A Timeout, and a Look Back

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,000 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.




The missile’s nine-megaton thermo­nuclear warhead — the most powerful ever deployed by the United States — was found, relatively intact, in a ditch 200 yards away from the silo.

via The Illusion of Nuclear Safety | Foreign Affairs.


First, the bees, then the bats and the frogs and the…


The high death toll from the resurgence of the virus, which killed 700 dolphins in an outbreak 25 years ago, has alarmed marine scientists, who say it remains unclear why the dolphins have succumbed to the disease. The deaths, along with a spate of other unrelated dolphin die-offs along Florida’s east and west coasts, raise new questions about the health of the ocean in this part of the country and what role environmental factors may be playing, scientists said.

via Focus on Ocean’s Health as Dolphin Deaths Soar – NYTimes.com.




Ukraine is only ready for Europe in the sense that a bankrupt company is ready for receivership.

via Kiev Isn’t Ready for Europe – NYTimes.com.

For Turkey to continue its rise as both a regional power and a global player, it must re-embrace the European Union’s liberal democratic values…

via The E.U. Needs Turkey – NYTimes.com.


On career advice


But seeking employment based on any one “hard skill” is an outdated way of thinking.

via You Don’t Need To Learn To Code + Other Truths About the Future of Careers – 99U.

Sooner or later, the great men turn out to be all alike. They never stop working. They never lose a minute. It is very depressing.

via Literary Review – Christopher Hart on the daily rituals of great minds.


And, finally, he was right.


“I really am beginning to think as I restudied these matters that there’s going to be no big display of any kind. The end is going to come very, very quietly.”

via Harold Camping, Radio Entrepreneur Who Predicted World’s End, Dies at 92 – NYTimes.com.


Another scramble


…drawn to the example set by the fast-growing economies of Asia like China, Singapore and Malaysia — all of which achieved phenomenal growth under modernizing authoritarian governments — a group of African leaders has emerged that openly declares its admiration for this mode of government.

via Africa and the Chinese Way – NYTimes.com.


‘The First World War,’ Twice

The First World WarThe First World War by John Keegan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The First World WarThe First World War by Hew Strachan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

Sort of accidentally, I read these books at the same time.

Each one has 10 chapters, so there was a natural rhythm to it. That is not to say it was a well-thought-out plan. I started Mr. Keegan’s book in the fall, having always wanted to read it. I had read his “Face of Battle” and “The Great War and Modern Memory,” which (I know) gets to be a lot of the shooting and the groaning, but they are both quite good. “Modern Memory,” especially, is a great introduction to the poetry and novels that came out of the war.

Mr. Keegan is, above whatever his credentials are in the military sciences, a gifted and elegant writer.

After reading Mr. Keegan’s introduction and first chapter, I realized that Hew Strachan was expanding his popular one-volume history into a three-volume doorstop. After thumbing through the shorter book, I recognized a few points of differing opinions when compared with Mr. Keegan’s book.

So, I sat in my overstuffed armchair and began to read more and, like Robert Frost would say, way led on to way. I finished Mr. Strachan’s book on a snowy Saturday, just a day after wrapping up Mr. Keegan’s.

It was an interesting exercise, though not exactly recommended. Here again, the shooting and the groaning gets to be a lot after a while. But it was interesting to go back and forth between two top-notch historians. And it really was a back-and-forth. The books don’t exactly cover the same material in the same order, and so a reader comes away with a singular, zigzagging understanding.

Each book, in and of themselves, though, is recommended. Mr. Keegan is the better writer, and for me that made all the difference. He digresses occasionally from a conventional narrative to write essays on leadership, morale, what-have-you — pageslong stretches submerged in the writing at what seem like just the right moments.

These invaluable nuggets are what make the book great.

via The Millions : A Review of The First World War by John Keegan.

Mr. Keegan is lyrical and mournful, beginning and ending his book with a description of English garden-cemeteries in a scarred French countryside. Speedbumps of military box scores (i.e, so much artillery vs. this much artillery) occur regularly. But most of the book is written movingly, and while he is probably qualified to dissect tactical problems, he dismisses such efforts as a waste of time.

It is elegantly written, clear, detailed and omniscient.

via The End of the World.

Mr. Strachan’s book, if you ask me, probably commands more information. It is said to be a boiled-down version of the to-be-written doorstop.

His perspective is that the war was a truly global one, and that it defies the efforts of traditional historians to understand it. While this aspect is not exactly ignored by Mr. Keegan, Mr. Strachan devotes whole chapters to the fighting in Africa, and the Middle and Far East.

He also remarks that the standard histories forget the “war’s other participants,” apart from the soldiers: namely, “diplomats and sailors, politicians and laborers, women and children.”

via THE FIRST WORLD WAR by Hew Strachan | Kirkus.

I am not sure it’s worth saying which point of view seems better.

Mr. Strachan does not have the elegance of Mr. Keegan, but he is probably more comprehensive. There probably is more raw information squeezed into the pages of his book, and an attentive reader may profit more. But in this well-ordered assembly of data, there emerges little of the pathos and poetic style of Mr. Keegan.

Neither book, if you ask me, will bring the reader any closer to understanding why it all happened. Mr. Keegan applies the historian’s judgment that comes with time; Mr. Strachan says the historian needs to try to go back in time. Both views seem sensible; neither leads to digestible conclusion.

Take time to read this.


“Most watchmakers were in those days. You had to keep your eyes open. After a  year of watching, I came in one day and he said, ‘Sit down and start working.’ ”

via After 65 Years of Setting Time, a Watchmaker Shuts His Tiny Store – NYTimes.com.