‘Wordle’ and Attention Span

The latest fad in online games is ‘Wordle‘. Every day you get 6 chances to guess a new 5-letter word. After every guess, the game tells you which letters appear in the word and if they are in the correct position. I have played this game myself for several days now, and while it’s certainly enjoyable, I predict that in a few short weeks the fad will pass and few will remember it (and so will the annoying Facebook posts of people showing off their successful completion of the game, day after day).

This weekend I got thinking about ‘Wordle’ and its popularity. After all, such games have been around for ages. I remember my mother watching one of her favorite shows on French television: ‘Des chiffres et des letters‘, in which contestants needed to guess a 7-letter word (as the seasons progressed, the length was increased to 8- and then 9-letter words). More recently, many websites and apps have offered similar games, but the ones I’ve seen have all offered longer words to guess and are therefore more challenging.

Guessing a 5-letter word in 6 tries is easy. Most literate people can do it, espeically as the words are not esoteric but common, daily words. True, it occasionally takes a while to figure out the answer, as the mind needs to work through several possibilities and eliminations. Not always does the answer pop into the mind immediately, so some patience and focus are required. But it seems unreasonable for anyone not to be able to guess a 5-letter word in 6 tries, at least on most days.

I believe the reason ‘Wordle’ is so popular is because it has arrived at a time when our attention spans are at an all time low. Since the beginning of the information age, and especialy since the advent of social networks, researchers have repeatedly shown that our attention span is in constant decline. One even concluded that our attention span is now shorter than that of a goldfish. Even if that’s an exaggeration, we are all aware of this phenomenon. Although Twitter double the maximum length of a tweet, it still stands at a mere 280 characters (for comparison, this paragraph up to this point is more than 600 characters long). Facebook has no limitations on post length, but posts that go beyond one short paragraph are rare; most are just a few words long. Tik Tok thought long and hard before it increased the maximum video length from 1 to 3 minutes.

Given this sad reality, the popularity of a game asking us to guess a 5-letter is no mystery. It satisfies our short attention span, as we can guess the word in a short time, and it also provides us with the dopamine rush of success. If we had to guess a 7-letter (or, the horror!, a 9-letter one) chances are most people would have given up after a couple of minutes and the game would have never become popular. The worst comment I read about this game is from someone who wrote “at least it’s a game that engages our minds and makes us think”. There is no sadder testimony to our age than labeling a game such as ‘Wordle’ as exercise for our brain that makes us think.

Israel Needs a ‘New Deal’ Project

Following the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt enacted the ‘New Deal’ in the 1930s. This included a series of public works programs designed to revitalize the US economy, providing not only employment but also bringing about significant infrastructure progress: roads, housing, industry, utilities, etc.

Israel needs a ‘New Deal’ like project, but not because of the state of its economy. Despite the covid crisis, Israel’s economy managed to grow modestly in 2020, and unemployment is at around 6% (higher than average, but not particularly alarming). Israel needs such a project because of a jolting reminder it received last night.

At 23:36 a minor earthquake (3.7-magnitude) hit Northern Israel. In recent years, there were a few such earthquakes in Israel or nearby, caused by the Great Rift Valley that runs from Lebanon to Mozambique and transverses the eastern part of Israel, along the Jordan River. The last major earthquake in the region occurred in the Red Sea in 1995, but did not cause much damage. The 1837 earthquake in the Galilee destroyed the cities of Tiberias and Safed, causing thousands of deaths. A major earthquake along this rift is long overdue.

Israel is not ready for a major earthquake. Although building standards have improved in recent decades, many buildings in Israel pre-date these standards. Furthermore, these standards are still a far cry from the most advanced standards of, say, California or Japan. In 2018, the Office of the State Comptroller published a comprehensive study on the state of readiness of Israel in case of a major earthquake. The findings were gloomily predictable: no governance for disaster preparedness, inadequate construction of vital infrastructure (airports, ports, gas pipelines), lack of progress in reinforcing school and hospital buildings, a halt in a program designed to reinforce housing complexes (Tama 38), and more.

Israel’s resources are limited. Other issues, e.g., security, will always command more attention and given more priority. The only way to address this lacuna and avoid a tragic loss of life and a potentially debilitating catastrophe, is to define a ‘New Deal’-like project that will be budgeted and executed “outside” the normal course of business. Israel owes this to its citizens.

