About Duffbert...

Duffbert's Random Musings is a blog where I talk about whatever happens to be running through my head at any given moment... I'm Thomas Duff, and you can find out more about me here...

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Co-author of the book IBM Lotus Sametime 8 Essentials: A User's Guide

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Co-author of the book IBM Sametime 8.5.2 Administration Guide

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Book Review - The Disneyland Encyclopedia: The Unofficial, Unauthorized, and Unprecedented History of Every Land, Attraction, Restaurant, Shop, and Event in the Original Magic Kingdom by Chris Strodder

Category Book Review Chris Strodder The Disneyland Encyclopedia: The Unofficial Unauthorized and Unprecedented History of Every Land Attraction Restaurant Shop and Event in the Original Magic Kingdom
A picture named M2

Even though I've been to DisneyWorld *many* more times than Disneyland (and I live on the *west* coast!), there is a certain "magic" that Disneyland holds over its bigger sibling.  It's where it all began, and the history of the place is incredible.  Chris Strodder has made an excellent contribution to that history with his book The Disneyland Encyclopedia: The Unofficial, Unauthorized, and Unprecedented History of Every Land, Attraction, Restaurant, Shop, and Event in the Original Magic Kingdom.  Using souvenier books, maps, and anything else he could find (short of having access to Disney archives), he has compiled an encyclopedia of just about everything that's ever been located at Disneyland.  If you last went to Disneyland in the '60s and wonder where that quaint little shop you remember disappeared to, you'll find it here.  And along the way, it'll bring back fond memories of what once was...

As a young child in Southern California, my parents apparently took me to Disneyland a number of times.  Unfortunately, I remember few of them as I was so young.  But I did visit a few times as I got older, and that's where my love of all things Disney began.  I have vague recollections of Adventure Thru Inner Space, Autopia, and other classics.  But when I go back now, everything just seems "different".  That's because Disneyland is not a static attraction, and rides, shops, and attractions come and go.  Strodder takes his love of Disney, adds a heavy dose of research, and creates this guide that answers all the "didn't there used to be an <something> over there?" questions that go through your mind.  Complete with maps, chronology, and history, you can use this book to trace back any location at Disneyland and see how it's morphed over the years.  There's no pixie dust spin here, either.  While PeopleMover was an incredible concept when it first came out (and was still fun to ride), it was removed for what was supposed to be another thrill ride called Rocket Rods.  But the hype never lived up to the reality, and continual mechanical issues led to Rod's early demise.  The PeopleMover infrastructure is still there, just not being used for anything right now.  A graphic reminder that not everything the Imagineers touch turns out magical.

On top of all the accurate information, I personally enjoyed the trip down memory lane.  He brought to mind rides and areas I had forgotten about, and I loved the nostalgic feeling I had reading the book.  I'd love to be able to head down to Disneyland again with book in hand, and spend a few days just looking up different areas to see how they've changed over the years.  If you're a Disney addict with a particular bent towards the Anaheim version of the Magic Kingdom, then you will enjoy this book quite a bit.


Book Review - YouTube: An Insider's Guide to Climbing the Charts by Alan Lastufka and Michael W. Dean

Category Book Review Alan Lastufka Michael W. Dean YouTube: An Insider's Guide to Climbing the Charts
A picture named M2

If you're into YouTube from the perspective of creating videos for public consumption, this is the one book you really should have available to you...  YouTube: An Insider's Guide to Climbing the Charts by Alan Lastufka and Michael W. Dean.  It goes into everything you need to know on how to create compelling stories, quality video, and YouTube marketing.  On top of that, it's entertaining to read.

Contents: What Is This YouTube of Which You Speak?; Storytelling and Directing; 99-Cent Film School - Shooting, Editing, and Rendering; Creating Your Very Own Channel; Broadcasting Yourself - User-Generated Content; Rebroadcasting - Commercial Content; Building Your Audience; The Community - Where Do You Fit In?; Hacking the System - How to Cheat (and Why You Shouldn't); Reaching the World; Money, Money, Money!; Beyond the 'Tube; Becoming a Success Story; Closing Arguments; Interviews with Other YouTube Rock Stars; Index

Unlike most books that cover specific online sites like Facebook or Google, this goes far beyond just the nuts and bolts mechanics of how to work with the site.  Yes, there's the prerequisite information on how to upload videos, how to link to your videos, how to create channels, etc.  But where this book excels is in teaching you what happens *before* you even fire up your browser.  If you're interested in nothing more than posting that funny pet video you happened to capture last Christmas, then you probably don't care about most of the "before" stuff.  But there are people who consistently and professionally produce video content and use YouTube as their distribution channel.  This is the audience to which Lastufka and Dean speak.  Videos are stories, and you will learn what makes up a good story (and more importantly, how to tell that story in 10 minutes).  Once you have your story, you have to film and edit it in such a way that the production quality doesn't detract from your overall message.  That's covered here as well.  And then after you get two or three videos online and someone other than your mother is viewing them, you may need to think about how you market yourself in this venue.  Lastufka and Dean make sure you have all the information you need to make solid choices up front before you accidentally get popular and end up stuck with some brand you never intended to portray.

Bottom line, this is an excellent book.  The material is solid and comprehensive, and they back up everything they say with actual URL examples from YouTube.  Again, if you are going to post on a semi-regular basis on YouTube, this is a must-read.


Book Review - The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America by James Bamford

Category Book Review James Bamford The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America
A picture named M2

There's no question that over the last eight years, we as a society have undergone a major shift towards more comprehensive and invasive monitoring and surveillance.  James Bamford outlines the NSA's role in this shift in his book The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America.  From a readability standpoint, there's quite a bit of slogging that took place for me.  It's not like reading a spy thriller.  On the other hand, Bamford presents more than enough material to make you rethink the government's role in society (or confirm your worst fears).

The story starts out by following the lives of the 9/11 terrorists as they come over to the US and start to receive flight training.  There were a number of opportunities to stop this early on, but at the time there was still a general attitude with the government that drew strict lines (and followed them) about what could and couldn't be monitored within US borders.  But this electronic curtain, while preserving privacy for US citizens, also gave the terrorists room to maneuver, and as such they were able to pull off the World Trade Center attack.  That single act flipped the entire mindset of the government and the heads of the NSA, and now there was a full-out attack on the laws preventing internal listening.  Bamford documents many of these decisions and secret agreements, as well as the outright abuses that have occurred since then, and it's not a stretch to imagine that he only knows a fraction of what's actually going on.

