe we shall ever have a good money again before we take the thing out of the hands of government, that is, we can’t take it violently out of the hands of government, all we can do is by some sly roundabout way introduce something that they can’t stop.

    That's good old F. A. Hayek.

  • Dr. James Fieseher, man of science! His op-ed in my Sunday paper almost made me fire off an LTE: Dinosaurs, toy trucks and pink crayons.

    Here are some disturbing facts: In the US, the suicide rate for men (25/100,000) is over 3 times the rate for women (7.5/100,000). FBI records indicate that 98% of mass shootings are done by men (women account for only 9 of the 250 mass shootings from 2000 to 2017).

    Surprisingly, the solution to both problems may have to do with dinosaurs, toy trucks and pink crayons.

    My first thought was: ohmigod, he's not kidding. Yes, he really does blame sex-stereotyped parenting for future destructive behavior by males against both themselves and others. And, yes, he really does say we should yank the dinos and trucks away from the boys and give them pink crayons instead.

    And his evidence for this? Purely anecdotal, describing the way he raised his three daughters and the way his grandsons are being raised.

    He presents this as a new, fresh insight, rather than something people have been pushing for, literally, decades.

    I could quibble with his suicide numbers; they seem to be significantly larger than the ones I see at the CDC. But they agree that male rates are much higher than female.

    What seems not to be on Dr. Fieseher's radar at all: it just might be that men and women are biologically different, and those differences slop over significantly into behavioral differences.

    [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Fortunately, I read Human Diversity by Charles Murray last year. Sex differences are the source of robust debate, but Murray convinced me on the following points (quoted from the book):

    1. Sex differences in personality are consistent worldwide and tend to widen in more gender-egalitarian cultures.
    2. On average, females worldwide have advantages in verbal ability and social cognition while males have advantages in visuospatial abilities and the extremes of mathematical ability.
    3. On average, women worldwide are more attracted to vocations centered on people and men to vocations centered on things.
    4. Many sex differences in the brain are coordinate with sex differences in personality, abilities, and social behavior

    I'm pretty sure this has implications for violent behavior for males vs. females, considered as groups. Murray might have added: "None of those differences are alleviated by shoving pink crayons into little boys' hands."

  • If you see me getting smaller, I'm leaving. Matt Taibbi looks at The Vanishing Legacy of Barack Obama. It's pretty vicious and funny. The link will take you to a partial non-paywalled article. Excerpt:

    Obama was set up to be the greatest of American heroes, but proved to be a common swindler and one of the great political liars of all time — he fooled us all. Moreover, his remarkably vacuous post-presidency is proving true everything Trump said in 2016 about the grasping Washington politicians whose only motives are personal enrichment, and who’d do anything, even attend his wedding, for a buck. Trump’s point was that he, Trump, was already swinishly rich, while politicians have only one thing to sell to get the upper class status they crave: us.

    "Fooled us all"? Geez, Taibbi used to be at Rolling Stone; you would think someone there would have played "We Won't Get Fooled Again" for him at some point.

    Jerry Coyne has more extensive quoting from the article, if you're interested.

  • Burning question du jour: Brought to us by new-to-me New Hampshire blogger Elliot Axelman: Is Jack Dorsey of Twitter Becoming An Anarcho-Capitalist?. [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

    On August 13th, one of the most powerful leftists in the world of big tech tweeted the most antithetical post to leftist ideology imaginable: Rothbard. Since the tweet, libertarians, capitalists, voluntaryists, and many others are excitedly trying to figure out whether it could be true. Could the founder and CEO of Twitter be waking up and smelling the liberty?

    Jack Dorsey has been one of the most hated villains of the right for the past few years. The programmer has been using his $15 billion net worth to back socialist candidates like Andrew Yang and socialist policies like universal basic income for years. He also used his control over the world’s largest political social media platform to censor stories that were unfavorable towards Biden and promoted content that supported leftists and disparaged conservatives.

    As I type, the link my new best friend Jack provided isn't working for me, but you can get the Rothbard book he recommended here. (Or you can click the book image at your right to get the Amazon Kindle version for a mere $2.99. Thanks to Jack, it seems to be selling like … um something that sells really well.)

  • I got schadenfreude bad, and that ain't good. I was in Sioux Falls (well, the airport) just a few weeks ago, and somehow I missed The Big Reveal That Wasn’t. As revealed by Khaya Himmelman of the Dispatch, who went so I didn't have to.

    Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO, has been talking about his three-day “cyber forensic symposium” for months. When we last spoke, he told me it was going to be the biggest event in the world. Many, many hundreds of people from across the country would be in attendance. Secretaries of state, attorneys general, governors, cybersecurity experts, and media from across the political spectrum would fill a stadium and watch in near disbelief as he convinced all of the nonbelievers that they were wrong about the integrity of the 2020 presidential election. And finally, with his new evidence, everyone in attendance would know Donald Trump had won the election and that as soon as the morning of August 13, the result would be overturned and Trump reinstated.

    Like many of Lindell’s recent fantasies, the symposium he envisioned never materialized. The stately arena that was going to host this huge crowd was actually just a modest event space that held at most 200 people, with an adjacent gun range and a small combined lounge and bar called “Club Lobo.”

    Throughout the event—which took place last Tuesday through Thursday—Lindell, sometimes accompanied by his “experts,” sometimes alone, sat at a glass table on a makeshift stage. Attendees sat on plastic folding chairs surrounding the stage. Certain guests had special seats, with handwritten “reserved” signs taped onto the back of bar stool chairs. The audience, although smaller than expected, seemed for the most part engaged, almost riled up. At one point an attendee, apropos of nothing, asked if it was time to “bring in the military to stop the coup.”

    Depending on your attitude toward election conspiricism, things either got a lot better, or a lot worse, from there.