December 26th, 2016

Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

So in the wee hours of this morning, I finished reading the sixth Expanse novel, Babylon's Ashes by the team calling themselves James S. A. Corey. I've really liked the whole series, which has been being put together as the ScyFy TV series The Expanse. The saga continues with the politics of the Solar System thoroughly disrupted by the events of the previous book. I really enjoy these books; just don't want to give many spoilers.

Book 63

Title: Lock In
Author: John Scalzi
Pages: 336
Summary: A new, highly contagious virus makes its way across the globe. For most of those infected, it's just a few days of fever and misery. But for the unlucky one percent - millions of people in the United States alone - the disease causes "Lock In": Victims fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to anything. "Lock in" syndrome strikes the young and theold, the rich and the poor, people of every color and kind.

A quarter of a century later, in a world shaped by what's now known as "Haden's syndrome," rookie FBI agent Chris Shane and veteran agent Leslie Vann are assigned to what appears to be a Haden-related murder. The suspect is an "Integrator" - someone who can let the locked in borrow their bodies for a time. As Shane and Vann begin to unravel the threads of the murder, it becomes clear that the real mystery - and the real crime - is bigger than anyone could have imagined. Their investiation will take them from the halls of corporate power to the virtual spaces of the lockid in, and to the very heart of an emerging, surprising new human culture.

My thoughts:
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From Potter's Field by Patricia Cornwell

book 112:  From Potter's Field by Patricia Cornwell

This is the next Dr. Kay Scarpetta, medical examiner, murder mystery.  It resolves the relationship with Scarpetta and a serial killer that had become obsessed with her.  He had previously managed, with the help of an associate, hack the FBI crime database, CAIN.  He also presented Scarpetta with murders, like a cat bringing mice to lay on their owner's pillow.  The central murder revolved around an unidentified woman left by a fountain in frozen New York's Central Park on Christmas Eve.  From the beginning, it seemed there might be more than meets the eye to the relationship between the killer and the slain.

The Wallflower, Volumes 4-5 by Tomoko Hayakawa

book 113:  The Wallflower, Volume 4 by Tomoko Hayakawa

Basic premise:  shojo manga featuring a reclusive high school girl, Sunako, living in a mansion with four handsome high school boys, Kyohei, Ranmaru, Takenaga, and Yukinojo, who have been told they can live there rent free if they make the girl into an outgoing and beautiful lady.

In this volume, they all battle the heat due to a broken air conditioner.  The guys try to prepare Sunako for a blind date that her aunt set up but give up and claim that Kyohei is her boyfriend.  Horror-loving Sunako goes into a deep depression after missing Halloween, so the guys give her a rain check.

book 114:  The Wallflower, Volume 5 by Tomoko Hayakawa

In this volume, Sunako deals with fangirls who want the boys for themselves at any cost.  It's Valentine's Day.  The boys want to survive their fans.  Sunako just wants some chocolate.  Sunako's father comes to visit (size up Kyohei) after hearing the lie that they are dating.  We hear the story about how Yukinojo, Ranmaru, and Takenaga met and gradually became friends.
Briana and Aunty Tara
  • blinger

Books 4 & 5 - 2016

Book 4: Work’s Intimacy by Melissa Gregg – 198 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
This book provides a long-overdue account of online technology and its impact on the work and lifestyles of professional employees. It moves between the offices and homes of workers in the knew "knowledge" economy to provide intimate insight into the personal, family, and wider social tensions emerging in today s rapidly changing work environment. Drawing on her extensive research, Gregg shows that new media technologies encourage and exacerbate an older tendency among salaried professionals to put work at the heart of daily concerns, often at the expense of other sources of intimacy and fulfillment. New media technologies from mobile phones to laptops and tablet computers, have been marketed as devices that give us the freedom to work where we want, when we want, but little attention has been paid to the consequences of this shift, which has seen work move out of the office and into cafes, trains, living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms. This professional "presence bleed" leads to work concerns impinging on the personal lives of employees in new and unforseen ways. This groundbreaking book explores how aspiring and established professionals each try to cope with the unprecedented intimacy of technologically-mediated work, and how its seductions seem poised to triumph over the few remaining relationships that may stand in its way.