This didn't turn out to be one of those books that I couldn't put down because the material was too compelling.  A number of the chapters, especially later on in the book, seem to bog down with endless names and places that become hard to follow after awhile.  On the other hand, these are facts and details that will never make it into the evening network news, much to the detriment of the general population.  There is obviously a line that needs to be drawn somewhere between privacy and security, and I feel we trampled that line in the last few years.  While you may not find it an exciting read, it's worth it in order to get a glimpse of what we've allowed ourselves to become.


Which file download names would *you* like to deal with?

Category IBM/Lotus Microsoft
Do  you want a series of files cryptically named with such wonders as C8N7YX.exe (and I hope you wrote down what file that was from Partnerworld when you downloaded it)?

Or would you prefer something like Enter_Office2007_MultiLanguage.iso (and I'll have no problems remembering that when I come back after the MSDN download)?

It's the little things that mean a lot...


Book Review - Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War by Jeffrey A. Lockwood

Category Book Review Jeffrey A. Lockwood Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War
A picture named M2

Our local library got a copy of Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War by Jeffrey A. Lockwood, and the subject intrigued me.  How would one use insects as war weapons, or more accurately, how have they been used in the past?  Lockwood goes into both in this book.  It's rather dense reading at times, and suffers from a "he said, she said" problem in that admissions of biological warfare are few and far between, and documentation is sparse.  Even so, the scenarios here are real, and it makes you wonder exactly what has happened in the past when it comes to insects as disease vectors for warfare.

1 - Stinging Defeats and Venomous Victories: Bee Bombs and Wasp Warheads; Toxic Tactics and Terrors; Insects and Tools of Torture
2 - Vectors of Death: Horseshoes and Hand Grenades; The Victories of the Vectors; A Most Uncivil War; All's Lousy on the Eastern Front
3 - Bringing Fever and Famine to a World at War: A Monstrous Metamorphosis; Entomological Evil; Japan's Fleas and Flies; Japan's Pleas and Lies; Beetle Bombs; Waking the Slumbering Giants
4 - Cold-Blooded Fighters of the Cold War: Korea's Hailstorms of Hexapods; A Swarm of Accusations; An Imaginary Menagerie?; The Big Itch; Yankee (and Vietnamese) Ingenuity; Cuban Missiles vs. American Arthropods; A Tiny Terrorist in Castro's Crops
5 - The Future of Entomological Warfare: Medflies, Fruits, and Nuts; Fear on the Farm; Wimpy Warmups and Real Deals; Six-Legged Guardian Angels; Insect Cyborgs and Roboflies; "Vigilant and Ready?"
Epilogue; Suggested Readings; Notes; Index

Even though the author attempts to go back 100,000 years to cavemen throwing insect containers at each other, you really start seeing the first documented use of insects in a warfare sense in the Old Testament times.  Bees, wasps, and scorpions were seemingly the weapon of choice, followed by the use of locusts to strip crops of your enemy.  Even in the US Civil War, armies would try to position the enemy in swampy areas where the mosquitoes would be able to spread malaria amongst the troops.  Things started to turn dark during the second World War, when Japan had a full-fledged biological warfare division being used to drop plague-infested fleas on enemy areas to decimate the population.  While that should have constituted a war crime, the head of the unit was actually shipped off to the US, where it's thought that he helped the US military develop similar programs.  As we move through the Korean War, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War, there's also plenty of evidence to lead one to believe that both sides had no moral qualms about experimenting with biological weapons...

While I thought the subject matter was fairly interesting, it was somewhat difficult to draw the line between truth and accusation.  Cuba blames us for dropping insects on the island, and of course we deny it.  Groups investigate and report their findings, but quite often they have definite ideological leanings that color their conclusions.  And if you're waiting for the "smoking gun" to prove anything, it's generally not there or is countered with other evidence.  Rather frustrating when you're trying to find out what actually did happen.  But at least you'll get a different look, a different angle on how insects interact in our environment, and how they can be turned against us without much trouble...


So the Notes/SharePoint community site idea seemed to have some backing... now for a descriptive domain name?

Category IBM/Lotus Microsoft
Since the idea of a Notes/SharePoint community site didn't meet with pitchforks and torches, it's time to take the first step...  a good domain name!

I don't want to use my duffbert.com domain, as I want this to reflect something other than "me".

I sort of liked NotesPoint.com, but it's taken.  I could always go for the .net version of something like that, but I'd prefer not get into the .com/.net - different sites situation.

Any suggestions or ideas?


Any interest in forming a community of Notes professionals who also work with SharePoint?

Category IBM/Lotus Microsoft
I can't believe I typed that as a title...  :)

So I'm now in the "I do both" camp in terms of Lotus and Microsoft stuff.  We're slowly getting up-to-speed on SharePoint, and my time will continue to shift towards an emphasis on that type of development.  I'm definitely not leaving the Notes world, as we still have a large inventory of Notes apps that we have to maintain in the short term.  What I *hope* to be able to offer the Notes community is an insight into SharePoint from a Notes developer view, devoid of any sales pitch or ulterior motive to adopt one side or the other.  Let's be realistic...  both sides have good points and bad points.  If I can drop my blinders and predisposition towards "but Notes does that too", I can learn and improve in both areas.

One thing I've noticed over the last six months or so is that I'm not the only Notes person going through this.  I heard from a number at Lotusphere who have some level of SharePoint involvement at their place of employment, as well as getting a few emails and direct messages on Twitter.  To some degree, it feels as if there's a reluctance to "admit" to using (and perhaps even liking) SharePoint in our community.  It could be that those who are in that situation are not vocal on blogs/Twitter, and we never hear from them.  Or, there's always the possibility that they could feel uncomfortable in the Yellow Bubble talking about "the other side".

Well, I'm vocal...  And I'm also getting old and crotchety in that I'm caring less about what others think and more about what's best from a professional standpoint (both for me and others).

