Amendment I-Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."― Just a friendly reminder to our friends at the FEC

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Catching up on some books-Fiction Addition

Alas, life has prevented blogging for sometime....which is too bad as the many misadventures, screw-ups, and general malfeasance of this Administration continue...but more on that later.

It's time to catch up on some books...although it has been a very slow start, I am hoping that 2015 will be a better year for books than 2014 was...there are many historical milestones this year...the 150th Anniversary of the end of the Civil War, the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, 50 years since the inauguration of American combat troops in Vietnam--including the landmark Battle of the Ia Drang Valley, the 70th Anniversary of the end of World War II, and, last but not least the centennial of World War I continues.

To start the year off, I have encountered a pretty decent novel and the latest edition of the "In Death" series.

 I found this book on Kindle through one of those daily bargain kindle email pushes called Bookbub (www.bookbub.com).  I will say that most of their recommendations are meh, ok...but sometimes they have a little hidden gem.  This bite sized book was one of them.  I really like mystery and science fiction and this offers a nice mix of both.  The author's debut novel, it has nice pacing, sympathetic characters and plenty of plot twits.  At times, it DOES require a bit of imagination to get over the plot holes...sometimes BIG darn plot holes..but overall was a very pleasant diversion for a few days. 
J.D. Robb, nee Nora Roberts is truly a writing machine.  This volume, the 40th in the series, shows that this series shows no signs of abating anytime soon...to the delight of devoted followers of Eve, Roark, Peabody, and the cast of characters devoted fans have followed for nearly 20 years.

Since my significant other got me hooked on these many years ago, I have looked forward to my twice-a-year dose of murder and snark from this series.  Although some of the books have been indifferent from a mystery point of view, the relationships (argh, did I say that?) of the characters have kept his series not only going, but getting better and more interesting.

This volume is one of the better mysteries, leaving the reader hanging until almost the end of the book before the veil starts lifting.  This book moved at a pretty fast pace and when the plot starts to really thicken, I admit I was turning pages quickly to see if a major character was going to meet an untimely demise.  I won't spoil it, but I will say the ending was quite satisfactory and I am ready for the next volume. 

I don't know if there will be an awesome new Monster Hunter or In Heat book this year, although I am very hopeful that Brad Thor and the author taking over for Vince Flynn will come through with new books...otherwise it could be a very spotty year for fiction, as far as I am concerned.  Which will be okay, I guess...there is a lot of good history coming out this year.  More on that later.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Well done...good and faithful servant...NOW, I feel like a hardy old salt.

The mighty P-3 with a Soviet "Victor" class submarine during the Cold War

VP-26 Begins Historic Last Deployment of the P-3C Orion

Yup, I guess all good things must come to and end...including the everlasting might P-3C.

The "Tridents" of Patrol Squadron (VP) 26 begin their last deployment with the P-3C Orion aircraft with a send-off of their first two planes out of Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Jan. 22.
The historic occasion was attended by senior leadership, family and friends of VP-26 Sailors and members of the Jacksonville community.
"This is a historic deployment for you," said Rear Adm. Matthew J. Carter, commander of Patrol and Reconnaissance Group. "You are the last operational P-3 squadron on the East Coast. Once you go, we are a P-8 only force. That does not diminish anything you do with this aircraft. America has given us the best, and this aircraft is still a very capable airplane."
Carter knows firsthand how much the P-3 community has contributed to the success of the Navy's mission. He served as both executive officer and commanding officer of VP-26, and he told the Sailors just how special it is to wear the Trident colors.
"We have been flying this aircraft for 50 years," said Carter. "The whole squadron, from the admin department, the maintainers and the aircrew has continued to go out and do great things, and I know you are going to go out on this deployment and do great."
I remember logging many long flights in the might Orion...with it's awesome 56K computer and incredible 256K of drum memory..the P-3 version of a hard drive...aww..the joy of sextant shots and hoping your inertial navigation systems don't start diverging halfway through a flight...there was also the joys of helping to load sonobuoys into the internal racks and discovering just how much gee dunk you could fight in the bomb bay "luggage rack"

And my favorite thing...the not to be repeated NSFW conversations that went on the airplane intercom during a long, long 8 hours of sighting on sonobuoy fields trying to detect a VICTOR or FOXTROT class Soviet submarine...ayyy matey, those Cold War days are long gone.

