Chain of Command – Caspar Weinberger

This is one of those books that I didn’t know existed until I stumbled across it on the clearance racks at Half Price Books as I was looking for something else.  But, because it was written by former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, and it was $1, I decided to put it in the basket and give it a shot.  Turns out to be a dollar well spent.

It probably didn’t – and won’t – win any awards for literary merit but it’s pretty suspenseful with plenty of action.  While the scenario he presents is pretty far-fetched, it’s not so outlandish that you find yourself believing that it could never happen.  And, you know as you’re reading it that the author has an insider’s perspective on how the Washington game is played.  If he were still alive, I would look forward to reading more from Weinberger as a novelist as I suspect he could have built on the foundation he laid here.

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Skeleton Man – Tony Hillerman

When I moved to New Mexico for the first time in 1989, I was given everything that Tony Hillerman had written up to that point as a way to introduce me to some aspects of the cultural differences between New Mexico and Texas.  It didn’t take long before I was hooked.  His books magnificently achieved his goal of “show[ing] that aspects of ancient Indian ways are still very much alive and are highly germane even to our ways.”  As a general rule, they are also darn good mysteries set in some of the most beautiful, and desolate, country in America which Hillerman describes better than anyone else.

Hillerman’s style is also highly readable and it rarely takes me more than a couple of days to make my way through one of his novels.   Skeleton Man is the second-to-last novel he wrote before his death in 2008.  Proving that even an author as talented as Hillerman was had times where he was off his game, I wasn’t all that impressed with this one.  As many of his novels do, this one featured both of his signature characters, Lt. Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee.  The mystery wasn’t that compelling and I got the sense that he was wrestling with what to do with Leaphorn who has retired from the Navajo Tribal Police.  While he probably presents a pretty accurate portrayal of retirement struggles, it wasn’t very satisfying to read.  Nonetheless, I will certainly pick up his final novel, The Shape Shifter, in short order and I will probably revisit many of his earlier works now that more than 20 years have passed since I was first introduced to them.

Night Prey – John Sandford

I’ve got a lot of catching up to do here on books I’ve read since I last posted about Devil’s Brood back in July.  There are three reasons for the delay: 1) I caught my second case of strep within a month and I quarantined myself from everything, including the computer; 2)  once I got back to feeling well enough to get on the computer, I spent most of my time there watching the rest of Sports Night (did I mention how great that show was?  Seriously, I was pissed when I got through the last episode…there’s so much crap on TV that’s completely unwatchable – in spite of what millions of Americans apparently think – while this bit of brilliance couldn’t get more than two seasons); and, 3) I didn’t really like the next book I read and so I haven’t been very motivated to write about it.

Night Prey is the sixth installment in the series which now numbers twenty-one.  John Sandford has also written books that are not part of the Prey series, some of which I’ve read and enjoyed.  Most of those were written after these early Prey books which leads me to believe that Sandford has gotten better over time.  And, I’ve got a good friend from my days on Capitol Hill who shares a lot of my tastes in fiction and who is a fan of his work.  So, I continue to believe that I’m going to find myself really enjoying this series at some point, hopefully soon.  Maybe more importantly that all of that, having already purchased most of these books, I’m sorta committed to reading them.

I Suck at Getting a Job

Over the last several months (or is it years?) as I’ve tried to find another job, I’ve come to one inescapable conclusion:  I suck at getting a job.

It’s not that I can’t do a job.  In fact, when I can get one, I’m really good at it.

Exhibit A:  My first job post-law/grad school was working as a legislative analyst for the NM House of Representatives.  Even while studying for – and then taking – the NM bar exam, and even while preparing and interviewing for the Presidential Management Fellowship program, I was really good at staffing the Judiciary Committee.  Even now, ten years later, they are still telling stories about my time there during this 2001 session.

Exhibit B:  The next job worth talking about was as a Legislative Assistant (LA) to United States Senator Pete V. Domenici.  From the moment I walked in the door, I was given the largest portfolio of any of the LAs.  I was often asked to take meetings with constituents and lobbyists, even when they weren’t dealing with my portfolio of issues, because I was really good at the job.  When my wife and I decided it was time to leave DC and get closer to our friends and family, the Senator laid on a pretty good guilt trip in an effort to get me to stay.

Exhibit C:  After another successful (dare I say legendary?) tour with the NM House of Representatives, Senator Domenici recommended to the President of the United States that I be appointed to head up USDA Rural Development for New Mexico.  The Senator clearly wouldn’t have made this recommendation if he was not pleased with the work I did for him in DC.  The President took this advice and, with the exception of the few employees who weren’t happy that I actually made them work for their government paycheck, my tenure is seen by most as being highly successful.

Exhibit D:  From almost my first day on the job as the Government Services Director at the Texoma Council of Governments, I knew it wasn’t a job I was going to particularly like. Nonetheless, I was referred to as a “rock star” and “wonder boy” because of my ability to transform a department, raising the morale of the staff while increasing their productivity.

Exhibit E:  On three different occasions, I have been asked to help out the Rio Rancho Economic Development Corporation with projects.  I’m pretty sure I don’t get the repeat business because of my looks (as good as they are!).

