Book Review: “America Invades: How We’ve Invaded or been Militarily Involved with almost Every Country on Earth”

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(See all of my Book Reviews) – Author Christopher Kelly (https://americainvades.com/) published the book “America Invades: How We’ve Invaded or been Militarily Involved with almost Every Country on Earth” in 2015. Mr. Kelly has published four books.

I met the author at the “Battleground 1863” event at the Texas Military Forces Museum a few months ago. He had a table set up in the museum with his books on display. He offered me a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I categorize this book as ‘G’.

As the title implies, this book looks at the military involvement of the US in the countries of the world. As it turns out, the US has invaded or fought in 84 of the 194 countries of the world. It has had some sort of military involvement with 191 of the countries.

For some countries, the entry is half a page. A few will go as long as three pages. This is a book that can be easily read in small time chunks. I found it very interesting to see where the US military or covert operations have been active. In particular, I found the WWII involvement of interest. If you are interested in any period of military history, you will find this book of interest.

I thought that the 12.5 hours I spent reading this 416-page history book were interesting. I like the selected cover art. I give this book a 4 out of 5.

You can access more of my book reviews on my Blog ( https://johnpurvis.wordpress.com/blog/).

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

History Extra Podcast – Secrets of WWII

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(See my other Podcast related posts) – I found the History Extra podcasts a couple of weeks ago. I spent some time culling through them looking for WWII related topics.

One of the early episodes I found is “Secrets of WWII, the French Revolution and ‘The History of Scotland’“. In this episode, there is a short (15 minute) discussion of some of the secret dealings with Stalin. I thought it gave some interesting insights.


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 370 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.

Map of 1939 Europe

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If you have been following my Blog you know that I read and listen to podcasts about WWII. Sometimes it is difficult to visualize the geographic relationships discussed. I came across this 1939 map of Europe that helps.
 
You often see references to the Danzig Corridor (aka Polish Corridor) and East Prussia. This map makes those references very clear. Seeing the separation, it is more understandable why Germany was so upset.
 
I have only a small copy of the image here. The map is by Diercke Atlas. Go to their website to see a much better copy of the map.


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 390 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.

Instrumental Music on YouTube: “The Black Bear” performed by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards

(See my other Music related posts) – This is not ‘Easy Listening’ music, but I decided to focus this week on something closer to my family heritage. Not everyone likes bagpipe music, though I do. I guess it is in my blood. 

The song “The Black Bear” The origin of the music is unknown. One thought is that it originated with sailors who visited North America. That is not the only source though.

Historically it is associated with the Cameronian Regiment, which was formed by Covenanters in 1689. It is best known now as a quick regimental march. It made an appearance in the 1962 WWII D-Day movie “The Longest Day”.

 

Further Reading

  1. The Black Bear
  2. Black Bear

Book Review: “The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols: Adapted from the Journals of John H. Watson, M.D.”

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(See all of my Book Reviews) – Author Nicholas Meyer (https://www.nicholas-meyer.com) published the novel “The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols: Adapted from the Journals of John H. Watson, M.D.” in 2019. This is his 8th novel.

 
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 ‘PG’ because it contains scenes of Violence. The story is set in 1905. The primary character is Dr. John Watson.
 
Holmes brother, Mycroft, approaches Holmes and Watson. A body found in the Thames was a British Secret Service agent. Documents she was carrying implicate the Jews in a world domination conspiracy. Mycroft asks his brother and the Doctor to look into it.
 
The investigation leads Holmes and Watson on a long journey by rail over the Orient Express. They must tread the dangerous ground of Russia to find the answers. Their journey is not without risk.
 
I enjoyed the 5.5+ hours I spent reading this 244-page Sherlock Holmes mystery. Really, this is more of a low-level spy thriller than a mystery. I do like the selected cover art. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

You can access more of my book reviews on my Blog ( https://johnpurvis.wordpress.com/blog/).

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

Neuralink Hopes to Test their Brain-Machine Interface before the end of 2020

For many years communicating with your computer by thought has been science fiction. Today, that is coming closer to reality. Many significant advances have been made to manipulate prosthetics. Efforts to create a wider brain/machine interface are underway.

