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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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11/30/2010

Adding form validation in a SharePoint List using the PreSaveAction function...

Category SharePoint
So one of my users wanted to have an edit validation in a simple List where one field would be required if a second field had a value in it.  Unfortunately, simple Lists don’t allow that cross field validation, and the users tend to mess around with this List a lot.  I didn’t want to spend a lot of effort customizing it and getting saddled with the maintenance from here on out.
 
After a lot of searching and head-banging, I finally found where I could put code in the NewForm.aspx and EditForm.aspx pages to allow for JavaScript validation without changing the overall structure and design. 

The green code is what I added to each of the pages.  The PreSaveAction function in the SharePoint JavaScript libraries is one of those functions that doesn’t execute when the page is saved unless you add your own code.  Therefore, it makes for a great hook to add your own JavaScript validation code.  It’s added right after the PlaceHolderMain line, and consists of whatever you need the form to do.  In this case, I used the getTagFromIdentifierAndTitle function that is pretty common when you search for this type of solution.  That allowed me to get the value of the two fields I needed to examine.  Once the values were obtained, I did a simple compare and returned false if the validation failed.

This URL explains the getTagFromIdentifierAndTitle function: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/sharepointdesigner/archive/2007/06/13/using-javascript-to-manipulate-a-list-form-field.aspx

This URL explains the PreSaveAction function: http://www.sharepointdevwiki.com/display/public/SharePoint+JavaScript+Functions+Overview

<%@ Page language="C#" MasterPageFile="~masterurl/default.master"    Inherits="Microsoft.SharePoint.WebPartPages.WebPartPage,Microsoft.SharePoint,Version=12.0.0.0,Culture=neutral,PublicKeyToken=71e9bce111e9429c" meta:progid="SharePoint.WebPartPage.Document" meta:webpartpageexpansion="full" %>
<%@ Register Tagprefix="SharePoint" Namespace="Microsoft.SharePoint.WebControls" Assembly="Microsoft.SharePoint, Version=12.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=71e9bce111e9429c" %> <%@ Register Tagprefix="Utilities" Namespace="Microsoft.SharePoint.Utilities" Assembly="Microsoft.SharePoint, Version=12.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=71e9bce111e9429c" %> <%@ Import Namespace="Microsoft.SharePoint" %> <%@ Register Tagprefix="WebPartPages" Namespace="Microsoft.SharePoint.WebPartPages" Assembly="Microsoft.SharePoint, Version=12.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=71e9bce111e9429c" %>
<asp:Content ContentPlaceHolderId="PlaceHolderPageTitle" runat="server">
       <SharePoint:ListFormPageTitle runat="server"/>
</asp:Content>
<asp:Content ContentPlaceHolderId="PlaceHolderPageTitleInTitleArea" runat="server">
       <SharePoint:ListProperty Property="LinkTitle" runat="server" id="ID_LinkTitle"/>:
       <SharePoint:ListItemProperty id="ID_ItemProperty" MaxLength=40 runat="server"/>
</asp:Content>
<asp:Content ContentPlaceHolderId="PlaceHolderPageImage" runat="server">
       <IMG SRC="/_layouts/images/blank.gif" width=1 height=1 alt="">
</asp:Content>
<asp:Content ContentPlaceHolderId="PlaceHolderLeftNavBar" runat="server"/>
<asp:Content ContentPlaceHolderId="PlaceHolderMain" runat="server">
<script language="javascript" type="text/javascript"> 
 
function PreSaveAction() { 
    var date1 = getTagFromIdentifierAndTitle("INPUT","DateTimeFieldDate","Date Product Completed"); 
    var dropdown1 = getTagFromIdentifierAndTitle("select","DropDownChoice","Is Product Completed");
    if (dropdown1.value == "Yes" && date1.value == "") 
    { 
        alert("If the Is Product Completed option is set to Yes, then the Date Product Completed field must have a value."); 
        return false; // Cancel the item save process 
    } 
    return true; // OK to proceed with the save item 

