February 1865, 150 years ago was when 17 year old Richard Clow reenlisted as a regular for three years in the 56th Mass. Volunteer Infantry. That one month during which he signed up, spent two weeks in a holding camp during the frigid winter of 65, (18 degrees or more below zero) and then was transported in the filthy stinking hold of the ship Demolay to Petersburg, VA set the stage for his baptism under fire on the front lines at Fort Hays. His letters home to his sisters have always been an inspiration to me. Trying to tell what has been happening, while not sharing all the really gruesome details which his sisters would not have been able to understand back in Boston. His observations on the battlefield, close encounters with death, and his own hopes and dreams for the future all come out over the ensuing months leading up to Lee’s retreat to Appomattox, Lincolns death and finally demobilization in July of 1865, well after the final battles had become history. Read the book to get an understanding of what a young soldier did and saw, in comparison to what the officers we all hear about did or didn’t do. It gives one a broader understanding of the whole span of the war and the persons deeply involved in that conflict.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 18 trips to carry that many people.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I haven’t read a really good sci-fiction book for a long time and this one is definitely top of the line! Having grown up on the early I-Robot and other novels of the 50’s and followed Asimov’s work as a fan for years, I was glad to read a book that could still bring back the intrigue and interest of complex humanoid robotics of that earlier era. The real question within the book is still very appropriate for our own times: What will happen when one day we create a robot with a brain complex enough to think on the same levels that we do and we then let that robot do whatever it wants without the restrictions of Asimov’s three Laws of Robotics. With Caliban we get to explore that idea both from the perspective of humans as well as from the brain of the super thinking robot, Caliban. We also get to think about what happens to human societies when they either become completely dependent or independent of robot servants and slaves. The clash of the two human cultures, the threat of a planetary ecological collapse and the hunt for a murderous rogue robot all play out well in this fast moving, very thoughtful novel. I am hopeful of reading more of author MacBride Allen’s works. Enjoy a fast well written read!
Dear Readers 29 July, 2018
Today I wrote to our President, Sen. Ron Wyden, Sen. Patty Murray, Sen. Jeff Merkley, and Rep. Greg Walden on the subject of printable plastic guns and international terrorism.
Below is the gist of my writing. We know these guns already have existed since 2013 and that more will come into existence, but with no serial numbers and no onus on the owner, producer or manufacturer to help our security people I.D. the guns we are headed for really nasty stuff perpetrated by terrorists on our airlines, in our governmental and corporate offices and with repeated challenges to our already embattled law enforcement.
Plastic guns whether they be computer printable plastic guns or assembly line plastic guns are a threat to our National Security of the United States of America. In the hands of terrorists they can breach any airport security and also breach security of our government offices and the officials that make our country work.
Plastic guns can be controlled, and this can be done with some very explicit laws which do not infringe on any 2nd amendment rights to bear arms.
The laws need to be very strict and need to be on the books before any further plans for these weapons are released onto the internet. We must stay ahead of the game on international terrorism.
Included in the law should be the following:
A. It is a Class A Felony to produce, possess or own a plastic gun that does not conform to all of the following: 1.All plastic guns must have an embedded non-removable metal ID which if removed will make the gun inoperable.2. The embedded ID must have the legal name of the manufacturer and a unique I.D. number.3. The unique I.D. and name of the manufacturer must be registered with the F.B.I. at the time of production.
B. It is a Class A Misdemeanor to not store plastic guns properly. 1. All plastic guns must have a trigger guard in place when they are not in use. 2. All plastic guns must be stored in a gun safe when they are not in use.
C. It is a Class A Felony for the manufacturer of any plastic gun to give, loan, or sell any plastic gun to another person without complying with all of the following: 1. A record of all plastic guns given, loaned or sold to another person must be reported to the F.B.I. at the time of the above described action. 2. The full legal name of the person(s) to whom a plastic gun is given, loaned or sold must be given to the F.B.I. at the time of such action.