One of the major efforts in this area is being made by Neuralink. Elon Musk, among others, founded the company in 2016. Elon Musk has said that humans must become cyborgs if they are to survive in the robot and AI filled future. He has predicted that we must enhance our own intellectual abilities. If we do not, we will become redundant. According to Musk, Neuralink’s first goal is to help people deal with brain and spinal cord injuries or congenital defects.

Musk has said, “Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence.” The concept behind that is to integrate communications and computer processing power.

Neuralink is researching a direct link between the brain and computers. It has developed a system to feed thousands of electrical probes into a brain. According to Musk, it hopes to start testing the technology on humans sometime in 2020.

Neuralink has the potential to reshape both computing and humanity. The approach that Neuralink is taking uses a robot to insert tiny leads. Each of these leads is only a fraction of the width of a human hair.

First, sewing machine-like technology drills small holes. Ultra-thin electrodes called threads are inserted. A small chip is connected to a “wisp” of 1,024 threads. Up to 10 chips might be embedded under a user’s skin. Musk has said, “Ultimately, we can do a full brain-machine interfaces where we can achieve a sort of symbiosis with AI.” It might be possible for people to type 40 words per minute by thinking with such an interface.

Neuralink calls their approach a Neural Lace. The Neural Lace provides a technology layer above our brains. The expectation is for Neural Lace to increase our cognitive performance levels. The thought is that the closer we become to AI the less of a threat it will be. Neuralink hopes to have this in a human patient by the end of this year.

The Neuralink electrodes are being designed to both read and write data. The Neural Lace is a device that is intended to grow with your brain. Its major purpose is to optimize mental output.

In the long term, Neuralink sees brain-connected chips and wires placed under the skin. The user would wear a communications pod behind their ear like a hearing aid. The ‘pod’ would then use Bluetooth or WiFi to communicate with a phone or computer. The long-term goal is to build a “digital superintelligence layer”. It will provide a high bandwidth interface between the brain and machine intelligence. The distinction between humans and machines may become almost imperceptible.

The challenges to developing this technology are significant. There have been successes in tests with animals. According to Musk, “A monkey has been able to control a computer with his brain”. Many labs are researching brain-machine interface (BMI) technology. But some worry that Neuralink’s invasive method is risky.

The development of other non-invasive methods are underway. The hope is for these to not only read brain activity but also stimulate it. Using one of these technologies humans may someday be able to define what we want to become. It seems clear that humans are on a path to a more symbiotic relationship with our machines.

This is part of transhumanism. That is the enhancement of humans through the use of technology. At the low-end many of us have already taken a step along the transhumanism path. By wearing eyeglasses or a hearing aid we have augmented our bodies with technology. Other augmentations might enable us to ‘see’ wavelengths of light outside the usual visual spectrum. They might also include methods to accelerate the pace of learning. We might someday rapidly learn new skills or gain a better memory.
Further Reading

  1. Why Elon Musk’s transhumanism claims may not be that far-fetched
  2. Elon Musk: To Survive The Age of Artificial Intelligence, Humanity Must “Achieve Symbiosis With Machines”
  3. Elon Musk says Neuralink plans 2020 human test of brain-computer interface
  4. The merging of humans and machines is happening now
  5. An integrated brain-machine interface platform with thousands of channels

Disney Uploads Virtual Rides to YouTube

(See my other Disney related posts) – Here is something else to keep you occupied while you are ‘sheltering-in-place’. Many have recently had their planned trip to Disney canceled due to COVID19. Disney is helping to meet your enjoyment needs with virtual video experiences.

The most recent release in this series is “Get Ready to Launch on an Adventure that’s Simply Incredible.” This video is of the Incredicoaster at Disney California Adventure Park. There are other videos on the Disney YouTube channel. There is also a ride on Big Thunder Mountain at Disney World and Its a Small World. If you like Disney music there are videos for Beauty and the Beast and Disney on Broadway.

The Disney YouTube channel also has many videos. Included are a series of short videos giving virtual tours of Disney Imagineering. If you choose the Playlist of all of the Virtual Rides you will be rewarded with 24 virtual rides.

