Tuesday, April 30, 2024


I did finish reading Burn Book, by Kara Swisher, but I don't think that it merits much discussion. Swisher has covered the tech industry in the U.S. as a journalist since the 1990's, and while the book does contain some autobiographical elements, it primarily describes her career in journalism, and, in particular, her experiences with various tech billionaires over the years. Her assessments seemed relatively accurate to me, given what little I know about them, but this doesn't come across as a profound analysis. For example, she noticed that Mark Zuckerberg has an anxiety disorder, and that he needed the assistance that he got from Sheryl Sandberg, but that was the extent of her commentary. Obviously, Bill Gates is autistic, but she doesn't come out and say it. She liked Steve Jobs mainly because she empathized with his childhood trauma: he had been adopted, and, in her case, her father had died while she was young. She says almost nothing about the way in which Jobs differed from other tech billionaires: he was motivated by aesthetic sensibilities more than technology. For unknown reasons, she never mentions either Steve Wozniak or Paul Allen. Because she worked with Rupert Murdoch, she knows him well and has nothing positive to say about him, as you might expect. She also got to know Elon Musk fairly well, but I didn't find her discussion of him particularly illuminating. What it comes down to is that most of the successful people in the tech industry are highly competitive, ruthless males – the sort of people with whom I wouldn't want to associate. For the most part, she presents herself as a responsible, hard-hitting journalist who also happens to be a lesbian, and who has won respect for her reporting. Obviously, although this is supposed to be a revealing book, neither Swisher nor Simon & Schuster wanted to be sued simultaneously by several billionaires. Without the risk of lawsuits, it could have been much more informative. For what it is, it isn't bad, but you also have to allow for the fact that it was written to be a bestseller – which it is. Swisher is capitalizing on her exposure to the tech billionaires.

On April 19 I visited my old neighborhood again. Dorothy Douglas was outside tending her lawn. She had bruises around her eyes and a bandage over her nose. She said that she fell down in town, hit the sidewalk and broke her nose. Although she still seems energetic, I think she has health problems. She is never talkative, so I didn't stay long. I stopped by the house of Fred and his wife, Darlyn, again. There were more windstorms over the winter, but my new neighborhood wasn't affected much. However, there were extremely high winds in Fred's neighborhood and more wind damage than ever. One of Fred's sheds was blown into the woods. Many trees behind his house were blown over. At my former home next door, the blue spruce in the front yard was blown down, and it looked as if a window had cracked. Fred said that they had roof repairs from wind damage. Along South Munger Street and Quarry Road, several trees were blown over or had their tops blown off. According to Fred, the winds at the nearby airport were over ninety miles per hour.

I am well under way in my preparations for warmer weather. I've created a vegetable bed behind the back porch for tomatoes. The soil looked pretty bad – lots of clay – so I added a layer of gardening soil and compost to the top. I'm having a hard time getting my old tomato seeds to germinate. Usually they come up quickly, but so far I have only one. If at least three more don't come up, I will buy plants from a nursery. A change in seed storage may have caused the problem. My old telescope is set up, and it had an electrical malfunction that now seems to be fixed. The house has several overhangs on the roof that attract birds. There is now a robin nest high up near the top and an eastern phoebe nest above the screen door on the back porch. They could be returning birds, because there was an eastern phoebe nest last year and a robin nest in a shrub next to the house. I'm no longer feeding the birds now, so there aren't as many goldfinches around, but I will be putting up my hummingbird feeder soon. I think I heard one the other day – they can be quite loud. I now regularly feed stale bread pieces to the squirrels, and they seem to like it.

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