   
// getTagFromIdentifierAndTitle: Find a form field object using its tagName, identifier, and title to find it in the page 
// Arguments: 
//        tagName:            The type of input field (input, select, etc.) 
//        identifier:         The identifier for the instance of the fieldName (ff1, ff2, etc.) 
//        title:              The title of the list column 
// 
function getTagFromIdentifierAndTitle(tagName, identifier, title) { 
    var len = identifier.length; 
    var tags = document.getElementsByTagName(tagName); 
   
    for (var i=0; i < tags.length; i++) { 
        var tempString = tags[i].id; 
        if (tags[i].title == title && (identifier == "" || tempString.indexOf(identifier) == tempString.length - len)) { 
            return tags[i]; 
        } 
    } 
    return null; 

   
</script>
<table cellpadding=0 cellspacing=0 id="onetIDListForm">
<tr>
  <td>

11/29/2010

Book Review - Instant Recess: Building a Fit Nation 10 Minutes at a Time by Toni Yancey

Category Book Review Toni Yancey Instant Recess: Building a Fit Nation 10 Minutes at a Time
A picture named M2

It's for sure that a significant percentage of the American population is very overweight and sedentary.  Diets come and go, but the weight continues to climb.  Where did we lose the motivation to move around and use our bodies?  Toni Yancey attempts to reverse that trend with her program outlined in the book Instant Recess: Building a Fit Nation 10 Minutes at a Time.  The cynical side of me wonders if anything will change the general mindset, but Yancey does a good job in laying out the advantages of building in a structured activity time within our daily organizational lives...

Contents:
Introduction; The High Price of a Sedentary America and the Challenge of Getting Society Moving; The Benefits of Widespread Physical Activity and Opportunities to Move the Needle; The Evolution of an Idea; The Marketing and Social Marketing of Physical Activity and Fitness; The Case for the Instant Recess Model; Instant Recess - What's Good for the Waistline Is Good for the Bottom Line!; A Glimpse into the Future - How the Recess Model Sparked a Physical Activity Movement; References; About the Author; Index

Yancey builds a solid case, through studies and personal experience, for the value of adding a group exercise/movement program into your organization.  This doesn't involve sending everyone off to a gym for a strenuous workout; instead, it's a 10 minute group program of general movement and calisthenics designed to get people out of their chairs for a "recess break."  She documents how programs such as these have positive benefits on many fronts.  Not only does the participant feel better and start developing healthy habits, but the organization also benefits with lower absenteeism and more productive workers.  

I found the material very comprehensive, and targeted for organizational areas such as human resources or employee wellness.  
Instant Recess is not necessarily targeted for the single individual, although it did get me thinking about my own (not wonderful) habits and what I need to do to change.  It's also not a quick read, in that it goes into a great deal of personal, medical, and social background about how we ended up in this situation, and how we need to change.  But in terms of taking a stand and offering a solution that gets people started in the right direction, Instant Recess does a good job.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Publisher
Payment: Free

11/28/2010

Book Review - Indulgence in Death by J. D. Robb

Category Book Review J. D. Robb Indulgence in Death
A picture named M2

Guilty indulgence time (pun intended)...  J. D. Robb's (Nora Roberts) latest installment, Indulgence in Death, arrived at the library at the perfect time... right before a four day weekend.  Not that it ever takes me that long to finish an In Death novel, but I didn't have to feel overly guilty for reading later into the night than I should have.  

With Indulgence, we see a bit more of Eve Dallas's "softening", as she journeys back to Ireland with Roarke to connect with his family.  While not her particular pace of life, she starts to understand how important family is, even though she's never had one of her own.  Of course, when she gets back to New York, she's quickly thrown back into the world of crime and death, this time with a series of murders involving unusual weapons and little to indicate what might be driving the selection of victims.  With the help of Roarke, Peabody, and the rest of the crew, she is able to cut through the identity fraud and determine the likely suspects for the killings, while at the same time ratcheting up the pressure on the killers to make a mistake and jump to their ultimate end game... killing Dallas.

This installment had all the elements I enjoy in an In Death novel.  While there isn't quite as much interaction with many of the secondary characters, Robb does advance the character growth a bit with Peabody.  Peabody has become more of a detective in her own right, and comes up with a number of threads in the case that Dallas hadn't considered and that play out well.  The motivation of the killings was also interesting, in that it takes the competition angle so common in men to the ultimate conclusion.  

