Tuesday, October 31, 2017

TENNIS TUESDAY: Fed Wins 8th Basel, Woz Wins WTA YEC, Venus Wins 2017 $$ Race, Hingis Retires

Caroline Wozniacki won her first WTA Tour Finals championship in surprisingly aggressive style, defeating Venus Williams for the first time (in 8 meetings) 6-4 6-4. The win means that Wozniacki will end the year at World #3 and Venus will be at World #5.

Roger Federer won his 8th Basel title (in 13 finals in his hometown) by defeating Juan Martin del Potro 6-7(3) 6-2 6-3. It was Federer's 7th title in 2017 and he is 49-4 for the year. Those 4 losses ave been to Evgeny Donskoy, Tommy Haas, del Potro  and Sascha Zverev (Cincinnati Masters final). With his win he moved to a clear second on the all-time titles won list with 95, one ahead of Ivan Lendl's 94 and behind Jimmy Connors' 109.

Despite not winning any titles in 2017, Venus reached 2 major finals (Australian Open and Wimbledon) as well as the final match of the year-end championship. Because she was the most consistent at the biggest tournaments of the year, she earned $5,468,741 to end the  year on top of the prize money standings for 2017.

Immediately after winning Basel, Federer withdrew from the Paris Masters, which means that Nadal just has to win one match there in order to cement his hold on the World #1 ranking through the end of the year, the fourth time he would have done so (2013, 2010, 2008). Federer has ended the year #1 five times (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009). In other ranking news, 20-year-old Sascha Zverev reached the World #4 ranking.

Martina Hingis shocked the tennis world by revealing during the WTA Tour  year-end championships  in Singapore that she intended all year for 2017 to be her last year on the WTA Tour. Hingis retired at age 37 with 43 singles and 64 doubles titles and retired while holding the #1 doubles ranking. She had previously retired in 2003 and 2007. For the last few years she has clearly been the best doubles player in the world. She won 5 major singles titles and 13 major doubles title, including the 2017 US Open.

Monday, October 30, 2017

EYE CANDY: Derek Tramel

Derek Trammell has nearly 100,000 followers in Instagram (@derek_jr) where he is known as a "thirst-follow." He is happy to keep his followers happy with (mostly PG rated) pictures of his tight sculpted body. He is pretty much the definition of "eye candy"! And so today, he is!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

2017 WTA YEC: Venus vs Wozniacki in Final; Halep Ends Year at #1

The WTA Tour Finals are happening in Singapore. The semifinal mtchups were Carolina Garcia versus Venus Williams and Karolina Pliskova versus Caroline Wozniacki. The results were Wozniacki defeated Pliskova, thus ensuring that Simona Halep will end the year as the #1 player. She is the 13th person to earn the coveted end-of-year top ranking.

In the other semifinal, Venus defeated Garcia 6-7(3) 6-2 6-3.

The final match of the year will thus be between  Venus and Caroline. Interestingly, Venus has an undefeated 7-0 head-to-head record against her sister's best friend on tour. Interestingly, Venus has not won a title this year, despite reaching two major finals (Australia Open l. S. Williams and Wimbledon l. G. Muguruza). Wozniack has won one title (Tokyo) so far in 2017 but played in 6 others (Toronto, Bastad, Eastbourne, Miami, Dubai and Doha) where she lost.

In Singapore this week, which is a very slow hard court, Wozniacki has been dominating her opponents, delivering 3 bagel sets and only losing two sets (in a tight match to Garcia after she had already qualified for the semifinals). She is playing well, but I think that Venus has a significant mental edge due to the head-to-head ad the fact that Wozniacki has such a bad record in finals this year. The two are playing for the year-end #3 slot, the loser will end up at #4. However, it is very possible not having a day to rest will sap Venus' energy and she won't be able to use her power to overwhelm the Dane. I think the final will be a very god match, maybe even as good as Garcia-Venus earlier in the week!

MadProfessah's prediction: Venus.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Boy on the Bridge

Overall, I think The Boy on the Bridge is a better book than the original The Girl With All The Gifts. Sadly, since it begins in a time frame that is 10 years before that book and includes an epilogue that occurs 10 years afterwards, it seems unlikely that there will be a 3rd book set in a world where the Cordyceps pathogen leads directly to the death of 99.9% of all humans.

