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The main idea of this book is to review history of WWII through somewhat different prism than usual concentrating on chronology and detailed narrative of events. This book concentrates on components of this struggle: Ideology, Technology, Strategy, Armies, and People. It also stresses diversity of the war when in different places and at different times fighting involved multiple countries and cultures and was very different in its nature and consequences. The narrative supports the idea that it actually was a struggle consisting of multiple wars from somewhat knightly and courteous African campaign when both sides behave more or less according to “civilized” rules of war to Eastern front where no rules except to win at all costs applied.



Author starts this book with reference to his memories of growing in 1950s among veterans of WWII. This is the source of his perception of this war as multiple wars that looked very different from each other depending on where people were during these years. This perception of WWII as combination of multiple and quite different war prompted him to write this book not as sequential history of the war, but rather as combination of different views at this huge event from different points: Ideas, Types of combat, People, Technology, and finally Results.


  1. The War in a Classical Context

This starts with the comparison of WWII with classical wars, which were mainly contests for territories and a bit of robbery. WWII started similarly with Germany trying to obtain more territory, but in process it outgrew this narrow meaning and turned into war of regime annihilation with population annihilated in process. Except for the Germany, for which it became genocidal war with main objective to annihilate Jews, all other sides pursued objectives of conquest and regime change with mass annihilation being only a method to achieve these objectives. Author also discusses unusually huge scale of this war in all conceivable meanings: geographical, number of participants and casualties and so on. Finally, the circumstances of the war initiation in author’s opinion has a lot to do with democracies unwillingness to use force at early stages or even prepare for massive use of force, consequently creating in aggressors’ minds well justified feeling of superiority of will and illusion that their economic inferiority would be irrelevant due to the briefness of the struggle and moral weakness of democratic opponents.

  1. Grievances, Agendas, and Methods

This chapter is about some details of psychological, political, and historical environment that led to war: grievances from WWI and believes that it was not really lost military by majority of Germans, believes in their Darwinian superiority when natural laws define winners and losers. Author reviews here the moral and intellectual mismatch of aggressors, who saw war as natural necessity and territorial and other demands with democracies that saw war as morally and logically impossible after carnage of WWI. Democracies perceived all territorial and other demands just as a method compensation for humiliation of loss that would eventually lead to satisfaction of aggressor’s demand and peaceful settlement of grievances. Correspondingly aggressors saw their own demands as an intermediate low cost method of attack used only temporarily until enough military strength for attack acquired, after which the total war and overwhelming victory would lead to permanent dominance over the world.

  1. Old. New, and Strange Alliances

The last chapter of this part is review of war alliances formation and how they changed during the war, which started with coordinated attach of Germany and Soviet Union against Poland, with consequent Soviet semi-neutrality of supporting German aggression economically, but without direct military action. Then, after 2 years of German’s mainly low intensity western war, the attack against Soviet Union made it into the most actively involved military participant that eventually suffered much more damage than any other country. Other countries also changed alliances during the war mainly after defeats, for example defeated France become more or less ally of Germany in 1940, but with Allies getting the upper hand by 1944, France returned to being one of the Western allies.


  1. The Air Power Revolution

This chapter is about tremendous technological and tactical revolution that occurred between two World Wars. From lightly armed wooden planes with small bomb load it moved to metal planes capable for decisive input into the war effort from effective tactical support of troops to massive strategic bombing of cities and industries. By the end of war with the use of nuclear weapons it practically achieved proven ability to win war on its own, albeit by massive annihilation of noncombatants.

  1. From Poland to the Pacific

This chapter is a review of the historical development air forces during the war from successful tactical air attacks that allow German forces dramatically decrease effectiveness of Polish forces to American strategic bombing and firebombing of Japan. This bombing, including use of nuclear weapons, forced Japan surrender without attempt to fight out on Japanese territory for acceptable for imperial Japan settlement by causing high level of casualties for Americans. Author provides an interesting map of the progress of air war in Europe when the new planes allowed Allies expand attacks more and more into Germany:

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  1. New Terrors from Above

The last chapter on air power concentrates on strategic attacks on population and industries and their effectiveness or lack thereof. Probably the main point here is that idea of undermining population moral by terror attacks from the air is only valid when such attacks could lead to complete annihilation as it was case with Japan at the end of WWII. In case when it is just caused a few thousands of victims, it only increases population moral in support of war effort, especially when it is possible effectively retaliate, as it was case with attack against Britain using unstoppable missiles. However, strategic bombing demonstrated its effectiveness, even without complete annihilation of population, late in the war when Allied air forces obtained complete dominance over Germany and consequently were able suppress transportation and fuel production, making it impossible for Germany to continue industrial level mechanized warfare.


  1. Ships and Strategies

This chapter reviews participants’ navies, their ships and corresponding strategies. The key points here are transition of main power from battleships as main technological platform of early XX century to air careers and submarines as main technological platform of middle XX century, and submarine warfare directed at economic viability of opponent. The main mistakes of Axis power were overinvestment in battleships that were practically unusable either for Italian or German or Japan Navy. Similar mistakes of Allied navies, especially American were much less harmful because of overwhelming industrial power: USA built all of them: battleships, submarines, and air careers in huge numbers.

