This Week’s Book Review – Seapower States

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

How maritime culture affected historical events

By MARK LARDAS

Dec 4, 2018

“Seapower States: Maritime Culture, Continental Empires, and the Conflict that Made the Modern World,” by Andrew Lambert, Yale University Press, 2018, 424 pages, $30

Free markets and representative government combined to create unprecedented wealth since 1800. During the 20th century, three major conflicts were won by the coalition better representing those two traits.

“Seapower States: Maritime Culture, Continental Empires, and the Conflict that Made the Modern World,” by Andrew Lambert examines the roles maritime cultures play fostering progress. Lambert holds that nations depending on seapower must necessarily favor free trade and possess representative governments.

He examines five nations that became world powers through embracing maritime culture and seapower: Athens, Carthage, Venice, the Netherlands, and Britain. All five gained power through trade — and more importantly, exchange of ideas. He argues they achieved this because all five had decentralized, representative governments made up of people whose livelihood depended on trade. This allowed the best ideas and the best leaders to rise to the top.

He also examines the major rivals of each state — continental powers favoring a strong central government with a command economy set by that government: Persia and Sparta against Athens, Rome against Carthage, Imperial (and later Revolutionary) France against Venice, the Netherlands, and Britain. He explores the wars fought between the rival piers and what led to victory or defeat in each case.

Lambert differentiates between seapower (controlling the sea and trade on it) and naval power (possessing a strong navy). Continental powers can build and sustain strong navies (as did Rome and Russia in examples given in his book) and even defeat seapowers with their navies. But while seapowers use their navies to protect trade, continental powers use their navies to project land power. Rome invaded Africa, and Russia used its fleets to flank Sweden and the Ottomans.

He also examines sea states, nations which developed seapower, but didn’t become dominating nations. These include the ancient Phoenician cities of the Levant coast, Rhodes, and Genoa.

Lambert argues what makes seapower states dangerous to continental states is they foster innovation. This is destabilizing, as new technologies often undermine the authority of central governments. “Seapower States” offers insight into the direction the modern world may take due to tensions between liberty and centralization.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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The Good Ship Weekly Standard Hits a Trumpberg

Looks like the Weekly Standard (or is it Weakly Standard) has hit a bump in its business plan. It appears to be heading for shutdown. Guess that
“all anti-Trump, all the time” model got old fast. It has made Don Surber’s Trumpenfreude list.

But we’ll always have this

guy

Like 19+

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This Week’s Book Review – Smoke ‘Em if You got ‘Em

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

‘Smoke ’em’ shows military’s role in masculine rite

By MARK LARDAS

Nov 27, 2018

“Smoke ‘em if You Got ‘em: The Rise and Fall of the Military Cigarette Ration,” by Joel R. Bius, Naval Institute Press, 2018, 328 pages, $39.95

Anyone serving in the U.S. military before 1980 remembers the cry opening every break: “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.” Almost everyone, from the lowest private to the most senior officer present, would light up a cigarette.

“Smoke ‘em if You Got ‘em: The Rise and Fall of the Military Cigarette Ration,” by Joel R. Bius examines the link between the military and cigarette smoking. He shows how cigarette consumption and the military were connected.

In 1900 cigarettes were a surprisingly small fraction of tobacco consumption. Around 7 percent of all tobacco products were retailed in the form of cigarettes. Cigarette smoking was viewed as unmanly and un-American.

World War I changed that. Nicotine proved the American Expeditionary Force’s battlefield drug of choice. Tobacco simultaneously calmed the nerves while increasing alertness. Smoking masked the battlefield’s stench. Although tobacco was known to be bad, its adverse effects were long-term. Meantime, there was a war to win. Organizations like the YMCA freely distributed cigarettes, the most convenient form of smoking tobacco to our boys in the trenches.

The link stuck when the boys returned home. Cigarettes gained the cachet as a man’s vice, linked with battlefield bravery. Bius follows the arc cigarette consumption followed through the century’s middle years. Battlefield use of cigarettes in World War II sealed the image of cigarettes as a masculine activity. By then, the Army issued a cigarette ration and subsidized smokes at the PX. Use hit a peak after World War II years when 80 percent of men smoked cigarettes.