As with most post-apocalyptic fiction, the key feature of this book is depicting human behavior in the context of heightened significance due to the raised stakes of the survival of humanity itself after a human level extinction event.

In The Boy on the Bridge there is a cast of just ten named characters, with really 3 or 4 taking center stage. But in actuality the story really revolves around Stephen Greaves, the titular character who is an autistic genius, along with Rina Khan, a medical doctor who is part of a group attempting to find out what happened to a previous delegation and is trying to follow up on the search for a cure to the Cordyceps plague which has almost extinguished humanity and has almost certainly ended human civilization as we know it. The delegation is in a modified tank known as the Rosalind Franklin (or Rosie for short) and has a staff which is half military and half scientific.

The relationship between Stephen and Rina and their interactions with the other members of their mission as they make discoveries about the ways in which the pathogen is evolving and is central to the plot. Additionally, the crazy ways in which humans will not cease to put their petty self-interests ahead of the needs of the many (in most circumstances) is another key feature of the story.

Overall The Boy on the Bridge is extremely suspenseful as huge and important questions are raised (Will the group survive? Who will die next? Is humanity doomed?) and mostly answered by it's satisfying conclusion.

Definitely 4.5 stars on the Goodreads scale. 

Title: The Boy on the Bridge (The Girl With All The Gifts, #2).
M.R. Carey.
Paperback: 400 pages.
Date Published: May 2, 2017.
Date Read: October 17, 2017.


OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.67/4.0).

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


This week is Active Learning Week. If you're a college professor, you can take a pledge.

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Jacinda Adern, 37-yo PM of New Zealand, is Agnostic

Jacinda Adern is set to become the next Prime Minister of New Zealand. She is 37 years old and a former Mormon. She says she left the church over its homophobic stances on LGBT equality and same-sex marriage recognition. That was the main reason why I was going to blog about her but then I saw these quotes:
“I have a real respect for people who have religion as a foundation in their lives. And I respect people who don’t.“I’m agnostic. I don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure it out.“I just think people should be free to have their personal beliefs and not be persecuted for it, whether they be atheist or staunch church members."
Clearly New Zealand politics is very different from American politics! It is unlikely that the not-yet-sworn-in leader of our country would say something. After all, atheists are the one group that a majority of poll respondents still feel should not become President.

Monday, October 23, 2017

2017 WTA YEC: 7 of 8 Players Can End Year At #1; Muguruza,Pliskova,Wozniacki,Halep Have Wins

The 2017 WTA Tour Year-End Championships, i.e. "the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global" began in Singapore over the weekend. It is a big deal to qualify for this tournament, as only the 8 players with best record for the year are allowed to compete. They are put into two groups and after 3 round-robin matches, the Top 2 players in each group go forward to the semifinals where the winners advance to the last match of the year.

Interestingly, although Halep is the current #1 player in the world, 7 of the 8 players could end up with the #1 ranking since the winner of the tournament gets 1500 points and Halep's lead over Muguruza is a mere 40 points.

This year the two groups are:


  • Jelena Ostapenko
  • Venus Williams
  • Karolina Pliskova
  • Garbine Muguruza


  • Simona Halep
  • Elina Svitolina 
  • Caroline Wozniacki
  • Caroline Garcia 
So far one round-robin round has been completed in both groups and Muguruza beat Ostapenko, Pliskova beat Venus in the White group on Sunday and on Monday Halep beat Garcia and  Wozniacki beat Svitolina. 

Play continues tomorrow with White Group competition: Venus versus Ostapenko and Pliskova versus Muguruza.

I really think they should switch the names of the groups to classic champions. Would the "Graf" group versus the "Evert" group be more interesting?

Sunday, October 22, 2017

QUEER QUOTE: California Enacts Law To Provide Nonbinary Gender Option In Official Documents

Wow! The state of California completed its 2017 legislative session recently and there are some fascinating new laws on the books thanks to Democratic supermajorities in both Houses and a Democratic governor in Jerry Brown.

One of the important bills Governor Brown signed into law was SB179, the Gender Recognition Act, which provides the option of "nonbinary" on official identity documents issued by the state of California which ask about the gender or sex of an individual.