So given all that, I've been toying with the idea today of trying to start some sort of community of Notes professionals who also work with SharePoint.  The group could share experiences, ask questions, and help each other make the transition to the many moving parts that is the Microsoft stack.  It's rather daunting when you've specialized in Notes development for the last decade, and all of a sudden there's 10 different things you have to be good at in order to survive.

And notice the phrasing of the community...  *Notes* professionals who also work with SharePoint.  Not Notes enthusiasts who want to argue the merits of SharePoint vs. Notes, nor SharePoint experts seeking clients to convert from Lotus to Microsoft.  Just those of us who live in the trenches and, either by choice or by necessity, have to make both of these worlds work in a single environment.

I'm open to ideas, suggestions, comments, critiques, or whatever.  This may be a stupid idea that just hit me at the end of a long day where not much went right.  But I can also fantasize about it being a useful resource filling a niche that doesn't seem to be covered too well from what I can tell.

It's not about bleeding yellow for me any more.  It's about keeping whatever blood remains inside my body, and becoming a technology professional who can talk about collaboration in multiple technologies, delivering value to businesses regardless of where their vendor commitments may lie.  That probably should have been my goal all along, but sometimes it takes a relatively large stick upside the head to clarify one's vision...


Get your community featured in The Art Of Community!

Category collaboration
I received this email from Marsee at O'Reilly this week.  Talking about a topic tailor-made to our Lotus community!  Feel free to contact Jono as indicated below and share your story...


Get your community featured in The Art Of Community!

As part of Jono's aim to use stories and anecdotes to illustrate the
concepts in the book, he is looking for your great stories of community
building. He has gathered content from a range of contributors including
Jeremy Allison (Samba), Chris Messina (SpreadFirefox), Leslie Hawthorn
(Google), Paul Hudson (Linux Format Magazine), Mike Linksvayer (Creative
Commons), Cristina Verduzco (SPCA), Ton Roosendaal (Blender) and many

Jono explains:

"Hi everyone! I am really excited about making The Art Of Community a
diverse, wide-ranging guide to building strong community. I am really
excited about hearing community stories from a range of areas, inside
and outside of Open Source, Technology and Media. If you have
interesting (and possibly amusing) stories that you feel illustrate
interesting examples of building processes, setting up infrastructure,
creating buzz and excitement, managing conflict, organizing events,
communicating effectively, scaling up community, measuring your work or
anything else, I would love to hear your story. Simply send me an email
jono@jonobacon.org with a short Bio of yourself and your story. If it
fits well in the book, I will be sure to add it. Thanks everyone!"

So there you have it: get your community featured in the hot new
community book from Jono Bacon. Jono is busily writing, so send your
stories in as soon as possible!

Related Links:

* Art Of Community website -
* Twitter Updates -
identi.ca Updates - http://identi.ca/jonobacon
* Art Of Community Facebook Page -

* Jono Bacon's Website -

Read on for more information about the book--

Every software project, online site, or company has to manage the
community of interested people surrounding it. The community is the
source of new ideas, a reliable support network, and the best marketing
tool. When money is tight, making the best use of the community is even
more critical.

Author Jono Bacon <
http://www.jonobacon.org/> has been building and
managing communities for over a decade, particularly in areas of Open
Source software such as KDE and Ubuntu. He is currently Community
Manager for Ubuntu, probably the largest community in the Open Source
software area. His experience and his relationships with other
communities and leaders provide a rich and deep well of expertise for
this book.

In The Art of Community you’ll experience the broad range of talents
required to recruit members, motivate them, manage them, and make them
happy to be part of your community, online or otherwise. Bacon takes you
through the different stages of community and covers the information
you’ll need, ranging from software tools to conflict resolution skills.
The Art Of Community underlines and illustrates this large body of
knowledge with a compendium of stories, anecdotes and tales that bring
the concepts to life. Bacon’s amusing and witty writing style makes the
Art Of Community a fun read that is sure to help you build strong,
effective and engaging communities.

As Bacon writes The Art Of Community, a new community is gathering
around the book at <
http://www.artofcommunityonline.org/> where he is
regularly providing writing updates, sneak peeks of the content, news
and discussion about building strong community.

The Art Of Community will be published by O'Reilly and also available
online under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial ShareAlike license.


I find this rather appalling... Workers losing jobs at IBM get overseas option

Category IBM/Lotus
From ComputerWorld: Workers losing jobs at IBM get overseas option

Some of the workers being let go by IBM in the U.S. and Canada have a chance to remain with the company -- if they're willing to move to Brazil, India, China or a dozen other lower-wage countries. But the expatriate employees would likely be paid at local salary rates.

IBM is offering the relocation option to employees who have been "notified of separation." It said that as part of the program, called Project Match, it will give workers financial aid to offset moving costs, assist them in securing visas and provide "other support to help ease the transition of an international move."

But people who agree to transfer must be "willing to work on local terms and conditions," IBM said.

This program leaves me with a very sour taste about IBM in my mouth.  I understand that outsourcing is an unfortunate reality in our industry.  We could write countless books about the pros and cons of that.  I'll also not spend much time on the morality of announcing exceptional profits and then laying off people, all in the same week.  But this "Project Match" program has, in my opinion, nothing to do with outsourcing and everything to do with putting lipstick on a pig.

So say you're a $70K a year programmer for IBM, born and raised in America.  I'm supposed to be excited that you'll offer me a job for a fraction of that, in a country with a completely different culture, likely speaking a language that I'm not familiar with, all so I can keep programming at IBM?  It's nice that you'll offer me relocation assistance to get there.  But what if it doesn't work out?  Are you offering me help in getting home?  Oh, that's right...  I forgot.  I don't HAVE a job with IBM in the US any more.  You're on your own...  And I hope you saved a considerable chunk of your much lower salary, as getting home on your own is a whole lot more expensive than getting down there in the first place.

This isn't some internship program where you spend a year overseas, and then return with more experience, ready to move up the corporate ladder.  This is a one-way ticket, and you better hope it works out...

I have no doubt that this will appeal to a very small number of people who want an "adventure".  It may also be a great program for naturalized citizens who have considered moving back to their home country, but didn't quite have the ways and means figured out.  But in terms of a program that's supposed to make me feel all warm and fuzzy about IBM's corporate ethics and concern for their workforce?

Not so much...


