'87 Sir

Thirty years of service ----USNA Class of 1987 '87 Sir

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Real books, not Facebook

Greetings everyone,

So I took a Lenten sabbatical from social media and (gasp) survived. Yup, no Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter for 40 days. AND, in addition, I gave up watching TV during the week. OK, mostly during the week, my wife loves watching The Voice, and it became our little guilty pleasure, but for the MOST part I gave up TV except for the weekends. I decided to test the theory of this article about cutting down on social media and picking up on your reading. During this time I tried to make it through my pile of selected books, which I was remarkably successful.

Well, what did this experience teach me?

· Clausewitz was definitely right when he said-“Many intelligence reports in war are contradictory; even more are false, and most are uncertain.” The never ending news cycle about Russians, wiretapping, and other malfeasance was fascinating to watch from a distance as Democrats desperately tried to turn Donald Trump into the Manchurian Candidate and ended up highlighting the shady surveillance practices of the Obamabots. Here’s a newsflash—there ain’t nothing on Trump. Believe me, if there was, it would have been leaked by now. Guaranteed. There will continue to be accusations, innuendo, and rumbling by Democrats desperate to deflect attention from a horrible candidate that ran a lackluster campaign. But in the end, it will fizzle out. It appears to be already happening.

· TV and movies have, for the most part, become almost recycled drivel. Yes, there are some very good television shows, I would almost agree with the assessment that there is FAR more creativity in the TV industry than movies. However, Hollywood seems to be stuck in a rut of remakes, superhero movies, and other schlock that certainly does not make me want to part with my $15 to see.

· Even social media is, well, just not that interesting anymore. Yes, it’s good to keep up with people, and I do enjoy a good puppy video as much as the next guy, but ALL the vitriol and drama in the wake of the election was just exhausting. I mean people came unglued and lost their freakin’ minds…all on the left, of course. It was like the Visogoths were at the gates. Yet life went on, people went to work, babies were born, and...yes...the wheels of government continued to turn.  Needless to say, I think I will be avoiding the drama of prolonged political discussions on Facebook. Too much time and energy to waste yelling past each other. In the end, people will vote and think the way they do and I certainly do not entertain any illusion of changing a hard-core lefty’s worldview with my incisive wit and sarcasm.  And, well, at some point, I just get tired of being called a patriarchal, privileged white guy who only gets up in the morning to oppress women, minorities, and puppies, while polluting the environment with my carbon footprint and not understanding the genius of Lena Dunham and Ashley Judd. 

· MOST IMPORTANTLY, There are SO many good books to read. Dang, my reading list never seems to end. Which is good. I have already had some fantastic books to review from my friends at the New York Journal of Books, and look forward to several more. In addition, I am hoping, since it is the 100th anniversary of America’s entrance into the “War to End All Wars” (yea, that worked out well) that there will be many good books about the last two years of World War I and the American experience and contribution.  I've made it about halfway through my stack above and hope to finish these off before summer.  I have already put more in the queue.  

So take it from me, put down the Facebook and pick up a real book...you'll thank me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Grouchy Historian's Favorite Non-Fiction Book of 2016.

SO many great books this year...interesting that for the first time since I can remember, almost 50% of the books I read this year were fiction.  

Strangely, this was a much tougher choice than my fiction selection. As I continue my awesome relationship with the New York Journal of Books, I have had the chance to review some really outstanding works of history this year, ranging from a history of the Great Plains Indian Wars to the current fighting in Afghanistan.

They really are a great bunch of folks to work with and I look forward to continuing this relationship into 2017.

In addition, I have had the direct opportunity to work with the great team at Rowan Technology, who are currently working on a multi-volume history of war and warfare for my old nemesis, West Point. 

Football aside, the whoops on the Hudson have always done an excellent job of teaching military history, and the complete hi-tech overhaul of their curriculum has resulted in my choice for favorite non-fiction book of 2016-- The West Point History of World War II, Vol. 2 (The West Point History of Warfare Series) .  

Appearing in both hardcover and advanced e-book forms, this wonderful volume really redefines what an undergraduate text can be, particularly the e-book, which is aimed at the current crop of cadets weaned on the internet and interactive books, with an amazing but well placed amount of animated maps, video clips, and other technology marvels to keep the attention of today's college students. 

But these whiz bangs do not come at the expense of solid scholarship and excellent writing from some of the top military historians in the world.   I was lucky to be able to review both versions and found each of them equally enthralling, even though I have a penchant for hardcover books that I can browse.

One can only hope that upcoming volumes on World War I, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan maintain the high quality of work.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Grouchy Historian's Favorite Fiction Books of 2016

2016 was a pretty good year for fiction, at least from my point of view. Of course, I have a very selective list of fiction that I like to read, so normally it is a pretty safe bet that my favorite fiction work will be from Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, Tom Clancy, or occasionally, JD Robb AKA Nora Roberts.

And, all of these folks had great books this year that I enjoyed immensely, especially the author chosen by the late Vince Flynn's estate to continue the adventures of his indomitable character, Mitch Rapp.

But for favorite fiction, this year I chose a new and previously unknown author, at least to me, named Linda Nagata.

Coming out of nowhere, she has written a wonderful trilogy, The Red, which in my mind, really is some of the best military SF I have ever read, evoking memories of Ian Douglass, one of my favorite military SF authors, and even the great Robert Heinlein.

