Books I Read in 2015

I’m a little late on this one – Usually I put it up in January, but never late than never!

It seems like I read less this year than in previous years, but a lot of what I was doing was working through coding exercises.  Also, we moved in the middle of the year, and a whole lot of bad stuff happened too.  At one point I was working two jobs.  So, life happening plus less time to read combined with working through coding textbooks meant this year was anemic when it came to books.  Still, I hope you find some value in the list below. There are books on history, international affairs, religion, mathematics, epidemiology, and of course, many fiction books.

January

3.) Vengeance (Rogue Warrior #12) – Richard Marcinko
February
9.)  GIS for Dummies – Michael N. DeMers
11.) There Will Be War Volume 1 (Castalia House ebook version) – Jerry Pournelle, Editor
14.) Blowback (Vanessa Pierson #1) – Valerie Plame and Sarah Lovett
15.) Men of War: There Will Be War Volume II (Castalia House ebook version) – Jerry Pournelle, Editor
16.) The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate – Scott D. Sagan & Kenneth N. Waltz
17.) The Art of War: A History of Military Strategy (Castalia House ebook version) – Martin van Creveld
March
19.)  El Borak and Other Desert Adventures – Robert E. Howard
21.) There Will Be War: Volume III Blood and Iron (Castalia House ebook version) – Jerry Pournelle, Editor
23.) GIS: A Visual Approach – Bruce E. Davis
April
25.) Rough Justice (Sean Dillon #15) – Jack Higgins
27.) A Darker Place (Sean Dillon #16) – Jack Higgins
May
28.) Wesley for Armchair Theologians – William J. Abraham
June
32.) Full Force and Effect (Jack Ryan #10) – Mark Greaney (Tom Clancy)
July
34.) There Will Be War Volume IV: Day of the Tyrant  (Castalia House ebook version) – Jerry Pournelle, Editor
35.) Why Homer Matters – Adam Nicolson
39.) Founders (The Coming Collapse) – James Wesley, Rawles
August
September
October
44. The Martian – Andy Weir
November
45.) Treasure of Khan (Dirk Pitt #19) – Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler
December
46.) Finding Zero – Amir D. Aczel
48.) End of the Earth: Voyaging to Antarctica – Peter Matthiessen

A Change in Direction? Or Picking One?

I have struggled with this blog over the years.  In order to have a really good blog, you need a focus area, and I didn’t really have one.  I started just blogging general stuff about my life here in Pittsburgh, did some fiction, then switched to book reviews.  Lately, it’s been pretty much lists of books I have read.
 
I did the reviews as part of my being associated with the Matthew Ridgway Center for International Security Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.  I would love to blog on International Security, but there are already so many good bloggers in that space (that’s not even half of them) and I didn’t feel I had anything to add.  Coming from an engineering background, I also suffer from a lack of credentials.
 
In any case, my friend has been blogging about her experiences in training her horse (and herself) for international dressage and eventing competitions.  It’s giving me the itch to blog again.
 
But that brings me right back to the first point – what to blog about?
 
Lately I’ve been working on picking up an associate’s degree in software development (to add to my already over-degreed self with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and my MBA).  I’m doing this to make myself more employable, but also because…it interests me and I enjoy it.
 
I recently read David Kilcullen’s book Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla.  It’s a fascinating book.  Kilcullen basically notes that the future will be urban, coastal, and networked.  Urbanization continues apace with more than half of the world’s population living in cities, and most of those cities on the coasts.  With technology – especially mobile phones – more and more of them are becoming connected.  This has huge implications for the future – and Kilcullen notes the effect it will have on warfare.  We got a taste of this in Somalia back in the 90s (See: Black Hawk Down) and with the raid on Mumbai in the 00s.
 