Police State

Israel is not a police state, but a recent investigative report by Israeli newspaper ‘Calcalist’ shows that it displays some of the characteristics of such a state.

According to this report, Israel Police has been using software from NSO, a discredited Israeli offensive cyber company, to monitor activity on the phones of Israeli citizens. This included protesters against former prime minister Netanyahu, a mayor suspected of fraud, a political aide, and many others. This activity has been going on for years without any disclosure to the public.

NSO Office in Hezliya, Israel

Using cyber technology to monitor phone activity is not illegal per se. Security forces have been using similar methods, such as phone tapping, for decades. What makes this different is the fact that the police circumvented legal procedures that ensure such activities are authorized by a judge and are limited in scope and duration. The police found a legal loophole – use of spyware has not been defined in Israeli law – and used it. Furthermore, it used this technology to spy after Israeli citizens, who are not defined enemies of the state, e.g., terrorists or foreign military targets. It did so, apparently, with no proper legal or parliamentary oversight.

Every Israeli should be alarmed by this news. Such methods should not be used by a democratic state against its own citizens, unless they are legally validated and continuously qualified by proper oversight. After Edward Snowden exposed the extent of surveillance by the NSA against citizens of other countries, the U.S. Senate enacted the ‘USA Freedom Act’, imposing limits on how intelligence agencies collect information about American citizens. Israeli lawmakers should move swiftly to enact a similar law and put and end to this illegal activity.

Shikoku Trip – Day 6 – Kochi to Kobe

Route: Kochi > Awaji > Kobe

Drive: 390km; Walk: 0km

The last day was basically a long drive back home.

I started the day with a quick visit to Godaisan, a modest mountain east of Kochi, home of Chikurinji Temple, built by visiting Buddhist priests from China (and no. 31 on the Shikoku 88-temple pilgrimage route). There’s a five-storied pagoda on the grounds, but otherwise this temple has no notable features. Next to the temple is a botanical garden, but at this early hour it was still closed.

This time I drove back through central Kochi to the eastern side of Shikoku island, and crossed back to Honshu through Awaji Island. As I’ve been to Awaji before (see here), and time was of the essence (this being Friday, I didn’t stop for any sightseeing. But one has to stop somewhere on such a long drive, and since Awaji is famous for its onions, I stopped at Uzu Hill Park in the southern tip of the island. This is basically a facility built around the theme of onions: a big shop with countless onion-based products, an onion-hamburger stand, a couple of restaurants, various exhibits, and a huge onion statue overlooking the Onaruto bridge (which connects Awaji and Shikoku).

From there it was a straight line on the Kobe-Awaji-Naruto Expressway, leading to the famous Akashi Kaikyou Bridge, which boasts the longest suspension bridge span in the world (at almost 2km).

To summarize: 1,400km driven; 77km walked; thousands of stairs climbed; 4km by boat.

Shikoku Trip – Day 5 – Kochi to Shimanto and back

Route: Kochi > Shimanto River > Cape Ashizuri > Kochi

Drive: 300km; Walk: 5km

The plan was to spend the morning walking around Kochi city, and then maybe drive a bit around the area. But it was raining when I woke up, so I changed the plan and decided to take a long drive to reach the southernmost point of Shikoku island. This area of Koshi prefecture is called Shimanto, and it is as spectacularly beautiful as it is remote.

On the way down south, I detoured to the town of Saga. The attraction was the Chinkabashi, or submersible bridges, over the Shimanto river. These bridges were built with no rails or balustrades, so that when the river runs high they offer no resistance to the flow of water and simply sink below water level. I braved driving across the longest one, the Sada Chinkabashi, almost 300 meters. The first crossing was a little unnerving, but the second one (I had to return) was a bit better.

I then continued all the way down to Cape Ashizuri, the end of Shikoku island. The last stretch of road (about 50km) is dubbed ‘Ashizuri Sunny Road’, and the sun was indeed finally making an appearance There’s an observation deck offering nice view of the Pacific Ocean and the nearby lighthouse. Around the deck are short walking trails that crisscross a dense forest of subtropical plants, with many varieties of camellia trees (sadly, it was too early for them to flower). The trails provide occasional views of the ocean. The entrance to the cape is dominated by the statue of Nakahama (John) Manjiro, who in 1841 was rescued from a wrecked ship at the age of 14 and spent a few years growing up in America. His knowledge of English and America were instrumental when Commodore Perry showed up unannounced in Japan in 1853.

