The Bow-Tied Blogger

The life and adventures of one soldier and his various journeys.

  Thursday, May 31, 2007

May 2007 Reading list:


Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All of Its Moods (P.S.)

Choosing a Jewish Life: A Handbook for People Converting to Judaism and for Their Family and Friends (Paperback)

Living a Life That Matters (Paperback)

How Good Do We Have to Be? A New Understanding of Guilt and Forgiveness

The Early Ayn Rand: Revised Edition: A Selection From Her Unpublished Fiction

Books read for May: 6
Total read for 2007: 24

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  Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Relationships are a wonderful thing, which is surprising coming from a bitter old cynic like me, but maybe I am not as cynical as I used to be. According to my mother, I am a sheep when it comes to women, but she has control issues.

The blogosphere is a great way to meet people. Relationships can occur and you never know who you meet. Regardless of the dots that can be connected, they will connect. Just last week, I added a special someone to my blog team, and she is someone who means a lot to me. The funny thing is it started back in March, with a generous choice in the comments section and little did I know what would happen next.

At first she was a very nice friend who sent me a book, which I just finished today, and offered to write me. Then I finally discovered her email address and started chatting with her, though at first I was oblivious to how she felt about me, but I began to see someone who is kind, caring, and wonderful, and then once I realized how she felt about and I felt about her, I just wish I could visit her in California.

For now, I chat with her and make plans to see her on R&R leave during my deployment.

But as life can be happy at times, it can be sad for others.

Please remember and pray for Sarah's mother, Gittel Chava bat Pesia, and another good friend of mine Red Tulips just lost her stepmother, so remember and pray for her and for her father.

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  Sunday, May 20, 2007

and a special guest star. I would like to introduce a new member of my blogging team: Sara with no H, the winner of the best photo blog in this year's JIBs :)

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This will be my last blog post until Thursday evening. I have a Field Training Exercise tomorrow (with sarcasm: oh joy oh joy) until Thursday and may it be over early on Thursday, rather than later. I have everything, but toiletries and some other materials packed and I am ready to endure this exercise.

In the meantime, I present another April review:

What I Wish My Christian Friends Knew about Judaism (Paperback)

Now, this book is worth reading if you do not know much about Judaism. However, I didn't learn too much new from this book, but that makes me feel great. It means I am learning the basics, as basic Judaism books are becoming redundant for me. It means I am ready to enter the world of intermediate Judaism, though I have yet to fully master the aleph-bet, but I will in time. Now back to the book. I do admit I should have probably made this one of my first books to read as it is excellent for anyone with questions about Judaism. If you're curious or if you're Jewish and still learning your heritage, get this book. If you're a rabbi, then you probably know everything the book would have to teach you :)

Now on to my final book of April: Exodus, by Leon Uris

Now, this book is historical fiction so I have no doubt liberties were taken. Obviously Yosef Trumpledore, David Ben Gurion, and Lord Balfour are real. Conversely, Adolf Hitler, Haj Amin El Husseini, Adolf Eichmann, and pro-Arab British officers are also real (and some of those schmucks may still be alive).

I do suspect the main characters are not, but I'd love to see if I am wrong. This book was powerful and passionate. Britain's prison camps and the cruelty of keeping a persecuted people behind barbed wire is not mentioned in history class, but it should be. I also love how each character is given a biography as we are first introduced to the reporter and his childhood friend, a nurse looking to replace her lost husband and child. Next are the contrasting tales of Karen Clement and Dov Landau, along with their own experiences of the Holocaust and their unlikely pairing.

The prison camps (I won't call the Concentration Camps as the British didn't actively try to kill the Jewish refugees) were run by a British General who is in fact Jewish, but it isn't until much later that he embraces his heritage fully (at the beginning he is pro-Jewish). His aide is a nasty Amalekite named Freddie Caldwell, a petty and vindictive man who will eventually meet justice through the Maccabees.

