Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Book Review: Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season by Jonathan Eig

Reviewed by Jeffrey Caminsky

In our daily lives, we often tend to take the familiar for granted, and mistake what we see around us for the natural order of things. Doing so, we miss not only many opportunities for changing the world for the better; we also miss the chance to bring perspective to the ebb and flow of events, and to understand how the world is constantly changing around us.

Change itself is rarely easy, and it is not always for the better. But sometimes, the painful process of change can reveal what is noble in the human soul. In Opening Day, author Jonathan Eig tells the story of the year that saw Jackie Robinson change the face of Major League baseball-and open doors of opportunity for countless men and women across the country, whose only disability was the hatred and bigotry that arose due to a difference in their skin pigmentation. It is a tale everyone knows, but nobody really understands. And the book is an exquisite and inspiring exposition of how mere mortals can overcome adversity with courage and determination.

The year 1947 found American a different country than it is today. Segregation laws, in place throughout the South, were at odds with the ideals of American democracy, and many returning veterans—Americans who had answered the call of duty to protect their country and all it stood for—found themselves relegated to back doors, segregated slums, and separate drinking fountains, all to indulge the sensibilities of the grandchildren of slave-owners, whose views on racial purity were not terribly different from those who operated the camps and ovens liberated in 1945, which had so shocked and horrified the world.

One such returning veteran was a well-educated and powerfully-built college graduate named Jack Roosevelt Robinson. An athletic standout at UCLA, he excelled in football and basketball, and in a different era would have already been a national sensation with his breathtaking skills and fierce competitive instincts. But this was before the age of fat TV contracts and padded athletic salaries: athletes were not yet media darlings, but were simply considered hired help. And mainstream American sports did not reflect the full spectrum of color. Like American society itself, sports were segregated by race—and baseball, a sport whose culture in post-war America was decidedly Southern, seemed an unlikely place to begin the process of integration. And at first blush, Robinson seemed an unlikely candidate for the job of racial ground-breaker: baseball was not even his best sport.

But Brooklyn was itself something of a melting pot: immigrants of all kinds made it an amalgam of all things American, and the Brooklyn Dodgers-a collection of misfits and oddballs that seemed at once distinctly New York, but typically American-had a visionary owner who was seized by the notion that doing what he knew was "the right thing" would help his team by reaping an untapped reservoir of talent that was being unfairly denied the chance to shine. Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn owner who was determined to break the color barrier, secretly set about scouting the old Negro league for the best players he could find, convinced that the time was right for integrating the major leagues, and that all the players needed was the opportunity to show what they could do. All Rickey needed was the right player.

As the author shows, Jackie Robinson was not the calm, untroubled athlete of myth we see in the history books. He was, instead, an angry man, embittered by the racial injustice around him and fiercely determined to prove himself as a man and as an athlete. He was also, in the end, the perfect choice for Rickey's daring experiment. Proud and defiant, Robinson was tough enough to withstand the pressures that inevitably followed the attempt to break the color barrier. He had, as a captain in the Army, faced a court-martial rather than back down when a white private rudely ordered him to the back of a bus. But when, still unsure of Rickey's intentions, Robinson asked whether the Brooklyn owner was looking for someone who wouldn't fight back, Rickey replied that what he needed was someone "with the courage not to." Though initially unsure of the support he would get from the front office, once Robinson saw the lengths to which the Brooklyn management would go to quell dissent from the southerners on the team over his presence—and that even an early-season slump didn't provide an excuse to have him riding the bench for the rest of the season—he started to relax enough to play his own brand of baseball. It as a style that was fiery and combative, for though he had promised Branch Rickey that he would do nothing to give the bigots and hate-mongers anything to attack, he found that he could release his passions and resentments in the best way possible: by proving himself on the field.

And in the end, Jackie Robinson electrified crowds throughout the country. His exploits on the field did more to open eyes to the wealth of talent that our old attitudes and prejudices were holding back than any number of lectures on human rights the brotherhood of man. And as the season unfolded, all fair-minded men and women-of all races-were captivated by the human drama unfolding before their eyes: a man, with nothing but his dignity and talent, standing tall against hate and intolerance, and leading his team to a championship through his bravery on the field and off.

Tightly written, and woven around the personalities of the participants, Opening Day reads more like a novel than as a biography. Robinson himself is shown not as the saintly figure often depicted in baseball legend, but with all his pride and anger intact. In the end, the story it tells set the foundation for the Civil Rights movement that followed two decades later. It makes the saga richer, more human-and, by acknowledging the struggle between the needs of the moment and Robinson's all-too-human shortcomings, it serves to reveal just how heroic a figure he was. It shows that courage often consists of more than taking a bold stand for principle: sometimes, the most courageous among us are those who refuse to surrender to our emotions, and resist the instinct to lash out at those who taunt us. It is a lesson that would make for a better, nobler world if more of us could follow the lead set by the hero of the story; the world we see today shows just how far short we fall of his example.

JEFFREY CAMINSKY, a veteran public prosecutor in Detroit, Michigan, specializes in the appellate practice of criminal law and writes on a wide range of topics. His books include the science fiction adventure novel The Star Dancers, the exciting second volume in the Guardians of Peace-tm series, The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, and the acclaimed The Referee’s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating. All are published by New Alexandria Press, and are available on Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher.

