Bad Blood

This is the story of the rise, duplicity, and fall of Theranos. I discovered Theranos and its founder Elizabeth Holmes shortly before John Carreyrou’s Wall Street Journal story brought them down. It probably wasn’t from this Stanford article but this quote came from it and probably went out on the Twitterverse where I soon found it.

“I think that the minute that you have a backup plan, you’ve admitted that you’re not going to succeed,” Holmes says.

I read that and immediately didn’t trust her. She had no backup plan for the fact that her company was completely fraudulent and look where she ended up. Taking a few minutes to ask yourself, “What could go wrong? Say it doesn’t work, then what? What’s plan B and C for what we are doing?” This is not admitting you’re not going to succeed. It’s being smart and self-aware. It’s saying you’re not God. You are human and will make mistakes. Sometimes things don’t work out and when that happens being prepared for that event. I knew as soon as I read that quote that she wasn’t all she was claiming to be. Then I read a bit more about her and Theranos and I thought it was too good to be true. Then the article came out and I laughed that I was right about her. I followed the story for years, enjoying the schadenfreude.

So, anyway back to the book. It was a really good examination of everything that happened to lead to her fall. She was a masterful conman. I believe she did think she was going to change the world but it was a faith built on fantasy. And then she sold the fantasy to anyone willing to buy it. And because of her connections, lots of people bought it.

There are lots of bad guys in this story. There are also lots of people of integrity.

Who comes out looking good? Tyler Shultz, grandson of George Shultz, was the main whistleblower, he did the right thing even under a lot of pressure. His Grandfather, George Shultz, had an opportunity to either care about money or care about family and he chose money. He came out looking awful. Deceiving Tyler about the lawyers hiding upstairs is unforgivable. Sure, if a family member is a murderer or something, maybe then a trick like that is acceptable, but in this case? Never.

Oddly, Rupert Murdock came out looking good. I thought I’d never say those words. But when pressured to tank a story in the Wall Street Journal by Theranos’ lawyers. He said no, several times even though it was going to cost him money. He may be an evil man, but he at least knows that the value of the Wall Street Journal depends on it being free from influence to publish the news no matter who gets upset. I was impressed. (not that he cares what I think)

Elizabeth Holmes is obviously a con-artist and a terrible human being. Probably a psychopath. Sunny Balwani is an asshole and apparently an idiot. The best part of the book was how his employees mocked him to his face and he had no idea. David Boies the attorney representing them is a soulless scumbag. The things he did should have gotten him disbarred. But when you have his kind of money you can do what you want, I suppose. In researching him I discovered this in Wikipedia (for what that’s worth):

In 2017, Boies’ firm reportedly directed private intelligence company Black Cube to spy on alleged victims of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse and on reporters who were investigating Weinstein’s actions.[31] Over the course of a year, Weinstein had Black Cube and other agencies ““target,” or collect information on, dozens of individuals, and compile psychological profiles that sometimes focussed on their personal or sexual histories.” A few days later, The New York Times announced it had “terminated its relationship” with Boies’ firm

When you’re attacking Harvey Weinstein’s victims, yeah, you’re a terrible person.

James Mattis attacking a Lt Colonel who was doing his job and following the law? Yeah, fuck him, too.

It was a really good book and it’s nice that at least one person got brought down for being bad to America and the world. Wish it happened more often.

Provenance

Ann Leckie’s Provenance is, I believe, the last of the Hugo nominated books for me to read. I liked this one a lot. The story was interesting and kept me reading. I found the use of pronouns a bit hard to get into but got used to it eventually. There seemed to be a kind of theme in several of these books. They involved a lot of fluidity in how gender and viewpoint changed. No doubt because of how the broader current cultural view of the subject is changing. But then Science Fiction is always like that. They don’t predict the future so much as address the present.

This novel does seem to reside in the same universe as other books but was clearly standalone which was a nice change from some of the other books I had read. It makes me wonder how much I want to make reading in a series important or if making standalone books part of a larger world is what I want to do. I’ve always looked at the series I’m writing as being one large book and my second book does follow directly from the first, but I think I will work hard to make them readable in any order. So if you read the first one last it’d read like a prequel.

Which one is my vote for the Hugo? I’ll think about it and report tomorrow. Meanwhile, I’m reading Bad Blood: The story of Theranos. What a shit show of a company that is. I knew most of what I’ve read so far but it just keeps getting worse and worse.

Raven Stratagem (Machineries of Empire) book 2

This is the followup to Ninefox Gambit. The second in what looks like a trilogy. This continues the story from the previous book but while I don’t think it could really be read on its own and does make up a larger story, is more standalone than the shattered earth books, which really felt like one long book. This stands apart just enough to make it different. It was also enjoyable even if there was a lot of stuff I didn’t understand. Yoon Ha Lee does more backstory on the individual characters than had been done in the first novel. And the characters seem to survive longer. The backstory on in the other book seemed more like care about this person before I kill them. Here the backstory fleshes out a bit deeper and carries throughout the novel. I think it’s an improvement.