  1. From the Atlantic to the Mediterranean

This chapter reviews history of war in two theaters where the bulk if fight was against German and Italian navies. The key was battle of Atlantic between convoys and German submarines that had potential to isolate Europe from American industrial base. Initial German success was highly dependent on technology of anti-submarine warfare and Air coverage. When Allied technology allowed closing these loopholes, the battle was lost for Germany. Somewhat similar, but much smaller in scale and intensity was battle of Mediterranean. The main fight was about British access to resources of their Empire and main plyer was Italian Navy, which was poorly equipped and correspondingly failed.

  1. A Vast Ocean

The naval battle between Japan and USA followed typical pattern: much better prepared totalitarian militaristic society enjoyed massive success at the beginning, taking over significant part of Pacific resources. However, it failed successfully mobilize and use these resources due to its totalitarian nature. Besides Japan greatly underestimate American willingness to sacrifice and American public ability to understand that any settlement short of complete victory would be temporary with militaristic Japan coming back for more each time more and more powerful after integrating newly acquired resources. Author describes 3 periods of the war in Pacific and how initial Japanese superiority was first eroded, then matched, and eventually not only eliminated, but practically destroyed, opening mainland to complete annihilation.


  1. The Primacy of Infantry

It starts with the statement of primacy because no victory is possible without boots on the ground. The author looks at increased lethality of infantry weapons and overall their equipment in WWII. Author also briefly discusses specifics of expeditionary forces war and homeland protection war with the former much more “civilized” than latter. Author reviews newly developed methods of airborne infantry and demonstrates that its operations were much less effective than that it was expected. The final point in this chapter is that infantry of all armies was equipped with similar weapons, tools, and protection, but their behavior and effectiveness was different and highly dependent on culture.

  1. Soldiers and Armies

This chapter is going into details of each country military culture and behavior. Specifically, Soviet army relied on numerical superiority and ability to achieve nearly unlimited sacrifices of its troops reinforced by special detachments at the back of front line that would shoot retreating soldiers on the spot, British relied on professionalism of their troops, Americans on superior firepower, transportation, and overwhelming air and naval support. Correspondingly Germans relied on superiority of their soldiers based on camaraderie regardless of rank, widely acceptable freedom of initiative and decision-making at the lowest level, while Japanese relied on ideological conditioning that they expected to compensate for lack of equipment and firepower. The interesting point here is that both Germans and Russians respected each other as tough warriors and had a bit of contempt for Americans, but it was Americans with their firepower, equipment, and logistic support who were winning most of the time. Author also goes through tactical pluses and minuses of each force demonstrating that overwhelming superiority in firepower over German troop looked quite differently and resulted in different outcome depending on whether it was in Soviet or in American hands. Specifically, American casualties usually were relatively small, while Soviet typically were huge either in victory or defeat. At the end author gives credit land war victory where it belongs to Soviet army that was responsible for a vast majority of German losses, even if ration of Soviet losses to German was approximately 7 to 1.

  1. The Western and Eastern Wars for the Continent

Here author looks at the war in Europe as several different wars that occurred during period from 1939 to 1945. The first was brief and successful war of conquest by Germany in alliance with Soviet Union against Poland. The second war brought all continental Western Europe under German control. The final success of Germany was nearly complete destruction of Soviet military in 1941. The following initial success of 1942 eventually led to defeat in Stalingrad and then complete destruction of German Military and then political regime during 1943-1945.

  1. Armies Abroad

This is about specifics of fighting abroad for different armies. It starts with discussion of war in Africa where all: Germans. Italians, and British were fighting on foreign soil and in unusual for them environment. Author makes point that this theater was probably most civilized with all sides having no their own civilians under bombs so they behaved somewhat gentlemanly. After that author moves to look at the war in Italy and France where western allies were fighting on territories with population similar to their own. Author reviews conduct of military operations in these conditions. Author only briefly mentions Russian movement into Germany at this point. It follows with relatively brief description of war in Pacific with its island hopping and continuingly increasing American advantage in all things material over Japanese.

  1. Sieges

Here author reviews a part of WWII that usually does not attract a lot of attention: sieges. Actually, author refers to Stalingrad battle as siege, but it was not it, but rather just intensive fighting in urban environment. The real proper siege was in Leningrad where for nearly 3 years German troops surrounded city, starving to death more than a million people, but never actually trying to storm it. In addition to these two major battles author discusses other sieges of WWII: Tobruk, Malta, Sevastopol, Singapore, and Manila with Corregidor.


  1. Tanks and Artillery

This part is about technology of land war, especially its two main forms used: tanks and artillery. At first he looks at theory of tank use developed between WW wars and then moves to actual practice, looking a bit at technical characteristics and numerical ratios. Overall author seems to be trying to find the reason for victories or defeats not only in technology, but also at tactical use of it. Generally, experience demonstrated that superior French tanks of 1940 were nearly useless due to the failure to allocate them to right places in right numbers. Similarly, hugely superior German Tigers were over engineered that resulted in high level of mechanical failures and small numbers of these machines. One of the most interesting things here is that Germans tried, but failed to copy T-34 mainly due to unavailability of materials. Author also reviews history of Sherman tanks for which mass production was put way ahead of quality, making them uncompetitive on the battlefield against Tigers and Panthers. At the end mass production of Allies turned into such a huge advantage that it made qualitative superiority of German armor practically irrelevant.


