Sunday, April 13, 2014

WEP 2014 4.11-13

carnival fund-raiser
our kids' school had their carnival fund-raiser on Friday night.  The weather was really quite perfect - cool, with a slight breeze.  The kids had tons of fun doing the jumphouse, face-painting, trampolines, playing in giant hamster balls in a pool, auctions, food and candy.

paddle boats and trains
on Saturday, we got to go on walks, do some yard work, eat donuts and then we cleaned up.  After that, we drove to the city park and rented some paddle-boats and let the kids have a bit of fun.  Then we went on a little train ride around the park.

it was lots of fun for the family and quite memorable.

after that, we tried a new burger place - the food was actually really good, but the price was way too much.

after we drove home, we relaxed and enjoyed the evening.

our son B was able to go to an NBA basketball game with his friends and he had quite a bit of fun.

good bye to friends
Sunday was church and meetings and dinner with friends.  Our good friends are moving, so we ate one final dinner with them and played games and had a fun time.

One of the games our two families like to play is the sofa game.  Everyone puts their name on a paper and then we draw names.  If you draw your name, you have to re-draw.  You then "become the person" whose name you drew.  Then you sit boy-girl-boy-girl.  You leave one extra space.  The person to the right of the empty place calls a name.  The person who has that then then sits in the empty spot; they also create the next empty spot.  The goal is to get 4 in a row (or however many you decide depending on how many people are playing the game).

the office
often, when we try to wind-down for the day, we've been watching The Office all over again.  We only watched the episodes once or twice when they were on TV.  So, it's been fun watching them again on Netflix.  We are in the Robert California season.

Friday, April 11, 2014

WIR 2014 4.7-11

pretty normal week - not much exciting happened.

air conditioning units
I guess the biggest item this past week was the visit from the A/C techs.  They told me exactly what I knew they were going to tell me - that I need a new system; that the Freon we have now is out-lawed and that it will cost $100/lb as if we need to add more.  The upstairs system is really in need of replacement - there is a major leak in the coils.  so next week, I'm expecting another visit to discuss options and how much it will cost.  the home repairs never end.

it was an ok week.  I did some exercising, but we had a couple of weak cold fronts move in and it made it difficult to get up an exercise.  But we did it anyway.  I just didn't get in some extra evening miles (2-mile runs).

work / leadership development
My old boss invited me to lunch on Tuesday.  We were both really busy, so we only had time for a quick bite at the local cafeteria.  We talked a lot about future assignments for me.  I explained to him where I see myself going and what types of assignments I need to get there and he was able to give me some good advice about what I need to do.

Then he asked me if I wanted to go down the technical / professional track or the management track.  I told him I'm focusing on the management track.  Then he asked me how I'm doing on developing my leadership skills.  I honestly have not thought about this much.  I've done tons of leadership training, but then never was in a position to really use it, so I've kind of abandoned the whole leadership mindset for the last 5 years.  So, he suggested I start focusing on developing my leadership skills (not my management skills).  He suggested I begin by reading The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.  After lunch, I found some on-line presentations about the book and read through those.  I then decided to go ahead and order the book.  There seems to be a lot of interesting content and ideas in the book.  I may be blogging more about learning leadership and developing my own leadership skills; so stay tuned.

That is about all for the week's highlights.  The weekend should be nice and enjoyable.

Monday, April 7, 2014

WEP 2014 4.4-6

Gorgeous weekend!  I did lots of yard work in the morning.  I took my boys to Lowes - we got lots of good for the yard.  Then we laid rock in the back yard.

After that, we went to my son's E soccer game.  He won 5-1.  Then we went to Jason's Deli and ate.

I didn't order the Reuben; rather I ordered the Smokey Jack Panini - it was really good!

The rest of the day was relaxing, watching some NCAA basketball and spent time with the family.

Sunday was really relaxing too.  We went on a walk; got rained on a bit and then spent the rest of the day inside watching TV.

Friday, April 4, 2014

WIR 2014 3.31-4.4

It was a great week - the highlight was my one-on-one with my boss.  I had this idea to save our company some money - to make it more efficient.  The idea had been floating in my head the last few days and by the time Thursday rolled around, I still didn't have it solidified.  So I go into the one-on-one, I report out on the main things going on.  Then I just jumped feet-first into the suggestion.  I told my boss that the idea wasn't fully baked, but I knew they were looking for efficiencies.  After I dumped the idea, my boss reacted quite well - they liked it!  They told me to keep working on it; to work with a few other people and that by the time my new assignment rolls around (in June or July), it should be off to a great start.  By my calculations, the savings gained will be around $500K.

Another idea I've had floating around in my head is this motto of 6:1:4.

6 - six miles of walking or running
1 - one meal
4 - four days a week

I kind of did this last week.  It might have been 3 days instead of 4 days.  Anyway - I did a pretty good job.  My weight went from around 217 down to 210 over the course of the week.  So, I'm trying to drill that motto in my mind 6:1:4

NCAA Tournament
I won my family's bracket challenge.  This was the 11th year of our family doing this, and I finally won!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

WEP 2014 3.28-30

What a weekend.  My wife and two of my kids got up Saturday morning to go to a fun run.  While they were there, our dog, which was on a leash, was attacked by a dog not on a leash.  I'm not going to go into all the details, but the owners are idiots.  Our dog got 12 stitches - poor thing.

Then today, I took him on a walk in the late afternoon.  We came to a street and we saw this medium sized dog in someone's drive way.  It was not on a leash.  It came running towards us.  I told me son to get me a big stick.  Once he gave the stick to me, the dog backed off a bit, but was barking madly.  The owner finally game out to get the dog.  I yelled over to her that our dog was attacked and bit just the day before.  She acted all shocked.

Then tonight, I took our dog out for a little stroll before bed.  As I came back to our home, some guests of our neighbors were leaving and they had two dogs.  One of them came running out towards me and my dog!  I had my big flashlight with me and was ready to give the dog a good thumping.  I shone my light into its eyes and it backed off.  The lady said, "he's friendly" and I replied, "nope, you need to get your dog on a leash right now."  She scrambled to get him and finally had to get someone else to get a hold of the dog.  After they got a hold of him, I explained that our dog was attacked the day before by a dog not on a leash.

This is so weird.  It's like our dog has a target on him this weekend.

Other than that, the weekend was gorgeous - I got lots of yard work done; went on walks, runs, bike rides and enjoyed the beautiful weather.

I also spent a lot of time watching the NCAA tourney.  Looks like I'm going to win my family's bracket challenge.

Friday, March 28, 2014

WIR 2014 3.24-28

Not much to report on this past week.

My wife and I got to walk pretty much every day this week.  My son B and I were only able to play basketball once this week; one day was really nice, the other day it rained.  The pine pollen finally got washed away with a nice rain storm.  I ate pretty good this week and tried not to stuff myself.

My new shoes came - they are nice!  My feet and knees feel much better now that I have some cushion under them.

This is the 5th year in a row I've bought Brooks and the 3rd year in a row I've got the trail running version of the shoe (Brooks Adrenaline ASR).

Pretty average week.  The big event was writing the retirement eulogy for my boss.  It was his last day at work today.  So I had to write up some praises for him as well as some "stats" about him.  My new boss was very impressed with the write up.  Today, she delivered the "retirement eulogy" at the end of our big weekly and monthly meetings - it was really good.

Still no word on the missing airliner.  The news stations are all over the road guessing what happened.  A big mud slide in Washington killed 10 people.  A huge fire happened in Houston - a video went viral of a construction working barely escaping the flames.  Obama and Pope Francis met this week.

My wife's good friend came over the other day to cook Venezuelan food.  It was really delicious - that was all I ate yesterday.  Tonight, wife and I are going out to dinner - probably Chuy's.

Not much else for now.  The weekend should be relaxing - some yard work, soccer game, NCAA basketball games.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

WEP 2014 3.21-23

The weekend was good.  I spent a lot of time watching NCAA basketball.  Currently, I'm sitting at number 1 in my family bracket.  The biggest game this last weekend was Wichita St. vs Kentucky.  I picked Kentucky and they ended up beating Wichita by two points ... the game went down to the last second.

Our church youth had a big activity this weekend.  I spent most of Saturday hanging out at that - I had to help with the dinner.

My son E had a soccer game - they are the 1st place team in their league and they played the 2nd place team on Saturday and won 7-3.  It was a fun game for them.  It was tied 2-2 at halftime, but then they just turned it on in the 2nd half.

I didn't get a whole lot of reading or chess done this weekend.  So, I'll have to catch up on tactics at lunch time during the week this week; although there are two lunches I need to attend this week.

Friday, March 21, 2014

WIR 2014 3.17-21

So, I'm going to try something new and see how I like it.  It's called Week In Review, in which I talk about the big things that happened this week; the big things I learned and made an impression on me.  I'm also gong to try what I'll call Weekend Postmortem; same thing as the WIR, only it'll cover the weekend.  The WIRs will be on Fridays and the WPs will be either Sunday night or Monday morning.

I recently posted about my new VPN.  So, last Saturday, my internet went down hard again.  After a few reboots, it seemed all back in order, but by Sunday night, I was only getting 0.1 or 0.2 download speeds.  The technician was going to come out on Monday, but then my speeds returned to normal.  On Tuesday, they were back to a trickle.  Finally the technician came out on Wednesday and found the modem was broken.  It was an old 2.0 protocol modem; he replaced it with a 3.0 protocol modem which could handle 50mbps as opposed to 15mbps.  After it was up and running, I tested speeds again and I have consistenly been getting 30+ speeds.  Today I was able to download several files quite fast :-)

The big news lately has been the missing 777 airliner which left Kuala Lumpur on March 7 and never arrived at Bejing.  They have still have not found the plane nor any debris.  The story is truly odd.

I got recognized at work 3 times this week - by three different managers!  One of them sent me a thank you note with a $25 Amazon gift card.  The other two "sung my praises" in various meetings I had.  I feel really on top of things right now at work - and I'm busier than ever.

Along with that $25 gift card, I had another $30 in Amazon gift cards sitting around.  I finally decided what I was going to use them on - a new pair of running shoes.  I have bought my Brooks running shoes directly from the site the last 4 years or so.  I learned this week that Brooks also sells their shoes on Amazon.  So I was able to knock off $55 from my new shoes.  I'll post sole pictures when they come.  Old Navy had a polo shirt sale this week - I bought two Jersey Polos - my favorite kind of polo.

The weather has finally warmed up this week.  My son B and I have started a new tradition.  Every Tuesday and Thursday we go to the middle school outdoor basketball court and play 3-5 games.  We play by ones and go to 11.  He then practices his one-hand shooting while I go on a short run.  I then finish with 10 pushups.  I have a new secret goal.  I am starting off with doing 10 pushups, twice a day.  Each week I will increase the number of pushups by 1.  In a couple of years, I should be to 100 pushups.  We'll see how it goes.  Also, I'm going on a little 2 mile jog 2-3 times a week (at night); along with my 4 mile walk with my wife in the mornings.

Wednesday Night
I help plan activities for my church youth group.  This Wednesday they did floor ball hockey.  They boys had tons of fun.

March Madness
It started yesterday.  The games are all streamed via the NCAA app.  So my question is: why can't all the stations (local / free) do this?  How hard would it be to stream all the local 2, 5, 8, 11, 13 channels to any device?

Still reading the Immortal Game.  Once I finish, I'll post the book review to

My wife made corned beef and cabbage this week.  My mom used to make that all the time, but this is the first time my wife made it.  I love corned beef.  My favorite sandwich is the Reuben at Jason's Deli.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Is my ISP Throttling?

I discovered a fascinating thing this week; I think.

After suspecting my internet traffic was being watched, especially after reading the headlines the past nine months, I decided to finally pay for a VPN.

Over the last several weeks and months, my internet connection just seemed so slow.  I used to occasionally test my connection.  Sometimes my download rate was slower than my upload rate!  Often, I would reboot the internet modem, my wi-fi router and even computer to see if that would fix the problem.  I'd say about 75% of the time that worked.  But one time nothing I did fixed the slow-down.

After a few days of no Netflix and slow web-site loading, I called my ISP.  From their end, "everything looked fine."  I ended up powering down everything and then bringing things on-line; first the modem, then the wi-fi router, then the laptop.  It fixed it, but I was still only getting around 3 to 4 mbps.  I'm paying for 15mbps.

For a few months I had been meaning to get Astrill VPN, but after doing some additional research, I decided to go with Private Internet Access.

I set it up this week.  After ensuring I was satisfied with the setup, I decided to do some speed tests.

I had normally been getting around 3-10 mbps on average days and up to 15 on the best of days.  After setting up the VPN, my first test came in at 28.41 down!  I was shocked.  I ran several other tests and have been running them off and on.  I've yet to get under 28 mbps when my VPN is connected.

Then I ran another test and it was slow again ... but I discovered my VPN had disconnected.  I re-connected and ran another test: 28.7 mbps down.

Now the rest of the story ... the last few times I called my ISP, just before ending the call, they would ask me if I wanted to upgrade to 30 mbps for an extra $10.  I think they are throttling my connection when I'm passing un-encrypted data (i.e. no VPN).

After a little googling I found this interesting article which totally confirms it now.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

overcoming bad habits; creating good habits

in the vein of scott adams, i've been trying to implement a system as opposed to setting goals.  my system, at least how i envision it, is to identify things i enjoy that are beneficial to me.  when it comes to exercise, i've been trying to find the best exerciese that 1) i enjoy and 2) is sustainable.

after a few years of experimenting, i've landed on walking 4 miles a day.  i loved running, but found the injuries weren't enjoyable.  i loved basketball, but finding access to a gym and a decent group of players was tough.  spinning on a bike was not really sustainable nor did i particularly enjoy it.  walking, however, is really enjoyable and sustainable.  i see myself walking 4 miles a day well into my senior years.

eating - i've come to the conclusion that i simply need to eat less and arm myself with the right information about which foods are good for my brain and body and which leave me feeling full and satiated.

however, i don't see any reason why i can't implement and improve a system and at the same time strengthen my willpower or impulse control.  i read a couple of other blog posts today and yesterday which hit on this.

steve sailor was commentating on a new york post column about amy chua's new theory on cultural groups and why they are successful.  one of the tri-fectas she talks about is impulse control - calling it a hallmark of self-help.  impulse control is "the ability to delay instant gratification in the service of a greater goal."  This is how steve sailor defined it.  but in the article, describes impulse control as "the ability to resist temptation, especially the temptation to give up in the face of hardship or quit instead of persevering at a difficult task."

i think having a system and impulse control significantly increases anyone's chance for success and happiness in life.

and today, i read another great blog post on building that impulse control muscle and how to accomplish it.  this idea isn't anything new from leo babauta, but this post really caught my attention because that is how i see my impulses.  in his post "the child that holds us back" he talks about how he overcame habits and how hard it was - until he stopped listening to the 5-6 year-old child voice in him.  he describes how all of us have that same child-voice in us saying all the things that will get us to give-up or give in to temptations.

the trick is to "notice that this 5-year-old child is telling you what to do.  but don't listen.  don't obey.  don't believe its rationalizations."  in other posts, he describes a trick about simply acknowledging the urge - you "watch it", you can breathe deeply, walk around a bit and then the urge will go away.  it's all about being more mindful and giving yourself a chance to strengthen your impulse control.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

the savior generals: david petraeus

reading the david petraeus chapter was really fascinating in that i was following the events in march 2003 and after.  i watched the news and read the news sites and all that came along with it.  the politics surrounding the iraq war was astounding.  as a nation and congress, we were unified to go into iraq and remove hussein.  the "shock and awe" was amazing.  then came the "mission accomplished" stunt.  then the wheels came off.

we were not ready for what came next - the casualties spiked and we did not know how to handle the situation.  the democrats who were for the war, were now against the war.  bush was trying all he could to stabilize the situation, but no general could do it.

many different strategies were tried, but none were effective.  the only successful area in iraq was in the north under the command of petraeus.  he was "perfect" for the assignment is almost every conceivable way.  as vdh put it, "whether consciously or not, david patraeus for two decades had been preparing himself neither for conventional warfare nor for counterterrorist special operations - nor even for classic jungle or rural insurgency.  instead, he had prepped for large-scale postbellum occupation and reconstruction in highly urbanized, extremely hostile populations - exactly what iraq would be like in 2003" (p. 224).

his plan was to oversee "the reestablishment of everything from the urban university to the city council.  petraeus disbursed millions of dollars to more than four thousand projects ('money is ammunition') - often without the oversight of paul bremer, the head of the coalition provisional authority, who had been monitoring civil affairs for the year after may 2003" (p. 225).

once put in charge of the whole theater, he implemented his plan throughout the entire country - and it worked.  he gained the confidence of the people and they were able to see his vision which enabled them to fight long enough to stabilize iraq.  the plan was initiated in 2007; and by december 2011, when all american troops had withdrawn, not one u.s. solider had died.

there is a lot more to petraeus' plan than his two-decade preparation and schooling.  there had to be a way for the plan to make it to the president's desk so that it could be approved.  again, this is where petraeus seemingly shines.  vdh describes petreaus as excellent in every imaginable assignment; unmatched intelligence and academic preparation; and ambition.  petreaus developed "strong personal friendships with high-ranking officers, all the while showcasing his organizational and intellectual skills at the company, battalion and brigade level" (p. 222-223).  his "rivals" discounted his abilities because of his well-connectedness.  but this well-connectedness is what allowed the plan to reach the right ears.

the legend of petraeus grows when you read about his two near-death experiences - surviving an accidental bullet to the chest as well as surviving a parachute landing when the parachute did not open.

the petreaus chapter reminded me a lot of themistocles and belisarius.  all three of them were dynamic and had qualities that only they possessed which allowed them to "save" a war for their leaders.  without them, the wars would have been lost.

as a post-script, it's been two years since the troop withdrawals from iraq.  up until very recently, the peace in iraq has been good.  however, a quick search produces the following headlines:
- iraq suffers worst year of violence since 2008
- iraq sees highest annual death toll in years

no doubt the situation would be far worse had it not been for petraeus, but it is appearing the violence is now creeping back in barely two years after the u.s. withdrew.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

the savior generals: matthew ridgway

much can be found on the internet about matthew ridgway.  he died during the summer of 1993, when i was probably at a high school basketball camp getting ready for my senior year season.  i had never heard of him until i read the savior generals.  i may have heard mention of his name, but if anyone came up to me and asked me who matthew ridgway was, i would not have been able to give an answer.

yet, my life and many others, is influenced by what he did for 100 days in korea.  today, i spend a lot of time fiddling around, texting and talking on my samsung phone.  two summers ago, we were all entertained by gangum style.  many people love and drive hyundais.  all the people in south korea can live their free lives because of those 100 days ridgway spent regaining territory and saving people living south of the 38th parallel.

what was so special about ridgway that gave him the capacity to save the korean war?

he lead from the forward.  he was a soldier's soldier.  he dressed like the soldiers he lead.  he kept a grenade and first aid kit on him all the time - giving way to the name iron tits.

he didn't alienate mcarthur.  he was savvy enough to not speak ill of mcarthur.  he was also savvy enough to follow his civilian leaders back in washington d.c.  he installed competent colonels below him and allowed the less-competent to have desk jobs back in the states.  he also ensure that when he communicated to his leaders, they in turn did not leak any information to the press.

he gave the troops a reason to fight.  he gave them a vision about what the world would be like if the chinese communists were left un-checked.  he talked of commitment to allies and to the recently formed united nations.  he spoke of congress funding the war.  he even put the why in the context of the survival of western civilization.

he changed tactics.  he consolidated the line.  he fought at night and had air superiority.  his supply lines were reliable.  he also knew that the communists would not be able to keep their supply lines in good shape

as i read this chapter, i got the impression that mcarthur just left the troops to their own and that they were set adrift and disorganized once the communists came pouring down the peninsula.  all that the military really needed was a solid, steady hand - and in ridgway, they got that.

one final parting thought about ridgway.  it seemed the consensus, prior to ridgway taking command, was that the united states could simply drop a couple of nukes on korea and be done with it.  but others, including ridgway felt that nuclear escalation was not the best way.  russia has exploded nukes of their own - it was the dawn of the cold war - and nuclear escalation was a real risk.  sure millions ended up dying the old fashion way, but had nukes been uses, my guess is that number would have been far higher.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

the republic of pirates by colin woodard

the republic of pirates by colin woodard is the best pirate book i've read.  it was detailed and placed the right amount of emphasis on historical facts without drowning the reader in dates, names and places.

for me, there were a few things that stood out as well as a few things that i was curious to learn about.

first off - why did people turn to piracy.  this book answers that question quite well.  privateering was essentially government-endorsed piracy.  so when the wars between france, england, spain and the other countries ceased, so did the privateers income.  and not only that, but the reader must also realize that the sailor's life was practically worse than a slave's life.  this was the other's other point about why people turned to piracy.

one example the author used to illustrate how bad a sailor's life was, was about this young boy who the captain beat quite savagely for 17 days!  he beat him, whipped him, made him eat his own stool and when the boy finally spoke, he asked for something to drink.  the captain ran to his quarters and then returned with a cup of his own urine and made the boy drink it.  the boy finally died.

so, the lack of authorization to privateer at war's end and the abuses suffered by many, some sailors were practically forced to piracy in order to survive.

the author also goes into some detail to tell the story and legend of henry avery.  this pirate lived a couple of decades before the caribbean pirates and probably inspired many of them to turn to piracy.

another reason for piracy had to do with the english government.  this was one of those new things i learned.  when the house of hanover assumed power, many loyalists to the house of stuart became pirates.  in fact, some pirates disagreed with each other because some pirates wanted to attack english interests while others did not.

in summary, each pirate had his reason for piracy.

the democracy of the pirates was quite interesting.  although the book was marketed to indicate that the caribbean pirates were actually early american revolutionaries, the book didn't quite make the connection.  there was no evidence that some pirates eventually contributed ideas to the american revolutions.  true, the form of democracy the pirates practiced was revolutionary, but i didn't see any other strong connection to the american revolution.  in fact, it seems the british citizens in america were the most strong-willed people who had the greatest effect on the downfall of the golden age of piracy.

woodes rogers - what a tragic life.  his story is interesting and sad, but, again, he didn't come across as the man who brought down the pirates.  the subtitle of the book is: being the true and surprising story of the caribbean pirates and the man who brought them down.  woodes rogers is apparently that man.  but in the book, his role wasn't as strong as the sub title would suggest.  true, he had a vision to reform madagascar and the pirates there; and true he lead a company to the caribbean to end piracy, but when he actually got there, he seemed way more reticent than expected.  the royal navy abandoned him shortly after arriving at nassau.  the people he had to work with were lazy and ultimately he was afraid vane and the other pirates would return to kill him.  sadly, after all his money was spent, he was cast into debtors prison and eventually died and was buried in nassau.

most of the pirates expired around 1718-19.  but the one pirate who outlasted them all was charles vane.

links and other info
first off, read the book - it's worth the read.

secondly, visit his website:

thirdly, nbc is doing a mini-series on blackbeard which will be based off woodard's book.  nbc began filming it in puerto rico about a month ago (link).  the series will be called crossbones starring john malkovich.  i'm looking forward to that!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

samorost 1 & 2

about ten years ago, i came across a really neat and addicting game called samorost.  i had forgotten what the name of the game was and i spent the last couple of days digging around for it.  i finally had to search top game lists from the last ten years before i found it.

i replayed samorost 1 today ... it took me 10 minutes.  i remember playing it the first time and taking me much longer.

i plan to dink around with samorost 2 later this weekend.  this game came out a couple of years after samorost 1.  i can't remember if i played it or not.  i'm thinking i did.

in further research, it appears a much larger and longer samorost 3 is set for release in the near future (link).

if you dare, you too can check out samorost 1 and samorost 2.

Monday, October 28, 2013

halloween reading on a dark and stormy night

grab a cup of some warm delight, settle down in your leather chair, open your tablet and read these stories ...

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Visit to read your favorite Edgar Allen Poe story or poem
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
The Willows by Algernon Blackwood
The Pale Man by Julius Long

Monday, October 7, 2013

the savior generals: william tecumseh sherman

i've already reviewed a previous chapter about sherman in another book written by vdh (link here).

the main point the savior generals makes that is different from the soul of battle is sherman's concept of total modern war.  let me begin by quoting sherman along with hanson's assessment.

sherman said, "they dared us to war, and you remember how tauntingly they defied us to the context.  we have accepted the issue and it must be fought out.  you might as well reason with a thunder-storm.  war is the remedy our enemies have chosen."  sherman was a "missionary ... bent on teaching the entire south his version of a moral lesson."

hanson further assesses sherman, "no civil war commander possessed a more astute appraisal of the nature of contemporary warfare, how to form and pursue grand strategy, and the critical nexus between war, civit society, popular support, and electoral politics.  and few american generals have since."

words to describe sherman's thoughts on war: modern, total and merciless war; cruelty, hell, ruin, howl, smashing, breaking and ravaging.  in sherman's words, 'the only principal in this war is, which party can whip.'  he further states, 'i propose to demonstrate the vulnerability of the south, and makes its in habitants feel that war and individual ruin are synonymous terms.'

on actual fighting, sherman chose a different calculus.  while grant looking only at body count and population base, sherman focused on the north's superiority in many other aspects: in manufacturing 23-1; in arms production 10-1; in rail and telegraph infrastructure 2-1 ... these stats bolstered the known population ratio 22-9.  sherman chose to focus on the prior stats rather than the latter, especially in light of the north's public opinion of the death rates grant was suffering.

it's funny how many native southerners still feel slighted by what sherman did.  there is no doubt the natives still value gallantry over the value of life itself.  sherman rather chose to value life and by stabbing at the pride of the south, won a war and saved a nation.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

honey & cinnamon: the benefits

this is a direct copy and paste from a friend who reposted this on their facebook page. i bolded the sections i found particularly interesting.

It is found that a mix of honey and cinnamon cures most diseases. Honey is produced in most of the countries of the world. Scientists of today also note honey as very effective medicine for all kinds of diseases. Honey can be used without side effects which is also a plus.Today's science says that even though honey is sweet, when it is taken in the right dosage as a medicine, it does not harm even diabetic patients. Researched by western scientists:

HEART DISEASES: Make a paste of honey and cinnamon powder, put it on toast instead of jelly and jam and eat it regularly for breakfast. It reduces the cholesterol and could potentially save one from heart attack. Also, even if you have already had an attack studies show you could be kept miles away from the next attack. Regular use of cinnamon honey strengthens the heart beat. In America and Canada, various nursing homes have treated patients successfully and have found that as one ages the arteries and veins lose their flexibility and get clogged; honey and cinnamon revitalize the arteries and the veins.

ARTHRITIS: Arthritis patients can benefit by taking one cup of hot water with two tablespoons of honey and one small teaspoon of cinnamon powder. When taken daily even chronic arthritis can be cured. In a recent research conducted at the Copenhagen University, it was found that when the doctors treated their patients with a mixture of one tablespoon Honey and half teaspoon Cinnamon powder before breakfast, they found that within a week (out of the 200 people so treated) practically 73 patients were totally relieved of pain -- and within a month, most all the patients who could not walk or move around because of arthritis now started walking without pain.

BLADDER INFECTIONS: Take two tablespoons of cinnamon powder and one teaspoon of honey in a glass of lukewarm water and drink it. It destroys the germs in the bladder....who knew?

CHOLESTEROL: Two tablespoons of honey and three teaspoons of Cinnamon Powder mixed in 16 ounces of tea water given to a cholesterol patient was found to reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood by 10 percent within two hours. As mentioned for arthritic patients, when taken three times a day, any chronic cholesterol-could be cured. According to information received in the said Journal, pure honey taken with food daily relieves complaints of cholesterol.

COLDS: Those suffering from common or severe colds should take one tablespoon lukewarm honey with 1/4 spoon cinnamon powder daily for three days. This process will cure most chronic cough, cold, and, clear the sinuses, and it's delicious too!

UPSET STOMACH: Honey taken with cinnamon powder cures stomach ache and also is said to clear stomach ulcers from its root.

GAS: According to the studies done in India and Japan, it is revealed that when Honey is taken with cinnamon powder the stomach is relieved of gas.

IMMUNE SYSTEM: Daily use of honey and cinnamon powder strengthens the immune system and protects the body from bacterial and viral attacks. Scientists have found that honey has various vitamins and iron in large amounts. Constant use of Honey strengthens the white blood corpuscles (where DNA is contained) to fight bacterial and viral diseases.

INDIGESTION: Cinnamon powder sprinkled on two tablespoons of honey taken before food is eaten relieves acidity and digests the heaviest of meals

INFLUENZA: A scientist in Spain has proved that honey contains a natural 'Ingredient' which kills the influenza germs and saves the patient from flu.