Book Review: Tales from the Detroit Tigers Dugout by Jack Ebling

Reviewed by Jeffrey Caminsky

In many ways, we can read the history of America on its ball fields, written in the dust of the infield or the chalk of the baselines. Well-suited to lazy summer days by virtue of its leisurely pace, and providing a wealth of statistics to keep its fans amused during the off-season, baseball is a uniquely American blend of action, reflection, and squabbles (called “rhubarbs” in the vernacular). And in this, the game oddly reflects the culture that gave it birth.

For those whose appreciation of sports extends no further than the city limits of New York or Boston, a book on a team of mere provincials may prove as alluring to east coast sophisticates as a trip to WalMart to mingle with the riffraff. But for those with a love of the traditions and lore of the Great American Pastime, Tales from the Detroit Tigers Dugout offers a welcome and tantalizing glimpse into one of the oldest and most successful baseball teams in history. Fast-paced and tightly written, the book will delight Tiger fans, and enlighten fans everywhere.

As the author recounts, in recent years the team from Motown had fallen on hard times. Tiger fans had begun to measure the time between winning teams in decades, rather than seasons, capped by a team-record 119 losses in 2003. Yet in those dark years, careful behind-the-scenes planning was already laying the foundation for the team’s 2006 re-emergence into the upper tier of major league baseball. And the book is filled with past legends and hints of future glory that offer fans the promise of baseball glory in the years to come.

Though often ignored by sportswriters from bigger cities, Tiger legends are among the most gifted and venerated names in the history of the sport. Ty Cobb, for instance, was probably the best player ever to walk onto a baseball field—and arguably the nastiest and most contemptible human being ever to don a baseball uniform. But other Tigers were almost as skilled, yet often labored in the shadows of their better-publicized counterparts from the coast. Hank Greenburg, Charlie Gehringer, Al Kaline, and other Hall-of-Famers brought off-field class as well as on-field brilliance to the game. As the author notes, their contribution to franchise history is not lost on students or true fans of the game. Though like other stars of Cooperstown, their timeless talents are often obscured by the large salaries and larger egos of today’s lesser stars, fans of all ages and eras will enjoy the stories of how and why baseball in Detroit has grown along with the game that is among the treasures of American culture.

All Americans love an underdog, one who can rise from nothing and soldier on through adversity. Win or lose, there is something about the struggles of the common man that speaks to the American heart, giving us hope for ourselves and our future. A book about baseball will not solve the problems of world hunger or global terrorism, but the magic of sports consists of bringing people together through shared adventures in a sheltered world where conflicts are solved through teamwork and effort. And by sharing some of the hopes and dreams of a long-suffering and newly emerging sports team, Tales from the Detroit Tigers Dugout reminds us that miracles are everywhere around us. We only need to open our eyes and hearts to the magic, and sports can bring smiles to our souls, no matter what is happening in the rest of the world.

JEFFREY CAMINSKY, a veteran public prosecutor in Detroit, Michigan, specializes in the appellate practice of criminal law and writes on a wide range of topics. His books include the science fiction adventure novel The Star Dancers, the exciting second volume in the Guardians of Peace-tm series, The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, and the acclaimed The Referee’s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating. All are published by New Alexandria Press, and are available on Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher.

Book Review: Mr. & Mrs Happy Handbook by Steve Doocy

Reviewed by Jeffrey Caminsky

In the press of everyday life, it is easy to forget about the little things in life. Worried about work, we can overlook the beauty of a sunset. Consumed by paying bills, the small progress our children make each day may pass unnoticed.

It is often the little things that make life a joy or a source of sorrow. And The Mr. And Mrs. Happy Handbook, a heartwarming look at married life by Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy, shows how these small, everyday details can grow into laughter and memories. It will be these memories of good times that will sustain us through the hard times that every life will know, from time to time.

The author’s sense of humor is evident on every page. His misadventures begin while he was courting his wife-to-be, and appear never to stop. The author’s underlying message is that finding someone to share life’s journeys will turn our time on Earth into a shared adventure. But finding someone to share laughter at misadventures we encounter along the way can turn the journey into a joy.

Through it all, Doocy’s focus is on keeping the peace and making family life a source of warmth and affection. He weaves practical experience with good fun to craft a guide to married life that will strike a familiar chord for most couples. There is advice on planning the wedding (let her have anything she wants), settling arguments with hide and marriage intact (listen to your mate...and never fight to win), buying presents for your beloved (stay away from appliances), as well as the most difficult subjects for anyone dealing with the consequences of fruitful multiplication—or, in other words, kids (they’re not as breakable as may you think...but most parents could learn a lot about child discipline from studying the Godfather, and alternating between bribery and strong-arm tactics).

The writing is conversational, not pretentious, and the author speaks to his topic with clarity and wit. Being able to share laughter is, in many ways, the key to sharing love, and the author and his wife (who contributes the occasional clarification for her husband) seem to have gotten the combination just about right.

The book is fun and heartwarming, but not intended for those with serious problems. The advice is good-natured, but not for those torn by tragedy or serious psychological problems. For that, professional advice may be needed. But most of us are not in crisis, and for couples who have lost their perspective or their sense of humor, this book may be just what the doctor ordered.

JEFFREY CAMINSKY, a veteran public prosecutor in Detroit, Michigan, specializes in the appellate practice of criminal law and writes on a wide range of topics. His books include the science fiction adventure novel The Star Dancers, the exciting second volume in the Guardians of Peace-tm series, The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, and the acclaimed The Referee’s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating. All are published by New Alexandria Press, and are available on Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher.

Book Review: The Utility of Force by General Sir Rupert Smith

Reviewed by Jeffrey Caminsky

Like the advice to investors to “buy low and sell high,” the ancient advice of Sun Tzu to “avoid strength and strike weakness” is easier to say than to follow. In The Utility of Force, a brilliant exposition on the art of war and conflict in the modern world, retired British General Sir Rupert Smith, shows how far we have strayed from our ancient lessons, and how policymakers in and outside the military have failed to adapt to the changing nature of modern conflict.

Drawing on forty years of experience, Smith shows how our present notion of industrial, “total war” between nation states is a recent development, brought on by the advance of technology in the past two centuries. Since the days of Napoleon, our conflicts have grown to an epic scale. We have fought worldwide conflicts between nations and now see the great wars of the 20th Century—World Wars I and II—as the model for modern warfare. As nations and technology advanced, and entire nations were mobilized, our conflicts grew to include civilians among the enemy. In World War II, bombs fell on civilian non-combatants of both sides, ending only with the unconditional surrender of the losing side. Unfortunately, the author shows that by failing to keep pace with the changing nature of conflict, today’s leaders have lost the ability to harness our military muscle to our political aims. The price is often paid in the blood of our soldiers.

Our military is organized to fight what the author describes as “industrial war,” or warfare between nations. We plan for battles against the organized military of an enemy state, in which massed forces on both sides fight to resolve a conflict on the field of battle. And once having resolved the dispute by force of arms, the contending sides return to a state of equilibrium, until another confrontation ripens into open conflict, and warfare resumes anew. This follows a predictable, historic pattern—peace-crisis-war-resolution-peace—which we have known through most of recorded history. Both World Wars, and even our own Civil War, were examples of total war waged between organized states, ending in total victory for one side and total defeat for the other. In this kind of conflict, victory goes to the side with the most muscle—or, in a protracted struggle, to the side with the technology or industrial capacity to outproduce the other.

In the author’s view, the development of nuclear weapons has made “industrial” war largely a thing of the past. Total war waged between nuclear states would, for all practical purposes, annihilate the human race. And so we now fight our military conflicts on a smaller scale, while the larger conflict rages at the political level. The battlefield is now the people, who are the prize both sides seek to win, and who are caught between the warring factions. In such a struggle, recent history suggest that force alone can no longer be used effectively to force an enemy to submit and—as in the Cold War—is better used to help set the conditions for resolving a conflict by other means.

Unfortunately, generals and politicians often see the next war as an extension of the last one. As a result, it is easy to miss historical or technological changes that have altered the present. We sponsor a massive investment in forces and continue to organize our military along conventional lines, training to fight a conventional foe, on a conventional battlefield. But despite an overwhelming advantage in firepower, we often find ourselves using our forces on missions for which they are ill-trained, and for purposes for which the military is ill-suited. The outcome is not always pretty and, the author suggests, the reason is our tendency to confuse ends and means—using the wrong tool for a purpose which is often ill-defined.

We have, in the author’s view, entered an era of “war amongst the people.” Our modern adversaries are no longer nations, but groups organized along political, social, or religious lines that transcend national borders. Like any well-organized group, they have adopted the structure that best suits them, and they have also absorbed lessons from Sun Tzu that we have forgotten. They avoid our strengths, seeking to turn our own power against us, even as they find ways of converting their weaknesses into strengths. Where we have massive forces, they have small ones—and so they avoid pitched battles. They stage confrontations instead, hiding among the people and inviting us to attack them. When we attack in force, we often alienate the very population that we hope to win to our cause, and as long as they can avoid outright defeat, our enemies can maintain the fight, confident that time is on their side.

We have seen similar tactics succeed before—against the Americans in Vietnam; against the Soviets in Afganistan; even against the British during our own Revolution. Lacking a clear idea of the utility and limits of military force, the superpower stumbles over its own firepower. Today, our failure to recognize the nature of our new enemy, or the new kind of battleground on which we meet, means that in the conflicts of today our massive forces often have no practical utility.

To confront this “new paradigm” of warfare, the author suggests discarding many of our old concepts of confrontation and conflict. Conflict seems to be part of the human condition, and we need to understand that our new conflicts are likely to be timeless. We must recognize that military force is useful in a practical sense for only two things—killing and destroying, or coercing and deterring—and that to use this force effectively, we employ it as a mechanism simply for “doing something” in response to a crisis.

We must, in other words, come to understand that there will always be a link between political ends and military means. But for the military to be useful in this new paradigm—for the force to have utility, in the words of Sir Rupert—we must also recognize that while military means may contribute to the end, they will rarely be able to achieve the end. Unless the desired outcome is the annihilation of the enemy, the end will always be political, often making the blunt instrument of massive force counterproductive. Unless our aims are limited in scope, targeted precisely on the weaknesses of our adversaries, and focused on achieving a well-defined and attainable political aim, we risk sending our military forces on missions carrying much risk, but little chance of success. And so, without a clear understanding of the limits and uses of military power, we are at risk for future experiments, and may doomed to see our massive advantage in firepower squandered in misadventures yet to come.