  1. Supreme Command

This is review of personalities of top leaders and an interesting discussion of their roles and ability to shape events. Author points out that it seems to be not necessarily depended on the political system that much. In democratic Britain Churchill’s personality and abilities quite possibly prevented defeatist settlement that would eventually deliver the whole Europe to Hitler, necessitating much more difficult and bloody war, than actually occurred. On the other side, the success of the plot against Hitler could quite possibly led to much earlier German surrender on much better terms. Interestingly enough the most important thing for success turned out to be correct allocation of decision-making power to various levels of the hierarchy so the decisions would be made at the level where people possess maximum information and therefore can actually implement these decisions. Overall overview of the leaders and their behavior demonstrated that they all were far from perfect, but also far from incompetent. Hitler and Stalin, who both were blamed for military failures of their countries, also were authors of their corresponding successes. There would be no quick victory over France or peaceful occupation of Austria and Sudetes without Hitler’s decisions and actions. There would be no Soviet victory without Stalin’s cruelty that cunning abilities, that assured support of allies and effective control over the country. Probably the most important role that leaders played was their ability to make final decision based on multitude of option presented by planners, generals, and managers, which right or wrong always defined the outcome.

  1. The Warlords

The chapter on Warlords reviews personality and actions of the second layer of military leaders: Manstein, Rommel, Yamamoto, on Axis side and Zhukov, Konev, Montgomery, and Eisenhauer on Allies side. They all were constrained by top leadership, but when allowed to act and provided with sufficient resources more often than not were successful.

  1. The Workers

This chapter not that much about workers, which on all sides did everything possible to produce maximum possible for their countries, but rather about economic power of these countries that to large extent defined outcome. Here is the nice top-level table of economic power during the war:

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  1. The Dead

The final chapter about human face of the war and its participants is about those who did not survive the war. Probably the most interesting part here is that unlike all other wars, in this war winning side lost more people than losing side – Germany. The simple explanation is massive annihilation of civilians by German army that included not only Holocaust against Jews, but also indiscriminate killing of civilian population both directly and via starvation. The unusual part of it was that unlike losers of other ideological and racial wars, Germany was not subjected to mass annihilation and enslavement of its population, probably due to the immediate initiation of hostilities between two blocks of allies: Western democracy and Soviet totalitarism that made Germans useful for both sides.


  1. Why and What Did the Allies Won?

After disastrous failure of the peace at the end of WWI, it was a very legitimate question. The answer author provides is that WWII provided for elimination of openly fascist ideology all over the world and opened way to transfer of former Axis powers into peaceful and democratic states. Unfortunately, it was also huge victory for another totalitarian system – Soviet communism, which obtained control over huge territory, was massively supplied with advanced technologically, including transfer to them of nuclear weapons by pro-communist elements in American establishment. The resulting power equilibrium led to Cold War.


It’s a good history and as far as I am concerned, the author’s approach seems to work very well. The history of events and their chronology is well known, but lots of details from technological to ideological are distributed all over the place in multitude of different books and are not really connected by one design. This book provides a good overview supplanted by good drill down to details, making it pretty well designed and implemented tool for understanding WWII and its role in bringing human history and development to the point we are in now.

20180216 Why We Sleep

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The main idea here is to provide a review of scientific research on sleep function of animals and especial of humans and demonstrate that this research provides a solid scientific prove that this function of a body is critically important for survival and health. It’s importance is probably somewhere in between breathing, without which animal would die in a few minutes, and food, without which animal would die in a few weeks. This book also demonstrates that sleep is way too complex phenomenon to try interfering in it with some chemical compounds either to promote or deny it. In both cases achieved results are superficial and mainly just imitate sleeping or waking without full providing required functionality of either state.


– Part1 – This Thing Called Sleep

Chapter 1 To Sleep…

This starts with reference to the importance of sleep and the general notion about it that one has to have some 8 hours, while people regularly have less than that. After discussing this general understanding, author refer scientifically proved consequences: short sleep=short live, persistent lack of sleep= death. Also, not enough sleep decreases performance in just about all areas of human activities, sometime with deadly consequences like micro sleep while driving. Then author discusses reason for animals’ need for sleep that have a lot to do with multiple tasks necessary to maintain body: it calibrates emotional brain circuits, cleans up brain in neurochemical bath, removing waste proteins, refreshes immune system, processes malignancies and sickness, and controls multitude of systems maintaining homeostasis of body including its weight. At the end of chapter author narrates how he come to sleep research and describes the structure of this book.

Chapter 2 Caffeine, Jet Lag, and Melatonin: Losing and Gaining Control of Your Sleep Rhythm

This chapter is about circadian rhythms, which are close, but not exactly the same as 24 hours, as it was established by experiments in conditions imitating absence of natural daily cycle of light and dark. Next author moves to melatonin, accumulation of which causes sleepiness and consequent dissolution of this chemical during the sleep. Similar effect has accumulation of adenosine. Author uses jet leg to discuss rhythms interruptions and then moves to mechanics of caffeine’s blocking receptors for adenosine, creating illusion of sufficient sleep. Author provides a number of graphics for various sleep related cycles.

Chapter 3 Defining and Generating Sleep: Time Dilation and What We Learned from a Baby in 1952

This starts with description of what sleep looks like and then moves to a more details of what is happening in the brain, with the most important part being kind of separation of brain activities from body movements and loss of consciousness. Contemporary sensors allow tracing what is happening in the brain. The findings are that it kind of replays activity that occurred during condition of wake. It also provided access for much more sophisticated reading of brain activity than it was at the time of original discovery of REM and NREM sleep. Here is the graph for typical activities:

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Author compares functionality of different stages of sleep to rough cut of analysis of brain activities during a wake stage for NREM and then fine tuning and precise analysis for REM stage. During this process brain defines what is important and what is not, what to save in long term memory and what to discard, which new connections should be reinforced and which should be allowed to decay.