Indulgence In Death was just what I wanted for an escape from technical reading and writing, and Robb delivered.  Now I need to go find what her next planned installment is so I can get on the hold list at the library... :)

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

11/21/2010

Book Review - Dark Prophecy: A Level 26 Thriller by Anthony E. Zuiker

Category Book Review Anthony E. Zuiker Dark Prophecy: A Level 26 Thriller
A picture named M2

Sometimes I pick up a novel not knowing whether it's going to be something I end up regretting.  I read and reviewed Anthony E. Zuiker's Dark Origins awhile back, as it was something different.  He created the CSI television series, and Dark Origins was a combination of book and video vignettes... a "digi-novel" if you will.  I was not overly impressed, as the plot had a number of holes and the videos, while high-quality in production, were rather strange and very uneven when it came to the acting.

Zuiker's back with a sequel to Dark Origins titled Dark Prophecy.  Steve Dark has left the agency that tracks down Level 26 murders, and he's trying to straighten out his head after losing his wife to the killer in Dark Origins.  But someone wants him back in the game to track down what looks to be the start of another serial killing spree, and she's not willing to take no for an answer.  Dark can't figure out her motive, nor can he get a fix on how she's able to command so many resources to get him what he needs to find the killer.  His old agency isn't at all happy with his involvement, and might well resort to drastic measures to make sure he's not part of the equation.  But Dark is the only person who has figured out that the killer seems to be modeling their crime scenes after tarot cards, and that's the only clue he has to try and get a jump on the next death.

Dark Prophecy was much better than Dark Origins, hands down.  The story wasn't as way out there as Origins, and the videos were of higher quality when it came to acting and meaning.  I still had problems figuring out the "why" behind the killers.  The stated reasons didn't seem to be worthy of that type of killing spree, and definitely not something deserving of a Level 26 rating.  Dark's new "partner" needs to have a bit more of her background filled in, as one is left wondering how she's able to pull all the strings she does.  On the other hand, Dark's background is filled in very well via the videos, and there's plenty of room for additional installments of the Level 26 series.

Zuiker's background in TV is obvious in his writing, as you could see this story being played out in a one or two hour show.  But if the Level 26 franchise continues the improvement seen from Origins to Prophecy, this is a series I would look forward to following.  

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

11/21/2010

Book Review - Spider Bones by Kathy Reichs

Category Book Review Kathy Reichs Spider Bones
A picture named M2

I normally rush to the library to pick up the latest Kathy Reichs novel when it comes out, but I ended up getting out of the "latest release" cycle with her writing.  After skipping a few installments, I picked up her latest, Spider Bones, and settled in what I hoped would be an enjoyable read.  Overall, the book was OK, but there were more than a few spots in the plot where I was questioning why certain characters were doing what they were doing...

The main plot surrounds Temperance Brennen getting called into a case where a body is found submerged in rather questionable circumstances.  The identification seems like it should be cut and dried, except that he was already supposed to have been killed during the Vietnam war.  Brennen heads over to Hawaii to work with the military's organization that identifies POW/MIA remains, only to find that there's a third set of remains that could also belong to the dead person.  She has to sort out which body belongs to which identity, while also steering clear of a local Samoan gang war that she stumbled into along the way.

On the positive side, I enjoy the Brennan character.  Her snide attitude and dialogue are great, and she comes across as a real person.  Her interaction with the Hawaiian police was also enjoyable to watch.  On the flip side, pulling Brennan into the examination of the shark victim was a little strained.  I never really understood why Hadley Perry, the ME on the island, needed her assistance, even though she said she wanted "the best" to help her.  Without that, the whole drug subplot doesn't happen.  

Spider Bones was worth reading if you're a Kathy Reichs fan.  It's not the best place to drop into her Bones series, as it's not her best book and you won't understand some of the character interactions.  But taking this along on a vacation would work well.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

11/16/2010

This book writing stuff was so much fun, I'm gonna do it again... this time on Sametime Administration!