Book Review - This Is Your Brain on Joy: A Revolutionary Program for Balancing Mood, Restoring Brain Health, and Nurturing Spiritual Growth

Category Book Review Dr. Earl Henslin This Is Your Brain on Joy: A Revolutionary Program for Balancing Mood Restoring Brain Health and Nurturing Spiritual Growth
A picture named M2

Having fought a battle with dysthymia for a long time, I was attracted to the opportunity to read and review This Is Your Brain on Joy: A Revolutionary Program for Balancing Mood, Restoring Brain Health, and Nurturing Spiritual Growth by Dr. Earl Henslin.  It took me over half my life to figure out that "normal" wasn't the way I was feeling, and I'm always interested in ways to improve my mental and emotional balance.  Dr. Henslin looks at the mind using the power of SPECT (single photon emission computerized tomography) images, and explains things in a way that is understandable and approachable to anyone.  Couple that with concrete ways to address specific types of disorders, and you end up with a book that can change the way you view and approach life.

Section 1 - Healthy Brain, Happy Life: My First Hug and Other Joyful Brain Matters; The Ah-Ha Moment; A Head Trip to a Happier Life; Testing, Testing... All Brains Need a Little Help Sometimes; Joy Boosters - The Science Behind Pleasure Prescriptions
Section 2 - Raising Your Joy Quota in the 5 Mood Centers: The Prefrontal Cortex - The Presidential Control Center; The Cingulate Gyrus - The Circular Gerbil Wheel; The Basal Ganglia - The Basement of Giant Fears; The Deep Limbic System - The Depressed Low-Mood Space; The Temporal Lobes - The Temper Lofts
Section 3 - Joy Everlasting: An Apostle on Joy - The Real Secret
Appendixes - The Day I Had My Head Examined; Common Questions About SPECT Scans; A Different Kind of Diamond Head - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Index; Notes; About The Author

Dr. Henslin works with Dr. Daniel Amen at the Amen clinic to perform the SPECT scans and interpret the results.  Using a series of tests while the person is hooked up, he can see what areas of the brain are active or dormant during particular activities.  Based on the resulting images, it's possible to tell exactly what areas of the brain are falling outside the boundaries of what would be considered "healthy".  Dr. Henslin explains in rather humorous and memorable ways what each area of the brain controls, and how depressed or excessively stimulated activity plays out in one's emotional health.  For instance, he refers to the prefrontal cortex as the "Presidential Control Center".  It controls, among other things, your focus and impulse control.  If healthy, you can think through the ramifications of actions before you take them, and you're able to focus on the task at hand.  But if this area is hyperactive, you get things like Attention Deficit Disorder.  For each of these types of issues, Dr. Henslin recommends a number of therapies and techniques that can bring the problem under control.  Diet, supplements, exercise, meditation, and drugs are just a few of the offerings.  He also presents his findings from a Christian perspective, so the spiritual side of his recommendations fall towards the Biblical end of the scale instead of Eastern or New Age philosophies.  Overall, it's all very solid advice in an easy-to-understand package.

I've made some changes based on what I read here.  There's a questionnaire of 101 statements where you can rank your frequency of occurrence.  Based on the number of "frequent" or "very frequent" answers, you can determine what areas you may have issues with.  It was no surprise that the depression area showed up, but I'm already taking steps for that issue.  The other area that I've become more aware of lately (and that the questionnaire confirmed) was a tendency towards an inattentive form of ADD.  Based on that, I'm making some dietary and supplement changes so I can become (and stay) more focused.  Time will tell how it all works out, but I already feel I've gotten a lot of value from the book just based on what I've done so far.  And if you can make positive changes based on what an author has written, it's a pretty good book...


Consolidated 2009 Lotusphere Press Coverage

Category Lotusphere2009
See what's being published about Lotusphere 2009!
  • 01/23/2009 - Lotusphere 2009 Trip Report (Radicati)
  • 01/23/2009 - IBM out of the online services gate with mixed reviews (NetworkWorld)
  • 01/22/2009 - Granular Collaboration in IBM Innovation Labs at Lotusphere 2009 (eWeek)
  • 01/22/2009 - How I Was Wrong About The Fearsome Engine That is IBM, Or, Thoughts on Lotus, Software and Elephants (RedMonk)
  • 01/22/2009 - What Is IBM LotusLive? SAAS with Great Promise but Confusing Branding (eWeek)
  • 01/22/2009 - SaaS Office suites; last in, first out? (CIO Weblog)
  • 01/21/2009 - IBM's Lotus in the cloud (NetworkWorld)
  • 01/21/2009 - IBM extends SMB portfolio (vnunet)
  • 01/21/2009 - IBM supports Microsoft syncing protocol (vnunet)
  • 01/21/2009 - Identifying IBM Lotus channel opportunities (NetworkWorld)
  • 01/21/2009 - IBM Lotus Extends Foundations Appliance Line For Resellers (ChannelWeb)
  • 01/21/2009 - IBM Makes Collaboration Easier, Faster and Universally Accessible (CNN Money)
  • 01/21/2009 - IBM Helps Businesses, Consumers Weather the Storm With Cost Effective Software (CNN Money)
  • 01/21/2009 - Lotusphere Stops For Obama (ITWorld Canada)
  • 01/21/2009 - Lotus Notes, Microsoft Competition Heats Up (InternetNews.com)
  • 01/20/2009 - Lotus Notes/iPhone users to get their wish: real-time e-mail access (NetworkWorld)
  • 01/20/2009 - What's Next from IBM Lotus? (ITJungle)
  • 01/20/2009 - Real-time access to Notes coming to iPhone, other devices (NetworkWorld)
  • 01/20/2009 - Can IBM sustain its momentum? (ZDNet)
  • 01/20/2009 - Lotusphere: IBM previews Sametime 8.5 and Unified Telephony (vnunet)
  • 01/20/2009 - Highlights of Lotusphere 2009 (eWeek)
  • 01/20/2009 - IBM growing partner capacity in portal space (NetworkWorld)
  • 01/20/2009 - Lotusphere Resonates with the Lotus Faithful (Intranet Journal)
  • 01/20/2009 - Lotusphere: Watching IT conference attendance (ITWorld Canada)
  • 01/20/2009 - Lotus unveils cloud strategy, mobile integrations (NetworkWorld)
  • 01/19/2009 - IBM Lotus Applications On Tap For BlackBerry Smartphones (ChannelWeb)
  • 01/19/2009 - Lotusphere: IBM, RIM, Blackberry, SAP and cloud computing (TG Daily)
  • 01/19/2009 - IBM buying SaaS e-mail to bolster Bluehouse platform (Techworld)
  • 01/19/2009 - IBM Plants Lotus in the Cloud (E-Commerce News)
  • 01/19/2009 - IBM shoots for the cloud with LotusLive, but Notes pricing is a mystery (Industry Standard)
  • 01/19/2009 - Microsoft Slaps IBM, Claims It Has Stolen Away over 10 Million Users (Softpedia)
  • 01/19/2009 - IBM Helps Businesses Build a Smarter Workforce Through Communities in the Cloud (MarketWatch)
  • 01/19/2009 - At Lotusphere IBM and SAP Announce Alloy, First Jointly Developed Software Product (MarketWatch)
  • 01/19/2009 - Lotus Notes Soon To Become Even More LinkedIn (TechCrunch)
  • 01/19/2009 - IBM Debuts Online Version of Lotus Software for Cloud Computing (Bloomberg)
  • 01/19/2009 - IBM offers sneak peek at Lotusphere 2009 (CRN)
  • 01/17/2009 - Lotus Notes swaps customers with Microsoft Exchange (CNet)
  • 01/19/2009 - Lotus Debuts LotusLive (ZDNet)
  • 01/19/2009 - IBM Talks Up Notes/Domino Numbers (IT Jungle)
  • 02/15/2009