Chapter 4 Ape Beds, Dinosaurs, and Napping with Half a Brain: Who Sleeps. How Do We Sleep, and How Much?

This is about sleep patterns of animals with main conclusion that it is a necessary part of their existence not that different from humans. However, details are different and significantly: REM and NREM not the same. Some aquatic animals that need constant movement have split brain with one half sleeping, while another active. Another interesting pattern is in birds when flock members interchange their place in formation with birds inside formation sleeping, while automatically moving. However, REM sleep is not subject to splitting. The second part of the chapter is about natural patterns of sleep for humans. Author discusses natural sleep patterns as it observed in contemporary hunter-gatherers, which typically has 2 sleep periods: night and afternoon. Another specific of human sleep is that 20-25% of it is REM, which is much more than in other animals. Another interesting point is that humans sleep horizontally, while apes on the trees. Author posits that it provided for more REM sleep, which is conductive to more cognitive efficiency, social complexity, and creativity.

Chapter 5 Changes in Sleep Across the Life Span

This is about difference in the sleep patterns with age, starting even before birth when in utero child sleeps 6 hours REM, 6- NREM and 12 mixes of two. Young children have multiphase sleep with number of phase diminishing with age. The quality of sleep also changes with deep NREM sleep diminishing with age, eventually losing 80-90% of it. Also with the age increases fragmentation of sleep leading to wake-up periods in the middle of the night. Another issue is circadian timing leading aged people to go to sleep earlier. This decrease in quality of sleep has materially negative consequences for the health overall and should be taken care off to achieve maximal improvement.

– Part2 – Why Should You Sleep?

Chapter 6 Your Mother and Shakespeare Knew. The Benefits of Sleep for the Brain

Here author looks at sleep benefits for the brain working. The sleep before learning, and/or after learning improves memory functions and results. Even more interesting, it has a very positive impact on athletic functions. Here is a graph for NBA:

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Probably the most important benefit of sleep is increase in creativity – well know fact that unresolvable problem that was excessively worked on before sleep somehow easily solved after a good sleep.

Chapter 7 Too Extreme for the Guinness Book of World Records: Sleep Deprivation and the Brain

This is about the other side: damage to the brain caused by sleep deprivation. The sleep deprivation could be not even consciously perceived, but damage occurs anyway. Here is a graph for driving:

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Author discusses here usefulness of a nap and grades it as a positive, but limited measure. After that he reviews negative impact of sleep deprivation on emotional control and even long term consequences: insufficient cleaning of by products in the brain on regular basis could be one of the main causes of Alzheimer disease.

Chapter 8 Cancer, Heart Attacks, and a Shorter Life: Sleep Deprivation and the Body

The final chapter of this part links the sleep deprivation to a bunch of other diseases and even to obesity. At the end author discusses DNA relevance to the development of the sleep patterns and complexity of this issue.

– Part3 – How and Why We Dream

Charter 9 Routinely Psychotic: REM-Sleep Dreaming

This is about dreams, which is practically REM part of sleeping with NREM only 0-20% dreams relevant. Author discusses technological development in picking up brain activity that led to much better understanding of dreams, all the way to ability identify the content of the dreams by MRI data. From here author deviates slightly into intellectual history of dreams understanding from Aristotle to Freud with much more attention to the latter. The conclusion is basically that his theory of dreams is not falsifiable and therefore is not scientific.

Chapter 11 Dreaming as Overnight Therapy

Here author moves to contemporary understanding of dreams functionality. This chapter discusses functionality of dream and REM that support emotional and mental health. Author discusses very material changes in chemical cocktail that occurs in the brain during REM sleep. First of all stress related chemicals get shut off. Then it proceeds to rerun events of the day “divorcing bitter emotional rind from the information-rich fruit”. Author describes experiments confirming validity of this idea and links it to PTSD research and therapy. Another important function of REM is to decode experiences accumulated during the day that due to continuing flow of information could not be adequately processed during waking. It was also experimentally confirmed.

Chapter 11 Dream Creativity and Dream Control

Here author discusses how sleep provides for intelligent information processing. Author starts with the well-known story of Mendeleev who during the sleep was able to arrange chemical elements into the period table, which pointed to the new, yet unknown elements. Then he moves to explanation of this process, which comes from contemporary mathematical development of fuzzy logic and associative networks. Very interesting experiments with waking up people during various periods, demonstrated that NREM processing is logical, hierarchically connected, and associative, while REM create random combinations of fact, ideas, and notions sometimes obtaining non-obvious innovative solutions to the problems the brain is occupied with. The final result is the new model of reality in which there are unpredictable new connections between distant informational elements. This follows by discussion about dreams content and lucidity.

– Part4 – From Sleeping Pills to Society Transformed

Chapter 12 Things That Go Bump in the Night: Sleep Disorders and Death Caused by No Sleep

This is discussion of sleep disorders such as: Somnambulism, Insomnia, Narcolepsy, and Fatal Familial Insomnia. Author stresses that sleeping difficulties are not necessary mean Insomnia and provides specific boxes to check for this diagnosis:

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There is also an interesting comparison between sleep and food deprivation with somewhat surprising point that lack of sleep kills faster than the lack of food.

