my recent reads..

Atomic Accidents: A History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters; From the Ozark Mountains to Fukushima
Power Sources and Supplies: World Class Designs
Red Storm Rising
Locked On
Analog Circuits Cookbook
The Teeth Of The Tiger
Sharpe's Gold
Without Remorse
Practical Oscillator Handbook
Red Rabbit

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Hunter Killer

Patrick Robinson's Hunter Killer is another bomb-the-bastards ripping yarn. He excels in creating dire yet plausible scenarios of truly global impact. The background to this story is a revolution in Saudi Arabia, backed by the French.

Forget about political correctness, and you can enjoy the story. It is somewhat predictable plot however, and lacks a strong sense of suspense. I'd previously read Scimitar SL-2 which shares many of the same charaters (set 2 years earlier), and I thought overall a better read because it plays more on suspense. (In that story, nukes are in the hands of terrorists. It's a race to see if they can be prevented from using them to trigger a major earthquake and tidal wave).

Hunter Killer does provoke some interesting thoughts, if you can see beyond the gung ho antics.

Firstly, the complicity of France does bring you two question some entrenched and largely invisible prejudices. Bomb Bagdhad? Sure, civilian casualties are unfortunate but can't be helped in our fight against the regime. Bomb Paris, despite clear evidence that France is acting as a renegade state? We-ell, lets think about that a bit. Surely another solution is possible?

Second, there's a fairly sympathetic treatment of the Saudi revolution. EM Forster's quote quickly becomes a key theme underpinning actions on both sides of the Atlantic:
"If I was asked to choose whether to betray my country or my friend, I hope I'd have the courage to choose my country."
Verdict: damn good airport read!

It's a feature not a bug!

... true geek humour.
Hat tip to PaweĊ‚ Barut for highlighting this from Steve Bass' blog.

Monday, August 06, 2007

My Crazy Roommate

If you've ever known or lived with someone who seems to lived in an alternate reality, you need to check out the My Crazy Roommate blog. This site is hilarious. Make sure you checkout his superpowers ..

The Ambler Warning

I remember first getting hooked on Robert Ludlum when I was about 13. Desperate for something to relieve the boredom while sick for a few weeks, I borrowed The Chancellor Manuscript from my Dad. For many years, devouring and disecting the latest Ludlum was a unique pleasure we shared.

I guess my reading interests wandered, and The Ambler Warning is one of the first Ludlum books I've read for some time. I was surprised he was still writing. A quick check unfortunately confirmed that the newer books are ghost-written under the direction of Ludlum's estate, and apparently based on the wealth of notes and partially completed works he left behind. Sadly, Robert Ludlum himself died in 2001.

Putting these thoughts aside however, The Ambler Warning stands up as a very engaging read in true Ludlum style. Harrison Ambler, former covert operative, escapes from a state psychiatric facility. Even as he tries to make sense of his own memories, it seems everyone is out to kill him. Finding out why is the key to his sanity, and also stopping the bad guys.

Coincidentally, it proved to be an evocative counter-point to the last book I read, blink. Harrison Ambler is so successful in the field because he has the ability to instantly and accurately read people .. "the walking polygraph". At the outset, he has uber-rational CIA auditor Clayton Caston on his tail .. "..don't talk to me about feelings..". Ironically, they find that only in teaming up can they win.

So in a way, this is affirming one of the central themes in blink: sometimes you can't trust gut reaction, and sometimes you can't trust rational analysis either. But if you consider both, then you have considerably increased your chances of being correct.

Still more coincidences in the cameo department. As the book reaches a climax, action centers on the World Economic Forum meeting at Davos..
"A couple of yards away from him, an older, rangy American billionaire - someone whose 'enterprise software' was an industry standard across the globe..." Hmmm, ring any bells? If you don't think Bill makes 'enterprise software', then I reckon it can only be one person ... but then again, I did just read Softwar.

"Another audience member - a woman Ambler vaguely recognized from pictures, a CEO of a tech company, blond and perfectly coiffed - looked distracted, as if rehersing talking points for an upcoming interview.." Got to be Carly!

Favourite quote:
"There's a difference between risk and uncertainty .. Risk is quantifiable. Uncertaintly isn't. It's one thing to know there's a fifty-fifty chance of something going wrong. It's another not to know what the chances are at all."

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Death by Risk Aversion

/unfortunately, this is so true of much in life, love and business.

From the late, great Creating Passionate Users site