A short walking distance from the cape is the impressive Kongofukuji Temple (no. 38 in the 88-temple pilgrimage trail of Shikoku). The temple has buildings in various styles, and tons of statues, mainly of Senju Kannon Bosatsu.

On the drive out of the cape, there’s a small building called the John Manjiro Footbath. One can soak one’s tired feet in hot water, while admiring the views of the rock formations down in the ocean below. Small towels are available for 100 yen. This provided a relaxing break before my long drive back to Kochi city.

Just before turning in for the day, I stopped by Hirome Market, a lively indoor market in the center of Kochi. Most of the shops were closed by this time (early evening), but the Izakayas and other food places were doing brisk business. The Omicron variant is only now rearing its ugly head in Japan, so I guess people are making the most of it before the next wave.

Shikoku Trip – Day 4 – Iya Valley to Kochi

Route: Iya Valley > Nakatsu Gorge > Yusuhara > Kochi

Drive: 220km; Walk: 7km

Started the day late, after another soak in the onsen. I drove from Iya Valley down south to Kochi prefecture. After 25 years of visiting and living in Japan, Kochi prefecture is the last prefecture (there are 47 in total) that I haven’t been to yet. So today marks an important landmark in my Japan travels.

My first stop in Kochi prefecture was Nakatsu Gorge. This isolated gorge, which was also very empty (I saw only one family of three walking around), provides beautiful views of rocky cliff faces and small waterfalls. The gorge itself is filled with huge rock boulders, and walking it is a combination of rocky flat surfaces, stepping stones, short bridges, and stone stairs. The gorge is apparently sacred, and there are several statues strewn alongside the path (the sign says they represent gods of fortune). The total walk to the end and back takes about one hour.

I then took a long detour around central Kochi prefecture, before circling back to Kochi city. I did this in order to visit a small town in the prefecture: Yusuhara. It’s a beautiful town, up in the mountains (its nickname is Kumo-no-Ue, above the clouds), with one main street. But what makes it unique is that many buildings here were designed by famous architect Kengo Kuma, known also for his work with woodwork. The town hall, a hotel, the visitor center, the community library, and other buildings give the town a distinctive look. For a town with a population of about 3,500, the library is an impressive edifice; I wish I had access to such a beautiful library… The woodwork inside the library is reminiscent of another Kuma creation: the Starbucks at Daizafu in Kyushu (which I visited two years ago).

I then drove back east to Kochi city, and after checking in and soaking in hot water to relax from the long drive, I took a short stroll around the city center. Harimaya Bridge, a small vermilion bridge over a man-made stream, is a popular spot for photos, as it is the setting of a legendary love story between a local woman and monk (commemorated with a small white statue). The small park around the bridge, with the new year illuminations, made for a pleasant evening walk.

Shikoku Trip – Day 3 – Iya Valley

Route: Around Iya Valley

Drive: 125km (and about 4km boat ride; Walk: 4km

The plan for today was to wander around Iya Valley, taking in a few of the sights along the river running at the bottom of this long, meandering valley at the center of the island. The weather was not so good: near freezing temperatures with overcast skies and occasional light snow.

My first destination was Oku-Iya Niju Kazurabashi, a double vine bridge over the river. Apparently, there’s a ‘husband’ bridge (44m long) and a ‘wife’ bridge (half as long), which served feudal clans, but are reinforced with steel today. But I never got to see them… When I got to this remote area, perched almost 1,000m high on Mount Tsurugi, I was faced with a sign saying the bridges are closed down for repairs.

So I drove back west on Route 439 to reach Nagoro village, also known as ‘scarecrow village’. This tiny village – really only a few houses scattered along the road – has more than 200 scarecrows “inhabiting” it, many more than the humans living here (or so they say, because I didn’t see a breathing soul). Apparently, a long-time villager by the name of Ayano Tsukimi was fed up with the declining population of the village – a sight common in ageing Japan – and decided to “populate” it with straw, lifelike dolls. These dolls now tend the fields, wait in bus stops, work in the fields, and attend the (now closed) local school. Walking around this place is an experience that is as fascinating as it is creepy.