So what, you ask, does that have to do with computer programming?  Well, the short answer is, Smart Cities and Big Data.  And the long answer will have to wait for the next blog post…

 

My Books Read in the Last Year

Another year, another book list.  I read less book this year than last, but over two thousand more pages!  Here’s the list:

January
2.) Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman
4.) Debt: The First 5000 Years – Peter Graeber
5.) Warmth Disperses and Time Passes: The History of Heat – Hans Christian von Baeyer
7.) Clausewitz’s On War: A Biography – Hew Strachan
8.) Tanks in the Cities: Breaking the Mold – Kendall D. Gott
February
March
13.) Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality – Eliezer Yudkowsky
15.) A Magic Broken – Vox Day (Novella)
17.) Shadow of the Hegemon (Ender Wiggin Saga) – Orson Scott Card
18.) Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology – Rosemary Radford Ruether
19.) Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale – Ian Morgan Cron
April
24.) The Last Stand of Fox Company – Bob Drury and Tom Clavin
27.) Liberation Theologies: The Global Pursuit of Justice – Alfred T. Hennelly, S.J.
28.) Human Security in a Borderless World – Derek S. Reveron and Kathleen A. Mahoney-Norris
31.) The Mathematics of Life – Ian Stewart
May
40.) Worm: The First Digital World War – Mark Bowden
June
44.) Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder – Nassim Nicholas Taleb
45.) Tiger Force: A True Story of Men and War – Michael Sallah and Mitch Weiss
46.) How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth – Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart
July
51.) Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty – Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson
August
54.) Beginning Programming – Adrian and Kathie Kingsley-Hughes
55.) Sure Fire (Rich & Jade #1) – Jack Higgins with Justin Richards
56.) Just My Type: A Book About Fonts – Simon Garfield
60.) Head First HTML and CSS – Elisabeth Robson and Eric Freeman
September
63.) Star Wars: Scoundrels – Timothy Zahn
66.) Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Think – Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier
October
67.) The Tao of Programming – Geoffrey James
November
68.) The Myriad: Tour of the Merrimack #1 – R. M. Meluch
69.) Caliphate – Tom Kratman
70.) Kris Longknife: Mutineer (Kris Longknife #1) – Mike Shepherd
71.) Shadow Puppets (Ender’s Shadow series) – Orson Scott Card
72.) Starting Out With Visual Basic 2012 – Tony Gaddis and Kip Irvine
December
73.) Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live & Die for Bigger Things – Ken Wytsma with D. R. Jacobsen
74.) The City: A Global History – Joel Kotkin
79.) Theology: A Very Short Introduction – David F. Ford

Tweets of the Week

I’m starting to filter these so they’re not so long, and hopefully of more value to you.

Rosa Brooks ‏@brooks_rosa :  A Drone of One’s Own – By Rosa Brooks | Foreign Policy http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/03/21/a_drone_of_ones_own#.UUuYTV2p-Sc.twitter

 J. Scott Shipman ‏@jscottshipman :  Thus far; excellent: Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture by Ross King http://www.amazon.com/dp/0142000159/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_HbYsrb007PG0M

Text Message Retention Policies http://bit.ly/15x1aTC

What a novel concept: What’s Missing from the Iraq Debate? Iraqis – By Marc Lynch http://atfp.co/YIN7q0

*headdesk* x 100 : Are Urban Explorers Really a Threat to Our National Security? http://bit.ly/YIMWuT

When Technology Overtakes Security http://bit.ly/ZzZDLK

Global Cities of the Super-Rich http://bit.ly/ZAWefG

Booming Asian Cities Are Tugging The World’s Center of Light East http://bit.ly/Y0aqQr

Ebay style feedback could secure military networks http://bit.ly/ZefEDL

Rachel Held Evans ‏@rachelheldevans :  Christianity Today Gleanings: International Justice Mission Wins ‘Landmark’ Sex Trafficking Conviction in India http://buff.ly/ZLzys6

Calestous Juma ‏@calestous :  Global Evolution of Biomanufacturing http://bit.ly/10iNpsi

Small Wars Journal ‏@smallwars :  The Trajectory of Intelligence Practice from DESERT SHIELD to IRAQI FREEDOM to Today http://bit.ly/YpHxcQ  #Iraq #Intelligence

On Modern-Day Slavery: Today We’ve Disappeared by April Yamasaki http://feedly.com/k/XpULGi

Daniel Solomon ‏@Dan_E_Solo :  All politics are local, gendered edition: what role for women in northern #Mali’s insurgency? http://bit.ly/YFL3z1 . (via @sahelblog)

After the Aircraft Carrier: 3 Alternatives to the Navy’s Vulnerable Flattops http://bit.ly/YVOUet

5 Trends That Will Drive The Future of Technology http://bit.ly/Y4cTvm

Three wars that will define America’s future: Silicon, Iron, and Shadow – By David W. Barno http://atfp.co/15ZYu2Z

