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July 12, 2006
It's not about the bike

With the Tour de France on the horizon, I decided to read Lance Armstrong's first book, "It's not about the bike." I had always been told this was his best book, and it didn't disappoint. I thought the book was going to be a little bit about his fight with cancer, with the majority of it being about cycling, but it was the exact opposite. This is probably the reason why the book was such a success, b/c he didn't focus on his athletic ability, but his struggles, which probably relates to a lot of families out there. Armstrong is one of those Type A personalities, who won't be told no, and that is part of the reason he has been so successful in cycling, and formerly triathlons. I don't know if it had something to do with his recovery from cancer, but I'm sure it didn't hurt. The most amazing thing is that he went from feeling like an indestructible person one day, to having surgery 3 days later to remove the cancer. Talk about having your life turned upside down. One day you are on top of the world, and the next you are fighting for your life.

One thing that this book was able to show was that you should always look for a second opinion. Luckily for Lance, a doctor that was familiar with his cycling career, and just happened to mail him a letter offering any advice he wanted. Because of this, Lance was able to get a second, and even 3rd opinion, on the best way to treat his cancer, which eventually saved his cycling career. Apparantely, there are different levels of chemotherapy, most of which will totally wipe you out, rendering your lungs very weak, and they will never be able to recover. As a pro cyclist, this would obviously end Armstrong's career, assuming he survived in the first place. Luckily for him, another doctor recommended a separate type of chemo which wouldn't hurt his lungs as much, and thanks to this option, Lance was able to go on to become a 7 time back to back Tour de France winner.

The book is a very quick read, and one I'd recommend if you have any interest in cycling, or if you want to learn a little bit about cancer and the procedures that a patient must go through. It'll help give you a good perspective as to what Lance really has gone through, which makes his cycling accomplishments that much more impressive.

In case you didn't know it, Lance was a triathlete first. Here is a fun video of Lance competing in a national sprint championship back in 1989: Lance as a Triathlete

Posted by Don at 08:37 AM
May 31, 2006
Lindbergh by Scott Berg

I know it has been a while since my last book review, but it is basically because I haven't listened to any audio books recently, and also b/c I've been slowly reading a biography on Charles A. Lindbergh. To be honest, I didn't know too much about Lindbergh except that he was the first to fly across the Atlantic non-stop, and that he was a proponent of isolationism before World War II. As you might imagine, there is a lot more to this very complicated person. He apparantely was one of the sternest men around, and he liked to do things his way, unless of course you were an expert on the matter, at which he would anxiously listen and try to learn. A lot of this probably has to do with the fact that he became so popular so fast, that it caused him to try and withdraw from the world just to get some sense of privacy. The amount of dinners and banquets that he was subjected to after his flight were on the order that no man had ever been through before.

Anyways, he eventually met his wife Anne, and they had I believe 7 children, one of which was kidnapped and subsequentely killed, although accidentally. The kidnapping sparked one of the most fierce man-hunts in the history of the states, and eventually ended with the execution of a man who claimed to be innocent, despite having tons of evidence against him, including some of the ransom money paid out to try and retrieve the baby back.

Lindbergh and Anne spent many months travelling the world and exploring everything there was, despite the fact their children were left at home. Of course, this was more of Charles' doing as he wanted to explore, and what Charles wanted, he basically got. Charles spent much of his time after the flight and after marriage as a liason working with the airline companies tracking new routes, including being part of the first air mail route planning committee. Basically, everything revolved around aviation in the beginning.

Eventually, Charles became fixated on biology, specifically on how to create an apparatus that could keep organs alive. He and another scientist invented the first heart pump, a revolutionary invention as most trials to do such a thing at the time failed b/c infection would get into the heart and blood as the pump became contaminated. Not too bad for some guy who was only known for planes.

Prior to WWII, and despite visiting Germany, Charles was a strong proponent of America staying out of the war. He actually visited Germany prior to the start of the war, and was able to provide insightful feedback to the allies about their capabilities. A lot of times you hear just that..."Lindbergh the isolationist," but he actually became for the war as soon as America was attacked at Pearl Harbor. He recognized what had happened and what needed to be done, but his isolationist views are what most of know and hear about.

The book is very detailed about all aspects of Charles' life, and is part of the reason it took me a while to read. At times you feel like this should be an autobiography with as much detail is provided, but the author got most of it from Charles' record and his wife Anne, who sanctioned the author to write the book. Anne was a strong woman who had her own career as a best selling writer, and her only stipulation to the author was she be included in the book. Overall the book is well written, and if you want the inside scoop on one of America's most famous people, then set some time aside and start reading.

Posted by Don at 02:04 PM
December 15, 2005
Ordinary Heroes by Scott Turow

This was another audiobook that I hadn't heard anything about, but it had gotten some good reviews and was one of the ones audible.com was promoting, so I decided to give it a shot. The book is about a son whose father has recently died, and he begins to find information about how his father was court marshalled during WWII. In researching more, he learns how his father, a JAG officer in the army, tries find another officer (Robert Martin) which is a part of the OSS, a secret department of the military which runs special operations. The book goes back and forth b/t the son and the father, but spends about 85% of time retelling the story of his father...David Dubin. I must say the reader for this book was excellent, and I'm sure that helped, but the story itself was excellent in my opinion. I'm not going to say it was a cliff hanger or anything, but it just seemed to flow smoothly and catch my attention, helping me to recall the time and places we spent in France and Germany.
The book seems to be more guy oriented as I look back on it now, although there is a love interest in the story. Her name is Gita Lodz, and judging by the way she is described she seems like quite a woman...ambitious, sexy, driven...geez, that sounds vaguely familiar to a woman I know. :)

Anyways, I've never done this before, but I thought I would copy down Amazon.com's editorial reviews of the book, and let you compare what they say to what I have said. Of course, I wrote my review before reading their excerpt, so as not to be influenced.

