Voices from Vietnam by Barry Denenberg: Book review

Voices from VietnamVoices from Vietnam by Barry Denenberg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an excellent book for the post-Vietnam conflict era reader to gain insight into a very complex 30-year war that dragged the French and then the Americans into a conflict that underscores how colonial and neo-colonial efforts to maintain the status quo in the face of a grassroots independence movements failed miserably.

The synopsis of the war is punctuated by sections of letters written at each period during the conflict by our nation’s leaders as they attempted to persuade the American people that things were going our way, that we needed more troops, that if we only pushed a bit here or there, we would force the indigenous peoples to bend to our will. In the process, the reader gains an understanding of how self-delusion on the part of national leaders leads them to twist and falsify claims of victory, when then privately are haunted by a deeper knowledge that a quagmire has been entered, from which there can only be a retreat. The strategies enlisted by our government of initially supporting what appeared to be local elements in a civil war, descend over time into limited warfare, fortified enclaves, carpet bombing, mass defoliation, and the indiscriminate use of shelling, bombs and troops to take and retake the same territory time and again, while never setting a firm final objective cry of “Take Hanoi!” the way previous wars had centered on concrete goals such as “On to Paris!” or “Take Berlin!”

Most interesting are the letters from the soldiers, news personnel, nurses, doctors, and embassy personnel on the ground in Vietnam who lived with the day to day uncertainties and consequences of the war. The hopes of the short-timer are contrasted with the fatigue, depression, and disillusionment of the personnel on the ground. The letters home are never able to communicate the full depth of the feelings being shared by the nurses, the wounded, the new recruits and the observers on the ground, all of whom interpret their sections of the conflict in different ways.

Additionally, the book underscores how Americans misunderstood the goals, and desires of both the leaders and the peasants of Vietnam. On one hand the desire of an elite to maintain control of a country in which they were a minority, by military means, in contrast with the hand to mouth agricultural lives of the peasants who needed to switch loyalties, on pain of death, almost on a daily basis, depending on which military group was occupying their village.

Read the book with the knowledge that this is not the only interpretation of the Vietnam conflict and is certainly only a primer on the politics of the time. The author puts in snippets of the protests within the U.S. as well as comments on the effects of the draft and our concurrent civil rights movement within America as a backdrop to this war. It should be taken in as an eye opener for young readers about the terrible aftermath of any war which goes on to affect a nation for multiple generations after the papers are signed ending what might have been a situation better left alone.

Suitable for readers from 8th grade up through adult for discussions and meditation on wars, their purposes, and the baggage leaders take to the table when they become involved in any war.

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Thomas Ingoldsby and Thomas Jefferson Signatures?

Here’s your’s truly doing a bit of a mystery search today.

It starts when I pick up on old book formerly owned by Thomas Littlehales, lately of Forest Grove Oregon (passed away circa 1945) my great grandfather on my mother’s side.  He owned two copies of Thomas Ingoldsby’s “The Ingoldsby Legends” or “Mirth and Marvels.” See Modern Copy

Mine is a bit older – 1869! And a bit more used: Note The signature of Thomas Ingoldsby on the right hand side of the page about halfway down. See enlargement

T. Ingoldsby signat on pg  T. Ingoldsby signat magnified

Wow! Oops! Ingoldsby was really Richard Harris Barnham a parish priest in England in the 1800’s who firtpublished these tales in 1840 undeer his pen name.  See more on the book!

But it was what was inserted in the middle of  the book on two brown, tattered and torn pieces of paper wrapped in plastic cling film that really threw me! What appeared to be the signature of another Thomas, Thomas Jefferson.

Was it true? This is a blown up scan of some of the flowery writing off the pages!

“Tom Jefferson with Aunty Howard’s best wishes.”

001 (2)

Ok, so what to do? First I go on the internet to see if there is a copy of 3rd President of the USA and an author of the Declaration of Independence. What does his signature look like? Here’s What Google Comes up with – Check it out. I go to The RAAB collection of Thomas Jefferson’s signatures in case the one on the Declation of Independence is just a fluke or a scribble after  long day at the office.  RAAB signature collection

Looks like this probably isn’t one of his signatures, but could it be from a relative?  So I go back and scan and blow up some more writing on the other side of one of the pages where it looks like an address?  Ahah! Will it be Jefferson’s home and someone is writing to him? Another example:

001 (6)

Hmm! Not our Guy – South Hackney is in England. And here’s another signature to confirm.  And it has grafitti on it.  001 (7)

Whoever “My Dearest gal, Aunt Dolly,” is, we’ll probably never know, nor the artist. Finally I come up with the whole name of our unknown Thomas with this last clip:

001 (8)

Apparently a present given on New Year’s day (what year we can only surmise being somewhere around 1869-70. And the full name is Apparently:  Thomas Howard Jefferson of Charles Terrace, Cassland Road, South Hackney, probably in England.

