Treason: Shaping Up to be Good Navy Fiction

Last week, I was looking for free Kindle books. I rarely read fiction, but I enjoy a good story now and again. I came across a free book that looks to be a Navy JAG story. I used to like reading Navy stories, and I liked John Grisham stories, and I also liked the movie A Few Good Men. I decided to download the free Don Brown Kindle book, "Treason". I then downloaded the rest of the series while it was still free. For now, I've been reading it on my PC while I sync my iPhone at night.

If you want to test out the Kindle platform, follow this link to the book. You can download Kindle for PC from here. If you'd like the paperback, you can buy it below from my affiliate account.

More On eBooks- Content and Devices

I came across yet another post on dedicated eBook readers here. I was going to leave a comment, but it's on an idiotic site that expects you to join their "community" just to post a comment. I'm no fan of that. Just let me post a comment and move on. I'm not interested in sticking around your "community", and if you're that needy, I'm less interested. A person can only maintain so many logins.

This post refers to the one I wrote about yesterday, about whether or not eBook readers will make good Christmas gifts (it took the cowardly way of referring to a non-specific cultural observance "holiday".)

I want to take a step back here. Let's forget about "eBook Readers" for a minute. Let's talk about eBooks. We don't want to confuse the two. eBooks and eBook readers are separate things. 

An eBook is what we could call "content". An eBook reader is what we would call a device. A platform is the content plus the device or devices that the content can be used on.

Personally, I would like the ability to read my content on just about any device. Thanks to Kindle, at present, I can. I can read the same book on my iPhone, my Acer netbook, my Dell desktop, and soon on my BlackBerry. At no point do I have to get a physical Kindle. I hope Amazon sticks to this model, of selling content, or books. Personally, I think Amazon will make more money in the long run if they stick to selling books and work to make those books accessible on more devices.

Amazon could have gone the other way. They could have decided "We want to make money selling Kindles, so we'll publish books in Kindle format but require you to buy a Kindle to read them". They didn't do that, and they made money from me because I can read my Kindle books on my iPhone. I'm not locked in to a Kindle device.

But I am locked into the format. I can read my Kindle books as long as I'm using Kindle software. I have to worry about how long the Kindle platform will last. Will I one day find my Kindle books unreadable?

I know Barnes & Noble has an eBook reader for the iPhone. I haven't downloaded it yet. I also know they're coming out with an physical eBook reading device called "The Nook". I promised in my last post that I would do some reading on it so I can comment intelligently. I haven't done that yet. It's on my to-do list. But I'm not interested in it at present. I tend to stick with Amazon for one reason:

Amazon makes it cheap and easy.

Almost any time I need a book, Amazon usually has the best price. I even have an app for my iPhone where I can take a picture of a book, upload it to Amazon, and get back what prices Amazon has for that book. It's almost always cheaper on Amazon. Then, if I spend more than $25, the shipping is free. With Kindle, I can buy and start reading books instantly.

I honestly haven't had a reason to go anywhere else. Barnes & Noble at present hasn't given me a good reason to look into their format or inventory. Neither has Sony.

Let's get back to the point: should you buy an eBook reader (that is, a dedicated device) for yourself or a loved one for Christmas (or any non-specific cultural observance you may buy presents for)?

Here are a few reasons why you might want to consider one:

  1. Do you, or said loved one, read a lot of books? Then, you probably should.
  2. Do you, or said loved one, travel a lot? I'm content to read books on my iPhone, but iPhone 3G battery life isn't good, so if I were traveling a lot, I might want a Kindle.
  3. Are you, or said loved one, already overloaded with gadgets? If all you have is a "dumbphone", or no phone, but meet the other two points, then go for it. Somebody said that the max number of gadgets most people are willing to carry is 3. I've carried 3 gadgets. I'd say it's my limit.

By the way, if you'd like to buy a Kindle for yourself or a loved one, I'll make it quick and easy for you. You can buy it through my affiliate link right below. Amazon will gift wrap it:

Will eBook Readers Make Good Gifts This Season?

