Review: Coral Hare: Atomic Agent (A WW2 Spy Novel) Inspired by actual historical events

Coral Hare: Atomic Agent (A WW2 Spy Novel) Inspired by actual historical eventsCoral Hare: Atomic Agent (A WW2 Spy Novel) Inspired by actual historical events by Clive Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received this book for free for review purposes

Let me just say this up front: I believe Clive Lee deserves high praise for his writing in Coral Hare for maintaining a balance of spy thriller tropes and historic realism. So, yeah, Mina (our main character) is going to somewhat improbably meet up with certain nemesis at nearly every turn and somewhat more improbably continue to fight after having endured grave bodily harm. At the same time, the novel maintains its historicity; Mina is brave, but has moments of weakness; and the spy gadgets are grounded in reality.

When I was at Baltimore Comic-Con 2014, I was attracted to a booth that had a man in a panama hat, a woman in a sailor fuku, and a woman dressed as a WWII nurse. Just what was going on here? Well, I spoke to Clive Lee and he let me know about the premise of the book. (And after reading the book, I now know that the women were both cosplaying different aspects of Mina while Clive appears to be cosplaying Lockwood) I am a geek on many subjects: computers, language, psychology, politics, and history. I really love World War II and the Cold War era history as so much was going on there at the nexus of politics and technology. It’s such a fun era to read about with the hindsight that everything turns out OK. (At least from a Western Democratic point of view)

Mr Lee tackles so much in this book and does such a good job of it without, I feel, beating us over the head with any kind of message. The book conveys the distrust of Mina for being of Japanese descent. But it also shows the difference in how the OSS viewed it (because they needed Japanese help) vs the American public (who needed to be whipped up into a war frenzy) The firebombing of Tokyo scene and the aftermath with a high-ranking Japanese soldier going through his destroyed city display Clive’s masterful ability to make us feel sympathy for both sides of the cause. World Wars I and II were the first time civilian targets became a large part of the war strategy (because conscription made it necessary to attack everyone, not just the military) and, to some degree, they are victims. Clive does a great job of depicting this.

As a story-teller, I really enjoyed that Clive takes Mina, has her go through basic training, and then jumps forward three years. We end up knowing that Mina is battle-hardened without Clive wasting time on story beats that don’t have to do with the premise of the book – the Japanese efforts at the atomic bomb.

One last thing – Clive’s style is incredibly cinematic. When the book started I found it distracting the way he was describing things that normally don’t get attention in a book – you could almost literally see the camera angles in your mind’s eye. (It’s no wonder, when I got to the author’s bio he’s a film-maker) However, the more I got used to the style, the more I really, really enjoyed it. In the end, the book ended up proceeding like a movie in my head. More than once I even found myself thinking – Mr Lee needs to get this made as an anime or as an HBO show. I think a movie would destroy the subtleties that make this book so great and would have to lose at least half of the missions to stay under 3 hours. But a premium cable show could do so much justice to this book; A nice – one-season show. Anime would allow the budget to remain smaller, but look at Game of Thrones – budget doesn’t appear to be an issue for premium TV.

Really only two negatives I can think of:
1) I’m reading v1.021 and the lines that separate the footnotes from the main text sometimes cover up main text – annoying formatting error.

2) The epilogue really killed it for me. I think Clive put it after all the historical notes because it’s a lark; a tribute to the campiness of James Bond movies. If it’d been right at the end, I would’ve subtracted a star because after how great the book walked the line of realism and tropes, it was too much.

So, definitely read this book if you like WWII and spy thrillers. I know I’ll be on the lookout for Clive’s next book.

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Review: The Hidden Power of Social Networks: Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in Organizations

The Hidden Power of Social Networks: Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in OrganizationsThe Hidden Power of Social Networks: Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in Organizations by Robert L. Cross
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a must read for anyone in supervision or management. It will change the way you look at your employees’ interactions and the relationships they form. There may be hidden networks that are hindering your work. Conversely, there may be hidden networks where the loss of just one person would cause the whole thing to crash like a house of cards.

I appreciated the fact that it was short and kept redundancies to a minimum. It gets to the point and gives you the tools you need to run and evaluate a social network analysis in the appendix. It is full of anecdotes rather than research and helps the manager understand without the boredom of the research.

Strongly recommend to anyone with employees working in teams.

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Review: Managing the Risks of Organizational Accidents

Managing the Risks of Organizational AccidentsManaging the Risks of Organizational Accidents by James T. Reason
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had to read this book as part of my graduate work and I’m glad I did. It is an important look at how we can better work on reducing industrial accidents like oil rig explosions, airline crashes, and nuclear power plant explosions. A large part of the problem, in the author’s studied opinion, is the way we assign blame. We blame the person who had an accident rather than the system that created the situation for the accident. Except for extreme cases of negligence or criminal activity, this shouldn’t be the case and causes us to learn the wrong lessons; preventing a chance at stopping it from happening again.

I got deep into this book before my recent business trip – not a good idea. Most of the examples are about the aviation industry. You know how sometimes you’re waiting for a plane and they delay it for maintenance? According to this book you should not want to get on that plane afterwards – messed up maintenance is one of the biggest sources of airline accidents now. That’s right – maintaining the aircraft is, because of errors, ending up worse than letting the aircraft naturally fail.

The book is also smart about talking about theory and then talking about how to apply it in the real world. Too often management books (and self-help books on a personal level) talk about things in the ideal world, but life isn’t like that. Reason tries to give some examples of how you could take the research he’s aggregated and apply it in the real world.

I’d recommend first to anyone working in a hazardous field – energy, aviation, etc and second to anyone who’s an OSHA representative.