USA Today reports:
The state of California will now legally recognize non-binary as a third gender on official state identification documents.  
Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB179 on Sunday night. The bill, dubbed the Gender Recognition Act, will allow a third gender choice on driver's licenses, state identification cards, and make it easier for people to change their gender and name on state identification papers.  
Non-binary, is a catch-all term for people who do not identify as exclusively male or female, and has been slowly acknowledged by some states as a gender option. 
In June, the District of Columbia followed Oregon's lead and began offering the gender-neutral choice of "X" on driver licenses and identification cards, and similar legislation is currently pending in New York.
The bill was authored by Senators Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Toni Atkins (D-San Diego),  who are two of the many openly LGBT members of the Legislature. Equality California (an organization MadProfessah used to be a Board Member of) issued a statement on the occasion of the enactment of the bill into law.

Today's Queer Quote is an excerpt from this press release:
SB 179 makes it easier for transgender, intersex and non-binary people to get official identification documents that accurately reflect their gender identity. In addition to recognizing a nonbinary gender, this bill streamlines the process to change the gender marker or name on state-issued identification documents. Previously, individuals faced difficult and burdensome obstacles to change their identification documents, such as requirements that a person obtain a physician’s verification or that they appear in court, which ultimately made the process intimidating and added expenses that an individual might not have. 
“Gov. Brown’s signature today has put California at the forefront of ensuring the dignity and safety of its transgender, non-binary and gender-non-conforming residents,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. “When your ID doesn’t match your gender identity or expression, it can expose you to potentially dangerous situations. SB 179 eliminates unnecessary obstacles from the process of getting state-issued identification documents for thousands of Californians.” 
“With this simple change, California has made daily life infinitely safer and easier for many gender nonbinary and transgender people,” said Kris Hayashi, executive director of Transgender Law Center. “We’re asked for identification everywhere from banks to bars to airports, and it can be devastating and even dangerous for nonbinary and transgender people to navigate life with an I.D. that doesn’t reflect who they truly are.” 
According to a 2015 national survey of 25,000 transgender people, only 11 percent reported that all their identification documents had their name and gender that is consistent with their gender identity, and one-third of respondents who showed an ID with a gender marker that did not match their appearance reported being verbally harassed, denied services or assaulted.
 Congratulations to California!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

SATURDAY POLITICS: Republicans (Finally) Say Homosexuality Should Be Accepted

There's a new poll out from Pew and the Press which shows that societal acceptance of homosexuality is continuing to grow, with the latest numbers showing that 70% of respondents say "homosexuality should be accepted by society" while only 24% of responded says "homosexuality should be discouraged by society."

However, in this week's episode of Saturday Politics I want to call attention to the partisan differences on this question. 83% of Democrats support societal acceptance of homosexuality. A majority of Democrats have been supportive of homosexuality since (at least) 1994 while a majority of Republicans have not ever been supportive of homosexuality until this year. In the latest poll, 54% of Republicans now say they are supportive of homosexuality.

Pew summarizes the results:
While there has been an increase in acceptance of homosexuality across all partisan and demographic groups, Democrats remain more likely than Republicans to say homosexuality should be accepted by society. 
Overall, 83% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say homosexuality should be accepted by society, while only 13% say it should be discouraged. The share of Democrats who say homosexuality should be accepted by society is up 20 points since 2006 and up from 54% who held this view in 1994. 
Among Republicans and Republican leaners, more say homosexuality should be accepted (54%) than discouraged (37%) by society. This is the first time a majority of Republicans have said homosexuality should be accepted by society in Pew Research Center surveys dating to 1994. Ten years ago, just 35% of Republicans held this view, little different than the 38% who said this in 1994.

Friday, October 20, 2017

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Kevin de León Announces Challenge to Dianne Feinstein's Re-election Bid

Whoa! Kevin de León is my State Senator and is the head of the California State Senate. The 50-year-old Latino politician from Los Angeles is termed out of the legislature next year and many people have been wondering what higher office he would seek next. This week he announced that he is running to become a U.S. Senator from California. Currently, California's Senators are Dianne Feinstein (who was elected in 1992) and Kamala Harris, who was elected in 2016. Feinstein recently announced that she would be trying to win a 6th 6-year term in 2018.

de León has announced that he will try to stop that from happening.

