This Week’s Book Review – Sparta’s First Attic War

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.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.... [Read More]

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Decompressing…and a Volcano

In these times of frenzy, whimsey and complete lack of serious thought by our betters, a serious person who takes responsibility and soldiers on despite regret for being so stupid in such an age, must decompress now and then.

The Red Headed Irish Wisecracker and I paid a visit to the northern grandchildren last weekend, and decided to do a minimum vacation on the drive home. We drove the circuit at Mount Rainer National Park , stayed at a friendly motel off the interstate and then paid a long overdue visit to Mount Saint Helens.... [Read More]

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Book Review: Coolidge

“Coolidge” by Amity ShlaesJohn Calvin Coolidge, Jr. was born in 1872 in Plymouth Notch, Vermont. His family were among the branch of the Coolidge clan who stayed in Vermont while others left its steep, rocky, and often bleak land for opportunity in the Wild West of Ohio and beyond when the Erie canal opened up these new territories to settlement. His father and namesake made his living by cutting wood, tapping trees for sugar, and small-scale farming on his modest plot of land. He diversified his income by operating a general store in town and selling insurance. There was a long tradition of public service in the family. Young Coolidge’s great-grandfather was an officer in the American Revolution and his grandfather was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives. His father was justice of the peace and tax collector in Plymouth Notch, and would later serve in the Vermont House of Representatives and Senate.

Although many in the cities would consider their rural life far from the nearest railroad terminal hard-scrabble, the family was sufficiently prosperous to pay for young Calvin (the name he went by from boyhood) to attend private schools, boarding with families in the towns where they were located and infrequently returning home. He followed a general college preparatory curriculum and, after failing the entrance examination the first time, was admitted on his second attempt to Amherst College as a freshman in 1891. A loner, and already with a reputation for being taciturn, he joined none of the fraternities to which his classmates belonged, nor did he participate in the athletics which were a part of college life. He quickly perceived that Amherst had a class system, where the scions of old money families from Boston who had supported the college were elevated above nobodies from the boonies like himself. He concentrated on his studies, mastering Greek and Latin, and immersing himself in the works of the great orators of those cultures.... [Read More]

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Puzzle: Numbers in the U.S. Constitution

U.S. Constitution, top of documentThe U.S. Constitution contains all kinds of numbers: cardinal and ordinal numbers, absolute dates, measures of duration, quantities of money, fractions, and areas.  There are, as best I can determine, no irrational, transcendental, complex, or transfinite numbers in the document (although the latter may eventually be required if an amendment is adopted regarding the public debt).

You can probably guess the function of many of these numbers, but there are some curious ones lurking in there whose significance may be less than obvious.  Without looking at the document or performing a Web search, can you recall (or guess) in what context(s) the following numbers are used?  For the purposes of this puzzle, I use the text of the Constitution and the 27 adopted amendments as published by the U.S. National Archives.... [Read More]

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This Week’s Book Review – Destination Moon

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.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.

Book Review

‘Destination Moon’ a fresh take on telling the story

By MARK LARDAS... [Read More]

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Cod

I listen when John Walker speaks. He told me about Salt and Paper. (That’s Paper not Pepper.) These are books written by Mark Kurlansky. So as I was looking for a new book to read I was looking at reading about one of these topics but Cod was cheaper. I like cheaper. Anyway who would want Salt or Paper when you can get Cod. If you like history written well I recommend it.

What I have learned so far is how important salted cod was to life for many years. It was a major protein source for Europe and the West Indian slaves. The French word for cod is a name for a “professional”.... [Read More]

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This Week’s Book Review – Admiral John S. McCain and the Triumph of Naval Air Power

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.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.... [Read More]

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This Week’s Book Review – The Civil War on the Rio Grande

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.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.... [Read More]

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Saturday Night Science: Apollo 11 at 50 I: Apollo

Apollo 11 “everyone elsie” by Michael Collins, 1969-07-21, AS11-44-6643.On November 5, 1958, NASA, only four months old at the time, created the Space Task Group (STG) to manage its manned spaceflight programs. Although there had been earlier military studies of manned space concepts and many saw eventual manned orbital flights growing out of the rocket plane projects conducted by NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and the U.S. Air Force, at the time of the STG’s formation the U.S. had no formal manned space program. The initial group numbered 45 in all, including eight secretaries and “computers”—operators of electromechanical desk calculators, staffed largely with people from the NACA’s Langley Research Center and initially headquartered there. There were no firm plans for manned spaceflight, no budget approved to pay for it, no spacecraft, no boosters, no launch facilities, no mission control centre, no astronauts, no plans to select and train them, and no experience either with human flight above the Earth’s atmosphere or with more than a few seconds of weightlessness. And yet this team, the core of an effort which would grow to include around 400,000 people at NASA and its 20,000 industry and academic contractors, would, just ten years and nine months later, on July 20th, 1969, land two people on the surface of the Moon and then return them safely to the Earth.

Ten years is not a long time when it comes to accomplishing a complicated technological project. Development of the Boeing 787, a mid-sized commercial airliner which flew no further, faster, or higher than its predecessors, and was designed and built using computer-aided design and manufacturing technologies, took eight years from project launch to entry into service, and the F-35 fighter plane only entered service and then only in small numbers of one model a full twenty-three years after the start of its development.... [Read More]

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Madison Rising

While listening to The David Webb Show on SiriusXM yesterday morning, a clip from this version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played, performed by a band named Madison Rising:

... [Read More]

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This Week’s Book Review – Winning Armageddon

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.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.... [Read More]

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A Book Note

In The Dead and Those About to Die, D-Day: The Big Red One at Omaha Beach,  John C McManus describes the planning, training, decision-making, first wave, subsequent waves, breakout up the cliffs and draws, and establishment of the beachhead a bit inland.  Prior to systematic discussion of these, McManus places a Prologue that gives the reader some idea of the first-wave landing from the Higgins boats.  It is titled “Shock.”... [Read More]

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