The Great Anglo-Boer War by Byron Farwell

The Great Anglo-Boer War

This book was an excellent read. It was a detailed account of the second war between the Dutch settlers of South Africa, called Boers (meaning farmers), and the English from 1899-1902.

The war came about as a result of the British denying the sovereignty of two independent Boer Republics; the Transvaal & the Orange Free State, which had initially been formed to escape English rule. These became independent in August, 1881. Not that English rule was inherently bad, but the Boers disliked it for several reasons, in addition to the more important fact that they desired to be independent.

The actual grievance that caused the British to deny the Boers their independence was that the Boers denied the right to vote to uitlanders (foreigners) who had immigrated to the Transvaal as a result of gold being found there. When gold was discovered in late 1887, a flood of European immigrants, mostly English, poured into the Transvaal. The great number of people pouring in alarmed the Boer people who feared they would soon be outnumbered and, therefore, raised the number of years an uitlander must be a resident of the country to become a citizen and gain the right of franchise from one to five, and eventually to 14 years. This was quite understandable, as the uitlanders represented totally different ideals than the Boers, and were turbulent and not necessarily scrupulous people.

The Boers themselves, mainly of Dutch & some little French Huguenot descent, were a truly Dutch people; stubborn, kind, hardworking, with unshakable faith in the Holy Scriptures. These people were an inherently Christian people with an irrepressible desire for liberty & independence. They were predominantly farmers.

When the Boers raised the franchise requirement, the Englishmen in the Transvaal, who had immigrated during the gold rush, sent a formal complaint to the Queen.

There was an outcry in Britain and the Governor of Cape Colony, Alfred Milner, was delegated to negotiate with the Boer President of the Transvaal, Paul Kruger. The Boer President of the Orange Free State, M. T. Steyn, arbitrated. Milner demanded that the franchise requirement be lowered back to five years. Kruger offered lowering it to seven years. This was a gigantic concession. Steyn privately advised Milner to accept this and move on to less significant issues, as this was a huge concession, and Kruger would not budge. Milner refused, and left the conference. Kruger rode away with tears streaming from his face, realizing that this was war. The English subsequently denied the independence of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State and sought to add them to the English Crown. Despite this, the Boers carried out their concession, and lowered the franchise requirement back to seven years. The Boer commandos, local militia, were organized and war ensued.

The book then describes the set piece battles of the early part of the war, the British triumph, the Boer determination to carry on the war through guerilla methods, and the British operation to destroy the Boer farms and place all Boer women & children in a series of concentration camps.

Negative: There is some slight use of foul language, somewhat violent battle descriptions, and graphic accounts of the depravity of the British Concentration Camps.

Positive: Well-written and very informative, this book really filled in a blank spot in history for me. It presented an extremely balanced view, giving both sides of the issue without drawing conclusions for you.

Overall: The Great Anglo-Boer War was an excellent read, well-worth the time spent. It is about 450 pages long, and is worth every minute spent. It really gives perspective on the time period and the ensuing Great War.

Why We’re Not Emergent, By Two Guys Who Should Be, by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck

Why We're Not Emergent

If you haven’t heard of the emergent movement, chances are you know a college student who has. If you want to understand young christian college students, the general spirit is very well conveyed in this work. As one of the aforesaid, I was pleasantly surprised by how much the book spoke to me (an a non-emergent), and its accuracy in describing my emergent friends.

“Why We’re Not Emergent” spends about half its 200 pages unraveling the confusion around emergent theology or lack thereof. My emergent friends could be best described as Unitarian liberals with postmodern leanings, which is about as specific as I can get without quoting the authors verbatim. If you want to understand if further, read this book, or at least watch one of the authors duke it out with emergents here:

The authors take turns writing the books’ chapters. Kevin’s are more in depth, and inspired a lot of reflective moments for me. He goes through the theological underpinnings of the emergent movement, explaining step by step their pagan/Unitarian similarities and why its important to believe that Jesus was about more than doing good and caring for the environment. Ted’s, I admit, were more interesting. He relates a lot of things to movies and obscure pop culture references, but by and large he taps into my generation’s psyche in a meaningful way. Both make great use of footnotes to entertain, so be sure to read those too.

Overall, read this book.

Wizard’s Bane by Rick Cook

Wizard's Bane by Rick Cook

I’m not much into fantasy, but this book caught my eye. Well, actually, my boss recommended it and it intrigued me. The one line description: a Unix programmer is pulled into another world where he develops a programming language for magic. That was enough to spark my interest.