Thoughts:
This book reads like a PHD thesis, and while the topic is an interesting one, its presentation here is rather dry. Gregg looks out how work has infiltrated our private lives, and how we come to view this not as an infiltration per se but as necessary for us to feel competent at our jobs. Having worked in a Big 4 accounting firm for six years, I can relate (I think I worked 10 years in six with all the overtime!). Despite the dryness of Gregg’s style, I could relate to much of her findings. She comments on both the casualization of the workforce, and the insecurity this creates for employees, as well as the way employees are increasingly exploited by employers, particularly when they will do most anything to succeed in their chosen field. Both of these factors contribute to employees doing more and more work in their own time, but rather than be construed as work invading our lives, many employees, particularly those of the more conscientious variety, see this behavior as simply necessary to keep up, and achieve their career goals. This is combined with the access that new technologies gives us, allowing companies to ‘offer’ flexible work arrangements that often just convert to more net time working. Ultimately, despite the dryness of Gregg’s style, I think many professionals will relate to her findings.


4 / 50 books. 8% done!


1072 / 15000 pages. 7% done!

Book 5: The Meteor Crater Story by Dean Smith – 69 pages

Description from amazon.com:
50,000 years ago, a giant invader from out space hurtled through our Earth's atmosphere at incredible velocity and collided with northern Arizona's rocky high plateau. The meteorite's explosive impact destroyed all living things within a radius of several miles, created the chasm we call Meteor Crater, and strewed rock and meteorite fragments across a wide area.

Thoughts:
While travelling through the US in late 2015, my family and I stumbled across Meteor Crater in Arizona. This big hole in the ground apparently is a little bit more significant than that, having had a rather large role in our understanding of the type of outer space visitor that created it. The site itself is pretty cool (I have some pretty cool photos!) and the book provides a decent summary of the history of the site, and about the phenomenon of meteor craters. An interesting read.


5 / 50 books. 10% done!


1141 / 15000 pages. 8% done!

Currently reading:
-        The Martian by Andy Weir – 369 pages
-        Wrath of Aphrodite by Bess T. Chappas – 207 pages
-        My Life by Bill Clinton – 957 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        The Presidents of the United States of America by Frank Freidel – 88 pages
rose

Books 38 and 39

This will be the first time in more than a decade I didn't read at least 50 books but considering that two books were well over 700 pages, not to mention personal matters, I'm not kicking myself over it. That said...

38. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah. I listened to this on CD; it was an Audie award-winner for fiction in 2016. Wow. Holy crap, this was good. The whole story left me breathless, and the reader Polly Stone captures each individual character to a degree I've heard few other readers accomplish. Fair warning- have tissues on hand, especially towards the end; just when you think things are going to wrap up there are a couple of tear-your-heart-out surprises at the end. But, as painful as these (and other developments) were, they were honest and one dealt with a huge issue where there just were no winners, only losers.
The story is set in France and spans from the start of World War II to the end of the war, with some chapters placed in America in 1995. The book's first chapter starts in 1995, with an elderly woman about to move into an assisted living center. She is going through her things, including an old trunk. The reader (or listener) doesn't know who this woman is for certain, and her identity doesn't come out until the very end. This made for a nice little mystery, and I admit I initially guessed wrong. Much of the story is set in France during the second World War, and follows the lives of two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle. Vianne lives in a quiet village with her husband and her daughter, and is content with her life and surroundings. The quiet, even timid, woman's life is turned upside down when her husband leaves and the Nazis come in, with officers staying under her roof. Vianne had never been one to take charge but now is constantly forced to choose to stand up for her principles and feeding her daughter and herself. Meanwhile, the much younger and idealistic Isabelle joins the Free France movement, and her escapades eventually become legendary -- and puts her in the Nazi government's crosshairs. Each of the sisters is wonderfully fleshed out; they both have their flaws but they also have their own nobility and growth. As readers today, we are more inclined to sympathize with Isabelle's fears and premonitions about the war- she would wind up being more prescient than her older sister. But we have the benefit of hindsight. Also, you see examples of why Vianne would get frustrated with her younger sibling. Their father, too, plays a pivotal role. He's deeply flawed but sympathetic, and in the end redeems himself. Vianne is possibly the most interesting and would be the subject of the most discussion. Many of the things she does would be considered controversial, but I see her as the Everyperson. I think, for better or worse, most of us would be Viannes, especially the Vianne early in the story, and not the more resolute Isabelle. Then again, that may not be entirely fair because Vianne is not just weighing her needs but the needs of her little girl. All in all, a great story. There are many fictional books set in World War II but this gives that pivotal era a look through a fresh perspective.

