Very Bad Men

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I enjoyed Harry Dolan's The Good Killer and Bad Things Happen quite a bit. Same story here; he's got a knack for storytelling, occasional wry humor, intricate plotting, and didn't-see-that-coming twists.

It takes place after the events of Bad Things Happen (read that first). Sometimes-narrator David Loogan is still editing the mystery magazine Gray Streets and has moved in with Ann Arbor police detective Elizabeth Waishkey and her precocious daughter Sarah. He finds an anonymous submission propped up against the magazine's office door; the manuscript starts out with "I killed Henry Kormoran."

And the author, Anthony Lake, did kill Henry Kormoran. And he's on the hunt for other members of the gang that staged a botched bank robbery 17 years ago, one that left one police officer crippled, another dead. The killer is kind of messed up. He's not only a murderer, but thanks to a nasty case of synesthesia, he sees static black text on white paper animated with colors.

And he can't use adverbs.

David and Elizabeth start investigating (Elizabeth officially, David unofficially). This brings them to encounter a large array of interesting folks, including current Michigan senator John Casterbridge, who's retiring, and his daughter-in-law with whom (for unknown reasons), Lake is obsessed.

Consumer note: the hardcover's dust jacket flap copy (as well as the blurb at Amazon) describe a plot development that doesn't happen until page 220 or so. Over halfway through. More sensitive people might consider that non-kosher.

Further consumer note: at one point, a character speaks of the voting public's "black, flabby, little hearts." An author's note at the end says the character is quoting Robert Heinlein. (And a little research says he's specifically quoting Lazarus Long in Time Enough for Love.) I don't know if this means that the author is a Heinlein fan, but I'd like to think so.

And even further consumer note: seemingly minor characters pop up along the way. Don't forget them, many turn out to be unexpectedly important.

Last Modified 2021-09-25 9:46 AM EDT

URLs du Jour


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  • Only in the minds of the rational, unfortunately. David Harsanyi notes recent cognitive dissonance: Biden Admits Green New Deal Is a Dream.

    Last week, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ordered a “code red,” releasing a “landmark” report warning that global warming was an existential threat to humanity, “unequivocally” blaming humans for the problem, and demanding rapid action to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

    “What the IPCC told us is what President [Joe] Biden has believed all along,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted last Tuesday. “Climate change is an urgent threat that requires bold action.”

    The very next day, the Biden administration released a statement imploring the OPEC cartel to increase production of oil to help lower worldwide gas prices. “Higher gasoline costs,” the White House said, “if left unchecked, risk harming the ongoing global recovery.” The White House wants OPEC to go above the 400,000-barrels-per-day increase it already promised to implement, which doesn’t seem to jibe with the notion that we are on the precipice of the apocalypse.

    I can't help but think this will be the theme over the coming months: Biden saying one thing, saying a contradictory thing a short time later, sycophantic media ignoring the obvious dysfunction. How long will it be before folks like Harsanyi are barred from social media for being one of the few pointing this out?

  • Specifically, a whiter shade of pale. Jacob Sullum wonders Is Face Mask Skepticism Beyond the Pale?. (I think Jacob, not on Team Red or Blue, is giving it straight.)

    Like many Americans, I do not like wearing a face mask, which hurts my ears, fogs my glasses, and makes my bearded face itch. And while I think businesses should be free to require face coverings as a safeguard against COVID-19, I am skeptical of government-imposed mask mandates, especially in K-12 schools.

    At the same time, I recognize that my personal peeves and policy preferences are logically distinct from the empirical question of how effective masks are at preventing virus transmission. From the beginning, however, the Great American Mask Debate has been strongly influenced by partisan and ideological commitments, with one side exaggerating the evidence in favor of this precaution and the other side ignoring or downplaying it.

    Last September, Robert Redfield, then the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), described masks as "the most important, powerful public health tool we have," going so far as to say they provided more protection than vaccines would. In a 2020 New York Times op-ed piece, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asserted that "wearing a mask has been proven to reduce the chance of spreading Covid-19 by about 70 percent"—a claim that even the CDC said was not scientifically justified.

    As indicated, it's a complex issue layered with uncertainty, involving age, individual health factors, community transmission level, …

    Just for places I've been to the last few days, the mask policies are wildly inconsistent. Walmart is OK with me maskless; the Portsmouth Public Library (much less crowded) requires them; the UNH Library "strongly recommends" them. I'm not surprised that the attitude of many folks is "these people are just making it up as they go."

  • It depends on what you mean by "work". Another (I think) straight-shooting source is Chuck Dinerstein of the American Council on Science and Health. Do Masks work?.

    The scientific method requires us first to formulate a hypothesis, e.g., masks work, and then design a study to test that belief. But we can learn without a theory based upon real-world observations. Humankind developed the six classical machines [1] without intellectual or quantitative information on how or what mechanical advantage is.

    In that spirit, we have some very significant data on the use of non-pharmacologic interventions on influenza. They come from the NY State Department of Health that collects information on seasonal flu every year. Here is the graph that, for me, says it all—the number of patients hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza.

    [graph elided, but it's pretty amazing]

    28-fold fewer patients were hospitalized for influenza in the last year than the previous year, 2,800% less! I would argue that it was our use of NPI that made the difference. When I mentioned this in our writer’s meeting, other concerns were raised that might explain this effect.

    Dr. Dinerstein notes that it's possible other things could have caused this amazing drop in flu. But increased masking being a major factor seems to be a pretty good guess.

    But read the whole thing, and make your own call.

  • You would have to have a heart of stone not to laugh. Vice notes that irony can be pretty ironic sometimes: Socialist Publication Current Affairs Fires Staff for Doing Socialism.

    Nathan J. Robinson, editor-in-chief of the socialist magazine Current Affairs, has fired most of its staff for trying to start a worker co-op, workers wrote in a letter posted on Twitter on Wednesday morning. 

    "We, the former full and part-time staff, write to you with deep sadness and disappointment about the recent events that have occurred at Current Affairs," a letter signed by five fired staffers said.

    "On August 8th, editor-in-chief Nathan J. Robinson (author of Why You Should Be a Socialist) unilaterally fired most of the workforce to avoid an organizational restructuring that would limit his personal power. Yes, we were fired by the editor-in-chief of a socialist magazine for trying to start a worker co-op."  

    It's unclear whether anyone involved seriously questioned their prior beliefs in the face of new data.

  • Alexa Ray Joel was not reached for comment. The Atlantic, covering the important stories, reports: Amazon Killed the Name Alexa.

    Alexa used to be a name primarily given to human babies. Now it’s mainly for robots.

    Seven years ago, Amazon released Alexa, its voice assistant, and as the number of devices answering to that name has skyrocketed, its popularity with American parents has plummeted. In fact, it has suffered one of the sharpest declines of any popular name in recent years. “Alexa stands alone as a name that was steadily popular—not a one-year celebrity wonder, not a fading past favorite—that was pushed off the popularity cliff,” Laura Wattenberg, the founder of the naming-trends website Namerology, told me.

    There's a great graph at the link, and discussion of other names that have gone out of style quickly: Isis, Hillary, Osama, …