Book Review: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Trevor Noah has produced an amazing book covering his youthful memories of growing up under apartheid in The Republic of South Africa. His stories are at times humorous, at others heart-rending, as he describes growing up as young man caught by his mixed racial birthright between two opposing world views that make even his conception by a black African mother and a white Swiss man a crime. In addition, he finds that when apartheid is finally thrown out and wite dominance exchanged for black majority rule, that he is still caught in the naming game of who is black, who is white and who is in the no man’s land of being in-between but not recognized by either group as one of their “own.” Throughout the book, author Noah is able to show how his racial mixture could be a key to unlocking opportunity. When it came to selling white contraband to black ghetto associates, the author was black enough to have credibility with fellow Soweto inhabitants, and make sales normally out of reach of his white masters. The author’s nimble wit, ability to think on his feet and opportunistic personality helped him glide through the cracks between the two coexisting societies and climb the stairway to success. Trevor Noah demonstrates how intellect, resiliency, and drive can overcome insurmountable odds. I recommend this book to both adults and youth of all races. It’s an excellent stepping off point for discussions about our human dilemmas that need to take place in America. Being able to communicate with persons who think, act, appear, speak and understand the world differently from our own narrow cultural perspective is a key to continued success for the American dream.

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Thank You Readers! Rick’s 2019 Book Giveaway!

It’s Rick’s 2019 Worldwide Book Giveaway Time!!!
This is one of my favorite times of the year in which I am able to give an electronic gift to my readers and facilitate your giving books to friends.

Holiday Book Giving helps us all enjoy those vacation periods with something to engage our brains  These are electronic books which you can download to your Book Reader, I-Phone, Android, P.C. Nook, Kindle, Etc. Kindle Books offers a variety of formats for electronic platforms. So! Keep these dates handy and send them to your friends so they can also share in the reading fun!  

There are three giveaway weekends, one for each book at Kindle Direct Publishing . See Below!

  • Going to Florida or the Caribbean?  I will be giving away my Seashells of the Caribbean book: November 29 – Dec. 3, 2019. Check it out! 
  • Like true 19th century history?  I will be giving away my Civil War History Book: Rough Enough: December 5, – Dec. 9, 2019. Check it out!
  • Do you devour African Historical Fiction? I will give away
  • The Ghosts of Ukuthula: December 12 – Dec. 16.  

Enjoy Thanksgiving and have a very Merry New Year!

The Sixth Man by David Baldacci, a Book Review

The Sixth Man (Sean King & Michelle Maxwell, #5)

The Sixth Man by David Baldacci

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At what point will the computer world and fast-moving information world outpace the ability of humans to deal with the input to make logical governmental decisions. The world of computers has gotten us here and we already know that most of us can’t keep up with IT even at our home-grown level of information through our PCs and Phones. Author Baldacci has captured this theme; a place where even the best brains at our national decision-making levels begin to break down. What if we find a person or a way to make sense out of all this higher-level data? If we find humans who can handle all the IT data at once, will they be like Edgar Ray, a weird nerdy fellow who, with the leadership and brilliant guidance of Peter Bunting brings about a revolution in the analysis of intelligence? What will the old guard, who have controlled the decision-making power of the intelligence community for years, do when they find they are left behind? This is novel about intrigue at the highest levels of government with all its gamesmanship and skullduggery. All eyes are focused on one man’s unique talents. One side wants to utilize him for the betterment of our nation, while the other side wants to destroy him and keep the old ways intact even if they lead to wrong decision making and global conflagration. Sean King and Michele Maxwell are once again at the cutting edge of an investigation into corruption at the highest levels of our government. As sources of information are murdered, and the duo narrowly escape death, the race to save Edgar Ray from multiple murder charges seems to be reaching a dead end. What are the Secretary of Homeland Security, Ellen Foster, and Bunting’s rival, Mason Quantrell, up to? What are the true roles of Edgar Ray’s half-sister, the mysterious Mr. Harkes, and FBI agent Murdock? Although wordy at times and repetitious in the middle of the book, author Baldacci has once again found a mystery theme that stikes at the heart of our modern computer era. Stay with it until the end and you will find out all the answers. An excellent read!

