Book Review: Agent ZigZag by Ben MacIntyre

Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal

Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal by Ben Macintyre

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The stories that keep coming out of the Second World War never cease to amaze me! The recently opened files on Eddie Chapman have yielded just one more incredible episode to the spying legends of that war. The blatant audacity of Chapman, not only in his pre-war life as a safecracker but also during the actual conflict as a successful double agent for the British, shows how the talent of a man with street smarts can be educated to go undercover as an agent and be able to fool even the keenest minds of the German spy catchers who interviewed him repeatedly. At several points during the book, I wondered how Chapman would be able to continue to fool his German masters, or whether he wasn’t perhaps a very cleaver triple agent who was able to give just enough to the British as well as the Germans to keep them both on the string right up to the end of the war. I loved the method of coding, having read of several other methods in the past, but was unfamiliar with this use of a single word with the clever number assignment system. MI6 missed out on a great opportunity to recruit Chapman after the war when his work with MI5 was over. He would have been an invaluable asset in the Cold War and in helping hunt down the fleeing Nazi criminals in the far-flung corners of the world. Enjoy this well researched and well-written book. There are few books that tell a spy’s true story so vividly.



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Book Review: The Stone Monkey by Jeffery Deaver

The Stone Monkey (Lincoln Rhyme, #4)

The Stone Monkey by Jeffery Deaver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Author Jeffery Deaver is an amazing storyteller. The topic of illegal immigration right on the tip of everyone’s tongue and certainly the smuggling of Chinese to work in our sweatshops has a long history of crime and violence attached to it. The Snakehead of the smuggling operation fits perfectly into the story as the kind of man who would gladly sacrifice an entire shipload of illegal immigrants in a sinking ship rather than face the possibility of capture by the Coast Guard. Quadriplegic Lincoln Rhyme is a great character, but he works in the background of the novel and doesn’t get my full heartfelt attention. Officer Amelia Sachs is my real love in this book. She’s smart, observant, inquisitive and tough no matter whether the situation is taking her onto a lonesome beach to hunt for survivors of a sinking ship, to diving for evidence in the murky waters of the Atlantic. I would love to be able to give this book a “5” star rating, but author Deaver got in over his head when he puts Amelia into scuba gear and dumps her over the side into a wreck full of dead bodies and floating debris to search for that key piece of evidence. This is the one big “Oops!” in the book. Read the scuba diving exploits of our heroine with a few grains of salt. Any PADI diver with only 25 dives under their belt plus not having been down for a couple of years, who eschews the aide of professional Coast Guard search and rescue professionals by going down to 80 ft., entering an unexplored wreck alone and staying beyond their safety limits for time and air has “death wish” written all over them. Fortunately, Amelia, with the author’s divine license, is able to swing the pendulum of death into success and bring up some key evidence. She then goes on to nail one more Snakehead to the wall in the next twelve chapters in a dramatic enough finale so that I can forgive a ten-page blooper. If you like fast moving intricately plotted action novels with enough who-done-it for a good mystery as well, then this is a novel for you. I highly recommend it. The author has done his due diligence on researching Chinese customs, language, and culture to bring realism and sensitivity to the novel in a way that all will appreciate while still bringing us a ripping good tale.





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Spring at Catherine Creek, Washington

I took a great hike across the Columbia River to a wonderful spring flower area just 10 miles east of Hood River and in the state of Washington. Wow! The Bird’s Bills, or Shooting Stars, as some other people call them were just popping out of the ground!

birdbills

Then on the hillside just beyond them I found the beginnings of a the blooming of a field of edible blue Camas. In another week there will be thousands of these flowers everywhere out here. This was one of the reasons why this area has hundreds of old Teepee ring mounds, because it was a favorite place for the Indians of the Columbia River Basin to meet and trade for smoked fish, obsidian, flint, Camus and Bitterroot tubers and other items. Still a favorite site for lots of people.

camus

This site is a favorite for both Washingtonians and Oregonunions (Pronounced like – “Oregon Onions” is our word to describe ourselves. The missused word, – “Oregonian” rightfully, as my Grandfather Gordon G. Brown used to say, “Refers to a Newspaper”) .

