Books Archive

Unnatural Selection

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I hear, lately, of people saying they will refuse to get immunized for H1N1 when the vaccine soon becomes available, either out of some sort of concern about the safety of the vaccine or — get this — because vaccinations are some sort of Government Plot™.

Allow me to opine: those people are idiots.

Even if there was a problem with vaccines causing unrelated illnesses — a point I am not willing to concede without a minimum of a metric tonne of evidence; the plural of "anecdote" is not "data" — you have to consider the odds.

Now, I know math is a weak point in the education of a great many people... perhaps 98% of them. But let me sum it up this way: a million-to-one chance of getting sick from a vaccine is approximately 10,000 times better than a 1% death rate from the H1N1 virus. If the H1N1 mortality rate is only 0.05%, the odds then are still 500 times better.

I am not a betting man, but I know which way I'll bet on this one.


A thought-provoking read that covers (among many other things) the subjects of viruses and vaccines is John Ringo's The Last Centurion. Being written from the point of view of a soldier, it is, shall we say, rather coarse... but it's an astonishingly good read.

Quick Book Review

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The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein, 1966.

Quick review: I lately find myself wishing for an advantageous locale, vis-a-vis Earth's gravity well.

5 stars.


Spurred by references to Simon Jester that popped up around the recent Tea Parties, I took it upon myself to dig out my ancient copy of Heinlein's classic story of libertarian revolution.

Having failed to find it — I think it made its way to the used bookstore last year, along with several hundred other volumes — I acquired a fresh copy, and dug in.

It had easily been 20 years since I last read it, and yet much of the book has stuck with me over the years. Re-reading it was like greeting an old friend.

When I'd finished, I realized how much my own political views have been shaped by (or at least have developed into being a close match for) the views expressed by Heinlein's characters.

TANSTAAFL, baby.

Come to think of it, I agree with a greater-than-zero bit of the political philosophy Heinlein expounded in Starship Troopers, too. Pity the movie sucked like a fusion-powered Electrolux.

I may be a geek, but I've never been a comic book geek, either as a kid, or since.

Once, though, while in the throes of boredom between trips up to the DMZ during my service in Korea, I borrowed a friend's copy of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. I'd never heard the expression "graphic novel" before; I thought it was just a bigger-than-usual comic book, but I was quickly corrected, and was convinced to give it a look. I was impressed. This was no mere kid's comic book, and it helped set the tone for the Batman film which followed not too long after.

I really was impressed, but not enough to get me into the genre as a whole.

Fast-forward to the present. It's been 20 years, and exactly one other graphic novel has joined the ranks of the hundreds of books I have owned and read: Watchmen, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons.

I was drawn to Watchmen by its inclusion on someone's list of 100 great works of English literature; I saw it referred to, looked it up, and had my curiosity piqued enough to buy a copy. There's no way I can describe it and do it justice, except to say I was far more impressed than I remember being by The Dark Knight Returns.

And now, 14 years after the book was published, there's a Watchmen film, which opens today. I'm working, of course, so I won't be able to go see it until Monday — but see it I will. I don't get out to see movies all too often (the last was the eminently regrettable Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) but sometimes something comes along that makes the sheer physical hassle worthwhile.

I hope the film does the book justice.

Quote of the Day

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Victor Davis Hanson:

It was not surprising, but entirely predictable that a nation that sixty years ago produced napalm, flamethrowers — and eventually A-bombs — to combat thousands of suicidal warriors would retain the organization and willpower to incinerate a few hundred suicide bombers and their enclaves of support.

From his book Ripples of Battle: How Wars of the Past Still Determine How We Fight, How We Live, and How We Think.



It's no surprise to those who know me that I prefer reading to writing, and for the past week I've been buried in VDH's 2003 book. Going into depth, not so much on the battles themselves but rather their aftereffects, Hanson looks at the battles of Okinawa (1945), Shiloh (1862) and Delium (424 B.C.) and explains how each has had repercussions that affect our society even today.

Whether you're a student of History or not (and really, who wouldn't want to understand the past?) this book gets my highest recommendation.

On Monday I received a package from Amazon which contained pure gold... smothered in beef fat:

Written by Steve Graham of Hog on Ice (one of my all-time and ongoing favorite blogs) this hilarious paean to food that's bad for you but so very, very good deserves a place in any man's library.

Any man who's not a wuss, that is. If tofu is your favorite protein and if the price of arugula concerns you, you should probably put the book down and see your doctor about getting testosterone shots before reading, lest your head explode.

This is a hugely expanded, revised and refined version of Steve's same-titled self-published book from a few years ago. If you happen to have that older version, get this one; you won't regret it.

I had palpitations just reading it, before I even set foot in the kitchen.


I had a bit of a dilemma. After screaming through the first 100 pages in a day and a half — it's hard to put down — I was inspired to spend some time in the kitchen. So yesterday I cooked up four pounds of breakfast sausage to use in recipes. When it was all cooked, even after the cup-and-a-half of delicious, wonderful, marvelous sausage grease was rendered out, I still had about half a pound more sausage than could fit into the storage container for refrigeration.

Which raised the question, should I have kept the grease mixed with the remaining sausage, or should I just have had a mug of it on the side as a chaser?

As a followup, I later cooked up three pounds of bacon, also to use in other recipes. Mmmm... bacon grease. I'm sure I'll find a use for it all.

It's a very good thing that the nurse I'm dating has Emergency Room experience.

Buy the book. You'll laugh at the terrific writing, and you might learn a thing or two about real food.

Masticate With Extreme Prejudice

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On my return home from the hospital Thursday, a box from Amazon.com was waiting for me. Inside: Steve Graham's latest literary endeavor, Keep Chewing Till It Stops Kicking.

Over the next few days, when I wasn't busy sleeping off the effects of my medical misadventures, I was reading... reading, and laughing.

This is a terrific book. A translation of the cave-wall diary of caveman "Hal," it details many aspects of his daily life and the society of five million years ago, give or take a week.

Hal tells of the problems faced by his contemporaries:

The main problem with early spearheads was, we still hadn't discovered the fully detached stick.We had nothing to attach the spearhead to, so instead of a spearhead, it was more like... a head. If you wanted to kill a mammoth, you had to run up to him, hold the spearhead against him, and push. And while you were doing that, he would usually wrap his trunk around one of your ankles and use you as a flyswatter.
He also offers some wisdom which could only have been gained through experience:
Pretty much the only way to survive a velociraptor attack is to not be the slowest person in the area.
Hard to argue with that.

With chapters such as "Clothing: Sometimes Back Hair Just Isn't Enough" or "Medicine: Trepanning And Ritual Mutilation For Dummies" there is going to be something everyone can relate to.

No, I have no personal reason for references to back hair and medical care. No reason at all.

For Steve's sake, I hope the book does very well. I also hope the Geico advertising people have either a sense of humor or a completely gecko-centric view of copyright infringement.

My only criticism would be that the book seems a bit short — not unusual for humor. This is the sort of thing that you want to make last... but at the same time, you don't want to put it down. Maybe I just read too quickly.

Keep Chewing Till It Stops Kicking gets my full endorsement.

Visit Steve's websites, Hog on Ice and SteveHGraham.com.

In the Mail

Just received:

I haven't had a chance to crack it open yet, but as soon as I do I'll write it up.

If the whole thing is as good as the previews I've seen (and I expect it certainly will be) I'll enjoy it immensely.

Recent Reading

Lately, my nightly reading has been a 6-book series, A Naval History of Great Britain: During the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

Written and published in the 1820s, the six volumes are a chronological record of every significant (and perhaps not so significant) action and expedition in which the Royal Navy participated. Gleaned by the author, William M. James, from Admiralty records and the after-action reports of the participants, these volumes are as close to "source material" as one could get without visiting the Admiralty's archives oneself.

For anyone interested in the period and the facts that underlay such historical fiction as C. S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower series*, or the Aubrey/Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brian (the source material for the film Master and Commander - the Far Side of the World, which I reviewed here), this series of books is invaluable.

The author was British, and was initially motivated to write the histories by what he thought were overblown American press accounts of US naval victories in the War of 1812. Seeking to put the best face on British losses — it was stunning, virtually unthinkable at the time, that ships of the Royal Navy could lose battles to the upstart Americans (but lose them they did) — there is undeniably pro-British spin, but on the whole the books do a good job of telling what happened in a straightforward way.

Sometimes, however, the author's take on matters is hard to ignore... nor would one want to, in passages such as this from Volume 2:

On the 22nd of February [1797], in the evening the French 40-gun frigates Résistance and Vengeance, 22-gun ship-corvette Constance, and lugger Vautour, anchored in Fisgard Bay on the coast of Wales. During the night, they landed 1200 galley-slaves, dressed and accoutered as soldiers, but without any cannon or camp equipage.

The alarm soon spread, and it was not long before a strong body of militia, under the command of Lord Cawdor, assembled near the spot. The Frenchmen, whose intentions were rather predatory than warlike, immediately surrendered, and were marched as prisoners to Haversfordwest. Meanwhile the vessels that had brought them weighed, and soon disappeared from the coast.

What was the object of this silly expedition, no one, not even among the French, seems rightly to have understood.

How often does one get the opportunity to laugh out loud while reading history?

This series of books, six volumes in all, is not always available new, but nevertheless belongs in the collection of anyone interested in naval history.

* Those who enjoyed the Hornblower films might be interested to note that there really was an Indefatigable, and it really was captained by Sir Edward Pellew.

Current Affairs

Western nations have been assaulted by the forces of a radical ideology, bent on conquest.

They have struck at the leading nation of the West, and have voiced their desire to conquer, enslave and convert the world. They mean it. They have thousands of willing servants, while the nations of the West are divided and bickering.

France [*spit*] has allied itself with the enemies of the West.

One man, though, has seen the danger and has acted to stop it. He built a coalition. Coalition troops have gone off to the field of battle and have been victorious.

Thus we have a brief summary of the world today.

