Friday, February 26, 2021

Red Pill: A Novel

At first I was unclear whether Red Pill was a memoir. It seemed to be told from the point of view of the author. However, it gradually becomes clearer that it is a work of fiction. The narrator gets a chance to work for 3 months in a German institute to focus on his work. However, he discovers that there is an expectation of communal work rather than privacy. He gradually gets to know some of the people in the town and gets exposed to an extreme right-wing police show "Blue Lives". The novel is filled with ironic contrasts. (One academic goes in a tirade against privace - after the narrator discovers that IT is watching him via a hidden camera in his room.)  He drifts to the negative view of society where the masses are nothing more than drones. The novel ends with the "bleakness" of a Trump election. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Caste (Oprah's Book Club): The Origins of Our Discontents

Caste can be a very nefarious form of differentiation in society. People are born into their caste and have little chance of leaving. The origin of the caste does not have to have any specific rationale behind it. The book discusses three primary caste systems: the Indian caste system, the US racial caste system and the Nazi Aryan system. In all the systems, it is often the lower caste individuals that help keep the even-lower ones in order. In extreme cases, there is a dehumanization of the lowest caste individuals.

The primary focus is on the US system. Whites are the "upper-caste". Blacks are the lowest caste. Others are in between. Even within the castes, there are gradations. The author provides anecdotes of the negative impacts on the lower and upper castes. However, some of these can be difficult to tease apart. In one example, an Austin bomber first killed a black man. Initially there were questions as to whether it was an accident or terrorism. Only after white people were targeted did they hunt down the suspect. How much of this delay was due to the "lower caste" and how much was it due to questioning isolated incidents? It is hard to tell, but probably a little bit of both.

The definition of the lower caste is often fluid. In America, "black" has had various definitions. Today, it is pretty much "how you identify". There have been various laws that defined it previously. It may be a few generations. It may be "a drop of African blood". The Nazis were a little tighter with Jews, and generally required a grandparent. Practicing the religion would also get you in. In America, however, Jews were "white".

The book is a little vague about what to do about caste. The standard bits of the "higher caste people need to work hard to stop it" are given. Humanization is also important. She gives an example of a plumber that did not expect a black women in the white neighborhood and refused to do much. After she started talking and relating to him, he became very friendly and helpful. The author laments that it is often the "lower caste" that has to bend over. (And she gives examples of blacks being castigated for being too cultured.) In reality it does need everyone. If we are constantly calling out racial affronts, we may see a "perceived" balance, but are really just seeing a veneer hiding internal anger. Instead, we need to realize we are all just people.

I wonder how the individualistic culture relates to the concern about caste. If people have a strong group identity with roles and responsibilities, do they really care what others are doing? It is a duty to your family and group to continue on the path. You have a distinct realm of possibilities that you can make the most out of. There may be aspiration to be like others, but an understanding that it is not possible. Were people generally content in that world maximizing potential in their sphere? Today, there is a strong ethos of individual empowerment. The groups which one belongs to is seen as a "choice". Being brought down by accident of birth is seen as a bug in the system and leads to misery.

Perhaps the biggest flaw in the argument is ignoring class. It is stated that poor whites outnumber poor blacks. This lower class is near the bottom of the social latter. The only thing that had been propping them up is the feeling that they were better than other races. Now they don't have that anymore. Even worse, they have people telling them they are bad and wrong. How do we bring up the lower caste without bringing down the lower class? It was often the "just above the lowest rung" that would inflict punishment on the lowest. We can easily end up with a situation where the now empowered lower caste people are now being even more negative towards whoever now resides at the bottom. True victory can only be obtained when physical appearance is disconnected from physical worth. The assimilation of "whiteness" in the US in that sense can be considered a huge success. Can it be done society-wide? Or was it only possible by having a "non-white" foil?

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries (The Murderbot Diaries, 1)

All Systems Red is told primarily from a the view of a Murderbot. This "bot" was tasked with security detail on an exploration mission. However, the bot manages to remove its "governor" module, giving it the ability to "freely react", rather than be fully obedient to rules. The mission eventually runs into conflict and the bot is able to help plan an escape. The bot becomes endured to the humans who purchase its freedom.