Chapter 13 iPads, Factory Whistles, and Nightcaps: What’s Stopping You from Sleeping

This is about all characteristics of modern live that interfere with effective sleeping: all kinds of lights, multitude of electronic devices, alcohol, which creates illusion of sleep by sedating. One part of chapter is about temperature with recommendation to chill. There is also a bit of discussion of Alarm clocks and their negative impact.

Chapter 14 Hurting and Helping Your Sleep: Pills vs. Therapy

Main point here is that no known pill induces natural sleep. The sleeping pills mainly produce sedation, so the brain scans show completely different patterns of activity than natural sleep. Author recommends non-chemical methods of sleep therapy such as CBT-I (Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia).

Chapter 15 Sleep and Society: What Medicine and Education Are Doing Wrong; What Google and NASA Are Doing Right

This chapter provides recommendation for improvement in sleep patterns that could be provided by changing workplace, entertainment, education, medical services, and overall organizational modifications that could be done if sleep availability is a consideration. Author also stresses inhumanity of the use of sleep deprivation for punishment or interrogation.

Chapter 16 A New Vision for Sleep in the Twenty-First Century Conclusion: To Sleep or Not to Sleep

In this last chapter author discusses changes at different level that could facilitate improvement. He even provides a picture for comprehensive intervention at multiple levels and then discusses each level separately:

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It is a valuable book and there is not much to have an opinion about here: the sleep is important for overall health and crucial for mental health and abilities. That’s all – end of story. I have this knowledge deep in my guts ever since I underwent a violent sleep deprivation for period of 5 months some 45 years ago as a soldier in Soviet army. This book just provides a scientific prove that my gut knowledge is correct.



20180209 Autumn of the Black Snake

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The main idea of this book is to narrate history of the little known American war against Indians in Middle West that prompted creation of American Regular army soon after the end of the Revolutionary War. It was the time when Indian Confederation initially defeated American troops and seemingly created probability of setting up border between Indian nations and American intruders along Ohio River. This probability, however, was short-lived because American Army commander Antony Wayne was able to create an effective military force, which despite of multitude of difficulties, succeeded in defeating Indians and opening the West to American expansion. Author also strives to show complexity of politics on Indian side, with various leaders were both competing and cooperating with each other, Americans, British, and French. These people: Indians as well as Europeans were complex human beings and they all deserve respect and most of all understanding not for their sake, because they are all dead for centuries, but for our sake because people with cartoonish attitude to them are our contemporaries who can cause lots of problems because of their ignorance of history and complexity of history’s people.


Prologue: The Ruins of an Old French Fort

It starts with reference to the French actions in America that started in Quebec and expanded all the way to Mississippi and down to New Orleans. Author points out the difference between this French expansion, which was mainly trade oriented and created a chain of forts to support it, with English expansion, which was mainly land oriented and, while trading with Indians as well as French, continuously added settlements that pushed Indians out.

Part I: Sinclair’s Retreat

  1. The Death of General Butler

This part starts with description of battle between Indians and Americans in1791 near upper Wabash River in Illinois. In this battle Indian coalition completely defeated American troops that moved North of Ohio River. Indian leaders Little Turtle and Blue Jacket managed to defeat American troops under general St. Clair veteran of the American war of independence so profoundly that it could stop American expansion into Indian Territory. Moreover, author points out that it could be a beginning of denial to Americans the Western expansion, which was one of the main causes of revolution because British aristocracy did not really wanted this expansion and was willing to leave lands beyond Apalachees to Indians.

  1. The Turnip Field

This chapter starts with Washington’s learning of defeat and his strong reaction to this news. Then author describes situation with territories North of Ohio river and American – Indian relations that were going in pretty much consistent way: American settlers moved West and North, Indians reacted often violently by killing settlers, American raised militia and killed Indians and destroyed their villages. At some point sides would come together and sign treaty, which typically was violated by American settlers moving to the new territory and Indians by attacking and killing settler families. After describing the process overall, author moves to specifics of Washington’s live and participation in this process, especially his role in seven years war between British and French. At the end of chapter authors refer to the testimony of general Thomas Gage in England Parliament when he stated that it was all about American western expansion and that Britain was duped by the colonies into support of this expansion, even if it did not need and did not want it to happen.

  1. Drive Them Out

This chapter is about two Indian leaders Blue Jacket and Little Turtle who managed to create coalition that defeated American troops under St. Clair. Author describes formative years of Blue Jacket and influence on him of Delaware named Neolin who retold to Indians of Western tribes the stories of fight against settlers and cruelty with which it was conducted in the East. These stories resonated very well and were amplified by the changed circumstances of Indian tribes. Consequently, it led to Pontiac insurgency and war in which Blue Jacket participated in his youth. The Pontiac war ended in 1764 with Indian defeat. However, one of the results of this war was British attempt to restrict American western expansion and in 1768 British Superintendent of Indian affairs signed the treaty with Iroquois federation restricting white settlements by Appalachians, leaving lots of Americans such as George Washington, who extensively speculated in western lands, out of luck. Here is the map demonstrating this situation with boundary line along Ohio River:

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This chapter also describes events leading to revolutionary war and political developments related to western expansion, Lord Dunmore activities, and other circumstances that led to Quebec Act of 1774 allocated everything to the west of Appalachies to the new 14th colony without local representative powers. This outraged Americans and played an important role in leading to the war.

  1. An Inquiry into the Causes of the Late Unfortunate Defeat

In this chapter author moves to events of 1783 and describes how that led to defeat: congress of 30 Indian nations in southern Erie, British incitement and promises of support to Indians against Americans, low intensity war with high level of atrocities on both sides. Author also uses it to describe the story of another Indian leader – Little Turtle who was leader of Miami and how the coalition of Indians was formed. This was followed by narrative of events on American side during the period when Paris peace was negotiated with defined boundaries to the North between USA and Canada. Nothing like that was established to the West, which Britain left wide open to American expansion. The Western boundary was loosely defined by complete mishmash of Indian treaties, land speculation, and such. Author describes how St. Clair and Harmar started establishing the chain of forts on Ohio River, while Indians were in internal conflict between moderates and hard liners on how to respond to this new stage of American encroachment on their lands. Here is the map of this area with Forts:

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At the end of chapter author returns to St. Clair defeat and describes initial concequences of this.

Part II: War Dancing

  1. Standing Armies

This chapter is about the value of actual standing army vs. militia troops. Traditionally Americans prefer militia, but military leaders with actual experience like Washington knew quite well that militia lacks discipline and straying power to be effective in real combat. Author discusses how Washington worked on creating professional military capable to fight and win revolutionary war only to be practically dissolved afterword. The problem with reestablishment of Army was not only Jefferson and his supporters who rejected the idea, but also Hamilton who probably wanted army to control population more than anything else. Another challenge for the army were the states, which clearly did not want federal government to have potent military power that it could use against them. Author summarizes challenge for Washington this way: without western expansion, there is no nation and without standing army there would be no western expansion. St. Clair’s defeat made it completely clear. Author also discusses European opponents of American expansion, specifically Alexander McKee former British officer and trader who worked diligently on supplying and supporting Indians in order to make them into effective force capable to stop this expansion. He also continuously assured Indians in strong British support. However, he was not able to deliver what Indians really needed – artillery, which was a necessary condition for success for Little Turtle who was quite sophisticated military leader.

  1. Metropotamia

St. Clair’s defeat caused near panic in all frontier states and here author discusses complex interplay between states’ governors like Pennsylvania’s Mifflin on one hand and Washington and Knox on another, that resulted in Congress deciding to create a small standing army of 5168 people. This chapter also narrates actions on the other side: both British and Indians.

  1. Mad Anthony

This is the story of Antony Wayne as pretty successful general and hero of revolutionary war who after the war demonstrated extremely poor judgement in business that led him to nearly complete ruin. The same qualities that made him daring and successful commander: strict discipline, risk taking, decisiveness and strictness in dealing with people turned out to be less asset and more liability in business where a lot depends on ability to find compromise and interact with people in flexible way. Similarly, the failure was his fate as politician when he managed to be expelled from his position as congressman for election manipulation, when it was quite acceptable practice for everybody else. It was at this point when Washington and Knox put him in charge of creating the regular army from nothing.

  1. The Peaceful Intentions of the United States

This chapter starts with the story of John Simcoe who was a governor of Upper Canada and was seeking for Britain the role of mediator between USA and Indians. The obvious objective was to prevent American expansion. The leverage for this was a chain of British forts that were supposed to be eliminated per Paris treaty, but stayed in place, providing support for Indians, albeit limited by the secondary objective to avoid war with USA. On their part Americans were looking for peace, but for such peace that would not stop expansion, which was obviously unrealistic and this chapter provides a detailed narrative of how these efforts failed. It also describes formation of the army under Wayne’s command and measures that made this army into pretty formidable force. The end of chapter discusses competition between two different strategic approaches with Wayne’s winning the approval.

  1. Legion Ville

This starts with the story of big Indian conference that started in fall 1792 and differences between leaders. At the same time Wayne was believed that his army is ready to move, but was contained by Washington in hope that diplomacy with Indians would deliver if not peace, then at least split between different Indian groups. The Indian conference closed with the victory of hardliners and initiation of war preparation. It also describes competing strategies: Blue Jacket’s pitched battle similar to one that brought in victory over St. Clair and Little Turtle’s idea of attacking supply chain. The several encounters with new army created by Wayne demonstrated that both strategies were insufficient against well-trained and disciplined troops of Antony Wayne. The chapter also discusses political problems in Congress that put the whole military buildup under the question. Eventually war was inevitable because the minimum acceptable compromise for Indians was a border along Ohio River and elimination of American forts on its Northern side. It was clearly not acceptable for Americans. Actually, it is hard to imagine that any border would be acceptable for Americans, whose numbers where growing with more and more new immigrants who become settlers and wanted more and more land.

Part III: The Black Snake March

  1. Recovery

This chapter starts with return to the place of St. Clair’s defeat, recovery of remains of fallen, and construction of Fort Recovery. Then it discusses complexities of maintaining the force and the beginning of the march in the fall of 1793. Lots of attention is paid to Wayne’s maintaining vigilance so his troops could never be caught unprepared for battle. By the New Year 1794 army was better supplied and pretty much prepared for its mission. After that author discusses Wayne’s second in command James Wilkinson who was prone to undermining Wayne and worked hard to get rich by all means necessary, especially with the use of political intrigues. He even became a Spanish spy, trying to arrange succession of Kentucky. This failed as well as his attempts to unseat Wayne, but even if he was under suspicion, his spaying was definitely proved only a hundred years later. The next part of this chapter is about divisions between Blue Jacket and Little Turtle. The former was aggressive and big believer in various unreal thins including strong British support, while the former was more realistic and, after it become clear that no artillery will be provided, he pretty much understood that Indian cause hopeless as soon as Wayne army demonstrated its professionalism and capability. Author describes the next significant encounter when Indians successfully attacked supply train near Fort Recovery and then unsuccessfully attacked fort itself, leading to their defeat. Little Turtle put condition for British, asking to provide artillery, at least as few as two big guns so he could attack the fort. He also warned British that without this help Indians would not be able to stop Wayne. British refused.