The Utility of Force will probably not be the book of choice for a book-reading at the local literary society. It is not elegantly written and contains few lofty phrases. But its journeyman prose is quite readable, and the author brings depth and clarity to a subject that is painfully relevant to all of us, with a clearness of thought that is as rare as it is priceless. At a time when our politicians are offering little more than finger-pointing and a search for scapegoats, it offers insights into the nature of conflicts likely to arise in the years to come. For those who seek a better understanding of our present circumstances, and how to marshal our resources in defense of Western Civilization, it might best be described as “required reading.”

JEFFREY CAMINSKY, a veteran public prosecutor in Detroit, Michigan, specializes in the appellate practice of criminal law and writes on a wide range of topics. His books include the science fiction adventure novel The Star Dancers, the exciting second volume in the Guardians of Peace-tm series, The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, and the acclaimed The Referee’s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating. All are published by New Alexandria Press, and are available on Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher.

Book Review: Collapse by Jared Diamond

Reviewed by Jeffrey Caminsky

Human history is full of tantalizing riddles. Some of the most fascinating of these arise from the appearance of ancient ruins in unlikely places, such as Easter Island, or the dense jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula. To the uninitiated, these ruins are the ghosts of phantom civilizations whose disappearance is a mystery to our 21st Century minds. But like geologists reading Earth’s history in the rocks, archaeologists can often read the history of past civilizations by studying the records of these ruins.

In Collapse, author Jared Diamond brings an inquisitive mind and a varied and distinguised career as a student of humanity to bear on some often-alarming questions about the mysterious disappearances of past cultures and societies. And he asks a disturbing question that often goes ignored in our modern, 21st Century World: If advanced cultures in the past have disappeared—sometimes almost without at trace—can this mysterious past be part of our own future? In this fascinating and highly informative book, Diamond offers some alarming lessons drawn from the historical record, as well as reason to hope for the future.

Employing a five-part analytical framework, the author studies a number of past and present civilizations, hoping to draw lessons to explain why some survived and prospered, while others withered and died. Among the factors which seem to affect a society’s chances of enduring, he points to a civilization’s environmental damage to its surroundings, the impact of climate change, the rise of hostile neighbors or dislocations caused by the decline of trading partners, as well as the choices made by the society itself when confronting past crises that arise through changing circumstances, as being the most important.

Although the infinite variety of people and circumstances makes firm conclusions beyond the reach of our limited knowledge, cultures as diverse as the Vikings and the Japanese, the Anastasi and the Australians, the Chinese and the Polynesians, have all faced similar challenges, many of which are well known to our own era. Ecological fragility, the overuse of both fixed and renewable resources, the over-extension of settlements, and the tenuous interconnections of trading networks are all problems that face 21st Century societies. Now, as throughout history, advanced cultures often export the depletion of their own resources to those of underdeveloped societies that are desperate for cash; and the effect of leaders who come to view their own interests as synonymous with those of their societies—and who therefore make decisions that sacrifice the interests of their people for their own—are hardly confined to ancient civilizations.

But the author gives us reason to hope, as well as cause for concern. Not all societies collapse: some are able to confront and overcome their problems; and others, blessed with rich abundance and a forgiving environment, are able to skirt disaster through dumb luck or good fortune. Throughout the book, the author presents the reader with an interesting blend of history and theory, and his readable and accessible prose enlightens and challenges the reader. This book is not for those made uncomfortable by thinking about the challenges that may lie ahead; but for readers interested in expanding their knowledge of the past, and thinking about the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, its central message is one of cautious hope, tempered with the reality that in this world, all things are transitory...and that even the mightiest civilizations are not immune from the consequences of their own folly.

JEFFREY CAMINSKY, a veteran public prosecutor in Detroit, Michigan, specializes in the appellate practice of criminal law and writes on a wide range of topics. His books include the science fiction adventure novel The Star Dancers, the exciting second volume in the Guardians of Peace-tm series, The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, and the acclaimed The Referee’s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating. All are published by New Alexandria Press, and are available on Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher.

The Importance of Body Language

Language is one of the gifts of being human. It lets us share our experiences, helps us learn from others, and allows us to communicate across time—by preserving thoughts and ideas that later generations can share. But language is only one of the ways we communicate, and while it separates us from our fellow creatures on Earth, it ranks surprisingly low on our list of ways to gather information from our surroundings. In fact, in some respects our primary means of understanding each other are two things we have in common with the rest of the animal world: our eyes and our bodies.

Limits of the Spoken Word
Studies have shown that humans gain only 7% of their understanding by the spoken word. Of far greater importance is the speaker’s tone of voice—accounting for about 38%. But both fade in comparison with visual communication, such as eye contact and body language. While it is tempting to overlook it, we can easily see this at work when dealing with people who do not speak our language. Gestures, pointing, facial expressions, and the like can all communicate basic information and meaning, even if the words themselves are unintelligible.

Beyond this, though, we all have the common experience of watching or listening to speakers who were less than riveting. People with poor diction and poor posture, whose bodies suggested timidity or disinterest. No matter how interesting their ideas, or how critical their information, their message may well have been lost because their voice and body sent a message different than the one coming from their brain.

Gifted Communicators
On the other hand, we have also seen or heard people who have the ability to make an immediate connection with others. On the political stage, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan both had the unique gift of radiating confidence and power while putting others at ease. And on a personal level, we all know people who, somehow, always seem to make a positive impression on everyone in a room. If we pass beyond our mere reaction to what we commonly call “charisma,” though, we see that many effective leaders share similar skills in communicating to others. They
employ frequent eye contact with others in the room, animate their words with their bodies by gesturing with their hands as well as their face, and keep their heads up and their backs straight, to give an aura of command to what they are saying.

