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The Mask Of Command — book review
Today’s book review is for “The Mask Of Command” (1987©), written by John Keegan.  Sir John Desmond Patrick Keegan OBE (Order of the British Empire) and FRSL (Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature) was an English military historian, lecturer (at Sandhurst – the English equivalent of West Point) and writer.  Keegan is considered (in my opinion) one of the “modern” expert military historians. I understand his basic premise to be that conflict in general and war in specific is cultural and not necessarily an extension of political governance.  This is in contrast with Clausewitz who stated that war is politics by other means.  Keegan is criticized for “disagreement” with Clausewitz.
As a secondary aside, I started reading about military theory (“strategy”) back in my early 20’s when I began reading about generals (mostly Patton) and the works of B. H. Liddell Hart were recommended to me by a roommate.  I read Liddell Hart’s book: “Strategy: The Indirect Approach“, which I must say greatly influenced my life by profoundly changing my view of the world.  My hope was to learn about leadership by studying the great generals.  Instead, what I found was that leadership is not the same thing as strategy and is, instead, founded on the person and the time in history the person lives, whereas strategy tends to be principled and more timeless.
This realization pretty much ties into the basis for this book, which is a study of four “great” commanders / leaders and looks at what made three succeed and one (ultimately) fail terribly.  The three successful commanders are: Alexander the Great, Wellington, and U.S. Grant.  The failure is: Hitler.
Keegan’s proposal in this book is based on “heroic” aspects (“title”) of military leadership: heroic, anti-heroic, non-heroic, and fake heroic.  To do this, Keegan establishes the cultural climate of each commander and then tries to explain it’s (the culture’s) effect on the military leader via their proximity to combat and personal exposure to danger.  Essentially, for most of man’s history, muscle and physical courage were the requirement of military leadership.  As the age of gunpowder emerged, the risk to the commander increased and they were forced to withdrawal from danger and thus “military” leadership changed.  Alexander had to fight hand-to-hand to prove his courage while leading from the front; Wellington could stay within sight of his forces, but had to stay a minimal distance from accurate musket range; Grant could not frequently approach the front lines; and, Hitler never exposed himself to physical danger (with the exception of possible assassination) and used propaganda to convince his forces that he was a soldier battling at their side.
The book has five main chapters (one for each leader / type) and the last is about leadership in the age of nuclear weapons.  I found this the most fascinating (timely?) chapter of the book as it proposes a “new” type of post-heroic military / political leader and attempts to posit President Kennedy as this “ideal” leader.
While I found the book to be an interesting (sometimes fascinating) read, it was not an easy read.  Keegan loves his erudite words and his complicated phrasing of sentences.  The punctuation is “British” (I guess), and I found many times I had to go back and re-read a sentence or paragraph to figure out what the heck he was talking about.  Frequently, his sentences appeared to be declarative, but were, in fact, interrogatory (questions), or vice-versa, and you (“I”) couldn’t tell until you (“I”) hit the question mark or period at the end of the sentence.  Occasionally, even though I was aware of this writing style, Keegan still caught me off guard and I had to go back and try to figure out what he was on about.  Which means I knew it was happening, and anticipating it, but continued to find it distracting.
Other than this (quibble), I found the book to be quite enjoyable.  Keegan has a keen method of describing battles and you can sometimes feel yourself seeing the carnage and tasting the spent gunpowder in the air.  At less than 400 pages, it seems also to be a quick read, but I suggest not rushing head-long through it in one or two sittings as the book is widely considered to be a classic and deserves a bit of contemplation as well as enjoyment.
Final recommendation: highly recommended! This book is a classic for a reason…  The battlefield descriptions are superb and Keegan’s argument is well presented – even if not wholly convincing (to me, anyway).  Still, regardless if you are new to military history or a veteran of any military genre, I think you’ll enjoy this book.  There will, of course, be a few quotes from this book appearing on my blog in the coming weeks / months.
Two final thoughts: 1) I was not (am not) convinced President Kennedy is THE model for the post-heroic commander.  I found Keegan’s reporting on / analysis of the Cuban Missile Crisis a bit simplistic.  And, 2) even if I had read this book on first printing, I doubt it would have influenced my world-view the way Liddell Hart’s book did.  Both are classics for any military reader, just different.  Just sayin’…
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On This Day In:
2019 #ContinueToResist
Except Willful Ignorance And Prideful Stupidity
2018 More Executive Time For #DumbDonald
2017 Watched The Inauguration
Two Geniuses
2016 Come Dance And Laugh With Me
2015 Looks Good To Me
2014 Desire For The Sea
2013 The Fierce Urgency Of NOW
Happy Inauguration Day!
2012 One Path
Sorrow And Joy
The Seven Year View
2011 Emergent Practicality

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Okay, before we go any further, let’s be clear…  There is virtually NO, NONE, ZERO chance that Donald Trump will be convicted and removed from office by a Republican controlled Senate.  Particularly, as a number of Republican Senators have already come out in public to say they are not even willing to consider the evidence and are already working closely with the White House to coordinate the trial.  If there is a “fair” trial, I (for one) will be shocked.
It is important to remember that elections have consequences.  In 2016, after almost 30+ years of spewing poison against Hilary Clinton by the Republicans and Right Wing media, Donald Trump was elected by the electoral college.  Although Trump lost the popular vote by over 3 million votes, Trump won more states and therefore became President.  If (by some miracle) Trump were to be convicted, VP Pence would become President, not Hilary Clinton.  Therefore, the 63 million votes Trump received have still been “heard”.  That’s as far as it goes…
But, remember elections have consequences…  In 2018, in an electoral landslide, the control of the House of Representatives was flipped from Republican to Democratic majority when they picked up 41 seats and out-polled the Republicans by almost 10 million votes nation wide.  With control of the House, the Democrats had the ability to investigate and impeach the President.
So, yes, elections have consequences!
As stated above, I have no expectation the President will be removed from office, but I am encouraged that the Democrats had the spine to stand up to him.  It now falls to the public to insist on a fair trial, and, failing that, to work for a massive turnout in next year’s (Nov. 2020) election to win the White House, but also the Congress (particularly the Senate), and the State houses and State Governorships.  This should be a resounding call to action for all Americans – Democrats and Republicans – who believe in the rule of law.
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On This Day In:
2018 Prediction: Morning Is Coming After A Long Night Of #LyingDonald
2017 While Congress Slept
2016 And A Fellow Who Insists On Telling Us He’s Smart?
2015 Curves Ahead
2014 Sitting?
2013 Misperceptions
2012 Essential Experience
2011 Lest We Forget Those Still In Harm’s Way
Sound Familiar?

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced yesterday (5 Dec 2019), that the House is moving forward to draft articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. “Our democracy is what is at stake.  The president leaves us no choice but to act.
As she was leaving the press briefing platform she was asked if she hated President Donald Trump.   Pelosi turned and pointed at the reporter asking the question and said:  “I don’t hate anybody.  We don’t hate anybody.  Not anybody in the world.  Don’t accuse me.
She returned to the podium to continue:  “I think the president is a coward when it comes to helping our kids who are afraid of gun violence.  I think he is cruel when he doesn’t deal with helping our dreamers.  I think he’s in denial about the climate crisis.
Impeachment, she emphasized, was about protecting the “Constitution of the United States,” rather than about policy disagreements or dislike of the president which could wait for the election.
As a Catholic, I resent your using the word hate in a sentence that addresses me.  I don’t hate anyone.
Speaker Pelosi continued, saying she prayed for the president, and, in fact did so every day.
As she turned to leave the stage she concluded: “So don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.
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On This Day In:
2018 Seek A Clear View
2017 Living With Myself
2016 Still Looking In Mirrors?
2015 Fear No Evil
2014 And Nothing Can Be As Tragic As…
2013 Your Tax Dollars At Work
2012 Historically Unacceptable
2011 Niners Are NFC West Division Champions!!
The Essence Of Leadership

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3:16 Bible Texts Illuminated”  —  book review
Today’s review is for “3:16 Bible Texts Illuminated” (1991©) written by Donald E. Knuth.  Back in 2011, I read another book by Knuth, titled: “Things A Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About“. (Review here.)  That book, was a discussion about the author’s faith and his prior book, which is being reviewed in this post.  When I retired (in 2017), I was presented with an Amazon gift voucher, which I promised to “waste” on books, music or technology.  In this case, part of it was used to buy this book (along with a number of other Knuth books).
To save everyone the time of reading my earlier review, basically, Knuth wanted to know if one can learn anything unique or unusual about the Bible by doing a stratified (but random) sampling / review of a particular Bible verse.  In theory, if you have a sufficiently large sample to draw from, you can gain “some” knowledge about any topic by analyzing a random sample of the topic’s data.
Because Knuth was not sure this type of investigation would work for literature, Knuth chose a verse he knew would have at least one interesting data point: “Chapter 3 Verse 16”.  The chapter and verse he was confident about was John Chapter 3: Verse 16 – “Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only child, so that all people with faith in him can escape destruction, and live forever.
The first problem Knuth encounters is that not all of the books of the Bible have 13 verses in their chapter 3.  To get around this, he simply carried the sample forward the same number (count) of verses and take up wherever that left him.  There were, however, a number of books which were simply to short to use even this method.  In those instances, he simply chooses to drop the book. Knuth ends up with a sampling size of 59 verses.
The second issue was Knuth found scholars did not always (rarely, in fact) agree on what exactly was meant by the writings in the various Bible sources.  Not only were the scholars interpretations differing, so were the texts across the various Bible versions.  There was (is) even disagreement on if some source material is valid and / or should be included in the Bible.
In order to determine why this was happening, Knuth determined to read the Bibles in their original Hebrew / Aramaic and Greek / Latin.  He could then present his own translations as he felt they should be interpreted.  In addition, he felt he needed to translate the verses immediately before and after the target verse to ensure he was accurately relating context as well as the literal meaning.
The method of describing each of the 59 verses itself is interesting.  Each verse is covered in four pages.  Page one provides overall historic, geographic and character background information.  The second page is devoted to a calligraphic representation of the verse.  The final two pages are a word by word breakdown of the verse.  In order to do this in a manner which makes sense, Knuth sometimes adds an analysis of the preceding or following verse(s).  Just a word on the calligraphy.  Knuth approached a friend who happened to be a world renowned typeface designer to assist with the book cover illustration.  The friend (Hermann Zapf), in turn commissioned calligraphers from over 20 countries to provide the “illustration” pages.  This calligraphy, in turn, became part of a formal exhibit which I believe is currently “owned” by the San Francisco Library.  I don’t know if it (the entire exhibit) is ever shown publicly.  I know it was back in 2011, but I was not able to go view it back then.  My loss, I am sure.
So, is this book interesting?  Is it entertaining?  Is it enlightening?  Yes.  Yes, and Yes!  I am a life-long Roman Catholic, but I have never read the Bible through cover to cover.  I tried to a few years back, but had limited knowledge of the names and places and found it rather boring.  I attempted to co-read Isaac Asimov’s “Guide To The Bible“, but even this was of limited value.  I now think I just gave up too soon.  Mea culpa.
Almost every chapter of this book explained something I didn’t know or fully appreciate about the book being covered in that chapter.  Some were simple “interesting”.  Some were “that never occurred to me”.  And, some (a few) were “Wow! I’ve got to go back and read that!”  Anytime I read a book which prompts me to read more or more in-depth, I am grateful to the author.  (I’m still not sure if I’m weird that way…)  In any case, I’m now more determined than ever to read more of Knuth’s books.
In this case: final recommendation – very highly recommended!!  Even if you are not a Biblical scholar or particularly religious, this book will provide insight into one of the greatest books in all of literature.  At less than 270 pages, this is a fast read and the calligraphy is truly beautiful.  Two final notes: 1) in the afterward, Knuth wonders if his selection of “3:16” was not “influenced” and therefor not entirely random.  His conclusion was, with further analysis, it may have been, but was not intentional.  He adds, however, that he enjoyed the process so much he intends to use the methodology for further future study of other verses.  And, 2) I’ve seen in various places this book was copyright in 1990.  My version says 1991 and that’s the year I’m using above.
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On This Day In:
2018 Happy 34th Anniversary, Hil!!
2017 Happy 33rd Anniversary, Hil!!
2016 Happy 32nd Anniversary, Hil!!
2015 Happy Anniversary Hil!!
2014 30th Wedding Anniversary
2013 Number 29 (And Counting)
2012 Hammer ‘N Roses
Happy Anniversary
2011 I Can Hear It Now

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One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.
  —  Arnold H. Glasow
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On This Day In:
2018 Second Chances – Rice, Now Trees
And Then You Have To Start Training Again
2017 Small Hands, Small Grasp
2016 Two Murrow’s
Election + 1 Week
2015 Not Mine, Anyway
2015 South By South East
2013 Don’tcha
2012 I Hear A Distant Thunder
2011 A Poison Tree

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Image of Veteran's Day poster from VA.gov

2018 Veterans Day Poster

[To all who are serving, to all who have served, and to all those who have waited patiently for their return, “Thank You!!”  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2018 Veterans Day – 11 November 2018
2017 Veterans Day – 11 November 2017
2016 Veterans Day – 11 November 2016
2015 Veterans Day – 11 November 2015
2014 Veterans Day – 11 November 2014
2013 Veterans Day – 11 November 2013
2012 Monkey Business
Veterans Day – 11 November 2012
In Others
2011 Veterans Day – 11/11/11
Deeply Confused (Still)
2010 We are not from fearful men and I Am Not Afraid!!
Veterans Day – 11 November 2010
2009 Narrowly missed first weight goal, but still happy…

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A friend asked me to post (on Facebook) the covers of ten(10) vinyl albums which had an impact on the musical taste(s) in my life.  The limitations are / were: they must be (have been) vinyl, they should be posted one per day and with no explanation.  I don’t use Facebook for ten consecutive days, so here they are in one fell swoop…
My only criteria were: I had to own the album at or near the time of release, I had to have played the album (at least) 50 times the first year I owned it and it has to have at least one song I can still recite practically word for word.  I’m 99% sure I still  own all of these, but it might take some rooting around to dig them up…  (LoL!)  And, yes, there are literally dozens more I could have included on this list up through the early 1990’s when I moved to Liverpool and after which mostly (almost exclusively) bought CD’s (hence the shortage of country and modern artists).
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On This Day In:
2018 Three Things
2017 Love Yourself
Deliver The Revolution
2016 Once Eccentric
2015 Trusted Desperation
2014 Orange October (V) – Giants Win Game 3
Who Am I To Teach?
2013 Deliver Us Something Larger
2012 Bore, n.
2011 Attaining High Office

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