Category Sametime book
Since I didn't learn my lesson the first time, I'm going to try it again...  Marie Scott and I are joining forces this time with Gabriella Davis to write a new book on Sametime Administration for 8.5/8.5.1/8.5.x (whatever version happens to be current when the book gets to the end).  This book will take you from either a fresh install or an environment that needs to be upgraded, and walk you through all the new pieces you'll need to install, configure, and monitor.  It's definitely much more complex than before, so learning from Gab and Marie will get you moving in the right direction quickly.

We have the outline in place, and hope to have it ready to go in the 3rd quarter of 2011.  I should be thoroughly bald by then, having torn out what few hairs I have remaining... :)

I'm again honored to be working with *very* intelligent and experienced colleagues, and I'm looking forward to what we end up with as a result of this collaboration.

11/16/2010

eBook Review - Out Of Thin Air by Allison Boyer

Category eBook Review Allison Boyer Out Of Thin Air
If you're a freelance writer, especially one that hasn't yet built up a solid portfolio, finding enough work to pay the bills can be a regular problem.  Allison Boyer, a freelancer herself at aftergraduation.net, has put together a very good ebook that helps you find the quick small jobs that can bridge the gap between full-time and no-time work.  

Out Of Thin Air is a short but informative book that shares Allison's experiences in making ends meet during those dry times.  While none of the tips and techniques are meant to be the foundation for a complete freelance existence, they can help you to get started.

Table of Contents
Part 1 - Making Money Quickly with Current Clients: Hey, Guys? I Exist; Referral Incentives; Sales and Specials; Pre-written Content Discounts
Part 2 - Make Money Quickly with New Clients: Places to Find Freelance Work Offline; Finding New Clients Online
Part 3 - Making Money Quickly with Your Blog: Blog Contests; Let's Talk About Link Bait; Interviews; Your Own Products; Scaring Up New Advertisers
Part 4 - Making Money Quickly with the Bidding Game: The Bidding Site Debate; Smart Searching Techniques; Choosing Projects; How to Bid for Speed; The Follow Up
In Closing - A Note about Budgeting: The Financial Illusion; The Financial Explosion

Even if you've been freelancing for awhile, you can probably pick up a few tips here.  Since writing is my "other job", I don't actively pursue work like she needs to in order to make ends meet.  But even with that background, I still found a few interesting ways I could supplement my income and branch out a bit.  Indeed, some of the ideas about driving traffic to your site for better visibility are things that interested me regardless!

I appreciate Allison's honesty here, also.  Scattered throughout the ebook, she shares her own story and experiences, both good and bad.  She's made mistakes, and she's not afraid to own up to them and help you avoid those same pitfalls.  I personally appreciate that a lot from an author, instead of getting the "I'm the expert and know everything" image that so often is put forth.  Nobody's perfect, and Allison's transparency makes the rest of the information even more valuable because you know she's lived it.

Out Of Thin Air was definitely a worthwhile read, and it's due for a number of follow-up visits on my iPad.  

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Author
Payment: Free

11/14/2010

Book Review - Worth Dying For by Lee Child

Category Book Review Lee Child Worth Dying For
A picture named M2

It's rare that I look forward to a specific novel by an author as much as I was anticipating Worth Dying For by Lee Child.  This episode in the Jack Reacher story was highly anticipated after the cliffhanger ending of 61 Hours.  Did Reacher die in the underground explosion?  If he didn't (and you pretty much had to figure Child wasn't going to kill off his franchise character), then how did he escape?  And how was Reacher going to recover from whatever happened down there?

Unfortunately, the reality didn't come anywhere close to expectations.  This was just another Jack Reacher novel... solid, enjoyable reading, but pretty much completely disconnected from 61 Hours.  You learn early on that he's moving stiffly, and he can barely raise his arms.  A doctor guesses at a diagnosis, and Reacher gives him a bare bones description of what happened for him to suffer that type of injury.  And that's it for 61 Hours.  The rest of the book centers around Reacher's appearance in a small isolated town in Nebraska.  What is supposed to be a quick rest stop on his way to Virginia (supposedly to meet the person he talked with over the phone in 61 Hours), turns into a mini-war that pits Reacher against four members of a family that have held the townspeople hostage with fear and intimidation over the years.  And when Reacher figures out what they are doing to make their money, he's determined to make sure they are taken out of the picture completely.