Now, I’m not much of a programmer; mostly I can muck around with higher languages a little. Still, I understand enough to appreciate some of the finer points mentioned in the book. Don’t get turned off if you aren’t a programmer though. This is still a fun book.

Wiz, our hero, steps out of his office and into a strange world. He has just been sucked away from Silicon Valley into a world ruled by magic. The great wizard that summoned him is promptly killed by the Dark League; that would be before he tells anyone why he summoned Wiz in the first place. That leaves Wiz with a hedge witch named Moira fleeing the Dark League. Fleeing straight through the dangerous Wild Wood toward safety.

A good portion of the book details their flight to safety. Wiz is lost and confused; Moira bitter and resentful about her “babysitting” job. Wiz, while self-pitying, is also a bit of a martyr. He’s unprepared for this new life (he’s a programmer after all) and no one seems willing to recognize his frustration at being unceremoniously dumped into a foreign lifestyle with no preparation. They don’t particularly care about him nor understand why he was considered valuable.

Wiz is no magician, but he has an interesting skill. He can program. Everyone in this world can perform magic, but only wizards have skill at it. Wiz desires to create a programming language that will allow non-wizards to be able to run safely magical “programs.” (This idea of democratization of power is an interesting discussion and is being explored in the sequel that I am now reading.)

Once Moira is kidnapped and sequestered in the heart of the Dark League’s capital, Wiz enters a one man crusade against the evil. A non-wizard begins wages war on the strongest magical army on the planet. The stuff epics are made of….

Still, this was a fun book. Even if you don’t get into fantasy or programming, I’d love for you to pick up this relatively short book and tell me what you think. (There is some profanity.) I’d like to hear what other people think of this story and whether or not the whole programming thing works for you. Personally, I enjoyed it. What about you?

Say, anyone here have any programming experience? My best efforts can be found on this site: hit the forensics tab at the top of the page. That’s the best I’ve done. (And if you ask my old college professors, that’s probably miraculous as well….)


Management: Meeting and Exceeding Customer Expectations, 9th ed. by Warren R. Plunkett, Raymond F. Attner, Gemmy S. Allen

Management: Meeting and Exceeding Customer Expectations

I had to use this textbook for a principles of management class. Bought it for the term, sold it at a profit, and will be buying another copy for the next management class of my own volition. My expectations for textbooks, especially business ones, are pretty low. This one met,and actually exceeded those as a textbook. Its well worth it for either a beginning class (ie, required textbook, so you’re going to buy it regardless of what I say), or or a high level class requiring case studies (yes, I said that: I’m voluntarily buying the thing next term). The telecourse guide is helpful, the website blah, the videos double blah.

THE GOOD: It covers every imaginable phrase, concept, and topic within the realm of basic management. Every word you could possibly need for a degree is covered in here with encyclopedic precision. Every theory gets its own table or illustration or graph. The student may get very little on the reality of business (memos, financial statements, and other real-life applications are not the point here), but the theories are solidly packed in: this may be boring, but its what you need for an intro business class. And lets face it, the book is designed to be an encyclopedia for future classes. One extremely useful insert: the case study that fronts every chapter, usually on some well known brand. Each chapter then refers back to that company in all its examples. This really drives the plethora of words home, and helps keep all those facts straight. Also, the book comes with a telecourse guide that can be useful to review for a multiple choice test: itself-tests were invaluable.

THE BAD: The book doesn’t stop with a plethora of words (which we do need): it goes on to a plethora of media. This book comes with a telecourse guide, website, and videos. While I always take notes for my own memory benefit, read the telecourse guide before exams and you’re good. Works for the test, not for remembering anything later (again, as an 01 class, where the point is to teach you these words for long-term use in other classes, this is a bad thing). In addition to the telecourse guide, the book offers a website with more tests (the answer key is screwy), and a series of videos to go with the chapter readings. Said videos had little redeeming value, being poorly done, formulaic, unrealistic, and teaching nothing new while pratting on about this or that wonderful brand, The videos were also over two hours a week of time. Taken together, this is waaay too much time to be spending on one class. Its just over the top.

Also, it has these politically correct inserts every so often about ethics and including women and the environment and all that jazz. These inserts are boring and entirely irrelevant to real life or the theories. I’ll happily overlook thsoe for the quality explanations and definitions, let alone the really good case studies.

THE LOWDOWN: All in all, great book. If you’re taking a higher level class and need some help with terms or case studies, its well worth the investment. I’ll be taking my own advice on this one in the next term. for the record. The telecourse guide is worth buying if you don’t want to take notes, and as a review in print of the tests. The website, skip. The videos, skip. The book, buy on Amazon (about $30 used international edition).