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. When retired newspaperman Stewart Dubinsky (last seen in 1987's Presumed Innocent) discovers letters his deceased father wrote during his tour of duty in WWII, a host of family secrets come to light. In Turow's ambitious, fascinating page-turner, a "ferocious curiosity" compels the divorced Dubinsky to study his "remote, circumspect" father's papers, which include love letters written to a fiancée the family had never heard of, and a lengthy manuscript, which his father wrote in prison and which includes the shocking disclosure of his father's court-martial for assisting in the escape of OSS officer Robert Martin, a suspected spy. The manuscript, hidden from everyone but the attorney defending him, tells of Capt. David Dubin's investigation into Martin's activities and of both men's entanglements with fierce, secretive comrade Gita Lodz. From optimistic soldier to disenchanted veteran, Dubin—who, via the manuscript, becomes the book's de facto narrator—describes the years of violence he endured and of a love triangle that exacted a heavy emotional toll. Dubinsky's investigations prove revelatory at first, and life-altering at last. Turow makes the leap from courtroom to battlefield effortlessly. (Nov. 1)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Posted by Don at 01:24 PM
December 09, 2005
"Einstein...a Life" by Denis Brian

This book took me approximately 6 months to finish. The reason...when the people were packing our stuff in Germany, they decided that it should be packed as well. So, after reading the first half of the book, I had to go on a 3 month hiatus until I finally unpacked the box it was stored in.
Anyways, the book is good and gives a very detailed account about Einstein. I wasn't aware that he had actually came up with his famous E=mc2 equation. Of course, it took forever and a day for the world to finally come to the realization what it actually meant and the applicability of it, but to do it at such a young age is just amazing.
One thing that author makes sure to point out continuously through quotes of people that actually knew Einstein was that he was a very good humored person and full of wit. People would come to see him and were down right afraid b/c they didn't think they had anything intelligent enough to say to him, but after just a few minutes he would make them feel at home with a joke or question of some sort that got the conversations going. The book is well written, but if you are not into biography style books, then leave it alone. This is not a novel style book, but does go into some interesting things like his childhood, his political views, his views toward WWII and the atomic bomb, and just a bunch of things you would expect to read about in a biography.

Posted by Don at 06:09 PM
December 01, 2005
"The Professor and the Madman" by Simon Winchester

Now this was an audiobook that I hadn't heard anything about, and decided to just go for it. I read the reviews on both audible.com and amazon.com which were both positive, plus the fact that I like "true" stories, so I decided to give it a try. The book is about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary and how a crazy man named W.C. Minor, who just happened to be a Doctor, along with an American Civil War veteran, so greatly helped to contribute to it. Minor was an expatriate living in England, and one night woke up believing that someone had just been in his room. He rushed outside and ended up shooting a perfectly innocent man thinking him the person in his room. Obviously, there was no person that had entered his room, so he was charged with murder, and ended up pleading insanity and spending the rest of his days in an insane asylum. During his stay there, he came across a paper asking for volunteers to read through books and contribute words to what would become known as the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Since he was an avvid reader, and had hoards of time, he began to systematically collect words, write down where they were found, and the sentence they were used in. This was the requirement for submitting words, and is what makes the OED such a success, as you can determine a words meaning, along with when it was first used, and also see an example of its use.

Dr. Minor would end up contributing literally thousands of words, but no one knew he was a certified lunatic. The people of the OED knew that he was a doctor based on his letters to them, but simply did not know he had been committed. Obviously the editor of the OED eventually found out as Dr. Minor never visited when invitations were sent, but most people of the OED at that time never found out.

Overall I enjoyed the book, as I have most non-fiction stories. The only problem I had with it was the audio quality of the recording, but the story was good. So, if you are looking to find out a little history about how the Oxford English Dictionary came to be, and how a one time Civil War medic turned Doctor turned lunatic was able to contribute, then give this book a read (or a listen). :)

Posted by Don at 10:27 AM
November 30, 2005
Rich Dad's Before you quit your Job

This was a very quick audio book, only about 3 hours in length, and probably a stretch even at that length. I had read the original "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" book about 5 years ago at the recommendation of my uncle, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Therefore, when I saw this book from the same author about the best practices of starting up a business I was quite intrigued. Unfortunately, the book didn't live up the hype of its predecessor. There were a few good points here and there, but the overall flow of the book didn't seem to work.

The one thing that I will take away from the book is the advice not to think "cheap", otherwise your clients will think you are "cheap." What I mean by this can best be summed up by an example that the book gave. There was a guy who was an accountant and wanted to keep his rates reasonable to attact the most customers, which he ended up succeeding in doing. Unfortunately, since his rates were lower, his clientele seemed to be of a lower class as well, and before he knew it, he was spending more time haggling over his rates and hours with clients than he was able to actually spend working. After finally having enough of this, he decided to raise his rates from something like $50/hr to $500/hr. I'm sure this sent shockwaves through his current clients, but in the end he started getting new clients who were willing to pay for his services (which were good), and he started to make more money, working less hours, and not having to deal with "cheap" people. Moral of the story, if you think of yourself as "cheap", so will others.

Posted by Don at 09:59 AM
November 09, 2005

This was another audiobook that I have recently finished, and I must say I did enjoy it. I have read other reviews on the book that complain about the book not going into details about how it came to its conclusions, but if someone wants a book like that, go buy a text book. This book is about giving an economist view on different things in the world based on answering questions that some of us have thought of before, and other things that we wouldn't think of in a million years. The answers given are derived from statistical analysis, which the book does not delve into too much, hence the complaining of some reviewers, but just touches on how he came to a conclusion. What are the questions you ask? Well, here are some of them:

  • What really caused the crime rates to fall dramatically in the late 90's when everyone was saying they were going to increase?

  • Why do drug dealers still live with their moms if they are making so much money?

  • Why does a sumo wrestler who normally wins a match only 48% of the time, all of sudden win about 80% time in certain matches?

  • Why do blacks give their kids names that may hurt them economically later in life?

  • Are teachers cheating to help their students pass standard exams?

As you can see, some of these questions can be quite controversial, and the answers to some of them even more so. I don't want to ruin the book for you, but his answer to the first question (What caused crime to drop?) is abortion! Talk about being politically incorrect, but after you here is logic, and the actual number of abortions per year, you may start to think so also. Try and take a guess on how many abortions there are to live births. In other words, how many babies are born for every abortion? Well, when the question was posed to me I was thinking about 100 births for every 1 abortion...WRONG!! According to the book, there is an abortion for every 2.2 births!! That is an astounding 31.25% of every baby/fetus conceived. Whatever your political/moral beliefs are on the subject, I would hope you think that number is way out of control. It almost seems that people are using abortion as a form of birth control. I am almost positive that contraceptive companies would go out of business if people were getting pregnant 30% of the time they used their product. Anyways, I'm going on off on a tangent, but at least the book gives you some stats which make you think, which is what I am looking for in books these days....guess that is what getting old is all about. So, I'd give this book a 3.5-4 star rating out of 5, mainly because the last chapter of the book seems to ramble on and on after making its point. It was almost as if they needed to fill space. Overall, an interesting listen/read.

Posted by Don at 06:45 AM
October 19, 2005
"A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson

I have finally finished listening to this book. Yes, this another one of the audio books that I have gone through, only this one was as long as the other two combined...about 18 hours worth (or about 500-600 pages). Anyways, the book is absolutely great for the first 9 hours (i.e. first half of the book), but then I found myself losing interest at the end. I really don't think this is b/c the book gets any worse, but mainly b/c the subject matter is just not as interesting for me. In the beginning, the main topics all deal with Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry, and other miscellaneous things, which are of course right up my alley. At the end, it mainly is referring to Archaeology, Paleontology and Biology, things I don't really care for. Therefore, if you are like me, you will only need to listen to the first half of the book, which I must admit was excellent! The narrator, as well as the real author, are Bristish fellows, and it seems to add a little bit to the flavor of the book listening to this British chap give you all sorts of information, all the while mixing in a good bit of humor. I must admit I learned a ton of nifty little facts, as well as learning a good overview of a lot other things, even those things I don't care too much about. If you ever read the reviews on Amazon.com, you will notice that a few people complain about the vagueness, or sometimes inaccuracies of the book, but you must realize this is not a scientific text book, so if he is in vague in areas, it's probably b/c he doesn't understand himself, and is just trying to give you the gist of it. As for accuracies of the book, I'm not going to try and disprove anything, although I am sure in another 100 years or so, people will laugh at what didn't know, or what we thought we knew.

Overall, if you are into scientific things, I highly recommend reading, or listening, to this book. I actually don't know if I could have read this book, but listening to it in the car, while walking the dog, or simply on a train somewhere, seemed to make it much easier to comprehend. With all the strange scientific words out there, it was sure nice not to worry about how to pronounce them. :)

Posted by Don at 07:01 PM
October 11, 2005
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

As you may or may not know, my theory for Harry Potter books has always been to read them before the movie comes out. Well, on Nov. 18th of this year, the new movie will be coming out, so it was time to catch up and get through the 4th book. The last 3 Harry Potter books have all been good, but the first one always seemed to stand out a little more than the rest. However, as of today, there is a new leader among the pack, and it is "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"! This book doesn't seem to go through the motions that the previous two did of trying to let you know who Harry is, and what his past is all about, but instead builds off the past right away and starts off quite early with a new story and adventure. Probably one of the best things about it is that it brings in a bunch of new characters that your mind is able to completely visualize and imagine. Of course, all your imaginations are for not once the movie comes out, but that is why you read the book first! The book goes from one scene to another, without losing anything and keeps you on the edge. I started off reading about a chapter a night, but in the end, I was reading two to three per night. Of course, the first thing you will notice is that the book is much longer than the previous 3 (700+ pages), but it is well worth it. I don't want to go into details of the book as to not spoil it for anyone, but lets just say I was never able to figure out the ending, despite putting in my best effort of thinking forward and trying to read between the lines. If you haven't read this one yet, then you must do so before the movie comes out, if for no other reason than for the pure thrill of trying to imagine for yourself what a guy named "Mad-Eye Moody" with facial scars, a magic eye, and wooden peg leg will look like! All in all, an excellent book!!

Posted by Don at 12:54 AM
September 30, 2005
The Last Juror

This was the second audio book that I have finished. I actually finished it about a month ago, and am just getting to writing about it, but that is the advantage of being the chief editor of your own website...you get to make the Deadlines. Anyways, the narrator (a.k.a. reader) wasn't nearly as good as the guy from the previous audio book, so it took a while for me to get into the book. Actually, to be honest, I never fully got into at all. I don't think it was so much the narrator's fault, as it was that the book just didn't have "it". You know, the infamous "it" that every writer, actor, singer, future CEO wannabe, etc. are looking for. I haven't read a ton of Grisham books, only 'The Firm', 'The Pelican Brief', and most of 'A Time to Kill', but in each the book seems to get progressively worse. I absolutely loved 'The Firm', but the rest were so-so, and the 'The Last Juror' was just boring to me. I am going to give Grisham the benefit of the doubt for now based on my new theory that it is hard to get really excited or revved up when listening to a book while driving. The only other book I have listened to was a non-fiction book, so perhaps audio fiction books just don't work for me.
OK...enough about why I didn't find the book good or great. Let me just tell what it is about. It's basically about a young, mid 20's (oh how my perception has changed about the young and the old), guy who moves to a small town and takes over the local newspaper. Like me with this site, he is the boss, and makes all the decisions. After a while, a woman is murdered, and the suspect is a guy by the name of Danny Padgett, who comes from a family that is notorious for dealing and running the shady side of things...ie. drugs, moonshine, etc. Of course, as any other Grisham book does, this ends up in court, and there is a trial, and (stop here if you don't want to know the ending) Danny is found guilty. However, a few years later, there is some killings going and all the people that are being killed, and they are all from the Jury that put Danny Padgett away. Ok...I won't say who is doing the killing, but I will say that it wasn't a very exciting read during this time. The highlight for me of the book was of course how the young guy is able to take a small local newspaper, and transform it a highly successful business for himself, and eventually is able to sell it for over a million dollars after just about 10 years. Sounds like a good idea to me, although I don't think I could convince Barbie to move to the middle of nowhere in Mississippi so I could start up a small local newspaper. I'll stick to convincing her to move to Miami! :)

Posted by Don at 02:00 AM
August 17, 2005
"Losing My Virginity" by Richard Branson

If you have any entrepreneurial tendencies, then you will love this book! Richard Branson, who you may or may not know, is the founder of Virgin Music and Virgin Atlantic airlines, along with many other small Virgin companies. The book starts off by him telling how he almost died on one of his crazy hot air balloon rides, and thus decided it was time to write an autobiography at the age of 43, instead of waiting until some unforeseen accident may occur that would prevent him from doing so. Therefore, he considers this volume I. The book I read was the original and goes up to 1993, but I think there is a new release that probably goes further..and I'll be sure to pick it up!

Branson basically takes you through his life, and what he was thinking every step of the way. He almost makes you feel like, geez...anyone can become a billionaire if you are willing to work at it. Of course, he did have a fair amount of luck and timing, but overall, he was a hard worker that worked through the speed bumps, and continued to reinvent the company. He started off when he was around 15 or 16 creating a magazine called "Student", which was obviously geared to students. After a while, he decided to get into the music mail order business since he noticed everyone around was always wanting some obscure music that the normal stores didn't offer. Originally he had no intention of opening a store due to costs, but the Postal service went on strike, and he quickly had to find a place to sell music, otherwise the company would go into shambles. He then was able to persuade a shoe store owner to let them have the 2nd floor of his building for free, with the promise that the store would bring many students by his shop. This sounded like something my cousin Jon would end up doing, but no one else in the world could figure out how. Anyways, he that was his first Virgin Music store...and as they say, the rest is history. The book is filled with these kind of stories about saving money and keeping overhead down, but still making everyone happy in the end. It was also amazing to hear how the Banks have so much control over a company as volatile as Virgin, since they have to overdraft so much money. At one point, the company is worth $1 billion dollars, but the banks are still giving them hell because they are over drawn on their $50 million dollar limit. Amazing!! Well, I won't spoil anymore for you, but the book is absolutely GREAT, and I highly recommend it.

Posted by Don at 01:32 AM
July 30, 2005
Don't send a Resume

So Barbie recommended I take a look at this book, "Don't send a Resume," to give me a better idea of how to be prepared when interviewing for a job. Obviously I am not looking for a new job now, but she gave it to me back when we were in Germany about to come back to the States. The book took all of about 2 hours to read, and I must say I didn't really care for it. Of course, there are some good ideas interspersed throughout the book, but overall it seems a little over the top. One thing is tells you is to determine how much value you bring to the company. E.g. "If you hire me, I will bring your sales up by 1-2%"...therefore, you have now placed a value on your return on investment for the company. A lot of this is easy for a sales guy, but for someone in technology world, it is very difficult to do. The books seems to believe in the "shock and awe" way of getting a job. Do something crazy and just get noticed. Avoid the HR department, and go straight to the CEO if you have to. I'm sure this works sometimes, but other times it has to seriously backfire. The one good thing it mentions is to come prepared. In other words, do your homework about the company before the interviews. Know their products, competitors, earnings, etc., so that you can bring it up in the interview, and show the hirer that you did some work beforehand. All in all, it takes two hours to read, so if you want a different take on how to get hired, give it a try, but don't expect to be hired the next day.

p.s. I got my job before reading the book. :)

Posted by Don at 07:33 AM
July 13, 2005
Who's your Caddy?

So, I just got done with the book "Who's your Caddy?" by Rick Reilly, a Sports Illustrated writer for the past 20 years. The difference about this is that I didn't read a single word of the book. I actually listened to it after downloading it from www.audible.com. I had seen an advertisement on an itunes website for a free month and two free audible books, so I figured what the heck. I actually started with "The Last Juror" by John Grisham when I was in Europe, but only got about 2-3 hours into when I got busy moving and just didn't get back to it. Since being back, I downloaded this book and have been mainly listening to it in the car, and it really didn't take too long to finish. I've found it better than always listening to the radio. Anyways, this audio book was pretty good. I've come to the conclusion that a good narrator can make a big difference in whether you get into the book or not. So, that is my spiel (spelling?) on the world of audio books, here is the story of the book.

The book is about how rick Reilly decides to try and caddy for a bunch of famous people, and/or special people. He ends up caddying for people such as John Daly, Donald Trump, Bob Newhart, Tom Lehman, a professional golf gambler, a blind golfer, etc. The book has some good humor, and is just interesting to hear a different take on some of the golfers, and what they are thinking as they are playing. Some of them are pretty laid back, while some are so picky that you can't even talk to their ball...such as "get up", "go right", etc., as they are afraid you are going to jinx it. Of course, this isn't a book about how to be a caddy, but if you want to learn what not to do, then it may be helpful as Rick Reilly seems to make plenty of mistakes. Overall, this is a fun book to read or listen to, so if you are looking for a light read...give it a try.

Posted by Don at 07:32 AM
March 24, 2005
Franklin and Winston

It has been a while since I have read a book that was as interesting as "Franklin and Winston." This book is all about the relationship that these two powerful men came to have during World War II, and how each of them had their individual nuances that contributed to, but also took away from the relationship. Jon Meacham, the author, does a great job of giving the reader the sense of how each man interacted not only with each other, but also with their colleagues and family. FDR comes across as the harsh man that doesn't let you into his circle very easily, and always seems to be holding something back. Churchill on the other hand will pretty much let you know what he thinks, whether it be good or bad, or just some random story that he feels like talking about. Although both men had extreme respect for each other, it was always Churchill who was trying to win the favor of FDR, largely in part b/c Germany was already attacking Britain, and Churchill needed to convince FDR to join the war.

The book also talks about the meeting of the "Big Three," FDR, Churchill and Stalin, and how FDR made it a point to meet with Stalin alone before they all met together, and how he would consistently make fun of Churchill to win over Stalin's favor. He apparentely did this b/c he realized that the USA and Russia would be the world powers after the war, and he wanted good relations. Churchill, on the other hand, did not trust Stalin, but he needed him. I am not sure, and the book doesn't elaborate, but FDR gave Stalin more faith, something that probably contributed to the Cold War.

In the end, Churchill and FDR were good friends, and maintained the highest sense of respect for each other. One interesting story is how when FDR first met Churchill secretly on a ship out at sea, he forced himself to stand to meet him, which was obviously very painful given FDR's condition. Churchill greatly respected this gesture, and the two became instant friends, although Churchill was more of late night person, and would wear down FDR after a few days together.

Below is probably the most powerful and relevant speech/quote in the book, and it comes from Churchill during a speech he gave at Harvard back on September 6, 1943.

Twice in my lifetime the long arm of destiny has reached across the oceans and involved the entire life and manhood of the United States in a deadly struggle.

There was no use in saying "We don't want it; we won’t have it; our forebears left Europe to avoid these quarrels; we have founded a new world which has no contact with the old. "There was no use in that. The long arm reaches out remorselessly, and every one's existence, environment, and outlook undergo a swift and irresistible change. What is the explanation, Mr. President, of these strange facts, and what are the deep laws to which they respond? I will offer you one explanation - there are others, but one will suffice.

The price of greatness is responsibility. If the people of the United States had continued in a mediocre station, struggling with the wilderness, absorbed in their own affairs, and a factor of no consequence in the movement of the world, they might have remained forgotten and undisturbed beyond their protecting oceans: but one cannot rise to be in many ways the leading community in the civilised world without being involved in its problems, without being convulsed by its agonies and inspired by its causes.

If this has been proved in the past, as it has been, it will become indisputable in the future. The people of the United States cannot escape world responsibility. Although we live in a period so tumultuous that little can be predicted, we may be quite sure that this process will be intensified with every forward step the United States make in wealth and in power. Not only are the responsibilities of this great Republic growing, but the world over which they range is itself contracting in relation to our powers of locomotion at a positively alarming rate.

The full speech can be read here: The Price of Greatness is Responsibility.

Overall this book is an exceptional read, especially if you have any interest in FDR, Churchill or WWII. I think it was Jon and Jan that gave this book to me a while ago, and it is a shame it took me so long to read. So thank you to them, and read the book!

Posted by Don at 12:05 PM
February 02, 2005
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

I am slowly but surely coming to the conclusion that Lord of the Rings is just not my thing. I seem to struggle getting through these books, mainly b/c 80% of the book is about one group or another travelling. Sure, there are fighting scenes, but it seems to take as long to get to these as it does the actual characters in the book to make the journey.

Anyways, this book is broken up into two distinct parts, and can basically be read in any order since they occur during the same time period, but with two different groups of characters...kinda frustrating if you ask me. You read half the book, only to start from the beginning again with different characters who happen to go a different path. Somehow, I think if the story went back and forth I might be more intrigued.

So, as was the case with the first book, the end is not really an ending. It just seems to stop right in the middle of one of the few action sequences. Of course this makes me want to start the 3rd book, but I know it is going to be more of the same. However, I'm 2/3 of the way to finishing this trilogy so I can finally watch the movies, but I think it is going to be a few months before I need my sci-fi fix again.

Can someone please tell me what is so great about these books? It seems to be going down hill. 'The Hobbit' was good, 'Fellowship of the Ring' was OK, and 'The Two Towers' was just boring. Who knows what the final book will bring.

Posted by Don at 06:32 PM
January 21, 2005
Bringing down the House

If you are into gambling, you are going to love this book! I finished this book a few months back, but, like gambling, it is still fresh in my mind. This book is about a M.I.T. blackjack club that basically learns how to count cards, and ends up taking Vegas, along with other Casinos, for millions of dollars. After reading this book, I guarantee you will be spending at least half an hour trying to count cards, but as you will soon find out, it is not as easy as it sounds.

'Bringing Down the House' mainly chronicles the life of one guy, name Kevin, who ends up joining his friends Math/Blackjack club, learns how to count cards, and finally hits the big time. It is great to hear about all the stories of how he would arrive in Vegas, be picked up by a limousine (obviously paid for by the Casino), and finally be ushered into the penthouse suite! Of course all of this luxoriousness comes with some work, and in the end a price, but it is fun to hear how things go back and forth.

If you want to know how to count cards, here goes. You need to keep a running count. The count goes like this:

  • Cards 2-6: +1

  • Cards 7-9: 0

  • Cards 10-Ace: -1

The odds are in the dealers favor when the chances of a low card coming up next is high, and of course the odds are in the bettors favor when the chance of high card is coming up next. So, if a lot of low cards have come out on the deal, you will have a count of something like +9...which means to start betting big. When you have a negative number, odds are you are going to lose, so hold back on your bets. Easy enough? Now try to go count cards while 6 players are playing, your buddies are yelling in your ear, the waitress is asking you if you want a drink, and you need to keep all of this hidden from the pit boss!!

Now I'm sure you are saying that Casinos know when you are counting cards b/c they see you raising your bets when the odds are good, and lowering them when they are bad. However, they have a system where the team is divided into three types of players. You've got your Spotters, your Gorillas, and your Big Players...of course the BPs get the high roller suite. I'll let you read the book to figure how the whole system operates, and how the Casino doesn't know what hit them (pun intended) :) .

Posted by Don at 12:28 PM
January 15, 2005
Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson

I just finished reading Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson, the same author that wrote 'Devin in the White City.' If you don't know hi s work already, what he does is write about actual events that have happened, but makes it so it reads more like a novel than a history book. Isaac's Storm is about one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever hit America, and how Isaac, a metereologist in Galveston, Texas where the storm made landfall, handles the situation. First off, I was given this book for Christmas by Alan, and I am already done with it, so that should tell what a fast read this book really is. The book was extremely interesting for me since I obviously know a thing or two about Hurricanes, and also because of similarities b/t what happened in Galveston in 1900 and the recent Tsunami.

OK, so onto the book itself. The book starts off telling the story of Isaac and how he came to become a meteorologist. It also gives a good background about how back in 1900 weather reporting was considered something that could not be done accurately and is basically a false occupation. It also tells how the U.S. government tries to block transmissions about Hurricanes from Cuba, since it wanted to be the sole provider of weather forecasts. This arrogance ended up costing thousands of lives b/c Galveston was not made aware of Cuba's prediction that the storm which had just passed over Cuba, could possibly head to Texas. The U.S. actually said the storm had turned and headed back out to the Atlantic Ocean, when in fact it was in Gulf of Mexico.

When the storm finally hit Galveston, Texas it was about a category 5 storm with wind gusts easily about 200mph. Unfortunately, the wind equipment back in 1900 only measured up to 100mph, and was actually blown off the top of the building. The thing that ended up causing the majority of the deaths was the massive flood of water that came with Hurricane...hence why I compare it to the recent Tsunami. Isaac, along with many others, had zero warning of storm, and the forecast for the day was actual very nice with slight winds. I guess we can see why no one trusted the weather service back then. :)

The book does a great job of describing the many different experiences that families went through as the city flooded, and debris flew around town at 200mph. At one point in the book, it describes how a piece of debris was able to create a hole in an armored ship that was plated with about 1-2 inches of iron! (Sounds very familiar to stories I heard after hurricane Andrew) I don't want to give away the whole story about each of the stories, but take my word for it, they are very good, and often times tragic. It's amazing how minute decisions can affect so many lives.

So, if you are looking for a good quick read, and have even the slightest interest in Hurricanes or history, then you will enjoy this book. Thanks to Alan for recommending it to me.

Posted by Don at 11:27 AM
October 30, 2004
The Gold Coast by Nelson Demille

I just finished one of the most enjoyable books I have ever read. It wasn't one of those fly by the seat of your pants books, but was just very well written. A couple of weeks ago I was looking to start a new book, and Barbie recommended this book, the Gold Coast by Nelson Demille. She said when she read it that it reminded her of me and that she knew I would enjoy it. Well, I normally don't prefer to read fiction, but I needed something so I took the wife's advice. :)
The book is written in the first person, therefore, the author is the person in the story and everything is about what he see, does, and most importantly, thinks. The reason why I emphasize the fact that he writes what he thinks, is because the character, John Sutter, seems to think exactly like me. If I was in his situation I would be thinking the same thing, and probably doing a decent amount of the same things also. Although the book is not a comedy, I literally spent the majority of the book with a smile on my face and cracking up at all the thoughts and quick witty things that came across his mind...but did not say...such as "The three best things in life are steak, showers, and sex." No truer statement has ever been made! :)

So, you now know that I loved this book, but you are still curious what it is all about. Well, it is about a man, John Sutter, who lives in the "gold coast", a very wealthy section in Long Island, that features exorbatant mansions, country clubs, and everything else you can think of regarding those with tons of old money. John, himself, is not wealthy, but his wife is, and she comes from old money, therefore inherited. Anyways, the mafia boss of the largest organized crime family in New York ends up moving in next door, and of course things start to change as the end up becoming friends and more with the 'Don.' Like I said, it is not a Dan Brown type book, but is more like a Great Gatsby book, of which I have not read, but the author (Nelson Demille) compares this book to it, so I am assuming he knows what he is talking about. Apparentely this is not your typical Nelson Demille style book, but again, I haven't read his other books, so I am just going off of hearsay. Well...my final thoughts are this...If you ever want to see what goes on inside my head, read this book...it is just great.

Posted by Don at 02:09 PM
October 28, 2004
Isaac Newton by James Gleick

One of the more recent books that I have read is a biography on the life of Isaac Newton. Call me crazy, but I actually like this non-fictional stuff. As an engineer I have had to do my fair share of math back in school...which in the end all revolved around the infamous Calculus. Now I did fairly well in Math...heck I got in a minor in it...but I was amazed that a person could actually invent this so that he could solve other problems. Well, that is what Sir Isaac Newton actually did, and he did it by the time is around 24 or 25 years old. The odd thing was, he actually left London during the plague error to go back to his hometown, where he basically lived in solitude (as he did for most of his life), so he was able to spend countless hours inventing/perfecting calculus. The odd thing is, he didn't release his papers immediately, so another person some odd years later tried to claim he was the first to invent calculus. Although today we believe Newton was the first, we use the symbols from the other guy to represent derivatives.
Some of the things that Newton is obviously known for is discovering, or better, describing gravity (which by the way was not the result of an apple tree as legend has it). Also, inventing the 3 main laws of physics, a reflecting telescope, describing how light refracts, writing Principia, and basically becoming the Father of modern physics.
One of the more interesting facts is that he served as head of the Mint for England for a while. During this time he engineered better ways to produce coins that could not be counterfeited...one of which was putting letters and/or symbols on the side of coins. The reason for this was that counterfeiters would shave off the edges of coin in order to get part of the silver, but not enough so that coin looked too much smaller. They would then melt this down and resell. By having words and symbols on the side, it pretty much end the run of the "Shavers." All in all this was a great introductional book into the life of Isaac Newton. It is even a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

p.s. I'm not sure how many of you remember A&E's 100 most influential people of the millenium back in 2000. Well, Isaac Newton did not get #1, instead Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the Printing Press, received the title. I think Newton got robbed, although somehow I don't think he cares. :)

Posted by Don at 03:35 PM
October 27, 2004
Hobbit and Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away....WAIT! Wrong trilogy! Anyways, a long time ago I watched Part I of the Lord of the Rings movies, and I must say I definitely didn't like it. It seemed to be the same fighting scene over and over, and I never really understood what the purpose of everything was. So, then and there I decided that I needed to read the books before watching the movies.

I started with the Hobbit...which is actually the prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. This book was actually read to us in school back in Junior High sometime...it wasn't really a graded class...just something to pass the time. Anyways, it was ok back then, but I guess it has gotten better over the years. :) So, in case you can't put two and two together from that last comment, I enjoyed the book. It was one of those books that just had a good description of the characters and developed them very well, so that you actually felt concerned about what would happen. Obviously the whole hobbit and warlock thing helped also, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it. Since it was the prequel to the trilogy, it helped to explain what the Ring was all about, how it was found and what the overall purpose of it was. Obviously I then decided to read the first book of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

The Fellowship of the Ring basically continued on where the Hobbit left off, although not directly. The characters were the same, but perhaps older and the main character changed from Bilbo to Frodo, but Gandolf was still around protecting the Hobbits. This book ended up also being an enjoyable read, and definitely brought some serious clarity to what was going on in the movie. I mean I finally figured out where Frodo and his crew were trying to go and why. There didn't seem to be as much fighting as I remember in the movie...actually I really only remember the one with the elves near the end in the woods. It was also interesting to see how my imagination pictured the characters as opposed to the book. I must say they nailed the character of Frodo!
One of the most interesting things in the book, although not directly part of the book, was the prologue. Reason being that J.R.R. Tokien (the author), describes how readers had pointed out some inaccuracies in his book and how he had to create a full map of everything he is talking about and how he edited things here and there to make up for some of these inconsistencies. I never realized people got so into things, and that an author would really change his book to suit them. So, in conclusion, the book was good, although I wasn't so thrilled with the fact after reading 450+ pages of small print, that it left me hanging. Then again what was I expecting of a book that is supposed to continue on for two more sequels.

Posted by Don at 01:05 PM
October 17, 2004
Slander by Ann Coulter

Our friend Tom gave this book to me to read, not necessarily to try and sway me politically, since I'm already a republican, but instead to just make me laugh. This book is simply a bashing of Democrats and/or Liberals. She basically just goes from one thing to another about what Liberals say and do, and then proceeds to counter with facts and figures. I'm not saying everything Liberals say are false, she just happens to pick and choose and then disprove.
Since I wasn't really into politics before moving to Europe, go figure, it was quite enlightening to hear about the different media outlets and the differents slants. Hence, I have become much more aware of the infamous media slogan called "the spin." For those that don't know, this is basically taking any event, good or bad, and spinning it so that it always comes out good for your political party.
I must say after a while I got tired of the constant Liberal bashing, but I still enjoyed the reading. I could only wish that I had all the notes and facts somehow stored in my head for easy retrieval at a dinner party where people are spewing off supposed facts about this and that.

A miscellaneous fact on this book is that it is 260 pages long, with 46 pages of footnotes...I could only wish that Michael Moore provided as many facts for his films. To be fair, I did watch Bowling for Columbine after reading this book. I agree with his portrayal that the media is to violent, and only seems to show bad things. However, I disagree with his portrayal that guns are the reason for violence. At one point he basically blames Dick Clark for the fact that a young kindergarten kid shot another kid in school. The background and facts leading up to his conclusion are the following:

  1. The kid's mother could no longer afford her rent, despite working two jobs, one of which was at a Dick Clark restaurant

  2. Dick Clark's restaurant was in a special program to hire people who are basically uneducated and can't get jobs elsewhere

  3. The mother moves in with her relative (brother I think) since she can't afford rent

  4. Relative leaves a gun out, and the kid takes it to school and accidentally kills another student

  5. So Michael Moore claims it is Dick Clark's fault for not paying enough money to his employees, thus causing the mother to be away from her child too much, which thus caused the death of an innocent school child

Somehow I don't buy this. It is not Dick Clark's fault that the kid's mother left the kid in a house with a gun that was available. The mother should have checked the house, or the relative should not have left it out. Dick Clark is doing these people a favor by hiring them at a specific wage, which I'm sure is governmentally regulated, thus giving the mother an opportunity to stay off welfare, which is good for everyone. Just my 2 cents.

Posted by Don at 04:14 PM
The Creator and the Cosmos

"The Creator and the Cosmos" is another one of Hugh Ross' books that deals with using modern day scientific discoveries to not disprove Biblical accounts, but instead to use them as a vehicle in proving them. His other book that I read, "The Genesis Question", is basically about the same thing, but this one is one is extremely more scientifical in nature. I consider myself somewhat of a scientific guy, but this thing at times is over my head. He does do a good job of portraying discoveries, and then relating them back to the Bible, although sometimes he may go off on a very detailed explanation tangent of the discovery, thus leaving the reader more confused. He also seems to do some stretching when it comes to "connecting the dots" b/t the Bible and discoveries, but that is to be expected at times. I do like his talks of Einstein and Stephen Hawkings, and how, although they eventually come to the conclusion that there must be a higher power, b/c the extreme chances of Darwinism and everything falling into place for evolution, even given infinite time and chance, are basically impossible.
A key revelation that this book brought to me personally is the belief in a "Big Bang Theory" for the beginning of the universe. I don't remember the specifics of Hawkings explanation, but Ross (the author) shows that the Universe did begin from one large explosion, and is continuously expanding. Another cool fact is that there were like 11 dimensions at the original conception of the Universe. Can you imagine an 11 dimension world...and we think 3 dimensions is enough at times. As you can see, with talks of things like this, you should probably enjoy science and physics before reading this book.

Posted by Don at 03:43 PM
October 15, 2004
Devil in the White City

So...it has been a long time since I last wrote a book review, and I wish I had kept up with it. My plan is to try and give a quick overview of the books I have read recently, but I can't promise anything great since I may have read some of them a while ago.

Anyways, I just finished "Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson. The book is about two people living in different worlds, although in the same city at the same time...Chicago in the late 1800's. The first man, Daniel Burnham, is one of the top architechts in the States and is in charge of building up the World's Fair. The other man, Dr. Holmes, is a wealthy man as well, but is a serial killer. It details the different things that goes on with both of these men during the building and running of the World Fair in Chicago.

The book is non-fiction, but basically reads like a Novel. It is a great book for the first half, then slows down quite a bit in the middle, only to pick up again at the end. Of course I enjoyed it since it is non-fiction, but even hardcore fiction lovers like Barbie enjoyed this book. I think the only downside of this book is when the author begins to spend too much time on Burnham and the World's Fair troubles, and forgets to include some of the spice...aka. Dr. Holmes. A funny thing about the name Holmes is the fact that once a detective starts to hunt down and track down Dr. Holmes, they people around the nation begin to compare to the infamous Sherlock Holmes. Overall this is a good read. If you have any interest in the history of the Ferris wheel or architecture or are into serial killers, then I'm sure you'll enjoy this one.

Posted by Don at 07:44 PM
October 31, 2003
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

So I have totally been slacking on my book reviews lately. I finished Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban about a month ago, and have yet to write my review. So, without further ado, here it is...
I was told my an individual that this was the best of all the Potter books, so expectations were high when I started the book. Just like when someone tells you how great a movie is, it is very rare that it will ever live up to the expectations you have set. I can definitely say that I enjoyed the book, but I still like the first one the best. This book doesn't seem to have the constant suspense that the other Potter books had. The first 2/3 of the book seems to go from scene to scene with an occasional 'scary' moment, but nothing that lasts longer than a chapter. So, I was kind of sitting there waiting and waiting for something big...which is not the good kind of suspense. Anyways, the last 1/3 of the book really picks up the pace and adds a ton of "Harry Potter" type suspense which is what I had come to expect. So, I feel kind of bad originally criticizing, but when it takes 2/3 of the book to get there, and you had someone tell you how good it was, it makes for some tough reading at times. Anyways, like all Potter books it is full of great 'magic' type stuff, along with some new characters and of course Quidditch, the game where nothing matters but catching that darn snitch. I actually found a website with the Quidditch Rules...so check it out. Overall a good book, but I still like the first one the best.

Posted by Don at 06:07 PM
September 10, 2003
The Genesis question

I have recently finished the book "The Genesis Question" by Hugh Ross and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was actually surprised when I finished b/c there was still about 40 pages left, but it was all appendices and notes. Anyways, the book deals with using science as a support instead of a hinderance to the creation story in Genesis 1-11. He suggests a lot of things that were never presented to me in all my days growing up in a private Christian school and also going to church...which kind of surprises me. A lot of what he says has to do with the translation b/t ancient hebrew and modern day English.
Basically he states a lot of the misconceptions are b/c the Hebrew language does not have enough words to describe something. For instance, the King James or NIV Bible states the world was created in 6 days, but the Hebrew word for day can be translated to mean a 24 hour day or just an extended period of time. Since modern science shows that the world is millions of years old, which would contradict the Bible if the world was created in six 24 hour days b/c man has only been around for some odd thousand years, he states that the Bible refers to an extended period of time, and not 24 hour increments. His basic theories lie in the fact that each animal, sun, star, moon, insect, whatever, all were created by God to pave the way for man. For instance, he says that when animals would become extinct, he would then recreate them (not evolution), and that the reason they became extinct is b/c they had served their purpose during that time of the world's creation. He also states that although scientists can see these differences in animals from fossil findings, they cannot see them since the time around when man came to be. His reason for this is b/c we are supposedly still in the 7th day of creation...which is when God rests. Basically God is not doing anymore creating, and science seems to prove this by not finding any new species from existing ones.
Another interesting fact regards the flood. Science shows that it is basically impossible to have a global flood...basically there isn't enough water in the world and a few other reasons. Dr. Ross claims the flood was not global in the world sense, but global from the perspective of the writer and mankind at that time. (Note: This concept of keeping things relative is very pre-dominant) Basically, man at the time of the flood was only around the Mesopotamia area, and when the flood supposedly wiped out man and the world, it refers to only the Mesopotamia area. And the fact that there is no way Noah could have put all the animals of the world on the Ark, he says the animals are only specific mammals, birds and something else, but not insects and what not.
Although he does make some good points throughout the book, he does seem to cop out of some things every now and then and just use the fact that God is God and can make anything happen. For instance, the gathering of the animals for Noah's ark, the creation of different languages, different races, etc. He does state that there are just some things science will never be able to prove, and that is where faith must be used...ie. (raising Lazarus from the dead, turning water to wine, etc.).
So, my conclusion is that I would definitely recommend it if you were as confused as I was about trying to figure out whether science or the Bible was correct regarding creation, or if you just want to learn a little about science. I'm not saying this book will turn you into a Christian or have all of life's answers, but it does a good job of presenting the facts...although he does throw in some religous overtures every now and then, which is to be expected.

Ah...so now I am on to Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban. I'm only on page 15, and the book is about 400+ pages, so it may be a while til my next book review.

Posted by Don at 12:38 AM
August 27, 2003
Tale of Two Cities Review

So I finished the "Tale of Two Cities" the other day, and I must say that I was not that impressed. I had actually started this book in Junior High, and decided back then, after about 1 chapter, that it wasn't for me...to bad I didn't stick with that opinion. Well, to start off, I was told that the Tale of Two Cities was not actually about two different cities, but about the same city...just the poor side and the rich side. So I ended up reading the first 3/4 of this book thinking that the Defarge's Wine shop (Paris) was actually in the same town as the house of the Manettes (London). Yes, I know I should have paid attention to details...but I missed it...probably b/c I wasn't enjoying the first chapter again.
Anyways, the book was pretty boring until the last 50 pages or so...then it gets exciting, only to end instantaneously with no sort of conclusion. For goodness sakes, I just spent the past 350 pages struggling with the old style English, expecting a final conclusion, and all I get is "Tis a far, far better thing that I do..."?? So needless to say "tis a far greater disappointment" that I read this book, rather than a history book on the French Bastille.
And for those that are interested in, I am reading "The Genesis Question" by Hugh Ross, and am thoroughly enjoying it so far. It deals with using scientific facts to validate the Bible's story of creation, rather than blind faith.

Posted by Don at 09:27 AM
June 25, 2003
Body of Secrets

Well, I am now finished reading “Body of Secrets” which was/is about the NSA. (You english nuts are going to have to tell me which verb to use there...was or is... they both seem correct to me, but I'm an engineer so what do I know.) OK, now about the book. First of all this is not your normal book that someone is going to pick up and find an interesting story like a Tom Clancy novel or anything, it is very detailed orientated about the specifics of how the NSA operates and what it has done in the past. It is mind boggling (although don't always believe what you read or hear) about the things the author claims some of the top officials used to want to do. For example, it refers to officers talking about blowing up buildings and killing people in the United States, then blaming it on the Cubans so that they can get support for a war against Cuba during the Cuban Missile crisis. There are a couple of other instances like this, but that one sticks out the most. The book also spends a good amount of time on Vietnam, which after a while got kind of boring since all he did was say that we had trouble getting any intelligence on them b/c they used short wave radios.
One of the more interesting things that I read was about the USS Liberty, which was a Spy ship (ie. full of antennas and listened in off the coasts). Apparantely during the war b/t Israel and Egypt back in the late 60's this ship was off the coast listening in, and Israeli planes and boats completely attacked the ship...and we were supposed to be on their side. They attacked it to the point where they did not want any survivors, even going to the point of shooting soldiers in the life raft. The USS Liberty eventually made it out after some help arrived from US planes, but all the US got from Israel was an apology, claiming it was an accident and they didn't know it was a US ship (despite having done multiple fly by's the previous few days and talking on the radios about 'A US ship off the coast', and the fact there was a US flag supposedly flying from the ship. They also gave the USA 6 million dollars for the 'accident'. This whole thing was apparantely covered up for political reasons.
Anyways, the book was interesting for other reasons...notably b/c I could relate to how he explained the work environment of the NSA with all it's secret documents, procedures, and windowless buildings. The book also managed to mention Cisco Systems (b/c of it's networking equipment and how the NSA tries to crack into it), Lockheed Martin (for obvious reasons), SGI and FSU (b/c one of the former NSA directors graduated from FSU). All in all a decent book...but 650 pages is not the shortest book in the world, then again the new Harry Potter is 900+ pages...so who am I to complain.
Now I have to find a new book to read...perhaps the 1st Lord of the Rings (so I can figure out why people like this stuff so much), or the 3rd Harry Potter (I gotta beat the release of the new movie), or Tale of two Cities (b/c of Barbie), or Oliver Twist (b/c why not). Suggestions are recommended, but I'll probably start tomorrow...so make it quick.

Posted by Don at 01:28 AM
June 14, 2003
Churchill's Book

I just finished (well 3 weeks ago) reading a very good book, although I doubt most of you will ever read it (except Raggio), since it is a history book. The book is called “Winston Churchill’s History of the English Speaking People” revised by Henry Steel Commager. The revision is pretty big since the actual book written by Churchill is really 12 books. The book is revised from Churchill’s original for an American audience to help the reader learn the history of England, although this just means some sections have been taking out and nothing has been re-written. I started the book before we moved to England to help educate me on its history. The book was actually useful when we traveled or did any tourist stuff since a lot of the people and places are mentioned in the book. Also, the book was very educational on talking about all the kings and queens that have reigned over England since the Roman times, as well as a very heavy dose of American beginnings. I guess since the book was revised with Americans in mind, it makes sense to have such a large section devoted to it. I was actually amazed to hear how many times the British should have won the Revolutionary War, but then something would go wrong. The book also talks about how the South had a couple of brief opportunities to win the Civil War, but something crazy would happen and it would never come to fruition. As Nick would say….”If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we would all have a Merry Christmas”. Don’t ask me where he came up with this phrase. Anyways, here is a list of the people that interested me in the book:

  1. Alfred the Great (King who ruled in the late 800’s)
  2. The Black Prince (son of King Edward III and a great warrior in the mid 1300’s)
  3. Oliver Cromwell (great military leader who basically ruled England with the army during the mid 1600’s)
  4. Major Andre (British messenger who was caught bringing back papers of Benedict Arnold’s plan to turn over West Point to the British. He was hanged in the U.S., but was re-buried in Westminster Abbey 40 years later after America gave him back to England)
  5. Stonewall Jackson (Great military leader of the South with Robert E. Lee…ended up dying because he was shot by his own troops mistakenly while scouting out a way to trap the majority of the northern army. This is one of the points where the South might have won the war, but he hadn’t told anyone why he was scouting out a particular pass, so the plan was never executed. As I always say, things will work out for the best. :)

So, I’m now reading “Body of Secrets” which about the NSA. I started it while reading Churchill’s book, but had to stop so I could try to finish the other book before I left England. So far the book is good, but can get bogged down in details. I’ll give more on this book once I finish reading it. After this book I plan on starting “Europe in the 20th Century, A history in fragments.” This book was actually given to Barbie and I as a going away gift from Yamo and Raggio. Hopefully it has the same affect as Churchill’s book did while I was in England.

In conclusion, I’ll try to give you guys an update on books I’ve read, but you will probably have to wait a month or two for each review since I’m no Barbie and can’t finish a book within a week. Also, give some advice on some good books to read…preferably non-fiction (Raggio I am counting on you to come through on this!)

Posted by Don at 01:43 AM