While it might sound like I didn't care for Worth Dying For, that's not the case.  Had I read this without 61 Hours, I wouldn't have had much in the way of negative things to say about it.  My main complaint is that 61 Hours set expectations, and Worth Dying For ignored them.  At least the story was good, though...  :)

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

11/13/2010

Book Review - From Idea to Web Start-up in 21 Days: Creating bacn.com by Jason Glaspey and Scott Kveton

Category Book Review Jason Glaspey Scott Kveton From Idea to Web Start-up in 21 Days: Creating bacn.com
A picture named M2

I'll admit it was the bacon subject matter than drew me to read From Idea to Web Start-up in 21 Days: Creating bacn.com by Jason Glaspey and Scott Kveton.  How can you *not* be interested in a website focused on bacon?  But obviously the book is much more than that, and quite interesting.  Glaspey and Kveton go into the background of what it took to go from an idea to a functional web business in only three weeks.  You get to see the dynamic of "good enough" at work, in that you can't dither over endless details when you've committed to be up and running in such a short period of time.  There's a lot to be said for that approach...

Contents:
Why Bacon?; Finding the Brand; Building Bac'n; Logistics (or The Site Isn't Everything); Launching with a Live Audience; Moving On Incrementally; Maintenance Mode & Other Opportunities; Selling Bac'n; Wrapping Up Bac'n; Index

The authors don't gloss over and minimize the work that was involved.  They had to build a commerce site, decide the image of their company, get the graphics and layout finished, get the actual product shipped to them, get mailing supplies, and a thousand other details that you don't think about until they rear up and smack you in the face.  Again, with only three people and 21 days, they couldn't set up meetings for the following week to make a decision (sound familiar?)  It was a matter of looking at potential solutions, and finding one that would work well enough to allow them to launch.  You can think of it as an agile approach to launching a company instead of just building an application.

I found it interesting that after all the work they put into the site, they quickly determined that they were ready to sell it to someone else and move on.  Given that they were going for an exceptional level of "experience" in ordering from the site, they stocked and mailed all the products from their own location.  No drop-shipping, no order fulfillment outsourcing... they had it, they shipped it.  That's a lot of work for a business that isn't generating an overly generous profit margin.  So I can definitely see why they'd not want it to be a life-long business.  Once the interesting problems had been solved, it wasn't as much fun as it was before.  But even letting go is hard, as you put your "baby" into someone else's hands, and you have no say over what and where it goes from there.  Another lesson they needed to learn...

If you're looking to start up an online business, you'd do well to read From Idea to Web Start-up in 21 Days and understand how "good enough" can be the difference between actually selling something or getting so bogged down that you never launch.  

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Publisher
Payment: Free

11/13/2010

So unemployment is better than becoming a SharePoint developer? Really?

Category IBM/Lotus
This is something that's been fermenting inside for awhile, and a comment on a blog this week was enough to declare it ready for pouring.  

As many of you probably know, I work at a company that decided to migrate off of Notes for both email and applications.  Considering that's the company where I got started with Notes in 1996, and the birthplace of an incredible 15 years of professional development, it was hard to know that things were going to change.  When you've spent that much time completely immersed in a technology, it's hard to start splitting time between that and something else... especially when the "something else" belongs to a company you long held as the evil empire... Microsoft.

I've spent the last 15 years going from "what is Notes?" to "this is cool" to "Notes is better than anything out there" to "Lotus is morally superior to Microsoft" to "Microsoft is evil and not to be trusted" to "hmmm... apparently the market is changing" to "let's get real... this is software, and we're professionals."

I still believe that Notes is an incredibly powerful tool, and that it is underappreciated and not fully understood by those who own it and by the market in general.  I also believe that SharePoint and associated MS software is at the top of the hype cycle and can't possibly deliver everything that people think it will.  That's pretty much the lifecycle of all new technologies, so nothing new there.  It doesn't mean the technology is useless or evil, just that it's being applied to problems that it isn't well-suited to address.

