Archives For January 2017

All the Birds in the Sky
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My rating: 3.8/5

This is an interesting and original story that falls into both the fantasy and science fiction genres, which is a bit unusual. Set mostly in the San Fransisco area, this book has a little bit of everything – geeky references, awkward teenage angst and “coming of age” story, futuristic tech references, magic (even with a wizarding school) and just a touch of romance. Whew, that’s a lot, especially for what feels like a pretty short book.

A few things to note (spoilers!):
1. This book has that “good feel.” I’m not sure how else to describe it, but you probably know what I mean. It is fun to read and you like the characters. And you want the characters and world to keep on going so you’re sad when it comes to an end.

2. Although a lot of books in this genre are good YA books, I don’t think this is one of them. There’s too much sex in it and it’s handled pretty flippantly. If that fits with your morals and you’re OK with your teenager reading that, so be it. But be informed. Also, it’s generally darker.

3. Not a real happy ending. In fact, it’s abrupt. Like the manuscript deadline hit and there was an all-nighter to get it finished.

• Interesting characters where you get to see real character growth and that growth actually makes sense.
• Extremely interesting events and plot topic(s)
• Much better than average world-building (like I said, it’s a comfortable & fun place to be while you’re reading it)

• The crux of the book is that both the tech side and magic side are worried that a great ecological disaster is coming. But this is just “assumed” to be the case without bringing the reader into this “understanding” through plot-building. It makes it feel like a hollow threat.
• There are a couple of “big battles” that are very momentous but essentially glossed over.
• The book essentially “builds” all the way to the end and then when you actually get there it ends pretty abruptly (as previously mentioned).

Overall, I enjoyed All the Birds in the Sky. But I think it would have been better as a 2 or 3 part series (300ish pages each).

Also, I “read” this as an audible unabridged audiobook. The narrator did a fantastic job bringing the book to life.

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@War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex
@War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex by Shane Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My Rating 4/5

This was a very interesting read. With the world embroiled in the drama of a new presidency and the recent election with accusations of Russian hackers influencing the election, this looked like a good topic to “read up” on. I plopped 3 books into my shopping cart (@War, CyberSpies, and Dark Territory) all of which were well reviewed and started with @War.

I’m going to keep this review pretty general: it was engaging and well written in an entertaining style. It primarily covers the U.S. military use of surveillance and hacking techniques starting with 9/11 and the war in Iraq. It follows a rough timeline from the Bush administration through the Obama administration and details several prominent military and political figures involved in policy and implementation of techniques. There is ample discussion of corporate security and involvement with the government and how this plays into the overall threat situation of which the average citizen mostly oblivious.

While I found this book to be quite interesting, and there are discussions of several individuals in the book (including Snowden and his effect on policy), the focus is very squarely on the use of our cyber forces in the recent past as well as the ongoing incursions and threats coming primarily from China and Russia. There is little detail regarding operations in the last 10 years, for understandable reasons, as this is a topic that is being held tightly under wraps for the most part by the government.

I have a very libertarian political view and I felt the author did a good job of keeping the political tone of the book extremely neutral, which is a rarity these days, especially considering he was pretty in depth with political appointees in both the Bush and Obama administrations. Kudos for that!

The book mostly whet my appetite for more information. It was a little surprising to read all that has been going on (essentially a cyber war between the U.S. and China and all major U.S. & multi-national corporations). Of course the only way this hits the news is when the media’s candidate gets hacked, revealing many unscrupulous deeds. Why they haven’t picked up on the depth and breadth of hacking and started calling more attention to this in general isn’t all that hard to figure out, but it’s still disappointing.

Take home: However safe and secure you feel like your online presence is, you’re most likely much less secure than you think. Also, you can be certain that the U.S. government is recording essentially everything we all do online. Yes, everything. This makes me want to look a lot harder at encryption strategies for my home network and personal computing systems. You’ll definitely want to pick this up if the topic intrigues you. But avoid it if you’re already overwhelmed with all the “threats” that are out there and would remain in a blissful state of ignorance. Either way, take your passwords and PC security more seriously!

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Equal Is Unfair: America's Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality
Equal Is Unfair: America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality by Don Watkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m giving this book a 4.5/5 rating. I think everyone out there who thinks wealthy people are the problem should read it, though they won’t.

Short summary: this book talks a bout the dangers of continuing on our current path. Look past the agenda of equalization and see the actual effects that has on our overall societal prosperity. Recognize that anything society or governments do to slow down economic expansion hurts the middle class and the poor disproportionately. This is not supposition or political point of view. It is economic fact and has been proven time and time again. This book calls out crony capitalism as the true enemy of economic freedom and cautions us from giving the government even more power.

I get a bit ranty past this point, so you might as well stop reading this review now. Thanks for your time :)

Capitalism is the most powerful force for economic equality that has ever been seen. This book shows how that works and why it works. While certain political parties will attack this thought as “failed trickle down economics,” the crazy thing is that there is no basis to the idea that trickle down economics is a failure. Time and time again prosperity economics has been proven to help everybody and equalize the playing field for everyone.

But, it’s an interesting world we live in today, here in America. For some reason the media has chosen sides and there is a huge shift in how things are presented compared to how it used to be (the 70′s and 80′s). One major effect of this is that there appears to be a war on success. If you are successful, that’s something to be ashamed of if you share the point of view of the general media. Only one side of the economic debate gets played (the Keynesian) and for that reason, many people think that makes all other economic models or points of view wrong.

But this is actually ridiculous. In many ways. Most importantly because the empiric data shows the Keynesian model is only effective for short periods of time and that the Chicago school or Austrian school economic models are much more accurate representations of how things actually work. Especially over time. But they have a disadvantage in that they don’t fit the agenda of pushing for larger government and more governmental power/control.

The real problem, as laid out well, is not capitalism, but Crony Capitalism. Where those who have tons of money and power use those resources to get special favors from their governments. And that is rampant in our system. But the answer isn’t to give the government more power. It’s to take that power away. Curtail lobbying jobs. Put in place term limits. Eliminate golden parachutes for senators who take campaign contributions from corporations and industries for years and then enact laws that please their masters. And when their constituents finally wise up and kick them out of office, they go to work for those industries lobbying the new senators for 7 figures annually.

That is the problem. This book does a good job at calling that out.

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