Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn

In this novel, we see the world through the troubled vision of Camille Preaker, fresh out of a psychiatric facility, and just as fresh as a Chicago journalist. Her editor sends her back to her home town – Wind Gap, Missouri – to cover the slaying of two young girls. To do the job, Camille goes back to her own home, where her weird mother and even weirder half-sister, live. That house is still in mourning for a dead sister.

So this is small town USA with a killer on the loose. And it’s a story of somebody looking back on the place they left and reliving some of the reasons they went, and trying to hold on to their sanity while encountering some of the bad, bad episodes that mark that time.

Preaker’s story is filled in gradually, alongside the mounting horror as she gets closer to the truth. She mixes with former friends and enemies, the local police, the imported expert, and the main suspect. All the while her interactions are driven, at least in part, by her own skewed perspective and sometimes naive inability to see the wood for the trees.

There’s a lot of work put into that character, and she comes across as authentic and dangerous. She is also a raw individual – in more ways than one – and that comes across in some of the no holds barred description of her exploits.

The small town USA backdrop is not overdone, and keeps the content on track. In other words, the story works in this context.

The plot has a couple of entertaining twists, but they may not come as a surprise to hard core crime readers. That having been said, the atmosphere is well built up, and the suspense equally good.

I think this was Flynn’s first book, and the raw aspect also applies to some of the writing. But after reading the whole book you might feel that it is appropriate. there’s nothing that does not fit the character and her dilemma.

This is not for the faint hearted. It’s dark, gritty, and powerful. Flynn made a good start here.

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Five for Friday

flowers
So here we are again, having whizzed through another week in (subjectively) record time. Friday, again.

It’s been, mostly, a good week. Work was less hectic in the aftermath of the release deadline, I played Android: Netrunner for the first time, managed some more Advanced Squad Leader (report to follow, when I get caught up), remembered it was our anniversary this weekend, got my new phone up and running – it’s a Samsung Galaxy S5 – and am still in one piece. That last part of the week could have ended up very badly for me.

So, continuing to count my blessings, I will now present you with this week’s selection of links for your interest, entertainment, and consideration.

And two – yes two – bonus links:

Be well, one and all.

Shabbat Shalom!

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Head on

If you are squeamish, look away now.

If not:

injuries

Short story:

I was cycling, at night. (I was probably daydreaming. Can you daydream at night?)

Anyway, the area I was in was badly lit. I wasn’t that familiar with it and could not see as well as I would have liked.

The pavement I was cycling on came to a sharp turn. To avoid the turn, I tried to cross the adjacent area of grass. There was a steel rope pylon coming down from the roof of the nearby block of flats to the corner of the grass. I cycled straight into the pylon. The rope hit my neck and took me off my bike. I landed badly.

After the initial shock wore off, realized I had been incredibly lucky. My head is still on and connected to my body. (And my bike is OK…)

I must try not to repeat the stunt ever again.

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Will the West skip over this kangaroo court?

From today’s Times of Israel live blog coverage:

executions

Will Iran or Qatar threaten to cut off military supplies? Will the UN convene a General Assembly or a Security Council meeting to condemn the kangaroo court? Will UNHCR take note that this is not the first time it has happened, and appoint a single mission investigative commission?

Or will the craven West act as if this barbarism had never happened?

Not the toughest rhetorical question I have posed.

If you spot any condemnation or material criticism, do let me know.

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Noise, nonsense, and common sense

Here’s what I recall seeing in the media about the Gaza negotiations and proposed terms:

  • The blockade was being lifted.
  • The fishing limit was being extended.
  • An airport was to be built.
  • A sea port was to be built.
  • Gaza was to be rebuilt.

And then came the breakdown, the rocket fire, and we are back on a war footing.

First, it seems as if a lot of the leaks about progress in negotiations were garbage. They did not make sense as it was difficult to see how Israel could give Hamas a meaningful reward for terror.

Second, it also seems that Bibi Netanyahu had a better handle on the situation – long term and short term – than many others. This piece in the Times of Israel says:

At some point, it might be worth internalizing what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been saying since the start of Operation Protective Edge six weeks ago: that Israel should be prepared for a long conflict.

Third, there’s no doubt the defamation of Israel by the international media – which has ceaselessly and uncritically promoted Hamas’ war porn propaganda – along with large, vocal demonstrations by Palestinians and their supporters, has had an effect. Western politicians like David Cameron and Barrack Obama behaved in a cowardly fashion. The UK’s especially craven surrender is reminiscent of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Britain refused to send military supplies to Israel for fear of incurring an oil embargo. (France behaved likewise then.) This is likely to have two main consequences.