LONGEVITY: Tea made with honey and cinnamon powder, when taken regularly, arrests the ravages of old age. Use four teaspoons of honey, one teaspoon of cinnamon powder, and three cups of boiling water to make a tea. Drink 1/4 cup, three to four times a day. It keeps the skin fresh and soft and arrests old age. Life spans increase and even a 100 year old will start performing the chores of a 20-year-old.

RASPY OR SORE THROAT: When throat has a tickle or is raspy, take one tablespoon of honey and sip until gone. Repeat every three hours until throat is without symptoms.

PIMPLES: Three tablespoons of honey and one teaspoon of cinnamon powder paste. Apply this paste on the pimples before sleeping and wash it off the next morning with warm water. When done daily for two weeks, it removes all pimples from the root.

SKIN INFECTIONS:Applying honey and cinnamon powder in equal parts on the affected parts cures eczema, ringworm and all types of skin Infections.

WEIGHT LOSS:Daily in the morning one half hour before breakfast and on an empty stomach, and at night before sleeping, drink honey and cinnamon powder boiled in one cup of water. When taken regularly, it reduces the weight of even the most obese person. Also, drinking this mixture regularly does not allow the fat to accumulate in the body even though the person may eat a high calorie diet.

CANCER: Recent research in Japan and Australia has revealed that advanced cancer of the stomach and bones have been cured successfully. Patients suffering from these kinds of cancer should daily take one tablespoon of honey with one teaspoon of cinnamon powder three times a day for one month.

FATIGUE: Recent studies have shown that the sugar content of honey is more helpful rather than being detrimental to the strength of the body. Senior citizens who take honey and cinnamon powder in equal parts are more alert and flexible. Dr. Milton, who has done research, says that a half tablespoon of honey taken in a glass of water and sprinkled with cinnamon powder, even when the vitality of the body starts to decrease, when taken daily after brushing and in the afternoon at about 3:00 P.M., the vitality of the body increases within a week.

BAD BREATH: People of South America, gargle with one teaspoon of honey and cinnamon powder mixed in hot water first thing in the morning so their breath stays fresh throughout the day.

HEARING LOSS: Daily morning and night honey and cinnamon powder, taken in equal parts restores hearing. be sure to click SHARE so it will store on your personal page.

Friday, September 13, 2013

the savior generals: belisarius

flavius belisarius: the man who almost reunited the western and eastern roman empire; the man who saved byzantium time and time again and who allowed it to endure 900 years after he left the earth.

who knows what the world would be like had his emperor justinian allowed belisarius more room and resources in the mission to reunite the old empires.

in his second chapter in the savior generals, hanson delves into the life and battles of belisarius and how he saved his emperor time and time again.  these two men's destinies would forever be linked.

let me first quote a paragraph from toward the end of the chapter.  this paragraph summarized the three decade-long mission that justinian envisioned and how his best general - belisarius - almost single-handedly attained that mission.  "a thirty-year career (529-59) saw the last of the romans fighting to save the beleaguered eastern empire in mesopotamia against persians, only to return home to rescue his emperor justinian from the nika riots in the hippodrome.  then he left for north africa and in months destroyed the centurylong vandal empire whose ravages had so dominated the last thoughts of saint augustine.  after that he sailed for sicily, and for a time reclaimed the idea of a roman italy from the mediterranean to the po - only to go eastward again to meet the persians, and then back again to a collapsing italy, and then back to constantinople to internal exile, trials, and humiliation, only while in forced retirement to save the city from a raid of huns - and earn a final rebuke."

in each of the campaigns, belisarius was able to overcome hordes of forces with a very small force.  he was extremely smart and savvy in his approach in out-smarting the enemy.  much like i did with themistocles, let me list out the words that were repeatedly used to describe how belisarius accomplished his mission over and over and over again.

calm in battle, knew difference between tactics and strategy, skilled in counterinsurgency, winning the hearts and minds of local populations, restraint, tactics-morale-generalship, learned to carefully deploy his limited forces against numerically superior opponents, show both force and mercy to locals, did not rashly commit his outnumbered forces, methodic, moderation brings salvation, insurgency, audacious, hit enemy hard and quickly at opportune times, he is quoted as saying "not by the number of men, and not by the measure of one's body, but by the valor of the soul, war is decided", popular icon, mythic status, legendary character, personal habits, clemency, honesty, lenient, saintly conqueror, personally attended his wounded, replaced lost equipment of his soldiers at his own expense, treated personal property sacrosanctly, avoided alcohol-womanizing-bribery, resilient, dynamic, tactical brilliance, personal magnetism, faithful, planner, constantly sought to adopt, improvise, and invent to make up for what he lacked in manpower, usually lost small and won big, confident, not susceptible to panic, neither vain nor prone to softness.

what amazes me is his character.  after all the battles he fought for justinian, he never sought to overthrow him.  it appears there were always rumors that belisarius sought power and for that justinian would always undercut his best general, but belisarius never took advantage.  even when he was old and was recalled out of retirement to fight off the huns - if there were ever an opportune time to take command for himself, this would be it - but he did not.  he was always in the service of his country and emperor.