The book explores a world where "bots" take over many of the lower-caste work in society. They are part human, part machine, yet treated as property. They also have limited rights and responsibility. On the other side, there are "augmented humans" that are "high class". It poses some interesting exploration of consequences of a human-machine singularity.


There is a lot going on at University of North Carolina. Bree Matthews is in the middle of it. She has entered a high school program at the University of North Carolina after the death of her mother. She wants to get away. However, she soon discovers that there is a lot of magic going on. There is a secret society of descendants of King Arthur that has some magic. There are others with different magic. There is also a distinct racial twist. They are trying to defend the world from demons. And of course there is a boy that she falls in love with. I almost liked it, but it went a little too overboard in the fantasy for my tastes.

Monday, February 22, 2021

American Dirt (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel

American Dirt received a great deal of pre-publication praise and scorn. The scorn was mostly due to the fact that a white woman had spent 5 years researching and writing a story about Mexican immigrants. Alas, it is not a memoir, it is a work of fiction. There may be some faults in the details. However, the emphasis is on the challenges and the humanity of the characters involved not the details of Mexican culture. Having it told by somebody that has not experienced it personally could be a benefit. The goal is to bridge the gap to portray the illegal immigrants as people rather than mindless hoards.

American Dirt centers on Lydia (mom) and Lucha's (young boy) voyage to the United States. They come from a middle class family in Acapulco, she runs a bookstore, while her husband is a journalist. Their entire family is murdered by a drug lord. (We later learn that a newspaper article about him caused his beloved daughter to commit suicide.) They want to get as far away from Acapulco as possible. Alas, Lucha doesn't have a photo ID, so they are not able to buy an airplane ticket. They are afraid to drive or take a bus (because they might be found by the crime boss), so they opt to join the migrant route. They jump trains with other (mostly Central American) migrants. They learn about the challenges that led the others to escape their homeland. In the process they have a number of scary encounters and close calls, but manage to make it through, eventually being guided by a coyote across the Arizona desert to finally make it to reach a relative in the US. It is hard to read the book and not have sympathy for everything that these migrants have had to go through. 

The Mom Test: How to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you

Getting good feedback for a new idea requires asking the right questions. People will generally try to make you happy. If you ask them if your new idea will work, the will likely say yes. Instead, the key is to ask questions in a way that even your Mom would provide useful feedback. Get people to talk about themselves. What are their pain points? How do they get around it now? Is it truly something painful enough that would like a better solution? (Or are they comfortable with a current workaround?) The goal is to get a better understanding rather than pitch a solution. This understanding can happen in brief informal settings rather than formal meetings. It is also important to have appropriate actions. If the meeting is more formal, there should be some sort of next steps. This may be an introduction to other people, or even a realization that this is not something worth pursuing. It is also valuable to get the "hard questions" out there early. It is much better to fail early than to putter around for a while before the massive failure. Regardless of what questions are asked, recording the feedback is critically important. Even the "back of the napkin" notes should be recorded in a common platform and shared widely among the team.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Three-Body Problem

The Three-Body Problem is a "hard" science fiction book from Chinese Author 刘慈欣 and the first book in the Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy. The novel alternates from a few different time periods. It begins with the cultural revolution in China and the fate of some scientists that dare espouse modern scientific thought. Most of the novel takes place today. There is also some parts where we hear the internals of the nearby "Three Body" world. Some of this is directly told, while others are told indirectly through a game.

The Three Body civilization occupies a single planet caught in the middle of a system with three stars orbiting each other. Depending on how they orbit, the world could experience vastly different situations. However, it is impossible to precisely predict how the orbiting will be done (hence the three body problem.) On earth, there is also a three-body civilization game that is played by many of the brightest. They use some experiences from earth to try to solve this three body problem.

Earth sends out a message to try to discover if there is additional life. It is retrieved by the three-body world. However, they are unable to accurately tell where the message came from. They can tell the direction, but not the distance. One of the people on the three-body world sends a response that they should not respond. They know that the world is looking to settle a new planet. If they know where to look, they may seek to destroy the current inhabitants. Alas, a disgruntled earthling decides to send a response, seeing that as a better option than the horrid state of earth.