With the remote vine bridges closed, I had no choice but to visit the more touristy Oku-Iya Kazurabashi (vine bridge). This bridge is much larger and sturdier, about 45m long, attached to huge cedar trees, and requiring a steep admission fee (considering it takes less than 2 minutes to cross). Next to the bridge is a quaint visitor center, which shows how the vines are made and how the bridge is built (it is renewed every 3 years). A small nearby waterfall completes the Kazurabashi experience.

A short drive up the hill from Kazurabashi one stumbles upon a small statue of a peeing boy. Some signs designate it as the local Manneken Pis, named after the famous Brussels fountain. The story is that the small rock the statue stands on proved irresistible to testosterone-producing humans, who felt the need to urinate down the steep rock cliff. People throw 1-yen coins on this rock. Go figure.

After wandering a bit more up the hills, taking hairpin turns and negotiating tight one-lane roads with bi-directional traffic, I headed back down to Oboke Gorge. This gorge boasts steep, jagged rocky walls and very clear waters. After some deliberation, I braved the cold weather and took a 30-minute boat ride along the gorge, which offers close views of the rocks.

Frozen from this short boat ride I decided to head back to the hotel. The hot waters of the onsen were calling…

Shikoku Trip – Day 2 – Takamatsu to Iya Valley

Route: Takamatsu > Marugame > Kotohira > Iya Valley

Drive: 90km; Walk: 14km (including about 1,000 stairs)

I spent the morning walking around Takamatsu. I walked through the famous shopping arcades of Takamatsu (supposedly the longest in Japan), which were deserted at this early hour. I reached Takamatsu Castle; the grounds are mostly a park today, as the castle itself was bombed by Americans in WWII. Admission was free, this being the last day of the New Year holidays. I climbed to the top of the Tsukimi Tower, which offers nice views of the grounds and the surrounding area.

From the castle I continued north to the pier and the Sunport area. Bikers were congregating in small groups (by bike type, I guess) to admire each other’s bikes and discuss them at length. Ferry boats made their way slowly in and out of the pier.

A quick taxi ride back to the center of the city and I was at Ritsurin Garden, a sprawling oasis of tranquility at the heart of the city. It dates back to the 18th century, built by the feudal lords who ruled the area, and opened to the public after the Meiji Restoration (late 19th century). The southern part of the garden is in traditional Japanese style, while the northern part is more western in appearance. I strolled around for more than one hour. Choosing which photos to upload was difficult, as every angle offers a pleasingly picturesque view.

From Takamatsu I drove the short distance to Marugame, mainly to see the castle there. What makes it unique is that it is one of the few castles that survived the feudal wars and WWII bombings. The castle is reached via a short but steep winding road, but the walk is worth it for the views from the top. There is also a small souvenir shop, where some old ladies make handmade fans in alluring designs.

From Marugame I drove south to Kotohira, home of Kotohira-gu shrine, also known as Konpira-san. This is where I finally hit the crowds… Konpira-san is a major Shinto shrine, and this being the last day of the holidays, the masses flocked to perform the traditional Hatsumode shrine visit. After paying their respects to the deities, everyone lines up to buy an Omikuji – a folded up piece of paper that is supposed to predict how lucky this year will be. There are 735 stairs to reach the main shrine, and they are lined with hundreds of shops offering gifts and food. The smell of Amazake, the traditional sweet fermented rice drink sold in the new year, wafted in the air. There were so many people, the staff had to regulate the flow by groups. Originally I planned to continue on to two more shrines up the hill (another 600 steps or so), but I was worn out by the crowds and decided to walk back down after reaching the main shrine.

The sun was setting down by the time I returned to my rental car, so I headed south to Oboke, in Iya Valley, where I was booked at an onsen hotel. After all those stairs, soaking in the hot water was pure bliss.

Shikoku Trip – Day 1 – Kobe to Takamatsu

Route: Kobe > Washuzan Observation Deck > Seto Ohashi Memorial Park > Mount Yashima > Takamatsu

Drive: 275km; Walk: 11km

There are two main routes from Kobe to Takamatsu. The quickest route is through the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge and Awaji Island. The slightly longer route is through Okayama and Great Setou Bridge. I picked the latter because I wanted to see and drive the Great Setou Bridge

My first stop was the Washuzan Observation Deck, which offers great views of the bridge from the north, i.e. from Honshu Island. A walking trail from the parking area leads to various observation points, each higher than the previous, culminating with a view directly on top the bridge itself.

After crossing the bridge, I stopped at the memorial park commemorating the building of this bridge; or rather, a series of 11 bridges (total about 13km). It took a decade to complete, and a plaque denotes it as a sister bridge to the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco.

