my recent reads..

Weapons of Choice

Talk about a page turner!

I've shied away from John Birmingham's Weapons of Choice (The Axis of Time Trilogy, Book 1) for ages. It's always staring at me on theshelf in the bookstore. Chunky like Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver. All about a 21st century US-lead naval group time-travelling back into the battle of Midway in 1942. Gimme a break. I've got better things to do with my time!

But curiosity got the better of me down at Kinokuniya last week and I picked up a copy. A plane flight and a few evenings later it is dog-eared and done, and I am looking for the next volume.

Birmingham does a decent job of setting the scientific basis to explain the time-travel bit. At least convinced me to the level of my understanding of string theory and quantum mechanics! Add some ego and a major cluster f#$k in a lab (easier to understand) and you are back in 1942. By then you are caught up in the story and the pages fly.

It might be easy to write this off as a macho, techno-military thriller in the Tom Clancy vein, but this book offers much more when you get thinking.

Without grinding your face in it, there's a great study and commentary on how morals and ethics have been through a rapid evolutionary process over the past century. Birmingham doesn't hold back when it comes to the reality of modern racial and gender attitudes facing off against WW2-era society. African-american, female naval Captain suddenly thrown into 1942? Don't expect the locals to just marvel at your ship and say thanks for the help.

What comes a little unexpected to the modern mind is the challenge that it is not all a one way street. Being comfortable with unleashing the mass death and destruction that 21st century weapons are capable of is not a natural state of being. Makes you think about what we've lost for all the gains of modern society.

There's a lot of thought that has gone into the alternate future/past that Birmingham has created. A great deal to ponder.

And/or you can just dive in for a rollicking good yarn.

Postscript: I was browsing movies in HMV the other day and stumbled across The Final Countdown. I'd completely forgotten about watching this 1980's movie (telling?) that has USS Nimitz time-warping back to just before Pearl Harbour. Similar idea that might have inspired Weapons of Choice, but Birmingham has taken the concept to new heights.

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Quarter Share

Imagine a Stephenson-esque golden age of clippers, plying the trade routes through space on the solar wind in the far distant future. And the story of a young lad learning the ropes and working his way up through the ratings.

Nathan Lowell's Quarter Share is the first of a trilogy set in this world, and drips with a sense of mercantile adventure and bonds of companionship. This is another great book available as a podcast download from

I was sucked in by the details that Mr Lowell packs into the story of Ishmael Wang, Pip and the rest of the crew of the Lois McKendrick. Be it scrubbing the urns and tuning the grinder to produce the best possible coffee in the galley, or the intricacies of balancing Ish & Pip's trading portfolio.

Loved the book. It has a great feel-good factor, since in this first volume we go along with Ishmael's gradual rise-and-rise from greenhorn to well-loved and respected member of the crew.

Gotta download the next volume, Half Share, PDQ!

PS: Visit The Trader’s Diary for more information on the Golden Age

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Open Source IT System Management and Infrastructure 2.0

Interesting discussion between Michael Coté and John Willis on this recent RedMonk Radio podcast. John's got some great insights about the state of Enterprise Systems Management, and its not all about a wholesale shift to OpenNMS and Puppet.

The "Infrastructure 2.0" buzzword enters the conversation when talking about the shift towards infrastructure/hardware/storage-as-a-service, along the lines of Amazon's Elastic Computing.
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Iron Coffin

I really enjoyed this book by John Mannock. It adds to my collection of submarine books and movies.

But Iron Coffin brings an interesting twist to the Das Boot-genre of WWII Kriegsmarine lore. The story commences with the discovery of a U-boat wreck in a Louisiana river delta and a chance encounter in a local bar with an old timer who can tell the story for the first and perhaps last time. How the disabled submarine sought refuge in the bayous and sought help from the Cajun river dwellers. And the surprising twist that explains why one of the sailors is left behind.

Gritty, authentic detail and the unconventional story line make this a great read.

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