Enjoy your day!>)

Spring comes to Hood River, OR !>)

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Mars Underground – By William K. Hartmann: Book Review

Mars UndergroundMars Underground by William K. Hartmann

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The basic underlying story of the old timer explorer of Mars who disappears and the search that follows is very well written and if the author had cut the book back to 225-250 pages, leaving out some of the mind-numbing long descriptions of the inner thoughts of various characters, it would have boosted the book up to a 4 star level in my opinion. The techy search is good and well worth the descriptive paper. The attempts to sabotage the search for various reasons is also well done. So, as a reader of science fiction for over 50 years, I would say, skim through the late night bedroom rendezvous, unless that’s why you read Sci-Fi. Skim over also the mental contortions of the central characters and concentrate on what is the underlying faster moving plot. Eat up the surface walks and the rides in the dune buses across the uncharted dust seas with their cyclonic dust devils. Devour the descriptions of light and the hazards that exist in a world where preparation for the journey is everything because, without sufficient protection, food, water and, oh, yes, oxygen, you aren’t going to come back to spin tales of aliens. In the ending, I could have used a bit more descriptive work by the author on the alien vessel to perhaps bring me back for a sequel. Where did that shining projectile that approached the speed of light as it departed Mars actually go? Was it a messenger? Was anything on the receiving end? A lot of questions remain when we reach the final page.

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A Must Read Book: The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious ManuscriptsThe Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Here is a “Must Read” book if you want more information on understanding how the moderate form of Islam taught the world mathematics, medicine, science, literature, poetry, and a world view of religious thinking over a millennium. Author Joshua Hammer has made his career on reporting worldwide for a plethora of magazines and newspapers. Over a period of ten years, he followed and researched the life and work of Abdel Kader Haidara, a man who has dedicated nearly 50 years to the gathering, preservation, cataloging and saving hundreds of thousands of the world’s most precious books which had been written copied and hidden in and around the Sahara Desert city of Timbuktu, Mali. In the process, Hammer follows the paths that Haidara used as he traveled and traded for books as he worked to build world heritage libraries for UNESCO from the long-hidden in family libraries all over central Mali. Hammer understands the peoples of the area, their customs, histories, and religions. He describes how the moderate Islamic Sufis became the center of human knowledge, discussion, and new ideas over a tumultuous history of a thousand years. In the process, the families guarded their special libraries through a millennium of moderate and tyrannical government in order to preserve some of the oldest books of religious studies and critique as well as scientific learning. Author Hammer does an excellent job of describing the latest threat to world knowledge and learning, the Jihadi movement in Islam with its Saudi Arabian sect ideas of rule by strict Sharia Law. He follows the buildup of the movement in Libya which then spilled over into the central Sahara and entered Mali in the past ten years. He documents the anarchic rule of the foreign Islamic Jihadi warriors who eschewed the moderate Sufi ways and forced the people of Timbuktu and much of Mali to live in daily fear of their lives while capricious gangs of Jihadi enforcers thronged the city and meted out punishment in a medieval manner. As the threats to the populace grew, Haidara and the other librarians realized that the hundreds of thousands of books they had gathered over some fifty years, were in danger of being destroyed by fanatical gangs. At great risk to their own lives, these dedicated persons traveled overland by canoe, back roads and through checkpoints in the middle of a war zone to smuggle all the books in Timbuktu some eight hundred miles across the sub-Sahara to safe houses in Bamako, capital of Mali and far from Jihadi hands. The reader will learn an amazing amount of information about the ongoing work to save our world’s ancient literature as well as have a better understanding of the geopolitical problems facing frontline developing nations who are confronted with Jihadi movements that can take control of entire countries unless the western world and the African Union of States act decisively to stop this regressive movement that is spreading into any vacuum of power. Mr. Abdel Kader Haidara deserves a Nobel Prize. Author Joshua Hammer deserves all the awards and kudos he can get for this well documented and groundbreaking journalistic work.

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The Conundrum of Immigration – – Making the Gears Work Smoothly – – No Easy Fix!

Conundrum: A problem admitting to no satisfactory solution (Def. #2, Amer. Heritage Dictionary- 1969).