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Scarlett slept all night last night. But for the past week it’s been something like every other day that she sleeps through the entire night. But I can’t figure out the variables. I try to copy them from night to night. Oh well.

I’d love to see either (or both?) Quentin Tarantino or Kevin Smith take on an updated film adaptation of Catch-22. The dialog is so important in the book and those guys are masters of dialog.

Watching Netflix on Fedora 20

These instructions are from this site, but I don’t trust sites to stick around.

  1. Make sure Netflix is setup to prefer HTML5. This is in Your Account-> Playback settings.
  2. I have the latest nss (has to be equal to or better than 3.17.1)
  3. Need Google Chrome (you can PROBABLY do this on Firefox with a similar plugin)
  4. Get the User-Agent Switcher.
  5. Fill it in with:
    • Name: Netflix Linux
    • String: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.3; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/38.0.2114.2 Safari/537.36
    • Group: (is filled in automatically)
    • Append?: Select ‘Replace’
    • Flag: IE
  6. Click on Permanent Spoof list and put netflix.com in the domain (and select the rule you just made from the drop-box). Then click the add button.
  7. Go to Netflix and watch instant videos.
  8. And it works! So linux is perfectly capable, but apparently it’s not supported. I guess I can understand not wanting to support the infinite versions of Linux, but why not Ubuntu or Fedora? Maybe it’s coming? That’d be great.
Netflix on Linux (Fedora 20)
Netflix Instant on Linux (Fedora 20)

I’ll later check if if it works on Ubuntu, too, with with this method.

Just realized Jetpack hasn’t been working 100% correctly since I changed URLs. Got it working correctly and I think I lost all my old stats. Oh well.

For more or less the first time since mid-June, last night Scarlett slept the entire night without needing her blanket fixed, her hair-tie fixed, or a cup of water. It was nice to get some rest.

A Small Change at the ends of the Posts

I’ve been working with my host to try and figure out why my relatively low traffic site has been having issues. So I’ve rejiggered WP Super CACHE to work well on the site and I’m using Cloudfare on most, if not all, of my WordPress blogs. Yet I’m still getting some periods of time where the site’s offline. So, after many years I’m getting rid of Sociable and YARPP (which produces related posts). YARPP, in particular, if often called out as a plugin that requires a lot of resources. Here’s how things looked before I changed it:

YARPP and Sociable
YARPP and Sociable

Now I’ll be switching to WordPress.com’s Jetpack equivalents. Hopefully that helps. If it jacks everything up, I can always switch back.

I love when newspapers predict things that are hilarious in hindsight:

Hitler Tamed By Prison
Hitler Tamed By Prison

Last.fm Listening Trends 2014 Q3

I continued listening to artists alphabetically on my computer and randomly on my phone.

1. Childish Gambino (92 listens) – Came across his music in my alphabetic romp. Currently conflicted. I enjoy the verbal jiu jitsu, but find a lot of it whiny (after hearing for the 15th time) and just so overly aggressively sexual I feel wrong listening to it with my daughter around.
2. Billie Holiday (64 listens) – long-time readers know that Danielle and I listen to pretty much everything from the latest music to the oldest music. Billie Holiday is awesome and more people need to listen to her.
3. Danny Baranowsky (61 listens) – Listened to the Super Meat Boy soundtrack. It was fun.
4. Chance the Rapper (47 listens) – Still really enjoy Acid Rap and don’t enjoy #10Day.
5. The Black Keys (46 listens) – I always start off happy listening to The Black Keys, but the sameness drags on me by the end.
6. Alan Menken (45 listens) – for Scarlett.
7. Celia Cruz (44 listens) – I can listen to Celia Cruz at any time. Really enjoyed revisiting these songs.
7. Brave Saint Saturn (44 listens) – Although the first album’s a tad cheesy, I really enjoy where Reese took things for the second two albums. I continue to hold out hope that he will do another one.
9. Mandy Moore (43 listens) – Scarlett wanted to listen to a lot of Tangled this quarter.
10. Anberlin (31 listens) – Maybe it’s just the quarter in which I bought it, but the last album failed to make a lasting impression. I’m sure, with time, I’ll come to enjoy it as much as I enjoy the other albums.
11. Christafari (30 listens) – The music is a great groove. I have the first two albums and I think I like more songs in the first one, but I do like a lot of the second one. Although no longer an evangelical, I still find it to be pretty uplifting.
12. Ben Shive (29 listens) – There’s a certain timelessness to the songs. Some of them remind me of a subdued Billy Joel.
13. The Chipmunks & The Chipettes (28 listens) – Playing some Chipmunks for Scarlett.
13. The Weeknd (28 listens) – I know there are issues with some of the lyrics, but I do like the sound of a few of the songs. Especially “High for This”
13. Ben Prunty Music (28 listens) – The FTL soundtrack. Quite moody. I enjoy it.

Stats

Total Songs (in my collection): 15303 (up from 15042). Less of an increase than in the past, but I’ve been so busy this quarter that I haven’t really been as diligent about looking for new songs.

Total Artists:4526 (up from 4421) I’m actually surprised at this number, but I think it was from me adding a few free songs early in the quarter.

Total Albums:3496 (up from 3454)

Average Songs Per Album: 4.38 (up from 4.35)

Average Songs Per Artist:3.38 (a slight drop from 3.4) Surprised this fell since the previous one rose, but I guess I added a few artists with long albums and then mostly artists with smaller albums.

Total Scrobbles at End of Quarter: 80539

Total Scrobbles for this Quarter:2459 (not quite the 3228 of the last quarter). I think partly due to the fact that I’ve spent a lot less time at my computer, the place I most often listen to music.