  1. Whatever arms manufacturing Israel has in the UK – mainly Israeli subsidiaries – will be wound up. Either the manufacturing will come to Israel, or perhaps the USA. It’s unlikely Israel will continue to put its weapons capability at risk of such interference again.
  2. Whatever actions Israel takes towards Gaza (or indeed, towards Iran) will depend on the extent to which Israel can roll back International condemnation and turn it into support. As David Horovitz says in that TOI piece: “But only if Hamas believes its survival is in danger, its capacity to live to fight Israel another day in doubt, will it call a long-term halt to the fire — the kind of halt that would constitute the attainment of Netanyahu’s sought-after sustained calm. And that would require a far more significant military operation than the Israeli government, mindful of the likely consequent losses, has been prepared to authorize. It would also require a more astute assessment of the conflict from the international community than we have seen to date, providing more dependable support for Israel.

In short, as matters stand, we are going to have to be patient. And we should ignore the noise and nonsense from those who suggest a material deviation from Bibi’s position. Indeed, Bibi’s position is the common sense one. As I have said before, whatever mistakes the man and the leader may have made, one of the reasons he is so vilified by Israel’s enemies is that he continues to succeed in keeping us largely safe and protected from the murderous intent of some of our neighbors.

Back to David Horovitz:

“Indeed, to the ongoing cost of Gazans and Israelis, it is not about to meekly defer to anybody. Hamas is not in the business of governing Gaza; it’s in the terrorism business, and terrorist groups are not easily deterred.”

I’m backing Bibi to create the deterrence.

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Who you calling ‘Android?’

netrunner

This week, a combination of circumstances meant it was just Yehuda and I who faced off across the gaming table. This was an opportunity for me, as I was keen to play Tash Kalar; Arena of Legends. Unfortunately, Yehuda wasn’t… Instead, we settled on Fantasy Flight’s version of Android: Netrunner.

This used to be a Collectible card game – meaning you had to buy expansion packs that were randomly stocked and so had no guarantee you would get the cards you want. Great marketing, but poor from the gaming perspective. Now it is a Living card game which means you know what you get in each box or pack.

The game features a Corporation player and a Runner squaring off in cyberspace in a dystopian future. The Corporation is trying to advance its evil plans (Agendas). They score victory points and seven are needed for a win. The Runner is trying to hack into the Corporation’s systems (drives) and steal those Agendas to also get seven points.  The Corporation has ICE (defensive software) and traps that it can use to damage the Runner and even tag him so as to hunt him down and cause him further damage.

Yehuda had played before, but it was new to me. That partially explains why I mishandled the Corporation side. And, although I came within one card of eliminating Yehuda, he wore me down and eventually claimed the win.

The game play is quite involved but makes sense when you understand the core mechanics. The rules are pretty good, but we found some of the card text to be less than complete. (I think there is an up to date FAQ and rules set on the web.) It’s an asymmetric game so I recommend you try playing both sides before you decide if you like the game. Each is quite different.

For example, the Corporation must draw a card each turn, but gets it for free. However, if it runs out of cards, it loses.

For example, the Runner must pay (an action, effectively) to draw a card. But it gets four actions a turn – one more than the Corporation – and does not lose if he runs out of cards.

For example, the Corporation can set traps and bluff, but does not seem to have his own offensive opportunities. He needs to (on the one hand) wait till the Runner starts something, while simultaneously spending resources trying to complete his Agendas. And the Runner, therefore is the one doing most of the attacking.

You can play it out of the box, or build your own deck to see how it fares. If you have time, the deck building aspect seems to offer lots of opportunity for quality gaming time. And there are plenty hints out there in real (ahem) cyberspace.

Overall, I just scratched the surface of this, and I am keen to play it again.

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Free pass

When is a cease fire, a real cease fire? That is a rhetorical question. In this topsy turvy world, it seems there is no such thing as a real cease fire. After all, in a real cease fire you cease, er, firing.

Unless you are a Palestinian terrorist group.

The current ‘cease fire’ was due to expire at midnight tonight. Rockets were fired from Gaza this afternoon.

Why?

  • Why couldn’t they wait till midnight?
  • Is their hate so great, they could not wait?
  • Are they too stupid to care?
  • What good could possibly come out of breaking the cease fire?

Here’s another question:

  • What condemnation has there been about the rocket firing – apart from Israeli sources?

I see none.

What condemnation would there have been had Israel – heaven forbid – broken the cease fire?

Why do Hamas get a free pass?

There is something rotten with the Western world when most of it cannot read the bleeding obvious signs in front of its eyes. We in Israel are dealing with an organization – Hamas – that is evil. Pure evil. It may be dressed up in a religious costume, and it may be presented as a liberation movement, but Hamas is nothing of the sort. It is a modern version of an ancient hate.

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Peace, love, and hate

From the Times of Israel:

2014-08-18_08-29-36

First, do you think any of the ‘peace activists’ out there think there might be something slightly off about this guy’s approach?

Second, what are the prospects for peace when there is this apparent policy of non engagement on the so called pro Palestinian side? How does this help the case?

Third, why is it that there’s only pressure after pressure piled on Israel and its leadership to engage in talks when (a) it’s the Palestinian leadership that walked away; and (b) the Palestinian leadership promotes non engagement? Where is the pressure on them to get down to the business of sorting this mess out, instead of childish gestures, and non engagement?

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