These books follow the adventures of a squad of infantry using enhanced exoskeletons and AI implants, both things being researched by DARPA, in pursuing a rogue AI loose on the internet. A basic plot, it seems, but done very well, with a great deal of suspense, mystery, and plot twists to make me very happy that I was able to get all three books at once--I hate waiting for sequel books to come out.

More importantly, as with all good SF, the technology and science does not overwhelm the readers and provides a good compliment to the characters and their internal and external conflicts, the basis for all good fiction. Ms. Nagata develops sympathetic and flawed characters that draw you in and make you either cheer or jeer their fate.

Sadly, these have not done as well commercially as the author hoped. Which is too bad, because they would make outstanding ORIGINAL movies, something the dopes in Hollywood are certainly lacking.

Provocative, thoughtful, and certainly timely, these books are what everything good SF should be---stories that both entertain and make you ask, "Wow, could this really happen?"

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

My Father...Rest in Peace 1931-2016.

Donald Dean Lenaburg was born November 8, 1931, in Arapaho, Oklahoma, to Julius Earnest and Alvena Ernst Lenaburg. He died Tuesday, December 27, 2016, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the age of 85 years. 

Don was reared and educated in Arapaho, Oklahoma, and graduated with the Arapaho High School Class of 1950. He was a veteran of the armed forces having served his country honorably with the United States Army. Don continued his education attending Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, Oklahoma, where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in engineering. He completed his education at Oklahoma A & M Technological School in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. 

Don was married August 19, 1955, in Clinton, Oklahoma, to Eleanor Pearl Hunter. They had made their home in Collinsville, Oklahoma, since December of 1967. He spent most of his working life with IBM as a customer engineer. Don was very active in giving back to the Collinsville community as a founding member of the Collinsville Lion’s Club, Collinsville VFW Post #5691, and also served as a Collinsville Rural Fire Protection board member. 

He was faithful member of the Lutheran church and was a volunteer for Meals on Wheels. He served as leader for both Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts and was an Eagle Scout sponsor. Don enjoyed a variety of pastimes including watching John Wayne movies and Fox News, but he especially enjoyed spending time working, or playing, in his yard.

My father was devoted to his family, spending untold weekends at football games when my brother and I were in the marching band, my sister’s basketball and volleyball games, countless band and chorus trips as an adult chaperone and finally, many, many weekends on Boy Scout campouts eating scrambled eggs lightly cooked with grass and maybe a leaf or two, which he always ate, although not always happily.

That was my father’s philosophy—there are few problems in life that couldn’t be solved with hard work. He always seemed to be doing something around the house, either working on one of the family cars, fixing something in the house, or his favorite thing—riding his tractor and digging in the dirt.

My father’s other favorite activity was working on cars, he could have given instruction to any car dealership mechanic and seemed to always have grease under his fingernails. I did not inherit his knack or desire to work on cars, sometimes I wish I did. I remember him telling my siblings and I-“Check to see if your tires are still round on the bottom.”

He served during the Korean War era and was a proud lifetime member of the local VFW, some of whose members are here to honor Dad today. He never really talked too much about his time in the Army, but I know it was important to him, and helped turn him into the husband and father he became when he left the service.

My father lived a pretty quiet simple life, but it was a faith filled life. He was life-long Lutheran, and served in many capacities at the various churches he attended. More importantly, my father lived a life of christian charity and service to others, something that I think he tried to instill in his children, and which he performed without a lot of fuss or expectation of thanks or praise. 

I think it is no coincidence that Dad died two years to the day his granddaughter, my daughter Courtney went home to heaven. It gives me great peace to know they are together again. I can just see Courtney taking her Grandpa’s hand and walking him home to God.

When I think of my father, I will always think of this passage from the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 25:23, “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Thursday, August 25, 2016

So fans of Vince Flynn and his indomitable character, Mitch Rapp, were very saddened at his passage in 2013 from prostate cancer at only 47. However, we may rest assured that Mitch is in good hands with the next book in the series, The Survivor, by Kyle Mills. Now, I have never heard of this new author, but I can tell you, he is very good. I went back to re-read the previous book, The Last Man, Vince’s last novel before his untimely death, since I knew that The Survivor was a sequel of sorts, and I have to say I was very impressed at how smoothly one book flowed into the other. 

Mr. Mills has definitely got the characters, theme, and general attitude of Vince’s books down to the letter. I literally read this book in 2 days, consuming pages like Hillary Clinton consumes Saudi money through her foundation…in an endless stream. The plot and pacing are superb and I was actually getting nervous that this book was going to also leave me hanging…which it kinda does, but not in one of those DAMN, I have to wait another year ways. I have already noticed the next book by Mr. Mills is almost here, and have, of course, pre-ordered it from Amazon.

For fans of political or spy thrillers, if you have never read one of these books, you’re definitely missing out. Vince was one of my must read authors, along with Brad Thor and JD Robb (yea, what can I say I have eclectic tastes). Few books can actually make me INTENSELY dislike the villains and cheer for the heroes, but these books definitely can.

The entire series is really top notch. If you are looking for fast paced reads with excellent characters and plots, Vince Flynn…and now his estate I guess, will fulfill your need.