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Made it back to San Francisco just in time to see Poor Man's Whiskey do their Allman Brothers tribute show.

19-Apr-14

Made it back to San Francisco just in time to see Poor Man's Whiskey do their Allman Brothers tribute show.

Reactions to Woken Furies by Richard K. Morgan

16-Apr-14

Woken Furies (Takeshi Kovacs, #3)Woken Furies by Richard K. Morgan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fine for fans of the Takeshi Kovacs series, but the distinctive noir/steampunk vibe of the first book, Altered Carbon, is unfortunately gone, replaced by the less interesting sci-fi/action vibe of the second, Broken Angels. Morgan overindulges in several formerly latent affectations, primarily the withholding of information from the reader for long periods – it can take literally hundreds of pages to learn the context of critical events, making it difficult to care about the characters and their scenarios. There are also uncharacteristic stylistic tics.

Altered Carbon is brilliantly conceived and superbly crafted, but I think the well is running dry with Woken Furies.

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Reactions to The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz

27-Mar-14

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy AnswersThe Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Absolutely superb and unique book for its target reader – the founding CEO of a software company. Real, practical guidance that no one else has covered in a business book.

Becomes rapidly less applicable the farther the reader is from the target. A few useful nuggets for non-founding CEOs, executives of non-software firms, and non-CEO founders, but this is by no means a generalist book on entrepreneurship or “business”.

Largely collected from Horowitz’ blog, so regular readers there will not find too much new. It also suffers from blog collection syndrome, meaning the structure of discrete essays precludes much of a continuous line and results in repetition. Also some unintended cut-and-paste ephemera (e.g., a reference to “the commenter above”).

Still, downright excellent overall and I suspect massively helpful to any founding CEO of a software company.

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Reactions to The Hunter and Other Stories by Dashiell Hammett

25-Mar-14

The Hunter and Other StoriesThe Hunter and Other Stories by Dashiell Hammett
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I am an unabashed fan of the great Dashiell Hammett. Or should I say, of his noir crime/detective fiction. Which was pretty much all there was to know before this new collection was published.

Sadly for me, I found these non-crime stories pretty hard going. Writing for a broader audience, such as that of The Saturday Evening Post, Hammett suppresses his acerbic incisiveness – and to my mind, just doesn’t develop interesting stories.

The e-book edition of The Hunter and Other Stories includes some film treatments and other ephemera that just never alight from the page the way the classic Hammett novels and stories do.

Of course these stories are not utter disasters – Hammett is one of the great 20th century American prose stylists, and that doesn’t just disappear – but The Hunter and Other Stories makes it clear that his inspiration came in the pulp genre where he made his name.

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Reactions to Kill Decision by Daniel Suarez

25-Mar-14

Kill DecisionKill Decision by Daniel Suarez
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I loved Suarez’ debut novel, Daemon, an intelligent, technically-savvy thriller starkly highlighting the more frightening near-term ramifications of a software-dominated society.

Its sequel, Freedom(TM), is in a distinctly different voice – a wants-to-be-deep but overly casual meandering rumination on societal breakdown made less immediate by its setting, a superficially dystopian, disintegrating America.

Kill Decision is in some ways a blend of the two, though it’s really just an airport bookstand actioner – imagine if Tom Clancy were more infatuated with software development than military hardware. Add in some cardboard characters, a half-baked love affair, heavy-handed ruminations on drones and latent corporate control of American society, and voilĂ  – you’ve got Kill Decision.

Don’t get me wrong – Kill Decision is absolutely worth picking up for a few hours of techno-thriller distraction. It just doesn’t live up to the exciting promise of its forebears.

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Reactions to The Summer of Beer and Whiskey: How Brewers, Barkeeps, Rowdies, Immigrants, and a Wild Pennant Fight Made Baseball America’s Game by Edward Achorn

25-Mar-14

The Summer of Beer and Whiskey: How Brewers, Barkeeps, Rowdies, Immigrants, and a Wild Pennant Fight Made Baseball America's GameThe Summer of Beer and Whiskey: How Brewers, Barkeeps, Rowdies, Immigrants, and a Wild Pennant Fight Made Baseball America’s Game by Edward Achorn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An enjoyably written story of the mountebanks and reprobates who started and played in the American Association, an upstart professional baseball league that was a sort of the blue-collar “people’s league” challenger to the then-dominant National League.

Achorn specifically covers the 1883 season, when the underdog St. Louis Brown Stockings (now the Cardinals) mounted a credible, even nail-biting challenge to the dominant Philadelphia (now Oakland) Athletics.

For my part, I had hoped for a little more on the business of baseball – maybe some insight into financial scale and distribution of earnings, perhaps some more insight into why multiple competing professional leagues worked less well than the legally-endorsed monopoly we now have. And I tired of the descriptions of on-the-road debaucherous player behavior – I got it early on, with rapidly diminishing returns reading it again on each stop in each city.

A good book for devotees of the game, also for those interested in the origins of the Cardinals, now the second-winningest franchise in baseball history. Probably not ideal for the casual reader interested in a broader history of baseball or in the general business of sports.

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