Category Archives: Fiction

The Messenger

While there are distinct differences between a vacation and a paternity leave–I’ve been on the latter for the past four weeks–my time off did afford me the chance to enjoy reading some fiction. My Dad was kind enough to lend me his hardback copy of The Messenger by Daniel Silva, his latest book in the Gabriel Allon series.

This tale made more cursory references to preview tales than in past books. I believe that one could read Silva for the first time in the form of The Messenger without confusion; however, reading each of the previous tales in their own right is recommended. Without giving anything away, this is especially true where this tale is concerned since there is a bit of a changing of the guard underway.

Update 12/1/2008: For more of my book reviews and to see what else is in my book library (i.e. just the business-related or software-related non-fiction therein), please visit my Books page.

Maui never disappoints

Last week my wife, son and I, along with my brother, celebrated my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary. Congrats, Mom and Dad!! We did so on the island of Maui, staying in the Kaanapali region in a luxury condo high-rise next to the beach. It was our second time to Maui, but the first for my folks; so extra attention was paid to ensure they got the most of their vacation. My son was content to swim in the little, and sometimes, big, pool and to make “sand castles” (read my brother and I feverously build while my son destroys, smiling from ear to ear) on the beach. However, everyone enjoyed the luau, the catamaran-based snorkeling excursion–actually snorkeling in general, and the visit to the Maui Ocean Center. We saw most all of the tropical fish varieties that one can see, sea turtles (red and green), dolphins and even breaching humpback whales.

Among my Dad, my brother and I–each of us armed with a Canon Digital Rebel SLR, we shot 2.5 GB of pictures–nearly 900 maximum quality images of family, landscapes, animal life and plant life. Back to back, I probably shot an additional solid 60 minutes of video; so, we’ll have plenty of memories for years to come.

On the road to Hana we discovered the innovation irrigation system on that part of Maui, which includes a series of diversion feeds, dams and canals that collectively serve to capture runoff water that would otherwise simply return to the Pacific Ocean and to divert it to the Taro, Pineapple, Macadamia and other fields. This got me to thinking about other useful systems of resource diversion to avoid waste and to enrich others (e.g. poverty and food, old electronic components and systems like computers).

While I was absolutely disconnected during my vacation, I did read as I like to do in general, but especially in this state–again, no technology or technical books allowed! My first read, Prince of Fire (the fifth book in Gabriel Allon series by author Daniel Silva) was purely for entertainment and to effect a rapid de-tox/disconnect from the previous week’s work efforts. Effective, indeed! My second read, Men in Black: How the Supreme Court Is Destroying America, dealt with the current state of our judicial system and therefore was far more thought-provoking, if not disturbing. More on Mark Levin’s book in my next post.

Update 12/1/2008: For more of my book reviews and to see what else is in my book library (i.e. just the business-related or software-related non-fiction therein), please visit my Books page.

Escape to Yountville

Recently my wife and I celebrated our anniversary in the Napa Valley region. We were graced with perfect weather, great food and wine, a fantastic break from child-raising and software-architecting, and some incredibly relaxing spa treatments. We also chose to bring some good books to read, banned TV, and otherwise escaped from everyday life and technology. It was a fantastic experience! My book of choice was Michael Crichton’s latest tome State of Fear. The previous novel of his I read was Prey; this is a significantly better story–and timely, too, given recent world events (i.e. tsunami). The title of his first appendix in this novel, “Why Politicized Science is Dangerous” captures the essential theme (i.e. state of fear as an ecology of thought). I was reminded of the line in Jurassic Park (the movie): …they only thought about whether it could be done, never whether it should. I think my main attraction to Mr. Crichton’s writing is that it’s thought-provoking fiction heavily based on scientific reality (already here or developing). While very entertaining the story contained thought-provoking statement like the following:

  • Good intentions based on bad information is a prescription for disaster.
  • With respect to experimental bias: “expectations determine outcome.”
  • “Opinion in the absence of evidence…[is called] prejudice.”
  • “Social control is best managed through fear.”