    Book Review - Gauntlet: A Novel of International Intrigue by Richard Aaron

    Category Book Review Richard Aaron Gauntlet: A Novel of International Intrigue
    A picture named M2

    One of the publicists I interact with offered me a copy of Gauntlet: A Novel of International Intrigue by Richard Aaron for reading and review.  The genre is definitely one that I like, and I was starting to run a bit low on recreational reading.  Given that Gauntlet is Aaron's first novel, I'm impressed.  With a bit more time, Aaron could become quite the writer, and the TTIC agency could turn into a "franchise" brand, much like Clancy has done with his novels.  

    Gauntlet's main story line involves the theft of over four tons of Semtex explosive, part of a larger stash that is being blown up by the US military in the Middle East.  This stolen Semtex ends up in the hands of an Afghani terrorist, intent on using it to make a strike against the US.  The "Emir", as he is known, uses a very rich drug smuggler to finance the purchase, deliver it to its intended target, and prepare for the blow.  A newly formed intelligence agency, the Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC), has an incredible wealth of computing and satellite resources available to them to track and stop threats such as this.  One of the members of the agency, an autistic whiz kid by the name of Hamilton Turbee, can use the equipment to figure out things that others wouldn't even be able to recognize.  He's got the best chance to track and find the Semtex before it's used, but the head of TTIC doesn't think much of Turbee due to his strange behavior and lack of formality.  The tension mounts between his boss (who no one else in the agency cares for either) and himself as Turbee struggles to explain his mental gyrations well enough to get people to act on them before the Emir can strike the killing blow.

    Secondary to this story are plotlines that have two Canadian RCMPs tracking down a drug smuggling and money laundering ring between Canada and the US.  As they dig deeper (literally), they find a connection between this multi-million dollar operation and the terrorist threats against America.  There's also a thread involving the capture of some US spies in Pakistan, their imprisonment in a hidden prison high in the mountains, and their attempts to escape and relay what they've found out about the targeted location of the strike.

    At 488 pages, this is quite a bit longer than normal "first novels" I've run into.  Generally speaking, that's not a good sign, as it's hard to keep the plot and pacing going at a consistent level over that long a period.  Aaron did it better than I expected, however.  Some of the plots seemed to be dropped for long periods of time, and one plot in particular still has me wondering why it was there (unless a sequel puts him in play).  The Turbee character is unique in that he's autistic, and that's not a normal lead character trait.  But the behavior is a bit inconsistent, in that he's barely able to function at first, and then after a devastating event, he seems to be more normal than most.  I would have expected him to completely lose touch with reality.  Even with that, I still seemed to be driven to keep reading to find out what was going to happen next.  All in all, I enjoyed my time spent here.

    Had this been Aaron's fourth or fifth book, I'd probably tend more towards the "3" range of the ratings.  But there's a lot of promise there, and I could see myself becoming addicted to the whole TTIC concept should a series start to emerge.


    Take 2... and action! Today I accomplished a major financial milestone... The mortgage is history!

    Category Everything else
    OK...  So back on January 11th, I excitedly blogged that we had paid off our mortgage.  Celebration ensued, and joy spread throughout the land...

    Now, think about those stories where Bob and Sally have been married for 20 years, only to find out their papers were never filed, therefore making their marriage legally invalid.

    Fast forward to this week...

    I received notice from the Post Office Monday that they couldn't deliver a piece of certified mail from Wachovia.  Hey, must be our title to the house!  So on Tuesday, I took a couple different busses, stood in a rain/snow mix, stopped at the post office, and eventually got home with the letter.  Only to find...  my returned "final" check, and a form letter stating that a payoff of a mortgage had to be via "certified funds".  Furthermore, the final payoff amount they needed (including fees and per diem interest) was only valid through February 6th, and the letter arrived on the 10th.

    You mean to tell me that you've taken my money for nearly 20 years, with some lump sum payments being larger than the one for our final payment, and all of a sudden my check isn't good enough for you???

    <insert all sorts of evil thoughts and rantings about banks who take billions in bailout funds, blah, blah, blah>  

    Needless to say, I was *not* a happy camper when I called them this morning asking for an updated payoff listing...  now.  Rather than mess with "certified funds", I had my local bank wire the payoff today.  It was worth the $25 wire transfer fee to know it was there, electronically acknowledged, and much harder to ignore.

    So...  as of TOMORROW, we will have paid off the mortgage once again.  Celebration will once again ensue (albeit somewhat more subdued), and joy will once again spread throughout the land (with the exception of North Carolina, where the carcass of Wachovia rests)...


    OK... loving my Acer Aspire One netbook!

