Book Review: “Alpha and Omega”

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(See all of my Book Reviews) – “Alpha and Omega” eBook was published in 2019 and was written by Harry Turtledove (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Turtledove). Mr. Turtledove has published more than 60 novels.

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence and Mature Language. The story is set at an archeological site in Israel.

The main character is Los Angeles archeologist Eric Katz. After a dirty bomb is detonated in Tel Aviv, a series of events lead towards the End of Days. Many disbelieve, but one event after another fulfills the prophecy in the Old Testament.

I thoroughly enjoyed the 13 hours I spent reading this 469-page alternative history. I have read many of Turtledove’s novels and I have enjoyed them all. This one is a little different in that it is proposing an alternative future. The way the novel ended, there could be a sequel. I think that the cover art is well chosen for this novel. I give this novel a 4.2 (rounded down to a 4) out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

macOS New app Release – PDFpen and PDFpenPro 11.1

Product Announcements – Smile of San Francisco, California, the developer of productivity applications for Mac(R), iPhone(R) and iPad(R), has released PDFpen and PDFpenPro 11.1, an update to its all-purpose PDF editing tool for Mac. Version 11.1 improves column and table data selection and adds automatic page rotation options for scans.

Version 11.1 improves column and table data recognition in documents, providing greater accuracy for selecting and copying data from a table’s columns or cells.

Rotated pages in scanned documents can be detected and automatically corrected, necessary for accurate OCR results.

“In paperless workflows, the ability to reliably extract data, or quickly correct page orientation in scans adds tremendous value and improves efficiency. Version 11.1 now makes selecting and copying column and table data much easier,” said Philip Goward, Smile founder. “Also, we’re excited to add automatic page rotation options for scans. Double your productivity and let PDFpen detect and correct rotated and skewed pages for you!”

PDFpen and PDFpenPro 11 work with PDFpen for iPad & iPhone version 4, allowing seamless editing across devices when used with Dropbox or iCloud.

PDFpen retails for US $74.95, PDFpenPro for $124.95. Family Pack licenses, which cover up to five computers in one household, are $94.95 for PDFpen and $149.95 for PDFpenPro. Office Pack licenses start at $224.95 for PDFpen (5 users) and $349.95 for PDFpenPro (5 users).

Upgrades from earlier single-user versions of either application are US $30, and free for users who purchased on or after January 1, 2019. Upgrades from any previous version of PDFpen to PDFpenPro 11 are US $50. Upgrade pricing for Family Packs and Office Packs available in our web store.

PDFpen and PDFpenPro 11 require macOS 10.12 (Sierra) and later. For macOS 10.11 (El Capitan) and earlier, see our website for compatible PDFpen versions. Demo versions are available on our site. Full versions of PDFpen and PDFpenPro are also available for purchase on Apple’s Mac App Store. PDFpen is also available via subscription from Setapp.

What’s New in PDFpen 11.1:
* Improves the ability to select and copy column and table data
* Adds automatic page rotation option for scans: Rotate and deskew scanned pages independently of OCR, Rotate and deskew scanned pages when performing OCR
* Other fixes and improvements

Features Specific to PDFpenPro:
* Export to Microsoft(R) Excel (.xlsx, .xls), Microsoft(R) PowerPoint (.pptx) and PDF Archive (PDF/A) formats (requires Internet connection for .pptx and PDF/A, must be a licensed user)
* Create cross-platform fillable PDF forms including interactive signature fields and email or web submission buttons
* Create and edit Table of Contents
* Convert websites into PDFs
* OCR multiple documents in batch
* Add and edit document permissions
* Automatic form creation makes existing PDF forms fillable
* Gather submitted form data via backend integration
* Add and delete file attachments and annotations
* Create Portfolio documents, combining related files
* Correct typos in OCR text layer
* OCR horizontal Chinese, Japanese & Korean