Since both are Democrats and California has a top 2 primary it is very likely this race will not e decided in the primary, but almost certainly go the distance to November 2018.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Age of Swords

Age of Swords is the second book in Michael J. Sullivan's new series set thousands of years before the Riyria Revelations trilogy he is most well-known for (Theft of Swords, Rise of Empire, and Heir of Novron).

I was not that impressed overall with the first book in the new series (Age of Myth) when I read it last year but remained intrigued enough about the setting to definitely be interested in reading the second book in the series when it came out. 

There are many new characters to get used to in the Legends of the First Empire series and the setting is very different from the amusing adventures featuring Royce and Hadrian, the thieves with hearts of gold around which the deservedly popular Riyria books are based.

However, the new characters are extremely memorable as well. I really feel like we get a better understanding of Persephone, Arion, Raithe and Suri in Age of Swords then we did in Age of Myth. In fact, it's interesting that even though Mawyndule and the political intrigue in the Fhrey capital are an important plot thread in this book it is almost completely overshadowed by the quest Persephone and her companions take to the land of the Dhergs (dwarves) to try and find a way to save her people (and all humans) from the imminent genocide at the hands of the substantially more powerful Fhrey. The Fhrey are basically elves who have access to almost limitless power which makes them appear to be gods to the other species. One problem I have with the series is that there is a little bit of a "Clan of the Cave Bear" vibe because the humans are at so undeveloped that it is astonishing how many basic objects that they currently exist without. (The wheel is something that is "invented" at some point during Age of Swords.) They also still worship a number of different gods, and even perform animal sacrifice to curry favor with them.

Another complaint about Age of Swords  I have is that Malcolm and Raithe, who had such a huge role in the first book, have much smaller roles in the story the second book. That being said, I'm happy to see Roan and Moya are more prominently featured this time. In fact, vast swathes of the plot are moved forward by the female characters, with the males mostly sidelined. This is not a bad thing!

Overall, I am very encouraged about where this story is going and I am excited to read the next three books in this ongoing series from one of the best fantasy writers regularly publishing new work in the genre.

Title: Age of Swords (Legends of the First Empire, #2).
Michael J. Sullivan.
Paperback: 496 pages.
 Del Rey.
Date Published: July 25, 2017.
Date Read: September 25, 2017.


OVERALL GRADE: A/A- (3.83/4.0).


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: More Americans Identify As "Spiritual" Than "Religious"

The Pew Research Center regular conducts polls about religious identity of the American population. They asked people to put themselves into four categories: "religious and spiritual," "neither religious nor spiritual," "religious but not spiritual" and "spiritual but not religious."

In the 5 years since they last conducted the poll in 2012 the number of people who said spiritual but not religious jumped from 19% to 27% and the number who said religious and spiritual dropped from 59% to 48%.

Sadly, the group I would have identified with, Neither religious not spiritual only marginally increased from 16% to 18%.

Regardless, the fact that more Americans as "spiritual" (75%) than as religious (54%) is a pretty big deal, and is the key takeaway of today's Godless Wednesday.

Monday, October 16, 2017

EYE CANDY: Maxs Souza

Maxs Souza is a Brazilian model who has a popular Instagram page (@maxs_souza_92). From his screenname one can assume that he was born in 1992 which would mean that he is 25 years old. If anyone has more information, please let me know!

I love Brazilian eye candy!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Federer-Nadal XXXVIII: Federer Beats Nadal In 4th Final In 2017 To Win Shanghai Masters

Roger Federer won his 94th career ATP tour title on Sunday when he defeated his arch-rival (and current World #1) Rafael Nadal 6-4 6-3 in 71 minutes to win the Shanghai Masters. Federer is now tied with Ivan Lendl for second place on the all-time list, behind Jimmy Connors 109 titles. It was the 4th time he had beaten Nadal in a final this year  (Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami Open and Shanghai Masters). He has now beaten him 5 times in a row and has not lost to Nadal since the 2014 Australian Open semifinal.