    Category Acer Aspire One netbook
    A picture named M2

    As I've twittered recently, I was sucked into buying an Acer Aspire One netbook from buy.com last week when it came across in an email ad for only $329.  I've contemplated going the netbook route before, but some of the specs put me off.  Like, do I *really* want to live with an 8GB hard drive?  No...  I don't care how light it might be.  I want to be able to surf the web, do email, and work on writing projects without being concerned about disk space.  And if I want to rip a DVD down to ISO format and play it, then I need space.

    The Acer is the first machine that had specs I could live with!

    1 GB of RAM was a nice starter, as was it being loaded with Windows XP (sorry, still not quite ready to jump to Linux yet).  It's just slightly over 2 pounds, so I couldn't complain about the weight.  It has a normal keyboard in the 9+ inch package, and with my small hands it's not hard to make the shift.  Screen resolution is 1024 x 600, so I give up nothing side-to-side, and not a whole lot from top to bottom.  The clincher was the hard drive...  160GB.  *That* I can live with...  It even has a webcam built in!

    Battery life seems to be exceptional, also.  I haven't yet charged it fully and tried to run it down with a DVD or something.  But I did take it to work today, set it on minimal power management, and used it to take notes throughout the day.  When I got home, I still had 75% of the battery left, something over 4 hours worth.  Can't complain there...  It boots up quickly from hibernate mode, too.  Only about 5 to 7 seconds from opening the lid and hitting the power button, to being at the XP user screen.

    Overall, this is one nice little package that I'm quickly falling in love with.  When we go on our cruise next month, I can leave nearly 10 pounds of laptop, power adapter, and other paraphernalia behind.  About 3 pounds of netbook is all I'll need to keep in touch with life (and the kids) via email and the web.

    If you've been waiting to get something like this, wondering if and when the time would be right to jump in, I think your time has just arrived...


    Book Review - Bloody Confused!: A Clueless American Sportswriter Seeks Solace in English Soccer by Chuck Culpepper

    Category Book Review Chuck Culpepper Bloody Confused!: A Clueless American Sportswriter Seeks Solace in English Soccer
    A picture named M2

    I know that in England (and in fact just about everywhere else in the world except for the US), soccer is far more than a sport.  It's a way of life.  The team you follow is not something taken lightly, and you pledge allegiance to that team through thick and thin.  Chuck Culpepper, a burned out sports journalist in the US, decided to head over to London to get a look at the world of soccer, and what a look he got.  His book Bloody Confused!: A Clueless American Sportswriter Seeks Solace in English Soccer follows a year of his life as he picked a team to follow, and became immersed in the soccer culture that is so common (again, to everyone in the world except us).  The resulting book is humorous, and it makes me want to head over the pond to see a match the way it's supposed to be experienced...

    Common Sportwriter Malaise; Fumbling Around in Daylight, "F---ing Move!"; Is that Really Chelsea's Pitch?; A Twelve-Inch Digix in Camden; My Very Own Relegation Weekend; Sunday Contempt; Media-Inaccessible England; Two Months to Choose; Clueless; Knowing Too Much; Away Fan; The Best Goal in My Admittedly Limited Lifetime; I Hear My People; Europe; Away Fan Extraordinaire; The Distinct Horror of Rail Replacement; An FA Cup Debutant; Cheering for a Toilet-Seat Thief; "Have We Just...."; Old Trafford; "We Were Mental"; Chimes and Mammals; Lonely Walks He Who Walks to Plainmoor; A Blackburn Fiasco; Never Miss a Chance to Hang Out in a Pub with a Blue Bear; Betraying a Kind Reading Fan; Just Disgusting; Rather Hopeless; You Have to Be Kidding Me; Not-Taken Roads; Adopted; It's Really the Heart of England; Elvis and the Beatles; One Goal from Europe; The Whole Meat Raffle of It All

    This book appealed to me on a number of levels.  For one, I learned a great deal about how the season is played.  In American sports, there's a season of play, followed by playoffs and the championship.  In English soccer, there's actually a number of different championships, and a team could conceivably win one or more over the course of a season.  Games played during the season often count towards different standings and rankings, so "every game is equal" is not really the case.  If you ever get a handle on that, then there's the whole league structure.  The top end is the Premier league with 20 clubs, followed by the Championship second division, League One (third division), League Two (fourth division), and Conference (600 other clubs that haven't made it into the big time).  Confused yet?  Good, because the bottom ranked teams in each division get dropped down one level, and the top teams move up.  This is called relegation, and it's why people care whether their team is in 16th or 17th place.  Culpepper had to figure all this out, *plus* choose a team to follow.  Rather than following the big four (Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Arsenal), he decided to follow Portsmouth, a team that would never win it all, but would put up a struggle to not fall down a ranking either.  He then learned that team loyalty is a big deal, and that decision is not one to be made lightly...

    I loved his descriptions of going to away games, only to be told he couldn't buy tickets as he didn't have a "purchase history" there.  Cuts down on the hooliganism.  He spent a number of games watching through openings in the barriers, seeing only fractions of the fields (or other fans).  Most amusing was the tradition of singing that takes place in the stands.  He covered a number of the songs and chants that would serenade the players all game long.  And they don't have lyrics you'd want your four year old repeating, either.  Overall, he shows just how much of a role soccer plays in the life of the average person, much like (American) football is to those fanatics that live and breathe for football season each year.

    If you don't understand the game of soccer, or if your only exposure has been the sidelines at your kid's games, then you might not quite "get" what Culpepper is talking about.  But if you've watched a World Cup match, with 80000 people singing and chanting and drumming all game long, Culpepper's book will give you an inside view as to what drives that passion and devotion.


    Book Review - The Pocket Guide to Brilliance by Bart King

    Category Book Review Bart King The Pocket Guide to Brilliance
    A picture named M2

    Portland author Bart King has one of the quirkiest writing styles I know, and it may well be why I like his work so much.  His latest book, The Pocket Guide to Brilliance, is a humorous look at the history of the United States down through the years, and showcases why we Americans are so brilliant (or not-so-brilliant, as the case often is).  It's definitely good for a laugh, and you'll pick up more than a few obscure facts that you can use to show your own brilliance (or lack of common sense)...