So much for my hoping I had a $10,000.00 signature of Thomas Jefferson, the president. Also unfortunately this copy of the 2nd Edition is in poor shape so not worth the $12,000.00 seen on the internet for sale: Buy a first and second edition What amazing penmanship people had in those days! Better Luck next time.

Enjoy! Rick


Into the Inferno – a novel by Earl Emerson

Into the InfernoInto the Inferno by Earl Emerson

This is a fast-moving firefighter book with a twist that may not be as rare as we would like to think. When a firefighter pulls open the door to a burning house, car or barn they have no way of knowing they aren’t walking into a hell-hole of a some psycho’s chemistry lab gone awry. What happens when this is a chemical so deadly and secret that it gets you killed to even know about it or try to investigate the deaths it causes? An ordinary winter pileup in the Pacific Northwest is sorted out by responding firefighters. It’s only in the ensuing weeks and months that these same firefighters begin succumbing to a ten-day illness. Invariably, they descend into a vegetative state. Jim Swope picks up on the symptoms of his fellow firefighters as they either die by suicide or are interned into institutions. When Swope comes down with symptoms, he doesn’t go down easily. As the symptoms creep through his body, time is running short. With Doctor Stepanie Riggs, he finds a lead in the case sending him on a race for life, knowing that in ten days he will be just one more mental case, or dead. As he closes in, the holders of the secret attempt to frame and then eliminate him and his family in accidents which will be ascribed to his mental incompetence. Author Earl Emerson has done a superb job of showing us the hazards of the firefighter’s job. He has a great scenario for a story which is not far from reality. His descriptions of how easy it is for us to gloss over symptoms, or ascribe deaths to normal causes or suicide when no discernable symptoms of illness exist is scary! How easy it is for the big money, the big corporation, the big government, to cover up the big secret is also an eye-opener. Enjoy reading this. It’s a quickie, but very thoughtful and worth-while.

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Book Review: Fatal by Michael Palmer

FatalFatal by Michael Palmer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I think of chemicals and waste products that cause human cancers, deformities, life-threatening illnesses and such, I think of Erin Brockovich and her quest to stop the release of hexavalent chromium into the environment. Author Michael Palmer is right up that same alley with his work of fictionalized characters in an all too real world of West Virginia mining and the release of all sorts of really noxious waste into the streams, valleys, and atmosphere of what could be a really beautiful section of our country. Matt Rutledge is the doctor who gets thrown into the puzzle by accident when he goes back to his beloved hill country following the death of his wife, Ginny. There, in the county hospital, he encounters for the second time a set of strange symptoms which lead up to the development of fleshy lumps on the skin called neurofibromas followed by psychotic behavior leading to the ultimate death of the patient. In the ensuing weeks, as one thing leads to another, our doctor deduces that the Belinda Coal and Coke Company which controls all the mines in the area doesn’t seem to want any publicity of the strange deaths. The company is also hiding deadly waste in old mines and has covert links to a vaccine manufacturer named Omnivax which is coming under congressional scrutiny for deaths attributed to their vaccine for hemorrhagic Lassa fever. When Matt’s girlfriend Nikki stumbles onto further connections between the strange neurofibroma deaths, immunization sera and leached mountain chemicals in the area of Montgomery County, the two of them are targeted for elimination by the corporate schemers. They go on the run with Nikki barely escaping death after an accident and being treated by a doctor in the pockets of the coal company. They have to find the final link and the proof to stop what may become an epidemic of spongiform encephalopathy caused by the synergistic reactions of persons to the contaminated water and the vaccinations they need against diseases. It’s a well-woven tale, with very plausible characters, descriptions of rural West Virginian living conditions and misguided rugged individualism which allows them to be exploited by the corporations that dominate and control their lives. Read the book and apply the lessons to your own hometown. We are all being affected by the dumping of wastes into our streams and atmosphere as well as the chemicals we use to treat our fruits, vegetables and kill our weeds. Something scary could come with the next bite of the apple.