This match was the 38th meeting between the two rivals, which Nadal now leads 23-15. Even though the scoreline appears as if today's match was close, in reality Federer never faced a breakpoint, while he converted 3 of 7 breakpoints he earned against Nadal. He had 10 aces to Nadal's 4. Nadal was riding a 16 match win streak which included 3 titles (US Open, Beijing Open and China Open). He is the #1 ranked player in the world and is still 1950 points ahead of Federer, with only 3000 points at stake for the rest of the 2017 season. It is almost certain that Nadal will end the year at #1, for the first time since 2013. Nadal's year-to-date record is 61-10.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: A Closed And Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

 A Closed and Common Orbit was nominated for the 2017 Hugo award for Best Novel (losing to N.K. Jemisin's The Obelisk Gate). It is the second book in the Wayfarers sequence, following 2014's The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet The two are clearly related, existing in a similar universe but they have very few characters in common so it is difficult to consider the book a direct sequel; to me the two books feel very different.  For  example, I was mostly unimpressed with  The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and thought it was overly cute and was put off by what I felt was its overuse of alien cultures and creatures in a voyeuristic way. I was much more engaged with the characters and story told in  A Closed and Common Orbit.

This second book reduces the set of characters that the story  told in The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is focused on to basically two: Sidra and Jane 23. Sidra is the artificial intelligence (AI) that makes an entrance at the end of the first book. She has been placed into a humanoid body and has to get used to having the number of inputs reduced so dramatically from several dozen on a standard spaceship to the five (sight, sound, smell, taste and touch) commonly associated with sapients.

Sidra is taken in by Pepper (and her friend/partner) Blue after she decides to leave the Wayfarer spaceship from Book 1 and go live at Point Coriol, a multi-species space port, with them.

The main plot in Book 2 involves Sidra trying to acclimate herself to her new situation of an intelligence that was intended to run and manage a ship full of people and finds herself trapped in a single human body. The other thread of the plot is the story of Jane 23, a very young girl whom we discover is working in a factory to fix up scrapped electronic parts with dozens (or hundreds?) of other girls like her whom we eventually realize are probably clones who are being horribly exploited as cheap, dispensable labor. 

The structure of the story in  A Closed and Common Orbit is alternating chapters featuring Sidra's story followed by Jane 23's story. It is a very compelling device. Oftentimes when this is used (I'm looking at your George R.R. Martin and James S.A. Corey!) with several characters one finds that some of the characters' stories one is much less interested tha others, so when one sees the character name at the head of the chapter one groans or squeals, deending on one's interest. With just two characters I found myself equally interested in both stories, so I was always engaged in the book.

There are also several supporting characters, such as Owl (an AI that Jane 23 comes to live with and consider part of her family), Tak (a friendly alien that Sidra becomes close to in Port Coriol) and Pepper and Blue, the people that Sidra lives with and who help keep her secret that she's an escaped AI living in a humanoid body (which is considered a very serious breach of law and culture).

The story raises a number of really hard questions about how biological life forms should treat artificial intelligence (silicon-based life forms?). It is also a suspenseful story of survival (Jane 23 is a very sheltered ten  years old when she sets off on her own i.e. escapes her enslavement). One common theme from the first book which appears in this one is the diversity of alien life and the live-and-let-live ethos of a multi-species civilization. In the first book I felt like there was a bewildering number of different species that the author included to primarily titillate the reader. However in the second book I think the inclusion of alien characteristics and their practices was more subtly incorporated into the story this time and did not distract from the two main stories,  both of which were quite compelling.

I don't want to discuss the actual plot of the book. But one clear strength of Book 2 is that there are multiple story arcs to engage the reader while in the first book the story  seemed like more of a travelogue as we were exposed to various members of the crew of the spaceship and not much actually happened. That is definitely not the case in  A Closed and Common Orbit.

Solid 4.5 stars on the Goodreads scale.

Title: A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers, #2).
Becky Chambers.
Paperback: 365 pages.
 Hodder & Stoughton.
Date Published: October 20, 2016.
Date Read: October 1, 2017.


OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.67/4.0).


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Is This Cross A "Secular Monument"?

There is a federal lawsuit ongoing around the cross shown in the image at the top of this post. A U.S. District Court judge has ruled that this large christian cross in Bayview Park in Pensacola, Florida must be removed within 30 days.

