Friday, June 13, 2014

Secretariat

     Secretariat was the greatest horse that ever ran.

The 1973 Kentucky Derby

     (I think I saw Ron Turcotte, Secretariat's jockey, use the whip in the last turn.)
     Secretariat set the track record in that race, and it still stands today.

The 1973 Preakness Stakes

     (Ron Turcotte never used the whip in this race.)
     Again, Secretariat set the track record in that race, and it still stands today.

The 1973 Belmont Stakes


     (Like the Preakness, Ron Turcotte never used the whip in this race.)
     This was Secretariat's best start in the Triple Crown races.
     Again, Secretariat set the track record in that race, and it still stands today. He beat the previous record by more than 2 seconds.
     The margin of Secretariat's victory -- 31 lengths -- is still jaw-dropping.

ESPN's documentary

     Because of Secretariat, the model of the perfect horse was redrawn -- to fit Secretariat's lines.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Trenchard's Strategy of the Offensive



Arthur Gould Lee, No Parachute
Appendix B, Trenchard's Strategy of the Offensive 

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 233 pages
  • Publisher: Time Life Education (June 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809496127
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809496129
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars (9 customer reviews) 
  • Price: $48.80 plus shipping (<-- What I paid. Currently, Amazon lists a different printing for $21.20. This printing now sells for $144.46.)
1. Short review:    (Amazon rating: 5 out of 5 stars -- I love it.)
I love the body of the book. The appendices -- each and every one -- I find fault with.

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked:  See my first review.

2.2. What I did not like: See my first review.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: Air combat buffs. History buffs.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  Yes. No worries.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? Yes. Now have Open Cockpit.

2.6. Appendix B..Trenchard's Strategy of the Offensive:

Detail [AGL's words in quotes. My words in plain type.]:

     "After the Battle of Messines air activity had to slacken because of the R.F.C.'s heavy losses in April and May, which focused General Trenchard, on June 10th, to instruct his Brigade Commanders 'to avoid wastage of both pilots and machines, for some little time. My reserves at present are dangerously low, in fact, in some cases, it barely exists at all . . . It is of the utmost importance, however, that the offensive spirit is maintained.'
     "General Trenchard was right to sustain an offensive spirit. Where he erred was in identifying this with an offensive strategy which was, in effect, a territorial offensive. To him, as to his staff, and most of his senior commanders, for a British aeroplane to be one mile across the trenches was offensive: for it to be ten miles over was more offensive.
     "Influenced perhaps by naval doctrine -- 'seek out and destroy the enemy' and 'our frontiers are the enemy coasts' -- he applied them to the air, not appreciating that they were largely irrelevant in a three-dimensional sphere. In the air fighting of World War I, despite the siege-like situation on the ground, it was not a fighter aeroplane's position in relation to a line of defences that measured the offensive spirit but the aggressive will of its occupants to attack the enemy wherever he was encountered, at whatever odds.
     "The pursuit of a territorial offensive strategy of distant patrols, together with the handicap of a prevailing westerly wind, resulted in a large proportion of aircrew disabled by wounds, or put out of action by faulty engines or gun jams, falling into enemy hands. That the High Command should uphold such avoidable wastage in 1917, when the R.F.C. was desperately short of aeroplanes, aero-engines and trained pilots, is hard to fathom.
     "These direct losses were augmented by the wear and tear on pilots and planes in chasing the mirage of air ascendancy over the Lines by continuous standing patrols of fighters along the whole British front, regardless of the needs of the tactical situation, ground or air. While we thus dissipated our strength, more often than not merely beating the empty air, the Germans, in their so-called defensive strategy, concentrated forces superior in numbers or equipment and engaged our scattered Line Patrols in turn, and our Distant Offensive Patrols as and when it suited them. The result was that in 1917 British air losses were at times nearly four times as great as the Germans.
     "Though the real criterion of an offensive policy was not place but aggressiveness, even this was useless without efficient aeroplanes. The most rashly aggressive pigeon won't get far with a hawk. Important as was the offensive spirit in the air war, technical superiority was more vital, not least because it conferred the initiative.
     "For the High Command to persist, despite the toll in life and material, in continuously patrolling the Lines and in sending obsolescent machines deep into German-held territory, was incomprehensible even at the time. In retrospect, such obduracy seems as irrational as Haig's unyielding adherence to attrition, and the no less stubborn Admiralty resistance to escorted convoys."

2.7. Critique.

     The perfect is the enemy of the good.
     Reading AGL's criticism of Trenchard's aerial strategy above, I get the impression that AGL wanted most of all to reduce RFC casualties. Taken to its logical conclusion, this means the RFC should not fly, because men are sometimes lost in flying accidents.*
     Let's not get lost in this argument about reducing casualties. Let's cut to the heart of the matter.
     What was the mission of the RFC in the Great War?
     The mission of the RFC was to support the PBI (poor bloody infantry), and Trenchard never forgot that. The RFC supported the PBI three ways: 1) aerial reconnaissance, 2) aerial artillery direction, and 3) denying the enemy the use of the air.
     By 1915 the RFC developed serviceable methods of aerial photographic reconnaissance and aerial artillery direction. Denying the enemy the use of the air for operations against the RA fell into four categories: 1) denial of enemy reconnaissance; 2) denial of enemy bombers; 3) destruction of enemy kite balloons; and 4) denial of enemy ground attack from the air. The RFC successes in each of these air denial missions was small. But it was not nil.
     Trenchard served with the losing army in the RA war games of 1912. In that exercise, aerial reconnaissance turned the tide, a lesson Trenchard never forgot. During the great war, he and his staff developed a serviceable strategy for the use of airpower. That strategy delivered good results for the PBI. Trenchard came up with a working system, and he applied the adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
     As for casualties, the worst month of the war for the RFC was April 1917, a month that was known to fliers as 'Bloody April'. That month, the RFC lost 400 men in combat.
     On the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916, the RA lost 57,000 men.
     400 a month against 57,000 a day.
     I hate to lose flyboys. I was one myself. But, you know, the risk comes with the job.
     In my book Trenchard did the right thing. He found a strategy that was good enough and he stuck with it. Had he changed it, he might have done better . . . but he might have done worse.
     (Regarding AGL's claim that Trenchard pursued a 'territorial' offensive strategy, Trenchard's contemporaneous notes show that he held no illusions about holding airspace. He had a good grasp of what was going on. He also had a good grasp of the airplanes' communications -- none -- and saw that the only effective means to air denial was to be in the air when the enemy chose to fly. AGL did not see this. Plus, what neither he nor AGL saw was that having pilots fly patrols developed their flying skills and sky vision.)