To watch the sun set over Takamatsu, the capital of Kagawa prefecture, I drove up Mount Yashima, just east of the city. On top of the mountain is the Yashima-ji Temple, one of Shikoku’s 88 pilgrimage temples. The weather was nice and clear, so the views of the harbor, the city and the setting sun were a beautiful ending to this day.

What I Read This Month – December 2021

Golden Hill – Francis Spufford (fiction, audio)

It’s 1746. Englishman Richard Smith arrives in New York, bearing a bill of exchange for 1,000 English Pounds. He agrees to delay the collection of the money until he establishes his bona fides with the locals. His adventures in the New World unfold in rapid, almost breathless, succession: his wallet is stolen, is almost mobbed to death by anti-Papists, gets friendly with the governor’s wife, joins the cast of a local theater play, engages in a duel, is found guilty of manslaughter, spends time in jail, and much more. The true nature of his mission and why he came to New York is a secret that is revealed only at the very end of the book, casting a new light on the events preceding this revelation. Bottom line: a very enjoyable book, that is entertaining to read and with an ending that is successful in surprising the reader.

A Conspiracy of Friends – Alexander McCall Smith (fiction, paper)

McCall Smith is the most prolific writer I know. Ever time I think I’m done with one of his series of books (and he has several such series), I check and he’s published a few more in the meantime. It’s been a while since I read him; perhaps the thought of never catching up was too much to bear… ‘A Conspiracy of Friends’ is from the ‘Corduroy Mansions’ series, a fictional housing project inhabited by some colorful characters – human and canine. Their stories touch on friendship, family, politics, love, and much more. The curiously-named dog, Freddie de la Hay, doesn’t say a word in the book, but his adventures underline the pleasingly relatable narrative so typical of McCall Smith’s writing. Bottom line: another pleasurable book from a writer who uncapable of writing a boring story, no matter how many he writes.

A Book Forged in Hell – Steven Nadler (non-fiction, ebook)

Baruch Spinoza needs no introductions: the 17th century thinker who was excommunicated by the Jewish Community in Amsterdam to become one of the most prominent philosophers in history, whose writings were criticized before and after his death. Nadler manages to cover the main ideas of Spinoza’s thought: God, Miracles, Scripture, Religion, Church and State, etc., and does so in a flowing narrative that is never boring and very educational. He draws comparisons to other great thinkers who influenced Spinoza – most notably Maimonides and Hobbes – thus enriching the understanding of the man who single-handedly changed how people think about religion and faith. Bottom line: for those unfamiliar with Spinoza, this is an excellent introductory text; for those who are, this is a great summary.

Journey of the Pharaohs – Clive Cussler (fiction, paper)

A native Indian myth tells the story of an ancient people who sailed to America from a faraway kingdom, and buried treasures in the Grand Canyon. The good guys from NUMA, a government agency specializing in marine warfare, with the help of an MI5 agent, chase the bad guys who are on a quest to find these hidden, and immensely valuable, ancient Egyptian treasures. Bottom line: a fast-paced, action-packed thriller that provides a short respite from more challenging reads.

The Rape of Nanking – Iris Chang (non-fiction, audio)

For a few terrible weeks starting in mid-December 1937, the occupying Japanese Imperial Army committed unspeakable massacres in the then capital of China, Nanjing. The death toll, estimated to be as high as 300,000, was not the only atrocious outcome of this massacre. Those who were not killed immediately suffered the most, from abominable torture and rape. Only a handful of Japanese were brought to justice after WWII, and were sentenced to death for these war crimes. The author, a Chinese-American, researched this horrifying episode in history after hearing about it from her parents. Bottom line: a harrowing tale of the atrocities humans are capable of committing during war, and how they can get away with it.

The Bone Farm – Dean Koontz (fiction, audio)

This is an audio novella about the hunt for a serial killer. FBI agent Jane Hawk and her partner try to get into the mind of the Mother Hater, so called because he sends pictures of the young women he kidnaps and murders to their mothers: one picture before death, one after. Despite the many clues provided throughout the plot, when the killer’s identity is revealed it is a surprising and original discovery. Bottom line: a great whodunnit “listen” (there is no printed book) with an interesting twist.