The attorneys-general of 14 states have filed an amicus brief saying that this cross is a "secular monument." Here are some excerpts:
"The mere fact that these monuments consist of crosses and other religious symbols does not negate their secular purpose or their historical and cultural significance."  
"Ultimately, if it were accepted by this Court, the district court’s reasoning would threaten countless monuments across the Circuit. As detailed in the City’s appendix, state and local parks, squares, and government buildings boast veterans’ memorials that contain religious imagery, including crosses, citations to scripture, and the like."
That is exactly the point! There are so many government buildings which include religious imagery that are claimed to have "historical" and "societal" significance when the religious message is clear to others. The question is who will the federal judiciary agree with?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

TENNIS TUESDAY: Halep Gets #1; Garcia,Nadal Keep Winning

For the third time in 2017, there is a new #1 player on the WTA tour. Simona Halep reached the pinnacle of women's tennis on Saturday when she reached the final of the Wuhan Open by defeating Jelena Ostapenko 6-2 6-4. Of course, Halep has had multiple chances to reach #1 in the last 4 months and famously lost the 2017 French Open final to Ostapenko in June. The Romanian is the 25th player to reach #1 but the fourth #1 this year, following Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza before her.

Could Andy Murray's prediction that Carolina Garcia of France would be a future #1 from four years ago be coming true soon? Garcia is playing some of the best tennis of her life and has now won two consecutive titles, the Wuhan Open (d. Barty) and China Open (d. Halep). She is on an 11-match winning streak and has surged into #9 on the WTA tour, reaching the Top 10 for the first time and becoming the second player since Marion Bartoli did it in 2013.

World #1 Rafael Nadal has won his 75th ATP tour title at the China Open (just 2 behind the #4 record holder John McEnroe) and now has the most match wins on tour for 2017: 61. He beat Grigor Dimitrov and Nick Kyrgios in the semifinal and final matches after saving match point against Lucas Pouille in his first match in Beijing.

World #2 Roger Federer celebrated 20 years on the ATP tour a few weeks ago. He debuted at #803 on the ATP rankings at age 16 on September 22, 1997. Interestingly, other future #1's were nearby, with Lleyton Hewitt at #808 and Juan Carlos Ferrerro at #756.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

SATURDAY POLITICS: #AD51 Runoff On 12/05/17 With Wendy Carrillo and Luis Lopez

The special election to replace now-Congressman Jimmy Gomez in the 51st Assembly District happened this Tuesday October 3 and the top 2 finishers were Wendy Carrillo (who had also run against Gomez in the special election in the 34th Congressional District) and Luis López. Carrillo received the most votes (4,771) in a crowded field of 13 candidates while López was second with 4,086 and Mike Fong was close behind with 3,515.

However, only the top 2 finishers advance to a run-off election to be held on Tuesday December 5. López has run for this seat before, way back in 2012 (against Gomez), while Carrillo is something of a perennial candidate in Northeast Los Angeles elections. López is openly gay and is a healthcare executive and was endorsed by various progressive democratic clubs (East Area Progressive Democrats and Stonewall Democrats) while Carrillo used to work for a local affiliate of Service Employees International Union, which ran an independent expenditure campaign that spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to support her.

This is my home district (and I voted) so I am following the race quite closely. It will be interesting to see who (if anyone) Gomez endorses as well as what the other candidates in the race do.

Hat/tip to Los Angeles Times.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Passage by Justin Cronin

Justin Cronin's The Passage  is a very impressive and engrossing thriller. It has a fantastic premise, which is well-executed. I didn't know much about the book when I started it except that it had well over 100,000 ratings on GoodReads with an average score above 4.0, which indicates that a LOT of people have read the book and liked it. It should probably make a fantastic movie when it inevitably gets adapted.

One interesting aspect of The Passage to me is that it is really several different kinds of books in one.

It starts as a mysterious science fiction thriller involving a strange military experiment centered around a top secret program that the reader slowly discovers more and more details about as the story unfolds. Is it the development of a human longevity treatment? A virus that turns men into super-weapons for the military? The discovery of a real-life vampire? The answer, in the end, is all of the above.

In addition, there is a section of  the story which is a chase involving an other-worldly child whose name is Amy and who is apparently "special" in some way. Presumably that is why two agents from the top secret quasi military agency are chasing her down in order to include her in the military experiment.

After the truth is revealed and the mass extinction event occurs (i.e. the fecal matter collides with the rotating air circulation device) The Passage  becomes a post-apocalyptic tale about a small village of survivors (called "The Colony") and the social dynamics between key characters as they struggle to survive an untenable situation 75 years after the catastrophic events that concluded the first section of the book.

