Book Review: “World War I: The African Front” by Edward Paice

Wars, for much of history, have been filled with drama. The epic clash of huge armies, with the fates of nations at stake. At the personal level, there are tales of heroism and endurance. Most often, our attention is focused on a main front – that’s where all the big battles are. Yes, battles between many thousands of men can be interesting, but so can the battles on the fringes and flanks where the numbers are only in the hundreds.

Subtitled “An Imperial War on the African Continent”, Paice’s book looks at World War I in East Africa. The fighting there was basically the last mad grab for colonies, as Britain went after German East Africa (modern Tanzania). Belgium (Belgian Congo, now DR Congo) and Portugal (Portuguese East Africa, now Mozambique) were also dragged into the fighting.

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A Visit to Nationals Park

On Thursday the 31st, I drove down to D.C. to see the Nationals host the Phillies. Not giveaway day, but another first-place team (the Nats). A fairly straight drive down Route 295. ON the way down, you pass a lot of exits for government and military facilities. Including – maybe (grin) – the “Employees Only” exit for the NSA.

Unlike Camden Yards, Nationals Park is off in the fringes of D.C., on the Anacostia River waterfront. Despite the stadium’s presence there for six years, there hasn’t yet been any significant development in the area. Still a lot of vacant lots and miscellaneous industry. One hopes that will change in the future.

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A Visit to Camden Yards

Baltimore loves its Orioles (And presumably ravens too, when they are in season). This year marks the 60th anniversary of the team’s move (and name change) from St. Louis to the city, and signs are everywhere. Especially on the main streets downtown, where Southwest Airlines is paying for some street light banners…

There are also plenty of orange shirts to be seen, especially around the stadium near game time. In cities like New York or even Philadelphia, the number of pro sports teams creates divided loyalties and a diluted fan base. So there, you don’t see a city truly rallying around a team like Baltimore does with the Orioles.

I was able to attend two games during my visit

July 30, 2014: Orioles 4, Angels 3:

August 1, 2014: Orioles 2, Mariners 1:

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A Trip to Baltimore

I recently spent a few days on vacation in Baltimore. When you’re an older, single guy like me, it’s not easy coming up with vacation ideas when all the big resorts, destinations, et al. are geared towards either families or couples.

As it happens, I am a baseball fan, and I am not averse to driving for several hours. Here in the northeast, that combination means there are six Major League teams within my driving range. I’ve been to Citi Field in New York City to watch the Mets, and I have no desire to pay far more than necessary to see the Yankees.

So I checked maps and team schedules to see just how many different teams I could see in one week. It turned out that if I went to Baltimore, and took a day trip to DC, I could see five teams in three days.

But before I get into my experiences at the ballparks, I thought I’d talk about “Charm City” from a first-time visitor’s perspective.

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Birdwatching from my Living Room Window

I live in what could best be described as a “semi-urban” area in a fourth floor apartment. I cal it “semi-urban”, since while there are quite a few apartment buildings in the area, none of them are very large. And there are still plenty of single-family houses with backyards. It’s not quite “suburban”, though. Plots aren’t very big, and just beyond a small parcel of trees behind my building there’s a major commuter rail line. And just another line of trees beyond that is an interstate highway.

The trees are a mixed bunch. Beech, birch, oak, maple, locust, and perhaps others I could identify if I knew enough about trees. There’s a good deal of bushes, too. The copse outside is about a quarter of an acre in size. And my living room window looks right out into it. And with me being on the fourth floor, I’m at the best height for birdwatching.

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On the 2014 Baseball All-Star Game

Once again, in the voting before the game, we have seen the eternal conflict between fans who want the absolute best players at each position (based on some unspecified criteria) selected to start and the fans who think it should be the players that fans in general want to see (i.e. the most popular). In most cases, the two are the same. People usually want to see the best players. The discussion gets most wordy when it comes to the reserves and bench players. Who has been snubbed? Who doesn’t really deserve to be there? Why must each team have a representative? Meanwhile, they overlook the fact that a lot of these reserves aren’t going to get into the game until the late innings, might never come to bat, and probably won’t even be mentioned in the broadcast unless and until they are involved in a play. So it doesn’t really matter that much – at least not to the level of debate on the matter.

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BOOK REVIEW: “Tomorrow-Land” by Joseph Tirella

Tomorrow-Land: The 1964-65 World’s Fair and the Transformation of America
Joseph Tirella
Lyons Press, 2014

Ah, the 1964-65 World’s Fair. The last gasp of 50’s optimism, where good ol’ American Know-How and “can do” spirit would solve all the problems of the world and make the future wonderful. A showcase for America’s industrial might and corporate prowess, as well as a sort of “coming out” party for the new nations of the world that had just achieved independence.

Tirella doesn’t look at the Fair itself. This is not a guidebook. Rather, he uses the Fair as a focal point for all the changes taking place in American culture and society. For the Fair seemed to somehow draw them all into its orbit.

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