Archive for the ‘Books’ category

Greyhound

July 29, 2020

Last night we watched a movie titled “Greyhound” starring Tom Hanks. This is a story of the US Destroyer USS Keeling that was performing escort duty of a convoy heading from the US to Great Britain during WW2.

The book is based on a CS Forester book titled “The Good Shepherd”. Actually, the title has been renamed to “Greyhound” to coincide with the movie release.

CS Forester has written many books about naval warfare. He probably best known for his books on Horatio Hornblower during the Napoleonic wars. He also wrote the book “The African Queen” that was the basis for the movie made in 1951 starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn.

So I learned a new word. “Pillenwerfer” is the name the Germans used for a device used by the U-Boats during WW2 as a decoy to US Navy Sonar. From Wikipedia:

It was launched by an ejector system colloquially referred to as Pillenwerfer (English: “pill thrower”). When mixed with seawater, the calcium hydride produced large quantities of hydrogen which bubbled out of the container, creating a false sonar target.

So I managed to read the book before the movie came out. It tells the story of action on a US destroyer escorting about 60 ships to England during WW2. It was a quick read. I read it under a week. Lots of action chasing all of those nasty U-Boats. Reading the book beforehand made it easier to understand all of the action.

Back to the movie. I kept wondering, “How’d they do that?”. You know that they didn’t film an entire convoy crossing the North Atlantic in heavy seas. The CGI artists did a masterful job of making the film.

Countdown 1945

June 10, 2020

So I have to stop watching late night TV. There’s always some author on pitching their latest book. Then, I decide that I have to read it.

So last week I was watching CBS Sunday Morning. Also, saw him on Stephen Colbert. They were interviewing Chris Wallace (reporter for Fox News). The book has nothing to do with Fox News (If it did, I wouldn’t be reading it.).

So the book is titled “Countdown 1945” and it covers the time from when Harry Truman becomes president on April 12 1945 until the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

So Truman was going down to a room in the capitol called “The Board of Education” that was operated by Speaker Sam Rayburn. It was a room in the Capitol would go at the end of the day to have a drink and hang out.

He headed from the main public floor of the Capitol down to the ground floor, downstairs to House Speaker Sam Rayburn’s private hideaway, Room 9, which was known as the “Board of Education.” It was the most exclusive room in the Capitol—entry by Rayburn’s personal invitation only. Most afternoons, members of Congress met here after official business hours to discuss strategy, exchange gossip, and “strike one for liberty,” enjoying a drink, or two. Truman was a regular. And his drink of choice was bourbon and branch water.

The book starts with Truman being summoned to the White House in April 1945. There he was informed FDR had died. A couple of days later he is told about the project to develop an atomic bomb to be dropped on Japan. This is the story of the days leading up to the eventual dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

One last quote:

But Truman confounded the conventional wisdom. He campaigned relentlessly and effectively, often making speeches from the back of trains as he barnstormed across America. At almost every juncture he was greeted by enthusiastic crowds shouting: “Give ’em hell, Harry!” In one of the biggest comeback victories in American political history, Truman defeated Dewey in November 1948.

While Truman had notable achievements—he issued executive orders banning racial discrimination in the military and the government—he continued to face problems at home and overseas. He introduced what he called his “Fair Deal” program, designed to build on FDR’s New Deal. It included proposals for universal health care and more funding for education. He couldn’t get it through Congress.

I couldn’t put the book down. You know what the ending is but that doesn’t matter. Go ahead and read it.

Enemy of All Mankind

June 2, 2020

This is my most recent book titled. “Enemy of All Mankind: A True Story of Piracy, Power and History’s First Global Manhunt” by Steven Johnson. This is a story of an English pirate named Henry Every who captained a pirate ship called “The Fancy” in 1695.

The Fancy was originally named the “Charles II” after the British King. It became “The Fancy” when Every and his men commandeered the ship in A Coruña, a port city in Spain. At that point the ship was renamed “The Fancy” and began its life as a pirate ship attacking shipping in the Indian Ocean.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 1:

On a clear day, the lookout perched atop the forty-foot mainmast of the Mughal treasure ship can see almost ten miles before hitting the visual limits of the horizon line. But it is late summer, in the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean; the humidity lingering in the air draws a hazy curtain across the spyglass lens. And so by the time the English vessel comes into focus, she is only five miles away.

Eventually, the Fancy makes it way to Nassau in the Bahamas. Some of the crew took their share of the loot and returned to England where some of the crew were captured and eventually tried for piracy and other crimes.

So after the ships captured all of the loot, they had to make a hasty escape. They would certainly not want to be found and they couldn’t just waltz down the Thames to be greeted by the crowds.

The last part of the book covers the trial of six pirates that had been captured. The British government were trying to make a strong statement against piracy, so the trial was very important to the image of security of shipping.

So the first trial, the pirates were found “not guilty”. Of course, the Brit’s didn’t just let them go. So they had been found not guilty of piracy but the prosecution decided to charge them with mutiny. A subtle difference, I guess.

So on the second trial, they were all found guilty. In those days, they didn’t wait for an appeal. They just took them down to the execution dock and hanged them all. Back in those days executions were VERY public.

Here’s some more text:

Several days after the second trial ended, the six convicted mutineers—including Joseph Dawson, who had pled guilty twice—were brought back to Old Bailey for sentencing. Standing at the bar for one last time, each man was asked in turn by the clerk why they should not be sentenced to death for their crimes.

And one more thing, Henry Every was never captured.

It was an interesting book about which I had little knowledge. Worth reading.

Yogi

May 30, 2020

Time for a book report. As many of you know, I’ve been reading a lot. The book that I just finished last night was “Yogi” by Jon Pessah.

Click here for the Wikipedia entry. And, click here for the Baseball Reference site.

This is one of the biographies of Yogi Berra, Hall of Fame catcher for the New York Yankees.

I am certainly not a Yankees fan but I thought it would be worth reading. It helped fill my baseball void during the pandemic. I even read it for free. I downloaded it from the Los Angeles Library’s ebook library.

Yogi’s life was certainly interesting. He played almost his entire career for the the NY Yankees (he actually played 4 games for the NT Mets in 1965). He managed both the NY Mets and Yankees. And, he coached for the Houston Astros.

Yogi was born in 1925 in St Louis MO and died in 2015. He broke into the bigs in 1946 for the NY Yankees. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

It seems that he is most famous for his “Yogi-isms” (quotes). Here are a few of his most popular quotes.

The most famous is his insight about discipline: It ain’t over ’til it’s over. Some are observant, if a bit fractured: If people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them. Or It’s déjà vu all over again. Others are goofy: Never answer an anonymous letter. And this one: You better cut the pizza in four pieces; I’m not hungry enough to eat six. One is simply spot-on: I really didn’t say everything I said. Few are as sweet as his tribute to his wife: We have a good time together, even when we’re not together. And none more apropos at this moment: You should always go to other people’s funerals. Otherwise, they won’t come to yours.

Bottom Line: I really enjoyed reading about Yogi.

Thursday – Books

May 7, 2020

What has everyone been reading? I just finished a book titled “Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything” by Lydia Kang MD. It’s an amazing story of the ways that people thought would cure their many ills. Scary stuff indeed. But for now, I’m going to switch over to fiction. Some of the non-fiction is getting too scary for me.

So I started reading a Michael Connelly book. Michael Connelly has written a ton of crime novels about the LAPD. One of his main characters he has written about is one Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch. Harry is a veteran homicide detective for the LAPD. The book that I am currently reading is titled “Two Kinds of Truth” . Harry has been fired from the LAPD and is working on cold cases for the San Fernando PD with his office in the basement jail of the police station. This is a lot less scary than the non-fiction.

So I’ve been telling Paula for a zillion years that I have to stop watching late night TV. I keep finding out about new books that I want to read. Stephen Colbert had Stephen King on his show a couple of nights ago. He was pitching his new book. The book is titled “If It Bleeds” Here is another case of non-fiction being scarier than fiction. Well maybe with Stephen King, the fiction is just as scary

So then we had a discussion about our favorite Stephen King books. For me, a toss up between “The Stand” and “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption”. Of course, Shawshank was made into an excellent film starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins.

“The Stand” was written in 1978. Scary stuff about a pandemic. Eventually, I will get around to rereading both titles again. I will write more about “The Stand” after I reread it.

That’s all for now. Stay safe.

Joe

Monday

April 27, 2020

Good morning everyone. We are continuing our stay at home and we are doing well. We have not been sick. We are staying occupied. The archiving of our old photo albums is continuing.

This post is mostly about the books that I have been reading. Reading is one of my prime activities to conquer the boredom.

I read all of my books on my iPad’s Kindle app. I try to avoid buying the books. I check the Libby app (LA Library) for availability. Libby is a free app where one can download the books to your Kindle app for three weeks. They have a limited number of copies of any one book available for download. If the requests exceed the number of books, you get added to the waiting list. Beats paying $10-$15 to Amazon.

Sometimes, I find out about books from late night TV shows like “Late Show with Stephen Colbert”. Another source for me is “CBS Sunday Morning”. They interview authors about new books that are coming out. So I write myself a note to check out the book(s) to download later. I’ve often told Paula that I need to stop watching late night TV, too many books to read.

This is the story of lawyers who work on cases where inmates have been wrongfully accused of a crime. The fictional story is based on a real organization called “The Innocence Project” that works on proving innocence of inmates wrongfully convicted of a crime. Reading Grisham tends to be a page turner for me. It took me three days to read the book. When I was done, I sent it back to the Library, just like a paper book.

Next up (sourced from CBS Sunday Morning) are two books, both non-fiction about our current situation. First is a book titled “Quackery – A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything” by Lydia Kang, MD and Nate Pederson. I am doing this one first, because it was available for free from the Libby app. The title just about says it all.

Next up is a book titled “The Coming Plague” by Laurie Garrett. (Also, sourced from CBS Sunday Morning). Apparently, this is a popular book. I have put a hold on it with “Libby”. Expected wait time is six weeks. I probably won’t buy it for now. I’ll check back at Libby after I finish Quackery. Also available from Amazon.

Friday

April 17, 2020

It seems that I have missed a couple of days. I just didn’t have much to say. It seems though that people are having trouble remembering what day it is. It it wasn’t for my iPad and iPhone I wouldn’t know either.

So let’s begin. I went out to Albertson’s for a few things. We had run out of milk. Paula had been drinking milk some evenings instead of wine. I was also going to try and find some TP.

Here’s my list:

  • Milk
  • Tangelos
  • TP
  • Kleenex
  • Liquid hand soap
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Box of white wine

Got the milk. Bought two half gallons of 1%. Got the TP. I had been told by Dan that they put out the TP first thing in the AM. Then when it’s gone, it’s gone. Going earlier improved your chances. So I scored a 6 pack of rolls. No choice. You get whatever they’ve got. Got the tangelos.

No on the Kleenex, hand soap or H2O2. Got the wine. Plenty of booze. Beer and wine are not in short supply.

So I finished the book about crossword puzzles. I am in awe of some of the people that are stars on the crossword puzzle tournament. I started reading “True Grit” by Charles Portis. This is the basis for the John Wayne movie of the same name. So far the movie is pretty faithful to the book. By the way, the kindle version was only $2. Such a deal.

On another subject, masks. Masks are required for visits to the grocery store. When we shopped on Tuesday, I wore a home made mask. Today I used a folded bandanna.

What many folks don’t realize the masks are intended to keep you from spreading your germs. Not for protecting you from getting someone else’s germs. Ie. Coughing in the vicinity of another person.

The first mask had problems in that it redirected my exhaling on to my eye glasses causing the glasses to fog. I also had trouble sipping my iced coffee.

Today, my bandanna was less problematic in that regard. Besides, when not in the immediate vicinity of other people, I let the bandanna slip a bit. I will be happy when we are done with the mask requirement, PITA.