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Book Review: The Chemist byStephenie Meyer

The ChemistThe Chemist by Stephenie Meyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a former nerdy ex-science/biology/chemistry teacher, it’s always fun to read about the underdog who ultimately breaks up the plot to overthrow the government! This story will keep you guessing and turning pages as our heroine, Alex, switches from one pseudonym to the next, hides under the radar or disappears when the hunters get too close, only to reappear in their backyards. As always in good thriller fiction, there is the unlikely alliance, in this case, in which Alex teams up with the ever nerdy science teacher Daniel and his…(oops, don’t give it away)… who’s an ex-CIA guy! The fun part of all of this is how a nerdy professional government interrogator manages to survive numerous attempts on her life, set booby traps, sleep in a gas mask, and carry an array of deadly syringes, rings, and earrings without killing either herself or her few friends as she goes after the bad guys. This is not the usual shoot-em-up run through the hail of bullets kind of novel. Our young lady is smart, deadly and focused on her one task of remaining alive long enough to get back at the people who are betraying our government. Author Meyer has done an outstanding job of writing, researching her subject’s weapons and the various methodologies behind getting the truth out of someone through psychological and chemical means rather than the old brute force we so often see and hear about in fiction and real life. A masterful piece of work!

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The Supreme Court: Not about Political Party. It’s about our Nation’s Solidarity

Dear Readers, this is my open letter to the U.S. Senate. It is not inflammatory, but rather thoughtful, about what we are doing or allowing to be done to our country and our unique governmental institutions.

Dear Senators Wyden and Merkley,     5 October, 2018

I hope your office will have time to share with you the following ideas concerning the final vote on Mr. Kavanagh’s nomination for the position of Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America.

I, as a citizen of our country, hope that you will have the time to present the following to the full Senate before any final vote on Mr. Kavanagh’s assumption to a position which ranks as one of the highest in the land.

Dear Members of the U.S. Senate:

The nomination of Mr. Brett Kavanagh to a position of Justice of the Supreme Court should not be viewed as a nomination for a political agenda. It should be viewed as a nomination for employment. Mr. Brett Kavanagh is being nominated for a position as a lifetime employee of the United States of America.

As such, it is the Bound and Duty of all of the members of the Senate of the United States of America to review all of his qualifications as a citizen, a member of our society, a judge, and a moral and social leader who will take our country forward on the principles within our constitution to best fulfill the words within our original Declaration of Independence, that: “All – are created equal.”

Without our adherence to this sacred Bound and Duty towards employing the very best of our nation’s judicial members to this lifetime position, we risk moving our nation backwards towards a fragmentation of the very principles upon which we were founded.

It has taken over 200 years of blood sweat and tears on the battlefields, in the farms, within the factory walls, on the streets of our cities and in the our clinics and hospitals to move our now teenage nation, as nations go, into a position of being the world’s leader in influencing military, agriculture, business, employment, safety and health care. We have done this by listening to not just the majority of one, but by developing a consensus of balance between polarities which can only divide and split our nation into the haves and the have-nots, the wealthy and the poor, the exalted and the oppressed, the male and the female, and the laborer and the master.

Standing in the doorway to defend our precariously won freedoms born of a system of laws, are several Angels known as The Checks and Balances of our government. The highest of these Angels is final Justice, which is overseen by The Supreme Court of the United States of America. Every member of this lifetime, august body must fulfill their role in guarding our nation’s liberties. As such, for employment, they must move into their position without any drags of the past that might come forward at some inopportune time to put them under outside pressure or to skew their thinking and judgement.

You members of the Senate are the guardian Angels of the door into The Supreme Court. You have all had the opportunity to hear, read and understand all of the aspects with regard to the qualification and fitness to become a Supreme Court Justice. As you make a final vote on this nomination, you must all, individually within your souls take on this responsibility as a sacred trust for our nation. It is not whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, but as a human being, standing in the portal to ward off the kinds of Chaos that you can see in the world around you.

From my own position as an ordinary citizen, I believe that: You Can Do Better, than to give this Sacred Trust in Justice to Mr. Brett Kavanagh.

Sincerely, Richard H. McBee Jr.

2018 Joint North American and Canadian Championship Orienteering Meet in the Yukon’s Negative Terrain

The week of August 17 -24, 2018 was an amazing international competition for Orienteerers from North America and Canada to compete on some of the finest negative orienteering terrains in the world. To say the least, this is extremely challenging terrain to nagigate, especially when one considers that much of it is covered with aspen and black spruce trees which obscure vision for any long distance.

Here’s Jill with our Club Banner at the meet! (Cold? 100F in Hood River, OR,  50F in Whitehorse, Yukon!)


