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Alaskans! Go Vote!

Today is primary election day in Alaska. Important decisions are at stake. Go out and vote!

That is all.

Review: Every Day is an Atheist Holiday

Every Day is an Atheist Holiday
Every Day is an Atheist Holiday by Penn Jillette
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you are put off by profanity or sexual talk, don’t even think about picking up this book of essays. Penn simply cannot go for more than two pages (on average) without the f-word or a reference to his privates and/or a sex act.

But if you can set aside your visceral reactions to the tenor of this book, it has some very interesting reflections on fatherhood, marriage, reality TV, blackmail, professional partnerships, stage magic and religion. I’d rather have a hundred Penns in Congress, turning the Congressional Record into something delivered in a plain brown wrapper, than one more Ted Cruz or Michelle Bachmann.

I’d give this book four stars if it wasn’t for the relentless profanity. To which, I’m willing to bet Penn would say F-You with a smile.

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Review: Tales of Alaska’s Bush Rat Governor: The Extraordinary Autobiography of Jay Hammond, Wilderness Guide and Reluctant Politician

Tales of Alaska's Bush Rat Governor: The Extraordinary Autobiography of Jay Hammond, Wilderness Guide and Reluctant Politician
Tales of Alaska’s Bush Rat Governor: The Extraordinary Autobiography of Jay Hammond, Wilderness Guide and Reluctant Politician by Jay S. Hammond
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Overall a good read for those in Alaska history. The whole book is a series of vignettes rather than a single narrative. The effect is somewhat disjointed. I personally found the first third of the book hard to get through, but things did quickly pick up from there.

More documentation of material would have been nice – examples of the Anchorage Daily Times treatment of him, bill numbers for legislation Hammond said he got passed because legislators weren’t much for reading.

On the plus side, Hammond is far from self-aggrandizing in this book and he’s up front about his mistakes and failures.

If you live in Alaska and haven’t read the biography of one of the fathers of the Permanent Fund Dividend, you really ought to pick up this book and read.

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Review: Initiates, The: A Comic Artist and a Wine Artisan Exchange Jobs

Initiates, The: A Comic Artist and a Wine Artisan Exchange Jobs
Initiates, The: A Comic Artist and a Wine Artisan Exchange Jobs by Étienne Davodeau
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Recommended without hesitation. This a graphic novel with a “small is beautiful” subtext.

This is the story of a graphic novelist (Etienne Davodeau) and a vinter (Richard Leroy) who agree to learn about each other’s work. The graphic novelist prunes vines, plows fields and attends wine tastings, vinter interviews and cooperage demonstrations. The vinter goes to publisher meetings, writer interviews, conventions and reads many graphic novels. Some novels are to the vinter’s taste, but others are not. We learn a number of details about both crafts. These are two men who take great pride in their work and willing to expand their horizons. It was a joyous and uplifting read.

The illustrations are almost photorealistic and draw you into the world of the book. It’s black and white but that seems to fit the intensity of the craft going on. Many bottles of wine were drunk and many books were read over the course of this work. The end of the book features the first bibliography I’ve seen that also features a wine list.

This very enjoyable book would have never hit my radar if I hadn’t read it on the “Staff Picks” section of the Juneau Public Libraries web site. See http://www.juneau.org/library/picks_category.php?subject=1 and scroll down.

Caution: If you were bored by either My Dinner with Andre or Mindwalk, this book might not be for you. Otherwise, you’re in for a treat!

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Review: Tilting the Balance

Tilting the Balance
Tilting the Balance by Harry Turtledove
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was better than Tilting the Balance, the first book in the WorldWar series that answers the question “What if aliens invaded in World War II?” It had all “what if” strengths of the first book and fewer gratuitous yet unerotic sex scenes. The named historical characters remained plausible. I particularly like the characterizations of Stalin and Molotov. The depiction of the various powers and ethic groups struggling to set aside their differences long enough to drive the aliens from our world are also done well.

Two things keep me from giving this book four stars. One is a supposedly rational scientist reacting very disproportionately to difficulties in their life. I kept saying, “Really? You’d do that? Because of __?” The second thing was the repetition of certain facts every couple of chapters. The same facts that were repeated every couple of chapters in book one. For example, it’s not too much of a spoiler to learn that U2 soviet biplanes were less likely to get shot down because their canvas bodies were harder to detect by radar. Or that it was important to stay near tree level because the aliens typically shot down anything that few higher. I hope I don’t have to be reminded of these facts every time the pilot character is introduced in book three.

But I was intrigued and entertained enough that I will indeed read the third book, “Upsetting the Balance.” In fact, I’ll be popping off to Listen Alaska Plus to borrow the e-book.

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Review: In the Balance

In the Balance
In the Balance by Harry Turtledove
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you wondered what might have happened if aliens had invade Earth during World War II, this book might be for you.

Entertaining. Historical characters are plausible. Invaders are multidimensional and guilty of their special brand of anthromorphism. Only three stars due to number of unerotic sex scenes. Willing to try next book.

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Our Secret Syria Policy

Daniel Cornwall:

This post from The Dish shows that we seem incapable of learning from the past. This didn’t work out so well for us or the world when we did it in Afghanistan.

Originally posted on The Dish:

Earlier this week Reuters reported that small “arms supplied by the United States are flowing to ‘moderate’ Syrian rebel factions in the south of the country and U.S. funding for months of further deliveries has been approved by Congress.” The funding was approved behind closed doors “in classified sections of defense appropriations legislation.” Jonathan Coppage comments:

While there is surely great diversity in Syrian rebel forces, the inclination of many prominent foreign policy voices in SyriaCongress and the media to follow John McCain’s lead in seeing a George Washington in every irregular colonel does not give one great confidence that classified Congressional appropriators are well positioned to put guns in good hands. …

[W]hile secrecy surely has a necessary place in foreign policy and military decision making, the sheer amount of uncertainty created by classified national security and military budgets necessarily undermines the possibility of democratic governance and accountability. The…

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