D. It is a Class B Felony for the owner or user of a plastic gun which is lost or stolen to not report this loss or theft to the F.B.I. and local law enforcement agencies within 24 hours of the loss or theft.
E. Failure to abide by the above procedures with any plastic gun shall make the owner and/or possessor of the plastic gun liable to punishment under the Anti-Terrorism laws of the United States of America to the full extent.
We need to get on with controlling these very dangerous weapons before they go public, not play catch-up.
Thanks for listening.
I hope you too will act to get Congress and the President to do something before next Wednesday and the blueprints all go viral.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Author Athol Fugard has captured the true essence of disenfranchised criminal African youth in the townships of South Africa during the Apartheid era. The descriptions of the daily life of Tsotsi, the leader of a small criminal gang and his compatriots is, in many ways, similar to Steinbeck’s “Tortilla Flat.” It is also similar to the stories of the “Garri Boys” of West African cities; Young men who lost their tribal customs and values when they were abandoned in or migrated to the cities. The book also reminds this writer of Golding’s “Lord of the Flies.”
The members of the gang under Tsotsi’s leadership act as his conscience, planners, and executors of daily robberies and murders in the African township. There is no conscience involved in the acts, only the necessity of doing them on a daily basis in order to perpetuate the flow of money needed for food and drink. In robbing and murdering the members of their own township, the gang members revel in seeking out the weak, less fortunate or unsuspecting members of their own kind. In so doing, the gang helps perpetuate their own miserable lifestyle. Instead of directing this anger towards their white oppressors, the gang, by its violence, gives the white population its justification for continuing the oppression of Apartheid. The lack of any social conscience in Tsotsi, and the shutting out of his own memories of family and feelings for others leads to a crisis within the gang that changes everything.
In one violent outburst, Tsotsi vents his anger on the most educated and likable member of his gang. When he realizes what he has done, a twinkle of conscience creeps into Tsotsi’s mind and keeps popping up despite all his efforts to push it back into a comfortable corner of his brain and ignore it. With this awakening comes a desire to seek out any remnants of his earlier life prior to running away and joining a gang. He begins a quest to reestablish contact with his past. In a cascade of new conscience driven actions, Tsotsi adopts an abandoned child, finds that he has taken on responsibility and pays the price for caring about other human beings.
A chapter a night is enough to cogitate on with this book. Read it slowly and think about how it relates to our lives today.
. My praise and prayers go out to the teams of Rescue operators in Thailand as they seek to pull all of the lost soccer boys and their coach from two weeks of entrapment in a water filled cave.
Recent News: Rescue underway in Thailand
What’s happening on the ground: video of Rescue Work
From personal experience; there is not much that is scarier than crawling through a worm-hole passage of a cave with a stream of water flowing under you. All the while, as you push your back-pack and canteen in front of you, you know you’re in a one way passage for 100 or more feet. You can’t turn around if the water starts to rise because of rains in the mountains 10 miles away. All you can do is keep moving to get to the next “room” and pray. Your prayer may not do you any good against the elements, but is cools the heart rate and calms your nerves a bit as you keep pushing forward into the blackness illuminated only by your self contained light source.
The men who are going in and out of that cave in Thailand daily to carry in oxygen, and now pull kids out are men of steel both in nerve and physical strength. They know the ‘cost’ of screwing up. I applaud their work. They are worthy of the highest honors that can be given to humans. They are agreeing to give up their lives if necessary, to give hope and assistance to others who are in dire life threatening straights. That’s what it means to be a hero.
They have my prayers for a safe completed rescue operation.