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Ghost Fire by Wilbur Smith, with Tom Harper: Book Review

Ghost Fire (Courtney, #18)

Ghost Fire by Wilbur Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed the book thoroughly! It surprised me in being a novel about India and the American French and Indian War, but as usual, the master of historical fiction brings it all together with a slam-dunk of a book starting with the youthful lives of Connie and Theo Courtney in colonial India, and their trials, battles, and miraculous escapes during the Indian rebellion. Theo, presuming his sister’s death at the hands of an Indian potentate, journey’s to America to give condolences to a fallen comrade’s family and finds true love. Escaping from a religious cult, he falls into the hands of marauding Indians. Again, after a miraculous escape, he enlists in the American Rangers of the French and Indian War, leading a brilliant attack on a French fort on the Great Lakes. Connie, equally endowed with both beauty and luck, escapes India with a French Officer. Her adventures in and around the wild party life of the Parisian elite leave her no choice but to choose between life as a submissive sex-slavery to a madman or being stationed in French-occupied Canada with a General in charge of throwing the British and the Rangers out of the entire Great Lakes region. This dramatic novel’s ending leaves you hanging until the very last pages. Don’t miss this fast-moving surprise filled book!

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Executive Power! (Mitch Rapp #6) by Vince Flynn – Book Review

Executive Power (Mitch Rapp, #6)
Bring on our favorite SEAL!

Executive Power by Vince Flynn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book by Vince Flynn has all the stuff of the modern era: spies, terrorists, hostages, military insertions, and governmental intrigue leading us across the globe in the hunt for the king spider at the center of the web! Mitch Rapp is the SEAL point man and plays this role to the hilt; leading us through the halls of the White House and Congress as he tries to avoid being in the spotlight after his exploits are exposed and he is kicked upstairs to advise top officials on the best tactics to use against the shadowy figures who require special ops to remove their threat to our nation and the world. In this morass of politics, military missions and exposure to death, Mitch struggles to maintain his marital life with Anna, his investigative reporter wife, who fears that Mitch’s penchant for action and being on the front lines will get him killed. As Mitch leads the clandestine hostage rescue against General Moro in the Philippines, this worry almost becomes a reality as the small SEAL team works to pull off the rescue of an American family. Back in Washington, severely chastised by his wife and working at his desk job, Mitch follows the clues of the mysterious terrorist and Palestinian freedom fighter, David and his relationships with both the Saudi Royal Family and the innermost secret workings of the Israeli Mossad. Who is this man actually working for? What is his ultimate goal? How will his assassinations and global intrigue accomplish his ends without bringing about a worldwide conflagration? The ending of the story on the French Riviera is just as exciting with a twisted plot and a scenario that could be happening even now as we read this review. Loved the book. Will read more by Vince Flynn in the near future.

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Modern Parallelism with President Andrew Johnson’s Impeachment

As I read over my latest “The Week” magazine, I note on p. 11, Oct. 25, 2019 edition, an article entitled “The impeachment of Andrew Johnson.” What an interesting recounting of the history of one of our presidents who was impeached and then not removed from office in 1868 due to a single vote that prevented the 2/3 majority needed in the Senate.

Read the whole article for yourself:

To me the parallelism of President Johnson’s style and actions to modern times jumped out at me in many ways:

  • Johnson rode into office as Vice President because he opportunistically masked his true underlying beliefs, taking the side of the Union as the only Senator to do so from a slave state. Thus, as a radical Democrat, he was placed on the Radical anti-slavery Republican ticket for VP by Lincoln in Lincoln’s second term campaign.
  • Johnson began his term by ripping members of the Cabinet with harangues that shocked the nation.
  • With the death of Lincoln, Johnson reverted to his true beliefs of white supremacy, suggesting the deportation of millions of blacks.
  • Johnson accused members of congress of a conspiracy and plotting to overthrow him.
  • Johnson dubbed bimself “King Andy” and claimed Divinity directly from God in his actions.
  • He publicly threatened to fire Cabinet members who differed from his true line of thinking and did so including the firing of the Secretary of War; the straw that finally broke the camel’s back for congress and brought about impeachment.

