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Review – First Freedom: A Ride Through America’s Enduring History with the Gun

During my recent trip, I listened to the audiobook of David Harsanyi’s new work, First Freedom:  A Ride Through America’s Enduring History with the Gun.  It’s a solid survey of the history of gun technology, the personalities that helped to make advances in firearms, and their impact American history and culture.

For America, the gun is a story of innovation, power, violence, character, and freedom.

From the founding of the nation to the pioneering of the West, from the freeing of the slaves to the urbanization of the twentieth century, our country has had a complex and lasting relationship with firearms. Now, in First Freedom, nationally syndicated columnist and veteran writer David Harsanyi explores the ways in which firearms have helped preserve our religious, economic, and cultural institutions for over two centuries. From Samuel Colt’s early entrepreneurism to the successful firearms technology that helped make the United States a superpower, the gun is inextricably tied to our exceptional rise.

In the vein of popular histories like Salt and Seabiscuit,Harsanyi takes you on a captivating and thrilling ride of Second Amendment history that demonstrates why guns are not only an integral part of America’s past, but also an essential part of its future.

First Freedom is an engrossing look into how firearms have evolved over the past 1000 years and how they have had an impact on American history.  Harsanyi fills in details without overwhelming the reader, and even folks who have used and studied firearms for years will learn from First Freedom.

While the pro-gun attitude of the author is evident throughout the book, it doesn’t become at all thick until the last couple of chapters.  The author takes time to discuss personalities such as Colt, Browning, Garand, and Stoner as much as he writes about their creations.

Harsanyi paints a detailed picture of the thread that weaves firearms and the right to self defense into the fabric of America.  From the earliest explorers and settlers to the everyday citizen of the 21st century, the book’s narrative relates the importance of firearms in American culture.

I’d recommend First Freedom to anyone who is a fan of history, firearms, or both.  It’s an easy read, and will definitely go into my rotation.

Helping Out

Like a lot of you, I’ve been shocked by the devastation Hurricane Michael left in its wake.  That area of the Gulf Coast is one of our family’s favorite vacation spots, and we’d like to help out a group that is already on the ground and helping those hardest hit.

Team Rubicon’s primary mission is providing disaster relief to those affected by natural disasters, be they domestic or international. By pairing the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders, medical professionals, and technology solutions, Team Rubicon aims to provide the greatest service and impact possible.

My short work “Working Vacation” is set in the area hardest hit by Hurricane Michael, and I borrowed a lot from the folks who live and work in the area.  So, I’d like to use it to help out.

From now until November 30, I will donate $1 to Team Rubicon for every purchase of “Working Vacation“, with a minimum donation of $100.

If you’ve already read the book, please consider going to the Team Rubicon webpage and making a donation.  They do good work, both here and around the world, when disaster strikes, and they will put anything we can give them to good use.


  • How my flight went on Monday:
    • Arrive at airport over an hour before boarding.
    • Check my bag, because the TSA isn’t going to get another chance to toss out half of my razor again.
    • Turned the corner from the ticketing desk, took half a step, and ran smack dab into the back of the line to go through the TSA checkpoint.  Seriously, I’ve flown the same weekend as the Kentucky Derby and it wasn’t as bad.
    • Wave as my boss walks past me and into the TSA pre-check line.  Reconsider whether the $85 every 5 years is worth the shorter line and easier screening.
      • I decided that it was.  My interview is in November.
    • Fly to Atlanta so that I can then fly to New York.  Yeah, I don’t understand it either, but it’s Delta.
    • Fly from Atlanta to SmallAirportInNewYork.
    • As we approach SmallAirportInNewYork, the captain announces that the airport is socked in and we can’t land.
    • I go back to watching my movie as we circle the airport for a couple of hours.
    • The captain comes back on and announces that we’re running a tad low on fuel.  Since we can’t get out and push, he decides it’s a good idea to divert to Hartford, Connecticut, to fill ‘er up.
    • We land in Hartford and proceed to wait about half an hour, with no sign of a fuel truck in sight.
    • The flight attendant, backed up by the captain, announces that we will, indeed, be fueling up and returning to circle SmallAirportInNewYork, but we will only try to land once or twice before returning to Atlanta.
    • I quell the outrage and tunnel vision, but am happy to report that my fellow passengers did not have that much self control.
    • Due to the pending riot on the plane, the flight attendant and captain decide that everybody who wants to get off is welcome to do so.  The airline, of course, will not be providing ground transportation to SmallAirportInNewYork, so we’re on our own.
    • Bossman and I retrieve our luggage while he tries to get us a rental car.
    • Upon inspection of my suitcase, I notice that the outside pocket where I put my shaving kit is about 1/4 of the way unzipped.  Further inspection shows that the pocket is devoid of said shaving kit.  Tunnel vision returns for a few minutes.
    • We acquire our rental car, have a quick bite to eat in lovely Hartford, and make our way down the freeway.  While we’re driving, I get out the Amazon app and order a new razor.  It’ll be delivered to my house on Wednesday.
    • Two hours later, after driving through every roadwork zone in Connecticut, we wave to SmallAirportInNewYork as we pass it.
    • Bossman graciously stops at a Target so that I can buy replacement toothbrush/toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, and a pack of disposable razors.
    • We make it to our hotel, four hours later than planned,  with no further issues.
    • Upon unpacking my suitcase, however, I find one of those nifty-neato TSA cards that notifies me that an agent of the government found it necessary to rifle through my unmentionables.
    • Lo and behold, I find the contents of my shaving kit at the bottom of my suitcase.  Luckily for me and the people I had to interact with on Monday evening, my toothpaste and shampoo did not leak out onto my work clothes.
    • 7 PM – I get a notification from Delta airlines that my flight from Atlanta to SmallAirportInNewYork, which I got off of hours ago, has been cancelled.  I feel a warm glow knowing that the airline is looking out for me.
  • Wednesday was spent in New York City, ending a 20+ year drought of me setting  foot in New York City.
  • As we walked along the fetid streets of Manhattan, I considered another large city I’ve visited:  Moscow.
    • Moscow is cleaner, but New York has slightly better road conditions.
    • I saw fewer drunk people sitting on the sidewalk in New York.  Of course, the drunks in Moscow were frozen to the sidewalk, which adds a level of sophistication.
    • Both are impossible to drive in, and the odor of a big city is the same all over the world.
  • On the flight home today, I watched the new “Murder on the Orient Express“.  I’ve walked around all afternoon thinking about growing my mustache out.