Despite the 1964 Surgeon General’s warning and government efforts to cut tobacco use thereafter, cigarettes remained popular, even after the military eliminated the cigarette ration in 1972. It took the All-Volunteer Army to break the link between smoking and the military. Containing health care costs led the military to discourage tobacco use. That in turn broke smoking’s image as a masculine activity. Cigarette use plunged; until today, cigarette use is almost back to 1900 levels.

“Smoke ‘em if You Got ‘em” is a fascinating story about the rise and fall of a masculine rite of passage.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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This Week’s Book Review – The Story of Greece and Rome

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

‘The Story of Greece and Rome’ an entertaining history lesson

By MARK LARDAS

Nov 20, 2018

“The Story of Greece and Rome,” by Tony Spawforth, Yale University Press, 2018, 392 pages $30

Modern western civilization sits atop a foundation built by the ancient Greeks and Romans. How much do you know of these civilizations?

“The Story of Greece and Rome,” by Tony Spawforth offers a short, one-volume introduction to ancient Greece and Rome.

Spawforth starts at the beginning and carries the story to the present. He opens at the dawn of Greek history, and shows the influence these civilizations continue to have today.

The book starts by examining ancient Minoan and Mycenaean societies. Spawforth shows how they grew from societies into civilizations. This includes examination of how they gained, lost, and regained literacy, as well as the development of political systems and art forms.

He also shows how as Greek civilization grew, it impinged on neighbors to the west, east, and south. This includes showing how they borrowed from neighboring civilizations and fought with them. This section includes the conflict between Sparta and Athens, and how these two city-states eventually involved their neighbors.

This included the Macedonians, who eventually swallowed the Greek peninsula, the surrounding civilizations south and east (including Egypt and Persia) and then thrust east into modern Afghanistan and India. He also shows the results of the Macedonian empire fracturing after Alexander the Great’s death.

As Alexander is moving east, a new civilization was developing in the Italian peninsula: Rome. Spawforth presents the emergence of Rome and its struggles with its Etruscan, Greek, and Carthaginian neighbors. He also presents a factor allowing them to gain power – the willingness to let outsiders become Roman citizens. It was a previously untried innovation, and proved decisive.

Chapters follow showing Rome’s growth to regional domination. More importantly, he shows how Rome borrowed from Greece, and how Rome “Romanized” its territories. Rome’s arts, engineering and culture became fused with Greece.

Spawforth, emeritus professor of ancient history at Newcastle University (UK), presents the story in engaging language, mixing history with his personal experiences over the course of his career. His tales illuminate the historical discussion, humanizing the discussion.

“The Story of Greece and Rome” is entertaining and informative. Although short, it offers a succinct concentration of information.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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This Week’s Book Review – The Eighth Arrow

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

‘The Eighth Arrow’, a brilliant mix of wit, Homer and Dante

By MARK LARDAS

Nov 13, 2018

”The Eighth Arrow: Odysseus in the Underworld, A Novel,” by J. Augustine Wetta, Ignatius Press, 2018, 347 pages, $17.95

Dante placed Odysseus, hero of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey in the Eighth Circle of Hell, encased in a bubble of fire with his comrade-in-arms Diomedes.

“The Eighth Arrow: Odysseus in the Underworld, A Novel,” by J. Augustine Wetta, uses this as a launch pad.

The novel starts with Odysseus’s encounter with Dante and Virgil in the Eighth Circle, where Odysseus and Diomedes are condemned as liars for devising and using the Trojan Horse.

The encounter shakes Odysseus out of his lethargy. He calls on Athena, the bright-eyed virgin, to rescue him.

She does, taking Odysseus and Diomedes to the vestibule of hell. They also have bodies and weight, something they lacked earlier. Appearing before them she asks why Odysseus didn’t call on her sooner (by the time of Dante’s visit Odysseus would have been in the circle of liars for nearly 2,600 years). It’s a question to which Odysseus has no good answer.

She presents the two with their armor, weapons and some supplies, and directs them to fight their own way out of hell, traveling through it to the bottom. Odysseus receives seven arrows, all different, and is told by Athena he must discover and use the eighth arrow to complete his escape. Athena councils Odysseus to trust his wit over his sword, his armor over his arms, and mercy over justice before disappearing.