vdh and other historians wonder "what if" the plague that hit the empire at the worst time had indeed not hit them; and if justinian would have used belisarius to the fullest extent if somehow the old roman empire were reunited - what the world would look like today.  instead, the western empire fully crumbled and the eastern empire was able to survive another 900 years - long enough for the renaissance to begin.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

the savior generals by victor davis hanson: themistocles at salamis

it never fails ... every time i read a victor davis hanson book, i feel smarter.  more importantly, i learn something new almost every time i read one of his books.

this book is about five generals who didn't start or end a war, but rather who saved wars from being lost.

the five generals are themistocles, flavius belisarius, william tecumseh sherman, matthew ridgeway, and david patraeus.

i read this book fairly quickly while on vacation this year and so therefore did not get a chance to really soak it in.  now, i'm reading it a second time through to understand better why and how these savior generals were able to do what they did.  i was going to do one big post, but have decided to consolidate my summary as i finished each chapter.

themistocles at salamis
vdh sets the scene by describing the persian hordes and xerxes running ram shod over the greeks.  no persian army had ever extended so far into greece.  the great spartan king leonidas (who everyone is familiar with because the story of the 300 is told and re-told) is dead.  yes, that was a brave fight by the spartans at thermopylae, but now athens and the rest of greece were facing annihilation.

in steps themistocles with a daring idea ... empty athens and place the entire fate of greece in the hands of the athenian navy to fight the persians instead of retreating to sicily.  the navy parked in the straights of salamis and then essentially tricked the persians into fighting.  once the persians engaged the greeks at salamis, it was all over.  the smaller, more maneuverable ships smashed the lumbering persian navy to bits.  xerxes and his hoardes were sent packing back to persia.  xerxes left mardonius to try and 2nd and 3rd offensive.  but mardonius was eventually "crushed" as well by the 70,000 greeks and thus greece was assured freedome from persia.

many historians agree about the impact of the battle of salamis on the world's history - it allowed greece to continue to grow as a culture, directly impacting western civilization history.

a number of things allowed for the victory at salamis.  sure, the greeks had their backs up against the wall, but it really was the cunning, ego and drive of themistocles that allowed athens and sparta to win.

first was themistocles background and heritage.  this guy was a scrapper.  he had no rich parents to dote on him. he fought and he used every means he could to get his way.  let me list several words vdh used to describe themistocles: outsmarted the betterborn, intelligent, ruthless energy, studied and prepared for more diligently than did his advantaged rivals, mobile and serpentine mind, rascally busybody, clever, limitless troublemaking, multifacted leadership, diplomat, calm in battle, unabashed cunning, deceit, the most gifted strategist that classical antiquity ever produced, arrogant, absolute confidence in his own wisdom and leadership, schemed to ostracize his rivals, faked omens to frighted the more pious into his fold, unprincipled behavior, rogue, foresight.

second, in light of the finding of silver in a mine, themistocles was able to convince the people to invest in a navy - to give the silver coins to the lower class and let them participate in the defending of their country.  to offer another vdh quotes, "he somehow persuaded the assembly to build enough ships to ensure a fleet that would reach two hundred triremes.  how a radically democratic politician could persuade his own constituents to pass up such easy money in the here and now in order to invest in an unproven navel program against a distant enemy, we are not told.  but themistocles' navel law proved a monumental turning point for athens, not unlike, in the american experience, the passing of the selective training and service act of 1940 that squeaked by in the house of representatives in august 1940 by just one vote - and just in time, on the eve of war."

third, going back to the character of themistocles, he not only was able to get his navy, but then was able to convince the people not to flee to sicily, but to fight at salamis.  once there, he was able to deceive the persians into pursuing the greeks at salamis and even without their entire force.  he tricked xerxes into sending his best contingent forces to chase the greek retreat - which never came.  themistocles was then ale to smash the persians to bits at salamis to their "utter and complete ruin."

the aftermath of themistocles' life is a bit sad.  the same attributes which helped him be a savior for his fellow greeks also contributed to his downfall.  he was forgotten and eventually ended up in persia where he presumably was going to be forced into service of the persians to fight the greeks, but not before he committed suicide.  vhd also goes on to demonstrate that athens fully embraced themitocles vision of an athenian navy, even though they would not admit it was because of themistocles.

i'll conclude with the vdh conclusion, "quite simply, without the savior general themistocles, the world as we know it today might have been a very different place indeed.  victory at marathon in 490 had alarmed themistocles while most other rejoiced.  defeat at thermopylae had encouraged him when most greeks fell into abject despair.  before salvation at salamis there was no free greece.  after themistocles' victory, there were soon to be few foreign enemies in the aegean.  his dream of an ascendant athenian maritime was assured - and yet along with it a deadly rivalry with sparta on the horizon."