Paradise Valley

[Amazon Link]

C. J. Box's regular series concerns Wyoming Game and Fish Warden Joe Pickett, but he took some time to pen the "Highway Quartet", and this is the last entry there.

I just finished a book where "page-turner" was unfortunately meant in the sense let's keep the pages turning so I can be done with this tedious mess. This one, like most all Box's stuff is a page-turner in a better way: holy crap, what's gonna happen?

But, consumer note, you really should read the first three in the series, in order, before you tackle this one: Back of Beyond, The Highway, and Badlands.

In this book, Cassie Dewell, Chief Investigator of the Bakken (North Dakota) County Sheriff's Department, is about to spring a trap on the Lizard King, a long-distance trucker whose sideline is kidnapping truck-stop prostitutes and (eventually) murdering them. The trap goes dreadfully awry, however, and Cassie winds up losing her job over the mess. But meanwhile, Kyle, a plucky kid from the previous book, is about to fulfill a lifelong dream: taking off with a buddy in a drift boat down the Missouri. Kyle and his friend wind up missing, and nobody much cares, except Cassie. And since she's out of a job, she decides to follow up a lead that the real cops seem to be uninterested in. And things go in unexpected directions from there.

The first book in the series, Back of Beyond, seems to be kind of an outlier, as there's no Lizard King in that tale. But Box manages to tie in a major character and locale from that book here. Satisfying.

URLs du Jour

2020-04-02

  • George Will warns us of A second pandemic: Virus opportunism.

    America’s encounter with covid-19 is causing people already enthusiastic about enlarging government to strenuously affirm the self-evident: the fact that government can perform indispensable functions. And a new pandemic — virus opportunism — is intensifying calls by perennial advocates of substantially enlarged government for just that. Government, they say, should be understood sentimentally as (in words ascribed to former Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank) “simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.”

    Mr. Will goes on to give an example of "the things we choose to do together" in the case of Miladis Salgado, whose home was raided on a false tip, $15K in cash confiscated.


  • Writing on roughly the same topic at AIER, Phillip W. Magness detects Socialism Under the Cover of Pandemic.

    “Never let a crisis go to waste,” the old adage goes. Unfortunately, political activists and public officials from across the spectrum are now taking this advice to heart amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. While many policy responses to the current crisis are well-meaning, even if misguided, be vigilant of those who would cynically weaponize it to advance their pre-COVID ideological goals.

    We may see this latter tendency in a new proposal by Berkeley economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, the data-massaging duo behind a flurry of misleading and false empirical claims about taxation and inequality in the United States. 

    Writing for the New York Times, Saez and Zucman use the occasion of the coronavirus’s economic disruptions to argue for the immediate adoption of a massive public jobs security program, accompanied by sweeping and punitive forms of taxation upon corporations and the wealthy. If you think this sounds suspiciously similar to the economic policy agenda that this same pair was advocating long before the COVID outbreak, you are not mistaken.

    Which makes me want to resurrect this Iowahawk tweet treat from a couple days back:

    I fear that's going to be an increasingly relevant observation as time goes by.


  • Shall we look at a different bugaboo? Cato's David Boaz is pushing on an open door for me when he says The Census Is Too Intrusive.

    Signs have popped up all over my neighborhood in Arlington, Virginia, urging us to respond to the census – so that the 8th wealthiest county in America won’t miss out on funding collected from taxpayers across the country.

    Census Bureau materials stress to local officials that census data will help them get “their fair share of funding” from hundreds of federal programs. Obviously this is a zero‐sum game. If my neighbors and I all fill out the form, then you and your neighbors will get less from the common federal trough. But at least we’ll be getting our “fair share.”

    But where does the government get the authority to ask me my race, my age, and whether I have a mortgage? In fact, the Constitution authorizes the federal government to make an “actual enumeration” of the people in order to apportion seats in the House of Representatives. That’s all. Not to define and count us by race. Not to ask whether we’re homeowners or renters, or involved in a same‐​sex marriage or partnership. Just to ask how many people live here, so they can apportion congressional seats.

    I’m not interested in getting taxpayers around the country to pay for roads and schools and “many other programs” in my community. All the government needs to know from me is how many people live in my house.

    My feelings exactly. I've previously mentioned the irritating TV ads sponsored by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (another much-richer-than-average locale) also demanding their "fair share".

    How about zero, Virginia and Massachusetts? Does zero sound fair to you?


  • I wouldn't mention this blurb from a site called "Science Focus" except I don't like the answer to the question: Does a USB drive get heavier as you store more files on it?

    Believe it or not, they get lighter. USB drives use Flash memory, which means the the ones and zeros of your data are stored on transistors. When you save data, a binary zero is set by charging the float gate of the transistor, and a binary one is set by removing the charge. To charge it, we add electrons, and the mass of each electron is 0.00000000000000000000000000091 grams. This means that an empty USB drive (which mostly holds zeros) weighs more than a full USB drive (which has ones and zeros). Add data, reduce the weight. However, you would need to weigh more USB drives than exist on the planet together at once before the difference in weight became easily measurable.

    It's been a long time since I took my last electronics course, but I'm pretty sure a bit gets toggled by moving electrons around on a transistor, not removing them from the device entirely. (Which is what would have to happen if the drive got even immeasurably lighter.)

    And if somehow a 0 → 1 transition caused electrons to leave the USB drive, wouldn't that mean the drive would acquire a positive static charge? And wouldn't that last only as long as there wasn't a path to ground?

    As I said, it's been a long time, but the more I think about it, the more I think the author wasn't thinking too hard.


  • And those wacky kids at Free Keene rang the Google LFOD News Alert once again for their semi-civil disobedience in Concord: Over Ten People Exercise Right to Assemble at NH State House in Violation of Governor’s Order.

    Donning masks from “V for Vendetta”, more than a dozen activists gathered at the New Hampshire state house in Concord today in violation of “HIS EXCELLENCY” governor Chris Sununu’s “order” banning assembly of over ten people. Not only did the police who passed by the event today use their discretion and ignore the event, one Concord police officer even waved to the group, suggesting that he also supported the human right to assemble. While responses from passing motorists varied, the majority were positive, including thumbs-ups, honks, and waves. Negative responses included middle fingers, shaking heads, a thumbs-down, and verbal “quarantine shaming”. Of course, any protest for any topic always elicits negative responses and this one was not unusual.

    The group took a picture in front of the state house's statue of General John Stark, American popularizer of LFOD. The article observes that "Stark is likely rolling in his grave".

    Somebody should check. He's right here.