The three-body world sends a fleet to earth. However, they realize that earth is advancing at an exponential rate and may be more advanced than they are before they arrive. They hatch a plot involving proton folding to restrict scientific progress. This seems to work. On earth many maddening things are happening to scientists. There are also groups on earth that are intent on using the aliens to help "fix" man's wrongdoings. The other planet views humans as no more than "bugs". However, what is they status of "bugs"?

This is a well done science fiction book. The Chinese background makes it different enough, while still being very accessible in translation.

Zach King: My Magical Life

My Magical Life is a pseudo-autobiography of Tik-Tok magician Zach King. Many of his friends in the book share the names with his real friends. He also has some of his "magic tricks" occur in real life.

In the book, Zach comes from a family of magicians. Alas, he has not found his magic. Because of this he is required to attend a public middle school to learn like "regular people". Things do not go well. He gets on the bad side of the "mean" girl and the principal. He accidentally finds himself inside a vending machine. This seems to be a sign of getting his magic back. He later finds magic caps that allow him to transport things from one cap to another. He uses this for fun (such as getting popcorn in the movie theater), tricks and even to save the life of the mean girl.

The story blends standard middle school challenges with some of Zach King's magic. It makes for a fun story.

The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War

The story of Oleg Gordievsky is nearly too real to be believable. He was a KGB agent who decided he would share secrets with Britain. He provided an abundant source of information. However, the west was not able to fully disseminate or act on it for fear of implicating the source. Even the US CIA did not know who the source was (and did some undercover work themselves to try to find out.) When he was posted in London, the UK did some work to help him maintain his position and rise in the ranks. He was able to provide just enough apparently useful intelligence to the Soviet Union to maintain his value.

From his information, Britain was able to learn many of the challenges within the Soviet Union. Even the KGB was mired in its own bureaucracy. The Soviets had also come to the belief that the US was at the cusp of launching a nuclear attack. They would find all sorts of other meaningless actions that seemed to "back up" their supposition. Once Gordievsky was out of the KGB, the west was able to fully act on much of the intelligence provided. This was in the mid-80s, a half decade before the collapse of communism.

His escape from Russia was perhaps the most "unreal" part of the story. The KGB-brass had an inkling that he may be a spy and called him back to Russia. He managed to make it through the truth-serum interrogation, but knew he was likely a dead man. Through coded phone messages, an elaborate escape plan was set in motion that involved signaling using a safeway bag and mars bar. Then the getaway required breaking a multi-vehicle tail, hiding him with heat-resistant blankets in the back of a car, a baby's dirty diaper and making it through multiple checkpoints to get to Finland, then to Norway and finally to England. A young Putin was involved on the Russian side. The book credits Russian bureaucratic complacency as one factor that helped the plot to succeed.

Alas, his wife and kids were still in Russia. They were interrogated by the KGB and had a miserable life for a few years. However, after the fall of communism in the early 90s, they were able to be reunited again. Alas, by this time they had drifted apart. (They had known nothing of his spying or the escape plot and had remained loyal to the USSR.)  

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Ready Player Two: A Novel

Ready Player Two takes place a few years after Ready Player One. The protagonist is a multi-billionaire. His VR video game world Oasis is a dominate force in society. Now they have a new technology that taps directly into the brain for a full immersive experience. They end up with a big battle to find shards and finally have a singularity.

Like the first novel, this book drops endless 80s reference. Alas, the writing and story are even more tedious. A battle with different versions of Prince is way over the top. It feels as if he has just run out of ideas and just tries to throw out whatever he can and hope it sticks.

The Faded Sun Trilogy

The Faded Sun trilogy includes the novels Kesrith, Shon'jir and Kutath. The books deal with some conflicts in the future space exploration. Humans are one of multiple species involved in diplomatic maneuvers. Others have very different characters. Some can seem to remember anything and find it strange that human have the ability to lie. The books are dominated by political meanderings and seem to move at a very slow pace. Every now and then parts are interesting, but that is the exception rather than the rule.

Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment

Politics today tend to focus on identity, often at the expense of issues. Countries are put together with people that share a common identity. Political parties group people with different identities and attempt to meet the needs of these identities. People get involved with these identities. These identities can include country of origin, race, language, religion, sexuality or any other "group" that can be used. This culture of identity has superseded that of class.