39. My Schizophrenic Life, by Sandra Yuen MacKay. This fulfills the challenge for reading a book that has a main character with a mental illness. This "main character" is actually an autobiography penned by MacKay, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teen. She pulls no punches; MacKay is honest about her struggles and shortcomings in dealing with her illness, and the difficulty of her recovery and managing her life. The reader, through her eyes, gets a glimpse of what schizophrenia is like and why it is such a difficult illness to treat. MacKay freely admits she was not always a model patient. But MacKay was able to work through not just schizophrenia but her own inherent insecurities to become an author, a public speaker and an artist. This is a human story, from a point of view that is often not heard. IT might not be the most polished of narratives but I think that's part of its charm and honesty. All in all, it's an insightful and quick read.

Currently reading: Will Write for Food, by Dianne Jacob.
pacificparlour

FRITZ BAYERLEIN'S DALLIANCE.

With the Christmas season come the recollections of the Battle of the Bulge, which began on Beethoven's birthday in 1944, and continued through the Festive Season and into some time in January.  There were some among the Western Allies who were hoping to have the European war done by Christmas, and there were a few people in the German command, most notably one named Adolf, who expected that a setback in the west would fracture the alliance and lead to a separate piece.

I've made reference to this battle before, including a recollection of Sgt. Karlson about going into action with the 87th Infantry Division earlier in December, in the Saar.  But then came the Ardennes offensive, and his unit, relatively new in theater, was attached to Third Army to hustle north toward a place called Bastogne.

Book Review No. 29 commends Peter Caddick-Adams's Snow & Steel: The Battle of the Bulge, 1944-1945.  Mr Caddick-Adams has combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan and has made the time to walk and read the battlefields.  He also works a fair number of stories into the history of what might be better understood as a campaign (it covered more ground than, for example, McClellan's abortive Peninsula Campaign of 1862).  We learn, for instance, that a journalist came up with the name for the event, eschewing the traditional "salient."

The offensive failed, for a number of reasons.  One of them, the author argues, is the relatively inexperienced U.S. units holding the front line in the Ardennes, which the conventional wisdom held was not of strategic importance, gave a good account of themselves; in addition, the infantry had enough tanks on hand to give the Germans the impression they were confronting forces of greater strength than their intelligence had estimated.  Another is the failure of German logistics: it is difficult for an army dependent on motor fuel to travel a greater distance from its base than the fuel trucks can go without consuming the fuel, and moreso off paved roads, or cross-country, or detouring around those towns that appeared to be more strongly held ...  And the horse-drawn artillery (imagine modern looking field pieces, but hitched to a caisson and six horses in a fashion that Marshal Ney or Colonel Hunt would recognize) was slower and more prone to bogging down.  Thus all the commanders got behind schedule. Panzer Lehr's Bayerlein, for example?  Read the book.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)