America —Europe—Africa—Asia—Worldwide:

We’ve all got a big Problem! It’s called IMMIGRATION.

It’s affecting World social systems—- it’s causing BREXIT in Britain and in the USA— It’s exacerbating America’s TRIBALISM

It’s not just Farm Workers, or Students, or Refugees, or Soldiers, or Au Pairs,

 

or Birthers, or Hotel Employees, or Factory Workers, or Wholesale, or Transportation…

IT’s Kind of Like Trying to Fit all The Pieces of a Watch Together and Then Make it RUN!                                                                                                                                                         I personally have failed many times with watches since the age of 10! In like manner, Our Government has failed for 50+ years on a system of Immigration

LET’S LOOK AT THE USA

    Over 40% of our entire Labor Force was composed of foreign born labor from 2005 – 2010

LOOK AT THIS PAGE WITH SLIDE SHOW OF THE PROBLEM!

The USA Cannot Function Without Numerous Immigrant Workers —–  so ——  Shutting Immigrants is Not a Solution!

What Then is the Solution?

It will take Time, Willpower, a Plan, and Money! to do the following:

  1. Upgrade fencing and border barriers that are falling to pieces.
  2. Integrate Technology such as drones into our border patrol to spot people in the desert.
  3. Either change certain oppressive Latin American Governments forcibly, or put so much pressure on them that they have to quit raping their own countries and killing their own people which sends them walking a thousand miles north to seek asylum.
  4. Give Incentives to Central American Counties to build their economies: eg. do you want help to produce bananas, or clothing, or tech parts, or auto parts…. etc. to help your people stay in your country and be happy, or do you want to keep the status quo of gangs and thugs? If it’s the former – welcome to the dollar club $$$$. Or, welcome to the US Marines and a new government!>))
  5. Help make Latin American and Mexico Boom! A lot of Latin Americans will stay home with improved industy and safety. Our industries will benifit too.
  6. Ports of Entry need high tech solutions for searching more big trucks and vehicles, including ships, that are carring in most of the drugs into the US.
  7. Stop Weapons Trafficking from the US to Latin America with high tech searches of vehicles and vessels going South! The gangs and drug cartels are getting their guns from us and then we complain about them.  Duh?
  8. Employ more US Citizens to process persons seeking immigration and visas at out embassies and at the border.
  9. Employ more U.S. persons at facilities right on the border to hold screen and house properly the families and others seeking political asylum in the US.
  10. Employ more judges to give a swift turn around for asylum and deportation cases so we don’t pay for people to sit in our prisons and govt. housing at exhobitant prices when they ought to be on a plane going home or headed to their relatives who are already in-country.
  11. Hire more seats on planes to give all those one-way people rides back to the southern border of Mexico and into countries south of that where they belong when they are deported. It’s cheaper than keeping them here.
  12. Start holding Annual Central and South American Summit Trade Conferences annually to build relations and open up new trade deals which will benifit all of us.

IT AIN’T CHEAP,

BUT IT’S GOING TO GET US A LOT MORE MILEAGE

THAN

A ONE SHOE FITS ALL – WALL.

 

 

 

2018 Tax Forms a Big Paper Waster

Just finished doing myown 2018 taxes.  Smaller 1040? Hardley!Printing off on your own computer now find It’s got the designated 1040 looking shorter and smaller, but it still takes up two pages so no paper saved there.  Iven though the bottom of Form1040  says: “For Disclosure, Privacy Act, and Paperwork Reduction Act Notice, see separate instructions. Cat. No. 11320B Form1040 (2018)”

But it’s good for the paper mills!

white black and red person carrying heart illustration in brown envelope

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

 

Bad for Big Trees!  Probably 135,000,000 extra pieces of paper used this year! That’s about 1700 extra trees !

building with tree
Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

 

 

 

 

My paper use for my 1040 is Itemized here:

My Page 1 – My basic tax info like all years only the signature is on this page rather than being on the 2nd page. (Only uses 1/2 the page)

My Page 2 – Again only 1/2 a page, but leaving out a whole lot of things that were on the old 1040 so what do I have to do? Print More Pages!

Then come Schedule 1,2,3,4,5,6….all with only about twoinches of printing on them.