Poor white people have "lost out" on the quest for identity. Blacks, immigrants, Hispanics, Native Americans and other groups have their associated identity. They can seek to advocate for their historical religion and culture. They also advocate for social justice and favored position. Whites are viewed as the "dominate" culture. They are not permitted by society to advocate for their culture. Their culture is viewed as imperialistic. Even advocating their positions is viewed as racist. While people would be shunned for using slurs for other groups, using slurs for poor whites is encouraged. The "elite" whites are primarily in control of culture and institution. They are the ones that also encourage the political correct views that shun "white" culture. The poor whites have been turned into persona non-grata. They are viewed as controlling imperialists, even though they have no power. Their culture, religion and institutions are mocked. They seek somebody to represent them. This is the situation that enabled Trump and Brexit. Trump finally spoke freely in a why that made these people feel they had an advocate.

The domination of "Identity" could eventually lead to the downfall of our multicultural society. Could this be the way in which a "unified" China easily dominates the United States?

A Sky Beyond the Storm: An Ember in the Ashes, Book 4

This is the fourth book in the Ember in the Ashes series. Two young people manage to overcome all sorts of supernatural challenges to finally express their love for each other. Everyone else is pretty much background.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature

The Red Queen hypothesis comes from the character in Lewis Carrol's Through the Looking Glass who is always running in order to keep in the same place. Sexual selection must be used as part of the mechanism to continually evolve and adapt in order to stave off extinction. The book starts by asking "why sex?" It seems a very inefficient way to pass on genes. After all, why not just clone oneself to pass on all genes? There are many theories. The "change" is a key benefit. There are chances to clean up "mistakes" or introduce "new mistakes". It also encourages social behaviors. Different animals have adapted in various ways due to their mating patterns. Sex selection also happens in various manners (sometimes based on things such as temperature.) Humans are rather unique in not knowing the precise time of fertility and not producing off-spring that are "done" yet. (The "big brains" need to fit through the small birth canal.) People seem to have an in-built incest restriction against mating with people we have grown up with. Other mating rules have differed across cultures. Monogamy has become a common way to ensure the child has two parents to help with raising. Polygamy may benefit a few men at the top of the hierarchy, but in general it benefits women who now have greater access to the alphas. Men seek traits in women that allow for the production of more offspring (such as youth.)

There are many interesting theories put out and discarded in the book. The book even ends admitting that much of what is written will be proven wrong. Humans have adapted quite well to dominate the current world. Will we continue to do so?

Friday, February 12, 2021

The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz

Erik Larson explores the life in England during the time of the Blitz by focussing on Churchill and his family. The portrayal is a mixture of "life as normal", "total paranoia" and "putting on a straight face." Churchill's family still continued on their normal (if very quirky) lives despite the German bombing. However, he was also scared for the future of his country. Germany was coming from a position of strength. Britain desperately needed America to help out. However, there were politics at play there also. Churchill could not appear too desperate. Germany was not able to have their easy victory, and Britain ended up more united. The US eventually became all in after the Japanese attacks at Pearl Harbor. The book tries to present the "personal" view of a world leader during trying times. It is not really a biography and not really a history. Churchill and his family had plenty of foibles. Sometimes he seemed to be stuck in minutia that seemed out of place during war time. Other times, he managed to give the perfect speech for the time. 

Calculated Risks: How to Know When Numbers Deceive You

The best way to get lie to somebody is to present accurate statistics that they do not understand. In Calculated Risks, Gerd Gigerenzer presents many examples in which people make bad decisions based on a poor understanding of the numbers. The first part of the book focusses on medicine. Doctors tend to be very smart, but not experts with statistics. People are often confused when risk is expressed in probabilities rather than frequencies. Relative risk reduction is especially misleading. If 1000 people participate in a screening and 3 die, while 4 of 1000 in a control group die, the screening would have a relative risk reduction of 25%, which sounds impressive. However, the absolute risk reduction is only 0.1%, which doesn't sound as good. If analyzed further it is found that the average increase in life expectancy is 12 days, which sounds even worse. And that doesn't even take into account the costs. 