The Articles of Impeachment dealt with:

  1. Overreaching his executive authority in the firing of Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton.
  2. Circumventing the proper chain of command.
  3. Conduct and tone unbecoming of a President in attempting to bring “disgrace, ridicule, hatred, contempt and reproach” onto members of Congress.

Read some Great Mags like “The Week”, or “Time”, or “U.S. News”, because it allows you to turn off the TV pundits and form and discuss your own opinions from facts written by award winning reporting.

This is all food for thought, because it is beginning to sound an awful lot like someone I know and hear about daily!


Photo Tour of Curacao: 2019

The off seasons of October/November and April/May are fabulous times of the year to visit the Caribbean and do a bit of scuba diving with your friends. Given all of the choices of thousands of islands, my wife and I continue to return to Curacao, now for the fifteenth year!

Our choice of Lodging, Waterside Apartments in Boca Sami hasn’t changed during that period of time for several absolutely excellent reasons: Views, Diving, People.

Waterside is there! Right over the waters of Snake Bay, Boca Sami
The view of Snake Bay from one of the Waterside apartments looking out to sea
Diving in waters that often have 80 – 100 ft visibility
Accessible wrecks and walk-in reefs
Sea life that is protected and reefs that are not dying due to climate change
Colorful towns and friendly people
Old Historic Houses
Visages of Colonial Life
Colorful Market Places
More than enough art and trinkets for momentoes
Excellent Coast Guard Service
Crashing Waves!

If you go, be sure to do your diving out of the best dive shop on the island just down the street from Waterside. It’s Dive Wederfoort!

Run by Patric Geers, see his qualifications and staff at

Dive Wedeerfoort as been open since 1955 and the original owner and world renowned dive instructor, Eric Wederfoort lives right across the entrance into Snake Bay from the Waterside Apartments. He’s an encyclopedia of fabulous stories and dives in Curacao and worldwide.

Enjoy your trip!

U.S. National Orienteering Championships – 2019

Talk about a “Happening”! The 2019 USA National Orienteering Championships, , hosted by the Bay Area Orienteering Club, , of the San Francisco, California area, was attended by over 200 persons featured the USA National Competitions in over 20 age and ranking categories from age 12 up through and including age 80+.

Although the hype of the event is generally around the US National and Junior National team members competitions, at all age levels there were sufficient contestants and courses to keep everyone active and involved for the full three day event in Big Basin Redwoods StatePark, , and on the Campus of Cabrillo College,

In Orienteering for any race, each competitor in an age group starts at least three minutes apart from other members of that group. This is to prevent following. Here I am among the redwoods of Big Basin (Back turned in Blue Columbia Gorge Orienteering Club shirt) waiting at the start to be called up for the beginning of the Middle Distance event.

There were a total of six different competitions in which participants could vie for superiority: Sprint, Middle Distance, Long Distance, Relay and Temp-O. As always in top notch competitions, any slight blunder is enough to knock winning contenders down to lesser medals or out of the winner’s circle completely. So let’s see how I did on the Middle distance for my medal. You can see all of the event information at the BAOC US National Web Site:

The Middle Distance map for my age group, 75+ years of age is below: Note it’s only 2 kilometers (1 1/4 miles in length) but there is an elevation change of 125 meters (that’s 410 feet) which pulls a lot of energy out of the legs as you go cross-country using only a compass and map for reference and trying to avoid as much of the green (especially the dark green of impenetrable evergreen huckleberry thickets in the steep open redwood forest. By open, I don’t mean nice and smooth as there are downed timber patches of three and four foot diameter logs and short underbrush along the way not counting streams and cliffs that must be crossed or navigated around while not losing one’s orientation and sense of direction while going as fast as possible.