From there, the two heroes seek their escape to heaven. The advice given Odysseus is alien. He’s in a Christian afterworld, but comes from a time over one millennium before Christ. After a brief attempt to escape through the forbidden outer door, Odysseus with Diomedes head down.

The result is a marvelous adventure mixing Homer and Dante. Wetta presents a clash of value systems and theologies. This adds to the entertainment as Odysseus slowly puzzles out how the rules have changed, even as he encounters people from his past. The book also contains a rich mix of literary references and allusions to amuse and tantalize.

“The Eighth Arrow” is a book of rare wit. Wetta blends an entertaining story with an enlightening message.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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This Week’s Book Review – Shadow Warriors

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. Last week’s got bumped, due to space limitations (election returns) so this week’s review is original – a book I felt worth reading, but had not had a chance to previously.

Book Review

‘Shadow Warriors’ offers enjoyable science fiction reading

By MARK LARDAS

Nov 11, 2018

Shadow Warriors, by Nathan B. Dodge, Wordfire Press, 2018, 394 pages, $18.99 paper, $5.99 e-book (kindle)

They are five teens with family problems. Cal’s dad is a drunk. Letty’s parents are too busy fighting to care about her. Tony is homeless after his drug-addict mother died. Sasha’s foster parents see him as a payday. Opi’s stepmother wants Opi’s inheritance – even if that means killing Opi.

Shadow Warriors, a science fiction novel by Nathan B. Dodge opens showing these five’s family situations. The teens soon have bigger problems. They have been secretly drafted to fight in an interstellar war.

If their side loses the other side, The Horde, will colonize Earth – after destroying all life on Earth, and remodeling the planet for them.  What is more, they cannot defeat The Horde. No one has in several millennia. Instead their force is intended to turn The Horde away from Earth, before The Horde learns of it.

Cal, Letty, Tony, Sasha, and Opi are only a few of those chosen by another non-human race that is also fighting The Horde. They have picked thousands of teens that will not be missed, and spirited them off Earth for training. Our five protagonists have never met before. They dislike each other, yet they must meld together as a team, to crew a Shadow Warrior: a stealth, interplanetary war craft designed to fight The Horde’s space navy.

The novel is space opera mixed with war story, coming-of-age tale, and space adventure.  Dodge updates the classic World War II training camp and aircraft carrier battle story to a near-future space story, The protagonists are young, with strengths and weaknesses. The battle scenes are well-thought out. Logistics proves as important as tactics.

Dodge reveals his secrets – the backstory behind why these teens were recruited, how the Horde really works, and the deep secret of the recruiting aliens – with impeccable timing. It keeps the plot moving, and draws readers into the story.  He shows the five becoming the recruiting class’s crack team while avoiding entering Mary Sue and Marty Stu territory.

Shadow Warriors is marvelously entertaining reading. An updated Heinlein juvenile – an exciting science fiction story featuring teen protagonists – it ends making you want more.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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This Week’s Book Review – Uncompromising Honor

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

‘Uncompromising Honor’ regains focus of early books

By MARK LARDAS

Oct 30, 2018

“Uncompromising Honor,” by David Weber, Baen, 2018, 784 pages, $28

David Weber started the Honor Harrington series in 1992 with On Basilisk Station. The series now contains 14 mainline novels, six anthologies and 15 spinoff novels. Enormously popular, series books have occasionally threatened to become an unconscious parody of the series, through Weber ending each novel with a battle bigger and more destructive than the climactic battle of the previous book.

“Uncompromising Honor,” by David Weber, is the 14th and latest novel in the mainline of the series. Instead, it may be one of the series’ most original books since the first three.

During the series, Honor Harrington has grown from the junior captain of On Basilisk Station to the senior fleet commander of the Star Empire of Manticore. Manticore is on the galaxy’s outer fringe from the core human worlds of the Solarian League of which Earth is the capitol. Manticore had been fighting with another frontier power, the Republic of Haven, until both nations discovered their war was triggered by the genetic slavers of the mysterious Mesa Alignment.

Haven and Manticore are now allied against Mesa, but Mesa maneuvered the Solarian League into war against this Grand Alliance. Everyone believed the Solarian League invincible, but during the last few hundred years of its 900-year existence, the Solarians have grown corrupt and inept.

