Promise Me, Dad #bookreview #2020Election

Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose

Joe Biden

Flatiron Books

If you are leaning toward Joe Biden and wondering if you will want to back him in the 2020 presidential election, Biden’s 2017 book, Promise Me, Dad, can give you some good insights into his character, values, and long record of service in American government.

Promise Me, Dad is Biden’s first-person story of family life: losing his oldest son, Beau, to cancer; serving as an active and engaged Vice President in the Obama Administration; and juggling several international crises, all while trying to decide if he would run for President, against Hillary Clinton, in 2016.

Vice President and 2020 Presidential Candidate Joe Biden

“Nobody ever told me a life in politics and public service would be easy; like life, I never expected politics to be free of disappointment or heartache,” Biden writes. “But I have always believed it was worth the effort.”

When the deadline arrived for him to choose whether or not to run for President in 2016, he was dealing with Russia’s incursions into Ukraine, with ongoing U.S. investments into “the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador,” and with trying to help hold together and provide support to a coalition of Shia and Sunni fighters battling ISIL in Iraq.

At the same time, he says, he had “learned first hand, the hardest way possible, that facing down cancer is a frightening and costly ordeal in the best of circumstances, for the strongest of families.”

Beau Biden’s death had left Joe Biden deeply grieved. And, no matter how hard he tried, he could not bury his sorrow beneath the duties of state and the myriad necessities of political campaigning. Grief’s cycles would not be denied; they would have to be allowed to run their course. The presidency would have to wait.

As fall 2019 approaches, we are already in the midst of what is shaping up to be one of the most important, contentious, and acrimonious presidential elections in American history. As this sentence is written, Joe Biden is holding onto a double-digit lead in early Democratic polling. However, the field of candidates remains large at this point, and many unexpected things can happen between now and November, 2020.

Nonethess, Joe Biden may become the Democratic nominee for the 2020 ticket. And, like any other veteran politician, he will bring a wide array of experiences, qualifications, sensitivities, talents, supporters and funding sources to the race, along with baggage, detractors, and lingering questions.

A fair reading of Promise Me, Dad can provide more insights into Biden’s character, qualities, quirks, and question marks than you likely will encounter by using social media to try to figure out whom to support.

Si Dunn

A Noteworthy Book for Learning Python 3.X – #bookreview

Python Crash Course

A Hands-On, Project-Based Introduction to Programming

Eric Matthes

No Starch Press

Python has long been considered a programming language for beginners, a gentle steppingstone to other, more challenging languages such as JavaScript, Java or C++.

But, in 2018, a Stack Overflow survey found that Python apparently has become the world’s fastest-growing programming language in popularity. Some surveys have even ranked it in the top five, and up to number two, behind JavaScript. (You are free to question the accuracy of the various surveys, but Python has become a lot more popular in the past few years.)

Why? The rapid growth of data science has much to do with it. Many college students studying data science now must learn how to work with Python. Meanwhile, numerous companies employ data scientists to extract, analyze, interpret, and display data, using Python and statistical and machine learning techniques. Python is an important tool in some web development projects. And, author Eric Matthes points out, “Python is also used heavily in scientific fields for academic research and applied work.”

If you are wanting to learn Python, definitely check out Python Crash Course, 2nd Edition . Matthes’s updated book (released in May 2019) is a well-written, well-structured how-to guide, significantly revised in its latest release to focus on Python 3,X. (Python 3.7.2 is used in the code examples.)

The book is organized into two main parts: the basics and projects. In part one, the author provides extensive coverage of basic programming concepts using Python, including how to test code. Using numerous code examples, he dwells at helpful length on lists, if statements, dictionaries, user input, while loops, functions, classes, files, exceptions, plus other topics. In part two, the reader is offered three different programming projects, including a video game, a data visualization project, and a Web application that uses the Django framework.

Given Python’s burgeoning popularity, Python Crash Course, 2nd Edition is a good book to have on hand even if you already work with other programming languages.

Si Dunn

‘The Meanest Man in Congress’ – #bookreview

The Meanest Man in Congress

Jack Brooks and the Making of an American Century

Timothy McNulty and Brendan McNulty
New South Books

The Meanest Man in Congress should be essential reading for anyone interested in U.S. national politics and 20th-century American history. The book is a richly detailed, solidly researched, well-written biography focusing on the life, public-service career, and key achievements of a Democratic Congressman who served under ten presidents while representing Texas’s Ninth Congressional District for 42 years, until 2004.

