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Saturday, July 23, 2016

More Books by Greg Iles

About a month ago I wrote a blog about the books I have read by Greg Iles.  I went book hunting at a used book store I found recently.  I found all the books by Greg Iles that I was hoping to find and read them during the past few weeks.

Mortal Fear

24 Hours

Dead Sleep

Sleep No More

Blood Memory

True Evil

Third Degree 

Each of these books has unique characters and story-lines.  Many of the lead characters are flawed in some way.  At the end of the book some people survive, some don't and life moves on.  Sometimes the lead characters have to put their lives back together after their experiences.  I enjoyed each of the books.  Check them out and determine if they are interesting to you. 

TPM

12:25 pm          Comments

Friday, July 8, 2016

Eccentric Orbits - The Iridium Story

On May 24 I received an email from one of my US government contacts established during my career as a senior executive in the satellite communications industry.  Since I had no contact with this individual for past 15 years I was very surprised to receive the email.  I was invited to a book launch on June 23 in downtown Washington, DC, which I attended.  The book launch was for Eccentric Orbits - The Iridium Story by John Bloom.  Iridium is a publicly traded US based, global mobile satellite services company that was founded by Motorola, Inc.  Iridium endured a well publicized bankruptcy in 1999/2000, one of the most infamous bankruptcies in US history.  I bought a first edition autographed copy of the book at the launch which I just finished reading. 

My thoughts and comments about this book are a bit different from my other reviews because I am an expert on the satellite communications industry during the time frame of the book.  As a senior executive I led businesses that directly competed with Iridium during the time period where all the critical actions in the book took place.  During my career I met or worked in some way with several of the people that are significant players in the book.  I know far more about the satellite communications industry of the 1980s, 1990s and into the early 2000s than the author or any of his researchers. 

I think the book is very well written and does a very good job of telling the story of the rise, fall and rebirth of the Iridium satellite network.  I freely admit I didn't know all the details of the crash and burn of the Iridium business that occurred during 1999 and 2000 before reading the book.  However, I did forecast Iridium's bankruptcy to a number of my employees after I saw Iridium's first public filing of its operating results after it began service.  I was one of those people in the industry that had a vested interest in Iridium's failure.   I got the failure part right. The successful efforts of Dan Colussy to rescue Iridium from the abyss of bankruptcy is one of the greatest stories in the history of the satellite communications industry and American business.  The rescue happened during the most traumatic period in the history of the industry.  

As I read the book I thought about how I would review it.  Since the author, his researchers and his editors are not experts on the satellite communications industry they had to rely solely on research and interviews for everything in the book.  The author made a huge effort to research this topic and it took several years due to his difficulty in getting information from the US government.  I have no doubt that his description of the development of the Iridium satellite network by Motorola, the initial difficulties in bringing the Iridium system into service, the issues surrounding the bankruptcy and Dan Collusy's rescue of Iridium out of bankruptcy are very accurate.  The author admits in his book notes that he was limited to some degree by the US government's refusal to turn over all of the records he requested, the refusal of some of the people involved to discuss the details of the story and some conflicting information between the players.  However, based on my knowledge of the situation as an industry insider at the time, I believe the book is accurate and very representative of the events as they happened. 

There are a few statements of fact in the book that are incorrect.  The incorrect statements deal with certain facts about the satellite communications industry and Iridium's competitors.  I don't know where the author got his information for these items but there are a few statements in the book that are wrong or stated without proper context.  All of the errors I found are tangential to the primary objective of the book, which is to tell The Iridium Story.  I don't feel any need to discuss them in any detail or debate them with anyone since they don't fundamentally alter  the great job John Bloom did in telling the story of Iridium. 

I have been debating with myself about how much communications satellite services industry commentary or history I should include in this blog.  Should I discuss why it was virtually guaranteed that the Iridium satellite network operating business would be a financial failure from the moment it was first approved by Motorola?  Should I comment about the structure of initial Motorola/Iridium management team and their level of experience and knowledge of the satellite communication services industry?  Should I comment now about how I felt about public statements made by Iridium's senior management during 1998 and 1999 that told me Iridium would not be successful?  Should I talk about the experiences some of my people had using the Iridium system immediately after it launched its service that told me Iridium had some major problems?  Should I discuss some of the actions Iridium management attempted to take to improve their business before the bankruptcy that involved my company, but didn't come to fruition?  Should I discuss the great job the applications and product development team at Iridium did in the post bankruptcy period that gave the company an opportuntiy for long term success?  Should I discuss the probability for financial success of Iridium's second generation satellite network that is scheduled to begin its launch campaign within the next couple of months?  I decided not to discuss any of these items in this blog. 