Right? Yes, indeed it is.

But...

Quote of the Day

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Ann Coulter, on the forthcoming book Unfit For Command:

If memory serves, the last book Democrats tried this hard to suppress was the Bible.

The More Things Change...

I'm re-reading one of my favorite books, Men of War, the second volume of the There Will Be War series edited (and in large part written) by Jerry Pournelle. Dr. Pournelle is more than a "mere" science fiction author — he's also a respected academic with a large body of work to his credit, including a key role in the formulation of the Strategic Defense Initiative.

Now out of print, but still available through used-book outlets, the book consists of non-fiction essays and short fiction stories, and was published at a time when the Soviet danger was at or near its maximum. Twenty years later, it is fascinating to read what some very smart people had to say about the nature of threats against us. Take, for example, the following passages, written by Dr. Stefan Possony in 1968 about "Technological War":

The United States is at war.... Except for financial sacrifices, many citizens of the West and subjects of Communism may be unaware of the conflict until the decisive moment, if it ever comes, is upon them. For all that, the Technological War is most real, and we must understand its nature, for it is decisive. Our survival depends on our not losing this battle.

The nature of both technology and the enemy dictate this state of warfare. The U.S.S.R. is a power-oriented dictatorship, whose official doctrine is Communism: that is, a chiliastic movement which seeks to liberate — we would say enslave — the entire earth.

Written in '68, but sounds familiar, no? For "communism" substitute "Islamofascism," and for "U.S.S.R." substitute "Muslim part of the world" or "caliphate" or the synonym of your choice.

We can be thankful, at least, that major new technologies are not being developed by our current enemies, though they are perfectly happy to use our technology when they can get it. What we do have to worry about, however, is new methodologies used to employ old technology.

They can't build airliners — they can only crash them into targets, but that's bad enough.

Further along, we read:

Moreover, aggressive actions may occur because of internal pressures, especially in a period when faith in Communism as an ideological system is declining, and it is possible, though unlikely, that aggressive initiatives will be taken by non-Communist states. Despite all those implications the U.S.S.R. is the single most important and strongest opponent of the United States. Consequently, American strategists must primarily be concerned with Soviet strategy and the threat posed by the U.S.S.R.

In my humble estimation, I think this paragraph would apply equally to Islamofascism and to the Peoples' Republic of China. China is a threat — and they are investing heavily in technology. Thus far they've mainly stolen it (for example, see the recently settled Cisco Systems lawsuit against Huawei) but in short order, they will be developing new technologies to compete with and ultimately defeat the West.

[I've often said that I think we'll be in a shooting war with China in the not too distant future — I started, ten or fifteen years ago, by suggesting 2025 as a "due date," but I'm now less optimistic about the number of years we have remaining. Thanks a lot, Clinton & Schwartz. Bastards.]

It must be emphasized that to the committed Communist, there are no ideological reasons for not exploiting advantages over the capitalists. The only possible objections are operational. No communist can admit that a capitalist government is legitimate; thus there can be no "mercy" to a vulnerable capitalist regime.

Again, this applies rather accurately to the current state of Islamic radicalism. Our governments, institutions and religions are, to their way of thinking, illegitimate. The only options they leave for us to choose from are death, dhimmitude, or victory.

The entire essay (more precisely, a chapter from the book The Strategy of Technology) is well worth reading, but may be difficult to acquire. Fortunately, an updated edition of the complete book is available online at Dr. Pournelle's site. This is not light reading, folks. But valuable, very valuable.

Ode to Lard

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DoggerelPundit should be working on Madison Avenue. Who else could possibly come up with ad copy like this?

Are you loving your carbs,
     Fat in cooking you’re fond?
Do you nibble or wolf—
     Gastronome or gourmand?
Do you crave real food
     From true kettle and pan?
Cook from Eat What You Want,
     And Die Like A Man
.
So buy the book, already.

Eat, Drink and be Merry

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Some (or most, maybe) of you know that Steve H. of Hog on Ice (formerly Little Tiny Lies) has written a cookbook.

To health nuts and food nazis everywhere, it's the Satanic Bible of cookbooks.

OK, maybe that's a bit harsh.

OK, that's definitely too harsh. But accurate. And it got your attention, didn't it?

The book, of course, is Eat What You Want and Die Like a Man: The World's Unhealthiest Cookbook.

You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wet your pants – this is one excellent read. Steve has been, from the very beginning of my blog awareness, one of the consistenly great daily reads on the 'net. I don't link to him nearly enough.

The book really will make you laugh, too - a lot, and out loud. The recipes are amazing, but the real point of the book is the humor, of which there is plenty. Not that the recipes are to be ignored. No, never that.

The book actually is evil, to a degree. Not once in my life had I ever bought lard – until today, that is. [When one has spent most of one's life overweight to one extent or another, one tends to avoid anything with the word "lard" printed on it in big red block letters.]


Buy the dang book!

Just buy it. Seriously. You'll regret it if you don't... especially if I come knocking on your door demanding proof that you have followed my instructions.

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