*This was especially true of the Sopwith Camel. "During World War I, 413 pilots died in combat and 385 pilots died from non-combat related causes while flying the Sopwith Camel." --The Aerodrome The Germans were only slightly more dangerous to RFC and RAF pilots than the Camel itself.

2.8. Links: 
Open Cockpit
Fly Past 

2.9. Buy the book:
hardback with ugly cover: No Parachute 
hardback with misleading cover: No Parachute (used) 
paperback with pretty cover: No Parachute (used)

Friday, June 6, 2014

eBook Review: The Angel of Zin




Clifford IrvingThe Angel of Zin

  • Product Details

    • File Size: 894 KB
    • Print Length: 304 pages
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B00J273UY0
    • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
    • Lending: Enabled
    Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars (65 customer reviews)
    • Price: $5.99 (I bought it on sale for $0.99. 

1. Short review:     (Amazon rating: 3 out of 5 stars -- It's okay.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: I like the hero, Paul Bach.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? A depressing roller-coaster.
For what I paid, it returned satisfactory value. At $5.99, I think it is overpriced.

2.2. What I did not like: Three things:
1. After I finished the book, I still did not know who the Angel of Zin was;
2. Every character I cared about died (I am beginning to hate Game of Thrones for this);
3. Two glaring factual errors -- Irving does not know spit about weapons -- or research, evidently.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: Germans who read English. Which is most of 'em.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  No.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? No.

2.6. The plot in a nutshell:
     Paul Bach is a Nazi. He does not want to be a Nazi. He is also a member of the Gestapo. He does not want to be that, either. His friend persuaded him to join both to get promoted within the Berlin police department. Paul lost his left arm fighting in Russia, and my guess is he did not want that either.
     Paul is a detective with the Berlin police. His sense of justice is blind to race and political affiliation. Which is why his friend is a colonel and Paul is still a captain.
     Paul is tasked with investigating a series of murders in a small extermination camp in Poland: Zinoswicz-Zdroj, called Zin for short. Paul travels to Zin and finds corruption and cruelty. (Not a surprise. This is an extermination camp.)
     I shall wrap this up for you. Paul interrogates the camp commandant and the German guards -- but not the Ukrainian guards. He interrogates some of the prisoners. Meanwhile, the Jews are 1) preparing for Passover and 2) preparing to rise up and escape. The commandant gets orders to close the camp; that means he is to kill all the remaining prisoners. Paul offers one prisoner a chance to escape, but the prisoner does not take it. Paul solves the murders but, to the commandant, identifies a dead man as the murderer instead of the true murderer. (I am not clear on who the murderer(s) actually was(were). Nor how the clues led to Paul's deduction.) Jews learn the camp will close in a week and advance the schedule for the uprising. Of course, the uprising goes off with the precision of a clock exploding. Dead guards. Dead commandant. Dead Paul Bach. Dead Jews. 37 of 500 escape to the woods outside Zin. Yeah, now what?
     And that's how it ends. 
 2.7. Other:
     The Angel of Zin reminded me of a German Hörspiel I read years ago. In the Hörspiel (whose title I cannot recall), a German soldier returned to Berlin. He was a thousand mile soldier: marched a thousand miles into Russia and a thousand miles out. Nobody cared about his service to the fatherland. They want to forget the war. He was rejected for jobs, for housing, for a seat in a restaurant. He tried to drown himself in the River Spree, but the river spat him out. No redemption, no happy ending. A depressing read.
     The Angel of Zin is like that.
     It started with a depressing tone and it kept it through to the end. I hoped for a redemptive ending. I hoped in vain.
     If you have ever been treated for clinical depression, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK.

     I am not an expert on firearms, but even I know more than Clifford Irving.
     Two items:
     1. At one point, CI wrote that a character picked up a thirty-eight caliber Luger. This error is both stupid and lazy. The Germans used the metric system. They manufactured nine millimeter Lugers. Never thirty-eight caliber. Look, I know CI did not have the internet when he wrote this book, but for the love of God, would it have killed him to pick up a phone and call a gun shop and ask someone?
     2. When the Jews rose up for freedom, one climbed into the guard tower and fired the fifty caliber machine gun sited there. Again, this error is both stupid and lazy. Americans used the fifty. The closest the Germans had to it was a twenty millimeter autocannon. The automatic weapon the Gemans would have used was the Maschinengewehr (MG) 42, a 7.92x57mm machine gun. Maybe a MG 34 if they were still using old equipment. (The MG42 replaced the MG34 in 1942.)

    YMMV.

2.8. Links: Clifford Irving

2.9. Buy the book:  The Angel of Zin

Monday, June 2, 2014

eBook Review: Day of Infamy




Walter LordDay of Infamy

  • Product Details

    • File Size: 1133 KB
    • Print Length: 237 pages
    • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0805068031
    • Publisher: Open Road Media (March 6, 2012)
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B0078X73FM
    • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
    • Lending: Enabled
    • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars (91 customer reviews)
    • Price: $9.99 (I bought it on sale for $2.51. 

1. Short review:
For content:   (Amazon rating: 5 out of 5 stars -- I love it.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: History as a collection of personal experiences.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? A roller-coaster.
Great value for the money.

2.2. What I did not like: As with every ebook I have read from Open Road (whom I shall no longer link to), the glut of errors evidences that they OCR-scanned a paper copy and gave the output no proofreading. Some of my corrections: tug vice rug, sealed vice scaled, and see vice sec.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: Everybody.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  Yes.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? I shall buy anything written by Walter Lord. Not so keen on Open Road's products.

