Saturday, December 18, 2010

Doctor Dealer

Doctor Dealer: The Rise and Fall of an All-American Boy and His Multimillion-Dollar Cocaine Empire by Mark Bowden.  This is the story of Larry Lavin, a guy from a working-class family who won a scholarship to a prestigious Philadelphia boarding school, went on to earn Ivy League college and dental degrees.  A boy who became a man and was destined to enjoy a comfortable life and all that goes with it.  But in true American fashion, greed and bravado wiped it all away.  Read more…
December 18, 2010 @ 11:40 pm | Category:
Monday, September 06, 2010

Five Years of My Life

Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantanamo by Murat Kurnaz is a story of a man born, raised and living in Germany although he is Turkish. (Unlike the U.S. being born in Germany doesn't make you a citizen.  There you go Tea Baggers, run with it. But I digress.)  Anyhow, Murat was somewhat an average guy growing up as a German Turk.  In his teen and young adult life he was busy having fun and running around.  But once he met the girl whom he wanted to marry, he decided to reconnect with his Islamic faith and become a good Muslim.  Knowing his family would not approve, he and a friend planned and then left to study Islam in Pakistan.  Ordinarily that wouldn't have been a problem except they went in October of 2001, just as the U.S. began it's invasion of Afghanistan...  Read more…
September 6, 2010 @ 09:58 pm | Category:
Monday, August 30, 2010

Shoot the Damn Dog

This was the book that started me off on my reading biographies kick.  I didn't know it at the time, but I'd be back for many more...

Shoot the Damn Dog: A Memoir of Depression by Sally Brampton. Sally worked in the fashion industry in the UK for many years before launching the highly successful Elle magazine in the U.K. in 1985.  Most would probably consider this a fantastic life, and it was filled with many of the trappings of the high life that the very wealthy typically lead.  But behind the successful and public persona was a woman living with severe depression, drug abuse and raging alcoholism.  Few knew or even suspected there were problems.  For this was still in the dark days of mental illness where the general public viewed metal illness as something that one brings on themselves and simply isn't dealing with.

Sally struggles to maintain her public life as well as her marriage and raising her daughter all while the outside world sees nothing but tremendous success.  But the battle with her inner demons and self-medicating with finally leads to an attempted suicide to end the pain.  Unable to cope, Sally can no longer work, raise her daughter and her marriage also crumbles.  Sally survived suicide, wound up in and out of a mental institution for four years, but continued to struggle with alcohol as her primary medication of choice.  Psychiatric also care brought her an endless stream of the available mental health drugs of the day, all to no avail.  Read more…
August 30, 2010 @ 07:07 am | Category:
Friday, July 16, 2010

The Mythical Man-Month

Before going on my biography binge, the last technical book I read was The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering, Anniversary Edition (2nd Edition) by Frederick P Brooks.  This is a must read for anyone who works in software engineering and/or management.  I've worked in this field for nearly two decades, but sadly hadn't read this "must read".  Discussing this one day with my Lead Engineer, Anthony, he was dumfounded that I hadn't read it.  A couple of days later he showed up in my office with his copy. (Thank You Anthony!)  I was reading something else at the time so this sat for a while at home before I finally got around to it.

Those who don't work in the industry might not be familiar The Mythical Man-Month by name.  But I'm guessing that if you've worked for very long you've witnessed it in some form.  So what is?  The basic idea is that "adding manpower to a late software project makes it later". This idea is known as Brooks's law.  For a real and complete explanation go read The Mythical Man-Month Wikipedia page, you're not going to get one here.

So I did find this an interesting and in-depth read even though I was already familiar with the concept of Brook's Law.  This is a book that was originally published in 1975, reprinted with corrections in 1982, then this anniversary edition coming in 1995, and me not reading it until 2009.  And the basis of the book was the development of the IBM OS/360 operating system software project in the mid to late 1960's.  So scoring this at home, that's 35 years between when it was originally written and my reading it…for a project that was 10 years prior to it.  So we're talking about events from about 45 years ago (just shy of my lifetime!) and the truly astounding part?  Although there has been many technological advances in computing systems and software since then, the basic premise still holds true!  And if you don't work in computers or can relate to this is your profession, trust me, it's true.  I live this on a daily basis.
July 16, 2010 @ 10:35 pm | Category:
Thursday, June 24, 2010

New Topic: Books

About a year or so back I actually started reading regularly.  It's been something I've been wanting to do more and more as time goes by.  I never used to be a big reader and when I did I generally read a lot very dry technical reading.  But now I've been reading what I call "real books".  I've really gotten into reading biographies so that's overwhelmingly what I've been reading.  Anyhow, I thought I'd start a new blog topic to catalog what I've been reading.  Don't expect much more than a capsule summary of the book, I'm not doing this to wax poetically in-depth about the books I'm reading.  Just getting around to creating this topic has taken way longer than it should have!
June 24, 2010 @ 12:58 pm | Category: