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The Big Red One: America's Legendary 1st Infantry Division from World War I to Desert Storm (Modern War Studies)
The Big Red One: America's Legendary 1st Infantry Division from World War I to Desert Storm (Modern War Studies)
by James Scott Wheeler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $39.95
56 used & new from $4.01

4.0 out of 5 stars hill by hill, October 6, 2012
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James Scott Wheeler's workmanlike narrative of the First Division's storied legacy begins with the unit's July 4, 1917 parade through Paris en route to bloodier encounters along the line that would soon yield to the American bolstering of the Anglo-French defenses. It ends with the Division's performance in the First Gulf War.

In between, Wheeler chronicles engagement after engagement with phenomenal precision. One thinks with gratitude of the after-engagement reports that became the dull but immensely valuable stock-in-trade of American infantry and the relentless effort required of historians like Wheeler in processing these and other sources.

One searches these pages in vain for the glorification of combat, as for the personal drama of the men and women who fought the First Division's and its nation's battles. In the same way, Wheeler touches only lightly on the political drama and the political masters who have ordered the the men and women of the First into harm's way.

Rather, Wheeler is a student of military structure, strategy, and tactics. Other considerations represent at best a secondary objective of this stupendously well researched volume.

Even the Division's low points must be discerned between the lines, chief among them North Africa's hard-knocks learning experience and the sometimes purposeless drift that have made 'Vietnam' an abbreviation for disconnect between the political overlords and their military servants.

This reviewer is no military historian, just the father of a recently minted 2nd Lieutenant in the Big Red One who on the date of this writing is battling Florida's swamps in the third of three phases of Ranger School.

For me, as perhaps for other novice readers of THE BIG RED ONE, Wheeler's work drives home the degree to which military strategy--and the successes and failures of it--is a perpetual learning experience, the hardest lessons of which fall to the men and women who, with good leadership and bad, stare out at the reader from the volume's images and climb hill after hill because that is what they were trained to do.

Their labor and, for many, their sacrifice are ennobled by chroniclers like James Scott Wheeler who dispassionately record what they accomplished and, as often as not, against what considerable odds.

The Wonder Worker (Ballantine Reader's Circle)
The Wonder Worker (Ballantine Reader's Circle)
by Susan Howatch
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.30
151 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars slow-motion disaster, timely redemption, February 19, 2012
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At a picnic outside Seattle two or three years back, a new friend seasoned a conversation by suggesting I might find Susan Howatch's novels to provide some entertaining light reading.

Entertaining, in spades. Light, not for a minute.

Howatch stewards a strong novelist's capacity to construct her characters, wielding this craft in combination with an uncanny sense for the intersection of those realities we abbreviate as 'spiritual' and 'psychological' that reside in and around her protagonists'' lives.

Set in the environment of the Church of England, with a London healing center called St. Benet's as its principal scene, Howatch's book narrates this first entry in the author's 'St. Benedict's Trilogy' from the perspectives of four of its 1990s-era principals. Alice Fletcher, bereft of her late aunt's heavy, guiding hand, lost in a quiet storm of self-deprecation, turns out along the way to have understood what a pair of skilled priests could not. In the mix, she finds the love she always imagined only the fine and the pretty could ever know. Lewis, curmudgeonly, shaped and misshapen by Old Things, wise beyond words yet crippled by his inability to engage women on level ground, ends up alone and yet deeply loved by those who know 'putting up with' and loving not to be antagonists. Rosalind, for whom the reader arrives at sympathy only after taking the measure of her wounds, simply fades away from Nicholas, the husband to whom she was never truly married.

This leaves us to Nicholas, Howatch's perennial limping hero, psychic priest, a man so gifted that it is almost inevitable that his spiritual insight should wreck him. He loses Rosalind--whom he never truly possessed--and finds himself in the novel's final pages brought near to 'dear little Alice' in the love that no one suspected could ever be.

Along the way, Howatch deploys an unsettling vision into the things that go wrong in the heart of a man or woman gifted and summoned to serve others via an extraordinary calling. Nicholas, the book's 'wonder worker', knows almost more than any human being should. Ninety-nine times of a hundred, he manages to exercise this special knowledge in a way that heals and elevates the broken human beings who flow to St. Benet's in the hope of finding a mercy that understands and, sometimes, restores.

Yet it is the one of a hundred that undoes this man, as it takes apart the life and integrity of so many like him.

Howatch would, perhaps, deny any didactic intention in producing such novels. Her intention, she demurs, is the purpose of any novelist: to entertain.

Yet authorial caveats notwithstanding, there is far more here than entertainment, though this abounds.

There are powers and principalities, truth in bed with lies, extraordinary perception in the eyes of men and women who are, in moments, half-blind. There are ordinary, foot-dragging human beings capable of extraordinary, private heroics. And the reverse.

This book fulfills its author's stated purpose and then races on toward auxiliary usefulness. At the risk of suggesting a readership narrower than the one that might profitably take up and read The Wonder Worker, this reviewer hastens to suggest that pastoral groups of all kinds, seminary classes, those who counsel broken souls and encounter the risk inherent in such intimacy, might find this novel--for this is what it purports to be--a window into things both entertaining, qualifying, earnest, and mysterious.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 30, 2012 5:25 AM PDT

Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season
Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season
by Stephen King
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.61
124 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars dirty water, February 4, 2012
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It's difficult to imagine a more unlikely book concept. And *impossible* to absorb the luck of its timing.

Two novelists, quite unlike each other except for their deep-structure attachment to the Boston Red Sox, trade emails over the course of a 162-game baseball season, supplemented--dramatically, gorgeously, gloriously--by a post-season that must be acknowledged as one of the all-time finest moment in sports.

Back when some working stiff in an editor's office at Scribner's wrote the functional equivalent of 'Yeah, I guess we could do that ...', nobody could have suspected that the season during which horror-fiction monarch Stephen King and Fine Young Novelist Stewart O'Nan would begin trading emails at the outset of Spring Training would end up being the now incomparable (for Red Sox fans) '2004'.

You see, Sox fans abbreviate calamity by the numbers: 1949, 1967, 1986, 1993 ... These are the numerals that circumscribe the domain in which Disaster has sunk its tentacles deep into the soul of the long-suffering citizens of Red Sox Nation.

'2004' is another number, but so very, very different from all others. It gives its numerical title to the chapter in which Boston broke the long-standing Curse of the Bambino (so named by Boston Globe sportswriter Dan Shaughnessy, who gets no love in this book). What is more, the baseball gods allowed that 2004 would break the Curse in the most improbable fashion, climaxing on a cold October night in the heart of the Evil Empire when the Sox came back from a 3-0 deficit to finish off the Hated Yankees in the location that would allow maximum vindicating juice to surge. The Sox sweep of the Cards in the World Series is just an agreeable footnote to the Real Thing.

O'Nan's obsessive, worrying prose dances with King's ironic, wizened, lyrical notes to record each moment, each game, each this-is-going-to-kill-us-(again)-in-the-end moment of the Sox 'Idiots' season, when--finally--all bets were off. The guys know baseball and, for this reviewer, their almost daily exchanges take one deep and helpfully inside this Game of Small Things.

Each mortal on the Sox roster had his moment of apotheosis. O'Nan and King were there to register it in real time, all the while reminding themselves and each other that this could lead to nothing good. Yet it did: the Dauber, Manny, Big Papi, Pedro, the erstwhile misspelt 'Mr. Schill', 'The Tragical Mr. Lowe', the Moneyball-vindicating (or almost) Dave Roberts and his ALCS Game Six steal-while-the-whole-world-was-watching (with apologies to Chicago), Johnny Damon and his Disciples, Tek, Mystery Leskanik, a young and much-queried manager called 'The Coma' by his detractors ...

On it went, chronicled day in and day out by Messieurs King and O'Nan while none of us imagined what was coming.

Let me be frank: you've got to be either a very serious fan of the game of baseball or a moderately serious Red Sox fan in order to love this book. Otherwise it'll come off as a black hole of rather pitiful obsessive behavior, carried on by two men who have families and other matters that probably miss their attention.

But if you fit in one of those categories, you might just love this book.

'2004', after all, is no ordinary year for either of the classes of human being mentioned above. For Sox fans--full disclosure requires that this reviewer briefly flash his identity card--there can be no other like it. 2007 is a welcome appendix, but just that.

The Curse-of which King, at least, is a passionate doubter, as he is of most things that flow from the acid pen of a certain Mr. Shaugnessy--was broken that year and nothing, in consequence, will ever be the same. For some, the descent from high drama to ordinary baseball has been a bitter pill to swallow. In candid moments, we kind of miss the suffering. A little.

King and O'Nan take us back to a time when Everything Mattered and No Good was likely to come of any of it. Yet it did, Did it ever!

The unabridged audiobook version is expertly read by Adam Grupper and Ron McLarty.

Canidae Dry Dog Food, Chicken Meal and Rice Formula, 30-Pound Bag
Canidae Dry Dog Food, Chicken Meal and Rice Formula, 30-Pound Bag
Offered by Quidsi Retail LLC
Price: $40.49
13 used & new from $29.99

5.0 out of 5 stars three empty dishes can't be wrong, February 4, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
My two Rhodesian Ridgebacks and one Labrador Retriever are no pushovers.

Even other varieties of highly regarded Canidae food have left them looking up at me over lightly rearranged bowls of food with that 'Why have you turned against us again?' look.

But whenever I bring home the thirty-pound bags of Canidae Chicken Meal and Rice, the dogsters nose hungrily around the car before I can even get the stuff out of the trunk. I've long since settled on Canidae (for its reputation as nutritious and high-quality) and on the Chicken Meal and Rice (for the predictability factor with my threesome).

Things just got better, however, when I realized that my Amazon Prime membership allows me to order a thirty-bound bag for second-day delivery at no cost (in fact, it usually arrives the next day) at a price lower than what I was paying locally.

This has allowed me to move to a just-in-time delivery service, which cuts down on the storage needs and may be attractive for other owners of multiple and/or large dogs.

Agape Love Songs of the Kingdom
Agape Love Songs of the Kingdom
12 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars a family affair, July 8, 2010
It is almost impossible to exaggerate the role of the church as cultural cradle for the North American African-American population. Worshippers at largely black churches may grow to take the level of musical talent that thrives among them for granted. Occasional visitors, such as this (white) reviewer and sometime visitor to North Carolina's New Birth Missionary Baptist Church are more easily caught in jaw-dropping astonishment.

This CD channels a particular family's musical gifts--no less than that of four sons of Bishop Eddie and Vanessa Long--into easy, instrumental, jazz.

The result is deeply satisfying.

Nine tracks, intended to inspire, are likely to be recognized as simply fine music by those who look to such a project for smooth tunes rather than inspiration.

If the Creator of all men and women--red and yellow, black and white--is indeed the Chief Musician, I suspect he smiles upon the work of these, his children, as he puts his feet up after one (or six) days of divine labor and leans into some easy listening.

A Summer Up North: Henry Aaron and the Legend of Eau Claire Baseball
A Summer Up North: Henry Aaron and the Legend of Eau Claire Baseball
by Jerry Poling
Edition: Paperback
Price: $19.95
52 used & new from $2.76

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars when no one was looking, June 12, 2010
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The most important things happen when nobody is looking. It has ever been so.

Jerry Poling's winsome and poignant tale of an 18-year-old, skinny-as-a-rail African American boy from Mobile, Alabama making his break into professional baseball in Eau Claire, Wisconsin in 1952 rescues some of those things from the obscurity that otherwise enshrouds.

My father was a relief pitcher for the Superior (Wisconsin) Blues that year. He too was breaking into professional ball with a wicked curve that by some accounts had the future Hank Aaron stymied. Raymond 'Cool as a Cucumber' Baer is not mentioned in Poling's eminently readable volume. Yet the fact that Dad was on the field during some of the games that Poling narrates corroborates boyhood memories of tales spun. The impact on this son, reader, and reviewer is almost eery.

Eau Claire, like most of the decent cities that dot the heartland of this nation, was in 1952 capable of racial pettiness. Few whites in the industrial core of Wisconsin had met a black man. Aaron, more boy than man, walked uninvited into their lives and struggled to decide whether it was worth all that. But boy could the kid from Mobile hit a baseball.

Truth be told, Poling--a gifted, almost lyrical writer--tells more than one tale here. There is Aaron breaking a color barrier that Jackie Robinson had, for all his formidable courage, barely begun to erase. There is the pennant race in central and northern Wisconsin, won in the end by my father's Blues in spite of the hard-hitting shortstop who now bolstered the Eau Claire lineup.

There is, as well, Poling's journey with his son in more recent times to discover what remains of professional baseball in the upper Midwest. There is the tracing of the trajectory of the man who would become 'Hammerin' Hank', enigma abounding along the way.

But most of all there is the gentle probing under the rocks and topsoil that was and remains Midwestern America. Fittingly, Poling ends his chronicle by touching upon Aaron's belated phone call to Susan Hauck. She was the fortunate daughter of an Eau Claire family possessed of an untimely recognition that we humans are all the same, regardless of race. Aaron had held hands with young Susan, a man's black hand encasing the soft whiteness of a young woman's, on the front porch of the Hauck home. The best of America appears in the lines with which Poling narrates the Hauck family's embrace of Henry Aaron as a man just like them.

In reading this fine piece of sportswriting, I come across the names of two Cuban teammates of my Dad about whom I heard stories as a kid: José Bustamante and Alfredo Ibáñez. I will find them one day, or their families if they are already gone, in Cuba, a country I visit frequently. I will present them with photos and newspaper clippings from the summer of '52. My pursuit, not unlike Jerry Poling's, is one of recovery, of rescue, of honoring a past that--while no one is watching--disappears from all recall.

There is gold in them thar' hills. Poling sifts for it with the confidence of a grizzled miner. Henry would go on to baseball immortality, leaving teammates and competitors like 'Fireman Ray' to remember Aaron's brief, blazing ascent to glory while they accommodated themselves to more ordinary altitudes.

It would all be forgotten were it not for the Jerry Polings of this world, a writer carving out a space in which journalism still matters because men showing up night after night to play ball for half the salary of a factory worker, Iowa field trips, extra innings in Carson Park, and a Home Run King's earliest innings once mattered.

'Still do. 'Still must.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 22, 2015 10:51 AM PST

FiiO E5 Headphone Amplifier
FiiO E5 Headphone Amplifier
2 used & new from $48.00

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars mighty mouse, June 8, 2010
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When I left my beat-up, loyal, and long-suffering Boostaroos on a plane, I seized the opportunity to see if I could match the force-multiplying role they played so well for this long-suffering long-haul traveler and his beloved Sennheiser PXC 450s at a small size and weight.

Mission accomplished.

The tiny, Chinese-made FiiO E5 headphone amplifier measurably improves the quality of sound I hear when I play tunes on my iPod or iPhone through the Sennheisers. That's news enough. What truly astonishes is the minute size and weight of the E5, even when you factor in the handy little clip that sturdies the whole deal by latching it onto a shirt pocket while the airplane meals come and go. Spaghetti sauce never did the old Boostaroos much good whenever they did their slow role into the soup du jour.

Next up in the Pleasant Surprise Category is another little thing: the price. Twenty clams get this gizmo from Amazon to your door.

I note the opinion voiced my some reviewers that you can do better elsewhere. I suspect they're right. But for $20 it's hard to imagine going wrong with the E5.

Crazy Love: Dealing with Your Partner's Problem Personality
Crazy Love: Dealing with Your Partner's Problem Personality
by W. Brad Johnson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.16
95 used & new from $0.01

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars no clear resolution, March 28, 2010
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W.B. Johnson's and K. Murray's CRAZY LOVE, DEALING WITH YOUR PARTNER'S PERSONALITY is a grim treatise.

The volume majors in realism, not hope. More often than not, the authors' counsel is that you will not survive the partner to whom you have tied your soul, life, destiny. It may be best to get out while there is some gettin' to be had.

More than a fascinating front-to-back read, CRAZY LOVE is a survival manual for the badly mated. Sixteen chapters start off by touching upon introductory matters ('1. Crazy Love: the weird partner detection and survival guide'; '2. Personality disorders 101: understanding weird partners'; '3. How Could I be Attracted to PDPs? let me count the (top nine) ways!'. Then we are led into three 'clusters' of personality disorder: 'Cluster A: Odd, Eccentric, and Weird Partners'; 'Cluster B: Dramatic, Erratic, and Dangerous Partners'; and 'Cluster C: Anxious, Withdrawn, and Needy Partners'.

'Some Final Thoughts' ('What if I'm married to a personality-disordered partner?') provides an exit strategy and, alternatively, a glum plan for those who choose to stay.

Those who bring a moral framework to matters of relationship will not be met along that road by Johnson and Murray. Their approach is pragmatic in a straight-forward way. 'Does it make more sense to stay or to bail?' is the dominant question in the work's subtext.

The authors competently introduce their reader to life's menu of dysfunctional partners by description and story. At the end of each chapter, it is possible to have acquired a functional grasp of the particular problem partner under discussion and his or her underlying (and more often than not, persistent) oddity.

This is a book for those who face a Sophie's choice. It is grim, glum, realistic and--therefore--helpful.

Buyer beware: you will probably decide to leave.

Love, sometimes, promises and then fails to deliver.

What then?: Johnson and Murray may help you to decide.

HP Officejet 6500 Wireless All-in-One Inkjet Printer
HP Officejet 6500 Wireless All-in-One Inkjet Printer
Offered by Battle Distribution, LLC
Price: $619.96
18 used & new from $69.54

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars inexpensive quality, December 28, 2009
For mostly sentimental reasons, I have an attachment to HP printers. I do wear them out with some predictability. When the time came to replace my recently defunct all-in-one model, I moved up to the wireless version of the OfficeJet 6500.

After a frustrating start, during which it seemed I had joined the legions of (user-group-savvy) customers who were frustrated with an initially slow wireless connection, I have settled down to a life of tranquil satisfaction with my 6500.

I use the scanner and printer regularly, though not the fax feature.

The first thing to note is the exceptionally low price of all-in-one printer/scanner/copier/fax units in general and the low barrier to entry into the world of HP quality. Simply put, you get enormous capacity at a very low price. Now the business model has evolved in the direction of hitting you hard for printer cartridges, so there is a sticker shock to be suffered, albeit a delayed one.

The OJ 6500 produces truly fine print quality. It sets up and meshes well with my MacBook Pro. I have not had paper jam issues, which strikes me as an improvement on previous generations of printers and all-in-ones.

Aesthetically, I find the mostly-black-clad unit to be quite handsome.

I can't imagine a potential buyer with home or small-office needs going wrong with the HP OfficeJet 6500. Pay the premium for the wireless version and you won't regret it.

It just does what it says it does, providing quality at a very modest price.

Louis Garneau Stop Tech Shoe Covers
Louis Garneau Stop Tech Shoe Covers

5.0 out of 5 stars cold feet, December 26, 2009
Really cold-weather riding calls for warmer stuff than the Louis Garneau Stopzone shoe covers. But rainy weather and your garden-variety start-of-winter stuff will be cheerfully warded off by thise waterproof covers.

They pull nicely over shoes, leaving the business parts of the underside of them uncovered so they can get on with their work. A zipper and a velcro strip makes sure the product stays where it belongs. Durabilty seems reasonable and the $25 price is smack in the value category.

A good thing for tender toes.

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