Features:
* Add text, images, and signatures to PDFs
* Correct text in original PDF with editable text blocks
* Fill out interactive PDF forms and sign them
* Redact or erase text, including OCR text
* Search and replace, search and redact, and search and highlight text
* Export in Microsoft(R) Word format, TIFF, JPEG, PNG, and flat PDF
* Scan directly from Image Capture or TWAIN scanners
* Perform OCR (Optical Character Recognition) on scanned documents
* View OCR layer for proofing OCR text from scanned pages, or remove OCR layer
* Edit original images, including adjusting resolution, color depth and contrast, skew, and size of an image or scanned document
* Sign PDF forms via drawing, interactive signature fields, or AATL or self-signed certificates
* Insert and remove pages; reorder pages in a PDF with drag & drop; combine PDFs maintaining Table of Contents entries
* Move, resize, copy and delete images in original PDF
* Save PDFs directly to Evernote
* Preview and extract file attachments and annotations
* Record and playback audio annotations
* Copy and paste rich text; retain fonts and formatting when copying from PDFs, including columns
* Context-sensitive popup-menus enable quick edits
* Add notes and comments, print annotation summary with or without the original text
* Mark up documents with highlighting, underscoring and strikethrough
* Save frequently-used images, signatures, objects, and text in the Library; sync Library items with PDFpen for iPad & iPhone via iCloud
* Add page numbers, bookmarks, headers, and footers, line numbers and watermarks
* Apply business-related and Sign Here stamps via the Library
* Password protect a document with up to 256-bit AES encryption
* Automate PDF manipulations with AppleScript and JavaScript Automation
* Available in English, Japanese, German, French, Italian, and Spanish

Requirements:
* macOS 10.12 (Sierra) and later

PDFpen Pricing:
US $74.95
Family Pack: $94.95 (home use; up to 5 computers in one household)
Office Pack: starts at $224.95 for 5 users
Single user upgrade from earlier versions of PDFpen: $30
Upgrade pricing for Family Packs and Office Packs
(Free upgrades for purchases made on or after January 1, 2019; no free upgrades available on the Mac App Store)

PDFpenPro Pricing:
US $124.95
Family Pack: $149.95 (home use; up to 5 computers in one household)
Office Pack: starts at $349.95 for 5 users
Single user upgrade from earlier versions of PDFpenPro: $30
Upgrade pricing for Family Packs and Office Packs
(Free upgrades for purchases made on or after January 1, 2019; no free upgrades available on the Mac App Store)

Single user upgrade from the previous version of PDFpen to PDFpenPro 11: $50

Site licenses: PDFpen $1249.95, PDFpenPro $1624.95
Site license terms: Single contact for support; single physical address or company with fewer than 1,000 employees. Visit our site license store.

Demos of all Smile desktop products are available for free download from our website. For more information about PDFpen, please visit our website. Smile. Software that’s just right. Purchase from the website

macOS New App Release – SheetPlanner 1.1

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Product Announcements – Independent developer, SheetPlanner Software LLC of Alexandria, Virginia has released SheetPlanner 1.1, an important update to their popular planning, project and task management application for macOS. SheetPlanner helps anyone organize information, make long-range plans, manage projects, and track everyday tasks.

Version 1.1 of the app brings numerous improvements. New features include the ability to connect rows to establish a dependency, a new progress column type that can be displayed in various ways, the ability to print the timeline, and so much more.

“The previous version of SheetPlanner made it easy to plan and manage projects on your Mac, as it made it simple to plan and visualize your long term goals, helping to keep projects and tasks on schedule,” says SheetPlanner Software CEO Peter Davey. “The new version of the software offers improvements and new features that make the app more powerful than ever!”

Using SheetPlanner, users can easily plan and visualize their goals and create project tasks and schedules using the app’s convenient timeline and calendar views. Users can quickly view all of their tasks and their duration and the sequence they need to be completed in. The timeline can be viewed in convenient days, weeks, months, quarters, or years views.