 

Further Reading

  1. Disney is releasing free videos that give you a front-row seat on some of its most beloved rides

Are 47% of US Workers at Risk?

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(See my other Robot related posts) – We have all heard a lot about robots and automation taking jobs from humans. The article “Are Robots Coming for Our Jobs? Careful, It’s a Trick Question” tries to dispel some of those fears. It is from 2019, but the points are still valid today.

Much of that concern was generated by the paper “THE FUTURE OF EMPLOYMENT: HOW SUSCEPTIBLE ARE JOBS TO COMPUTERISATION?“. It was published in 2013 by Oxford economists Michael Osborne and Carl Benedikt Frey. In it, they claim that their research identified 47% of American jobs at risk.

Those jobs most susceptible were “insurance underwriters, telemarketers, tax preparers and sports officials“. Automation is least likely to affect jobs “requiring creative and social intelligence“. These would be “recreational therapists, mechanic and repair supervisors, and emergency management directors“. Other professions likey to avoid replacement are “dentists, dietitians, and elementary school teachers“. There will be some short-term impact but after worker skills adapt to the technology they do well. British economic historian Robert Allen calls this the “Engel’s Pause”.

Since then Frey has published the book “The Technology Trap: Capital, Labor, and Power in the Age of Automation”. In that book, he addresses the 47% claim in detail. Part of his explanation is that just because 47% can be replaced, there is no expectation that they will.

Historically the introduction of new technology has created more jobs than it has destroyed. The long term employment picture should be fine. Frey does make a couple of suggestions. Companies should provide some sort of wage insurance. Governments should also take financial measures.

Schools and universities must plan for the future. They need to prepare their students with the necessary technical knowledge. Frey suggests that worker’s attitudes will dictate how much automation will impact us.

 

Further Reading

  1. Are Robots Coming for Our Jobs? Careful, It’s a Trick Question
  2. THE FUTURE OF EMPLOYMENT: HOW SUSCEPTIBLE ARE JOBS TO COMPUTERISATION?
  3. ENGEL`S PAUSE: A PESSIMIST`S GUIDE TO THE BRITISH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
  4. The Technology Trap: Capital, Labor, and Power in the Age of Automation

Book Review: “Code Wars: How ‘Ultra’ and ‘Magic’ Led to Allied Victory”

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(See all of my Book Reviews) – Author John Jackson published the novel “Code Wars: How ‘Ultra’ and ‘Magic’ Led to Allied Victory” in 2011.

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 book tells about the code-breaking efforts of Bletchley Park during WWII.

The book tells how Signals Intelligence developed in the UK. It relates the impact of ULTRA messages on the major confrontations with the Germans. It also tells a little about US code-breaking efforts. In particular, it tells about their success with breaking the Japanese ‘Magic’ code.

I have read other accounts of the success of Bletchley Park. This one gives far more details about the Signals Intelligence process. It also details how the code machines worked.

I enjoyed the 8+ hours I spent reading this 224-page history of WWII code-breaking. I liked this book, but it was a little on the dry side. It is the best ‘inside look’ at Bletchley I have so far come across. I like the cover art. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

You can access more of my book reviews on my Blog ( https://johnpurvis.wordpress.com/blog/).

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 390 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.

Use a Shortcut to Automatically Connect your AirPods

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(See my other Tech Tips posts) – I have AirPods and use them every day. Being stuck at home ‘sheltering-in-place’ I have been using them on my iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

The problem is that after using them with my Mac, it takes a while to get them reconfigured for my iPhone. Then I saw the article “AirPods: Automatically and instantly switch between iPhone, Mac & iPad” on the Mac Kung Fu Blog. I thought it might have solved that problem.

The described solution is to create a ‘Shortcut’ on your iPhone. When you open one of the designated Apps on your iPhone the Shortcut is triggered. The Shortcut will then connect your AirPods. I won’t repeat the detailed steps listed in the article. It is well written and easy to follow.

I have created that Shortcut (my first) and it seems to work well. You do have to have at least one of your AirPods in your ear. Wait until you hear the tone, then you can open the App on your iPhone.

 

Further Reading

  1. AirPods: Automatically and instantly switch between iPhone, Mac & iPad