But I will tell anyone that reads Eccentric Orbits - The iridium Story by John Bloom, there is a lot more to the story when you put this book into context of the tumult of the satellite communications industry in the 1998 to 2000 period.  It was an incredible period for those of us that gave everything we had to make our satellite services companies successful during this time.  It was an amazing time in my life and I will never forget it.  If you have any interest in the history of the satellite communications industry I suggest you read this book.  Thanks to John Bloom and all of those individuals that helped him write Eccentric Orbits - The Iridium Story.

TPM

1:58 am          Comments

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Books by Greg Iles

Sometimes a really good book is sitting in front of you for years and you don't know it, until one day you are looking for something to read and you find it.  That is how I discovered Greg Iles, a best selling author of 15 novels with one on the way.  My wife has read a number of books by Greg Iles over the years and a few of them were sitting on one of our book cases in my man cave, along with many other books in our joint collection.  I knew they were there but I had never even considered reading them because my wife and I tend to read very different books.  I have reading non-fiction almost exclusively for many years and I have returned to reading novels only within the past year or so.  I assumed these books that she bought wouldn't appeal to me.  I was wrong! 

Greg Iles has written six Penn Cage novels.  The first five have been published in hardback and paperback.  Iles has finished writing the sixth book.  I believe the hardback publication date for number six is set for 2017.  I read the first four of the Penn Cage novels in the order they were published and my wife and I have number five in backlog for reading during our travels later this year.  The six Penn Cage novels are:

1. The Quiet Game

2. Turning Angel

3. The Devil's Punchbowl

4. Natchez Burning

5. The Bone Tree

6. Mississippi Blood (to be published) 

The first three books are independent of each other, but share key characters whose interrelationships build upon those established in the prior books. The author has created tremendous characters, Penn Cage (lawyer, former prosecutor and novelist), Caitlin Masters (newspaper publisher and Cage's significant other) and more.  The residual racial issues of the 1960s civil rights era are part of the background of each novel. 

Books four to six are described as the Natchez Burning Trilogy, one continuing story that takes three novels to tell.  Penn Cage and his family are from Natchez, Mississippi and these three books deal with characters that connect the civil rights era to late 2005, the time period set in the three novels, "an epic trilogy that interweaves crimes, lies, and secrets past and present".  The characters established in the first three novels continue to evolve in the Natchez Burning Trilogy.  I have only read Natchez Burning so far but I am definitely looking forward to reading The Bone Tree later this year and Mississippi Blood in 2017. 

In addition to the the Penn Cage novels, Iles has written ten other books.  We have several of them in our library.  I have read one so far, The Footprints of God.  It was very good.  It is described as "a cutting-edge thriller in which the next phase of human evolution may not be human at all."  If you like science and technology and philosophy mixed with action this book is for you. 

I am not sure what I will be reading next.  However, if you are looking for some summer reading material - check out the books by Greg Iles. 

TPM

11:56 pm          Comments

Sunday, May 22, 2016

New Principles

I was going through some old work papers today when I found a copy of IBM's "New Principles" which are about 30 years old.  I don't remember exactly when I cut them out of some unknown document, but they are as relevant today as they were then.  Hopefully, every company, government and organization lives by principles such as these. 

1. The marketplace is the driving force behind everything we do.

2. At our core, we are a technology company with an overriding commitment to quality.

3. Our primary measures of success are customer satisfaction and shareholder value. 

4. We operate as an entrepreneurial organization with a minimum of bureaucracy and a never-ending focus on productivity.

5. We never lose sight of our strategic vision. 

6. We think and act with a sense of urgency.

7. Outstanding, dedicated people make it all happen, particularly when they work together as a team.

8. We are sensitive to the needs of all employees and to the communities in which we operate. 

TPM

12:53 pm          Comments

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Great Escape

Most of us older folks have seen and remember the outstanding 1963 movie The Great Escape starring Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborourgh, James Garner and many other well known international movie stars.  The movie is based on the book of the same name by former British POW Paul Brickhill.  The movie plot has some major differences from the actual events described in the book.

The story of the escape of 76 Royal Air Force prisoners from a German POW Camp in March of 1944 is one of amazing courage and incredible ingenuity.  I recently reread Brickhill's book.  It is incredible story of what people can do when they have the desire and ability to make something happen even when they are under control of the enemy.  All but three of the escapees were eventually caught after a massive search throughout Germany.  The remaining three made it to freedom.  Hitler was so incensed by the escape that he ordered over half the recaptured POWs shot.  The Gestapo executed 50 of the recaptured escapees as they were rounded up and held in a variety of locations after their failed attempts to escape the country. The British eventually captured most of the Germans responsible for the executions, tried and executed them in the first few years after the end of WWII. 

The story is timeless. It is an example of the incredible capability of men to adjust to their environment and take decisive action in what seems to be an impossible situation. 

To The Fifty.

TPM 

12:08 pm          Comments

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