“Uncompromising Honor” picks up after Alliance victories reveal Solarian weaknesses. The unelected bureaucrats running the Solarian League, thinking themselves safe behind Earth’s defenses unleash barbaric retaliation against both Alliance member and neutral star nations alike, violating interstellar rules against targeting civilian populations. The book charts the Alliance’s response.

The book (thankfully) lacks the ever-larger and ever-bloodier final battle of earlier books, yet contains the stuff to delights Weber fans. There’s the battle-against-great odds (framed plausibly). Old enemies become new allies, a satisfactory end to the Solarian War occurs, and clues left for the series’ next book. The book regains the focus of the series’ early books, and is a ripping good space opera to those who have not previously encountered the series.

“Uncompromising Honor” illustrates what makes David Weber a best-selling author. It’s worth a read.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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This Week’s Book Review – Inspector Oldfield and the Black Hand Society

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

‘Inspector Oldfield’ explores breaking the Black Hand

By MARK LARDAS

Oct 24, 2018

“Inspector Oldfield and the Black Hand Society: America’s Original Gangsters and the U.S. Postal Detective who Brought them to Justice,” by William Oldfield and Victoria Bruce, Touchstone, 2018, 336 pages, $26

Before the 1920s, the United States had little way to combat interstate crime. In some states law enforcement was purely local. Leave a city or county for the next one and you left the law behind. It was a perfect environment in which organized crime could grow — and organized crime existed before the 20th century, even in the United States.

“Inspector Oldfield and the Black Hand Society: America’s Original Gangsters and the U.S. Postal Detective who Brought them to Justice,” by William Oldfield and Victoria Bruce tells the tale of one of the federal government’s first attack on organized crime.

The Black Hand was a Sicilian crime syndicate that moved to the United States. It was unsophisticated; a protection racket. It blackmailed other Italian immigrants threatening victims with death if they failed to pay the demanded money, failed to do what the gang wanted (generally forwarding blackmail letters, but including joining), or if they reported the threats to the police.

It was astonishingly effective. Their targets, honest and successful Italian-American businessmen or professionals, mistrusted the local police. Gang members were ruthless, willing to kill anyone refusing their demands to make them examples. They shrouded their activities with anonymity, sending threats by mail and collecting through cutouts. Local law enforcement was not up to solving these crimes.

One of the few federal law agencies at that time was the U.S. Post Office. Any crimes involving the mails could be investigated by Post Office Inspectors. In 1899, Frank Oldfield was one — the 156th inspector appointed.

Oldfield loved solving crimes; the more spectacular the better. After learning of this blackmail scheme, which used the U.S. mails, he wanted to break it. It was the biggest crime he had encountered. This book explores how he went after and dismantled the Black Hand.

The book is co-written by one of Oldfield’s descendants who inherited his great-grandfather’s surviving records. The result is a fascinating and fast-paced story, revealing a complex and unorthodox man’s strengths and weaknesses. “Inspector Oldfield and the Black Hand Society” explores one of the take-downs of organized crime by the federal government.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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This Week’s Book Review – The Spy and the Traitor

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. (This week it was Friday.) When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

A spectacular tale of espionage during the Cold War

By MARK LARDAS

Oct 18, 2018

“The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War,” by Ben Macintyre, Crown, 2018, 368 pages, $28

The Soviet Union was renowned for its ability to penetrate Western intelligence services during the Cold War. Less known are Western intelligence agencies penetrating the Soviet Union’s services.

“The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War,” by Ben Macintyre, relates one penetration, perhaps the most spectacular. It tells of Oleg Gordievsky, a KGB agent who turned against his masters.

Gordievsky was second generation KGB. His father and older brother both served in the KGB, the Soviet Union’s Committee for State Security, and the Soviet Union’s primary espionage service. He entered the KGB because he was expected to.

Yet Gordievsky held reservations about the Soviet Union’s brutal dictatorship. He finally decided it best for everyone — even Russians — if it were brought down. Gordievsky offered his services to Great Britain; and serving as a mole for MI6, Britain’s intelligence service, near the end of the Soviet Union’s existence.

