NATCHEZ BURNING

August 30, 2018


This is the first book I have read from Greg Iles and I can certainly state that he is an excellent writer—a marvelous word-smith.   In looking at the product details, you can see that this is a HUGE book.  Eight hundred (800) pages of detailed, descriptive material with many fascinating characters and multiple story plots. This translates to approximately two hundred thousand (200,000) words.   I had to really concentrate to get into this book and follow at least half a dozen story lines that travel back in time then move forward.  You will see from several reviews below, this is not a book always enjoyed by every reader.  A compilation of scores may be seen as follows:

PRODUCT DETAILS

  • Series:Penn Cage Novels (Book 4)
  • Hardcover:800 pages
  • Publisher:William Morrow; First Edition (April 29, 2014)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:0062311077
  • ISBN-13:978-0062311078
  • Average Customer Review:4 out of 5 stars   3,939 customer reviews
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank:#429,341 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

I always like to know something about the author feeling it helps me understand his purpose in writing and specifically writing the book I’m discussing.  Mr. Ille’s very brief biography is given as follows:

BIOGRAPHY:

Greg Iles was born in 1960 in Germany where his father ran the US Embassy medical clinic during the height of the Cold War. After graduating from the University of Mississippi in 1983 he performed for several years with the rock band Frankly Scarlet and is currently member of the band The Rock Bottom Remainders. His first novel, Spandau Phoenix, a thriller about war criminal Rudolf Hess, was published in 1993 and became a New York Times bestseller. Iles went on to write ten bestselling novels, including Third Degree, True Evil, Turning Angel, Blood Memory, The Footprints of God, and 24 Hours (released by Sony Pictures as Trapped, with full screenwriting credit for Iles). He lives in Natchez, Mississippi.

STORY LINE:

Penn Cage is shocked to learn that his father, Dr. Tom Cage, is about to be charged with murder in the death of a local woman, a nurse who worked with Dr. Cage back in the 1960s. Stymied by his father’s refusal to discuss the case, Penn digs into the past to uncover the truth and discovers long-buried secrets about his community and his own family. Natchez Burning (the title is surely a nod to the infamous “Mississippi Burning” murder case of the 1960s, and others like it) is the first of a planned trilogy. The story ends in mid-stride, leaving us on the edge of our seats, but that’s not a criticism. This beautifully written novel represents some of the author’s finest work, with sharper characterizations and a story of especially deep emotional resonance, and we eagerly await volume two. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Several of Iles’ thrillers have found their way to best-seller lists, but his new publisher is touting this one (his first novel in five years) as a breakout book and seems ready to put marketing dollars behind that claim.

When reviewing a book I have just read, I like to indicate comments from other readers.  A few of these are as follows:

REVIEWS:

CONCLUSIONS:

I can certainly recommend the book but you really need time for completion.  Also, the ending carries a big big surprise.   GO FOR IT.

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THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING

August 18, 2018


Are we as Americans a little paranoid—or maybe a lot paranoid when it comes to trusting the Russians?  In light of the stories involving Russian collusion during the recent presidential election, maybe we should put trust on the shelf in all areas of involvement with Putin and the “mother-land”.  Do recent news releases through “pop” media muddy the waters or really do justice to a very interesting occurrence noted just this week? Let’s take a look.

The following is taken from a UPI News release on 16 August 2018:

“Aug. 16 (UPI) — Just days after the Trump administration proposed a Space Force as a new branch of the military, U.S. officials say they’re concerned about “very abnormal behavior” involving a Russian satellite.  The satellite, launched in October, is displaying behavior “inconsistent” with the kind of satellite Russia says it is, said Yleem D.S. Poblete, assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance . “Poblete suggested the satellite could be a weapon. “We don’t know for certain what it is, and there is no way to verify it,” he said Wednesday at a disarmament conference in Switzerland.

An artist’s rendition of that satellite is given below:

“Our Russian colleagues will deny that its systems are meant to be hostile,” Poblete continued. “But it is difficult to determine an object’s true purpose simply by observing it on orbit. “So that leads to the question: is this, again, enough information to verify and assess whether a weapon has or has not been tested in orbit? The United States does not believe it is.”

This release is basically saying that if we do not know what the Russian satellite is supposed to do, then it must be a weapon.  One of my favorite online publications is SPACE.com.  This group does a commendable job at assessing breaking stories and giving us the straight “poop” relative to all things in the cosmos.  Let’s take a look at what they say.

SPACE.com:

“This gets a bit confusing, so bear with me: Russia launched the Cosmos 2519 satellite in June 2017. This spacecraft popped out a subsatellite known as Cosmos 2521 in August of that year. On Oct. 30, a second subsat, Cosmos 2523, deployed from one of these two other craft.

“I can’t tell from the data whether the parent [of 2523] was 2519 or 2521, and indeed, I can’t be sure that U.S. tracking didn’t swap the IDs of 2519 and 2521 at some point,” McDowell said.  (NOTE: Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who monitors many of the spacecraft circling our planet using publicly available U.S. tracking data.)

These three spacecraft performed a variety of maneuvers over the ensuing months, according to McDowell and Brian Weeden, director of program planning at the nonprofit Secure World Foundation. For example, Cosmos 2521 conducted some “proximity operations” around 2519 and may have docked with the mothership in October, Weeden said via Twitter today (Aug. 16).

