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Peter D. Couch "Welshman" RSS Feed (Maple Grove, MN USA)

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Monty and Rommel: Parallel Lives
Monty and Rommel: Parallel Lives
by Peter Caddick-Adams
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $22.47
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but Questions Remain, April 3, 2012
I picked up this book because of my interest in WWII military history and because my father served in the British army from 1941-1946 almost all of which was spent in units under Montgomery's command. Going in I knew the general outlines of both men's careers with more emphasis on their roles in WWII than on their earlier experiences. The book does a very good job of presenting the formative experiences that led to the styles of generalship that Rommel and Montgomery exhibited. There are indeed many parallels in their lives and several (perhaps unresolved) controversies surrounding them. For Montgomery the key questions are the real quality of his abilities as compared to his peer group in both the British and other armies and his ability to function in the coalition army after the US joined the war (he was at times guilty of what amounted to outright insubordination in his relationship with Eisenhower). As to Rommel there is the ongoing question of his relationship with the Nazi movement, particularly in its early years when he benefited greatly from a personal relationship with Hitler, despite his eventual matyrdom at their hands. Montgomery is of course the British icon of WWII and Rommel, perhaps, is regarded as the acceptable face of the German army since his post-war rehabilitation at the hands of several historians. Caddick-Adams addresses these questions in the concluding chapters but to my mind they remain at least partially unresolved.

Nonetheless this book is a good addition to any WWII library and offers a lot of insights into the personalities and experiences of both men.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 14, 2013 3:05 PM PDT

Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942
Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942
by Ian W. Toll
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $23.33
151 used & new from $4.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book, April 3, 2012
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I have not previously read any of Toll's work but if his earlier books are as good as this then I certainly will be reading them. This is an excellent summary of the first year of the war in the Pacific from Pearl Harbor to Midway. In addition to the well paced accounts of the various military actions in the period, the author provides some wonderful character sketches of the key participants and I particularly enjoyed the insights into the political climate in Japan in the run up to the outbreak of war. The book is well written and accessible to a wider audience than just military history specialists. The best book on the Pacific War that I have read since Shattered Sword by Parshall and Tully. Highly recommended.

The Quantum Universe (And Why Anything That Can Happen, Does)
The Quantum Universe (And Why Anything That Can Happen, Does)
by Brian Cox
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $25.00
44 used & new from $3.01

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but Too Much for This Layman, February 26, 2012
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I enjoy reading books about physics and cosmology and I've read a few over the years - Hawking, Greene, Kaku as well as less well known authors like Lisa Randall and Alex Vilenkin. In writing this review I think it is important to consider what the definition of layman is in terms of science books. My definition of a layman is someone with an interest in the subject matter and the deeper underlying questions that the science is attempting to answer but who lacks the formal education, particularly the mathemetical education, to understand the science in its true form. So when an author decides to write a so-called "popular" science book they are taking on the challenge of communicating their ideas to a lay audience, and the primary mechanism for doing so is to find analogies that can describe the complex ideas in written words without too much reliance on mathematical formalism.

Unfortunately this is where this book fails. Not to say it is badly written because that is not true and the authors clear enthusiasm for their subject comes through on every page. But I gained very little in new understanding from the book because the analogies did not work for me and there is far too much use of math and numbers. This doesn't mean everyone will have this issue (I am particularly dense with maths) but be warned that this should not be your first foray into the world of quantum physics. The primary analogy the authors use is that of clocks, clock hands and the size of the clocks to describe the basic ideas of quantum theory. It isn't easy to follow and honestly gets a little old as the book progresses. Having read other books in this area I know a little about probability waves, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and even Pauli's Exclusion Principle and could probably give a reasonable non-mathemetical definition of all of them. To the authors credit they try not just to define these ideas but to explain why they are what they are but sadly I just didn't get it because the explanation did not work for me.

So to sum up I appreciate the effort the authors went through to educate me (and other lay readers) but in the end they failed in their task because the book's analogies are too complex and too reliant on the underlying maths. Turn to Kaku or Greene for your first introduction to this subject matter.

JAPAN'S LAST BID FOR VICTORY: The Invasion of India, 1944
JAPAN'S LAST BID FOR VICTORY: The Invasion of India, 1944
by Robert Lyman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $30.86
55 used & new from $20.29

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Other War Against Japan, January 12, 2012
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In many ways the fighting against the Japanese in India and Burma (and including the American sponsored efforts in China) could be viewed as the "other war" against Japan. When most people think of WWII in the Asian theater they think of the war in the Pacific as this has been the most written about and certainly the most glorified by Hollywood. There is no doubt that the US led campaign through the Pacific was the crucial factor in the war against Japan and to some extent the title of this book is something of a misnomer as even a victory against the British at Imphal and Kohima would not have changed the final outcome one iota. Nonetheless this is an excellent book about a little known campaign fought in dreadful conditions and featuring bravery and skill on both sides.