SheetPlanner Features Include:
* Outliner with columns – Add text, numeric, date, or list columns
* Keep inline notes using the built-in full-text editor
* Customize row styles using custom fonts, size, and color
* Focus on a row, or a row and its children, transverse row hierarchy via the handy path bar
* Create Smart Filters using simple or complex criteria, save them for future use
* Search outlines across columns from the toolbar, save the search as a Smart Filter
* Sort outlines by any column and order
* Link documents and folders, whether they’re stored locally or in the cloud
* View documents via Quicklook or in tabs
* Link to web pages via quicklook or in a tab of their own
* View an outline in multiple tabs simultaneously in any combination of views
* View a monthly view of outline rows using assigned dates
* Convenient heat-mapped yearly calendar shows activities starting and ending for each date
* Timeline allows viewing and adjusting of key dates for each task on a convenient horizontal timeline
* Cells, columns, rows, calendars, and timeline can all be customized
* Convenient import and export functionality can export in .CSV or .OPML format
* Copy and paste information to and from Excel and Numbers spreadsheets
* Personalize the Outline view using green bar, yellow notepad or green notepad themes
* Easy to use templates for business, educational, and personal use
* macOS Mojave dark mode
* Much more

SheetPlanner 1.1 offers numerous improvements and new features. Among the new features is the ability to connect rows to establish a dependency. Rows can now be connected using four types of dependencies, Finish to Start, Start to Finish, Start to Start and Finish to Finish.

The new Progress column type displays a row’s completion as a numeric percentage or visually as a bar or pie chart providing users with a way of immediately seeing an activities completeness at a glance. When viewing a project’s Timeline, a red vertical line provides context as to where the project activities fall relative to the current day.

Dates other than just the Start Date and Finish date can now optionally be displayed in the Timeline. The new feature allows users to display data on the Timeline that does not fit within the normal, start, finish and completion dates.

New Features Include:
* The ability to connect rows to establish a dependency
* Display dependencies via arrows in the Timeline, and new optional columns in the Outline
* A red vertical line now marks the current date and time in the Timeline
* Any Date column can now be included in the Timeline
* New Symbol column types, including checkbox, flag, star, color icons, Eisenhower quadrants, more
* New Progress column type can be displayed as a progress bar, mini pie chart, or percentage
* Auto-enter cell values with a default value, from the row above, today, formatted serial number, more
* Outline view menu improvements
* Filter improvements, including better search for dates, time intervals, note text, and more
* Printing the Timeline is now supported, and printing the Outline is improved
* Numerous performance improvements and bug fixes

A new Symbol column type allows users to include checkbox, flag, star, color icons, bullet journaling, Eisenhower quadrants, 5 stars, etc. Common uses for the new feature would be to include favorite or flag items to be filtered and followed up on. Eisenhower quadrants allow the implementation of Eisenhower matrix workflows, while checkboxes allow for the creation of checklists or matrices. Bullet journaling symbols allow users to tag their activities and follow a bullet journal workflow.

The new auto-enter cell values feature allows users to create default values for new rows, automatically populating values from the row above, formatted serial numbers, and more. The feature eliminates the need for repetitive data entry.

SheetPlanner 1.1 also consolidates available menus when right-clicking on a row. Filter improvements offer better search functionality for dates, time intervals, note text, and more. Filtering on the new Progress, Predecessor, Successor and Symbol column types is also available. Meanwhile, searches now accept relative dates like “Today,” “Tomorrow,” “This Week,” and more.

The app now offers Timeline printing, which allows users to print a hard copy of the Timeline or save it to a PDF file for easy sharing with co-workers and clients. Printing the Outline has also been improved.

“SheetPlanner was originally created to provide users with an easy way to track everything they need to complete their tasks and accomplish their goals. The new features in version 1.1 makes that easier than ever,” continues Peter. “Users can take advantage of the app’s 21-day free trial to ensure SheetPlanner is the right app for their needs. I’m confident they’ll buy it once they’ve tried it.”

