Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wednesday Updates and a Book Review

Keeping it busy and eclectic here at Carpe Lanam.  Yesterday, I carted some of my handwork from the past year to the Clark County fairgrounds to enter them in the fair:
Argyle socks, BFL spun during the Tour de Fleece, Ladyfern Wingspan (made from my handspun that won the Superintendent's prize in last year's fair!), Feathered Star, Orca bay, Mayan Spring, long shot of Orca Bay, and Jack's Chain.  Last year I had good success with the knitwear and handspun yarn entered in the "Clothing" division, and mediocre success with the quilts I entered.  I chose my quilts carefully this year and I'm cautiously optimistic I may get a blue ribbon on one.  But I don't know, the fair quilt ladies are kind of intimidating.  In a strict, grandmotherly kind of way.  I'm glad I have the blog as my main outlet.

My actual quilting and knitting in progress is at a summer crawl.  I am still working on seaming together the Country Stars quilt but not much farther along.  I am working on the Rosalind summer sweater and the Carnaby skirt and even a little on a many-strand cotton circle of fun rug, but without any new pictures.  The plum saga continues... I was up in the tree picking for quite some time today, I made pflaumenmus, and I expect to be pitting plums from the time I publish this until bedtime.

And now for something completely different:
Book review: Threat Vector by Tom Clancy

I suppose I am not a typical Tom Clancy fan.  But I've been reading his books since the mid '90s, and last week, before the plum onset, I tore through this latest offering in the Jack Ryan techno-thriller saga that began during the cold war with The Hunt for Red October.  Through a series of completely improbable and yet somehow believable (if you've stuck with the series thus far) events, Jack Ryan is now the sitting President of the U.S. and his son, Jack Jr., is involved in ultra-black-ops with "the Campus," an unofficial spy organization, set up by loyal Americans to do the things that the CIA and NSA should do, but can't.  And it's a good thing Jack Jr. and the Campus are on the job, because the U.S. is about to face its worst breach of security ever, and conventional intelligence forces are powerless to stop it.  The threat is cyber-terrorism at an unprecedented level by the statist communist regime in China; the vector by which it approaches is an unexpected but chillingly believable delivery system.  I guarantee you will view internet security in a whole new light after reading this book.

Clancy sets things up carefully and thoroughly.  We are well past page 300 before all major characters are introduced and the complex geo-political situation is fully fleshed out, and we have a clear picture of the villains.  But in no way is this a boring read.  My book light got lots of use as I stayed up late reading, and I thought even the highly technical descriptions of modern air and naval warfare were interesting.  Clancy excels at two things: the technical descriptions of military equipment, procedures, and tactics; and the narration of covert strategy in the intricate maneuvering of spy vs. spy.  He manages to make this interesting for a total civilian like me by having recurring characters deeply involved in the storylines, much more deeply involved than they would be in real life.  Since these characters are at risk, we want to know how they will get out of it, and we care enough to follow along through several hundred pages of technical and sometimes confusing action.  In this sense, it's just as well that his characters are not always three-dimensional.

Actually, Tom Clancy develops only one character: a manly man, a warrior who loves his country and his family equally and without conflict, who always knows the right course and is not afraid to follow it, and who has a cold, steely hatred for the enemies of his country.  Leave the navel-gazing moral equivocation to the characters of The West Wing; that's a liberal's fantasy government; Tom Clancy meets that need for the other half of the political spectrum.  At some point early in his writing career, he was doubtless told he needed to diversify his characters.  So he added Hispanic manly men, Black manly men, honorable and patriotic Russian manly men, and now Asian manly men.  He writes villains well, too: there are ruthless arch-villains like "Center," the man pulling the strings of the cyber-web of terror, and General Su Ke Qiang; and there are weak-willed stooges who are all too easily co-opted to serve them.  It's a bit like a medieval morality play as we watch the temptation and fall of these weak characters, or a Victorian melodrama; we know that the body count will be high by the end of the story, and the flawed characters will repent in dust and ashes.  And that's as it should be.  But the main point is the plot, and the unceasing, testosterone-driven action.

Reading Threat Vector in the aftermath of the NSA scandal and with a layman's understanding of the dangers of hacking, malware, and security breaches, I could appreciate Clancy's prescient insight into the dangers of his parallel universe, which is not all that different from our own.  Twelve years ago, Debt of Honor was in the spotlight as it described a modus operandi very similar to that used by the terrorists of 9/11.  All things considered, I would prefer not to have Threat Vector come true.  The vulnerabilities of the U.S. military and intelligence systems are becoming increasingly well-known; I hope someone somewhere in the Obama administration has picked up this book for some light summer reading and gives it some serious thought.

Caution: language, as always.  Clancy's characters have all apparently learned to swear from sailors, and that has been a constant through all his books.  After the first few pages I stopped noticing, but if it bothers you, it will be hard to ignore.


Carla said...

Good luck at the fair. I know what you mean about the judges. You must have the same ones at your fair. Do they travel around? lol So happy to have blogging friends that are so encouraging.

Heather L. said...

I hope you do well at the fair!!! I had so much fun entering this year. Did find the judging to be a bit "old school" and am guessing they aren't bloggers who keep up with the latest trends in crafting online. But, the judges are people too, and I suppose their own taste is reflected in their judging. Found this in the 4h judging too. Your argyle socks are gorgeous! Also love the white and light colored quilt.

Leslie said...

Great projects! My mother-in-law entered embroidery and crocheted items in the fair until she was 99. She had her 100th birthday in January.