“The Spy and the Traitor” explores his life, showing the reasons for his decision to serve the West. It also follows his career as a KGB agent (eventually rising to head the KGB’s station in London) and his service to Great Britain during that career.

Gordievsky is shown to have played a critical role preventing a nuclear exchange in the early 1980s. He helped convince Margaret Thatcher that Mikael Gorbachev was someone she could do business with and coached her on how best to negotiate with Russia to gain their trust.

Just as Gordievsky was about to be promoted from acting station chief at London to its permanent chief, he was betrayed to the Soviets by Aldrich Ames, a CIA employee working for the KGB. (The CIA had covertly learned Gordievsky’s identity.) Gordiesvsky was recalled to Moscow. Britain successfully spirited Gordiesvsky out of Russia in an operation described by Macintyre — a plan that could have been the plot of a John le Carre novel.

This makes “The Spy and the Traitor” worth reading. If it were fiction it would be rejected as too improbable to believe. Yet Macintyre describes history — events that actually happened and changed the world for the better.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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This Week’s Book Review – Target Rich Environment

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

‘Target Rich’ Whitman sampler of author’s worlds

By MARK LARDAS

Oct 10, 2018

”Target Rich Environment: Volume I,” by Larry Correia, Baen Books, 2018, 336 pages, $25

Seventy-five years ago, science fiction authors could make livings writing short stories. Today, novels are the standard. Yet, even authors primarily writing novels create some short fiction.

“Target Rich Environment: Volume I,” by Larry Correia is proof. It’s a collection of his shorter stories.

A few, such as “Tanya: Princess of the Elves,” started out were intended a part of a novel. They didn’t fit, so they came out. Correia ran the opening of “Tanya” in his blog instead, and was then invited to complete it as a short story for publication (few authors say no to that).

A few others, such as “Bubba Shackleford’s Professional Monster Killers” and “The Losing Side” were written for short story anthologies in which Correia was asked to participate. “Shackleford” was part of the Western fantasy collection, and “The Losing Side” part of a David Drake tribute book.

A few, such as “The Bridge” and the “The Destiny of a Bullet,” were written in the setting of role-playing games. Correia is a big fan of role-playing games. “Blood on the Water,” a story set in the Corriea’s Monster Hunter International world, came out of a role-playing game Correia played with his children. It was co-written with his daughter.

There are two stories from the Grimnoire Chronicles, “Detroit Christmas” and “Murder on the Oriental Elite.” Both were originally released in audio format and appear in print for the first time in this collection.

Another audio original that appears in print in this volume is “The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Salesman.” It is eccentric humor, with a lot of in-jokes, but Corriea’s explanation of how it came to be is more eccentric as the story.

Think of it as a Whitman sampler of Corriea’s worlds. It offers a taste from just about every universe he has created. It also shows his range as a writer and showcases his ability to create both horror and humor and occasionally combine the two.

Target Rich Environment offers a good introduction to Coriea’s fiction. It is a bit of everything Correia writes with just a dash more.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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Today’s Kipling: The Old Issue

Somehow, recent statements by  Democrats on the impossibility of civility in the political sphere and their calls for their constituents to commit acts of violence brought this poem to mind. It is one of my favorites. Back in the day when FreeRepublic was just starting (and before it began becoming a little nuts), my handle was taken from this poem: No Truce With Kings.

The Old Issue

Rudyard Kipling

October 9, 1899
(Outbreak of Boer War)

Here is nothing new nor aught unproven,” say the Trumpets,
“Many feet have worn it and the road is old indeed.
“It is the King–the King we schooled aforetime! “
(Trumpets in the marshes -in the eyot at Runnymede!)

“Here is neither haste, nor hate, nor anger,” peal the Trumpets,
“Pardon for his penitence or pity for his fall.
“It is the King!”–inexorable Trumpets–
(Trumpets round the scaffold af the dawning by Whitehall!)

. . . . . . .

“He hath veiled the Crown And hid the Scepter,” warn the Trumpets,
“He hath changed the fashion of the lies that cloak his will.
“Hard die the Kings–ah hard–dooms hard!” declare the Trumpets,
Trumpets at the gang-plank where the brawling troop-decks fill!