Cosmos 2521 adjusted its orbit slightly in February 2018, then performed two big engine burns in April to significantly lower its slightly elliptical path around Earth, from about 400 miles (650 kilometers) to roughly 220 miles (360 km), McDowell said. The satellite fired its engines again on July 20, reshaping its orbit to a more elliptical path with a perigee (close-approach point) of 181 miles (292 km) and an apogee (most-distant point) of 216 miles (348 km).

And Cosmos 2519 conducted a series of small burns between late June and mid-July of this year, shifting its orbit from a nearly circular one (again, with an altitude of about 400 miles) to a highly elliptical path with a perigee of 197 miles (317 km) and an apogee of 413 miles (664 km), McDowell calculated.

These big maneuvers are consistent with a technology demonstration of some kind, he said.

Perhaps the Russians “are checking out the [spacecraft] bus and its capability to deliver multiple subsatellites to different orbits — something like that,” McDowell said. “From the information that’s available in the public domain, that would be an entirely plausible interpretation.”

“What are they complaining about?” McDowell said, referring to American officials. Weeden voiced similar sentiments. Cosmos 2523’s “deployment was unusual, but hard to see at this point why the US is making it a big deal,” he said via Twitter today. “There are a lot of facts and not a lot of pattern,” McDowell said. “So, partly I take the U.S. statement as saying, ‘Russia, how dare you do something confusing?'” It’s possible, of course, that American satellites or sensors have spotted Cosmos 2523 (or Cosmos 2519, or Cosmos 2521) doing something suspicious — some activity that can’t be detected just by analyzing publicly available tracking data. “But they need to say a little more for us to take that seriously,” McDowell said.

CONCLUSIONS:

We just do not know and we do not trust the Russians to let us know the purpose behind their newest satellite.  Then again, why should they?    We live in a world where our own media tells us “the public has the right to know”.  That’s really garbage.  The public and others have a right to know what we choose to tell them.  No more—no less.

SEVEN DEADLY SINS

August 4, 2018


The web site given below is a great site for mechanical engineers and other engineering types involved with projects technology and otherwise.  The “Seven Deadly Sins” caught my attention because these traits apply to just about all projects including those we undertake at home. Let’s take a look.

  1. Rushing projects

More haste, less speed. In other words, if you’ve left things to the last minute or you have taken on too much just to impress your superiors and can’t cope with the workload, it’s a recipe for design disaster.

Mechanical design is a complex process. I might add that most projects that require thought require planning.  If you wish to build a deck for your home—you MUST plan. You need plenty of time to think, plan, reflect, analyse and create. If you’re pressed for time then you’ll probably start cutting corners to get it finished quickly and make glaring errors that won’t get picked up soon enough, as you don’t have time to go back over it to check. To avoid this, make sure you have a well-organized work schedule, don’t take on too much and plan the process of each design carefully before starting.

  1. Poor attention to detail

This is a very broad mistake, but worth mentioning in its own right as it’s so important to develop the right mindset.  The devil is truly in the details. You need to be able to focus on the design or project adequate periods of time and get into the habit of coming back to take a second or even third look at your design.  Checking it over with a fine toothcomb is not time wasted.

  1. Getting the dimensions wrong

Even some of the best engineering minds in the world get it wrong sometimes. Just look at the mistakes NASA has made over the years. One of their biggest mistakes was the loss of a Mars orbiter worth $125 million in 1999. The error came about when engineers from the contractor Lockheed Martin used imperial measurements, while NASA engineers used metric. The conversions were incorrect which wasn’t picked up by either team, thus causing the vessel to orbit 25km closer to the planet dipping into the atmosphere causing the engines to overheat. The moral of the story? Check your dimensions and conversions. In fact, don’t just check them, double or triple check them, then get someone else to check them. Especially when there’s $125 million on the line! How many times have you heard—measure twice, cut once?

  1. Falling behind the curve

Don’t get left behind. Not staying up-to-date with industry developments or the latest technology is a big mistake for mechanical design engineers and individuals considering and planning projects. In this technological age things change fast, so make sure your knowledge is relevant.  The latest “gadget” may just be the device you need to make a good project a great project.   Also, depending upon the project, building codes and building permits may come in to play. Some years ago, I built a backyard deck adjacent to my house.  It was a big project for me and necessitated a building permit from my community.  I found that out when I was visited by one of our local commissioners. The project was delayed until I had the necessary permit.

  1. Not thinking about the assembly process

It’s easy to get wrapped up in your design and forget about the practicality of actually putting it together. Make sure you are thinking about misassemble during the design. Try to foolproof your design, in other words, you want to make sure that, if possible, the pieces can only go together in one way to avoid the chance of misassemble. I’m sure you all have heard about the guy who built a boat in his basement only to discover he had to disassemble the boat in order to get it out of his basement.   In manufacturing, this is known as ‘poka yoke’.

  1. Not applying common sense checks

Make sure the results of your calculations  and planning make sense. Always question everything you do. Question it, check it, and check it again is a good motto to live by.

  1. No consideration of design presentation

At the end of the day, your design is going to be seen by lots of people including your “significant other”.  It needs to be clear, not just to you, but to everyone else. Also, make sure you are constantly practicing and developing your interpersonal skills. There’s a good chance you’ll have to explain your design and rational for that design in person, therefore make sure you figure out how you’re going to communicate the concepts and practicalities of the design beforehand.  You need to make sure when that neighbor asks—“why did you do It that way”- you have a logical answer.

Just a thought.

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