2.6. The plot in a nutshell:
     No plot. History.
     Besides reading commercially published works about the attack on Pearl Harbor and US Navy and US Army reports, WL interviewed 464 people who were there or with the Japanese attack force. He reconciled their recollections with official reports and records, sometimes favoring recollection over report. (A report is only a recollection reduced to writing. With an official stamp on it.) In effect, Day of Infamy is an oral history reduced to writing.
     Because it is effectively an oral history, it has a close, personal feeling other histories lack. The people in the book became my friends, and I wanted to know what happened to them.
 2.7. Other:
     I learned a lot from Day of Infamy.
     First, I learned that the Japanese attack force included six carriers. That was likely the largest concentration of carriers anywhere up to that time.
     Second, the Japanese attack did not go as planned. They had two attack plans: if 'Surprise', the torpedo bombers were to attack first followed by the dive bombers; if 'Surprise Lost', the dive bombers were to attack with the torpedo bombers. IJN Commander Misuo Fuchida decided to go with 'Surprise' and fired one shot from his signal pistol (inbound, the Japanese kept radio silence). This single shot was the signal for 'Surprise'. The fighters did not respond. Fuchida thought they had missed the signal. He fired another. Two shots was the signal for 'Surprise Lost'. Now some crews executed the plan for 'Surprise' and others executed the plan for 'Surprise Lost'.
     Third, rumor and misinformation in war can kill. A flight of planes from the USS Enterprise flew into Pearl on the afternoon of the 7th. Even with the Navy tower broadcasting that these were friendlies, the gunners opened up on them. About half were killed, including one shot hanging from his 'chute after he bailed out of his flaming plane.
     Fourth, the attack was launched in two waves, not one.

     Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, commander of the Japanese attack force, did not agree with the plan, but Yamamoto told him to shut up and soldier. Nagumo feared for his carriers. His mission was to destroy the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. Reconnaissance persuaded him the first attack had accomplished his mission. Rather than launch a second attack, he turned back for Japan.
     A second attack would have destroyed Pearl Harbor as an operating naval base. The IJN lost a priceless opportunity.

     Rumors on Oahu ran that the Japanese had landed on the island. These were false, but I did wonder what would have been the result had the Japanese included invasion forces with their fleet. Except for the B-17s that landed that day, the US Army Air Corps ceased to exist on Oahu. Three PBYs were out on patrol; all other Navy planes at Pearl were destroyed. The air groups of three carriers were all that the Navy could call on.
     Had the Japanese landed invasion forces on Oahu, I think they would have taken the island.
     I think the reason they did not attempt an invasion was logistics.
     The same day, the IJN and the IJA  invaded Guam, Wake, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. Those invasions required lots of troops. Troops require everything from ammo to food to socks. And transport for the troops and all those supplies.
     The Japanese did not have enough transport to add an invasion of Oahu.

     Few Japanese were available for WL to interview. That is because most of those who attacked Pearl Harbor were dead six months later. At the Battle of Midway. WL wrote a book about Midway, too. Incredible Victory. Also a great read.

    YMMV.

2.8. Links: Walter Lord

2.9. Buy the book:  Day of Infamy

Friday, May 23, 2014

eBook Review: This Kind of War





T. R. FehrenbachThis Kind of War

  • Product Details

    • File Size: 969 KB
    • Print Length: 540 pages
    • Publisher: Open Road Media; 50th Anniversary edition (April 1, 2014) (I downloaded my copy 18 March 2013.)
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
    • Language: English 
    • ASIN: B00J3EU6IK 
    • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
    • Lending: Enabled
    • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars (109 customer reviews)
    • Price: $2.99 (I paid $8.21 more than a year ago. At $8.21, it was a good value. At $2.99, it is a bargain.)

1. Short review:  *:) happy (Amazon rating: 4 out of 5 stars -- I like it. My edition is riddled with typos, obvious missing text, and textual transpositions. I have reports that those have been fixed. Were all the rampant copyreading errors fixed, I would give This Kind of War 5 stars. Perhaps I shall try another download to see if these errors have been fixed.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: Account of the American military and concomitant political experience in Korea. TRF includes accounts of the Brits and the Turks and mentions the French battalion, but his emphasis is on the American history. At the end, TRF expounds his views on the meaning of the Korean War to the US and on the use of citizen soldiers versus legionnaires. I found these instructive.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? A roller-coaster.
Good value for the money I paid. Do-not-miss value at the current price.

2.2. What I did not like: My edition is riddled with typos, obvious missing text, and textual transpositions. I have reports that those have been fixed.
     I see these problems as an unforgivable sin of traditional publishers. Rather than pay for competent copyreaders, they OCR-scan old books to produce a digital copy and upload that as an ebook. The evidence is that they give that copy no copyreading nor editing.
     This Kind of War was first published in 1963 by MacMillanMacMillan died in 2001. The current incarnation is a shell owned by Holtzbrinck Publishing Group. The e-version of This Kind of War is published by Open Road Media.  How Open Road came by the rights to This Kind of War I don't know, but I would be stunned to discover that they have no connection to Holtzbrinck.
     I have found the same problems with other print books that have been scanned to produce an e-version; for example, The Angel of Zin.
     In my opinion, traditional publishers are using readers as unpaid copyreaders.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: Americans with an interest in history.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  Yes, if the child is an American with an interest in history.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? I will buy anything written by TRF. With a caveat. Given the terrible conversion from print to ebook, I am decidedly disinterested in buying anything published by Open Road.