Ancient and Unteachable, abide–abide the Trumpets!
Once again the Trumpets, for the shuddering ground-swell brings
Clamour over ocean of the harsh, pursuing Trumpets–
Trumpets of the Vanguard that have sworn no truce with Kings!

All we have of freedom, all we use or know–
This our fathers bought for us long and long ago.

Ancient Right unnoticed as the breath we draw–
Leave to live by no man’s leave, underneath the Law.

Lance and torch and tumult, steel and grey-goose wing
Wrenched it, inch and ell and all, slowly from the king.

Till our fathers ‘stablished, after bloody years,
How our King is one with us, first among his peers.

So they bought us freedom-not at little cost–
Wherefore must we watch the King, lest our gain be lost.

Over all things certain, this is sure indeed,
Suffer not the old King: for we know the breed.

Give no ear to bondsmen bidding us endure.
Whining “He is weak and far”; crying “Time will cure.”

(Time himself is witness, till the battle joins,
Deeper strikes the rottenness in the people’s loins.)

Give no heed to bondsmen masking war with peace.
Suffer not the old King here or overseas.

They that beg us barter–wait his yielding mood–
Pledge the years we hold in trust-pawn our brother’s blood–

Howso’ great their clamour, whatsoe’er their claim,
Suffer not the old King under any name!

Here is naught unproven–here is naught to learn.
It is written what shall fall if the King return.

He shall mark our goings, question whence we came,
Set his guards about us, as in Freedom’s name.

He shall take a tribute, toll of all our ware;
He shall change our gold for arms–arms we may not bear.

He shall break his Judges if they cross his word;
He shall rule above the Law calling on the Lord.

He shall peep and mutter; and the night shall bring
Watchers ‘neath our window, lest we mock the King —

Hate and all division; hosts of hurrying spies;
Money poured in secret, carrion breeding flies.

Strangers of his counsel, hirelings of his pay,
These shall deal our Justice: sell-deny-delay.

We shall drink dishonour, we shall eat abuse
For the Land we look to–for the Tongue we use.

We shall take our station, dirt beneath his feet,
While his hired captains jeer us in the street.

Cruel in the shadow, crafty in the sun,
Far beyond his borders shall his teachings run.

Sloven, sullen, savage, secret, uncontrolled,
Laying on a new land evil of the old–

Long-forgotten bondage, dwarfing heart and brain–
All our fathers died to loose he shall bind again.

Here is nought at venture, random nor untrue
Swings the wheel full-circle, brims the cup anew.

Here is naught unproven, here is nothing hid:
Step for step and word for word–so the old Kings did!

Step by step, and word by word: who is ruled may read.
Suffer not the old Kings: for we know the breed–

All the right they promise–all the wrong they bring.
Stewards of the Judgment, suffer not this King !


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This Week’s Book Review – I’m Dr. Red Duke

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

‘I’m Dr. Red Duke’ a study in greatness

By MARK LARDAS

Oct 2, 2018

”I’m Dr. Red Duke,” by Bryant Boutwell, Texas A&M University Press, 2018, 284 pages, $30

“Red” Duke was known to millions for his televised broadcasts about medicine. He was one of those larger-than-life Texas characters who left people wondering if he was for real.

“I’m Dr. Red Duke,” a biography of Dr. James H. “Red” Duke, by Bryant Boutwell, provides the answer. Not only was he the real deal, but in many ways he was greater than his public persona.

Duke a native Texan, grew up in central Texas. He always took pride in being an Eagle Scout and an Aggie (he was a yell leader at Texas A&M). His Texas accent was authentic.

Although he planned to become an engineer, his career path changed many times. He studied to be a minister and then served as an armor officer in Germany. He finally settled on medicine after leaving the army. While finishing up his residency in Dallas, Duke was on duty at the trauma room when Kennedy was shot. Duke operated on Texas Gov. John Connolly that day, saving Connolly.

Duke went on to teaching medicine and did medical research on the East Coast before doing a two-year stint in a teaching hospital in Afghanistan. He came to Houston after his Afghanistan tour, joining the staff of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston in the late 1970s. He became one of their greatest teachers.