By the way, the grocery store was not very crowded.

Later,

Joe

Sunday

April 12, 2020

Another day, another…Just more crossword puzzles and jigsaw puzzles and reading. We watched the Easter Service for Oceanview Baptist online and talked with our son Neil and his wife on the phone. That’s about it.

Cloudy today but no rain so far.

So I thought I would write about the books that I am reading. I have 3 or 4 that I am working on.

I was reading a book by Paul Klugman. Paul is a columnist for the New York Times and usually writes about Economics. The book is titled “Arguing with Zombies“. I got the book for free from the LA Public Library. Libraries have started lending ebooks now. They download the book to your Kindle reader. You get the book for three weeks before it gets deleted.

If the book is on a best seller list, you will have to wait. The app puts you on the hold list. Just like a conventional library.

So I got about half way through the book before the time ran out. I was having trouble remembering stuff about various things like monetary policy and the like.

At the same time, I have been reading a book titled, “The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For” by Charlotte Alter. This is a book about a new generation of political leaders that are up and coming in US Congress. I bought this book, not from the library.

Next up is a book titled, “Thinking Inside the Box” by Adrienne Raphel. This is a history of crossword puzzles. Also, it includes an interview with Will Shortz, the editor for the NY Times crossword. Lots of interesting history.

That’s enough for now. Stay safe and hang in there. This won’t last forever (I hope)

TTFN

Joe

The Nickel Boys

September 11, 2019

NickelThe latest book that I just finished was “The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead, This is the fictional story of two black boys sentenced to a hellish juvenile reform school called “The Nickel Academy” near Tallahassee, Florida. The author says it’s fictional but it sure felt like the real thing.

The book is set in the 1950’s to early 1960’s, when race relations were just starting to change,

If a boy were to die while incarcerated, the body would be unceremoniously buried in an unmarked grave behind the school. No one either in government or the public seemed to care or even know about the place.

All it took was a seemingly minor mistake and one would be convicted to the reform school during the Jim Crow era in the south.

I could hardly put the book down. The follows Elwood and Turner through their life at the “Nickel” where one could be put into a hot, solitary confinement for any minor infraction.

There was a building for the black boys and one for the whites, but one gets the impression the black boys had it much worse.

Colson Whitehead won the Pulitzer Prize for his previous book “Underground Railroad“. I will get to that book when I get through by backlog of other books to read.

I’ve got to stop watching late-night television. Invariably, there is someone pitching there new book that they would like you to buy and read. And usually, I add the books to my Kindle reading list.

Other books that I am working on are “Home (Portal Series Book 3) by Richard Bowker. (Shameless Plug: Rich is my brother, and he would love to have you reading his books that are available on Amazon, either paperback or kindle.)

And finally, the other book that I am working on is “The Inn” by James Patterson. Book about an ex-cop living in Gloucester, MA.

Call the Midwife

July 21, 2019

Call the MidwifeI just finished “Call the Midwife” by Jennifer Worth. “Call the Midwife” was the basis for a PBS series of the same name. This book is actually book one of a three book series, but stands alone pretty well on its own.

The books tells the stories of midwifes, nursing and medicine in the East End of London during the 1950’s.

Paula and I had watched the PBS TV series a few years ago and our friend Roberta recommended that we read the books that were the basis for the TV series.

Indeed, the TV show is still going strong with season 8 just released. I just checked the PBS web site and found that Call the Midwife is on season 9. Still going strong. Click here to see the PBS site for Call the Midwife.

I really enjoyed reading book one and I will probably go back and read books two and three when I get around to it.

One of the comments in the book is about family size. It says that women in the East End typically had about 10 children over their child bearing years. Indeed, I learned later in life that my father had about 10 siblings. I only knew three of his brothers who we saw often when we were growing up. Many of his siblings had never reached adulthood, having died of a variety of diseases that are preventable in this day and age.

The book probably goes deeper into the lives of her patients in the East End. It seems to me that there are stories in the book are a bit too much for television.