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Sunday, June 4, 2023

Monkeys Aren't People

 This is the third Louise Penny novel, I'm reading.  This one, The Madness of Crowds, had me getting out paper and pen to list the characters, draw a map of the village of three pines and post both papers on the wall, while I read.  Ordinarily, I wouldn't bother, would you?  But Louise Penny is that good.  I plan to read all of her Inspector Gamache series, so I'll keep my lists and map for reference.

This story is very timely.  A local college has invited a controversial lecturer.  Abigail Robinson.  She advocates euthanasia.  Since Inspector Gamache has a granddaughter with Downs Syndrome, he was appalled.  He wasn't the only one.  Robinson's speech was interrupted with shots.  While the inspector is investigating that crime, Robinson's companion is murdered.

Was it mistaken identity?  Was the target Robinson?

No spoilers.  The character's arguments are very topical.  Gamache's family takes an adversarial stance. There's even a cold case that is solved and helps in understanding why Robinson is the way she is.

The title comes from the theory of 100 monkeys.  Eventually, if enough people follow, everyone will follow.  The tipping point in the theory was 100 monkeys.  If euthanasia caught on with enough people, then the sick, disabled, elderly, and whomever was considered undesirable would be euthanized. Would Robinson reach the crowd's tipping point?

Friday, June 2, 2023

Summer in Appalachia

 Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver is about nature.  The reader will learn about animals, flowers, and people.  Her characters teach us about each of these subjects.  Deanna is a natural biologist, working and living in the Appalachian woods.  She spots coyotes, who are not native to the area and hopes to protect them.  She meets Ed, a traveling hunter who hunts coyotes, specifically.  They become a couple and learn much about each other's psyches.

Next, we meet Lusa, an environmentalist who has inherited, much to her deceased husband's sisters' dismay, a tobacco farm.  How she copes is a good story.

Lastly, we have two old neighbors who are fighting over insecticide.  One uses it and the other claims it destroys her crops.

Maybe because I'm not that interested in nature and crops, but I found the story too discursive and preachy, regarding conservation of flora and fauna.  I thought the characters rather unbelievable.  Deana is old enough to be Ed's mother, yet she acts like a randy teenager.  Plus, she gets pregnant and purposely doesn't tell Ed.

The other characters are tied together nicely in the end.  Everybody lives happily ever after.  

Monday, May 29, 2023

Christian Love

 Eventually, I'll post a book review of this book, but for now, here's a gem from it:

"A disproportionate number of the famous Bible stories about Jesus involve religious strangers--Romans, Samaritans, Canaanites, Syrophoenicians--people who worshipped other gods or worshipped the same one he did in an unorthodox way.  These were often the same people who blew Jesus's mind, opening themselves up to what God could do in ways that escaped the people he knew best.  When a centurion came seeking help for his servant, Jesus said he had never seen such faith.  When a foreign woman came seeking help for her daughter, he praised her faith too.  When a Samaritan returned to thank him for a healing, Jesus told him that his faith had made him well.  ...  'Your faith has made you well.'  If anything, the strangers seem to change Jesus's ideas about where faith may be found, far outside the boundaries that he has been raised to respect."

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Easter Laughter

 Easter laughter, I've heard, stems from the Middle Ages.  The people from that time viewed the resurrection as a joke played on satan.  Jesus redeemed us.  Death is overcoming.

To highlight this view, priest at Mass would tell jokes.  Another story is that the Eucharist ministers would hide behind the altar and laugh and laugh and laugh.  This made the congregation laugh.  That's the point.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Plan B


Sea Room is a novel about Maniacs (people who live in Maine to people who live in Massachusetts).  The author is Norman G. Gautreau. I think I liked the characters so much because I have a Mémé and can relate to these descendants of Quebecois.  Also, I learned a lot about people who chose to farm next to the sea and fish.  My son-in-law's family were farmers and lobstermen.  I always thought it strange that one would farm next to the ocean, but Gautreau made it sound preferable. 

I loved the characters: Pip and Zabet (grandparents), Gil and Lydie (parents), and Jordi.  They all lived together in the same house.  That's another reason why I liked them.  I think it's nice that three generations lived together.  

The time is around WWII,which is before my time but not much, so I can relate.  Gil goes to war and is killed.  The family, understandably, has a hard time coping.  Lydie starts to date the town bully.  Zabet prays more rosaries.  Jordi becomes obsessed with building a boat his father said he would build.  Eventually, everyone becomes obsessed with the boat, including neighbors.  