    Introduction; Quick Wits and Canny Minds, Plymouth Rocks; Bad Habits and Funky Customs; Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution; How to Win an Election; Wanna Be a Cowboy?; Playin' It Old School; Brilliant Women; Brilliant Leaders; Great Expectorations; Not-So-Brilliant Villians; Forgotten Brilliance

    The slant on brilliance here is given through a series of examples throughout US history of leaders and citizens who cover the entire spectrum of eejits to geniuses.  And of course, most of them are rather humorous (in a warped way).  For instance, General Woods once let the Indian chief Geronimo (held prisoner at the time) inspect his rifle and taught him how to fire it.  Geronimo then proceeded to shoot at a target and hit a passerby.  Geronimo laughed uproariously, handed the gun back over, and said "good gun!" Of course, what genius allowed him to shoot it in the first place?  Or what about Anne Royall, the first professional female journalist?  She wanted to interview John Quincy Adams, but he wouldn't grant her the time.  So she followed him down to the river, where he had a habit of skinny-dipping.  She then proceeded to sit on his clothes, refusing to move until he answered all her questions.  And here I thought the Mike Wallace ambush style of journalism was ruthless!  And what book is complete without pearls of wisdom from our former President, George W. Bush?  Who can forget "As I'm sure you can imagine, it is an unimaginable honor to live here!"  Um...  yeah.

    King writes the same way someone would talk to you...  Jokes, silly asides, and a few rabbit trails.  While I'm not sure you'll come away any more "brilliant", you will come away with a smile and appreciation that no matter how stupid you think you might be, there's always others lower on the scale than you are.


    Book Review - Cabal of The Westford Knight: Templars at the Newport Tower by David S. Brody

    Category Book Review David S. Brody Cabal of The Westford Knight: Templars at the Newport Tower
    A picture named M2

    Cabal of The Westford Knight: Templars at the Newport Tower by David S. Brody was another book I got via an offer from a publisher.  While the whole Da Vinci Code genre burned out rather quickly for me, this book offered a unique twist in that it was set on American shores.  Add in the fact that all the historical sites and artifacts actually do exist, and you get an interesting blend of quasi-history told in a adventure thriller plot.

    Cameron Thorne is a lawyer in New England, practicing some low-profile law.  But a simple visit from an elderly couple changes his whole life (and eventually the history of the last 2000 years).  They are being pressured to sell their home and property to a guy from Scotland who won't take no for an answer.  Some research shows that this guy is a treasure hunter looking for lost Templar relics that he believes are buried on the elderly couple's property.  But before Cameron can get to the bottom of the guy's story, things start going wrong.  The treasure hunter ends up murdered, Cameron's life is threatened by black sedans that try to run him over, his dog is killed, and his brother loses his leg in an explosion prior to starting some digging on the couple's property.  Seems that more than one group of people want to keep some secrets hidden forever.  Cameron meets and teams up with Amanda Spenser, an attractive English lady who is employed by a group of people charged with maintaining artifacts related to a reported visit to America in the late 1300's by Prince Henry Sinclair.  There's a shady element of this consortium, and Amanda decides to throw caution to the wind and team up with Cameron to dig into the story deeper than she's been allowed to in the past.  The more they dig, the more attention they attract from secret Vatican groups who are willing to do whatever it takes to stop the two from undercovering a story that would rock the foundation of the organized Church...

    While I liked the two main characters in the story, they are really there to help tell a historical story that you have to decide whether it's true (thus a conspiracy) or just a number of things that have been given far more meaning than they ever really had.  The main contention is that Prince Henry came over to America with a number of treasures he was protecting from capture by the Roman Catholic church.  The main treasure they had was evidence that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, had a daughter named Sarah, and that bloodline of Jesus still remains to this day.  Add in worship of the "Sacred Feminine", Masonic societies, Kaballist groups, the Knights Templar, and many other murky secrets, and it calls into question all of what our modern day religions are based on.  What adds realism in Cabal is that all the artifacts and locations used in the book actually do exist, so the story that Brody weaves is based on tales that have some basis in actual fact.  

    Do I accept everything in this book as actual truth?  Not even remotely.  But Brody puts an amazing amount of documented facts in Cabal which helps him to build his story and premise quite well.  It worked for me on both an adventure level as well as a "should investigate this a little deeper" angle.


    Book Review - Necessary Heartbreak: Book One of the When Time Forgets Trilogy by M. J. Sullivan

    Category Book Review M. J. Sullivan Necessary Heartbreak: Book One of the When Time Forgets Trilogy
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    I actually finished this book a month ago, but it got stuck under another book that I hadn't picked up yet.  Hence, I'm somewhat late on the review...  Necessary Heartbreak: Book One of the When Time Forgets Trilogy by M. J. Sullivan.  This was a book I accepted from the author, and I didn't come in with particularly high expectations.  But it turned out to be a very good read, both in terms of characters and story, as well as giving the reader a different perspective of Christ's final week in Jerusalem...

    Michael Stewart is a single father raising his 13 year old daughter, trying desperately to keep her safe and buffered from all of life's harms.  Of course, the harder you hold a teenager, the more they push away.  But the father and daughter are thrown together for survival when they find an old tunnel underneath a church where they're volunteering.  Exploring the tunnel leads them to a different place and time, that being Jerusalem during the final week of Christ's life.  Needless to say, 21st century clothing and style does not blend in with 1st century fashion, and they're immediately on the run from Roman soldiers intent on jailing them (as well as taking Michael's daughter as one of their wives).  They are befriended by Leah, a godly young woman who is also a widow.  Michael is forced to reexamine his beliefs and faith as history plays out in front of him.  He also has to take a number of chances to find the tunnel exit once again, so that he and his daughter can go back to their own place and time.

    The characters and dialogue in Necessary Heartbreak were quite solid.  I quickly grew to like Michael and identify with his efforts to protect his daughter at all costs.  But even more than that, I was intrigued by how the final week of Christ's life would look to someone who had read about it, but now got to see the events in all their horrific detail.  Viewpoints like that always make me stop and think, dropping my normal mental motion picture for a new version of the film.  I enjoyed this book, and would definitely pick up the follow-ons to this series.


    The reason to go check out LotusLive.com if you were a Lotusphere attendee...

    Category Lotusphere2009
    Have you been wondering why you should go sign up for LotusLive.com if you were a Lotusphere attendee?  This is why...

    The intro page from ls09.info this morning...