Some of this is instinctive; some people enjoy gifts that others do not, and connecting with other human beings comes more naturally to some than to others. But much of it is practice, and can be learned with time and effort. It starts with a basic understanding of human nature, and lessons every mother has tried to teach since humans started living in towns instead of caves: stand up tall, look people in the eye, and don’t mumble when you talk. For the rest, start with those good personal habits your parents tried to teach you, and work on projecting confidence to those around you. You may not become a talk-show host overnight, but even a small effort in improving your awareness of non-verbal communication can pay big dividends, by increasing your ability to persuade and influence those around you.

JEFFREY CAMINSKY, a veteran public prosecutor in Detroit, Michigan, specializes in the appellate practice of criminal law and writes on a wide range of topics. His books include the science fiction adventure novel The Star Dancers, the exciting second volume in the Guardians of Peace-tm series, The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, and the acclaimed The Referee’s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating. All are published by New Alexandria Press, and are available on Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher.

Ockham’s Razor and Global Warming

In the Fourteenth Century, a Franciscan friar named William of Ochkam proposed a new way of looking at the world. Known today as “Ockham’s Razor,” his approach tried to cut through the complexities and convolutions of the Scholastic school of philosophy by suggesting that all else being equal, the simplest explanation for a phenomenon is probably the correct one.

Like many other dangerous thinkers of the Renaissance—including such impious malcontents as Galileo and Copernicus—William of Ockham was ultimately charged with heresy. This fate is all too familiar to anyone who has tried bringing logic to bear upon arguments that are being waged emotionally. And, unfortunately, charges of heresy are not mere relics of history. We see similar charges made today against many whose only crime is being on the wrong side of a political debate—some of which are questions that, like the conception of the Universe in earlier days, are questions of science rather than matters of faith.

Our Place in the Universe: The Renaissance Confronts Copernicus
In the days of Copernicus, conventional wisdom placed the Earth at the center of the Universe (since God would never place us anywhere else), since every object in the heavens moved around us in the sky. But astronomers could tell that the paths taken by the planets seemed to move in uneven patterns across the sky—some, weaving their way through the night sky, while others occasionally crossed their own pathways while performing slow-motion loops. In the days before satellites and advanced rocket science, this offered two alternative explanations to the people of the Renaissance:

Alternative A (favored by Copernicus and Galileo): If the Sun is in the center—and all the planets rotate around the Sun, rather than the Earth—then everything lines up, and the planets' motions are explained.

Alternative B: If the Earth is in the center of the Universe, then for some reason not mentioned in the Bible, the planets are whirling in circles as they move around the Earth.

The conclusion suggested by Ockham’s Razor is that either the Sun is in the middle, or something is missing from the puzzle that we don't understand.

The conclusion of the Church—the political Orthodoxy of the day—was that since we were obviously the center of Creation, the subject was not open to debate and the astronomers were obviously heretics for suggesting otherwise.

From our perch in the 21st Century, we scoff at the early Church for its pronouncements, and salute Galileo and Copernicus for their vision and dedication to scientific truth. But we don’t have to look far to see that while we are more scientifically advanced than our Renaissance ancestors, we haven’t learned much from their experience. For proof, we only need to look at one of today’s hottest issues—the heat generated by our concerns over global warning.

Modern Geocentrism: Global Warming
Today, there seems to be some evidence that our climate is gradually getting warmer. Politicians—in the world of Science, as well as Politics—assure us that they have identified the cause...that the cause is us...and that dire consequences will follow from failing to take immediate steps to stop it. In addition, selected groups of scientists having issued proclamations on the subject, the solution to the problem happens to be beyond further scientific inquiry as well...and anyone who denies these obvious truths wants us all to die.

History tells us that the Medieval Warming Period, which began about the 9th Century, lasted for about four hundred years, even though much of it is undocumented by a written historical record (owing, alas, to the limitations imposed by the Dark Ages). This was followed by a Little Ice Age that lasted from the 1400s until the 1800s, a time of intense cold and advancing glaciers and polar ice caps. And since the 1800s, our climate has been gradually warming. As of the early 21st Century, some of the polar ice on Earth appears to be melting, and glaciers are receding in many areas around the globe. It also seems that polar ice may be receding on the Planet Mars, and recent photographs of the Red Planet suggest that a flowing liquid—perhaps even water—was present on its surface within geologically recent times. In this modern age of satellites and advanced rocketry, this provides two alternative hypotheses for us to consider, with respect to changes in our climate:

Alternative A: Earth’s climate changes over time, and it looks like polar ice is disappearing on both the Earth and Mars. Perhaps something common to both, like the Sun, is the cause.

Alternative B: Humans pollute, and have a dominating impact on their surroundings. Therefore, we are the cause of global warming. Something else must be affecting Mars.

The conclusion suggested by Ockham’s Razor is that we should study the effects of the Sun—particularly whether the Earth’s climate is affected by small variations in the Sun’s output of energy. Once we know this, we may be able to learn what effect humans may be having with respect to global temperatures.

The conclusion of today’s Political Orthodoxy appears to be that humans are obviously the cause of a changing global climate, the matter is beyond debate, and anyone who suggests otherwise is obviously a heretic (and, if the heretic is a meteorologist or other scientist, someone whose credentials should be revoked).

