Monthly Archives: April 2024

2034: A Novel of the Next World War by Elliot Ackerman and James Stavridis

2034: A Novel of the Next World War2034: A Novel of the Next World War by Elliot Ackerman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The title tells you most of what you want to know. Stavridis is a retired Admiral who has imagined a conflict in the year 2034 beginning with an operation by China to destroy the U.S. fleet in the South China Sea in preparation for an invasion of Taiwan. A Commodore named Sarah Hunt becomes the lead characters for that phase. At the same time a plucky U.S. pilot named Wedge is doing a recon mission along the border of the airspace with Iran. In both cases the allied Chinese and Irani forces use cyber warfare to disable the U.S. “smart” weapons and are successful in destroying the fleet and capturing Wedge. As things escalate we are introduced to important political characters, especially a deputy National Security Advisor named Sandy Chowdhury, his uncle, a high-level Indian diplomat, a Chinese military leader, Lin Bao, and an Iranian Revolutionary Guard named Farshad.

At first I thought this book seemed very much like a Tom Clancy novel, especially by how the action is unfolding in multiple spots around the world and its heavy detail-oriented military action descriptions. Like a Clancy book, the plot line slurred into a series of diplomatic issues and fanciful imaginings of how the various governments would respond as things spiral out of control. But as it neared the end, it reminded me much more of Catch-22 and Dr. Strangelove. A combination of misjudgments, ego-driven decisions, technical glitches, and bad or good luck drive the plot to a comically avoidable climax. I had trouble finding any of the characters believable. If there’s any message intended here, it’s that the U.S. particularly and society in general is too dependent on technology, especially software, and we are all vulnerable to cyber warfare or smaller attacks.

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The Measure by Nikki Erlick

The MeasureThe Measure by Nikki Erlick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was a time filler for me. I listened to the audiobook and the reader was decent, but the story itself was too fanciful to get behind. Boxes show up on everybody’s doorstep, tent, cabin, etc., containing a string that indicated how long they will live. This happens worldwide with no one seeing how these boxes got delivered or why. So this is pure fantasy, not science fiction. It’s really nothing more than a thought experiment for the reader. If you got a box like that, would you open it? If you did and got a short string would you live your life differently? A long string? What if your spouse got one opposite of yours, and so on. The book is populated with characters having all the possible scenarios and all or most of the possible reactions – some with long strings doing reckless things as they feel invulnerable, some dumping their short string fiance, etc. There’s no real plot and the characters were too stereotyped to be credible. Still, it was inoffensive and at times thought-provoking. It was good enough to play solitaire to.

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The Housemaid by Freida McFadden

The Housemaid (The Housemaid, #1)The Housemaid by Freida McFadden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I first started reading this I was disappointed since it appeared to be essentially a copy of The Turn of the Key, which was so-so. Here’s an English class assignment: Compare and contrast the two books. The protagonist is an attractive young woman (“Girl”) of limited resources and dodgy background who takes a job as a domestic in a wealthy home. The lady of the house who hires her seems nice at first but once Girl moves in, she becomes a total B-word who unfairly accuses Girl of all kinds of wrongdoing and even sets her up to fail. The man of the house clearly has eyes for Girl. A bratty child of the household hates Girl and undertakes to sabotage her. A hunky outdoorsy worker outside the household is kind and rescues Girl repeatedly. She fantasizes about him. So far the two books are pretty much identical.

Things change drastically after that. To avoid spoilers, I won’t say much more, but I will say that you shouldn’t trust anyone’s motives. There are some real twists in the second half. This book is fairly dull for the first half but it’s worth sticking through that for the twists. I’d give it four and a half stars if I could.

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Airframe by Michael Crichton

AirframeAirframe by Michael Crichton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve always enjoyed Crichton’s books and this one is no exception. He masters the science, or, in this case engineering, thoroughly and weaves it into the plot. Although this one was published in 1996, it could be ripped from today’s headlines about Boeing and American Airlines. This one involves a fatal accident aboard a fictional Norton passenger jet. Casey, the attractive female VP of Quality Assurance is charged with finding out the cause. There’s an ambulance chasing lawyer who claims it is a faulty aircraft, a hostile union workforce that thinks their jobs are being outsourced to China, and a sleazy TV producer trying to do a media hit job all trying nail her hide to the wall. It’s a page-turning mix of suspense and detective work. The ending is delicious.

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Google trends – Taiwan, Japan, China

I always find it interesting how different parts of the country pay attention to news events differently, like the recent major earthquake in Taiwan. The west coast has more Taiwanese immigrants and more earthquakes than other regions, so it’s not surprising that they searched the term Taiwan more than most of the rest of the country. But then why did New Jersey, Massachusetts and Rhode Island have similar search trends? Hawaii is known to have a sizeable number of Japanese residents and visitors, so that explains its red color, but why Arizona, Colorado, and south Dakota? They were more interested in Japan than in China or Taiwan those two days. Trying to impart too much politics or hidden agendas into it is fraught with danger. For all I know, all those China searches were people shopping for china as a wedding gift.

The map is from Google Trends for the period April 3rd and 4th, 2024.

What3Words – solar eclipse

A few days ago I posted a What3Words location for a lunar eclipse (watch.moon.eclipse) in Minnesota. That was accurate, a bit surprisingly, but only a little since that eclipse was visible throughout all of North America. Now that a total.solar.eclipse is imminent I had to check that out, too. That has a much narrower path and any given spot on Earth only sees a total solar eclipse once every 375 years. So I was not surprised that location turned out to be in Northern Nevada, a long distance from the path of this one.

For kicks I decided to see if partial.solar.eclipse was in the United States. It turns out it is, but here’s the kicker: it’s right in the path of the total lunar eclipse in upstate New York. Somehow W3W’s predictive powers reversed these two.