  1. Fallen Timbers

This chapter describes the final battle when in July 1794 Indians set up an ambush for Wayne army in the area of fallen after hurricane trees. The battle turned out to be complete disaster for Indians, for all practical purposes ending their resistance in this area.

  1. Black Granite

This chapter starts with overview current state of Ohio where the event described in the book occurred and describes what happened next. Everything was pretty much settled by 1795 and Indians submitted to inevitable and after being deprived of self-sufficiency, started developing dependency, leading to misery and despair that comes with it. Author describes an interesting meeting between Wayne and Indian leaders and how these leaders behavior changed. Blue Jacket become submissive and pushed Indians to accept everything, while Little Turtle who was much less aggressive before, refused participate in imitation of voluntary ceding of Indian land, albeit his objections did not matter and Indian leader eventually signed the new treaty. At least Little Turtle was the last to sign. At the end of chapter author describes what happened with main personae of the story and somewhat complains that it is all now mainly forgotten.


It is a great history book and it provides a very interesting representation of long gone reality of American expansion with all sweat, blood, and tears that were spent on all sides of this struggle. Far from being intentionally genocidal as sometimes presented by contemporary American haters, it was a tragic struggle on both sides, when two incompatible civilizations came into contact with each other and neither one could survive without pushing out and eventually eliminating another. I think that the complexity of this struggle, its inevitability, and impossibility of compromise should be understood if one wants to avoid more of the same. I believe that current situation, when American government maintains the travesty of reservations and illusion of existence of some separate Indian culture / independence, is detrimental to wellbeing of people who consider themselves Indians. I think that best solution would be to move these people to contemporary world by privatization among Indians of all land, obviously on purely voluntary character and let them merge into general American population if they want to, by eliminating government handouts and special privileges. These handouts serve like miserable, but warm prison cell with rations provided physiological live of a prisoner, but deprives this prisoner of freedom and meaningful live.


20180203 The Creative Spark

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The main idea here is to link creativity with human development from just another animal among many to what humans are now: unquestionably the most powerful living creatures that modified environment to fit their needs and overcame unreliability and difficulty of regular animal existence. Author uses archeology to support this by demonstrating how humans start using tools in qualitatively different ways than other animals and then managed to create complex cooperative relationship that supported not just survivability for all, but comfortable existence with unlimited potential for improvements.


Overture: Trumpeting Creativity and a New Synthesis

Author starts this overture with discussion on what is creativity and defines it as collaborative process of developing new ideas, artifacts, and methods rather than product of individual genius working in isolation. After that he moves to four major misconceptions about humans as the product of evolution:

  1. Humans being inherently violent and only somewhat subdued by civilization
  2. Humans being inherently good, cooperative, and altruistic and only somewhat corrupted by civilization
  3. Humans being a product of long evolution as hunter-gatherers well adjusted to this live style and therefore cannot handle civilization. As result they are getting fat, depressed, and sick.
  4. Humans by creating civilization and culture transcended boundaries of their biological and evolutionary nature and mold environment to their own design went beyond their ability to understand consequences of their actions resulting in development leading to the danger of complete destruction.

Author rejects these misconceptions and instead proposes the New Synthesis based on four systems of inheritance:

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This is supplemented by distinctly human brand of cooperation and by the process of niche construction, which is the change of environment to fit one’s needs. Finally author seems to believe that competition, ever since Darwin, was overestimated as the main engine of evolutionary process and that cooperation is playing not less important part in it. The final point author makes here is that humans, as different as they are, do not represent some king of the top of evolution. All contemporary species have as long history as humans, share lots of genetic information with them, and well adjusted to whatever environment they live in. So in order to understand humans it would help a lot to understand others.

PART ONE: STICKS AND STONES: The First Creativity.

  1. Creative Primates

This starts with discussion of our relatives – primates, their creativity, and complex relationships. Author describes the story of dominant macaque that was very mean to other members of the group. After breaking his leg, this primate lost power and even was pushed out of the group. Eventually he joined another group at the much lower place in hierarchy, which dramatically changed his behavior to the better. He became friendly, helpful, and overall nice primate. The moral of this story is that behavior to large extent defined not by purely personal characteristics, but also by position in society and primates are flexible enough to control and modify their behavior as dictated by circumstances. After that author moves to primate’s proficiency of using physical objects like rock for various needs either related to productive activities or just for playing. Here is a nice graph demonstrating our tree of relatives:

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  1. The Last Hominin Standing

This is about usually poorly understood fact that humans are not really unique in primate development and that there were a number of various hominins much close to us that apes. Author discusses relevant archeological findings and provides a couple very useful pictures demonstrating first relationships, then innovations of various groups and finally the timeline of our group development:

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WHAT’S FOR DINNER? How Humans Got Creative

  1. Let’s Make a Knife

This is about human food acquisition and consumption and it starts with little known and relatively recent discovery that hunter-gatherers actually become hunters quite late in their development. It took a long time before hominids, who do not possess any serious natural weapons like claws, sable teeth, and similar useful for hunting parts of body, learned to use tools and methods for effective hunting. Human hunting depends on two things: tools and cooperation between multiple participants in the hunt. Both these things were developed incrementally with improvement in survivability at each step. Author discusses how initial use of tool greatly approved human ability for scavenging by allowing much better processing of not easily accessible food like nuts, bone marrow, turtles, and such. Author reviews progressive improvement in stone-age technology of producing tools. Very interesting here is description of contemporary reproduction of such effort, demonstrating how complex is this process. Author also looks at usefulness of big brain in process of avoiding being eaten, which was kind of a regular occurrence at the time.