Tyrannicide and the Lost Republic http://bit.ly/ZsL4cP via @zenpundit

Pitt professor lands $3.4M NIH grant for wearable artificial lung http://bit.ly/WE3rg8

FinSpy surveillance software package: http://bit.ly/15YL732

A consumer’s guide to 3D printers: See:… http://bit.ly/Y0ed2o

Summary article on the state-sponsored Gauss malware: Gauss http://bit.ly/11eYDAy

China’s BGI to Sequence 2,200 Geniuses In Search For “Smart” Genes http://bit.ly/XWYEX9

Marissa Mayer and Einheit:   Desperate measures http://bit.ly/109rYK8

China replaces Britain in world’s top five arms exporters: report http://reut.rs/ZC2qTC  via @reuters

10 Years After the Iraq War, How Has Baghdad Changed? http://bit.ly/116BzjM

This is VERY cool:  Turning a Persian Rug Into a City http://bit.ly/YkzYqU

How Many Steps Do You Really Look Ahead?  http://bit.ly/YNngjW

To COIN or Not? – An FP Roundtable http://atfp.co/115qVcR

Argo http://bit.ly/11a77ZG  @zenpundit gives it a thumbs up.

Potential drought resilience strategies for the Horn of Africa http://bit.ly/WRwcY2

Everyday Leaks From Sewer Systems Lead to Alarming Amounts of Sewage in Our Waterways http://bit.ly/Wy89Mo

Lessons in Self-Defense for Women, From Tahrir Square http://bit.ly/134LTOc

Big Data and You http://bit.ly/ZDWBoH

Ummm…YES!  Should We Set Up Drone Guidelines? http://bit.ly/Wy56Ea

Guess who’s coming to dinner…Bruno Maisonnier: Dancing, tiny robots! http://bit.ly/WufigW

Scary stuff:  How Drones Can Live off the Land for Years http://bit.ly/WufcpF

Biomedicine Update: Progress on the AIDS/HIV Front http://bit.ly/YkJg3d

The Rise of the Cossacks Amidst Russia’s Decline http://bit.ly/ZKsA5i

Agriculture and Husbandry: The Slow-Motion Singularity http://bit.ly/ZKrma0

Washington “Cancels” Fourth Stage of European Phased Adaptive Approach http://bit.ly/ZAKAjP

Science of Digital Fabrication – Materials and Mechanisms: 3D Printing http://bit.ly/XQgg6I 

Books I Read in 2012

It’s that time of year again.  My reading was down a little this year due to the fact that I was working full time and reading some longer books.

January
 
2.) Regeneration (Species Imperative #3) – Julie Czerneda
3.) Chaos: A Graphic Guide (Introducing Series) – Zaiuddin Sardar and Iwona Abrams
4.) Catching Fire (The Hunger Games#2) – Suzanne Collins
5.) Astrobiology: A Brief Introduction – Kevin W. Plaxco and Michael Gross
6.) Thinking in Systems: A Primer – Donella H. Meadows
7.) Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) – Suzanne Collins
9.) War – Sebastian Junger
 
February
 
10.) The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – C. S. Lewis
 
March
 
15.) One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way – by Robert Maurer, Ph. D.
 
April
 
19.) Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis – Lauren F. Winner
 
 
May
 
20.) The Silver Chair (Narnia) – C. S. Lewis
22) Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think – Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler
23) The Detachment (A John Rain novel) – Barry Eisler
24) Fifty Shades of Grey – E. L. James
25) Fifty Shades Darker – E. L. James
26) Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next – Greg Lindsay and John D. Kasarda
 
June
 
27) Private Dancer – Stephen Leather
28) Fifty Shades Freed – E. L. James
31) Dubai: Gilded Cage – Syed Ali
32) Amped – Daniel H. Wilson
 
July
 
33) China Safari: On the Trail of Beijing’s Expansion in Africa – Serge Michel, Michel Beuret, Paolo Woods
34) All Fall Down – Vern McGeorge
39) Night Without End – Alistair Maclean
 
August
 
41) Birds of Prey: The Battle Within – Gail Simone et al (Comic Book Graphic Novel)
43) The Twelfth Imam – Joel C. Rosenberg
44) Batman: Battle for the Cowl – Tony S. Daniel et al (Comic Book Graphic Novel)
45) Batman: The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul –  Grant Morrison et al (Comic Book Graphic Novel)
46) Birds of Prey: Metropolis or Dust – Sean McKeever et al (Comic Book Graphic Novel)
 