Things I Learned from Old Radio Shows

  • Women have only two roles
    • Damsel in distress
    • Femme Fatale
  • Every hero needs an ethnic servant who will either secretly hate their employer and plot their death, or will be a steady, loyal ally who constantly keeps the protagonist alive.
  • If you’re going to track down your sworn enemy and have them corned, nailed down, or locked up, do not just leave them to die.  Finish the job and enjoy the rest of your life.
    • Not to put too fine a point to it, but very few folks can come back to darken your doorstep after two slugs behind the ear.  Just saying.
  • Anyone with a vaguely German, Russian, or Japanese accent should automatically be treated with suspicion.
  • The best shows are sponsored by cigarette and booze companies.  Not sure why that is.


  • Due to an upcoming business trip, I had to go clothes shopping today.
    • I wisely chose to take along my lovely wife.  You see, like many men I know, I can only see the colors that came in the Crayola 8 pack I got in kindergarten.  I’ll allow that there are “regular”, “light”, and “dark” shades of each, for a total of 24 total colors.
    • Apparently, through some magic that must be intertwined somewhere in the double-X chromosome, Irish Woman can see a myriad of colors, and can sense which of them should be worn together.
    • Hence, dear reader, her presence as I picked out a new sport coat and dress shirt for my trip.
  • Since it’s been umpteen years since I last bought a dress coat, I asked the nice young lady at the second store we went to to measure me.  Apparently, I’m a “Lower Primate – Long”.
    • Now that I think of it, it might have been faster and cheaper to go to the zoo in order to skin out a silverback for my jacket.
  • Boo has graduated up to Webelos Scout, and since his blue Cub Scout shirt fits like a sausage skin that no longer reaches to his belt line, we purchased him a new khaki Boy Scout shirt, with all the necessary patches.
    • That, along with a new Webelos manual and a spare neckerchief, came to only slightly less than my dress jacket.
  • We finally broke down and called a plumbing company to come out and correct the issue we’ve been having with our sewer lines.
    • It would have taken me a couple of weekends and many trips to the store to fix it.
    • They, on the other hand will arrive tomorrow with crew, talent, equipment, and supplies, and will probably be done in a couple of hours.

100 Years On – Attention to Orders

After having previously destroyed a number of enemy aircraft within 17 days he (Second Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr.) voluntarily started on a patrol after German observation balloons. Though pursued by 8 German planes which were protecting the enemy balloon line, he unhesitatingly attacked and shot down in flames 3 German balloons, being himself under heavy fire from ground batteries and the hostile planes. Severely wounded, he descended to within 50 meters of the ground, and flying at this low altitude near the town of Murvaux opened fire upon enemy troops, killing 6 and wounding as many more. Forced to make a landing and surrounded on all sides by the enemy, who called upon him to surrender, he drew his automatic pistol and defended himself gallantly until he fell dead from a wound in the chest.


100 Years On – Megiddo

From 19 to 25 September, 1918, British, Indian, and allied Arab forces routed Ottoman forces in what was the last major campaign in the Middle East.  While this was an offensive that ranged across vast sections of modern-day Israel, Syria, and Jordan, it has been christened The Battle of Megiddo. Ottoman forces were routed at Nablus, Amman, and Sharon.

The lessons of four hard years of fighting are evident in how British General Allenby fought this campaign.  The coordinated use of artillery and infantry, along with armored cars, aircraft, and cavalry, penned in and overwhelmed the Turks.  Out of almost 35,000 Ottoman troops assembled at the beginning of the campaign, only 6,000 escaped death or capture.  In contrast, British and allied forces lost about 1,100 dead and missing, and less than 5,000 wounded, out of a force of over 70,000 soldiers and irregular troops.