2.6. The plot in a nutshell:
     Given that this is a history, there should be no plot, but there are at least four.
     The first third of the book could be entitled The Adventures of Frank Muñoz in Korea. FM leads George Company in one desperate action after another, fighting and surviving and sometimes winning during the first year of the war.
     Sergeant Schlichter's experience as a POW is another story. He promised his wife he would return. The Army reported him MIA and presumed dead to his wife and offered her his death benefits. She refused them. Schlichter, a medic, administered care to POWs until the end. He was in the last group that was repatriated.
     The North Korean and Chinese POWs were kept on Geoje Island in South Korea. 132,000 of them in one camp. Hard-core Communists controlled the POW chain of command. They received orders from Peking to make trouble to be used for propaganda purposes. They kidnapped an American brigadier general. LtGen Mark Clark sent BGen Haydon Boatner to recover the general and restore order to the camp. Boatner accepted the command on the condition that he had a free hand to deal with the POWs as he saw fit and to exclude the press from the island. Clark agreed. Boatner built a new camp and 14 June 1952 moved the POWs to it with combat troops armed with bayonets (their rifle magazines were empty). The POWs resisted with spears. Some POWs died in the melee. Some GIs were wounded but none were killed. Boatner succeeded in breaking the back of the Communist resistance on Geoje. Found among the effects in the old POW barracks were plans for a general POW uprising and escape scheduled for 22 June 1952.
     Most of the UN forces in Korea were ROK Army. TRF admits that but never covers any ROK Army victory; he only covers their defeats. He does write well of the Brits in action and of the Turks in captivity. He mentions the French battalion (wanna bet they were Foreign Legion?) but never gives any details of them in action.
     For the first year the Korean War was one of movement. The NKPA invasion bore a striking resemblance to the Hindenburg Offensive on the Western Front in the spring of 1918. The invasion at Inchon and the UN drive to the Yalu River were a replay of MacArthur's campaign along the northern shore of New Guinea. With the start of peace talks, the front stagnated, and the troops entrenched. From June 1951 to the armistice in August 1953, the Korean War resembled Verdun in 1916.
     Factoid: The US Army expended more artillery shells in the Korean War than in World War II.
 2.7. Other:
     In the Korean War, American politicians -- that is, Harry Truman -- tried to use American citizen soldiers as legionnaires. When the war was fought to expel the Communists from Korea, the Americans did well. When their direction changed and they fought to contain the Communists, morale suffered. You can motivate men to die for victory but not for stalemate.

     Americans have never come to grips with the Korean War. They understand the Inchon Landings and the heroism of the Marines at Chosin Reservoir  but they do not understand the lack of victory. TRF treats with this in a persuasive argument that Americans see war as a crusade, not as an instrument of gov't policy.

     TRF himself fought in Korea but never mentions that.

     My father-in-law fought in the Korean War. Not with the US Army. With the ROK Army. My wife is Korean. Not Korean-American.
     My father-in-law was proud of his service. He always smiled when I visited him. He died last year. Two days before his death, I ate with him. We had octopus. He knew octopus is my favorite.
     Korean Memorial Day is 6 June. My wife and I plan to visit her father's ashes and venerate his memory.

     YMMV.

2.8. Links: Theodore Reed Fehrenbach, Jr.

2.9. Buy the book:  This Kind of War

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Failure in High Command



Arthur Gould Lee, No Parachute
Appendix A, The Failure in High Command

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 233 pages
  • Publisher: Time Life Education (June 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809496127
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809496129
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars (9 customer reviews) 
  • Price: $48.80 plus shipping (<-- What I paid. Currently, Amazon lists a different printing for $21.20. This printing now sells for $144.46.)
1. Short review:    (Amazon rating: 5 out of 5 stars -- I love it.)
I love the body of the book. The appendices -- each and every one -- I find fault with.

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked:  See my first review.

2.2. What I did not like: See my first review.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: Air combat buffs. History buffs.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  Yes. No worries.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? Yes. Now have Open Cockpit.