In his closing message (after the novel ends), the author states: “I believe people are well intentioned. But I have great respect for the corrosive influence of bias, systematic distortions of thought, the power of rationalization, the guises of self-interest, and the inevitability of unintended consequences.” As a result of this novel, I’m giving this more respect, too. Recommended.

Update 12/1/2008: For more of my book reviews and to see what else is in my book library (i.e. just the business-related or software-related non-fiction therein), please visit my Books page.

+ives and -ives

This week I saw the above abbreviation for positives and negatives used in a presentation; so I thought I’d make a blog entry title from it for recall’s sake.

Negatives:

  • Indications are that a significant number of citizens won’t exercise their civic duty to vote. 11/2/2004 update: I’m thrilled to say that, although 30~40% of our citizenry is still a lot of people, voter turnout for this election was at a record high!
  • Convenient software doesn’t necessarily mean that said software fully protects your privacy. That being said–and I’m not saying that any of the following programs are intentionally malicious–I want to deeply analyze privacy concerns regarding the desktop search engine space–as well as footprint, performance, reliability, etc.:
  • Google Desktop (in beta currently) – eWeek’s Larry Seltzer may have saved me some analysis effort here; so may have Scott Hanselman here and also Phil Haack here
  • Copernic Desktop Search – Phil Haack provides some perspective on this (vs. GD) here
  • X1 Desktop Search – Jim Blizzard casts his vote for X1 here (Chris Sells agrees)
  • (Forthcoming) MSN Personal Search (i.e. next major release of Microsoft’s acquired Lookout technology, which is supposed to address indexing performance among other things)
  • Chad Dickerson asks a question that’s been on my mind recently: Is the continuing drive to deliver enterprise apps through the browser ultimately a path to trouble?
  • Thanks to picking up a copy of the May 31, 2004 Wine Spectator while on vacation, I know more than I ever wanted to know about coffee: When grown, processed and brewed properly, coffee can be as complex as a first-growth Bordeaux. Coffee has 1500 flavor components–three times more than wine.
  • Not enough time in a day to live, work and blog–so the blog has suffered

Positives:

  • The California Secretary of State predicts 73% voter turnout; if you’re part of the remaining 27%, how about getting with the program and vote your conscience?
  • Daniel Silva continues to deliver one good read after another – I appear to be going backward through his series of spy novels focused on the Gabriel Allon character (aka Sword). After reading A Death in Venice I read The Confessor and most recently finished The English Assassin. So, the first book in the four-book series (thus far), The Kill Artist, is next on my list. As I read Silva, my Latin continues to improve :-) ; for example: ignorantia affectata (cultivated ignorance) – a willful lack of knowledge designed to protect one from harm, and uomo di fiducia (man of trust) – uomini di fiducia (men of trust)
  • The FxCop team released version 1.312 of this valuable, free tool. In less than ten minutes including the time to update my FxCop installation from 1.30, I was able to re-run FxCop against a collection of C# projects and be told a number of ways to make them even more robust. Talk about productivity–this is great! As the knowledge base of expert Microsoft .NET Framework usage grows, so grows the power of FxCop. If you’re not using it today in your .NET development, you really should consider doing so.

Update 12/1/2008: For more of my book reviews and to see what else is in my book library (i.e. just the business-related or software-related non-fiction therein), please visit my Books page.

The unfinished business of the Holocaust

This Father’s Day I was introduced to author Daniel Silva by my parents who gave me a paperback copy of The English Assassin. My Dad had already read The Unlikely Spy and A Death in Vienna and was in need of a good read; so I swapped my Silva novel for his and read A Death in Vienna while in Sea Ranch–just finishing the book this afternoon.

I really enjoy the author’s ability to layer a story and provide just enough detail to guide the imagination but not stifle it.

I’m looking forward to reading the first two books in the author’s three-book series on the unfinished business of the Holocaust. Author’s note: Nazi art looting and the collaboration of Swiss banks served as the backdrop for The English Assassin. The role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and the silence of Pope Pius XII inspired The Confessor. All books in this series are based loosely on actual events according to the author.

Update 12/1/2008: For more of my book reviews and to see what else is in my book library (i.e. just the business-related or software-related non-fiction therein), please visit my Books page.