Brooks, a World War II Marine combat veteran, played noteworthy roles in the passage of some of LBJ’s landmark Great Society legislation, as well as in Richard Nixon’s impeachment (Nixon called Brooks his “executioner”), plus the investigation of Ronald Reagan’s Iran-Contra scandal.

The Southeast Texan avoided running for higher office. But, capping his Congressional career, he served for six years as chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee. Along the way, Brooks also became “a guide and a friend” to a newly elected Californian, Nancy Pelosi, plus some other politicians still prominent today.

Despite being a staunch fiscal conservative, Brooks helped keep the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) alive at critical funding junctures and singlehandedly saved the International Space Station program from being defunded.

U.S. Rep. Jack Brooks (D-TX) spent 42 years in Congress including six as head of the powerful House Judiciary Committee. He also championed NASA and the International Space Station.

The authors write that “Brooks’s legislative productivity was without parallel. Whereas many senior members might settle into a rhythm of what could be passed without much fuss, Brooks took on bigger and bigger legislative fights, going directly after lobbies that had successfully stalled reform in Congress for decades.”

While reading this intelligent, enlightening portrait of Brooks amid twentieth-century Washington politics, it is easy–and unnerving–to see what, and just how much, has been lost during our current era of Congressional rancor, suspicion, and deep partisanship. It is also easy to see where the bitter turmoil began and why it led Jack Brooks to later call Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich “scum.”

Si Dunn

P.S.–My thanks to New South Books for sending an advance reading copy for review.

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Become a web app developer using Node.js with JavaScript

Get Programming with Node.js
Jonathan Wexler
Manning Publications

This is one of the best written and most useful Node.js how-to books I have read. Yes, the publisher’s cover choice is goofy, but the author’s text is well organized and well illustrated with code examples and other graphics. Also, Jonathan Wexler wisely focuses on how to set up good development and deployment environments first. Then you are shown how to use Node.js as a vital player in the somewhat-complex process of creating, building, testing, and deploying JavaScript web applications.

Wexler’s project-oriented book focuses on how to put together, expand, and launch a recipe-sharing web application called Confetti Cuisine. The process unfolds in 37 well-presented lessons organized into nine major topics:

  • Getting Set Up
  • Getting Started with Node.js
  • Easier Web Development with Express.js
  • Connecting to a Database (it’s MongoDB)
  • Building a User Model
  • Authenticating User Accounts
  • Building an API
  • Adding Chat Functionality
  • Deploying and Managing Code in Production

Along with Node.js and JavaScript, the reader encounters the basic use of several additional software packages, tools, and sites, including Git, Heroku, Mongoose, and Socket.io, among others.

If you have been wanting to learn how to be a web app developer and JavaScript programmer, Get Programming with Node.js offers a complete course in how to get started toward those two goals, using Node.js as one of your most important and most versatile tools.

Si Dunn

Destroyers: ‘Tin Cans and Greyhounds’

Sailors who served aboard destroyers (or other ships), and general readers of military history may want to check out this new book, “Tin Cans & Greyhounds: The Destroyers That Won Two World Wars,” by Clint Johnson. I have read several books that have highlighted the role of destroyers in naval combat. This is one of the very best.

“Other warships [ especially battleships and aircraft carriers ] may have won the fame and glory, but the versatile—and unheralded—destroyer deserves a special place in naval history,” Walter R. Borneman recently wrote in his review of Johnson’s book in the Wall Street Journal.

In Tin Cans & Greyhounds, there is no mention of my ship, USS Higbee (DD-806), nor of other Gearing Class destroyers which came out of American shipyards late in World War II (and also served in the Korean War and Vietnam War). But Johnson’s coverage of the older tin cans that served in World War I and World War II (and bore the brunt of a lot of combat) is fascinating, heavily researched and well-written.

Si Dunn

An #APRS #hamradio memo

I have #DireWolf packet software transmitting/receiving #APRS with a Baofeng UV-5R handheld transceiver, Easy Digi sound card adapter by KF5INZ, old Windows PC & fixed QTH setting. PC & UV-5R audio levels are touchy, so do not set them too high. Take the time to experiment with the audio levels. Decoding may not occur if the audio levels are set too high. Or, you may get a DireWolf error message: “Audio input level is too high. Reduce so most stations are around 50.” That is a bit easier said than done. One nearby digipeater generated that error message at an audio input level of 200, but more distant stations were down around 20 or 30. Just try to find a UV-5R volume level that decodes some APRS stations. Then test the results and try slightly lower or slightly higher settings to see if they produce better consistency.

Questions? Comments? Post on this site, or contact me at k5jrn@arrl.net. (P.S.– Easy Digi sound card adapters can be found on eBay.)

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