Among his other accomplishments, he helped start Houston’s Life Flight air ambulance service, pioneering rapid-reaction trauma surgery techniques. He became a television star, when UT used him as the spokesman for a series of medical advice programs. They became nationally syndicated and made him a household name.

Boutwell is well-positioned to write this book. He was a colleague of Duke, who worked with Duke for many years and knew him professionally and personally.

Boutwell presents Duke’s many strengths and virtues, but Boutwell also discusses Duke’s shortcomings, ones that led to two failed marriages and left Duke a prisoner of his celebrity.

“I’m Dr. Red Duke” is a focused and balanced look at one of the 20th century’s most extraordinary and talented surgeons. It is worth reading as a study in greatness.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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This Week’s Book Review – City Unseen

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

‘City Unseen’ shows world in new light

By MARK LARDAS

Sep 25, 2018

”City Unseen: New Visions of an Urban Planet,” by Karen C. Seto and Meredith Reba, Yale University Press, 2018, 268 pages, $35

Readers might remember the claim that the Great Wall of China is the only man-made object visible from the moon. It is not true.

“City Unseen: New Visions of an Urban Planet,” by Karen C. Seto and Meredith Reba reveals the cities of Earth as seen from space. There is plenty to see.

The book contains images of cities captured from Earth-observation satellites, primarily captured by Landsat and ASTER. The book presents images from 100 different cities, on every continent (including Antarctica), over a 40-year-plus period.

The authors open discussing the images. They explain how the images were made, the scale of images, and the electromagnetic spectrum captured by the image. This ranges from visible to far infrared. They also explain colors and their significance. In some infrared images, vegetation shows up bright red. Depending on the wavelength, built-up urban areas will be pink, turquoise, or blue.

From there they go on to present the 100 cities featured in the book. These are broken into three broad categories: Earth’s terrains (mountain, river, agricultural), urban imprints (featuring borders, man-made travel routes, and planned cities), and transforming the planet (showing resources, expansion, and vulnerability).

Sometimes multiple images of cities are shown. This might be done to show the effects of seasons on Montreal, Quebec. Or they show growth over time. There are stunning images of Lagos, Nigeria; Tokyo, Japan; Shenzheng, China, and Las Vegas showing these cities growth over a period of decades. Perhaps the most fascinating multiple imaging was that of Joplin, Missouri, showing it before it was hit by a massive tornado, immediately afterward, and four years later, after recovery.

The book has many delights and surprises. There is an image of the Korean peninsula at night, starkly contrasting the access to electricity of north and south. Houston’s road system is spectacularly displayed. Circular irrigation effects are prominent in an image of Garden City, Kansas.

“City Unseen” is a delightful book. It offers a different view of the world on which we live, from pole to equator. Read it, and you will view the world in a new light.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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Today’s Kipling – The ‘eathen

I need a break from politics. Today’s poem is one of Kipling’s better known poems. At the core it is about the importance of self-discipline, a precursor for Jordan Peterson’s advice to set your own house in order before criticizing the world. (Really a lot more than just that rule.)

Note too that the heathen in the poem is not one of the “lesser breeds without the law.” It is the British youth who joins the army.

The ‘eathen

Rudyard Kipling

The ‘eathen in ‘is blindness bows down to wood an’ stone;
‘E don’t obey no orders unless they is ‘is own;
‘E keeps ‘is side-arms awful: ‘e leaves ’em all about,
An’ then comes up the Regiment an’ pokes the ‘eathen out.

All along o’ dirtiness, all along o’ mess,
All along o’ doin’ things rather-more-or-less,
All along of abby-nay, kul, an’ hazar-ho,
Mind you keep your rifle an’ yourself jus’ so!

The young recruit is ‘aughty — ‘e draf’s from Gawd knows where;
They bid ‘im show ‘is stockin’s an’ lay ‘is mattress square;
‘E calls it bloomin’ nonsense — ‘e doesn’t know, no more —
An’ then up comes ‘is Company an’kicks’im round the floor!

The young recruit is ‘ammered — ‘e takes it very hard;
‘E ‘angs ‘is ‘ead an’ mutters — ‘e sulks about the yard;
‘E talks o’ “cruel tyrants” which ‘e’ll swing for by-an’-by,
An’ the others ‘ears an’ mocks ‘im, an’ the boy goes orf to cry.