This is my response to the government and officials of The United States of America, separating infants from their parents who are seeking refuge in our country, putting those infants on trial in our court rooms and sending them back to a life in their former country without their parents:
At what point are our congressional majority leaders and president and their officials held accountable for ‘child abuse’ or higher crimes when they condone doing to children what would be considered abduction and or kidnapping refugee children in order to threaten other refugees from coming to our country? How can this placement of children and families under duress after they have fled opression in their own country be condoned? At what point will a judge be brave enough to tell our country that putting babies and infants on trial in our court system with no advocacy and representation is anything but criminal? At what point will it be considered legal for state officials to intervene when ICE officials break state laws about the handling, housing and caring for children in those particular states? At what point will an ICE employee who refuses to obey an order which according to The United Nations is a crime against humanity, be protected and allowed to refuse to obey an illegal order? At what point will international law put out a warrant, as they have done against other leaders who condoned crimes against humanity and arrest our leaders who strut so boldly about making America safer by imprisoning children?
This is a slippery slope and as Americans turn their backs on the innocent children who will suffer from these acts, we must realize how ordinary persons in many countries around the world have previously allowed tyranny to proliferate because they refused to stand up and say, “This is WRONG!”
There must be a better way, and it is up to our national leaders and the people in it who determine our government to direct our misguided leaders to do the right thing. The oppression of human rights and taking ouranger out of children is no the way to do it. We generally call that ‘Child Abuse’ whether it is the kid left in the overheating car, or the kid burned with cigarettes, or the kid taken by a mobster to hold for political or monetary ransom.
An important man once said,
“Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs. …” (Ref; NRSV)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I generally like author Coben’s writing, but this particular book just didn’t fit with my style. It’s not a page-turner. The plot seems quite disjointed, bouncing back and forth between my favorites and an occasional explosive action scene, coupled with a down-home explanation of the background surrounding the original kidnapping. The storyline: tracking down of 2 young men nearly ten years after their boyhood kidnapping and possible sale to child molesting pimps in England is a winner of an idea, but the plot doesn’t stick to the story and gets lost in little side stories which don’t help the overall plot. Our investigative heroes, Myron Bolitar and Win do not seem to be in the reader’s central vision enough to pull together what could be a really fast go-get-em chase. The initial impetus collapses when arch-villain Fat Gandhi broker’s a deal and things diffuse onto the ho-hum college campus and co-ed dorms. Win and Bolitar make an exciting and deadly team, but in this case, they need a bit more juice to hold up the excitement end of the book to make it what I would call a first class “thriller.” The love affair between Therese and Myron doesn’t seem to sparkle for me. Their affair gets the old “sorry for the cock block” once too often from the interruptions that are constructed, rather than being natural. I liked the ending and will pick up another of author Coben’s works for airplane reading. Hopefully, next time, I won’t put it down in favor of a jet-lagged film.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is not the Author’s best work by far. The thesis behind the novel is excellent and I was absorbed with that once we got to the actual story. The first 200 pages are very slow in setting up the story. In fact, so slow, that this section of the of the 479-page novel could have been covered with more concentrated action in about 50 pages without losing anything. I found myself skipping through the boring parts. After those first 200 pages the pace picks up and our protagonist, John Puller and the apparent arch-enemy, Paul Rogers, get down to business near Ft. Monroe and the affairs of secret building “Q” on that base. I would have liked a better description of Rogers’ bone and muscle enhancement job as well as the brain manipulations done by the mastermind Claire Jericho to make Rogers into a warped human super warrior, but that was not to be. Other than the initial boredom factors, my main reasons for downgrading an author as strong as Baldacci were his flaws in what should have been simple technology and physics. First, in a tale in which someone can take over the ignition, steering, and acceleration of your car to the point of causing a fatal crash, one would think that having Puller use his cell phone and computer to do research and to contact big brother, Robert, would be a dead