But our emotional involvement with Lotus software (and Notes/Domino in particular) has caused many of us to assign moral attributes to something that is really nothing more than 1's and 0's (as someone so succinctly reminded us this week).  And what pushed me over the edge this week was a response to a particular blogger's statement about how and why he's not able to hug someone's Xpages tree.  The response was that if we don't help our company understand Notes and make the migration to newer versions, we run the risk of becoming unemployed, or worse, enduring the pain of becoming SharePoint developers.

And hence the title of this blog entry.  Are you really so arrogant to tell someone that it's better to be unemployed than to work with SharePoint?  Have you even *worked* with SharePoint?  Is your mind open enough to possibly consider that SharePoint has some... gasp... positive features?

Working with InfoPath forms being sent to SharePoint sites reminds me a lot of Notes.  And there's something to be said for the wide array of controls you can use to make things happen.  No, it's not exactly like Notes, but there are valid pros and cons on both sides.  A competent professional could write some really nice applications on either platform, and an incompetent programmer could screw up quite well in either.  

Yes, Microsoft has a history of changing and dropping features that you may have invested heavily in.  If you're in the Lotus camp, you'd have to forget Garnet, eSuite, DB2, and composite applications to claim that's never happened to you.  Microsoft has a great development environment.  Lotus, not so much compared to something like Visual Studio.  Microsoft invests heavily in documentation and support for their communities.  Lotus would like you to add your information to their wikis.  Microsoft even recognizes those in their communities who are considered experts in their particular technology niches.  When we tried to get that started with Lotus a couple years back, IBM's first take on the program is that it would only be open to business partners...

In my perfect world, I'd continue working with Notes and companies would be knocking at my door trying to get me to work for them on their Notes applications.  But the world's not perfect, and one has to adapt.  I'm a professional software developer, not a professional Notes guy, and it's taken me awhile to figure that out.  

There is no moral superiority in committing to Notes and choosing unemployment over working with SharePoint and putting food on the table.  In fact, you might just find out that there's more out there in your professional life than you thought.

11/07/2010

Book Review - All Clear by Connie Willis

Category Book Review Connie Willis All Clear
A picture named M2

I got my copy of All Clear by Connie Willis through the Amazon Vine review program after a friend recommended her writing.  Fortunately, I discovered quickly that this was really the last 600 pages of an 1100 page book, and I decided to hold off reading it until after I got Blackout from the library.  It made all the difference to be able to just keep reading once I had finished Blackout, as it ended at the end of a chapter, and All Clear picks up just as if there was no break (because there really isn't).

All Clear continues the story line of the main characters as they try and figure out why the time portal drops aren't working in the midst of the bombings of England during World War II.  Their boss finally makes it through, but he concludes that he's also now trapped in the past.  The working theory is that the flow of history was altered by their trips back in time, and now they are prevented from returning so that they can be eliminated in order to reset the proper flow of events.  But there are other ways to look at how things happened, and it may be that they were kept there in order to make sure things *do* work the way they were supposed to.  By the end, all the separate time and character plot lines are coming together, and everyone's having to deal with the questions about what choices they have based on what has or has not happened, both in the past and future.

I found All Clear a much better read than Blackout, as the reasons for much of what was happening were starting to be revealed.  Actually, it's probably more accurate to say I liked the last half of Blackout/All Clear better than the first half, as they are really a single book.  As you get closer to the end, the typical time travel conundrums start coming fast and furious, and a number of the scenes from earlier in the book play out again, only from the perspective of someone else in the group as their events intersected.  If you like to dive into "but if that happened, then why did this occur, and wouldn't have that led to..." questions, you'll really enjoy the last 100 pages.  :)

All Clear was a good ending to a story that probably could have been told in far less than 1100 pages.  But having gotten a better feel for Connie Willis (at least better than I had with Blackout), I will definitely head back and check out her earlier work.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

11/06/2010

Book Review - Blackout by Connie Willis

Category Book Review Connie Willis Blackout
A picture named M2

Blackout by Connie Willis wasn't on my radar screen until a friend told me I should read All Clear.  It only took me about 30 pages of All Clear to realize that I was in the middle of a story, so it was off to the library to get to the beginning of the story.  Let me preface this by saying I've never read any of Connie Willis's work, so I can't review this from the angle of her prior novels and stories, which sound like they are very well liked by others.  