  1. Killing and Eating, Etc.

This is about continuation of human development when hominids started to apply “power scavenging” when they become capable to push away actual hunters that killed a prey and get to the body first. Interestingly enough, the contemporary technology allows using ossified bones to define which traces were left first: animal claws or human stone tools. There are also traces of cutting and transportation of parts of carcass from the place of killing to the place of consumption. Finally, the knowledge of fire control that was obtained some 1.6 million years ago allowed hominids start using of cooking, which allows extracting everything up to the last calorie from available food.

  1. The Beauty of Standing in Line

This is about human cooperation and the ability to form a Line as example of such cooperation, which is not replicated by any other species including our close relatives – apes. Author discusses how big brain development was part of feedback loop of increase in cooperation leading to increase in survivability which in turn led to increase in cooperation and level of its sophistication including compassion levels that no other species are capable of. At the end author points to the increase in complexity of human societies sometimes dangerously so and posits question if we are wise enough to overcome these complexities.

  1. Food Security Accomplished

In this chapter author discusses development of agriculture, domestication of plants and animals and, finally, achievement of food security that actually occurred very recently.


WAR AND SEX: How Humans Shaped a World

  1. Creating War (and Peace)

This is about war, homicide, and overall violence that is specific for humans and is not replicated by other species. Author discusses the two opposing views: one that it is unavoidable characteristic of human nature and another that it is product of specifics of condition of the society that could and is being overcome by process of civilization. Author also discusses difficulties in identifying levels of violence by using archeological evidence. His example is remains of primate that died 500000 years ago because smashed skull. It would not be possible to say whether it is result of violence or incident. But here is what is possible to say:

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All this implies increase in complexity of humn societies and competition, often violent competition between them. Author provides a nice road map of how we get from the point when our ancestors were roaming and scavenging hominids until now:

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  1. Creative Sex

The final part of this chapter is about sex and its role in human development, which is going way beyond pure biological necessity to produce the next generation. Human sex is highly diversified tool used for communications, establishment of societal rule and hierarchies, rewards and punishments, and multitude of other purposes. Author also discusses parenting and gender as notion separate from sex and used more for allocation of roles in the group and individual’s conditioning for such role. Author also points out that archeological artifacts does not provide clear evidence about existence of gender in hunter / gatherer societies. Neither toolmaking nor hunting nor any other activity described in ancient pictorials is exclusively male/female. The difference and correspondingly gender seems to be developed with advance of agricultural societies.

PART FOUR: GREAT WORKS: How Humans Made the Universe

This is about ideological representation of the world by human that is applied by using 3 different approaches.

  1. Religious Foundations

Here author reviews the religious approach to representation of the world. He discusses logic of this approach, various examples and provides population breakdown by religion:

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Author also discusses consequences, either positive or not, of religious believes such as sense of identity, religious experience, hope, and ability to cope with lives’ challenges. He provides a review of archeological evidence that indicates presence of religious attitudes since the very beginning of humanity. Another point is review of discussion about Big Gods ideas, how they were developed and their applications.

  1. Artistic Flights

This chapter is about artistic approach to live that humans also developed since the very beginning and author presents some interesting artifact supporting this idea.

  1. Scientific Architecture

This chapter correspondingly provides review of quite new scientific approach to the world that started as successful method of handling external material world and now in addition to this it turned internally, looking at humanity itself and trying to make some sense of it.

Coda: The Beat of Your Creative Life

This is a kind of summary of the book with stress on the main point of author, which is: “being human is a creative process” and that he hopes humanity will continue to maintain creativity and improve everything around for millions of years to come.


It is a pretty good review of human path from animal to something more than that. Especially interesting is information on stone tools, how they were produced and how their quality improved over time. I think it is mainly correct approach and it demonstrates an important notion that every step was evolutionary beneficial, so any improvement in stone tools led to improvement in food acquisition and efficiency of its use. As for other parts I think author underestimate role of war in all its form in formation of human brains and development of language and culture. The powerful and expensive brain has quite limited use for individual living in a small isolated group in environment with relatively plentiful sources of food. However as soon as number of groups become big enough so they had to compete for hunting ground and later for the arid land, the war probably became the most important activity that could provide easy access to somebody’s else resources and/or protect one’s own, especially with advent of agriculture, when resources become much less perishable and territorial control much more important. I think that role of creativeness somewhat overstated here, while communication, cooperation, and cohesiveness of the group were much more important. I also think that a bit underrepresented here is the difference between mostly informal communication and cooperation between individuals in the tribe of hunter-gatherers where these processes continuously involve activity of each individual and formal cooperation of contemporary humans when a lot of it occurs via all kind of governmental structures and laws that makes individual involvement from insignificant to non-existing such as transfer resources from producers to qualified consumers young and old.