The plan is very basic. Under the Mossad and Ari Ben Canaan, a ship overflowing with children will ram the blockade and make international news, putting much needed pressure on the British to allow the Jewish refugees to emigrate to Palestine, where the Jewish Yishuv contains the only democracy in the region.

The tactic works and the next part of the book details the land that will become Israel and the British operations there. In addition is the background of Ari Ben Canaan's father and brother as well as his fiery and lovely sister Jordana. The tale of the gangster Haj Amin is given as his family proved the worst dons in the Levant and used threats and extortion to make Haj Amin Mufti of Jerusalem.

Also, a more enlightened sheik is mentioned and he works with and befriends the Ben Canaans as long as they promise to teach his Arabs the same techniques. Unfortunately this noble figure is murdered by the other dons and his son is a good, but weak leader, failing to stop Egyptian forces from taking over his town.

The story doesn't end with the modern state of Israel. One final tale is told of a roguish fellow and a daredevil pilot who seek to make a quick fortune rescuing Jewish refugees from Yemen, which leads to a certain amount of humor as Jews still living in the time of Solomon are taken aboard a plane and start a fire on board. These rogues become heroes as they continue their missions and join the Israeli community.

I highly recommend this book. I am not a man known for emotions or passions but it stirred up more than a few in me. I highly recommend this book, though remember it is not 100% accurate. A style I love, but the caveat is needed, as it is based on real events :)

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  Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Forty years!!!

has a strong meaning in Torah.

And today is Yom Yerushalayim (יום ירושלים), the 40th anniversary of the day that the IDF won the Old City and Jews had the right to worship at the Temple Mount, plus the Six-Day War is like many wars where rogue nations try to wipe out Israel only to expand her borders. Now, they just use UN condemnations.

In other news, Irina has a great summer job and will hopefully start a nice network from contacts.

Now for a review:

My thoughts on Leviticus.

Well, to be honest, Leviticus is not an exciting read. This is also my first time reading it, so it was interesting to learn all about what can be one of the most controverssial books of the Torah, as the laws may seem draconian by today's standards (we are talking about a late Bronze Age culture, so modernists can cut them some slack here). Also, it was sad reading about Aaron losing his two sons, plus Hashem cutting down his shivah time, but no one said being Kohen Gadol was easy.

I do admit that while I read the commenatry, I would like to read my portion with a group and have soem dsicussions and debates for the future, but I am in many ways impressed to have read it and hope that I get something out of each annual reading. Next time I rad Leviticus I will be deployed. That should definitely add something to my perspective.

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  Sunday, May 13, 2007

Time for another review.

Time to keep catching up with my reviews. And for today I review a highly amuisng one, What Would Machiavelli Do? The Ends Justify the Meanness (Paperback)

This book may be a legitimate how to book, though I suspect it was for humor. Of course, I don't know for sure. I thought it was extremely funny as it gave advice on how to be petty, vindictive, and cruel in order to succeed.

Now the author has a series of book sin this mold that are hopefully meant for humor, which is why I bought this book. The very title was amusing, especially since Machiavelli himself was not such a bad guy, he just trained them :)

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  Saturday, May 12, 2007

Here is a question. While I have no doubt I can read more than 50 boosk this yuear, I was wodnering if you would include Torah books I have been reaidng in my weekly parsha readings among the books. So far, I have finished Exodus and Leviticus this year, though they are not exceedingly long, but I also read the Commentary in my Chumash. I was just curious about any opinions.

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Time for a Book Review. My first one in April.

Homeward Bound by Harry Turtledove

This is it! The final book in the WorldWar series by Harry Turtledove. It begins in 1972, where the Emperor summons Atvar to return to the home planet. Five years later, Sam Yeager is part of an experiment to freeze a human and transport them to the Lizard planet. In about ten years or so, Kasquit opts to be frozen along with Ttomalss, her father/researcher. In 1994, Jonathan and his wife are frozen and Reuven Russie is the Chief Doctor in Jerusalem. The downside to this prologue is that many other characters will no longer matter as events go far into the future. Penny and Rance will die of old age or excitement. Dutourds will no longer get any mention, nor will the Goldfarbs and their other friends in Alberta. I would have liked a tying up of loose ends. At least some mention is made of other characters, like Mordecai's grandchildren and Drucker's son, plus the sad news that Reuven Russie has a son named Dr. Chaim Russie who is killed by an Arab bomb. It was very sad to hear that, but at least not everyone beyond the main cast was completely written off.

Now, on the mission, we have four astronauts and a doctor piloting the ship once they awake from cold sleep as well as the Yeagers and four new faces, the DelaRosas, Maj. Coffey, and Henry Kissinger (though he is known as the doctor). Kisisnger was intended to be the diplomatic leader, but he dies in cold sleep, making Sam Yeager the new leader.

The first part of the book discusses life on the lizard home world, how hot it is and how even their south pole is like a wintry Los Angeles. Not too much to note, though it is interesting how the cities and the attitudes of the people are described, plus the two other subject races, Rabotevs and Hellesi, are shown as well as some interesting talk of evolution that helped me understand why the lizards were so advanced so early on. Earth and Home are not that different to an extent. On Earth reptiles evolved into mammals and within mammals further evolution led to primates, leading up to humans, while reptiles evolved into sentience on home granting at least a few million years of a head start. One big difference is that the lizards were every conservative and careful about technology causing evolution at a much slower pace than humans, which is why they were conquering outer space before bronze weapons were forged on Earth, but by the end of the tale, American scientists learned how to travel faster than light speed, traveling 10 light years in five weeks.

To be honest I felt disappointed by the book as I wanted more follow through on other characters, but I realize a story must conclude eventually. The Emperor was an interesting and wise character, but it seemed like he was a parody of a human leader, and much of lizard society seem to be like human society but with differences.

I only wish Turtledove will make short stories in the future to flesh in details about the other people mentioned, but I do need to realize that this is a fantasy world and cannot go on forever. I still recommend this series, but I am glad i checked out these books instead of buying them.

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  Tuesday, May 08, 2007

One more book review for March. Boy am I a slacker!!

The final book to review for March is The Rebels

This is the second book of the Kent family Chronicle and takes place during the American Revolution, detailing not just the story of Philip Kent, but also Judson Fletcher, an ill-tempered, self-destructive, dilettante son of a prominent Virginia planter possessing a modicum of decency, but not often.

Philip Kent is married to Anne Ware and she bears him a son while he is off at war. During the time leading up to his son's birth, Anne's father Abraham dies. Anne uses the inheritance to invest in two treasure hunting ships, a considerably risky venture, and at the same time she encourages Philip to re-enlist in the Continental Army.

In Virginia, Judson is prompted by his brother to take his place in the Continental Congress, but he proceeds to take on a binge of drinking and whoring much to the chagrin of Thomas Jefferson. During his time there, he drinks heavily and is eventually expelled from the Congress for his lewd behavior. At the same time, Alicia has degenerated form the loss of her husband and being rebuffed by Philip to a streetwalker and Judson's bed mate, until her wealthy uncle finds her and challenges Judson to a duel. Judson easily wins the duel and Alicia kills herself.

Philip lives history as he crosses the Delaware with Washington and spends the winter at Valley Forge learning drill and ceremony from Baron Von Steuben, as well as reuniting with the Marquis D'Lafayette, and even meeting General Washington.

Anne is in Boston with little Abraham being watched by a neighbor, but also by a lecherous ship captain who is ripping off the returns the Kents should be receiving from their ships. The Captain eventually kidnaps Anne to rape her aboard his ship, and he manages to do this many times until she manages to fight him to a draw killing them both.

Philip hears nothing from Anne and is concerned but he is not allowed to leave until he is later wounded, but by then he is too late as his wife is dead. During this time, Judson returns to Virginia and sleeps with Peggy Ashford McLean, an old love of his, but then moves on to seek a new life out west in the Appalachian Frontier following his childhood friend George Rogers Clark (as in the Clark of Lewis and Clark).