With Blackout, I found myself thrown deep into the events of World War II England via time-travel, and Willis does an excellent job on the details.  The story primarily revolves around three historians from Oxford in 2060 traveling back in time to observe certain events surrounding WWII, and the possibility that their drop points may not be working any longer in order for them to return.  They are relatively well prepared for their trips to England, in that they've memorized reported bombings and destroyed locations so they can avoid being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.  But as their scheduled end dates pass without a way back to 2060, they are at the mercy of the events surrounding them.  They also struggle with the uncertainty of whether they've changed history by their interactions with others.

I'm torn on whether I liked the book or not.  On the "not" side, I had a bit of a clue that this would be a part 1 of 2 book, but not that it would end as abruptly as it did.  This is a 500 page book that just flat out stops at the end of a chapter with no warning.  If I hadn't known (or already had) the follow-up, I'd have been very upset for spending that much time with no resolution.  The story also started off slow, and the questions as to why slippage was occurring and why the drops were broken were left completely unanswered.  Finally, her description of 2060 seemed rather archaic.  It felt like it was still 1944, and the only advanced technology was time travel.

On the positive side, the events, surroundings, and interactions are well detailed, and you do feel like you are right there.  Once the action starts picking up, I was much more into the story, and the questions about how they may or may not affect history by their actions do lead to a bit of "but what if..." pondering.  And given that I have All Clear to start right on the heels of finishing Blackout, I'm not quite as miffed over the way this ended.

All things considered, I probably view Blackout as "average", knowing that I may feel differently once I finish All Clear.  If you read/liked her previous work, you will also have a different take since this is my first exposure to her.  But based on what I've read so far and the reviews by others, I am interested in reading some of her previous work...

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

11/01/2010

Book Review - Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber

Category Book Review John Kotter Holger Rathgeber Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions
A picture named M2

I've been doing this "work" thing long enough to know that when a boss suggests a particular book to read, you may want to pay attention and pick up a copy.  That's how the book Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber ended up on my radar screen.  Granted, I probably would have been inclined to read it anyway, as it's on a topic that seems to define my life.  Written in a style that brings to mind Who Moved My Cheese?, Iceberg is a quick read that uses a fable to make its point about how to be open to changes in all areas of your life.

The authors use a waddle of penguins (yes, I had to look that up!) to tell a story about change.  One penguin who goes by the name of Fred is an observant sort, and starts to realize that the iceberg they live on is in danger of collapsing.  When he tries to bring that to the attention of others, he's written off as alarmist, strange, or just plain wrong.  He finally gets someone in the leadership pack to see and understand the situation, and together they have to convince the others that there 1) is a problem, and 2) is a need to change in order to survive.  As you might expect, the waddle goes through all the typical behaviors such as denial, acceptance, resistance, and so forth.  But though hard work and careful choices, they learn to change and adapt to a different (and perhaps better) way of life.  

Kotter structures the story around his eight step process for successful change:
Set the Stage
1. Create a Sense of Urgency
2. Pull Together the Guiding Team
Decide What to Do
3. Develop the Change Vision and Strategy
Make it Happen
4. Communicate for Understanding
5. Empower Others to Act
6. Produce Short-Term Wins
7. Don't Let up
Make It Stick
8. Create a New Culture

Admittedly, the story used to present the process is simple and perhaps overly cute.  But it's a whole lot more memorable and easier to apply than just having the eight steps written out so you can read and memorize them.  For many readers who are facing change that they didn't necessarily choose, this would be a good choice.  They can get their minds wrapped around the change process, and perhaps identify with the different characters in order to help them navigate the path ahead.  Personally, I think Our Iceberg Is Melting is one of the more approachable books on change for the average person trying to make sense of it all.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

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