The terrain is classed as “negative” because it has numerous giant potholes which go down rather than up like knolls from the surrounding land which was leveled by ancient glaciers.    In the picture below is an example showing a small hill or knoll about 15 meters high in the upper portion of the picture with the circular contour lines forming a hill. On the hill are several depressions which are shown as circles with the small hash mark pointing to the downward section.

Canadian Middle 001 (2)

Looking at the lower portion of the picture to the right of the “6” you can see a depression or deep glacial pothole in which the contours go downwards for about 15 meters below the surrounding land.  Obviously, you want to run around these holes rather than waste energy trying to cross them since they often have deadfall in the bottom. Note how similar the two land forms look on the map, knoll and pothole, with the sole exception of the hashmarks on the pothole’s contours.

The full week’s schedule of events for the 700 plus participants can be seen at the NAOC/COC Schedule .

The Columbia River Orienteering Club (CROC) from the Portland, Oregon area was represented by 10 members of the organization. Here are 9 of the members all together! With your’s truely dead center. Left to Right we have Aandy, Tony, Jill, Rick. David, Julie, Debby and Ken in line with Virginia down in front. Yeah! Team!


Our 10th member was Alison Crocker who is on the US National Elite Women’s Orienteering Team. She didn’t get in the photos beacuse she had to compete and then get back home to her new baby! You can see the International Orientation Federation results for Alison Crocker, IOF Ranking for Alison Crocker  here. Alison’s successes in the Middle and Long races for the elite women, helped push the US team results up enough to defeat the Canadians from retaining their long held ranking as the North American Champions. Yes! Our U.S. team got the silver cup!


CROC’s other medalling member was Virginia Church who won a gold and silver medal in the women’s age category of over 75 years of age. Well done Virginia! Here she is for the Silver presentation.


Great Orienteering and great fun although the courses were tough and you can see all of our results and the pictures of everyone here if you like.  Pics and results






Scientific American on Noisy Dominance. Chimps mimic Humans or is it vis versa?

I had to laugh, midway through the first article in the latest Scientific American: Special Issue for September 2018, entitledHumans – Why we’re unlike any other species on the planet.

Author Kevin Laland mentions an observation about innovations in hmans and animals and uses one example of this as primatologist Jane Goodall’s observations of a young chimpanzee, code named Mike, who had devised a noisy dominance diplay that allowed him to rise rapidly to the level of alpha male status in his troop.  Mike apparently according to Goodall, Jane Goodall’s observaions on Mike, noted that Mike had learned to clash two empty kerosene cans together in order to intimidate rivals.

So what pops into my head? You got it! When did this observation occur and who might have picked up on it in the Human world and put it to good use? I try to research this a bit, Goodall on Chimpanzee Communication, and find that Jane Goodall drew some anolgies between all of her Primate work (Humans are Primates) and political figures and ways of intimidating opponents so that they win or move up substantially on the status scale. How interesting to see  journalist’s quote back during the last primary campaign before the first debates Quote source: “In the October issue of The Atlantic, James Fallows takes an interesting look at what the presidential debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton — the first of which happens next Monday — will be like. Nestled within that story, which serves as a history lesson on televised presidential debates, is an observation made by renowned primatologist Jane Goodall. Fallows recalls a conversation he had with Goodall just before Trump clinched the GOP nomination. “In many ways, the performances of Donald Trump remind me of male chimpanzees and their dominance rituals,” Goodall told him. “In order to impress rivals, males seeking to rise in the dominance hierarchy perform spectacular displays — stamping, slapping the ground, dragging branches, throwing rocks. The more vigorous and imaginative the display, the faster the individual is likely to rise in the hierarchy, and the longer he is likely to maintain that position.”

Which came first? The Chicken or the egg? Did some enterprising young politicical advisor see Jane Goodall’s notes and transfer this idea of disruptive interference to his candidate’s political campaign?


Was this methodology already prevelent in Humanity as seen in the bombastic shouted interruptions and displays we see, used by certain commentators on certain TV shows?

Draw your own conclusions. Whatever they are, be sure to read some of Dr. Goodall’s comments on current political dramas including her analysis of POTUS.

ref 1:About the President

ref 2: Yvanka Trump Quotes Jane Goodall – women power

Have a great day! And, remember to read the other 104 pages of the Scientific American articles on HUMANS!

Book Review:Isaac Asimov’s Caliban, by Roger MacBride Allen

Isaac Asimov's Caliban (Isaac Asimov's Caliban, #1)Isaac Asimov’s Caliban by Roger MacBride Allen

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!

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Defense against Anti-Terrorism: Rules for Making Plastic Guns

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.


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