The impact of this campaign, and the Middle Eastern front it was a part of, on the modern world cannot be overstated.  Immediately after Megiddo, Damascus and the other Ottoman strong points in the area collapsed.  The loss of so much territory and its resources hastened the eventual collapse of Ottoman Turkey itself.  The lines drawn and the countries formed in the war’s aftermath led to almost a century of conflict.

Book Review – Order of the Centurion

Nick Cole and Jason Anspach continue to give us action and honor in their Galaxy’s Edge series, with Order of the Centurion giving us a fresh look at their universe.

“The Order of the Centurion is the highest award that can be bestowed upon an individual serving in, or with, the Legion. When such an individual displays exceptional valor in action against an enemy force, and uncommon loyalty and devotion to the Legion and its legionnaires, refusing to abandon post, mission, or brothers, even unto death, the Legion dutifully recognizes such courage with this award.”

Tired of sitting out the war on Psydon in a mobile office hab, Legion Lieutenant Washam agrees to undertake a covert and unsanctioned mission with a band of Republic Recon Marines. Inserted deep behind enemy lines, the strike force uncovers a surprise key to ending a bitter war. Now they must navigate a hostile jungle teeming with murderous alien rebels, pushing themselves to the limits of their abilities, to get this vital intel to Legion Command–if they can survive that long.

THE ORDER OF THE CENTURION is an all-new series of stand-alone military science fiction thrillers set in the GALAXY’S EDGE universe, ranging from the Savage Wars to the arrival of the Black Fleet. Each book features the legendary heroes of the Legion who forgot nothing in their earning of the Legion’s highest honor.

Let’s face it, Legionnaires are almost super human, and Tyrus Rechs <is> superhuman.  They have an edge in tech, weaponry, skills, and experience.  Wash and most of the other characters in Order of the Centurion have none of these, which makes it an engrossing story of survival and living up to both the moment and the expectations a man has of himself.

Anspach and Cole mix excellent character development with against-all-odds action.  Both lead to a climax that will have your heart racing.  I’ve loved the Galaxy’s Edge books since I read the first sentence of the first book, and Order of the Centurion is arguably in my top two or three favorite books in this series.

Honestly, you probably don’t even need to be a science fiction fan to enjoy this book.  The story is excellent military fiction that just happens to occur on another planet with aliens and blaster rifles.  If you like Leonard B. Scott’s Vietnam War novels, you’ll enjoy Order of the Centurion.


Book Review – Trade Winds

Sarah Hoyt’s new short story collection, Trade Winds, has something for everybody.

Are there truly aliens among us? What do they really want? And what if our creations could come back in lethal form? Could we resist them? If there were a time police, would we know it? And really, why do people expect enlightenment from the stars? What if aliens needed us for their moral compass? You think our illegal immigration is bad? Wait till its coming from the stars? And what happens when the coin falls on edge? Can you reproduce it? Those not particularly moral aliens might set fiendish traps. And you can never go back again. Also, why would you want to? The future will invent completely new ways of making people miserable. Also how well would a generation ship get us to the stars without humans getting in their own way? If you read the world of Darkship Thieves, there’s a story ten years after the revolution in Olympus. It bridges the gap to the second wave of novels of the Earth Revolution which will be written, eventually. And what if the Carthaginians had sowed salt on the ruins of Rome? How long is memory?

This is a great read for curling up to read for a few minutes before bedtime.  Each story pulls the reader in, but doesn’t bog down in description.  Mrs. Hoyt is an artist at quickly building a world and characters and then getting to the point of her stories.  Trade Winds includes alternate history, future history, and just plain good storytelling.

My favorites were “And Not To Yield”, a story of love and duty set in Hoyt’s USAians universe, and “Yearning to Breathe Free”, a story with a message, but one that doesn’t beat you over the head.

If you’re looking for a collection of stories that you can savor and enjoy bit by bit, Trade Winds is what you’re looking for.

Audiobook Review – Starship Troopers

I first read Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers when I was twelve.  In fact, I read it three times back to back to back when I was twelve.  I’ve owned at least four copies, which seemed to either wear out or get ‘borrowed’, so I guess you could say I’m a fan.

Imagine my delight when an audiobook of this classic became available.

Join the Army and See the Universe. That is the motto of The Third Space War, also known as The First Interstellar War, but most commonly as The Bug War. In one of Robert Heinlein’s most controversial best sellers, a recruit of the future goes through the toughest boot camp in the universe – and into battle with the Terrain Mobile Infantry against mankind’s most alarming enemy.

I really can’t say anthing new about Heinlein’s story that hasn’t been said, discussed, and argued over a thousand times already.  There’s a reason he’s one of the greats in 20th Century science fiction.  Every piece of Mil SF that I’ve read has had at a bit of Heinlein in it somewhere.

Lloyd James does an excellent job as narrator in this work.  His tone, pacing, and vocalizations are exactly what this story requires.  His work is true to how I envisioned Starship Troopers the first time I read it.

If you’re a Heinlein fan, you’ll enjoy a side trip down a familiar path with this audiobook.  If you’ve never read this classic, this is an excellent chance to give Starship Troopers a try.

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