Latest Read: The Beast was Out There

For the last five years I had Brig. Gen. James E. Shelton’s book The Beast Was Out There: The 28th Infantry Black Lions and the Battle of Ong Thanh Vietnam, October 1967 on my must read list. I finally picked up a copy and read this book in just two days.
The Beast was Out There: The 28th Infantry Black Lions and the Battle of Ông Thanh, Vietnam, October 1967 I first learned of this book while reading David Maraniss’ They Marched into Sunlight review here about the Battle of Ong Thanh while at the same time in Madison Wisconsin a campus protest against Dow Chemical resulted in a riot with City police violently clubbing students.

Shelton, a major at the time of the battle was the Operations Officer for the Black Lions in 1967. He was removed from this unit just two weeks before the battle. He knew so many of the soldiers who died. This was an event that changed his life. Two of Wisconsin’s sons died in this battle: Jack Schroder and Daniel Sikorski.
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Latest Read: The Blockchain Revolution

Finally the blockchain. Don Tapscott’s Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business, and the World is a worthy introduction to this security ledger technology. Blockchain as a FitTech surged in late 2015 including stress tests by international and Wall Street banks. Janet Yellen and The Federal Reserve reviewed a blockchain briefing within the last 30 days. Great timing to read this book.
The Blockchain Revolution Quick note: This book is NOT about Bitcoin. Tapscott paints with a wide brush across the underlying architecture. Looking for blockchain infrastructure, cryptocurrency or blockchain as a service than take a glance at the table of contents. O’Reilly’s Blockchain books are more targeted to tech folks anyway.

Hard to believe I have been a fan of Don’s writing for over 10 years. Just looked at my review of Wikinomics and MacroWikinomics, his previous books published way back in 2006. His follow up Macrowikinomics was released in 2008. It was interesting to me to understand Don lightly wrapped an element from Wikinomics called Ideagoras into The Blockchain Revolution. Sometimes you just cannot leave home….

Clearly FinTech sees the blockchain’s potential to disrupt their world. The focus for Tapscott is how to address Blockchain beyond Wall Street. The blockchain allows participants of public and private distributed systems to agree on a common view of a system and track changes across those systems with highly secure encryption. Security is also the core of healthcare blockchains with the focus on the crypto in cryptocurrency.
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Latest Read: Vietnam: The Real War

The Associated Press has released Vietnam: The Real War: A Photographic History by the Associated Press an powerful photography book from their top noted journalists who went and died covering the Vietnam war.

Following my just completed read of Once Upon a Distant War it was only natural to seek out the work from those photographers who played a significant role in the AP’s work from 1961-1963. Horst Faas is clearly front and center as one of the great photographers and the book has so many of his acclaimed work. Clearly when you recall an impactful picture from the war – Horst probably captured the image.

Vietnam The Real War

The book’s overview from Pete Hamill further brings back to life the role of AP reporters throughout Vietnam from the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu to the NVA tanks rolling into the Palace in Saigon which signaled the end of the American war.

Photographers always become victims of war. Their work in this book is powerful and a tribute to their craft.

Latest Read: Once Upon a Distant War

For a completely fascinating look at journalism in Vietnam during the early 1960s I found Once Upon a Distant War by William Prochnau Remember how Napster disrupted the music industry?
once upon a distant war by William ProchnauIn 1959 Malcolm Brown arrived in IndoChina having earned his war reporting in Korea for Stars and Stripes. A number of young journalists stationed in Saigon from 1961-1963 had the same effect on the newspaper industry at a time when television was about to eclipse print in news reporting to middle America.

The focus of Prochnau is the role of Malcolm Brown, David Halberstam, Neil Sheehan, Peter Arnett, Horst Faas and Stanley Karnow.

They even faced off with their editors who were Korean War reporters themselves but now lived and worked in Washington, New York and LA. The young turks were actually in the jungles with American advisors. They experienced first hand the early failures.
Critical reporting of the US war effort brought them into conflict with General Paul Harkins, commander of the US war effort in Saigon. Yet Prochnau identifies three events within the two year span that reset the war for America: Ap Bac, The Buddhist Crisis and the American coup against Diem. It was interesting to have understood how Halberstam was commanding the stories out of Siagon and establishing strong relationships with John Paul Vann leading into Ap Bac. All while being misled by US General Paul Harkins in Saigon who was commanding MACV.