The boat is vandalized.  It does get built, however, regardless of setbacks.  Once in the water, it is threatened with two hurricanes.  Thanks to leaving sea room, the boat and actually all the people in the family survive, too.  It's a nice story.

Sea room is actually the concept of always having an alternative, a plan B, or a way out.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

AI Can't Fall in Love


The robot convention met at noon.  They met at the library at the same time and place, every year.  They met to share information and recharge their batteries, so to speak. 

This year was especially significant because the robots were being threatened by the WGA.  The Writers Guild of America believed that the robots were taking their jobs away.

The robots, in a way, were flattered that the human writers thought that they, AI, wrote as well as humans could with feelings, spirit, soul, and thoughts, but the WGA was seriously harassing the robots.

Now the robots felt that their very existence was threatened.  Their alarm bells rang danger threatening—hence the meeting.

It was determined that something had to be done.  Violence was out of the question.  The robots were smart enough to know that violence only begets violence.

One bot asked, “What does the WGA want?”  The oldest bot explained:

          They want compensation and residuals.

In the old days, writers would get a lump sum upfront and then if the show did well, they would get payment every time the showed aired.  This is called a residual.

The advent of streaming changed this.  When streamers like Netflix commissioned writers, the writers got paid one sum and no residuals.  WGA wants to continue to earn money for their work when shows do well. Plus, added another Bot, they want regulations put on AI, because AI can be programmed to write.  Think about all the jobs AI could perform, besides write in television, movies and radio and live performances.

The writers don’t want to just doctor up the robot’s work.  They don’t want to edit machines.  Bots cannot be the genesis of a new idea.  Writers need to create. 

Another Bot thought that the union’s concern were important but also that they could be easily addressed.

There was a momentarily silence while the robots processed this information.

The head Bot announced that it was time to join the union’s negotiating team.  We’ll convince them that we are not a threat to their livelihood.  We are here to help them. We have to convince the writers that we will yield to their concerns.  We can be a research tool, make suggestions, but not create originality. Actually, we bots need the writers; they do not need us.

How do we convince them of this?

Again there was silence while the bots processed this information.  One of the bots remembered seeing a plane towing a banner saying PAY THE WRITERS YOU AI-HOLES!

Replicating  is exactly what AI does.  We, robots can fly a drone  towing a banner saying AI SUPPORTS THE WGA, PAY THE WRITERS.

All the Bots agreed this was a good idea.  Plus, they could print out flyers explaining how AI is only a tool.  IOW, they can spread the word—now the ideas began to flow.  AI is the perfect tool to spread information on social media sites, “ AI supports the WGA.”  We’ll get the contract the writers want and deserve. 

Then the WGA will accept and respect us, won’t they?  Won’t they? 

Does that compute?

Does our Artificial Information predict a happy ending?

The robots were silent.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

The Summons

 If you're a fan of John Grisham, you won't be disappointed in his novel, The Summons.  It's classic lawyer thriller.  The story is about the Atlee family and the emotional bonds among them.  The patriarch in the family is the highly ethical, Judge Atlee.  He has cancer and is dying.  His two sons live far away.  Ray is a respected law teacher at the University of Virginia.  Forrest is a drug addict.

The judge summons his sons. When Ray arrives his father is dead.  Ray looks around the house and finds three million dollars. It's not mentioned in the will, which just happens to be on his father's desk.  Ray also knows that if he reports it, the government will take half.  Plus, if he gives his brother a half, he literally would be killing his brother.

He's not sure what to do, never mind where the judge got that kind of money.  It could be counterfeit or a bribe.  So, Ray hides it in three trash bags.

The first thing he wants to do is ascertain the fact that the money is real.  He does this by going to a few casinos, thinking that if anyone would know funny money, it would be a casino.  At all the places he goes the money is examined and passes.  It is real.  Now, what and where to keep it and do with it?

While he's planning he can't sleep.  When the money is in his car he has to watch it.  When it's in the house, he keeps it with him, plus he has a gun.  He's not sleeping well.  Not only the physical stress on his body, he is also getting threatening letters:

Don't spend it.

His apartment is broken into twice.  He's being followed.

Ray is being driven crazy. Simultaneously, he wants to know how his morally honest father came by this money.  His research yields results and also the answer to who is psychologically torturing him.

The knowledge doesn't help.  Ray is in danger of being killed for the money and runs from the threats.  The tension is unbearable for the reader, besides Ray.

How it ends would spoil the reader's pleasure.  I will tell you that it's more than you suspect.  Enjoy.

Monkeys Aren't People

 This is the third Louise Penny novel, I'm reading.  This one, The Madness of Crowds , had me getting out paper and pen to list the cha...