If you need further evidence, multiple members of the staffs I managed in my last two jobs have called and/or emailed to say that they wished I would come back and that things were better when I was there than they are now.  I treat the staff well and fairly; they respond (mostly) with loyalty and productivity.

So, I’m pretty sure that the question about my ability to do a job has been answered definitively in the affirmative.  It’s my ability to get a job that is at issue.  On three different occasions (after leaving the Senator’s office, after the President’s term – and my appointment – ended, and since at least September of last year), I have found it incredibly difficult to find a job.

I think I’m doing the right things.  I’ve got a pretty good network and I’ve worked it, letting them know I’m on the market.  I’ve sent my resume out hundreds of times and I’m probably in the triple digits of applications I’ve sent in.  Lots of breakfasts and lunches.  My resume is on all of the job sites (which means that I’m receiving a whole new level of spam).  I tried LinkedIn’s Job Seeker account.  I’ve read more articles than I count about what to do (and what not to do) in order to get a job; I’ve done (and not done) those things.  There’s a Governor and a United States Senate candidate, for each of whom I’d like to work.  I’ve talked to each of their top aides.  Both have indicated that they think they have a place for me on their staff.  Both have gone weeks without following up on their initial interest.  Both have ignored my gentle inquiries about the possibility of helping them out.

I’m out of ideas.  But, I’m not giving up.  I’ve got too much to offer and, even if I didn’t, I’ve got too many financial commitments; how can I not with 3 kids and a stay-at-home, kick-ass teaching wife/mother?  So, I’ll continue to work the network and apply for the jobs.  And, hope that somewhere, somehow, I’ll figure out how to be as good at getting a job as I am at doing one.

The Best Show Damn Near Nobody Watched – Sports Night

When I was in law school, I lived in an apartment complex with two of my best friends (for a while one of them lived in my dining room, but that’s a story for another post).  On every Tuesday night, I made the march across the parking lot and up the stairs where the three of us gathered to watch Sports Night.  It was can’t miss, appointment television.  Unfortunately, the ratings folks at Nielson didn’t ask us for our opinion because the show only lasted two seasons.  So, we only got two years of Aaron Sorkin’s brilliance in this form. But, man, what a great two seasons they were. And, cancellation of this show did free him up to spend some time on something else that I rather enjoyed.

When I first subscribed to Netflix several years ago, Sports Night was one of the first searches I ran.  To my great disappointment, it was not available on Instant Streaming.  Having no choice, I moved on.

A week or so ago, for reasons I don’t recall, I took another look and danged if it wasn’t there. Even as I was clicking to start the first episode, I wondered if the show I was about to watch would hold up in comparison to my very fond memories.  After all, it has been more than ten years since it left the air and the world has changed a lot since then.  Time can be cruel to television shows, especially when the possibility exists that you’ve spent a decade building a show up in your head.

I need not have worried for so much as a second.  Over the last week, I’ve watched all 23 episodes of the first season.  On Saturday, I probably watched ten or twelve episodes back-to-back-to-back-to…you get the idea.

This is likely going to be one of those situations in which I don’t want to finish the second season because I know it will mean there are no more episodes coming.  But, it’s like a drug and I’m like an addict…I just can’t stop.  So, assuming that I’ve still got Netflix, and assuming that they’re still offering it via Instant Stream, I’ll probably take a weekend ten years from now and fall in love with the show all over again.

Lord of the Rings – Lego Style

I liked the Lord of the Rings movies.  I didn’t love them but I liked them.  I like Legos but I don’t love them.  Nonetheless, I’m in awe of this:

It’s one thing to be passionate about something.  It’s another to have an impressive talent.  When they come together, amazing things happen.  I wish that I had a place in which my passions and my talents met like these guys and gals do.  Job well done.

Devil’s Brood – Sharon Kay Penman

Every once in a while, I read a book that is so gripping I don’t want it to end – even when it’s more than 750 pages long.  I had that experience recently when I picked up – and couldn’t put down – Devil’s Brood by Sharon Kay Penman.  This is the third installment in her Henry II Trilogy.  I read the first two, When Christ and His Saints Slept and Time and Chance, several years ago and, frankly, I’d forgotten how much I liked them.

The reign of King Henry II, his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine, and the conflict between the members of this extraordinary family may be the most compelling of all the story lines since William the Conqueror arrived at Hastings in 1066.  Devil’s Brood picks up where Time and Chance left off: with King Henry II’s self-imposed exile in Ireland after the murder of Thomas Becket.  It takes us through a fascinating journey leading up to the betrayal of Henry II by his sons followed shortly thereafter by his humiliating death.

If you have any interest at all in this period of English history, I can’t recommend highly enough Devil’s Brood.  As has been well-documented on this blog, I’m a huge fan of reading books in order.  This is one of the rare times, however, where I’d be OK with it if you weren’t up to the challenge of reading all three and skipped right to this one (I’m pretty sure you’d end up going back and reading the others anyway).

Oh, yeah.  With the turning of the last page of Devil’s Brood, I’ve officially begun the countdown until the October 4 release of her next book, Lionheart.  Depending on where I am in my professional life, I may not even wait for it to make its way onto the shelves at Half Price Books.