Device Requirements:
* macOS 10.12 Sierra or Later
* mac OS 10.14 Mojave Compatible
* 8.7 MB

Pricing and Availability:
SheetPlanner 1.1 is a free update to users of 1.0 and is available worldwide from the Mac App Store. A 21-day free trial is available. Users can continue to view documents in read-only mode after the trial has expired. A convenient in-app purchase of $49.95 will unlock the app’s full features after the trial has expired. With the release of SheetPlanner 1.1, we are pleased to announce availability on SetApp.

USA, Arizona, Winslow – Meteor Crater Natural Landmark

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While we were driving to Henderson, NV to visit family we passed by Meteor Crater Natural Landmark just east of Flagstaff, AZ (Meteor Crater Enterprises, Inc., Interstate 40, Exit 233, Winslow, AZ 86047 USA). We were in no hurry so we took the time to visit. As you can see from the aerial photo above, the crater is quite large.

IMG_0884The meteorite that created the crater 50,000 years ago is estimated to have weighed 300,000 tons and was traveling at a speed of 26,000 miles per hour when it hit the Earth. The meteorite exploded with the force of 2 ½ million tons of TNT. In the photo above you can see the largest found fragment of the mostly iron meteorite.

IMG_0876The resulting crater was 3/4 of a mile (about 1 kilometer) wide and 750 feet deep. Over the intervening 50,000 years, the crater has filled in some so that it is now only 550 feet deep.

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To give you some perspective of the size, they have placed a 6′ astronaut figure (because the astronauts headed to the Moon trained here) and a 4′ x 6′ US flag at the base of the crater. They are placed inside the red circle in the photo above.

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Of course, you can’t see them with the naked eye. Even in the close up above you can’t see them.

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I had to use one of the prepositioned telescopes at the visitor center observation deck to see them. With a little effort, I captured a photo with my iPhone. That does put the distance in perspective!

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There is a nice visitor center (far right) with a film and museum on the edge of the crater. You can also see in the photo above how the rim of the crater is raised almost 150′ above the level of the ground. This is because the meteorite buried itself into the ground before exploding. That explosion pushed the edge of the crater up as well as spreading millions of small meteorite bits around the area.

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We were also on a short guided (man in yellow) tour that went about a quarter of a mile west along the north rim of the crater.

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We thought that this side trip was well worth the expense (Adults: $18.00, Seniors (60+):  $16.00, Juniors: (age 6 to 17) $9.00, Non-Active Duty U.S. Military/Veterans (with I.D.): $9.00) and time.


See my other Food & Location posts


 

macOS New app Release – Mail Archiver X 5.1

Product Announcements – Moth Software of Heidesheim, Germany has released Mail Archiver X 5.1 for Mac OS X, an update to their app that serves as a companion to the user’s current email client, allowing consolidation, archiving, and permanent storage of emails. Emails may be saved in the application’s native database format, Evernote, Filemaker, or PDF. Archiving emails from a variety of email applications into a single database, the app prevents accidental deletions, facilitates quick searches, and eliminates the storage size limits imposed by many email apps and companies. By saving emails in a single, standardized format, users are ensured that they can read all their emails, even those from legacy applications, from which they have subsequently migrated.

Following the archiving process, users may browse or search from the Mail Archiver X viewer.

Version 5.1 makes archiving from AppleMail much faster.

Other new Features for Mail Archiver X 5.1 are:
* Writing to the index is faster than before.
* It’s possible to re-upload mails to an IMAP server.
* Added support for the new MailTags version.
* It’s possible to delete/change the Gmail authentication.
* Exporting works with a large selection.
* Archiving to Filemaker is about 20-30% faster and is less likely to have errors.

Feature Highlights of Mail Archiver X are:
* An ideal email management and archive solution
* Protect and save all emails in a single archive folder
* Archives emails from the following formats: Mail, Outlook, Postbox, Powermail, Thunderbird, and standard mbox
* Exports emails to the following formats: Internal Database, Evernote, Filemaker, PDF, mbox, or Text
* Built-in email database browser
* Filemaker support, when using the Filemaker Version 16 or higher archive.