giveaway on locating our hero to knock him off. This never happens and it isn’t until about p. 400 that our author acknowledges the easy traceability of cell phones. Yet, having noted the flaw, he never goes back and has Puller using a landline, library computers and other more clandestine methods to conceal his whereabouts. The second error which really floored me was the author’s lack of understanding of the basic physics of water pressure on a sunken car and that by letting the water rise above the door level, one can quite easily open the car door and simply swim to the surface. The hilt of a Ka-bar knife is also pretty efficient at breaking a windshield on a car if necessary in an emergency of doors not opening. Even so, I still enjoyed the read and will continue to go back to those older well thought out novels by Mr. Baldacci and look for more fertile efforts. All in all, I like his style of writing.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Here’s an award-winning level of a story by an author who has done an amazing amount of research on the women who ran and participated in, the spy newwork of occupied France during the both WWI and WWII. Although author Kate Quinn has filled in a lot of gaps in the historical record with her fictional character, Eve (Mme. Le Francois), her depictions of the other members of the spy network from their true memoires is amazing. The reader can feel the tension of the characters in their clandestine border crossings into Belgium, and their constant fear of recognition and capture. The courage and determination that flows between euphoric moments when a prime piece of information is overheard, followed by the depths of despair as the British Command ignores vital clues to troop movements or the attacks is handled extremely well. Author Quinn has also done a magnificent job of alternating chapters between the two main characters, Eve and Charlie and in ending each chapter with a ‘hook’ that keeps the reader moving on to the next chapter consecutively, rather than trying to skip ahead for clues that will lead to the mysterious collaborator, Rene Bordelon. It’s a tale of love, hate, terror, revenge, courage and betrayal in which the author makes the characters come to life and show both the worst of human behaviors and the very best. It will go down as one of my all time favorites.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Picture Me Dead” although I felt that I could have chopped out the central 100 pages and still had a great read at 323. The boathouse to apartment play between Ashley and Jake is too much back and forth for me. I got a bit bored out in the middle of the book. Fortunately, if you feel ennui sneaking in, or you start to yawn, just skip to the next love making scene. You’ll come away with new learning! The “Prologue” really pulls you in at the start of the book. Then the love-hate cycle between Ashley and Jake make for a good fallback in between the intrigue of the mystery. I kept wondering if Ashley was going to drop out of the Police academy. The author obviously came up with a better solution. Everglades scenes and the death on the motorway scene are a bit contrived, but lay the groundwork for other things to come in the book. My wife was totally absorbed with the book. It took me ten days to do the reading of the 400+ pages while she only took two days, so there you have it ladies, it gets a higher rating from the gals, but that’s OK because men have been getting all the good parts in books for eyars and now it looks like some smart tough women are stepping forward in novels to equalize the filed. A very good book, enjoy the reading.
If a velociraptor looked at me with the same geam in the eye that this hungry pair of Iguana are giving me, I’d know I wasn’t long for this world!
Enjoy your day!
Playa Lagun is another one of those great places to dive on Curacao. A lot of people don’t go there because you have to swim way.. out there.. before you go down, or you’ll use up half your air over white chrystaline sands.
So– 9:30 AM we make up our gear at Patrick’s Wederfoort Dive shop and hop in the pickup for a 20 minutes dive up towards the NW end of the Island. Throw on our gear and walk down through the sunbathers, already beginning to stake out places on this small secluded beach.
Swim out! Glad the water is cool! Here we are offshore 300+ yards looking back.
Jill looks at me, we all look at the cliffs with houses and high-end resorts, Patrick gives an OK and down we go….. 35 ft. down is a sloping plateau loaded with tube spongers, corky fingers, and pillars of coral.
A glass eye snapper just a bit deep to show off his vrightred coloring, brain rose and starlet corals, a pale phase of a stoplight parrot with a blue tail, a blue male phase of a sergent major, flowing fungus coral, blue tube sponges, a herd of grunts above some goat fish, a blue wrasse, and finally the Giant Vase Sponge big enough to swallow a person.
Back at the beach an hour later, we stop for a coffee while we get out top-time, pick up more tanks at Patrick’s dive concession at Lagun Resort, look down off the cliffs from above where we have been diving and head for the next dive. Enjoy!
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