So now the Navy has the P-8...truly a marvelous airline simulator for those capitalists MPA pilots and a more capable aircraft for the NFOs...the guys who do the real work!!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

World War I---as it might have been.

Alternate history is one of my favorite literary genres, and is  a fine art that few authors really master, in my opinion.

Harry Turtledove really made this realm of fiction stand out for the masses, I think, and I really enjoyed his Great War trilogy of trilogies. However, I didn't really like his recent series and never got beyond starting the first book. However, I think he may have a winner is new book out this summer Bombs Away: The Hot War which brings the Cold War HOT when MacArthur uses atomic bombs in Korea. Hopefully it will be as good as his earlier works.

Robert Conroy has really stepped up to fill a gap in the field that Mr. Turtledove used to dominate, and his last two books, published in hard cover, have been really excellent. I particularly liked his recent book on an alternative American Revolution where the British win the Battle of Yorktown.

But, in my humble opinion, the undisputed master of hardcore military alternate history remains Peter Tsouras. I have read nearly all of his books, covering D-Day, Gettysburg, World War II (several volumes), the Cold War, and an individual volume on Stalingrad.

All of them, particularly his anthologies, are well written, very realistic, and really make you think about how fragile history is and how the smallest of details, decisions, or even weather, could have changed everything.

His anthologies in particular are a magnificent collection of essays by military historians who get to let their imaginations run free while carefully following the 5 rules of alternate history put forth by my favorite grouchy guy, Ralph Peters, in the introduction of Tsouras' Stalingrad book.

Which brings me to the latest volume, a look at alternative
possibilities for World War I. This is an extremely timely book, coming at the close of 2014, the beginning of the 100th anniversary of the keystone conflict of the 20th century....the war that did not end all wars, but created the conditions for World War II, the Cold War, and even the current upheavals in the Middle East..(can anyone say Sykes-Picot...public school kids probably need to Wiki that...I'm certain it's not in Common Core Language Arts) .

This volume examines a number of potential scenarios- from the Germans shifting their attention to Russia and ignoring the Schlieffen Plan in 1914, to a more decisive Battle of Jutland, to a great Russian triumph of the Brusilov Offensive of 1916.  All of the essays are very well written, extremely plausible, and show how the tragic Armageddon from 1914-1918 could have ended quite differently.  

I was particularly intrigued by the essay on the Brusilov Offensive--the Austrian Empire was a large albatross on the Central Powers...ehh, the Ottomans weren't much better actually, but the Russians could have really made a strategic difference in the war with a little better leadership and a little more luck and persistence.  The Germans faced some real challenges in the East propping up their weaker ally, and if the Allies had been a little more coordinated and lucky with their 1916 offensives, they  might have forced the Central Powers to seek an armistice two years early.

Some of the smaller essays were equally intriguing, especially the essay on Greek assistance with the Gallipoli Campaign.  With the usual micro attention span of Americans, and the need to sweep a lot of past sins under the rug for the sake of maintaining alliances, it's good to remember that ISIL and Al Qaeda are only carrying on the tradition of ethnic cleansing of Christians by the Ottoman Turks (good Muslims all) starting with the great Armenian genocide and the ethnic cleansing of the Balkans (hmmm where have I heard that before)  after the Balkan Wars just prior to World War I.  

History does indeed have a funny way of repeating itself..eh?

But I digress...I think I am getting my mojo back...this was a great book...the ONLY complaint is that I never got my hardcover from Amazon...I pre-ordered it....then it kept getting push back on release...THEN they said they were out and back ordered....WTF?  I have always gotten my pre-orders within a day or two of the release date.  Very disappointing...so I ordered the Kindle version and read it.  Very enjoyable, but I am one of those whiners that likes pictures and to flip back and forth to the provided maps.  Neither of which works well on Kindle.

Now, to be fair I will say that all of Tsouras' books seem to disappear quickly and you can often buy them only on the used market.  Disappointing, but one of those publisher things I guess.  The good news is that now many of them are available on Kindle...albeit without pictures.  

So, for an interesting look at the World War I that might have been...pick up or download this book...it is a quick and thought provoking read.