May 28, 2017: Book Recommendation
I had recommended this book before in a previous blog before I even finished it, but I don’t think I had shared it on my Facebook or LinkedIn page at the time so here it goes again. This is one of those books where you don’t judge a book by its cover or subject matter. I find espionage a highly interesting phenomenon, but computer espionage? Come on? How interesting could it really be? It sounds rather boring. I’m sure it is in most cases, but it is quite interesting when you have the right person writing about it.
Cliff Stoll infuses the right amount of factual information with his own personal quirks and hesitancy. You will see this when he is dealing with the FBI, CIA, and NSA. His lifestyle of sewing quilts and making homemade milkshakes when he was not being a systems administrator was in direct contradiction to the later relationships he formed with the “spooks.” You couldn’t have picked a more unique person to unravel this story piece by piece even if you tried. It is a page turner, and I mean this sincerely. You will doubly enjoy it if you are into non-fiction thriller/mystery.
Stoll doesn’t mince his words, but still you know he has a kind heart within him. He comments on certain things that seem unrelated to the hacker, but it does serve a purpose in the long run. This book is as relevant as ever given our current political times. I won’t spoil the ending, but I wasn’t too surprised that certain things happened the way they did. This was as much a cat and mouse game as it was a catalyst for things to come in the computer world and in his own personal life. I will conclude with the message of fixing the smaller problems is usually adequate, but sometimes it isn’t, and when it isn’t enough, watch out because who knows what will appear.
May 27, 2017: Book Recommendation
Falling Leaves is an autobiographical story about Adeline Yen Mah. It explores the hardship she endured while living with her father and stepmother. She was born into privilege, but like many girls born into Asian countries, there were cultural forces that sent her reeling backward. She didn’t have the same luxuries as her brothers, and when compared to her half siblings, she hardly existed at all. With the help of her aunt, Adeline is able to survive at school and beyond. The last chapter I found the most interesting. It dealt with the reunion of the family after a long absence. You can feel the tension slice through the air at times, but also the realization that some things need to be forgiven, but never forgotten.
May 26, 2017: Book Recommendation
This is a little departure from my normal book recommendation. It might be because I’m getting to the age where my perspective on life is changing. I’m also doing some good old fashion reminiscing of the days past. The books in this series were my favorite way back when, and definitely read them more than once. I made sure they remained in my arsenal even though they are miles away. I recommend these books to anyone with children. The main characters are animals, realistic and imaginary, but all have universal themes weaved into the stories. The stories end where you can take away a moral code. The author, Stephen Cosgrove, created this series because he could not find inexpensive books to read for his daughter when she was young. I encourage anyone to read them because I believe they are something that special.
May 14, 2017: 3 Book Recommendations
These are three radically different books as you can probably tell because of the authors. Palahniuk has been listed as a “nihilistic writer” although he rejects this title. He is most famous for his books Fight Club and Choke, which were both made into movies. Pears focuses on historical novels where he weaves historical events and culture with fictional mystery. His books are longer, but he does his job keeping your attention when you might want to stray. Thompson was a journalist who inserted himself into his assignments where he became part of the story, which he coined “gonzo” journalism. He is best known for his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which was made into a movie.
Snuff: Cassie Wright is a porn star trying to revive her career with a big bang. The story incorporates the major male players, given numbers, because that is what they are to Cassie. The chapters are divided where the different character’s tell the story from his or her view. I’m obviously not going to spoil the ending, but it was one I wasn’t expecting. It made sense once I was finished with the book. I will say don’t count out this book just because its subject matter is porn. It’s a pretty honest exploration into the insidiousness of the sex industry, but in a fiction book format.
An Instance of the Fingerpost: There are four major different characters, each having an own stake for why they are narrating their story about the murder of Robert Grove. It is set in Oxford, England (primarily) during the 17th Century, highlighting the conflicts during this time within the church, monarchy, and among the different fields of study. You will receive pieces of insight along the way, truthful or deceiving, that will bring you to closer to finding the truth, and who is actually telling the whole truth by the end.
Hell’s Angels: It’s pretty cut and dry what this book is about from the title: the inner workings of the motorcycle gang and the bonds of brotherhood. It focuses on the San Francisco and Oakland chapters. It has a lot of insight it you’re willing to grasp it such as the interaction with Sonny Barger. The most memorial part was the raging party: marijuana, women, booze, and fights. I’m not sure how he survived. It was a page turner, but again I like this kind of material.
