Archive for the 'Reading Room' Category

No Easy Day: Who Killed UBL?

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If you are interested in what our elite operators do and the sacrifices they make for us, then this book is right up your alley. No Easy Day is autobiographical and gives some insight into what makes and motivates someone to not just join the military, but strive to become one of the most elite special forces operatives we have: a Navy SEAL. The details of the raid that killed UBL are pretty good and you learn my personal motto: A plan is just a list of things that don’t happen. Knowing that from the start means having a plan B, C and D and knowing how to adapt to changing situations. If you are a hardware guy like me, then the book is a little light. He gives a description of his gear and weapons in general, but not the depth I would like. There was some controversy about classified operational details being divulged, but I didn’t read anything I hadn’t really heard about before. Everyone seems to be getting a ghost writer and putting their adventures in book form nowadays. I read a lot of them and this one rises above the average.

77 Days in September: A Short Modern Odyssey.

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Ray Gorham is a new writer and he basically self-published this book and finally found some success by e-publishing it and putting it on Amazon. It’s a good read. I’ve been wallowing in a post apocalyptic world lately, reading a number of books and watching The Walking Dead. 77 Days is simply a man’s journey to get back to his family after an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) brings down the power grid and all normal communications. Unlike many books in this genre, there’s not a great deal of violence. Of course, people die and there is plenty of conflict, but the story tends to focus on man and his motivation to reunite with his family. Our hero is not an ex-special forces or ninja operator. He’s just an average guy with a grim determination to get back to those he loves. A quick, enjoyable read and it’s nice to support a new writer.

Trojan Horse: Great Geeky Thriller

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Trojan Horse is Mark Russinovich’s second novel dealing with the very current theme of computer hacking and cyber warfare. His first book Zero Day dealt with a terrorist release of a new computer virus. This book goes deeper and looks at trojans and the threat we face from malicious software that can embed itself in our most sensitive systems. The story is straight thriller with complex sub plots that keep you engaged. The strength of this book, and his first, is the way he explains some very geeky and complicated computer software operations. Whether a blackhat hacker or a computer newb, you’ll understand what is going on in a computer when infected with malware. If you know what “stuxnet” was/is and are into thrillers, this book will entertain you, make you update your AV defintions, run a scan, and do that back-up like you meant to.

Kindle Keyboard 3G

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I got the Kindle Keyboard last year and have been loving it. I have read books on my iPod Touch and it was a bit tedious with the small screen and the back lit screen is tiring on the eyes. looking at all the others I decided Amazon had the best selection and has the resources to dominate the e-book market. You may not like their tactics, but I think the Kindle will be around for some time. The Nook and other devices I’m not so sure of. Anyway the Kindle is great at one thing: displaying readable text in a light and handy device. The e-ink disply is crisp from tiny point sizes to optical reader size for the legally blind. The page is refresh is quick and not too distracting. There is a sort of flash or blink as each page changes. It annoys some folks, but not me. There are a host of other feature as well. With the keyboard you can annotate and bookmark as you read, which I have never done and can’t see myself doing, but some folks may find it useful. The text to speech feature works, but I don’t see me listening to a robotic voice read me a Stephen King novel. That it has speakers is nice as it can function as a media player. With only 8 gigs of storage you can’t put everything you own on it, but for a short trip when you don’t want to carry your iPod or laptop, you can store some entertainment on it. I got the 3G version because I still refuse to get a smart phone and pay an additional data fee to my arch enemy, Verizon. With the Kindle I can sort of connect to the internet and get directions or check an email in an emergency. It has to be an emergency because the navigation capabilities are very limited. You have a 4-way switch and some arrow keys. It can be done, but it’s not fun. That you can read a web page at all is surprising, but the e-ink display can render a remarkably precise graphics and readable fonts. Battery life is scary. If you keep the wi-fi off, it’ll last weeks and weeks on a charge. I turn on the wi-fi every few days to get new books and check the special offers that are another interesting aspect of the Kindle. I recommend getting the special offer version of any Kindle model. They are great! I got the $50 case w/ booklight for half price and there’s are monthly $1 book deals. Sure, it’s Amazon’s way to make more money from you, but if you plan on buying books anyway, why not take advantage of the special deals. There are simple games like Boggle, Blackjack, and Yachtzee, that can help while away the time on the beach or on  a trip. Don’t get me wrong, I love books. I really love books and I have way too many (just ask my Significant Other).  The kindle allows me to keep in one place an electronic version of many classic works (free by the way) I have on the shelf, but don’t want to carry around.  If you are thinking about taking the plunge there are several Kindle types available. I’d stay away from the “touch” versions as the IR touch system seems to be getting panned by many folks. The Fire is a tablet device and is great for what it is and it can do web browsing like any real computer. The $79 basic Kindle may be perfect for most folks. It is the essential Kindle doing what it does best, displaying readable text. It doesn’t have speakers, so it won’t be your portable media device, but many people won’t care about that. E-books are here and you should take a look at them.


Summer Hiatus

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The group finished with The age of Wonder and several interesting discussions. The impact of science and technology has changed Man’s place in the universe and that has lead to all kinds of metaphysical and philosophical debates over the centuries. The Conversation continues.

After our summer hiatus we will take up The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today by Mark Twain (and Charles Dudley Warner) since 2010 is the centennial of his death. We shall see if his views have any relevance for us now.

Mo’ Better Books

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The Folio Society had a discount sale recently and I couldn’t resist adding a few more books to the library. The Brothers Karamazoz I had to get. A small edition of Blake’s Songs of Innocence & of Experience. It’s about 4×6 inches and has prints of Blake’s original colored plates for each poem. It is delightful. Einstein’s Relativity is a surprise, but it was inexpensive and I hope to delve into it sometime soon. The picture shows some of my Folio books. (click for a full size Hi-res image) I fear there will be more before too long.

Folio BooksUpdate (2/28/2013): Got all the Folio books in one place. Due to space and desire to keep my loving partner, I am limited to 3 and a half of these book shelves. Half-price Books probably made a tidy sum off me, but I hope my loss is someone else’s gain. I divested myself of many, many boxes of books and kept the makings of a well rounded library with the Harvard Classics, Britannica Great Book series, the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Various dictionaries/references, and the complete Aubrey & Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian.

Part of my mini version of the Library of Alexandria (if it hadn't been burned)

Part of my mini version of the Library of Alexandria (if it hadn’t been burned)

The other bookcases hold my military history, strategy, combat psychology and weapon craft works. With limited space I have to be rather selective as to what to keep. I’m starting to use that strange and wondrous thing, the library, more. The Kindle and iPad give me some much needed flexibility too. Electronic hoarding, so far, not been made a recognized diagnosis.
(Click on thumbnails for higher res images)

New Folio Books

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I received a few new Folio editions recently. The latest in the Poets series is Shelley and it is a beautiful volume. It has 64 of his more popular works and includes both short and longer pieces. The fonts are large and easy to read. The format is 7.5″ x 11.25″. The only criticism I can make is the selection of poems could be greater, but the editors have to draw the line somewhere. I also got Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell. An account of his experiences during the Spanish Civil War. Robinson Crusoe is another exquisite Folio book. The Folio Society has spoiled me when it comes to buying books. Once you go Folio, it’s very hard to go back to plain hardbacks with loose, ugly dust jackets. Check out their great intoductory offers: