Maybe Mary Roach's best yet - definitely in the running for funniest of hers I've read (except for the last chapter, Feedback From the Fallen, subtitlMaybe Mary Roach's best yet - definitely in the running for funniest of hers I've read (except for the last chapter, Feedback From the Fallen, subtitled 'how the dead help the living stay that way,' which is achingly sad at times.) As she notes in the beginning, this isn't about weapons or killing. It's about the science and technology used to try to keep military people alive while other people, or their own dangerous jobs, are trying to kill them. It covers some ground that was unfamiliar to me even after 20 years on active duty (although I did retire in 1996) and ongoing study of the literature of the military since then. Highly recommended both for veterans and other readers familiar with the military and for those less familiar but curious. Fascinating as well as frequently hilarious....more
Unusual among military memoirs - the author is more introspective and frank than the average person, and he makes himself quite vulnerable emotionallyUnusual among military memoirs - the author is more introspective and frank than the average person, and he makes himself quite vulnerable emotionally in looking back over his past. The result is a story that is gripping in some places and poignant in others. Much more than a lot of "there I was ..." memoirs, this gave me a feel for the author's character and inner life as much as his career and military experiences, and his psychological and emotional growth over time. Of course, as a SEAL, he centered his life on the military for many years and everything else had to fit in around it, including his personal relationships. A thought-provoking read that will stick with me longer than a lot of memoirs....more
A rare find - equal parts thoughtful, funny, and moving. My wife and I discovered the author's YouTube series Ask A Mortician and blog Order of the GoA rare find - equal parts thoughtful, funny, and moving. My wife and I discovered the author's YouTube series Ask A Mortician and blog Order of the Good Death via a link from another channel, and were immediately hooked. She's smart, reflective, articulate, apparently immune to taking herself seriously, and has things to say that I think are overdue and crucial for our society to consider. Her main message is that our society's refusal to think or talk openly and honestly about death, our own as individuals and in general, is causing a great deal of needless physical and emotional suffering and untold costs (fiscal, environmental, and other), which are growing as our population ages. She expresses this in the context of relating her own experiences growing up and as a professional in the funeral industry. Highly recommended for the laughter, food for thought, and occasional tears it will probably bring you....more
Another great set of stories about animals and the author's life caring for them. Unlike the first two books, this one spends considerable time on hisAnother great set of stories about animals and the author's life caring for them. Unlike the first two books, this one spends considerable time on his service in the Royal Air Force during World War 2, with the same sharp, but not mean, eye for the ridiculous in others and in himself. I love this series and am looking forward to getting and reading the final of the four, and then his books about dogs and cats. Wonderful and highly recommended....more
The first sequel to the author's 'All Creatures Great and Small' - this one picks up where its predecessor stopped, and covers not only the author's oThe first sequel to the author's 'All Creatures Great and Small' - this one picks up where its predecessor stopped, and covers not only the author's ongoing career as a country veterinarian in an inter-war English country community, but also his relationship with the woman who became his wife. Again, hilarious, at times poignant, vivid, and eloquent. Highly recommended for anyone I can think of other than very small children (because of the sadness of the deaths of some animals.)...more
Classic - one of those authors I wish I could have known. His love of animals (and people, and the countryside), self-deprecating wit, and sense of thClassic - one of those authors I wish I could have known. His love of animals (and people, and the countryside), self-deprecating wit, and sense of the absurd shine through. Highly recommended for animal lovers, anyone wanting a window into British country culture between the world wars, and, really, everyone....more
Well done. The authors tackle the basic challenge of the gray areas between truly psychopathic people and actions and those that are healthy and benigWell done. The authors tackle the basic challenge of the gray areas between truly psychopathic people and actions and those that are healthy and benign. They offer quite a few useful examples at least some of which will probably remind most readers of people and situations they know.
Our culture includes widespread misconceptions about what it means and how it looks for someone to be a psychopath. Even the mental health field is divided on the details, as reflected in the literature. However, in broad terms, a psychopath is a person without conscience, without compassion, without a moral compass beyond what he or she thinks is in his or her interest. That doesn't necessarily mean the psychopath is a criminal, is violent, or is unable to succeed in professional or personal life (depending on how you define 'succeed'): although the term does cover serial killers and mass murderers, those people are a tiny minority of them. Psychopaths are often charming, charismatic, eloquent, smart, funny people and may be beloved to those around them, though usually not to those closest to them. Many hold positions of power, authority, and prestige in business and politics.
The challenge in understanding comes when a person is sort of a psychopath without meeting the full requirements to earn the label - maybe he or she is ruthless and cutthroat at work but a teddy bear at home (or vice versa); maybe the person straddles some line of what's morally okay and what isn't. Further, the 'almost psychopath', as these authors use the term, tends to be smoother and harder to spot over time than the full-fledged version, being more able to defer gratification, work hard for goals, and/or limit the terrible behavior to parts of his or her life, and he or she may really feel at least some compassion, remorse, or desire to be better. When you find yourself with the uneasy feeling that something just isn't right but can't pinpoint why, you're more likely dealing with an almost-psychopath than with an out-and-out monster.
This book paints the picture clearly and even compassionately but without illusions and offers some good down-to-earth guidance on how to ID an almost-psychopath and what to do when you realize you're dealing with someone like this. Unless you work alone in a cave and have no family or friendships, you'll probably find this handy at some point. Recommended for general readers, and also for professionals as an aid in helping clients and patients understand and cope with the almost-psychopaths in their lives....more
A fun and interesting light read. The author sums up, as the title says, over 175 'scientific principles, theories, and things' from the 6th century BA fun and interesting light read. The author sums up, as the title says, over 175 'scientific principles, theories, and things' from the 6th century BC to the 21st century (it was published in 2005.) I'd have given it more stars, but I caught a significant error in a subject I know, which makes me wonder whether there are more in areas I don't know as well (he described the hydrogen isotope tritium as having 2 protons and one neutron. He got protons and neutrons backward - two protons would make it a different element, helium. A pretty important difference.) I did like the fact that he included some whimsical entries, e.g. Murphy's Law and the Tumbling Toast Theory. Again, fun light reading. One fact that he didn't specifically note that jumped out: in the first part of the book, new discoveries are centuries apart. By the end, they were coming almost every year and sometimes several per year, showing the acceleration of scientific knowledge's growth....more
A great reference and introduction to the topic. Dr. Yeomans is clear, well-organized, and thorough - he covers every significant aspect of this fieldA great reference and introduction to the topic. Dr. Yeomans is clear, well-organized, and thorough - he covers every significant aspect of this field, and I learned a lot even though I've been reading books and articles about this subject for over a decade (I also recommend 'Rain of Iron and Ice' by John Lewis.) If you're interested in the history, future, state of the science, and potential economics and scientific possibilities of near-Earth and potentially near-Earth asteroids and comets, this book is well worth your time and attention. It flows well and is thoroughly indexed and footnoted. Highly recommended....more
A great collection of 23 short military science fiction stories by authors established and new, including Joe Haldeman (author of the great and movingA great collection of 23 short military science fiction stories by authors established and new, including Joe Haldeman (author of the great and moving books The Forever War and All My Sins Remembered.) The book is divided into four parts (plus Haldeman's story between the foreword and Part I): Wartime Systems, Combat, Armored Force, and Aftermath. It's easy to tell that a lot of the authors are veterans or active military, and along with the action, social and environmental issues, and ideas about future possibilities, various stories deal with relationships and post-traumatic stress (as might be guessed from the headings of the second and fourth sections.) Some are eerily weird and edge into horror, some are gripping, some are deeply sad, and some are more thought-provoking than anything else. The editors (Jaym Gates and Andrew Liptak) did an outstanding job, and the stories they chose are a well-rounded assortment with (I thought) not a clinker in the bunch, unusual in an anthology of this size. Well done, and I will be looking forward to more from a lot of these writers and these editors!...more
Well-rounded, fascinating, and inspiring. The authors go beyond relating the story of Katharine Gun's whistle-blower leak of an NSA message to their cWell-rounded, fascinating, and inspiring. The authors go beyond relating the story of Katharine Gun's whistle-blower leak of an NSA message to their counterpart organization in the UK, the GCHQ, asking Britain to collaborate in illegally bugging the delegates of other UN Security Council members to get leverage to manipulate or coerce them into supporting a resolution to back the Iraq invasion in 2003. Gun worked at GCHQ as a Mandarin translator, and was horrified when she saw the message - she almost instantly thought that if the public knew about the action, their disapproval could prevent an illegal and disastrous war with huge loss of life, and although the idea of leaking it terrified her, she decided she had to.
The book also tells Gun's life story and the factors that shaped her character, describes the aftermath of her action (including the UK government's heavy-handed effort to retaliate by deporting her husband, who is from Turkey), looks at the experiences of other whistle-blowers in the UK and US, looks at the possible motivations of George Bush and Tony Blair in pushing illegal action to support a war based on false premises (they had agreed far in advance on regime change in Iraq as their goal, but that is not a legal basis for war, so they came up with the WMD story), and does a good job of exploring the pros and cons of whistle-blowing by government employees who release secret information.
I was struck by the wrongness of an American executive and former Marine officer the authors quote as saying "When you are under orders, you follow those orders no matter what, no matter how you feel about what's happening." As a retired Marine officer myself, I remember extensive training on the bedrock principle that you do NOT obey an unlawful order, and if you do, you are morally and legally responsible for your actions - a principle that's been taught in our military system since the Nuremberg trials and the failed Nazi defense of "I was only following orders."
All in all, an excellent book and, I think, a necessary one for anyone interested in civics and the balance of power and conscience....more
A great story - I've always thought this series of events would be unbelievable as fiction, but they did it. When I went to Marine boot camp in fall oA great story - I've always thought this series of events would be unbelievable as fiction, but they did it. When I went to Marine boot camp in fall of '76, this had happened only a few months earlier, but there was already a TV documentary about it. The only times our drill instructors turned on the TV in the squadbay were at Christmas and to show us that documentary - the senior drill instructor said, basically, 'Watch and learn. This is what an elite military organization in action looks like.' This book tracks the events from the perspectives of the hostages and hijackers, during the hijacking and at the Entebbe airport, and those of the Israeli civilian and military leaders and elite soldiers who carried out the mission. The inside story of the decision process within the Israeli government is a part I hadn't heard much about before, and it's as fascinating as the military action. I'd recommend this for any reader who's interested in geopolitics, military affairs, terrorism, the Middle East, and/or the kinds of quandaries heads of states sometimes have to deal with. I am definitely not in the 'Israel can do no wrong' camp (as this author seems to be toward the end) but in this case I believe they did a hard and necessary thing and did it superbly. ...more
A great read! One of the best military memoirs - one of the best memoirs, period - I've read in a long time. The author served as a UI.S. Army tank plA great read! One of the best military memoirs - one of the best memoirs, period - I've read in a long time. The author served as a UI.S. Army tank platoon commander in Iraq throughout 2004 and the beginning of 2005, including playing a role in overseeing the first free election after the fall of Saddam Hussein. He's an excellent writer, and from the sound of his account, a pretty good leader (and world-class smartass.) Something I could relate to strongly was his view that a big part of his mission was to act as a BS umbrella for his men; he also readily asked for their input and advice when he needed it and made sure they got credit for his platoon's achievements, not to mention arranging for his family and friends back home to send frequent care packages of good food and other items for his whole platoon throughout their 13 months in Iraq. I'd make this recommended reading in the training of NCOs and junior officers, but then, the Powers That Be haven't asked me for my recommendations - so I'm recommending it here, for those groups and others wanting a taste of the flavor of life in a combat arms unit....more
A great read, and more than I expected in a couple of ways. First, it's often very funny - as noted in "About the Author", it's supposedly written byA great read, and more than I expected in a couple of ways. First, it's often very funny - as noted in "About the Author", it's supposedly written by "a man born in New Plymouth (on Mars) in 2071" who is "no (proven) relation whatsoever to his twentieth-century namesake, a humorless astronautical engineer" - and second, it covers a broad range of social, economic, and philosophical subjects beyond what an individual would need to know to live in a colony on Mars.
The tone is light and often snarky (he is definitely not a fan of NASA or bureaucracies in general) but Zubrin's real passion about the possibility, practicality, and necessity of exploring and colonizing Mars shows through. Near the end he writes about the range of civil liberties people would have in the Martian society he envisions, and he closes with the Founding Declaration of the Mars Society, a real organization he helped create, and that is truly eloquent and moving.
Strongly recommended for anyone interested in space exploration, civics, and the possible future of humanity....more