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April 30, 2017: Book Recommendation
This is probably the most whacked-out book I have ever read. It is satirical in nature and focuses on WWII, Reptilian Creatures, and Hollywood. The main character, Syms Thorley, is thrust out of his B Hollywood movie and into a rubber suit meant to put the F in fear. If he succeeds in being ultra realistic and thus spreading Fear among the Japanese, then he will have fulfilled his role in the Knickerbocker Project. Read for yourself to see how he navigates his way with the U.S. Navy and the outcome of not using the atomic bomb.
April 18, 2017: Book Recommendation
Dare I say this recommendation might be reserved for bathroom reading? I say this because it is written in such a way that it could be read in short spans of time since much of this book is structured in easy compartmentalized sections throughout the chapters. Joe Eszterhas has written some non-Oscar nominated films that he is very proud of and should be because 1) he made it in Hollywood and 2) he’s managed to stay relevant in Hollywood for a considerable amount of time although on IMDB his last written work was in 2011. You probably recognize his work of Basic Instinct, Flashdance, Jade, Sliver, and Showgirls which he won a Razzie (Golden Raspberry) Award for Worst Screenplay. Nonetheless, he carved his niche in Tinseltown and this book has some good advice for novices wanting to dive head first into film. It’s a good read for those who just want to know more about Hollywood from a person who does have experience and the realities of all it has to offer.
April 18, 2017: Book Recommendation
It’s been a long time since I was awed at a writer’s technique and word usage. The sentences seemed to jump off the page for me when I read The Dress Lodger. They got a lot of distance and hit my face each time as if they were saying, “read me, read me!” Sheri Holman weaves the characters of this story tightly onto the streets of Sunderland, England as if they were alive. You realize they belong there, all of them, even Gustine to claim their due. I’m not even sure if I could emulate her writing style even as a writing exercise. She is that superb in her description, dialogue, and humor. I want to read it again just to absorb her talent for crafting a great story about doctors, cadavers, pottery workers, babies, and drunken men. Holman writes in such a way where she transports you back to the 1800’s with all the characters; and when the story ends, you reluctantly leave with time well spent.
April 18, 2017: Book Recommendation
Most of us know about the passing of STP frontman, Scott Weiland. It was plastered everywhere and anywhere especially in The United States. Groupies and fans mourned the loss of a great singer and song writer, but in the midst of it all let’s not forget all the havoc he wrecked on the band. It broke apart, actually he was kicked out, and he sought vengeance in the courts. He had become impossible to work with due to his addiction and ego. So why pick a memoir about a person who died of a drug overdose who was not a great role model for kids when you think about it and became not such a great dad to his own kids? Because everyone is fallible and more often than not, s/he bounces back, but some do not. This is the story of one who didn’t make it. When I read this book, he was still alive. Now that he is gone, I still feel the same way. I ended the book asking myself the following. How does a gifted athlete, and at baseball nonetheless, go from being offered a scholarship to becoming an out of personal touch, drug addict? I have my suspicions for his demise, but I will let you come to your own conclusions after reading this book. I realize it wasn’t that easy of a line from point A to N for him because if it had been, he would’ve made it to Z. I hate to call his life tragic, but in many ways it was basically TRAGIC. You will get deeper insight into his life story, how it created the person he was to become, and what he ultimately became until his end in 2015.
April 9: Book Recommendation
This book contains pictures and stories of inhumane slaughter practices and comments on poor working conditions for slaughter workers. Please do not read if you are squeamish about this subject, but I encourage everyone to read this book for educational reasons.
The author Gail A. Eisnitz provides an excellent case for why everyone should care about better treatment for all involved concerning slaughterhouses. This includes the USDA’s unresponsiveness to the neglect and greed taking place daily that puts animals, workers, and consumers in jeopardy. This book is not a call to readers to be vegan or vegetarian, but more illustrates the major problems facing the meat industry in the United States, and in particular beef and pork. On the other hand, I always advocate Meatless Monday or Meatless for Life never hurt anybody except plants, but let’s not go there at this moment.