2.6. Appendix A..The Failure in High Command:

Detail [AGL's words in quotes. My words in plain type.]:
     "In October 1909 the Secretary of State for War, Mr R. B. Haldane (later Viscount Haldane) appointed a highly qualified civil engineer, Mr Mervyn O'Gorman, as Superintendent of the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough. He did this because he believed that aeroplanes could be designed efficiently only under 'scientific' governmental supervision. His belief was to be bitterly paid for in flesh and blood.
     "O'Gorman was an able engineer, but he was also an ambitious empire-builder, who considered that the role of the Factory should be to sponsor a standard government aeroplane. He was in a strong position, for as he had direct access to Haldane, he could outmanoeuvre any officer who disagreed with him. But there were few who did. Most of the senior Royal Flying Corps officers at the War Office regarded the flying machine as merely an aerial extension of cavalry reconnaissance, for which they demanded a stable vehicle which could be flown 'hands off' while the pilot examined the ground, wrote notes and drew maps, and they were satisfied that O'Gorman had an aeroplane that filled the bill.
     "This was the Bleriot (later British) Experimental, which was slow, unmanoeuvrable, heavy on the controls and difficult to arm with a machine-gun, but O'Gorman won authority to develop and standardise it because it was inherently stable, and it was backed by General Henderson, head of the Directorate of Military Aeronautics, and by other senior officers, among them General Sykes and General Sefton Brancker, who as a notably unskillful pilot saw only virtue in a machine that practically piloted itself. None of these officers can escape his share of responsibility for the failure of the High Command to provide the R.F.C. with aeroplanes fit to fly and fight in.
     "Supporting O'Gorman's aim of creating a Government monopoly in the construction of military aeroplanes, the Directorate restricted the growth of private manufacturing, to the extent of equipping the Corps in part from French firms. When war began Britain thus lacked a flourishing aircraft industry, such as existed in France and Germany, and no military aeroplanes were in production stage other than the current Factory B.E. -- the B.E.2c.
     "On O'Gorman's urgent recommendation the Directorate rashly agreed that this machine should be standardised and produced in quantity. Meticulously detailed drawings for its manufacture were prepared by the Factory, and issued to contractors, many of whom had never made any aeroplane part before. In the course of time over twenty firms were engaged in turning out the B.E.2c, 2d and 2e, and B.E.12, but before they were successively in production they were already obsolescent, so swift were advances in the design of aircraft under the spur of war.
     "Every subsequent aircraft produced by the Factory, with the exception of the F.E. pusher-fighters, was a development of the basic, stable B.E., and every one except the last, the S.E.5, was fundamentally inefficient for military use. The B.E.s were by far the most ineffective and vulnerable aeroplanes to fly in France. Their replacement, the cumbersome R.E.8, was little better, and at first even worse, for it was so dangerous that many service pilots refused to fly it. No 52 Squadron, the first to  be equipped with it in France, had so many fatal crashes that the pilots asked, and were allowed, to revert to B.E.2cs. Another R.E.8 squadron, No 59, lost ten machines and crews in one day in 'Bloody April'.
     "It is significant that of Richtofen's 80 British and French victories, 46 were supplied by the Factory -- 29 B.E.s and R.E.8s, 14 F.E.s and 3 S.E.5s. The S.E.5a, a compacted and more manoeuvrable B.E.12, with a powerful engine, proved capable of meeting German fighters on level terms, and it was the Factory's only real success.
     "The inability of the B.E.s to fight, or even to defend themselves, was shown when the Fokker monoplanes began to shoot them down by the dozen, but because the consequent casualties were minute compared with those of the ground battles, they were regarded as of no importance by the War Cabinet, though not by Trenchard, in command of the R.F.C. in the field. But towards the end of 1915 public attention was called to them by Noel Pemberton-Billing, M.P., who described the B.E.s as 'Fokker fodder', and condemned the R.F.C. High Command for failing to supply their pilots with worthy aeroplanes. He was supported by other members of both Commons and Lords, who declared that 'our pilots are being murdered rather than killed'.
     "The Government was forced to order a judicial enquiry, which began in May 1916 under Mr Justice Bailhache. His report, published in November, whitewashed the senior R.F.C. officers responsible, but blamed the supply organisation. O'Gorman became the scapegoat, and a few months later resigned. Pemberton-Billings's accusations were dismissed as extravagant, but they were to be proved to the hilt in 'Bloody April'.
     "Even before then it had become clear that the control of design and production by a bureaucratically run 'Factory' had utterly failed, and that aeroplanes were urgently needed that could fight as well as fly. the R.F.C. pundits turned to the aircraft industry they had so stupidly stifled, only to find that every firm of note was committed by contract to the R.N.A.S.
     "Fortunately for British aviation, the Admiralty had, from the beginning, declined to be tied to the Factory for its machines, and backed by the vigour and long-sightedness of the First Lord, Winston Churchill, had entrusted the aircraft industry in both Britain and France with the production of airframes and engines to meet specific naval requirements. Such firms as Short, Sopwith, Bristol, Airco (de Havilland), Vickers, Rolls-Royce had already turned out much better aeroplanes and engines than any of the Factory's products.
     "Because the R.N.A.S. had contracted for more machines than it could use, a number of types, such as Sopwith two-seaters, were switched to the R.F.C. But because the whole industrial complex for aircraft manufacture had been bedevilled by the War Office's long neglect, and the Factory's jealous embargoes, there were constant delays which kept machines from reaching the Front until they were obsolescent. The pressure was partly eased by the purchase of surplus French aircraft, such as the Spad, Nieuport and Morane monoplane.
     "In spite of these drastic expedients, the senior officers of the R.F.C. Supply Directorate, none of whom had any experience of air combat, except in the most gentlemanly way with carbines and revolvers, still clung to the inherently stable products of the Factory. The episode of the Sopwith Pup was a typical example of this attitude. The Pup, with Admiralty agreement, was offered to the R.F.C. in February 1916, but on O'Gorman's advice preference was given to his so-called fighter, the B.E.12. When the B.E.12 abjectly failed, with the usual loss of life, against the Albatros D-II, the R.F.C. was reduced, in November, to borrowing No 8 Naval Squadron, whose Pups promptly dealt with the D-II. The Pup did not reach the R.F.C. until the R.N.A.S. tired of it at the end of 1916.
     "The Supply Directorate, while decreeing that the Factory, too committed by its rigid organisation for any rapid major changes, should continue to devote its extensive supply facilities to producing proved 'duds', now entered into competition with the R.N.A.S. for the products of the airframe and engine firms of Britain and France. So began the phase of rivalry between War Office and Admiralty for the supply of materials, engines and labor, characterised by indiscriminate purchasing, attempts to corner vital components, and friction between both staffs and subordinates, all of which led inefficiency, delays, and wasteful competition, in which the R.F.C. invariably came off worst.
     "These destructive disputes and manoeuvrings continued until the Royal Air Force was formed in 1918, but the inefficiency did not disappear. To describe the wretched story of the incredible blunders of the air supply organisation during the last year of the was, the disastrous hasty contracts, the faulty co-ordination of effort, the ill-judged control of material and labour, the mass production of untried, defective engines, would run far beyond the capacity of an appendix.
     "Almost the only light that shone during the long period of neglect, incompetence and folly in the supply of aircraft for the R.F.C. was the undismayed courage of those sent out every day to face death in aeroplanes that should have been thrown on the scrap-heap many months before."

2.7. Critique.

     To understand the appendices to No Parachute, I found it necessary to know the history of Arthur Gould Lee. There is not a lot. He flew Sopwith Pups and Camels in the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in the Great War. After the war, he stayed in the RAF and rose to the rank of Air Vice-Marshal before he retired in 1946. And he wrote some books. That is a stunning paucity of information about a man who held the rank of Air Vice-Marshal.
     Knowing that little bit, what can I extrapolate about AGL?
     He rose to a position of some prominence -- Air Vice-Marshal -- in a military organization. To me, that says he had a 'Go along, get along' attitude, was perceived as hard working, and was liked by his superiors. He did not upset people. He defended his company, the RAF. In the RAF, he was like Hap Arnold, not like Billy Mitchell.

     In The Forgotten Man and Lies, I wrote 'History is about lies.' My reading of No Parachute confirms that statement.
     AGL edited together the body of No Parachute from letters written to his wife and from his concurrent diary entries. I infer the purposes of the letters was 1) to keep contact with his wife, 2) to inform her about what her husband was doing, and 3) to reassure her. I infer the purpose of the diary entries was to record material that would not reassure her; for example, that his sleep was broken by nightmares that he was flying into a Hell of ground fire. Never was AGL's purposes in these letters or diary entries to present a history of events. For that reason, they form an outstanding personal history of the first war in the air. Without bias or prejudice, we see the truth.
    AGL wrote the appendices when he put the book together some 50 years after he wrote the letters. He wrote not from the position of a fighter pilot struggling to fly his missions and stay alive but from the comfortable position of a retired RAF Air Vice-Marshal. He spent 8 months flying combat with the RFC, and two of those were spent in England where he never flew within gun range of an enemy aircraft. He spent the rest of his 30 years in the RAF in peace-time posts until the Second World War. In the Second World War, he served in staff positions in Greece, Egypt, England, Rumania, and Yugoslavia. During his posting in England, for 3 months he was Acting Air Officer Commanding of No. 12 Group in Fighter Command.
     Which do you think colored the histories of AGL's appendices more: the 8 months he spent flying combat or the 29 years and 4 months he spent in staff positions?