Pricing and Availability:
Mail Archiver X 5.1 costs $44.95 (USD) and is available directly from Moth Software. A free, fully-functional, 10-day trial version can be downloaded. Mail Archiver X 5.1 comes with a 30-day, money-back guarantee.

Music of WWII: “Sentimental Journey”

(See my other WWII related posts) – The song “Sentimental Journey” was published in 1944. It was written by Les Brown and Ben Homer, and the lyrics were written by Bud Green. It was recorded in 1945 with Doris Day as the lead singer. The recording was released as the war in Europe was headed to a close. The song reached the Billboard charts on March 29, 1945, and lasted 23 weeks climbing all the way to the #1 spot. Because of the timing of the release, the song was popular with troops returning from the European Theater.


If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

The  World War II Sources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 330 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and other sources with information on the World War II-era in history.

The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.

The “About WWII” page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

Book Review: “Escape from Paris”

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See all of my Book Reviews) – “Escape from Paris” eBook was published in 2019 (October) and was written by Stephen Harding (http://stephenhardingbooks.com/index.html). Mr. Harding has published four books.

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘G’. The story is set in German-occupied France. While on a bombing raid, a B-17 is shot down on July 14, 1943. This story tells how they are rescued by the French, hidden from the Germans, and eventually smuggled out of France.

The crew makes repeated attempts to leave France, but they are blocked again and again. Along the way one of the American flyers falls in love with the young daughter of a family hiding him in Paris.

I enjoyed the 7 hours I spent reading this 288-page non-fiction story. I enjoyed this look at the French resistance at work in German-occupied France. I like the cover art chosen. I give this book a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).


If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

The  World War II Sources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 330 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and other sources with information on the World War II-era in history.

The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.

The “About WWII” page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.

macOS New App Release – Color Ray

Product Announcements 64BitApps of Craiova, Romania, the software company that brought Mac users apps such as Icon Plus, PDF Plus, and ImageSize, announces the release of Color Ray, a Mac app that allows users to visually enhance their photos by combining artistic color effects like Black & White, Sepia, Sketch and Oil Painting.

Users will be able to edit both the background and foreground layers of their photo which allows them to color a certain area and turn the rest of the photo to black & white for a dramatic effect. Color Ray also allows users to keep a certain area of the photo sharp while blurring the rest in order to create a depth of field effect.

Color Ray uses an adjustable brush so that users can select the foreground area of their photo with precision and it also features an Eraser Mode that helps users fine-tune their photos. Users can save their photo in various file formats which include JPG, JPE, JP2, JPX, PNG, BMP, GIF, TIFF and also the newer formats HEIC and HEIF.

Pricing and Availability:
Color Ray is priced at $4.99 (USD) and can be purchased from the Mac App Store and from 64BitApps online. More information about this app can be found at 64BitApps.

macOS New app Release – Hook 1.0

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Product Announcements – Independent development team, CogSci Apps Corp. of BC, Canada has released Hook 1.0, their handy digital utility for the Mac. Hook supplies the missing links in macOS, to allow users to access the documents that are most relevant to the task at hand. The app, based on cognitive science, allows users to instantly create notes linked to a document, or other information item, providing instant navigation between the two.

Hook doesn’t replace any of a user’s favorite Mac apps but instead augments them. For instance, by using a simple keyboard hotkey combination, a Mac user can instantly create a new item (in the app of their choice) that Hook links to the current item (such as a web page, PDF, email or file). With Hook, a document can be linked to an outline, an OmniFocus project, an email, and many other types of information.

“Deep work requires quickly accessing documents from your Mac. Unfortunately, filing and searching are distracting, slow and effortful,” shares Luc Beaudoin, a cognitive scientist and co-founder of CogSci Apps Corp. “Hook allows you to skip these steps by immediately linking and accessing contextually relevant information.”

This CogSci Apps(R) invention not only helps users with their own tasks, it also comes in handy by aiding the user’s colleagues. Users can send links to files in locally synced shared folders – such as Dropbox or iCloud – or even revision control systems like Git. Colleagues can then click on a link, and Hook finds the file and displays it in their Mac’s Finder window (or opens it) – even if the file has moved. Solving an age-old problem, links to emails can also be shared, so they can be used to easily refer to previous conversations.