The young recruit is silly — ‘e thinks o’ suicide.
‘E’s lost ‘is gutter-devil; ‘e ‘asn’t got ‘is pride;
But day by day they kicks ‘im, which ‘elps ‘im on a bit,
Till ‘e finds ‘isself one mornin’ with a full an’ proper kit.

Gettin’ clear o’ dirtiness, gettin’ done with mess,
Gettin’ shut o’ doin’ things rather-more-or-less;
Not so fond of abby-nay, kul, nor hazar-ho,
Learns to keep ‘is ripe an “isself jus’so!

The young recruit is ‘appy — ‘e throws a chest to suit;
You see ‘im grow mustaches; you ‘ear ‘im slap’ is boot.
‘E learns to drop the “bloodies” from every word ‘e slings,
An ‘e shows an ‘ealthy brisket when ‘e strips for bars an’ rings.

The cruel-tyrant-sergeants they watch ‘im ‘arf a year;
They watch ‘im with ‘is comrades, they watch ‘im with ‘is beer;
They watch ‘im with the women at the regimental dance,
And the cruel-tyrant-sergeants send ‘is name along for “Lance.”

An’ now ‘e’s ‘arf o’ nothin’, an’ all a private yet,
‘Is room they up an’ rags ‘im to see what they will get.
They rags ‘im low an’ cunnin’, each dirty trick they can,
But ‘e learns to sweat ‘is temper an ‘e learns to sweat ‘is man.

An’, last, a Colour-Sergeant, as such to be obeyed,
‘E schools ‘is men at cricket, ‘e tells ’em on parade,
They sees ‘im quick an ‘andy, uncommon set an’ smart,
An’ so ‘e talks to orficers which ‘ave the Core at ‘eart.

‘E learns to do ‘is watchin’ without it showin’ plain;
‘E learns to save a dummy, an’ shove ‘im straight again;
‘E learns to check a ranker that’s buyin’ leave to shirk;
An ‘e learns to make men like ‘im so they’ll learn to like their work.

An’ when it comes to marchin’ he’ll see their socks are right,
An’ when it comes: to action ‘e shows ’em how to sight.
‘E knows their ways of thinkin’ and just what’s in their mind;
‘E knows when they are takin’ on an’ when they’ve fell be’ind.

‘E knows each talkin’ corp’ral that leads a squad astray;
‘E feels ‘is innards ‘eavin’, ‘is bowels givin’ way;
‘E sees the blue-white faces all tryin ‘ard to grin,
An ‘e stands an’ waits an’ suffers till it’s time to cap’em in.

An’ now the hugly bullets come peckin’ through the dust,
An’ no one wants to face ’em, but every beggar must;
So, like a man in irons, which isn’t glad to go,
They moves ’em off by companies uncommon stiff an’ slow.

Of all ‘is five years’ schoolin’ they don’t remember much
Excep’ the not retreatin’, the step an’ keepin’ touch.
It looks like teachin’ wasted when they duck an’ spread an ‘op —
But if ‘e ‘adn’t learned ’em they’d be all about the shop.

An’ now it’s “‘Oo goes backward?” an’ now it’s “‘Oo comes on?”
And now it’s “Get the doolies,” an’ now the Captain’s gone;
An’ now it’s bloody murder, but all the while they ‘ear
‘Is voice, the same as barrick-drill, a-shepherdin’ the rear.

‘E’s just as sick as they are, ‘is ‘eart is like to split,
But ‘e works ’em, works ’em, works ’em till he feels them take the bit;
The rest is ‘oldin’ steady till the watchful bugles play,
An ‘e lifts ’em, lifts ’em, lifts ’em through the charge that wins the day!

The ‘eathen in ‘is blindness bows down to wood an’ stone —
‘E don’t obey no orders unless they is ‘is own.
The ‘eathen in ‘is blindness must end where ‘e began
But the backbone of the Army is the Non-commissioned Man!

Keep away from dirtiness — keep away from mess,
Don’t get into doin’ things rather-more-or-less!
Let’s ha’ done with abby-nay, kul, and hazar-ho;
Mind you keep your rifle an’ yourself jus’ so!

If you want to learn more about this poem, go here and here.


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