     It occurs to me that you should know something about me to determine my bias.
     I spent a few years in the USAF and rose to the rank of captain. I held both line and staff positions, in that order. In my experience, the mentality of line officers differs from that of staff officers. A lot.
     Line officers think in terms of immediacy: Where do you want me to fly? What do you want me to bomb? A line officer's focus is on his mission, his wingman, and himself and in that order. He looks on all else as a distraction. In short, if it doesn't do the job or bring him home alive, a line officer doesn't waste time thinking about it.
     Staff officers think in terms of the organization: What is my unit's mission? Where do I and my unit fit in the organization's mission? A staff officer takes a broad view. Men and materiel are expendables, but the organization must survive.
     I brought a line officer's mentality to a staff position. I wasn't the only one. I got things done. In fact, my commanding officer once endorsed my Effectiveness Report with the words that "[he] gets things done!"

     AGL criticizes the Royal Aircraft Factory establishment in hindsight. That is easy to do. What is hard to do is exercise competent foresight.
     At the time, no one in England imagined that aircraft improvement would accelerate as much as it did in the Great War. When the war began, few aircraft had the power to carry two men; the number of aircraft types with ceilings greater than 10,000 feet could be counted on the fingers of one hand; no airplane carried a machine gun. When the war ended, two-seaters were numerous and three- and four-seaters were not uncommon; all front-line aircraft had ceilings above 20,000 feet; all fighters carried two machine guns and some two-seaters and bombers carried three. In 1914, front-line aircraft flew 70 miles an hour; in 1918, 120 miles an hour was considered slow. Engines rose from 70 horsepower in 1914 to 400 horsepower in 1918.
     The RFC and the 'Factory' could not foresee this rapid increase. In 1914, everyone everywhere told their soldiers "you'll be home by Christmas." The Kaiser told his troops they would be "home before the leaves fall." The thinking in England was that they would finish the war with the planes they started with and right soon. Even when the war continued into 1915 there was evidence that the planes the RFC had were good enough for the job: the BE-12 downed the Zeppelins that bombed London and the BE-2 performed most of the aerial reconnaissance and artillery spotting for the RA. The BE-2 performed well -- as long as it was unopposed in the air. Which was most of the time.
     The error the RFC made was in betting all on a single path into the future. The RNAS encouraged numerous private firms and chose those that met with the requirements of the time. The results were disastrous for the RFC and the 'Factory'. Had the RNAS and its contractors not been there, the result for England might have been defeat.
     It is all too common for nonsense like this to occur. The people in charge think "I'm smart. I can think my way through this." Perhaps that might work if the universe proceeded according to logic. All the evidence is that it does not.
     I have a degree in mathematics. One of the subjects I studied after I finished my schooling was chaos theory. I find chaos theory fascinating. Linear systems are knowable and predictable; they are not recursive and not self-referential. Chaotic systems are knowable but not predictable; they are recursive and self-referential. The best model of technological progress is a chaotic engine. That means it is unpredictable.
     Nassim Taleb in The Black Swan warned that Black Swan events will come. Black Swan events are rare occurrences that have big impacts. They are by definition statistical outliers and unpredictable. Taleb advised us to prepare for Black Swan events.
     How the frell do you prepare for an event you cannot predict? You cannot.
     So what do you do?
     Design for flexibility.
     What does that mean?
     It means you take a many-path approach rather than a single-path approach. Don't bet everything on one hand. Spread your investments around until you find a winner, then pour more into that winner, but still don't bet everything, 'cause the wheel will turn and things will change.
     The mistake of the RFC high command and the 'Factory' was inflexibility. As it always does, the universe punished that mistake with death. The pity was that death fell on those not responsible for the decision.

2.8. Links: 
Open Cockpit
Fly Past 

2.9. Buy the book:
hardback with ugly cover: No Parachute 
hardback with misleading cover: No Parachute (used) 
paperback with pretty cover: No Parachute (used)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

eBook Review: The Wild Side of Alaska




Donna MorangThe Wild Side of Alaska

  • Product Details

    • File Size: 1157 KB
    • Print Length: 156 pages
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
    • Language: English (more or less) 
    • ASIN: B00DDZ7TSK 
    • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
    • Lending: Enabled
    • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars (41 customer reviews)
    • Price: $3.99 

1. Short review:  *:) happy (Amazon rating: 4 out of 5 stars -- I like it.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: First-hand account of moving to and living in Alaska.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? A roller-coaster. Isn't that a surprise?
Good value for the money.

2.2. What I did not like: Ms Morang's command of the English language is not strong. I do not mean there were typos. I mean sometimes I had to play 'Where's Waldo?' with the verb, sometimes with the subject. That said, I did not find the odd sentence construction much of a hindrance. Instead I found it true to the distinctive voice of the narrative.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: If you live in the lower forty-eight and you have even a glimmer of an idea about moving to Alaska, this is a book for you.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  Yes.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? Well, if Ms Morang wrote about Alaska again or about ranching in Washington, I would buy that book; but her other book is Big Backpack -- Little World, her tale of teaching English around the world. I have no interest in that.

2.6. The plot in a nutshell:
     The Wild Side of Alaska is a memoir. Donna Morang begins with her childhood in Montana, segues through her marriage and their fruitful search for employment in Alaska, chronicles their drive across Canada (with details about the squalid accomodations), and proclaims their astonishment at the price of food in Alaska.
     They arrive in Fairbanks. Soon after they find a mobile home to live in, the river overflows its banks due to torrential rain, and Fairbanks floods. Winter comes, and they deal with Alaskan cold. Sixty below cold.
     Experienced hunters and outdoorsmen, Donna and her husband encounter and kill a grizzly (not pleasant before they killed it and not pleasant after they killed it; grizz stink), fish in the rivers (Why catch-and-release? I don't get that.), and fly out to camp and hunt north of the Arctic Circle.
     They leave Fairbanks and move to a new home south of Anchorage. More fishing stories, but this time they are fishing in salt water.
     At the end, they leave Alaska for Washington. 
 2.7. Other:
     I got this book because I was interested in moving to Alaska. Now I'm not so sure I could survive it.
     Both Donna and her husband were experienced hunters and outdoorsmen. I am neither. I suppose I could learn those skills, but do I want to make Alaska my campus? From reading this book, my impression is that hunting success in Alaska means survival; failure means death.
     Alaska is a challenge I do not have to do. Still it intrigues me.