When using Hook, the focal document becomes a hub for a user’s work, allowing instant access to information that is most relevant to the task at hand. No longer will Mac users overly depend on Finder, folders, Spotlight, web search, tags or aliases to access related information items. Now, users can swiftly learn, create products, and solve problems with pertinent knowledge resources.

Hook features include:

* Link items together (including files, URLs, emails, notes, tasks, and many more)
* Create, link, name, tag, and access items with one command
* Navigate instantly between linked items
* Get robust formatted links to various resources (including files, web pages, email, notes, and more)
* View linked items in Hook’s compact popup window
* Create, view and follow links with the Hook window
* Create shareable links to email
* Create links to shared files in Dropbox, iCloud, Git and elsewhere that recipients can open on their own Macs
* Use Hook search-links to trigger Spotlight searches
* Reveal the current document in Finder
* Import/export
* Link to and from files in DEVONthink Pro, EagleFiler, Evernote, Yojimbo and Finder
* Use the Multi-Link feature to link multiple items together in one or two steps (PRO Only)
* Copy all of a resource’s links (PRO Only)
* Create Markdown links to files, web pages and other resources (PRO Only)
* Create Hook files, which contain a URL or Markdown link in plain editable text, which are more general than aliases and .webloc (PRO Only)
* Customize with AppleScript (PRO Only)
* There’s more than that, and even more to come!

“Before Hook, links were essentially ‘out there’ on the web. Links could not connect your personal files, emails, tasks, and other important documents and information sources,” continues Luc. “Hook supplies the missing links in macOS so you can instantly access the documents that are most relevant to your current task. Hook allows you to you focus on creating, learning and solving problems.”

Device Requirements:
* macOS 10.12.6 or Higher
* macOS 10.14.5 Mojave Compatible
* 8.2 MB

Pricing and Availability:
Hook Essentials 1.0 is $14.99 USD (or an equivalent amount in other currencies) and Hook Pro 1.0 is $19.99 USD. Hook Pro has all the features of Hook Essentials, but also enables users to generate Markdown links, make Hook files, edit integration scripts, generate search links, and install and use Hook on more Macs. Both versions include software updates for one year and are available worldwide exclusively at the Hook website. A 30-day Pro trial is available. Subsequent one-year software updates will be available at a discount of the original price. See the Hook Productivity website for details.

Texas Military Forces Museum – Hands-on​ History Night 2019

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(See my other Texas Military Forces Museum related posts) – Last Saturday I worked my first “Hands-on History” night at the Texas Military Forces Museum as a docent. I was really impressed by both the attendance and the wide array of weapons and equipment on display.

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Tables were set up and manned by volunteer reenactors from various periods of Texas Military history.

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Periods represented included: Texas Revolution, Civil War, World War I, World War II (German and US), Korea and Vietnam/Contemporary.

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volunteer reenactors at each of the tables demonstrated the equipment and provided the visitors with details of how it was used.

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Nearly 600 visitors explored the museum and were able to climb into several of the vehicles that are normally just on display.

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The big hit of the night was the Sherman Tank. The line to climb inside filled quickly and during the peak of the evening was near an hour wait. Everyone was able to take their turn inside well before the evening ended.

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I enjoyed the 5+ hours I spent helping visitors to the museum. After experiencing a “Hands-on History” night for myself, I am going to encourage a lot of my friends to take part next year. Many people are surprised to find this 45,000 sq. ft. free museum in the heart of Austin.

If you are interested in history, visit the Museum website to see when the next event takes place. The Museum is free (adults do need to show ID to enter Camp Mabry) and open Tuesday thru Sunday 10AM to 4PM. The living historians (reenactors) will present their Close Assault 1944 living history program on Veterans Day weekend in November.


If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

The  World War II Sources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 330 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and other sources with information on the World War II-era in history.

The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.

The “About WWII” page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.