When I took off at “triangle which marks the start, I was pumped up for the race. Arriving from the start to control # 1 was a cinch, the westernmost end of a shallow ditch, but I got over confident on #2 and wasted 8 minutes which likely cost me a chance at either the Gold or Silver Medals. When I found #2, the depression the route to #3 was obvious, cut over to the stream that runs just North of #2 and follow it up hill in an almost brush-less corridor until I have to cross the deep ravine of the creek to reach the spur which ran between two sections of the stream. At this point I saw one of the fastest 70+ competitors whom I knew had started right after me, so I knew others were having difficulties with 1-2 and I was catching up with anyone in my age category who might have passed me during my “brain fart” between 1 and 2. My time from 2-3 was the fastest for our group and I picked up 10 seconds on the leader. Number 4, northernmost tree in a group of significant lone trees was easy as there was a pretty good clearing to recognize. The ditch at #5 was shallow and required a bit of a detour to the north to skirt the think underbrush, but if you were keeping your attention on the map and cut the trail, it was like following a handrail. Getting to the knoll of #6 was simply a matter of straight-line navigating as long as you compensated for each of the little jogs that came in getting around some of the denser brush in between. The clearing for #7 had a lot of dark green brush in between on the direct route, so I cut NNW to hit the trail, turned left and followed the trail to the junction and then cut upwards. Heading to #8 I took a chance and just bush crashed down the slope from 7 and was able to find a quick way across the stream and up the hill to the trail. I then followed the trail until I was NNE of the knoll and cut up through the open timber to that control. This was a great move because I had the fastest time for our group on this leg and actually picked up two whole minutes on the leader. Getting to #9 was a straight line dash and then I cut directly to the road to hit #10 and then sprinted down the flagged chute for the double circle which is the finish. Again I had the fastest time for our group on this leg, although the measly 1 second (15 sec. vs 16 sec.) is really nothing other than bragging points. You can see my win/spit times for each leg of the course along with other members in that 75+ race at: . Hope you enjoy the description. My Bronze Medal front and back below on top of the great T-shirt for the event.

Rick Receiving his bronze medal on the last day of the meet following the Sprint competition.
Both sides of medal resting on Event T-Shirt

Book review: The Wake of the Perdido Star by Gene Hackman and Daniel Lenihan

Wake of the Perdido Star

Wake of the Perdido Star by Gene Hackman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this post-American Revolutionary seafaring tale for its new twists on an old traditional sailor plot-line. Young Jack O’Reilly is at that late teen-age point where he longs to escape the confines of his parental supervision, stretch his legs and take on the world. When Jack’s father’s work plays out in New England, the family sets off to start a new life in Cuba on hereditary plantation holdings. Arriving in Cuba, aboard the ill-fated ship, The Perdido Star, the family dreams are shattered as they find their lands confiscated by the powerful Count de Silva. The Count’s treacherous plans play out as Jack’s parents are murdered and he is forced to flee the country. Again aboard The Perdido Star, lumbered with a half-mad captain and semi-hostile crew around him, young Jack O’Reilly learns a sailor’s trade in the school of hard knocks.
This is one of the very interesting parts of the book as it details daily life aboard ship, the interplay of personalities in a confined space that lasts for months on end, and the different roles played by the ship’s sailors, mates and the captain. As the ship reaches the roaring ’40, headed south around Cape Horn, the lack of a proper Captain puts the ship into repeated danger. Good seamanship can only be coordinated by having a strong hand at the helm and the captain’s antics make him the laughing-stock of the ship with a consequent failure to deal with the raging weather surrounding the Horn. As masts break and men are washed overboard, the ship becomes a rudderless derelict during a hurricane. Jack and the other survivors of the storm find themselves wrecked on a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific. There they spend more than a year meeting the natives, salvaging cargo from the wreckage of their ship and hoping for the chance passage of another ship to take them off the islands.
At this point in the book, I was intrigued by the novel methods used to salvage the muskets and other stores in extremely deep water using a makeshift diving bell. After months of isolation, an opportunity to escape the islands comes in the form of a Dutch slaver. It is a mixed blessing as the Americans are faced with either becoming prisoners of the Dutch, or being wiped out so that the slavers can capture the local natives to sell them as slaves to the East Indies plantations. In the ensuing battles, Jack finds that he has natural military leadership abilities and is accepted by the crew due to his size and level headed thinking abilities. When the crew of The Perdido Star finally takes control of the Dutch ship, they limp to Manila in the Philippines and complete repairs before heading back to America. Stopping in Cuba, Jack, now a full-grown man, leads the men on a rampage and wreaks his revenge upon Count de Silva.
You will find this book to be a fun read. Enjoy.

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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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