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Latest read: We Were Soldiers Once and Young

Joe Galloway and Hal Moore wrote We Were Soldiers Once And Young about their battle in Vietnam. They reveal a deeper tragedy around the tipping point battle that would haunt America for a generation. As always the book is better than the movie.
we were soldiers onceThe battle casts a long shadow over America’s role in Vietnam. It carries implications today. The ambush and loss of 155 Americans from a single battle (LZ Albany) was the largest loss of life throughout the entire American war including the siege at Khe Sanh and the Tet Offensive. Please recall Khe Sanh was a six month siege while LX Albany was less than 36 hours.

For all the early battles around LBJ’s position of body counts, the famous “Search and Destroy” tatic was flawed from the beginning. Our growing role was largely based upon this initial battle in the Ia Drang Valley. The White House would establish “body count” as an outcome based around LZ X-Ray engagements – not LZ Albany. At the same time I somehow missed that Norman Schwarzkopf marched into at LZ X-Ray the day after the landing.

Galloway has written an excellent account of the Air Cav surviving LZ X-Ray and also the failures of command moving troops to LZ Albany on the ground. His attention to detail unique that almost every man in battle was identified by name and hometown…many times the following paragraph revealed that soldier’s death. Three cities where I have lived lost men in Ia Drang. One solider killed on the second day at LZ X-Ray lived 9 miles from our home in Milwaukee. Young men from greater Chicago and Northwest Ohio also died in battle.

As portrayed in the opening sequence of the movie based upon this book, NVA soldiers executed wounded Americans in the Ia Drang. The history of war in Asian culture is much harsher than in Europe.
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Latest Read: Keeping Up with the Quants

Have been looking forward to Tom Davenport’s Keeping Up with the Quants: Your Guide to Understanding and Using Analytics for longer than I care to admit. I throughly enjoyed his book Competing on Analytics all the way back in 2008. His followup Big Data@Work provides the same scope for business regarding the emerging era of Big Data.
Keeping Up with the Quants: Your Guide to Understanding and Using Analytics Tom has truly mastered the role of business analytics for well over two decades. He is acknowledged as revealing the path of metrics and just as important how success can be defined by adopting a mindset of analytics over intuition. It should be no surprise that I am a big fan of Tom Davenport.

Seems like a lifetime ago in the competitive and fast changing world of analytics. Quantitative analysis with a side of regression is not a diner order but a key skill to identify patterns in data.

An easy read with great common sense approaches for leaders to understand and professionals to embrace it proves not only how business gains insights but how to defend Kobe Bryant.

On the heels of reading Nate Silver’s bestseller The Signal and the Noise, Davenport reveals how quants have not only broken down NBA basketball defensive measures to each quarter when playing Bryant and the Lakers but how to guard him in a last possession game scenario.
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Latest read: Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction

Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction by Wharton’s Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner is another great read addressing analytics, human behavior and analytic technologies for establishing and sharpening forecasting abilities for any organization.
superforecasting the art and science of predictionThe book title is a wonderful attention grabber for me that demonstrates we live in the era of big data with business driving the age of immediacy.

Superforecasting acknowledges data lessons supplied by Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise as helping to define standards to data staticians and how it is misled in the national media.

Yet just into the second chapter Tetlock and Gardner point to the research by Daniel Kahneman excellent work Thinking Fast and Slow to help determine behaviors shaped over time that have fundamentally changed how we predict success.
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FarmBot: Open­source precision farming

FarmBot is an open­source and scalable automated precision farming machine and software package designed from the ground up with today’s technologies. The world’s population is growing and is projected to surpass 9 billion inhabitants by 2050. As a result farms must increase production by about 60 percent to meet demand which is stunning since many believe we have reached the limits of traditional farming.
FarmBot

In comparison to desktop digital 3D printers and CNC machines FarmBot extends the idea of X, Y, and Z directions and applies it to plows, seed injectors, water and sensors in order to accurately and efficiently grow plants and soil. I think that I would like to try this out in my own backyard.
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