Cooling Down the Debate
In today’s political climate, our concerns over global warming share many of the characteristics that led the Church to condemn the early astronomers. We have imperfect knowledge about our subject, and strong emotions affect our perceptions. We also have forgotten that we are, in many respect, still just big apes. We are brighter and more curious than our cousins, perhaps, but we are just as prone to get into trouble. And we are just as likely to get so excited about some grand occurrence or other that we often misplace what little sense we have, start beating our chests to show how important we are, and forget about using our brains.

Many suggestions advanced as weapons in the fight against global warming are, in themselves, quite sensible on their own merits. Pollution is not a good thing, after all, and most reasonable steps to contain it have much to commend them. But sounding alarm bells, or warning of apocalyptic events in the near future, does nothing to advance human knowledge and only confuses what we know with what we feel. It also overlooks the “inconvenient truth” that similar alarm bells sounded thirty years ago about an impending Ice Age...which proponents insisted was being brought about by the impact of humans on the planet that is our home. And in the turmoil, we seem to have forgotten that forty years before the Ice Age scare of the 1970s---in the depths of the Dust Bowl days in the 1930s---we were too concerned about living through the Great Depression to worry very much about why it seemed so hot.

Ockham’s Razor is a principle of inquiry, not a scientific fact. It suggests a methodology for testing assumptions and analyzing the world but will not, by itself, tell which of several possible explanations is true. It only suggests a course to follow to seek out the truth...and reminds us that because there is much we do not know, we must always be open to new ways of looking at things. But its essential wisdom comes from realizing that complex explanations usually produce unworkable solutions, and that with simplicity comes understanding.

Humans will always have imperfect knowledge. This is as it should be, for the era that sees us lose our quest for knowledge will be the era that sees human society begin descending into another Dark Age. But we should never confuse fact with opinion, and we should always be open to the possibility that we are wrong. In the end, all that matters is the truth; in the thinking about our changing environment we should concentrate on the science of climate change, not on the politics.

For the rest, we should remember that thinking ourselves the center of creation usually leads to all sorts of mischief.

JEFFREY CAMINSKY, a veteran public prosecutor in Detroit, Michigan, specializes in the appellate practice of criminal law and writes on a wide range of topics. His books include the science fiction adventure novel The Star Dancers, the exciting second volume in the Guardians of Peace-tm series, The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, and the acclaimed The Referee’s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating. All are published by New Alexandria Press, and are available on Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher.

Five Gas-Saving Habits for Better Mileage

Today, with the price of oil rocketing into the stratosphere and taking everything else along with it, most of us are complaining about prices at the gas pump. Unfortunately, many of us treat the cost of filling up the tank like we treat the weather: we complain about it, but don’t really do anything about it. Fortunately, unlike the weather, there are a number of things we can do to help ourselves that won’t cost us a penny.

Tip Number 1: Don’t mistake your car for a dragster.
We share the road with many people who peel away from a red light, treating the changing traffic signal as the start of a race away from the intersection.

Occasionally, we may have a good reason to charge down the road away from a standing stop. We may need to turn a short distance away, for example, and our inattention has left us in the wrong lane. Or our lane may be ending, we’ll have to merge—and we don’t want to get stuck behind a “slowpoke.” But each time we do so, we waste gas: accelerating sucks fuel like a dry sponge soaks up water, and doing so as a matter of habit or routine will see our mileage plummet as our gas bill soars to new records. Easing our foot down on the gas pedal—starting smoothly and gently after a stop, rather than showing off our car’s muscles—will do wonders for our budget.

Tip Number 2: Spare the brakes and spoil the emir’s profits.
Just like tearing out of the starting blocks at the light will suck up the gas, screeching to a halt not only wears out your brakes—it also wastes fuel. There’s a good reason why mileage in the city is worse than it is on the highway: it’s easier to maintain a given speed than to accelerate up to it. And so a driver who’s constantly dashing away from one light only to screech to a halt at the next one uses more fuel than one who can keep a constant speed and avoid braking at all. And the driver who tailgates will be braking with every flash of the brake lights in front of him—not only making everybody nervous, but also cutting down his mileage.

The best city drivers will try to maintain the speed that will let them sail smoothly through light after light while seeing as little red as possible. And they will ease up on the gas pedal well before they need to stop. Doing so not only saves wear and tear on the brakes; it also boosts gas mileage considerably. Taken together, using a “light foot” on the gas, rather than switching between one “heavy foot” on the gas and another one on the brake, can boost your mileage by as much as a third.

Tip Number 3: Your car gets better mileage going forward than standing still. Hybrid cars achieve much of their phenomenal gas mileage by shutting off their engines whenever possible, and running on batteries whenever they can.

A conventional car doesn’t really have that option: shutting down the engine on most cars means that the car can’t move. Of course, this is less of a problem when the car isn’t moving in the first place.

Shutting off your car at every traffic light and stop sign isn’t really good for the car. And one day, it may even find you on the wrong end of an argument with a disgruntled teamster. But when you’re stuck at a railroad crossing, watching a train, or waiting for someone who’s popping in to a store to buy something, you’re not going anyplace. And despite what your grandfather may have told you, restarting a car with a modern fuel-injection system isn’t really wasteful: in fact, it’s one of the most efficient things you can do.

