This is a fascinating read, ranging across a variety of topics. What makes a great salesman? Why do are some TV programs so addictive? How do some people remain occasional smokers without ever developing a daily habit? There’s also a chapter on the magic number 150 – how the military, communities and companies have found that once a unit exceeds 150 people you need to split into sub-groups in order to maintain the same levels of cohesion.
This wasn’t a particularly memorable book – the main character is Tim Harding, a landscape gardener who finds himself chasing around the country investigating the theft of a historic ring and the death of a journalist, whilst also having an affair with the wife of a rich client. The shame of it is that there’s a gem of a plot hidden in this book, concerning the legend of the Grey Man of Ennor who supposedly had healing powers and cured people of the Black Death. His remains may still have the power to heal and are fiercely protected by local families on the Isles of Scilly.
As with the other Chris Ryan books that I’ve read, this one concerns the SAS. This time, though, it’s the SAS who are subject to a surprise attack – a training platoon mercilessly bombed by a well organised team, bent on revenge. The plot follows two experienced survivors from that day as they track down the perpetrators and aim to exact their own revenge. They are helped unofficially by the UK government, including the mysterious Cecilia Lakes – a senior official destined for greatness in the UK Intelligence Services.
This is a technical book, packaged as a very readable tale of an IT Manager who is promoted to Vice President of IT Operations across his company. Whilst Bill runs a tight ship in his small department, the company as a whole has a poor culture for delivering software. Bill is ordered by the CEO to do whatever it takes to bring the Phoenix Project (an IT re-vamp vital to the company’s business) to completion.
Much of the technical content concerns the DevOps arena and touches on issue tracking and prioritisation as well as improving time to delivery. It’s a good read as well as making some well-argued technical points.
The first address in this year’s Appleton lecture was given by Dr Sarah Atkinson. She gave a historical view of “fake news” created by manipulation of media, starting with the Cottingley fairies. This set the scene for Dr Hao Li’s excellent presentation of his research into animation of people, initially through long-running processes for film effects, but latterly in real-time for Animoji on the iPhone X.
There are plenty of applications for the techniques, such as video conferencing, social media and even films. However, the common theme was that, as these technologies become mainstream, we should no longer assume that video evidence of a speaker saying something is actual real.
This is a short, low-level walk around Loweswater, which is both a lake and the name of a small village. It’s also the first walk in the Pathfinder Guide. On the day that my family and I hiked around the lake, The Loweswater Show was coincidentally being held in fields nearby – making it quite a challenge to squeeze the car around the horse boxes leaving the show along the narrow country lanes. There is parking is lay-bys along the Northern side of the lake.
The route for the walk was quite easy to follow, being largely around the lake. There are some lovely sections on the North side of the lake where the path is directly adjacent to the water. On the South side, much of the route is through woodland, although there is a stony beach with several ropes suspended from the trees – we caught a sheepish teenager enjoying a swing on those before he felt self-conscious.
This book follows a similar formula to The Afghan, by the same author. There’s a terrorist threat to the western world- extremists brainwashed by a radical cleric are murdering prominent public figures. A former US marine (codenamed The Tracker) must track down the preacher (codenamed The Preacher) who only posts online – and eliminate him. The Tracker recruits a young, supremely talented hacker to help locate the source of the inflammatory material – he is codenamed Ariel (disappointingly, not The Hacker!)
The constraints put in place by politicians make The Tracker’s job harder – even having located The Preacher, he cannot order a drone strike because it is a built up area. So begins an elaborate plot to bring The Preacher out of his ‘fortress’ into a remote area, where he can be attacked. First, he is discredited in the eyes of his followers, by hacking his website and posting a fake message recanting his previous statements. Second, he is informed by a trusted friend (actually Ariel, aka The Hacker) that a local warlord has kidnapped a westerner and is prepared to sell – executing the man would re-instate his fearsome reputation. Having set the bait, the tracker must recruit a lethal army unit to seek and destroy The Preacher at his meeting with the warlord.