The third book in the series just recently came out. I’ll read it after I read a few other things. Right now, I’m working on the last of the Hugo books. That one takes place in a universe already written about but at least seems separate enough I don’t need to read three books to read the one I want to.

Ninefox Gambit

This is the first book in a series that contains the fourth of the Hugo nominated books I am trying to read this year. Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee, is a very far future novel set in a space during a rebellion. It’s hard to describe really because I had a hell of a time understanding anything that was happening. This seems to be a pattern in these nominations. It’s very jargony. The story was interesting enough and it flowed well but I mostly had to skip over the parts that didn’t make any sense. Not large passages, just some of the names of things. It reminded me a little of the Warhammer 40k universe.

This one is the first part of a larger series, which is why I am reading this one before the actual Hugo nominated one. So it’s similar to the Broken Earth series. The second book, which is the nominated one, flows directly from the first book and again I’d have been lost if I didn’t read it in order. Interesting ideas, at least and I did read it fairly quickly so any book that can hold my attention is a good one.

I think there is one more Hugo nominated novel to read and then I’ll be done and cast my non-counting vote for best novel.

Six Wakes

Six Wakes is a murder mystery about clones on a spaceship. It was well put together and fun to follow the clues around. This is the third of the Hugo nominated books I’ve read. I’m working on the fourth right now. Well, sort of, the fourth is like the second in that it’s part of a series. I’m not sure which one is my favorite yet.

Reading this did reignite an idea I had about a generational spaceship. I’m mulling over the ideas again and may write it soon.

Cold Days

I read the next Dresden book right after finishing the previous one. I’m taking a break to other things before getting to the next. In this one, he’s no longer dead but tasked with an impossible job. There’s a lot of misdirection to keep the mystery alive. I’m not sure any of it makes sense but it’s a fun ride so I don’t think about it too much.

The next book in the series is the 15th! I may get to it after the next book I read which will be going back to the Hugo Nominees. It’s been so long, has the winner been announced yet?

Ghost Story

This is the 13th book of the Harry Dresden books by Jim Butcher. I’ve read the first 12 and there’s at least two more after this one. I don’t know how many copies he sells but it appears to pay the rent. I enjoy them. Butcher keeps things interesting by giving his protagonist lots of new challenges to deal with. This one is all about being dead. Dresden is killed and comes back as a ghost to solve his murder.

I’m reading the follow up right now, After that, I’ll read something for some variety and then finish up the series.

Reading this reminds me that I need to try to sell my novel. It’s done and ready, but I’m not ready to send it out. I reread it a lot and keep finding it wanting. I don’t know how people send in their first manuscript. It’s got me scared to death to try. I know the worst that will happen is I get a bunch of rejection letters (or hear nothing back at all) or maybe someone reads it and says it’s the worst thing they’ve ever seen. But at least I’d know.

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

I had wanted to read Steven Pinker’s new book Enlightenment Now, sadly it was not available. I read his older book The Better Angels of Our Nature instead. I wonder how accurate the basic premise is. There is a lot of stats and data to back up his idea that violence is going down and things are getting better. It does seem likely. It’s just that horrific acts of violence happen at such a large scale now.

I hope we are getting better but I think it may just be the calm before the storm. Like we’re only behaving because the bread and circus are working for now. Everything looks like it’s going to get a lot worse soon. I hope I’m wrong.

The one part that I found interesting was when he talked about the rise in violence that peaked in the early 90s. He gave lots of theories on what happened but never mentioned lead. I think that short-term increase in violence and sudden drop clearly seems to be associated with the reduction in lead uses. Especially in gas and paint. When looked at lots of countries the rise and fall correlate with use and regulation of lead. But maybe that idea wasn’t widespread when he wrote the book. Or maybe he thinks the idea is stupid. No real way to know, I suppose.

It was an enjoyable, if long, book.

Jackrabbit Smile

Joe R Lansdale’s new Hap and Leonard novel. He’s got a way with words. Things are going quite well for the two. Work is coming along, nice house. The story begins with Hap marrying Brett. They don’t even get beat up all that much in the story. A chair across the noggin and a couple of cuts is nothing for those two. I’ve read a couple dozen of his books and I’ve yet to be disappointed.

I’ve also been reading Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature because Enlightenment Now wasn’t available. It’s interesting and he makes his case well but it sure is hard to believe that we’re getting less violent. There are a couple of ideas that are interesting about why some areas are more violent than others that I want to think and write about later. I’ll do another post when I finish it in a few days. Had to take a break to read about Hap and Leonard.

Diving under Budapest, Hungary

a hidden world 30m below budapest

This slideshow from the BBC is about how there are underground areas, in Budapest, Hungary, accessible to the public where you can scuba dive. It looks amazing and I need to put it on my bucket list of things to do.

I am Open Water certified but it’s been so long that I need to go relearn and cert again.