No matter how efficient the engine, a car that isn’t moving is getting Zero miles per gallon—and eating up gas at the rate of about a half-mile per minute. Even the worst gas guzzler can do better than that. So if you’re going to be stuck in the same place for more than the time it takes the traffic light to change, you’ll be better off shutting down your engine.

Tip 4: Consolidate your trips, as well as your pocketbook.
It’s no secret that a warmed-up engine gets better gas mileage than one that’s still cranking itself up.

Planning your trips to consolidate your errands—making several stops to get all your shopping done in one outing, rather than spreading them throughout the day—has much to commend it. And among the chief advantages you will notice is the effect on your weekly fuel bill.

Tip 5: Don’t pretend that the freeway is the race course at Indy.
Lastly, it’s no secret that speed on the highway carries risks. It also sends more of your money into the pockets of the oil companies.

It takes energy to move a car. The faster you go, the more it takes—not only to power the engine, but to supply the additional force needed to overcome the air resistance that a car traveling at a higher speed will encounter. Estimates vary—and the savings will vary as well, depending on road and whether conditions—but lowering your speed by ten miles per hour can probably boost your mileage by 10 percent.

Every car is different, and some cars are more aerodynamically efficient than others. But each car will have its own optimum highway speed, a function of its air resistance and engine efficiency. Keeping track of your own mileage between fill-ups will let you know what your car’s prime cruising speed is. Once you find it, you’ll have the choice between saving your money, or arriving at your destination a few minutes early. For most of us, the choice should be a no-brainer.

JEFFREY CAMINSKY, a veteran public prosecutor in Detroit, Michigan, specializes in the appellate practice of criminal law and writes on a wide range of topics. His books include the science fiction adventure novel The Star Dancers, the exciting second volume in the Guardians of Peace-tm series, The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, and the acclaimed The Referee’s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating. All are published by New Alexandria Press, and are available on Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher.

Book Reviews: Perspectives on the War in Iraq

Cobra II by Michael R. Gordon and Gen. Bernard E. Trainor
State of Denial by Bob Woodward
Fiasco by Thomas E. Ricks

Reviewed by Jeffrey Caminsky

Forty years ago, Americans concerned over the direction of their country had no shortage of issues to worry about. Racial tensions, the Soviet threat, amassing corporate power, and an environment threatening to poison our future were only the most visible concerns of baby boomers as they began coming of age. For the next ten years, however, a single issue colored everything they thought or read about: Vietnam dominated the political landscape like few issues since, touching on a wide number of fault lines in American society and polarizing the public in ways both profound and disturbing.

Today, many of these same fault lines lie dormant, lurking just below the surface. But the one issue with the potential to bring them all into the open, and lay bare many of the problems and divisions that still plague our country, is the specter of yet another military misadventure— the war in Iraq. Three recent books lay open many of the miscalculations and blunders that have led to our current state of affairs. But the alarming conclusion that each author reaches is that many of the mistakes were avoidable, and that most of our current problems there were self-inflicted.

Cobra II by Michael R. Gordon and Gen. Bernard E. Trainor
The first of this ad hoc trilogy, Cobra II, deals primarily with the run-up to war, and America’s initial military successes on the field. Thoroughly researched, and co-written by New York Times chief military correspondent Michael R. Gordon, and retired Marine Corp Lt. General Bernard E. Trainor, the book tracks events leading up to the March, 2003 invasion of Iraq and ending with the relection of the Bush Administration in 2004, recounting all of the major battles and most of our early troubles with the occupation. Showing the miscalculations on both sides that hindsight suggests made the conflict inevitable, including our failure even to consider whether most of Saddam’s posturing might be directed toward more local enemies in the region, the authors bring a wealth of experience and insight to the task of making the chaos of battle intelligible to the outsider.

Disturbingly, they also show that many of our early successes were not quite what they seemed. Much of the vaunted push to Baghdad came over lightly-guarded terrain, from which the enemy had largely withdrawn in the face of our superior forces. But still, the seeds of future problems were there for all to see, and many of the soldiers on the field saw them, even if the civilians in the Pentagon, and the commanders on the scene, refused to listen to their warnings. The book notes the lengths to which Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld went to seize and exercise total control over our venture into Iraq—freezing the one official in the Bush Administration with experience planning and executing a war plan, Secretary of State Colin Powell, out of any substantial role in pre- or post-war planning, and going so far as to punish a general who committed the sin of candor by publically acknowledging that the enemy our soldiers were facing was different than the one they had war-gamed against. Coming to press as our problems were becoming apparent even to most early supporters of the war, Cobra II also notes that the lack of available “boots on the ground” seemed to be largely responsible for the wide-scale looting and chaos that followed. Alarmingly, the book suggests that our misreading of the enemy and our inability to recognize and adapt to the changing developments on the ground reflect the dysfunctional nature of our military institutions under Rumsfeld. These problems include a prevailing assumption among many top military planners that invading Iraq in 2006 would be little more than a reprise of the successful Gulf War of 1991—problems which may not end with Rumsfeld’s departure from the Pentagon.

State of Denial by Bob Woodward
The most recent addition to our understanding of the morass, State of Denial by Watergate reporter Bob Woodward, deals less with military insights and operations and concentrates largely on the conflicts and tensions among the personalities involved. Though lacking the tactical insights that make Cobra II and Fiasco such alarming works, Woodward’s gifts as an interviewer lets him paint a portrait of an Administration largely trapped by its rhetoric, and held prisoner to its own unchallenged assumptions. Confronting the tragedy of the September 11th attacks, the new Bush Administration moved quickly and resolutely to the offensive, determined to confront and destroy those whose hatred of the West led them to murder innocents on American soil.