I gained more sympathy for these workers after reading this book as they are just trying to make a living to support themselves and their families. These workers suffer as much as the animals, although in a thoroughly different manner of exploitation. The appalling conditions could very well be prevented, but greed is what drives working conditions to be dangerous without much avenue for change and punishment for dissenters. The mental and physical effects are many when you work in a slaughterhouse and endure long after you are fired or quit or retire.
Slaughterhouse delves into the illegal practices of slaughterhouses often supported by those instructed to enforce rules. I look at USDA stickers placed on meat differently, which is one of the main reasons I haven’t eaten meat in over 20 years. Awareness and exploring what happens behind closed doors is important to righting its wrongs. If there is ever a need for undercover agents to expose the corruption within the slaughterhouse walls, it’s this current moment.
Readers will nod their heads in agreement of state and federal laws meaning nothing if the people and tools aren’t in place to enforce them. If the laws were effective, animals wouldn’t be mistreated at such a high frequency from start to finish on the slaughter line. The causes are plain, and the effects are even simpler. This further impacts the quality of the meat where intermingling of contaminated with wholesome meat is commonplace. The USDA has been sued for their inability to effectively carry out their jobs, and will continue until repercussions are severe enough to incite change within this business. I’m waiting for the day when whistle-blowers are not condemned for wanting to help the greater good.
As with any complex issues, it takes more than one book to change anything. It also takes more than one person to blog about it to promote any significant change. Yet, this shouldn’t deter anyone from learning more about it, which is the purpose of this book. It obviously is an “easy” read for those already interested about animal rights and humane farming practices, but my philosophy is to read about those things that are hard to swallow. Certain topics should be bitter as you turn the page. It makes the world go round. Maybe, one day I will read a book about football because to me this is my bitter pill.
April 5, 2017: Book/Movie Recommendations
The first book is Sleepers. It tells the story of four boys from semi different backgrounds from Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan. They were forced to rely on each other during a dark time in their childhoods, and as they grew into adults, they found themselves unwilling and unable to let the events of the past float into oblivion. The movie ending, of course, is more times than not the Hollywood ending some wish it would be. Reality includes tragedy and consequences. The movie doesn’t sugarcoat the issues within certain institutions as Kevin Bacon and Ron Eldard provided great performances.
The second book is Lone Survivor. I really enjoyed reading this book. I’m not a gung ho military person. Yet, I can understand the appeal for those who enlist and do support them. It was written by Marcus Luttrell who was as you can figure it out by the book title, the lone survivor, of a team of Navy SEALS whose mission went “south” in Afghanistan. It begins with Marcus’s physical training during high school and the “hell” he went through during SEALS training, which prepared him for what he would encounter on the Afghanistan mountains during his mission. It is more than anything a salute to his fallen brothers: Michael Murphy played by Taylor Kitsch, Danny Dietz played by Emile Hirsch, and Matthew Axelson played by Ben Foster. It is directed by Peter Berg and the ending credits is enough to make anyone realize the people who sign up for the military are some of the bravest out there, but so are their families who they leave behind when tragedy strikes as it does in any war.
The third book is A Mighty Heart written by Mariane Pearl. It’s about the kidnapping of the journalist, Danny Pearl. I will say despite everything that happened in this book there was still a message to be sought. A part of it speaks of the special relationship Mariane found in Danny during the beginning of their relationship and how a woman of her strength and resolve will go to any length to reunite with the love of her life. She goes to painful lengths to understand what transpired in a land far away. Through this process she finds some answers and relative closure. This story has obvious political undercurrents, but the relationships among family and friends serves as its basis. I would have chosen a different actress to portray Mariane, but Angelina Jolie is not distracting where it breaks a viewer’s concentration from the movie. I was not one of the producers as that went to Brad Pitt. It is still a gripping story when you strip away the makings of a movie and remember the events really did happen.
The fourth book is The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven written by Sherman Alexie. It is a collection of stories and seamlessly wrapped neatly with a satisfying ending. Alexie has such a gift of conveying the experiences of two young Native American men living in the United States. I didn’t want to put the book down. The reader gets the sense that Victor Joseph and Thomas Builds-the-Fire never loses sight of what it means to live, which is simply living whether it be through their relationships with family, intended reflections of the self, and the ties with the Reservation on which they live. The movie, Smoke Signals, lends to the viewer a refreshing dose of reality with injections of humor spread throughout. I laughed more than I should have given such a serious topic, but this only makes me want to watch this movie again.