Breast cancer is called out as something where bad statistical understanding has lead to negative outcomes. Studies have shown no increase in life lived with universal mammograms for people under 50. However, there is a significant risk of false positives. There is also an increased risk of cancer caused by the radiation exposure in the test. Alas, rather than being upset at needless intervention, people are often relieved when a doctor cuts into the breast only to find no cancer. The many statistics about breast cancer lead to confusion. There is a fairly high prevalence of the cancer in women. However, it is often not the cause of death. Similar to prostate cancer, many people that die of other causes are found to have the cancer. These cancers are often benign and do not negatively impact the quality of life. However, treating these with surgery and/or radiation does negatively impact the life. 

The book gives an example of expressing data differently. "If cancer probability is .8%. If somebody has breast cancer, there is a 90% chance of a positive mammogram. If they don't have cancer, there is a 7% chance of positive mammogram." From this example, it looks like a positive test result makes it extremely likely that one has cancer. However, expressing in frequencies makes it more clear. "8 of 1000 women have breast cancer. Of these 8, 7 will have a positive test. Of the 992 without cancer, 70 will have a positive test". This is the same data expressed differently. However, it makes it much more clear that somebody with a positive result most likely does not have cancer. 

Knowing the prevalence in a population can be extremely important in understanding results. If somebody has HIV, there is a 99.9% chance they get a positive test result. If they are not infected, there is a 99.99% chance they will get a negative test. This seems like the test is rock solid. However, if somebody is not in a high risk category, their chance of having HIV is about 0.01%. Thus in a group of 10,000 low-risk men, 1 will have the virus and 9999 will not. The one with the virus will likely get a positive result. Of the 9999 men without HIV, there will also be 1 likely test result. Thus, even with the very high specificity and sensitivity, a positive result from a low risk population only has a 50% chance of being accurate. In the case of AIDS, many people have committed suicide after getting a positive result, even though the accuracy of this result for their population is about the same as a coin flip.

Criminal Justice often misuses statistics on both sides. In the OJ Simpson trial, the defense portrayed his beating of his wife as irrelevant to the his wive's eventual murder. There are millions of men that beat their wives, yet only a small number that eventually murder them. However, expressing in different frequencies produces a different result. Of 100,000 battered women, 45 were murdered. This seems to back up the defense. However, of the 45 murdered women, 40 were murdered by their partners, while 5 were murdered by somebody else. Oops! Now it seem that the wife beating may be very relevant indicator of a murder. The inverse of this is the "prosecutors fallacy". Here, the prosecutor infers that the probability of observing a set of characteristics is the probability that a defendant is innocent.

The book ends with some hypothetical problems and examples of "deliberate misleading" with statistics. (In one case, risk was expressed using low absolute numbers, while benefit was shown using high relative numbers.) Statistical literacy is a key trait in society today. Alas, even most highly educated people do not have it and will fall prey to intentional (and unintentional) misleading representations.

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

From a very young age, Tiger Woods was trained in golf. Meanwhile, Roger Federer was exploring many different sports before focussing on Tennis. Both are among the greatest to play their sport. Which approach is best? In Range, Epstein argues that the general approach is preferable. Intense specialization can lead to success. However, it can also lead to burn out. More importantly, those that over-specialize are more likely to robotically follow the rules than to bring new innovations to their field. Savants are often great at "following algorithms" for their preferred endeavors. However, most innovations and scientific discoveries come from those that have interests in other fields.

The book is filled with examples in which narrow specialists miss out on a key insights that outsiders were able to bring to the table. Specialists have their place. They often work within established norms and processes to carry out small scale improvements. However, we need the generalists to apply knowledge from elsewhere to make the big improvements in society. Our current state of uber-specialization is concerning, but it also creates opportunities for generalists to achieve.

Another related topic brought up in the book is "late bloomers". We often hear about the child prodigies. However, there are also people that pivot later in life to a new field or activity. There are many examples of success, especially with people that have been able to apply learnings from other fields. People don't necessarily need to know everything. However, a breadth of experience can be helpful in putting things together in different ways for the benefit of society. 