    Lotusphere 2009 Community to Continue in LotusLive

    On Friday, February 6, 2009 at 4:00 pm eastern time, Lotusphere Online 2009 will close.  Registered conference attendees will still be able to access presentation PDFs and soon, presentation MP3s, in LotusLive.

    LotusLive is IBM's newest portfolio of online offerings, designed to help businesses work more effectively with their customers and partners. The offerings include services for web conferencing, email and collaboration. One of the collaboration offerings is called LotusLive Engage which is an on-line business place providing an essential set of integrated collaboration services currently in an open beta phase (formerly known as "Bluehouse").

    Sign up for your LotusLive Engage account today (if you haven't already signed up) so you can continue to meet, network and interact with other conference participants. Lotusphere 2009 attendees are being offered beta LotusLive Engage accounts to use with your teams, customer and partners in a secure and managed on-line space.

    Take five minutes today and go to http://www.lotuslive.com  and register for a free open beta account. Each account is considered a company or organization, so you may add others from your company to that same account. Only a single individual from a company needs to register if multiple people attended Lotusphere. The first person registering becomes the owner and can quickly add others through the Administration links.

    Lotusphere session PDFs and MP3s will be available in LotusLive and will be easily accessible from your LotusLive account.  We encourage you to complete your registration today at http://www.lotuslive.com!  

    The Lotusphere 2009 Team


    Book Review - Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad that Crossed an Ocean by Les Standiford

    Category Book Review Les Standiford Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad that Crossed an Ocean
    A picture named M2

    Having an interest in Florida history, I saw this book at the library and had to pick it up...  Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad that Crossed an Ocean by Les Standiford.  The Key West railroad was a fascinating concept to begin with...  building a railroad line from Miami to Key West, spanning miles of ocean in the process.  Set the whole project at the turn of the century, and it becomes even more incredible.  And to watch it all get destroyed by the hurricane of 1935 is a sad and ironic ending to a structure that was supposed to stand as a monument to Mr. Flagler and his vision for what Florida could become.

    Flagler is one of those people who hasn't seemed to get much notice in history, given the role he played.  He actually worked side-by-side with Rockefeller in building Standard Oil to the mega-monopoly that it became.  As such, he ended up with far more money than a single person could ever spend.  After spending some time off down in Florida, he became enamored with the state.  He also saw a potential business opportunity...  The Panama Canal was being built, and Tampa was the nearest deep water port on the Atlantic side.  Flagler felt that he could turn Key West into the new destination, 300 miles closer to the Canal than Tampa.  A railroad from Key West to the mainland could make a fortune.  Thus...  it was time to start building "Flagler's Folly", an engineering feat that many said couldn't be done.  20 years and millions of dollars later, Flagler experienced his dream...  riding a train down the Florida coast, onto the Keys, and finally ending up at Key West.  But yet little more than 20 years later, it all lay in ruins, a victim of the 1935 hurricane, thought by many to be the strongest storm ever to hit the US (over 200 mile per hour winds).  But its short life doesn't negate the enormity of what Flagler was able to accomplish, as well as how it laid the groundwork for the highway that would soon link all the keys in the same way the rail line did.

    Standiford does a good job weaving the story of Flagler's trials to get his dream built.  He also does an excellent job in showing exactly what obstacles were overcome to make it happen.  It truly was a monumental feat of engineering for the time and technology.  The hurricane portion of the story seems to get short billing, however.  I've read stories of the hurricane and devastation, and it's really not captured here at the level I'd expect.  But even with that caveat, Last Train is worth reading to recapture a sense of what dreamers (albeit with a lot of money) used to dream...


    Book Review - Third Degree by Greg Iles

    Category Book Review Greg Iles Third Degree
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    On my way back from a week-long conference, I did something I really didn't need to do...  go into an airport bookstore to get something to read.  I mean, I was only packing about seven books to start with, and still had about four I hadn't started.  But I wanted some mind candy, something with action and suspense that would last just about the length of a cross-country flight.  I picked up Third Degree with Greg Iles in paperback as the premise sounded interesting.  And it worked perfectly...  kept me turning pages, and I finished just about the same time as the plane landed.

    Laurel Shields is living a life that appears to be one that anyone would love to have.  Two great kids, a husband (Warren) who has a great job as a physician, and her teaching job at a local school, working with special needs kids.  But that life holds a lot of secrets...  Warren has become more controlling as the marriage has progressed, and Laurel is far from happy living in the small town where Warren grew up.  All this dissatisfaction led to her having an affair with the father of one of the kids she teaches.  Although she's deeply in love with Danny McDavitt (and he with her), he can't leave his wife as she'll take his son away from him.  When Laurel wakes up on this particular day, she finds out something distressing...  she's pregnant, and there's a very good chance it's Danny's.  Warren seems to be having a melt-down in the study over something, and Lauren wonders if it's related to the tax issues she's having at his clinic with his business partner.  The complete stress of the affair and the pregnancy sends her home early with the start of a migraine, only to find Warren still there...  with a gun...  and a letter from her lover that he found.  Now he wants to know who she's been sleeping with, how long it's been going on, and he'll go to any length to find out.  The next twelve hours is a fine dance between her repeated denials, his mental instability, McDavitt trying to rescue both her and her kids, and the police wanting to storm the house with guns blazing.  

    Normally in a novel like this, you have a set of good guys and bad guys.  But here, everyone involved in the core story is flawed.  Warren's psychotic, Lauren's been sleeping around on her husband, and Danny is the "sleepee".  The only innocent ones are the kids who are caught in the crossfire.  Even the people who work in the clinic with Warren are messed-up individuals trying to stay out of jail for their part in some illegal activities.  But strangely, it's hard not to build up a great deal of empathy for Danny and Laurel and what they were trying to escape in their day-to-day lives.  As the tension ratchets up during the standoff, McDavitt goes above and beyond to try and end the confrontation with everyone still alive at the end, including Warren.  And there are a number of plot twists towards the end that change your whole viewpoint of exactly what has been going on.

    Looking at some of the other reviews on Amazon, I see there's a huge spread in terms of whether people liked the book or not.  It seems to be predicated on whether or not you've read Iles before and expect certain types of stories from him.  Since it's been awhile since I've read any of his work, I wasn't preconditioned for anything in particular.  And as such, I thought it was a great read...

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    Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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