I've been asked a few times by friends if an eBook reader is a good idea. I was asked once specifically about the Kindle, and again about readers in general.

I read an article on Macworld's site giving 7 arguments why eBook readers aren't a good idea this "holiday season". I'll save my "holiday" rant for later. Let me redefine this: should you get somebody a Kindle or other eBook reader for Christmas? (The illogic of that whole "holiday" thing drives me nuts). 

The 7 arguments put forward in that article are:

1. We're on the brink of radical change in how people read e-books

2. E-book readers are the least discounted gadgets on the market

3. There are so many other new ways to read e-books

4. Giving an e-book readers may involve committing a person to a specific technology

5. E-book readers are old and busted

6. Everyone who really wanted one already has one

7. One of the best choices is unavailable

Mostly, the arguments rest on the assumption that Apple is working on a mythical "iTablet" that will be such an awesome eBook reader, it will render the Kindle, Nook, and that Sony thing useless overnight.

I've started and deleted several blog posts about how I'm sick of hearing about the Apple iTablet and will believe it when I see it. I stand by that.

I can personally attest to argument #6 being wrong. Everybody who wanted a Kindle DOES NOT already have one. I don't. I want a Kindle, and I don't have one yet. I guess I don't want it bad enough, but I'd still like one.

#4 is a very real concern, and it's one reason I've been slow to adopt eBooks even though I'm really excited about them. If you commit to a platform, will it last? What happens if I buy a Kindle and several Kindle books, and within a year the Kindle format is dead? I can't buy any more books, and once the platform dies out, I won't be able to read the books I bought. What if I buy a Kindle and for some reason the Barnes & Noble Nook takes off? Can you read Kindle books on a Nook, and Nook books on a Kindle? I don't have high hopes for Sony. Sorry, Sony just doesn't excite me about much. I'll believe Sony builds a successful eBook reader when they build one. I didn't like their last one. I played with it at Sam's. I found it non-intuitive and slow. I wouldn't have bought one. If you're going to buy an eBook reader for a friend or loved one, do keep in mind that you could be enslaving them to a platform with no guarantee of success.

The argument about eBook readers being "old and busted" reeks of somebody who has enough money to buy everything that comes out, use it for 2 days, and throw it away. I'm sure the rest of us without such a budget or access to review units will find that argument to be more of an elitest opinion than something to base our own buying decisions on. It's one of the reasons I despise tech journalists. They don't realize what it's like to have to work your butt off for months to save up for an iPhone. They get one handed to them and get sick of it by the time they get a Droid review unit.

I've bought some Kindle books to read on my iPhone. So far, I like it. The only advantage a physical Kindle would give me is the ability to read pdf files on the Kindle. 

So, should you buy a Kindle, Nook, or whatever Sony calls their reader? Sure. If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, or a PC, you can read Kindle books without owning a Kindle. Kindle will soon be releasing readers for the Mac and BlackBerry. No Windows Mobile. Good though I jumped ship from Windows Mobile. I'd almost say for now, get an iPod Touch and download Kindle for iPhone, then buy some books.

I guess I'll have to do some reading about the Barnes & Noble Nook, because I can't comment intelligently about it right now.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everybody

It's Thanksgiving again. In the grand tradition of what this day is supposed to be about, here are some of the things I'm thankful for.

  • Perhaps this shouldn't go first on the list, but right now it's at the forefront of my mind. I'm thankful to work for a company that, even though I got fired from my contract last week, hasn't cut me loose. They can't promise anything, but they're working on finding another spot for me and providing me with work to do in the meantime. I'm also being provided with mentoring in the very thing that I believe got me kicked off that contract in the first place. No company is perfect, but I'm thankful to work for one with a heart.
  • I'm thankful for my family. Christina is busy getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner. She's incredibly gifted at this. Anytime we have a big dinner of guests coming over, she just knows how much to make and of what dishes. I've never seen us run out of anything for big dinners or parties. She makes it look easy.
  • I'm thankful for my boys. I often joke that the worst parts of me were split between the two of them. Joshua has my "It's going to be my way or everybody else will be miserable" attitude. Caleb has my insatiable "I need to know everything and I need to know it right now" mentality. But they're both my boys and they're both gifted in their own ways, and they make life fun and interesting.
  • I'm thankful for my friends, my church, for my books, for my iPhone, for my computers, my car, my house, bed, and I could go on and on. Perhaps I will, but in a private format that's not likely to bore readers.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Buying One Song…

Sometimes I wish I had musical talents. Or I wish I had a Mac and Garage Band. Or I wish somebody would come out with a Garage Band like product for the PC. Don’t tell me Audacity. It’s not the same.