Saturday, February 06, 2021

Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath

Red Comet is a long biography of Sylvia Plath. Coming into it, I was not expecting much. I had heard of Plath, but couldn't distinguish her from other poets. As I read the first bart of the book, I became enthralled. I could relate to her experiences, and could picture other people that were similarly driven. She had strong academic standards for herself, yet she was battling internal demons (including her father's early death.) She grew up in an academic environment, and found herself drawn to the intellectual life. She got some high powered magazine jobs, but was disappointed in the superficiality. She struggled with suicide, and spent time in a mental institution. I felt both respect and pitty for her and a strong desire to seek out her additional writings.

As the story of her life progressed into adulthood, my interest waned. Plath came across as somewhat cocky. No longer the young striver, she was the young adult that was manipulating others while she was being manipulated. She fell into the various foibles of young adulthood. She was still motivated to continue writing and was willing to work through rejections to get her works published. The relationship with Ted Hughes seemed like a teenage romance that she wanted to turn into a domestic life. It felt like she was struggled between the desire to be a mother while also carry on an independent intellectual life. Alas, Hughes was a serial philanderer. He did great in the "fun" department, but not so much for the "domesticated". (The book focusses on the "good part". Plath eventually committed suicide. Perhaps it was a problem with her medication that drove her to it. Or perhaps she thought she would live through it as she had done before. Regardless, she probably achieved much more fame in death than she did in life.

Would Plath have faded into obscurity had she not died at an early age? Perhaps she would have focussed more on motherhood and let her writing fall by the wayside. Or perhaps she had her best years writing ahead of her. Or maybe she would have spent all the time battling mental illness. We will not know.  The biography starts out strong, then fades near the end. Comet is an apt metaphor for the life portrayed.

The Master and Margarita

The Master and Margarita is weird. Part of it is the story of Pilate at the time of Christ. There is also many events taking place in "modern" Moscow. The devil appears and recruits people. One man ends up in a mental institution because he is seen as crazy - but is he witnessing real events? There is a book that resembles the book. And just to liven things up, there is also a talking cat. People are drawn to do crazy things, that may often involve an unexpected lack of clothing. People randomly die in weird ways. Did I mention a talking cat? It is difficult to tell what is intended to be "real" and what is delusionary. In some ways it doesn't matter. It can be read as a societal critique or just as something weird. 

The Royal Ranger: The Missing Prince: Ranger's Apprentice, Book 4

As I was nearing the end of the fourth Royal Ranger book, I thought something may be missing. There seemed to be a lot of set up that would be difficult to wrap up in the last little bit. Alas, this book is not a "complete" book, but just a set up for the next book. It ends with a cliffhanger. Uggh.

In The Missing Prince Will and Maddie disguise themselves as performers to help assist with some internal conflicts in a neighboring realm. In the process, they manage to break up two rings of common street thugs and master the art of performing (singing and throwing knives). Their main goal is to rescue a prince that has been held captive. They don't have much respect for any of the leadership of the Kingdom. However, they feel that the current inept ruler is better than the strong pretender to the throne. The story moves along quickly, but there is little suspense. The book felt short. I was also disappointed with he "too bed continued" ending.

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Mozart: The Reign of Love

Mozart is regularly regarded as one of the all time best composers. He was a child prodigy with perfect pitch driven by his musician father. Despite passing away in his 30s, he left behind a significant body of work.

Mozart: The Reign of Love goes through the basic biographical timeline of Mozart's life. However, it also delves deeply into the analysis of his key works. (It would be great to have an accompanying Spotify playlist.) I found myself sometimes consulting Wikipedia as I got lost in the music details and wanted a quick rundown of life history. On the history side, Mozart is portrayed as no so much of the playboy he was made out to be in Amadeus. (Interestingly, Amadeus was not a name he frequently used. Mozart was multilingual, and this was merely a translation of one of his middle names. It only became part of his canonical name after later biographers latched on to it.) Wolfgang did delight in scatological joke-making. However, he was also extremely dedicated to his work. He tended to write music more for his own pleasure than purely for commercial reasons. (However, he loved to live to good life, and was often desperate for more money.) He was well respected in his time as a brilliant musician and composer. However, he also was prone to overwork, and often got sick. The medical system was often a hinderance more than a help, thus was not able to prevent his early death.