Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Thesis defense report

So on Monday I had my thesis defense. To avoid the suspense I did pass although there were a few typos that needed to be fixed. I submitted those yesterday and they were accepted by graduate studies. I should be receiving final approval for my degree sometime soon.

As far as the defense itself it wasn't as bad as I had anticipated. Much of the questioning was asking me to further elaborate on some of the themes of my research. The opening few questions were little worrying because they were talking about gaps in my bibliography. I did manage to make a reasonable argument about not including the material.

It took basically an hour and a half. Before starting out the neutral chair was quite specific that it could only go two hours, even if they had more questions. This makes me think that before this rule some defense went six hours.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

British Napoleonic Artillery 1793-1815: Siege and Coastal Artillery v. 2 by Chris Henry

British Napoleonic Artillery 1793-1815: vol. 2 Siege and Coastal Artillery by Chris Henry is a very short [even for an Osprey title] work on these weapons. Design, construction and employment are described. There's actually quite a bit of things that we don't know. Henry does an admirable job describing where information doesn't exist. These sorts of things are often glossed over in books aimed at the public. This is one of the Osprey titles that has a bibliography, it contains two books but it's still something.


Is available through Abebooks.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Aren’t they just special snowflakes

I’ve always found the hippie free love facet of science fiction fandom to be particularly amusing. There’s probably an anthropological paper in there for someone.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie a "cheap looking blonde" is discovered murdered in a library. It's up to Miss Marple to solve the case. This is my third Christie mystery I've read recently. I suppose I was about do for a dud. There is a little too much hand wringing about kids today and the evils of Hollywood. The mystery is dealt with in the usual competent manner. There are just enough red herrings to keep the reader guessing. I just found some of the characterization to be irritating. Particularly the wheelchair-bound wealthy businessman. Still better then most of the stuff being published today.

Mildly recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.

After Terror: Promoting Dialogue Among Civilizations edited by Akbar Ahmed and Brian Forst

After Terror: Promoting Dialogue Among Civilizations edited by Akbar Ahmed and Brian Forst this is a collection of very short essays discussing how a clash of civilizations can be prevented. I can't fault the contributor list there are some very heavy hitters here they include Benjamin Barber, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Amitai Etzioni, Bernard Lewis, Martin Marty, Queen Noor, Joseph Nye, Judea Pearl, Jonathan Sacks, Ravi Shankar, Bishop Desmond Tutu, E.O. Wilson and James D. Wolfensohn. Unfortunately the essays are very short most a few thousand words. Which really isn't enough time to develop an idea. Some ideas are interesting but a lot of the essays and up sounding like platitudes. Rather interesting was Bernard Lewis who actually comes off sounding like a rational individual unlike in his recent ranting.

Not recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Thesis defense preparation kills free reading time

If my one or two devoted readers have been wondering where I've been the subject line says it all. I've been preparing for my defense which is next Monday. There are a couple of reviews I for one reason or another hadn't posted yet. I'll be finishing them up tonight. Regular posting should resume late next week I hope. So what's everyone else been up to?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age by Marcus Rediker

Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age by Marcus Rediker this is a history of Atlantic piracy in the 17th century. Unfortunately a rather interesting discussion of pirates as perceived both by themselves and by others is bogged down in jargon and hyperbole. Apparently all pirates were rebelling against class, race or gender. When we get past the Marxist interpretation of things we are informed that show trials often took place but Rediker never actually provides any evidence of this. The discussion of organization and biographies of famous pirates are interesting and well done. There's just too much posturing here for me to be able to recommend this.

Not recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Imperial America: The Bush Assault on the World Order by John Newhouse

Imperial America: The Bush Assault on the World Order by John Newhouse this is a history of Bush policy missteps from the beginning of the administration through 03. There's coverage of the run-up to the Iraq war, Iran, Russia and the North Korean nuclear program. The book contains probably the clearest explanation of the history of the North Korean policy debate that I've come across. Newhouse actually goes back to the 1990s and Clinton administration. I'm pretty well-connected to current events and recent history but even I learned some things from the book.

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.