Plus you still have to use Schedule A,B,C,D,E,F,…if their original forms.

Is there a CONSPIRACY going on? 

WELL! Note how many RESERVED BLANK TAX SPACES and on these new forms.  Guess how long they will stay blank in coming years?  $$$$$$$

WAS THERE A BONUS in all this?  YES!! I DID HAVE A LARGER DEDUCTION!!

GIVING THANKS

photography of one us dollar banknotes
Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

WHERE IT IS BEST DESERVED, TO OUR CONGRESS FOR THE TAX NEW RULES!

 

 

Book Review: Power of the Sword, by Wilbur Smith

Power of the Sword (Courtney #5)Power of the Sword by Wilbur Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am once again reading Wilbur Smith’s books as inspiration to writing another novel. This amazing work puts it all together in telling the tale of two rival half brothers, Shasa Courtney and Manfred De La Rey as they grow up separately under the influence of their common mother for Shasa and a renegade father in the case of Manfred. During their teens, they meet as unintroduced tomcats who tangle and develop a lifelong hatred which grows as they compete at college, in Hitler’s Olympics and are influenced by respectively great and or diabolical leaders to become rivals for the control of The Republic of South Africa. Both men grow to maturity in the wide open spaces of South Africa during World War Two, during which they support opposing sides. The flaring up of apartheid separates them further as does the rising African quest for liberation from white task-masters. You won’t be disappointed in this specimen of editorial mastery.

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Book review: The Purple Plain, by H. E. Bates

Purple PlainPurple Plain by H. E. Bates

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I cruised through author Bates’ book in very short order, captured by the lure of one of the exotic areas of the world, Burma during World War 2 and the descriptive expertise of the writer who builds a plot that draws the reader from chapter to chapter.
The author accurately depicts the down and out mental condition of Forrester, who, after recovering from wounds as a pilot, has been stationed in an isolated corner of Burma. Here, sweltering in the insuperable heat and bugs of the tropical plain, he stagnates while awaiting the arrival of an unknown man, Carrington, who will be his new navigator. He has nothing to go back to in England, his wife having been blow up during the Blitz of London, only a few short days after their wedding. His anger and hatred of life and the world, over which he has almost no control, grows into a hatred that lashes out at his fellow officer, Blore, who is due to be transferred out of the hellhole of Burma and back to India.
At the point where Forrester is about to crack up completely, the unit doctor, Harris, cajoles him into taking a ride out to a local village where he is helping a local missionary pick out hymns for Easter Sunday. In a fit of pique, Forrester decides to go along and meet the missionary and ladies in the village who are living out the war in solitude as most of their men have been conscripted to fight the Japanese who are pressing southward and rolling over the country.
The common things of ordinary village life confront Forrester during that first day out, and he meets two sisters and their mother in the village and begins to make their acquaintance in a rather stilted manner. On subsequent visits, Forrester begins to enjoy the company of Anna, the younger of the two ladies and begins to develop a close relationship. He becomes involved with village life and is present when the Japanese bomb the village, killing and wounding a number of the children who are being taken care of by the women and missionary lady.
At the point that Forrester is becoming enamored with the village and Anna, Carrington arrives and Blore receives his final orders to depart Burma. As Forrester pilots the plane towards Rangoon engine failure causes them to have to crash land in the scrub bush wilderness. Carrington, injured and unable to walk, is carried by Forrester as the three men attempt to reach human habitation and find a source of water for drinking.
The book is a page-turner, not because of any violent action and heroes fighting off attackers, but rather because of the concise description of village life, the countryside, the thoughts of the characters, and the oppressive heat and dryness that prevails throughout the story. Your mind can picture the thatched huts, hear the happy children riding on the back of the jeep through the village, taste the coolness of a lime drink in the sweltering heat, and the screams and cries of the children as the village is bombed. The reader will pick up on the author’s amazing ability to describe the looks, personalities, and foibles of each of the three main characters as they struggle to survive in the face of impossible odds in an implacable unforgiving environment.
For those who have lived on the edge at one time or another in their lives, this book will give you ample opportunity to reflect and think about humanities’ purpose and direction.

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