Book Review : Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

Mary Roach is one of those authors who is simply a joy to read.  I previously read and reviewed Grunt, her book about the science of the military.  Packing for Mars is about the science behind making it possible for man to survive in the hostile environment of space. The book itself is 217 pages of text divided into 16 topical chapters.  There is an acknowledgments section, bibliography, and an index. Each chapter is topical and covers some aspect of survival in space.  All of the topics are covered thoroughly but Roach’s lively writing style takes what would otherwise be a dry and/or boring topic and makes it both entertaining … More after the Jump…

Why Does the West Seem Incapable of Winning Wars Anymore? – Part 6

A post-World Wars Western (read European or nation-states settled by Europeans) reluctance to accept casualties in the prosecution of a war (note: this does not apply to non-Western countries which often suffer very high casualties) It is obvious to any student of history that post-World War II Western military success is defined in terms of Western casualties suffered and not military/strategic objectives achieved. Think about it this way.  We can all probably agree that the perception is that the people in the West will not tolerate high casualties in military operations.  That is conventional wisdom at least since the 1970’s.  I am not convinced it is true.  I think if … More after the Jump…

A Lapse in Recent Posts

As my regular readers have no doubt noticed, and I have some, I have been quite remiss in my regular weekly posts of late.  I will not make excuses but I will apologize and promise to endeavor mightily to do better in the future.  A blog like this is not really a moneymaker, it essentially pays for itself and no more, it is a labor of love.  I read a lot and find history fascinating so I try to share my interests. I promise to keep reviewing history books but I am also going to be posting a lot more original content in the future dealing with both history and … More after the Jump…

Pearl Harbor Day

Never Forget Today is Pearl Harbor Day, 75 years ago this morning at 0755 Hawaiian time the Japanese Navy began its attack on the US Navy Fleet anchorage in Pearl Harbor Hawaii.  The attack lasted for two and a half hours and cost the lives of 2,402 Americans and 64 Japanese.  The US Navy lost 6 Ships sunk, 4 of which were Battleships and an additional 13 sips were damaged to a greater or lesser degree. Let us all take a minute today to reflect on the attack on Pearl Harbor and the war it started.  Most importantly, let us remember the men who lost their lives that day and … More after the Jump…

Book Review: Empire & Hidden Empire by Orson Scott Card

Imagine that the seemingly intractable political divide between left and right in the US were to break out into civil war.  That is the premise behind the first of these two books while the second examines what happens after.  The ironic thing is that Empire was written in 2006 while Hidden Empire came out in 2007 and the country has had 10 more years for the political atmosphere to get even more poisonous as evidenced by the lack of anything but personal attacks in this year’s presidential campaign. I have been a fan of Card’s work since I read Ender’s Game as a Freshman in High School 30 years ago.  … More after the Jump…

Book Review: The Dragon’s Teeth by Benjamin Lai

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author and/or publisher. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] If you pay attention to the goings on in the world and not just the US election news you are well aware that China is a rising power in Asia.  China is now not only a commercial power but also an increasingly assertive military power.  The Chinese military is opaque at best to most Western observers and it is difficult to gauge its military capability based on what are usually hyperbolic news reports.  Therefore, it is somewhat prescient that this … More after the Jump…

St Crispin’s Day

601 years ago today on 25 October 1415, the original band of brothers met the French army on the field of battle near Agincourt on northern France and gave them such a drubbing that the cheers of that victory have echoed down through the years.  On that day a hungry, bedraggled, cold, and wet English army met a superior French force and virtually destroyed it.  Those in England who lay a-bed did indeed come to think themselves accursed that they were not there.  The eve of the battle is remembered by the Bard himself in Act IV, Scene 3 of Henry V in what has become one of the most … More after the Jump…

Book Review: Grunt-The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach

I had previously read Gulp by Mary Roach and found it highly entertaining so when I saw this book I knew i had to read it, I was not disappointed.  Like her other works, Grunt takes a behind the scenes look at its subject.  In this case that subject os outfitting and equipping the modern American military member for war.  Given that I myself am a recently retired combat arms soldier (SCOUTS OUT!) who spent some time working weapons testing I was curious to see a civilians take on how the military does what it does. First, the book itself.  There are 285 pages of text divided into 14 chapters with … More after the Jump…

Book Review: Black Tide Rising edited by John Ringo and Gary Poole

Black Tide Rising is an anthology of twelve short stories set in the world created by John Ringo in the series of the same name. The stories are uniformly good but as I am not a huge fan of short stories I wish most of them had been expanded.  As with most short stories these all left me wanting more information about the protagonists, information that is not forthcoming because of the nature of short stories themselves. That being said, all the stories in the book are good and worth reading.  One of the best things about them is that they concern what happened on the mainland as the outbreak … More after the Jump…

Book Review: The Only Game in Town: Central Banks, Instability, and Avoiding the Next Collapse by Mohamed A. El-Arian

In The Only Game in Town Dr. El-Arian writes a prescient and provocative book that takes a long hard look at modern central banking and the global economy in an effort to describe where the world can go from where it is right now. The book itself is divided into six topical parts with 35 chapters.  There are 264 pages of text with notes and an index. The central premise of the book is that since the outbreak of the Great recession in 2008 the only economic institutions that have acted responsibly in response to the crash have been the Central Banks and that have been forced to step into … More after the Jump…

Decoding Civil War Telegrams

The Huntington Library in California is asking for the public’s help in decoding an archive of thousands of Civil War telegrams in the library’s possession.  According to the Library’s News Release there are over 15,000 telegrams from top members of the Lincoln Administration to include the president himself that were sent encoded during the Civil War and the library would now like to decode them. The library has set up a project on zooniverse to crowdsource the decoding project where each participant gets one page of the telegraph logbooks to transcribe and then compare their transcription with those of others to increase accuracy.  This is history in action.  If you would … More after the Jump…

Why Does the West Seem Incapable of Winning Wars Anymore? – Part 5

A reluctance to prosecute war to the extent necessary to achieve victory even when a realistic definition of victory was elucidated. This one should be a no-brainer as recent American experience has shown that stupidity very much exists at the top of American strategic thinking at least, which is compounded by clueless media talking heads who I am more and more convinced actively wish to see Western society fail.  Clausewitz says that war naturally tends to extremes but in reality never gets there. This point goes back to deciding what determines victory.  Clausewitz is undoubtedly correct in his assertion that ultimately victory is in fact using force to compel the … More after the Jump…

Book Review: Imperative by Steve White & Charles Gannon

Imperative is the seventh installment of the Starfire series that started with the publication of Insurrection in 1990. It details events in the universe from the Starfire games which were initially released as board games in 1979 but have continued into the computer era. Imperative occurs several years after the war with the Arduans chronicled in Book 6. In this new war later Arduan dispersates attack the races of the Pan-Sentient Union, Rim Federation, and Terran Republic. The old enemies, the Arachnids, reappear and it is not clear if the new threat can be contained and defeated. As usual the characters and races are portrayed realistically and the element of … More after the Jump…

Book Review: Pandemic by Sonia Shah

Given the sensationalism about several different diseases over the past few years this was a topical choice of book for me to read. Sonia Shah’s book Pandemic is not so much a litany of what the world is doing wrong in regards to disease so much as a cautionary tale about how the world can get it right to avoid the outbreak of a deadly disease that is eminently preventable. The book itself is 218 pages of text divided into 10 chapters with a glossary, extensive (over 30 pages) notes, and an index. The chapters are very logically organized with the topic of one chapter logically leading to the next. … More after the Jump…