 September
 
53) Inch and Miles: The Journey to Success – By John R. Wooden et al.
55) Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food – by Barbara Kingsolver
 
October
 
59) Fractions and Decimals Made Easy (Making Math Easy) (with Jacob) – Rebecca Wingard-Nelson
61) Fraction Fun – (with Jacob) David A. Adler
63) Working With Fractions – (with Jacob) David A. Adler
65) Estimation (A Young Math Book) (with Jacob) – Charles F. Linn
 
November
 
68) Pump Six and Other Stories – Paolo Bacigalupi
69) The Great Divorce – C.S. LewiS
71) Contemporary Security Studies, 2nd Edition – Allan Collins, editor
75) Engineering Systems: Meeting Human Needs in a Complex Technological World – Olivier L. de Weck, Daniel Roos, and Christopher L. Magee
77) Red Mars – Kim Stanley Robinson
 
December
 
82) Omnipotence and other Theological Mistakes – Charles Hartshorne
83) The Teeth of the Tiger – Tom Clancy
84) Exit Plan – Larry Bond
85) e: The Story of a Number – Eli Maor

Down the Rabbit Hole: International Security and Gender

“…through understanding and placing notions of gender at the centre of any debate on security we unleash a series of interlocking understandings of the way people of either sex relate to fear, violence, insecurity, violence, and the institutions of war and peace.”
 
–Caroline Kennedy-Pipes, “Gender and Security”
Source: Contemporary Security Studies, 2nd edn, by Alan Collins, Oxford University Press, NY, NY, 2010
 
 

I feel like I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole with this one.  Dr. Megan MacKenzie and I had a discussion on Twitter about women in combat (I wrote a blog post here) and for years, I interacted with Kelly Smith, a pastor in the United Methodist Church, who is a feminist.

 
Now you have to understand where I’m coming from – I’m a white, male, Christian, conservative.  You can probably guess that I know little of feminism and what I do know, I generally don’t agree with.  Yes, yes, women are equal to men and have the same rights, of course I believe that.  It’s the more, shall we say, liberal aspects that I tend to disagree with.
 
Anyway, having recently finished Contemporary Security Studies, I find that my knowledge of philosophy is woefully lacking for understanding the various schools of thought (constructivism, post-marxism, neoliberalism, etc.).  In particular, the Copenhagen School seems to be very influential these days and so I’ve gone back and started reading to try to fill the gaps in my knowledge.  Reading Dr. MacKenzie (see the first chapter of her book, Female Soldiers in Sierra Leone) introduced me to Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida, as well as feminist theory – and believe me, it never occurred to me that feminist theory would have ANYTHING at all to do with the subject – I mean, I grew up on Rambo and (the original) Red Dawn under Reagan.
 
Also, I went to Seminary many moons ago, and briefly had my face rubbed in Feminist Theology, but I bailed – I wasn’t ready, and I freely admit it – to engage the subject.
 
Now I am, and so into the exploration of gender and security and theology and technology and how they relate to feminism I go.  Half of the world is female, and many female scholars working in International Relations and Security have studied these concepts, so I think it’s worth it to at least understand it, even if I don’t agree with it.  I’m starting with Judith Butler’s Undoing Gender.  I’ll keep you posted…

Books I’m reading

Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam

Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife by John Nagl

I’m filling in a gap by reading this book.  It’s referred to in a half-dozen counterinsurgency books and on of course on COIN blogs as well.  I’ve read Kilcullen and other’s, and I figured it’s about time to read Nagl’s book too.  It’s interesting, reading it from the perspective of the course of events in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This is the paperback edition from 2005, and Nagl does have a foreword written that notes some of the lessons he learned serving in Iraq and where he got it wrong and right in the book.

Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen's Guide to Community Supported Agriculture, Revised and Expanded 

Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture by Elizabeth Henderson and Robyn Van En

Traditionally security is evaluated from the vantage point of military force, and maybe less often economics.  Two areas that I’ve been reading lately are financial security (which is different from economic, and which I’ll touch on later) and food security.  My family joined a CSA this year, and it’s opened my eyes to the problems with our food system in the United States – everything from long supply lines to the health of our people, things that directly impact our security.

I’ll dig more into all three of these topics in future posts.