I found out about this $3 of free music promotion by Amazon today. When I got home, I decided to get some songs. I had a song that I’d been wanting for a while, so I bought it. It was $1.29. Fine, it was free. Then I went looking for another song. For some reason, lately I’ve been wanting “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” I don’t know why. My church never sings it. I’m curious if any of our song leaders have heard of it. In any case, a podcast I listen to occasionally leads in with it. I figured “how hard could it be to find a version of ‘A Mighty Fortress” that I’d like?”

A lot harder than I thought. Amazon returned hundreds of songs under my search. I started sampling them. I quickly realized that I didn’t want a version of the song with pipe organs or a congregation singing in a very-bad-for-sound auditorium/sanctuary/whatever they call it. I also quickly decided that I don’t want an instrumental version. I just want one good singer with a good instrumental mix, that doesn’t include pipe organs or a single guitar. Turns out, my want was impossible. I did find a couple of versions of the song that made me wish Trans Siberian Orchestra would tackle it.

I hate some Christian paradigms. “A Mighty Fortress” is a great song. It’s a powerful anthem. Why can’t anybody put together a good version of it? Just  because it’s 500 years old doesn’t mean it has to be sung with pipe organs and sound like a death march. I’m sure Luther never intended it that way.

Is the “Open Door Policy” Really a Lie?

It seems like every manager I've ever worked for claims to have an "open door policy". They always introduce themselves that way. It's kind of like Dr. Kelso in the first episode of Scrubs. I've always been curious how many of them actually mean it. I don't mean direct supervisor. Most of them are forced to deal with you. I mean the levels above the direct supervisor.

Have you ever taken advantage of a manager who claimed to have the "open door policy"? Was he or she actually telling the truth, or was it a complete load of bovine fecal matter, equivalent to the Presidential candidate who says "I WILL NOT raise taxes"?

If you are a manager, do you claim the "open door policy"? Do you mean it?

What would be wrong with just being honest and saying "Leave me the heck alone! I'm not interested in your problems. If you bother me with a problem between you and your direct supervisor, you're fired"?

I'm just curious.

Update On Thursday

On Thursday night, I posted about how I was fired. It had never happened to me, and I'm still processing it. Fortunately, for the time being, fired in my case doesn't mean unemployed, although that is a possibility. As a contractor, I'm employed by another company. I was working embedded with my customer, and like I said, one of my tasks for some reason I never could produce at a level that met expectations. As I was the only person working on that task, I'm not sure how they expect not to fall behind while somebody else catches up since I was just starting to figure out what I was doing. I finally got the last few pieces in place, and in two or three weeks I would have been "there", but "there" was way past several deadlines. I had several other responsibilities, and it seemed like I was doing good work on those, but it wasn't enough. I guess I was assigned to that task because I'd done similar work in my previous job, but nowhere near at the level that was expected of me. I don't think anybody else on the team can do that work right off the line, so I'm not sure what they expect to do. I guess I hope getting rid of me solved all their problems. Other groups on that program contracted that kind of work out. We were the only group doing it in-house, and I'm not entirely convinced I was being supervised by people with much experience in that line of work. Like, they don't know what they don't know. It's in the past now.