The author has crafted a very good campaign history from British and Japanese sources and cleverly weaves the overall operational picture with descriptions of the tactical events on the ground highlighted by the personal stories of those who fought in the battles. The confusion caused by the fog of war and the friction of battle comes across clearly. The book shows how the British had learned the lessons from 1942 and 1943 well and were much better prepared for the nature of jungle fighting with fluid front lines and cut off units than they had previously been. They also dominated the air, had better armor and a much stronger supply and logistics situation. Even so overconfidence and underestimation of the enemies capabilities nearly led to the loss of Kohima which could have changed the course of the campaign. The role of irregular uunits such as V Force (mostly Naga tribesmen) and The Chindits is also discussed.

The author provides good sketches of the leading commanders, the stresses in the Japanese command structure being of particular interest, as these had a direct effect on the outcome of the campaign. The British and Indian forces fought under the direction of William "Bill" Slim, in my opinion the most talented British general of the war. He was overshadowed because he fought in Asia not Europe and by the Montgomery personality cult, but his insistence on professionalism and training saved the British forces in India and Burma.

There are several very good maps at the start of the book; their order is a little confusing and they are not referenced in the text so you have to figure out which one to look at. In addition there are several appendicies mainly showing order of battle information but perhaps most usefully an explanation of Indian army ranks and there are about 40 photographs.

The book is lively and well written and filled a gap in my library and my personal knowledge of WWII. Recommended.

Braun Series 3-350cc Shaver System, Dark Blue
Braun Series 3-350cc Shaver System, Dark Blue
Offered by SaveCentral
Price: $106.49
11 used & new from $106.49

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Shoddy Product, December 18, 2011
I purchased this shaver at the beginning of October after my previous Braun shaver finally just died after almost 10 years of use. Naturally given that good experience I chose another Braun product - I certainly wished that I had not. After less than three months of use the plastic molding on both sides of the shaver, just below where the foil head sits, cracked in almost exactly the same place and fell off. The shaver had not been mishandled in any way so this is simply poor design/shoddy production.

I have contacted Braun about this, if I hear back from them I will post an update, but I don't expect much from them.

Do not buy this product.

by Peter Hart
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $22.43
50 used & new from $3.96

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Military History at its Best, October 23, 2011
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This review is from: Gallipoli (Hardcover)
Peter Hart has written what must rank as the best history of Gallipoli thus far. What I found most refreshing about this book was his willingness to express opinions clearly based on his interpretations of the facts and the actions of those involved. Many historians and particularly miltary historians fall prey to the tendancy to adopt the middle ground and provide "unbiased" analysis which often excuses even the most blantant ineptitude. Not so Mr. Hart. He positively impales the almost complete lack of realistic strategic analysis leading to the decision to first launch a naval attack on the Dardanelles and then to commit troops to the Gallipoli Peninsula and then turns his attention to the ineptitude of the operational and tactical planning prior to the landings. He then further examines the actions of the senior and mid-level officers who led the assault and these are in the main found wanting. Conversely he is unstinting in his praise for those unfortunate enough, the junior officers and other ranks, to find themselves fighting the battle, whether on the side of Britain and its allies or on the Turkish side. The highlighting of each nation's contribution to the battle is important. While the sacrifice of the British and ANZACs is well known, the actions and bravery of the French have been, perhaps, less acknowledged. As indeed is the toughness and effectiveness of Turkish troops.

His use of quotes from those involved is excellent and it is by reading the words of those caught up in the fighting that one realizes how awful a battle this was, whether to be in the gun turret of a dreadnought hit by a Turkish shell or to find oneself in a trench waiting for the signal to "go over the top". Coupled with his own excellent writing style and the use of Turkish sources that have been lacking from earlier works on this battle this provides the reader with a fast moving, almost novel-like view of the campaign.

One of the best military histories I have read recently. Highly recommended.

Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S ED VR II Nikkor Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon DX-Format Digital SLR Cameras
Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S ED VR II Nikkor Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon DX-Format Digital SLR Cameras
Price: $596.95
70 used & new from $398.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent All Rounder, October 20, 2011
I just replaced my old Nikon D70 with a D5100 for a trip to New Zealand. To save space I only wanted to take one lens and on the recommendation of a friend and some research of my own I ended up purchasing this lens. I got a break on price as the retailer (National Camera) were offering the lens at a significant reduction with the D5100 body. I was not disappointed the combo of the D5100 and this lens - they met just about every need I had on my trip. On the way home I spent a night in Sydney and arriving late I walked down to the waterfront and shot some pictures of Sydney harbor just as the sun was going down. Without a tripod I shot hand held at speeds as low as 1/40 without any noticable image problems due to my shaky hands. I could not have done that with my old Nikon zoom without VR.

If you want a single lens for your Nikon SLR buy this.

To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918
To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918
by Adam Hochschild
Edition: Hardcover
136 used & new from $0.41

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Different Perspective on the Great War, June 15, 2011
I enjoyed reading this book as it offers a very different perspective on World War I. It is not a history of the war, though the important events are noted; rather it is a look at the British experience of the war through the eyes of those that opposed it contrasted with those who where amongst the prime actors in the conflict. The characters are all British including the Pankhurst family, Sir John French and his pacifist sister Charlotte Despard, Bertrand Russell, Douglas Haig, Alfred Milner, Rudyard Kipling, Kier Hardie and many other lesser known member of the pacifist and conscientious objector movements.

The story is well told but tends to repeat some old saws about the causes and prosecution of the war, which as a review in The Economist pointed out, have come under scrutiny and challenge in recent years. The author also gives the impression at times that British society was divided on the war and this does not appear to be borne out by the facts. At the start the war was popular across almost all levels of society. Even after the slaughters of 1916 and 1917 very few refused to join the colors if called to do so.

Nonetheless I found the book full of information I had not previously encountered and the unusual viewpoint provides a fresh look at the material. Do not look to this book if you want a basic history of the war but read it for the insight it provides into one country's experience during the war.

Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal
Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal
by James D. Hornfischer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.89
130 used & new from $6.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Story of Men Learning to Fight, March 1, 2011
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I see I am already late with this review as there are 58 out there already, so I won't go over the ground already covered by several in depth reviews that precede this.

I bought this book on the strength of the author's earlier work "The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors" a work that I thoroughly enjoyed. That book describes the US Navy in 1944 when their ship's commanders had learned to use the tools at their disposal, particularly radar directed gunnery combined with rapid fire guns and their crews were trained to a high pitch. In contrast the story in this book is of a force going through the pains of learning their trade the hard way. Ship's captains, with some exceptions, did not understand the importance of radar relying on more traditional observation techniques, communications between ships and to higher HQs left much to be desired, training and doctrine were flawed, and inter-service cooperation was not all it could be. Tactical mistakes were common. As a result ships sank and men died.

The clear message that I took from this history is that the trade of war must be learned in combat and even career military men cannot be sure of themselves until their theories are put to the test.

The author, as in his earlier work, focuses on the men and machines, only occasionally detouring to higher strategy. His accounts of the combat and it's aftermath are first rate, almost like reading an action novel.

I can well recommend this book.

The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos
The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos
by Brian Greene
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $24.41
109 used & new from $2.85

20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Three or Five Stars? Depends on the Reader, February 1, 2011
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First a disclaimer: Brian Greene is my favorite writer of layman's books on cosmology and theoretical physics. I have enjoyed all three of his books. I consider myself an interested lay person with no formal education in physics or mathematics beyond high school. Greene writes in a clean and easily understood manner and has a gift for using everyday analogies or pictures to describe difficult concepts. I should add that he usually includes more detailed and mathematical explanations in the end notes. Even if you don't get the math (as I don't) these end notes can add a lot to the text.

Green explores all the various types of parallel universe that have emerged from cosmological, quantum and string theory with each type getting is own chapter or chapters of explanation. My dilemma with this book is that it's value really depends on whether you already know something about cosmology and parallel universes or whether you are coming at this cold. While Greene's writing is excellent as always, the book does not really break new ground, mainly because there isn't much new ground to be broken in the absence of major advances in theory or experimental evidence in the last few years. So if you have read other works in this area in recent years including Michio Kaku, Lisa Randall, Alexander Vilenkin or even Greene's previous book, I don't think you will find much that is new here and so only three stars. Nonetheless, as a lay reader I find the concepts of cosmology slippery and difficult to grasp and so Greene's lucid explanations always help even if I have read similar works in the last couple of years. However, if this is your first foray into cosmology then this is a great starting point for you and is worthy of five stars.

I'm absolutely fascinated by the idea that there are potentially other universes out there, perhaps even containing a copy of myself in them. I mean you just can't make this stuff up!

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