April 1, 2017: Book Recommendation
This is a simple and easy read. It is very fast paced. I read this book a while ago, but remember it being thought provoking. Humans all love to blame others especially when shit hits the fan. The bigger the problem, the harder one falls when they fail. This begs the question of what exactly does failure mean, but I’m not in the mood to go into a philosophical rant about the meaning of the word. It also means more likely the person will place blame on others whether actively or passively in their heads. There are inherent common traits among everyone, okay most everyone, and not taking responsibility for one’s life all the time is one of them. Anyone who says different, in my opinion, is not being completely truthful. A person needs to dig deep to get to the core of one’s complex faults, and currently there is not much time to spare after work, families, eating, and sleeping are factored into the equation; but it still can be done. Whether you do it is the real question.
March 23, 2017: Book Recommendation
We are born into the society our parents live and it becomes familiar to us. We put our trust in those who raise us whether blood related or not despite what they do to us, good or bad. Circumstances can change slowly over time or all of a sudden, but it still throws us into a tailspin. Our foundation on which we, as children, stand on becomes unstable; and it takes often a lifetime as adults to heal from what occurred within our families as children.
The author of this book, Shoko Tendo, speaks of the tenacity it takes to survive once the pieces have crumbled and no one is there to help you build again except yourself. While the past influences much of how you act and do later in life, it does not have to completely control your future. It takes strength to recognize what one must do to break free and more to not retreat back to the comforts of the days long gone. Read this book if you enjoy personal journeys; and in this particular case highlights assumed privileges, eventual downfalls, and sole ownership of one’s life.
March 22, 2017: Book Recommendation
This book will captivate the reader in terms of the family history of the Gucci family and all the drama that happens within generations. The main reason behind murder is more often than not for explainable reasons whether it be to cash out a life insurance policy, compulsion to kill someone, or going outside the boundaries of one’s self-control. Given the right situation which is usually the most dire of circumstances, everyone has the capability to kill someone. The House of Gucci is what many people love to do and don’t apologize for it: the peeking into family secrets and watching the house they live in fall brick by brick.
March 14, 2017: Book Recommendation
Read this book if you have an interest about oil. I’m not talking about the various kinds of cooking oil. Instead, it’s the oil where countries have fought over it. This kind of oil has inserted itself on almost every surface and in every corner of the world. It is the dark, thick liquid that means huge profit for some and destruction of others. It is the oil that ends up in the oceans and kills wildlife.
The author, Sonia Shah, incorporates the major players of how oil originated to be the commodity that it is today. The back of the book has excellent statistics and references about, you guessed it, oil. I was sad when my fingers turned to the last page. Yes, it was just that good at discussing oil consumption and its effects.
March 14, 2017: Book Recommendation
Does anyone remember The Blair Witch Project? The hit movie that grossed about 140 million dollars. The author of this memoir, The Soup Has Many Eyes, is the mother of the character named Josh Leonard. I breezed through this book not only because the story was engrossing, but at the time I was reading books like a human being needs water to survive. Joann Rose Leonard focuses on her own identity as a mother and how it connects to her Jewish heritage in Russia. It is a dedication to her sons by way of owning her own struggles and her ancestors before her. It highlights the premise that the past is equally important as the present.
March 13, 2017: Book Recommendation
I have an affinity for English Royalty. I’m not sure where it came from since I’m the farthest thing from having English roots. I’ve found Queen Elizabeth’s life interesting among the modern royal families. Thrust into the spotlight after her uncle abdicated his crown to marry a commoner, her father was thrust into the spotlight; then she was as well after her father died. Her family line was never supposed to hold such power in England, but some things are meant to happen. There is no doubt after reading this book that she was meant to be “The Queen.”
March 13, 2017: Book Recommendation
Hands up, down, sideways, backwards, downwards, or broken (maybe, not broken because that would hurt), I like Rachel Maddow. I like her on MSNBC. I like her clothing style. I like her quirkiness. She is one smart cookie. This is why I gobbled up her book, Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power. She has a knack for inserting humor at the right moments in her book, despite the seriousness of the topic. When structure to a large organization such as the American Military become unbalanced through lack of communication and inability to effectively direct and lead from the top levels, the unforeseen consequences inevitability trickle down and embed itself into the bottom levels. This book is a wake up call for accountability within the American Military, and a close second for American citizens to educate themselves in whatever way possible.