Then The Passage morphs again as Amy's story intersects with The Colony's. This results in yet another story shift as the book becomes a quest tale as a group of intrepid, but mismatched individuals travel to find the secret of why their world is the way that it is.

Along the way they have some pretty incredible adventures and some members of the small group die, while some are left behind to fend for themselves and some decide they want to leave the group.

As I said before, overall, the story is quite compelling and told in an exciting way. Even though the book IS quite long, because of the rapidly shifting story format, it never seems slow and my interest and concern for the characters never wavered (although I will admit I was interested in some characters more than others).

I do believe I will try to read the follow-up books in the trilogy, The Twelve and The City of Mirrors but I don't feel like I must read them immediately to see how the story continues and concludes. The thrill ride of The Passage  is quite satisfying on its own and well worth your time to read.

Title: The Passage (The Passage, #1)
Justin Cronin.
Paperback: 897 pages.
 Ballantine Books.
Date Published: June 3, 2010.
Date Read: August16, 2017.


OVERALL GRADE: A/A- (3.67/4.0).


Wednesday, October 04, 2017

REPORT: Many Los Angeles Area STEM Jobs In 2016-2021 Will Not Require 4-Year Degrees

Interesting report from the Center for a Competitive Workforce about a potential talent shortage in the Los Angeles county area in the near future. Many people think that STEM technical jobs require a 4-year degree, but this report says that there will be many "middle skills" job openings in the Los Angeles area that will not.
In the region there will be approximately 67,450 job openings over the next five years for the 20 occupations examined in the report.  But, according to the latest data available, from the academic year 2014-15, there were fewer than 27,000 career education award earners in the greater Los Angeles Basin. And only about 7,800 awards were conferred in programs training relevant to the 20 target occupations. 
If this trend continues without our region’s talent development systems and institutions responding in kind, especially the community colleges which are the primary suppliers of this middle skill talent, then the demand in the region will not be met over the next five years.
One key takeaway from the report is that local community colleges in Los Angeles will only provide 58% of the people with associates degrees or certificates that the area will likely need to fill these jobs in the near future.

Hat/tip to KPCC

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

LOOK: Easiest Visual Explanation of Gerrymandering

The United States Supreme Court had oral arguments in the case of Gill v. Whitford which is about partisan gerrymandering. This sounds boring, but it is fundamentally about the nature of Democracy itself. The image above shows how one can use gerrymandering to completely warp democratic results.

The example shows a "state" with 50 voters where 60% of voters are "blue" and 40% are "red" but through selection of district boundaries one can get results of 5 blue districts and 0 red districts to 2 Blue districts and 3 red districts even though using a "standard" redistricting one would expect 3 blue and 2 red.

This case is from Wisconsin where:
The plans, developed in 2011 by Republican leaders who controlled the legislature and signed by Gov. Scott Walker (R), were effective.
In the election held after the new district maps were adopted,Republican candidates won 48.6 percent of the statewide vote but captured a 60-to-39 seat advantage in the State Assembly. 
Evidence uncovered during lawsuits over the redistricting found that models showed Democrats would have to win about 53 percent of the statewide vote to capture a bare majority of the seats.
The swing vote (as usual) is Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Hat/tip to Wonk Blog

Monday, October 02, 2017

Germany's Marriage Equality Law Is Now In Effect!

Germany's equal marriage law, called "marriage for all" went into effect on yesterday. It was passed on June 30 by a vote of 393-226 in the German parliament when Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition agreed to allow a free vote on the matter, even though she herself voted against the measure. The bill was signed into law by the German president in late July.

The first couple to be married under the legislation was a gay male couple from Berlin named Karl Kreile and Bodo Mende who had been together for 38 years.

The fact that Germany now has marriage equality was one reason my husband I decided to finally visit Berlin in August for our 9th wedding anniversary.

Hat/tip to the Washington Blade.

EYE CANDY: Hayden Monteleone (reprise)

Hayden Monteleone has appeared as Eye Candy once before (March 10, 2017). He has changed his Instagram account to @hayden_moneleone. You can tell from his pictures that he's a big guy. His Model Mayhem profile lists him as 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds (and 28 years old). I'm not sure what his ethnicity is but as I have said before, hawt is hawt! Don't you agree?


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