Monday, March 27, 2017

To The Stars by George Takei - Book Report #175

Man I hate it when I listen to an abridged book.  I have no idea what I am missing.

Still, I enjoyed this version.  Who wouldn't?  I had the deep, rich voice of George himself in my ears for three hours.

Sublime.

This abridgment, not surprisingly, spent most of its time describing the Star Trek days in Takei's life.

What I personally found more compelling were his early days and the struggle he had to elevate his character, Hikaru Sulu.  It was frustrating to hear how many times Sulu came close to being promoted only to have it edited out due to on-set politics.

This was a terrific insight for any fan of the original series.  But if you are more interested in the man himself, I would suggest seeking out the dead-tree version of the book.

You can find his website here - http://georgetakei.com/



Monday, March 20, 2017

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow - Book Review #174

I found this to be a terrific book.

It was fast paced and pertinent. 

It explores how our society is moving more and more into a surveillance state.   We are inexorably losing our freedoms. 

We follow the adventure of Marcus Yallow and his friends after his hometown of San Francisco suffers a terrorist attack. 

It is a subversive novel designed for young readers to take seriously their privacy and right to use encryption. 

Interestingly, even though the story itself was very entertaining I found the essays and bibliography at the end to be just as compelling.

Recommended.

Cory Doctorow's website is here:  http://craphound.com/

Cory Doctorow


Monday, March 13, 2017

The Laws of Lifetime Growth by Dan Sullivan - Book Report #173

I needed a break from the depressing world of geopolitics and warfare.  I needed to hear about being able to take control and improve my own little world.

Years ago I went through a self-help phase and found the subject to be interesting and helpful but it can get to be a bit preachy.

I came to Dan Sullivan through Peter Diamandis and their Exponential Wisdom podcast.

If you listen to the podcast you will hear Dan's laws echoed there.

Basically Dan expands on 10 rules that help to align your attitude to expose yourself to growth.

1- Make your future bigger than you past - Dream baby!  Where do you want to go?

2- Make your learning greater than your experience - You need to feel out of your depth.  Learn.

3- Make your contribution greater than your reward - Give away your ideas without the expectation of reward, or money, or recognition.

4- Make your performance greater than your applause - If you get recognition, great!  It's a byproduct of what you do.  Don't do something just for the recognition.  You will stagnate.

5- Make your gratitude greater than your success - You got to where you are from the help and work of others.  Never forget that.  Thank them.

6- Make your enjoyment greater than your effort - This is hard.  Everybody says "Do what you love."  Not easy to do that but always try to get to that state.

7- Make your co-operation greater than your status - Related to #5 help others as others have helped you.  Don't try to steal credit.  Be about the project.

8- Make your confidence greater than your comfort -  Related to #2.  If you feel like you can handle anything that comes to you, you are not being challenged and not growing.

9- Make your purpose greater than your money - Related to #6 don't just work for money.  If you won't do something because you're not being paid enough or at all, then your focus is not on the purpose.

10- Make your questions greater than your answers - If your question leads to an answer in one or two steps you are not asking big enough questions.  Your questions should lead to more questions.

That last one is a bit fuzzy but basically it's designed to get you to keep learning.

If you keep learning you keep growing.  If you keep growing you keep living.  If your lucky, the person most surprised about your death will be you.

Is that dark?  It wasn't meant to be.



Monday, March 6, 2017

Drone Warfare by Medea Benjamin - Book Report #172

This book tied in nicely with The Next 100 Years and Wikileaks.

It was also just as depressing.

Drones, also called UAVs are remotely controlled pilot-less aircraft.  For the most part they are used for surveillance and intelligence gathering.  But they are becoming more common as hunter-killer, weaponized platforms.

It was a well-researched book and touched many aspects of their development, their use and the effects on the people in the gun sights as well as those pulling the triggers thousands of miles away.

Some of it can be quite horrifying; not only for the targeted but for the innocents that happen to be nearby to a strike. Collateral damage is much more common than we are lead to believe.

But what really strikes the heart cold is how many international laws the use of this technology breaks.  The Obama government cared little of the many extra-judicial killings it sanctioned.  With seemingly indifferent disregard to sovereign air space and laws of the domestic country it goes about targeting and killing people with impunity.  When does protection of domestic security become state sponsored assassination and, in turn, become murder?

The United States used to stand for adherence to the rules of law.

There is no doubt that the people being chased and killed are bad people and need to be stopped.  But mistakes are happening and innocent people are being killed through bad or weak intelligence and by the excessive use of force. Missiles are not bullets, they are not as precise and therefore many non-combatants are left killed, injured or maimed by being in proximity of a target.

I found the book to be one-sided.  Even though you cannot argue with the research and the facts that were revealed, the author's ultimate goal is to get UAVs banned.  The argument being that they are just like land mines, cluster bombs and poison gas; far too many innocent non-combatants are killed by their use.  I agree completely.  That said, I would like to be allowed the chance to make up my own mind on the subject.

If you're going to report on something let it be balanced.  My complaint is more about the construction of the book rather than it's content.  But Benjamin is not a reporter.

Google the author and you cannot be surprised that she spends a lot of time promoting activist groups that are campaigning against the use of UAVs.  Had she been a reporter these groups would certainly have been written about in a dedicated chapter but it would have been presented as just another aspect of the subject.

Do I recommend the book?

Absolutely.

There are so many details revealed that were surprising and frightening that I am thankful for being made aware of it. The next time I cross a border I will be sure to look up to see what is looking down on me.

Medea Benjamin - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medea_Benjamin

Medea Benjamin co-founded the anti-war group Code Pink: Women for Peace - http://www.codepink.org/

Medea Benjamin