The Visitor – Lee Child (fiction, paper)

Another prolific writer that needs little introduction is Lee Child, creator of the unforgettable Jack Reacher: a retired military policeman that is permanently on the move and accidentally stumbles into situations that he helps solve, combining deductive skills with muscle power. This book, the fourth in the series (there are dozens by now), has Reacher helping the FBI track down the killer of women who retired from the military. These women all have one thing in common: they experienced harassment (or worse) during their time in the military. The killer has a distinct signature; all bodies are found drowned in green paint in their bathtub. But the cause of death eludes the forensic experts, as the killer leaves no signs behind. Bottom line: one of the best books in the series, before too many books spoiled the originality of Reacher’s character and rendered it almost comic-like.

The Snow Killer – Ross Greenwood (fiction, audio)

This is the first book in the DI Barton series from Ross Greenwood. A child is the sole survivor of a family who gets gunned down in the snow. Years later the child takes revenge on the killers, and becomes ‘The Snow Killer’. Fifty years pass and the Snow Killer starts killing again. DI Barton and his team need to figure out who the killer is before the next victim is murdered. The chapters in the book alternate between the killer and the detective, in a fast pace that never wanes. The reader thinks he knows who the Snow Killer is, but not quite… Bottom line: a great first novel in a series that has the potential to be comparable to the leading DI in the UK – Inspector Rebus (from Ian Rankin).

Orders from the General – Brent Baker (non-fiction, ebook)

Over the years I’ve read my fair share of books on leadership (perhaps even too many). Most are not worth the effort, being either too long or too obvious. After a decades-long career in the US Air Force and in the private sector, General Baker (a colleague of mine) wrote a book filled with advice that is based on real-life situations, backed with examples. The book may not be as “polished” as those of professional leadership pundits, but that is exactly what makes it so readable and so valuable. Many times throughout the book I found myself nodding, having realized how accurate his observations are and how they fit my own observations. Bottom line: This is a book I would recommend to both young managers and veteran leaders. The former will find valuable mentorship guidance in the book’s 25 chapters; the latter will benefit from a validation of their own leadership experiences.

The Dawn of Everything – David Graeber, David Wengrow (non-fiction, ebook)

I loved ‘Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari, who condensed the history of humanity into one very readable, if somewhat popularized, book. (I didn’t like his two other books, about the future.) Now, after having read ‘The Dawn of Humanity’, I realize that Harari’s narrative of our history is riddled with inaccuracies and popular myths. Graeber, an anthropologist, and Wengrow, an archeologist, wrote a monumental, deeply researched, book that shatters many of our preconceptions about how humanity evolved. Their main claim is that the Enlightenment view of early humans as living a life of “noble savages”, compounded by misguided studies of the Agricultural Revolution, have tainted the way we think about life in pre-historical times. They challenge the linearity of history – from primitive societies to modern ones – and show how humanity lived in complex societies for thousands of years. The book provoked many emotions, from excited endorsements to angered dismissals. Bottom line: not an easy read, but well worth the effort.

מקום אחר ועיר זרה – מאיה ערד (fiction, ebook)

I read a couple of books by Maya Arad previously, and enjoyed them. She writes “simple” human stories in flowing prose, and I thought this would be a similar book. Well, I was in for a surprise. While this book also deals with a human story – an Israeli female soldier falls in love with a “lone soldier” recently arrived from Canada, and her love is not reciprocated – it is written in verse. The book is in fact a long poem, each chapter is a canto written in rhyming verse. Very much like Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ (which I’m working my way through at the moment), but much shorter and infinitely less complex. It took me a couple of pages to get used to reading a book in verse, but once I did I found it very pleasing. The book is a fast read, and the ending offers a bittersweet closure to this one-way love story. Bottom line: a different style of book from a very talented writer.

מצרפי המקרים – יואב בלום (fiction, ebook)

If you think life is full coincidences, you are right. But what you might not realize is that some of these coincidences are not, for lack of a better term, coincidental. There live among us people who underwent special training to act as ‘Coincidence Makers’. They receive missions from “The General” in envelopes that are slid under their doors. These missions can range from simple matchmaking to complex events that shape the course of history. Guy, Emily and Arik trained together and keep in touch after the course. When Guy receives an enigmatic mission, their interweaving stories come together in this delightful urban fantasy. The book reminded me of the movie ‘Wanted’. Bottom line: a delectable read which, despite being light and humorous, raises thoughts about fate, determination, and free choice.