I went into my parent company yesterday (Friday). I expected to be on overhead until somebody had time to review other listings and see what other positions I might fit in. I figured I'd go through the benefit information for open enrollment that I haven't gotten to because I'd been trying to meet yet another deadline on that task. Turns out a major project with a Monday deadline was underway, so when a team member saw me over there, he pulled me onto it. I at first protested, saying "I just got fired from my contract for my work on that kind of project", but they needed me enough. It turns out that I have the proper mentorship on this team, and within 2-3 hours I was off the ground. Why I didn't ask that group for help months ago will probably go down in my memoirs as one of my greatest mistakes. The project is big enough and the deadline close enough that I ended up with some overtime last night and permission to work on the project from home this weekend to get it finished up by Monday. Considering how close I could be to unemployed, I'm grateful for the overtime and the chance to redeem myself on this kind of work.

In the short term at least, things look good. I've seen my company go to great lengths for other people who ended up off their contracts. They may absorb some overheard on me for the short term, but if the project for Monday gets finished up, more work like that could come in and they might need me for that.

So, I screwed up pretty bad, but for now things look hopeful.

My Services Are No Longer Required

It happens to the best of us, and the worst of us too. I was told that my services are no longer required this afternoon. I'm off the contract.

How did it happen? I'm sure there's another side to the story. My analysis is that I was placed on a task that ended up being a little more difficult than I expected. I failed badly. I kept at it, and learned, and thought I was doing better, but somehow no matter how hard I worked, I could not meet expectations. I'm not entirely convinced that I was being directed by people with very much experience in this task. I was able to get help from people who had experience, but it was too late. Looking back, some of the direction I was given sent me in the wrong direction.

Somehow, rather than get somebody else on this task and put me on something I'm good at, I was allowed to spin my wheels on this task for months. I thought I was finally getting the hang of it. I put in a 12 hour day trying to finish up one part, then found out the next day that it wasn't good enough. I found out today that I was off the contract.

There is a good spot. Most contractors who are fired get fired while off site. I was politely fired in the conference room and was able to clean out my cubicle. I was able to get all my stuff out, as well as any files that I need for my own records. I also spent the time to clean up the dust. That cubicle was the dustiest place I've ever worked. I tried to leave it clean for the next occupant.

So what's next? I work for a really good company. They'll try to find another place to put me. They can't promise anything, but I've seen them go to great lengths for people in my situation. I'll go to my company's offices tomorrow and they'll try to find me something else.

In the meantime, if you're aware of anybody who needs an engineer or IT professional, let me know. Seriously people, you don't want me to have nothing else to do with my time but post to Twitter and Facebook.

I'm going to try to keep a good attitude. I could get caught up in whining and complaining, but I doubt it will help. I've never actually been fired before. I've gotten fed up with jobs and gotten new jobs, but I've NEVER been fired before. OK, once, I got fired from a paper route when I was 14. Some people report it's the best thing that's ever happened to them. No doubt, comfort zones are antithetical to success.

So, if you know of any opportunities (no, I'm not interested in network marketing type stuff) let me know.

Can We Stop Comparing Congress to Drunken Sailors, Please?

I'm starting to get tired of references to Congress that make comparisons to drunken sailors. Having been a drunken sailor at one point, I can assure you that we were NOTHING like Congress.

A drunken sailor blows his own money, and maybe some money of one or a few of his shipmates. Then he runs out and is stuck until either payday or when another drunken sailor needs somebody else to drink with. Congress spends OUR money with no evidence of conscious thought. Of course, if you think that's bad, most voters complain endlessly about Congress, but keep voting the same people back into office. Who is the fool here? (Hint, the voters).

Fun With Google Suggestions

I got this idea from Fail Blog. When you use Google, sometimes Google gives you helpful suggestions to complete your search. Sometimes they are incredibly helpful. Other times they are totally off the wall. For instance, typing “why is” into the Google search box produced the following suggestions:


I don’t even want to know why Google’s algorithm thinks it might be helpful to suggest “why is there a dead pakistani on my couch”. Does that come up a lot?

Just for fun, I tried various other combinations. About the most humorous of the other combinations I tried was “why did”:


Do people really ask “Google” “Why did I get married?” I’ve asked some rhetorical questions out of frustration before, but I can’t say I’ve tried them on Google. Maybe I should…

If you’ve tried other searches on Google that turned up something hilarious, let me know in the comments.