     YMMV.

2.8. Links: Donna Morang at Amazon

2.9. Buy the book:  The Wild Side of Alaska

Sunday, April 13, 2014

eBook Review: Love with a Chance of Drowning




Torre DeRocheLove with a Chance of Drowning

  • Product Details

    • File Size: 958 KB
    • Print Length: 336 pages
    • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1849534187
    • Publisher: Hyperion (May 14, 2013)
    • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B009R9RQ7K
    • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
    • Lending: Not Enabled
    • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars (98 customer reviews)
    • Price: $9.99 (I bought it on sale for $8.54. 

1. Short review:
For content:   (Amazon rating: 5 out of 5 stars -- I love it.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: Love with a Chance of Drowning is a romance-cruising-romance sandwich, and I liked that.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? A walk-in-the-park trying to be a roller-coaster.
Good value for the money.

2.2. What I did not like: Nothing that I can think of.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: I thought the audience would be cruising sailors, but it is everybody.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  Yes.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? Amazon lists no other book for Ms DeRoche. If one becomes available, I will give it a look.

2.6. The plot in a nutshell:
     "Torre wasn't looking for a relationship when she met Ivan in a San Francisco bar but charmed by his Latin good looks and kind, considerate nature she fell head over in heels in love. Yet their separation seemed inevitable, Torre had promised to return to Australia at the end of the year and Ivan planned to throw in his IT job and sail solo across the ocean. As the end began to draw near, Ivan suggested Torre join him and she was faced with a difficult choice, sail away with her lover or say goodbye. Despite her fear of deep water, disaster and ""anything that would fall out if you turned the ocean upside down and shook it" Torre's decides to surrender her comfortable city lifestyle for a love on a 32ft wooden boat in the middle of nowhere." --Shelleyrae, from her review of Love with a Chance of Drowning on Amazon.
     Torre sails with Ivan across the Pacific. Adventures. Fun people.
     During the voyage Torre comes to understand that she loves Ivan and Ivan loves the sailing life. Torre likes the sailing life, but she does not love it. She returns to Australia and leaves Ivan to his love.
     And they lived happily ever after, but I shall not tell you how that came about.
 2.7. Other:
     I got this book for the sailing. Turned out the sailing was secondary to the romance, but that was not apparent until the end.
     I was a boat bum, too. (Want to be one again.) I laughed when Torre and Ivan put their boat in storage on the hard in a tropical boatyard. I knew what they would find when they returned.

     I do not know if this book is DRM'd. I suspect it is. I stripped the DRM bobagem off my ebooks before my operating system went wonky.
     I had problems with Ubuntu Linux, the operating system I use most often; my other operating system is Windows XP which I use 1) as insurance against failure of Ubuntu and 2) because Windows media player plays DVDs better than anything I have found on Ubuntu. To eliminate the problems, I chose to strip my hard drive (reformat) and rebuild my system.
     Easy to say. Hard to do.
     I installed Windows XP, but it still lacks drivers. I plan to find those and install those in time. I am not in a hurry.
     I installed Ubuntu 10.04 LTS. The latest version of Ubuntu is 13.10.
     Why did I not install the latest version?
     There is a myth that Change = Progress. There is another myth that 'Progress is good'. While that is often true, it is not always true.
     I grew up in Texas which means I grew up with the aphorism 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' Windows XP was not and is not broke. Windows Vista sure as frell did not fix it. To this day I cannot say Windows Vista without spitting. It gives me cause to recall the description of Boggies in Harvard Lampoon's Bored of the Rings: Slow and sullen, and yet dull.
     Perhaps you, too, grew up with the saying 'Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.' Microsoft fooled me once with Vista. I have not given them the opportunity to fool me twice.
     Anyway, I discovered that the motive for Windows 8 was to provide an OS for tablets. My wife has a tablet -- an iPad. On rare occasions I use her iPad, but I prefer my laptops (notebooks to you non-Americans). That means Windows 8 is not fitted to my purposes. I will not buy it.
     Ubuntu 10.04 ain't broke. I tried Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin (PP), and you can read about that experience here. I discovered that PP was designed for tablets. In other words, PP is NOT an upgrade  for existing Ubuntu installations but a replacement for proprietary tablet operating systems. It will run laptops, but it will always be a bastard laptop system.
     Calibre updated their software to version 1.32. I did not find a way to install DeDRM on 1.32, so I uninstalled it and installed version 1.19. DeDRM installed fine on 1.19, thank you very much. As I said before, change does not mean progress.
     For we few, we happy few, who run Linux systems, this is the terminal command to install Calibre 1.19: sudo python -c "import sys; py3 = sys.version_info[0] > 2; u = __import__('urllib.request' if py3 else 'urllib', fromlist=1); exec(u.urlopen('http://status.calibre-ebook.com/linux_installer').read()); main()". After that, go here to find out how to  install DeDRM.
     For those who run Windows, patience. When I figure out how to load Calibre 1.19 on Windows, I shall write it up.
     For those who run an Apple OS, you're outa luck.

    YMMV.

2.8. Links: Torre DeRoche at Amazon

2.9. Buy the book:  Love with a Chance of Drowning

Sunday, March 2, 2014

DeDRM

     After I posted A Sailor of Austria, it occurred to me that you might not care to read my rants against DRM. That and the fact that I loved A Sailor of Austria. I want to read the rest of the Otto Prohaska novels, but I hate DRM. I believe that since John Biggins's publisher DRM'd the first book in the series, likely the bloody bastard did the same with the other three books.
     Should I buy and read and blog about The Emperor's Coloured Coat without throwing a tantrum when I blog about it, I should need to remove the DRM nonsense. Understand, ye of little faith, my interest is NOT in piracy. I pay for what I read. I believe you should pay for what you read. That nonsense about 'Information wants to be free' is demonstrably false.
     No, my purpose in removing the Damned Restrictive Mongrel is to backup and manage my digital library. But how to remove the Deliberately Recalcitrant Miscreant?
     You can google anything these days. So I googled 'how do i strip drm from my ebooks'. "About 565,000 results." Hehehe. You're goin' down, Doomed Reactionary Moron.
     I chose one result and clicked through. I got this page:

How to Strip the DRM from Your Kindle Ebooks for Cross-Device Enjoyment and Archiving

kindleDRM
     I read a bit until I got to here:
[Y]ou’ll need three things:

     I had Calibre and Kindle for PC. (I rarely use the Kindle for PC. It is on the XP side of my machine. 98% of the time I run Linux.) I clicked Apprentice Alf's DRM Removal Tools for eBooks which took me to Apprentice Alf's Blog:

 There I found this:
     I clicked http://www1.datafilehost.com/d/e9d6f3bc (that is the first download choice) which took me to this page:

Two buttons appeared on the right marked 'Start' and 'Download' that do not show in the copy above. The Apprentice Alf's page told me to ignore them and click the Download button on the left, the one you see above. I did that.
     When the download finished, I extracted the package. How you do that depends on which OS you run. I run Ubuntu Linux, so this was easy. I clicked the download file notice at the bottom of my screen. An extraction window popped open. I selected De-DRM and clicked 'Extract'. The little daemon ran to completion and everything was set.
     I opened Calibre and followed the directions given in the howtogeeksite. I followed the instructions step-by-step beginning with this picture:


     Soon I had the DeDRM plug-in installed. I exited Calibre and started it anew. When it came up, I searched for and selected A Sailor of Austria. Tried to view it. No joy. DRM still in place. Deleted A Sailor of Austria from my library, connected my Kindle, and uploaded A Sailor of Austria from my Kindle to my Calibre library. Tried to view that copy. No joy. 
     WAEFRTFI. Oh, I gotta tell DeDRM which Kindle is mine, sez howtogeeksite.
Copying the Books from Your Kindle: If you’re going to rip the book directly from your Kindle device (or use the download and transfer technique), you need to manually enter the serial number of your Kindle into the DeDRM removal plugin. Do so by navigating back to Preferences -> Advanced -> Plugins -> File type plugins and double clicking on the entry for DeDRM. You’ll see a box like so:
     Go to howtogeeksite for the rest.
     Had to eject my Kindle, turn my Kindle on, go to the home Menu page (that is, not the Menu page available in the middle of a book), and choose Settings. There at the bottom is my Kindle's serial number. I entered that serial number in the appropriate place.
     Deleted A Sailor of Austria from my Calibre library. Again. Connected my Kindle. Again. Uploaded A Sailor of Austria from my Kindle to my Calibre library. Again. Tried to view the new copy of A Sailor of Austria in my Calibre library.
Voila! Lafayette, we have arrived!
     Happy, happy. *:D big grin, *:D big grin.
     This may mean I shall no longer be aware of DRM in my ebooks. That may mean that I will cease posting one-star reviews for DRM and just post reviews of content.
     I can live with that.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

eBook Review: O Descobrimento do Brazil


No Cover


Manuel Ferreira Garcia RedondoO Descobrimento do Brazil

From the Gutenberg Project

1. Short review:  *:) happy (Amazon rating: 4 out of 5 stars -- I like it.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: The chance to exercise my Portuguese. New -- to me -- information on Christopher Columbus.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? Walk in the park.
The book is free to download.

2.2. What I did not like: The tedious Gutenberg license.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: Brazilians, Portuguese, and me.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  Yeah, if they read Portuguese.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? Odd to say so, but I might. I am not opposed to the notion.

2.6. The plot in a nutshell:
     O descobrimento do Brasil: Prioridade dos portugueses no descobrimento da America (full title) was a 68-page paper Sr Redondo delivered at a conference held in 1911 in São Paulo, Brazil. Sr Redondo marshaled indirect evidence that the Portuguese discovered America before Columbus. That evidence included maps, ship logs, and the Treaty of Tordesillas.
 2.7. Other:
     I anticipated Sr Redondo's arguments before I read his paper. The view Sr Redondo took was typical of Brazilians. So what if the Portuguese discovered America before Columbus? The Portuguese did not exploit their discovery. Columbus did.
     What I found new and interesting was Redondo's argument that Columbus sailed with the Portuguese.
     Before 1492, Spaniards did not look west across the Atlantic for new lands to conquer. They looked south. Their goal was to drive the Moors from Spain. The only Europeans with any substantial knowledge of what lay west were the Portuguese.
     To get experience sailing the Atlantic, Columbus must have sailed with the Portuguese. Evidently his credentials as an Atlantic sailor were good enough to get him an audience with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Where did Columbus earn these credentials? Redondo said it was with the Portuguese. Who can say it was not?
     Why did Columbus not make his offer to the Portuguese? Redondo did not say, but I have a guess to venture. I bet Columbus did make his offer to the Portuguese, and they refused.
     Why did the Portuguese refuse Columbus? Because they thought he was wrong. You see, everybody knew the world was round. Everybody who counted, anyway. But Columbus miscalculated the circumference of Earth. He thought Asia lay just a short journey beyond the Antilles, that the voyage to Asia was short. (FWIW the Portuguese knew of the Antilles before Columbus made his voyage in the Santa Maria.) The Portuguese ran their own calculations and came up with the correct distance. By their reckoning, no ship could carry enough stores for the crew to survive the voyage. They remained wedded to their plan to circumnavigate Africa.
     I found Redondo's surmise that Columbus sailed with the Portuguese persuasive. His argument that the Portuguese found America first? Yeah, okay, and so what? The Portuguese made nothing of the discovery until the Spaniards got in the game. The Portuguese played the whole first quarter without anyone else on the field, and they did not score. The Spaniards suited up and began playing in the second quarter and scored three touchdowns: discovery of the Americas, conquest of the Aztecs, and conquest of the Incas. The Portuguese played catch-up from that point on. But unlike the Jets, the Portuguese did not pull off a comeback.

     The Gutenberg Project lists the work as 'O Descobrimento do Brazil'. I think this is an error. In Portuguese, Brazil is spelled with an 's'; thus, Brasil. And in Portuguese, 'descobrimento' is not capitalized in the title. Where the reference is to the work on Gutenberg, I used the errant Gutenberg version.

     YMMV.

2.8. Links: Manuel Ferreira Garcia Redondo

2.9. Buy the book: O Descobrimento do Brazil (Free to download)