Category Archives: Books

In the mail

By lex, on September 24th, 2007

I received a publisher’s proof of S. Thomas Russell’s “Under Enemy Colors” in the mail last month. Some of you may know that I’m a huge fan of Patrick O’Brian‘s Aubrey/Maturin series – a twenty volume set of closely researched, hugely enjoyable books about an “age of sail” Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Wars. I’ve read many good books once and a few twice. I’ve read the entire O’Brian opus straight through four or five times. At least.

So when the publisher asked me to give “Enemy Colors” a look I eagerly agreed.

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Friday Musings 08/12/2005

By Lex, on Fri – August 12, 2005


You were aware, perhaps, that the Yellow Fever vaccine contained an actual live virus?

No? So then you didn’t know that, when checking into a shore command for the first time in seven years, and turning in your medical record to a young, fuzz-cheeked corpsman that was never even a glimmer in his own father’s eye when you were a full-bird by God lieutenant bringing the heat at 1.2 in max grunt on the tip of the spear, that all Yellow Fever vaccinations occurred only on Wednesdays between 1300 and 1430? Because, it being required every five years, no matter when the last time was that anyone ashore or at sea ever heard of man dropping down dead from the Yellow Fever (and you’re as likely to get struck by a bus, if not more so) but once the the jar is opened it’s all to be used, and that right quick? It being a live virus, you see.

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by lex
Posted: Sat – October 9, 2004 at 09:41 AM


While on the ship last month, I had some spare time between events and at night to read. Reading is a luxury I used to enjoy much more frequently than I have of late.

There are of course all sorts of time pressures in our daily lives, everything seems to happen so quickly these days. There seems to be very little space for contemplation and reflection. And reading literature at least, as opposed to email, ought to be a contemplative pleasure.

Where has the time gone? Sometimes I am subject to the gnawing concern that these “labor saving” devices we have built for ourselves have chained us instead to tyrants of “Better” and “Faster.”

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In the Mail

By lex, on August 23rd, 2009

If you grew up with a martial mindset in the late 70s and early 80s, it was impossible not to be aware of the magazine “Soldier of Fortune.” A quick perusal of the subject matter revealed a fixation on military weapons and tactics at the unit level, and opportunities to be had the world over – there was always trouble brewing somewhere. That was during the Cold War of course, when wars were fought by proxy. If anything, things got more chaotic after the Berlin Wall came down.

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Treasure Map

I’m currently reading Theodore Roscoe’s United States Submarine Operations In World War 2. This particular edition was probably a first edition published in 1949(!) by the United States Naval Institute Press. It’s even looks like it was published in 1949:

From the preface:

This volume is not the official operational history. Strictly speaking, it is not a history, nor is it to be studied as such. Herein, in the narrative form, the reader will the inspiring saga of submarining. For the student, the technical side is featured. And many aspects of submarine warfare which would ordinarily be excluded from a purely historical text are detailed and discussed.

It’s in my care for now, on loan from the Pritzker Military Library. I wanted to see if there are historical parallels between the sub campaign in the pacific to seeing how reasonable it would be to use SSNs/SSKs to contain the PLAN within the first island chain.

Going through the first chapter I found this enclosed in the book:


It’s an unknown newspaper clipping detailing the moorings of Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941 at 7:55am.

The other side of the clipping features an ad for a book called “Home Before Dark” by Eileen Bassing. According to a quick Google search it was first published in 1957.


That leads me to believe the map and newspaper were published in 1957.

The map itself is very interesting as it details most of the ships in port and even tells I what some witnesses were doing moments before the attack.

Even more unusual, the paper left a stain on the page which makes me believe maybe it hasn’t been seen since 1957. Who knows.

Anyway, this is a treasure map and maybe, if the reader know more than I, of some historical significance.

Just amazing…you never know what you’re going to in and on these books.


Filed under Books, Navy, Sea Stories, Shipmates, Ships and the Sea, Submarines, Uncategorized

Book Review: A View from the Hover

A View from the Hover

John Farley’s A View from the Hover is a long-awaited memoir of sorts from one of the UK’s most experienced test pilots.

John Farley is best known for the first flight of  the P.1127 in 1964 while a test pilot at the Royal Aircraft Establishment. He spent 19 years contributing to the development of the Harrier, retiring as Chief Test Pilot BAe Dunsfold. He then spent five years as Manager of Dunsfold and a further two as Special Operations Manager at BAe Kingston. In 1990 he became the first Western test pilot to fly the MiG-29 fighter. He is currently part of the Farnborough Aircraft team developing the F1 air taxi.

Like most pilot’s memoirs, A View from the Hover starts out with Farley’s first experiences with flying in general. Then goes into his flying at RAE Farnborough and Bedford.

There’s also a chapter detailing Qinetiq’s Harrier VAAC programme. There’s some very detailed descriptions of the aircraft’s flight control system and the contributions the program made to the JSF.

Harrier VAAC

Harrier VAAC

A great of the book is naturally going to detail Farley’s work on the Harrier itself. From the P.1127 to AV-8A testing with the USMC to the Sea Harrier FRS.1 to AV-8B Harrier 2 testing with McDonnell Douglas, and finally to the Sea Harrier FA.2. Overseas sales demonstrations to Spain, Italy, France and India are also discussed.

There’s some interesting discussion of the preparations and certifications needed for a demo flight. Speaking of demo flights other than the Fulcrum demo he flew the other most interesting evaluation was the IAI Lavi. He offers some opinion of how good an aircraft that was. The reader may gain some insight into China’s J-10.

Farley’s thoughts on simulation has this tidbit:

“A few years later, I was standing outside a Lightning (aircraft) simulator waiting my turn for an emergencies check. The game was the same as in the Hunter (aircraft). If you got the drills right you flew on. The pilot was about 3 miles out on a GCA to land and down to one engine having successfully put out a fire on the other. Then the instructor gave him a fire in the remaining engine. The pilot made a textbook Mayday call and said he was ejecting. When you pulled the handle at this point in that simulator, the canopy slid back on rails and the seat went u p a foot or so. Job done. However, nothing happened and the canopy remained closed. Then we heard this awful scream – it was quite chilling. The pilot concerned had failed to remove the seat safety-pin during his strap in checks and found he could not pull the handle. He really thought he was going to die. A bad dose of AMD (awareness of mortal danger) as the psychologists term it.”

Intense and indicative of just how realistic early simulators were.

The later chapters of the book include Farley’s thoughts on general aviation and actually made me think of a discussion I had with a CFI years ago. Farley wondered why GA airplanes don’t have an AoA indexer in much the same manner as fixed wing naval aircraft.

I won’t go into a description of one but here’s what an AoA indexer looks like:


The conclusion of the book gives Farley’s interesting perspective on teaching the fundamentals of aerodynamics which CFIs out there may find useful.

All in all this is a great book. A View from the Hover is a must read for those interested in flight test. However, if you’re an airplane geek and/or a pilot there’s a lot of great material here for you too. On Amazon it’s a bit pricey. I found the paperback for about $35 but it had been sitting on my wishlist for over a year.

A View from the Hover: My Life in Aviation by John Farley

*UPDATE: There’s a website for the book.

*make sure that you head over to xbradtc’s place and click on the Amazon link to purchase (you’re welcome…even if I was banned from the latest “name the plane…lol)


Filed under Aeronautical Engineering, Books, Flight simulation, Flying, Naval Aviation