Peggy is pregnant, and hides away to Boston to have her daughter, Elizabeth Fletcher. While there, she meets Philip, and they wed.

Now that is a brief and unhelpful summary, but I don't want to give too much away. I enjoyed this book as a I am a fan of historical fiction, but I find events a bit fanciful as Philip experiences so many battles of the American Revolution. part of what shocks me is that with all this combat experience he remains a Private. Even if his friendship with Marquis D'Lafayette yields no perks, his experience should have eventually made him a Sergeant, but I do not know promotion structures at that time. I also liked the tie in of Alicia as a prostitute, closing a thread from the first novel, as well as Judson's redemption.

Once I finish a few more books, I look forward to reading the next book in the series to learn about Philip Kent and his children as well as step-daughter Elizabeth.

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  Sunday, May 06, 2007

Today is a day of many events. First it is Lag Ba'Omer along with the Salute to Israel Parade in NYC (a pity I am back in Texas already). In addition, France has just elected Sarkozy who bears a resemblance to Charles Krauthammer, just like Jacques Chirac bears a resembalnce to Ehud Ohlmert

Check for yourself

Now for a much overdue review:

Converting to Judaism - Choosing to Be Chosen : Personal Stories (Paperback)

This was a great book, to say the least. I loved the stories each convert told. Some stories were not as relevant to me, while others spoke to me, especially Arthur's, as I was at one time a fairly devout Catholic, before that oatmeal-rich foudnation collapsed.

Each story gives a detailed profile of each convert as well as one woman who didn't convert, though not everyone is called. It also remidns me of stumbling blocks people, especially Christians would have if converting while their old belief system is still intact. For me, it was no problem as I for one hate Christmas and have since I was 12, and Easter is neither here nor there, though the progroms caused by Easter week is very unsettling.

On the downside I did not learn too much new information, though this is a good sign as I am learning the basics of Judaism and may be able to start on Intermeidate and eventually advanced topics. I definitely recommend this book to proselytes like myself and others with questiosn about why someone would want to convert.

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  Saturday, May 05, 2007

Duty calls.

It is funny that my unit assigns me to Staff duty the very day I return from leave, and on a Saturday. It's not a bad assignment, but a little annoying, to say the least.

If you're thinking about joining the Army, think twice about Finance.

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  Thursday, May 03, 2007

Happy Birthday to Niccolò di Bernardo Machiavelli.

Today, Niccolò Machiavelli is 538 today and while he is dead and buried in Florence's Cathedral, a beautiful place in a beautfiul city I saw in 2002, his works live on, especially with his main book The Prince, but he has The Discourses, The Art of War, and Mandragolda, a funny but cynical play about a guy forming a plot to sleep with another guy's wife, with the help of a crooked monk.

Granted, he is associated with manipulation and deceit, though he was not guilty of it himself. He worte what he saw, and was very cynical. However the cycnical side of him is funny, which makes it all worth it :)

Last post from New York City

Before I return to the black hole of Texas, I will make one final post from my future home, New York City. This was a great trip, and I vastly enjoyed meeting old friends and new ones. I will be getting ready to start my journey to Newark International, courtesy of LIRR and NJ Transit and my good friend who hosted me.

I felt alive in my trip and immensely enjoyed my time, but I also need to feel more alive in central TX, which is tougher, but doable. I need to look at how I live my life, and make preparations for my future. For now, I will continue with my reading and test out the wireless on my new laptop. If I can get a decent wireless signal from my room, then I can cancel my cable and internet and save 88 bucks a month, which I would do in a few months when I deploy anyway. When I return I will be getting ready to deploy, and will then have 15 months in the Middle East. Maybe I should start a pool on when they tell us that we are going to Iraq :)

For now, I leave you and my next post will be from Ft Hood with pictures and a better synopsis this weekend. Shalom.

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Copyright 2007 Thomas forsyth. I welcome comments