Though blessed with an abundance of technical, military, and human resources—including a presidential father with a gift for diplomacy and a secretary of state who was respected and admired throughout the world—the Administration soon turned, as if by instinct, toward an old enemy: Iraq, though it had not participated in the 9/11 attacks, was still unfinished business as far as some top-level aides and policy makers in the Administration were concerned; and once the dust had settled, and we had dispatched the Taliban from Afghanistan, eyes turned to settle scores with Saddam, whose sympathies were clearly with those who wish this country harm.

Certainly, no one can waste much sympathy on the old Iraqi dictator: Saddam was a brutal ruler, inflicting death and torture on his enemies and heading a regime that survived by brute force and fear. But Woodward’s account suggests that by creating a system which punished the expression of contrary points of view, and seemed to equate misgivings with disloyalty, the Bush Administration was setting itself up for a disaster at some point during its term of office. When coupled with a secretary of defense who insisted on making all important decisions himself, and who dismissed or ridiculed any non-conforming points of view offered by the uniformed military—or by the representatives of rival bureaucracies, such as Colin Powell’s state department—the nation was at high risk that the disaster would take a military form, and scoffed at the notion that Iraq could ever become another Vietnam. Add what appears to be a view of the world based on personal loyalty rather than objective fact, and the result is an unending chain of bad decisions, culminating in our current predicament.

State of Denial will not add to the reader’s understanding of what has gone wrong in Iraq from a military standpoint. It contains little military history or analysis, and struggles to place the events in their historical context. Its strength lies in Woodward’s tenacity as an interviewer, and his unparalleled access to official Washington. The book is at its best when unraveling the inner workings of governmental insiders. Unfortunately, the view it gives of our government is not for the faint of heart. It is often said that watching laws and sausage being made often causes the viewer to lose his appetite for either. But watching our government setting its course for Iraq is like watching a fatal crash in slow motion: we are helpless to change things, even if we cannot keep from watching in morbid fascination.

Fiasco by Thomas E. Ricks
Perhaps the most illuminating, and hence the most damning volume of the three is Fiasco, by Thomas E. Ricks. Like the other two books, the author describes in detail the dysfunctional and largely delusional decision-making that has plagued our endeavor in Iraq, but his book highlights a lengthy series of critical turns and cross-roads that we have taken in the nearly four years since the invasion—any of which might have led us away from disaster and toward a stabler and less uncontrollable occupation. And he brings the insights of a career military writer to the task of analyzing what has gone wrong, and how wishful thinking and political turf battles in Washington have placed our soldiers in mortal peril abroad.

Ricks treats the saga of Iraq as a tragedy in three parts. The first part, dealing with events leading to the invasion, portrays a military far more skeptical of the looming adventure than the public was aware, or the politicians would permit to become public knowledge. Though elected in part on a platform of support for a neglected military and opposition to the nation-building adventures of the Clinton years, the shock of September 11th soon turned into contingency planning for an invasion of a country expressing sympathy for America’s enemies—without, apparently, much thought for what might happen next. Yet upon taking office, the civilian leadership of the defense department had largely neutered its generals, who were turned largely into staff assistants for an overbearing secretary of defense. A long-standing contingency plan for just such an event—a battle plan named Desert Crossing, calling for nearly 400,000 troops, the culmination of years of in-depth planning—had been discarded in favor of a test of Donald Rumsfeld’s theory of waging a “lean and mean” war, with forces totaling just over a third of that number. And while Iraq’s military proved no match for the scaled-down invasion force, the task of maintaining order once Saddam’s regime had fallen would prove to be more demanding than the optimistic assumption of the war planners ever acknowledged as a possibility, or Rumsfeld’s conception of “invasion-on-the cheap” anticipated. The result was, in Ricks’ words, “the worst war plan in American history.”

The remainder of the book deals with the invasion and ensuing occupation, as well as the many blunders that have led us to our current state of affairs. Most of our initial mistakes were blunders by our political leaders, and those they sent to oversee the occupation. But some of the problems were institutional, and would have required insightful leadership to overcome: Despite Rumsfeld’s contrary preferences, for example, American military tradition in recent years has come to believe in Colin Powell’s doctrine of “overwhelming force,” in which American might is so vast and irresistible that it buries all resistance by its sheer mass, as well as through the power of its destructive force. Yet the techniques for fighting a counterinsurgency are completely different, calling for minimal forces and a light, deft touch rather than the heavy hand of tanks and armor. These are lessons which our military learned painfully in Vietnam, but cast aside after resolving never to become entangled in anything like it again. In Iraq, since the politicians anticipated that we would be hailed as liberators and greeted with flowers instead of roadside bombs, and the military war-gamed against the Republican Guard rather than the Fedayeen, little thought and no training was given to the challenge of fighting against a determined insurgency. This lead many of our units in the field to engage in heavy-handed tactics that did little to quell unrest, but much to swell the ranks of the insurgents. Now, with the streets filled with sectarian violence and the threat of civil war, our troops can either come down heavily to restore order, or try to stay out of the way. Both approaches carry significant risks and the possibility of disaster; neither approach is what we expect our Army to do, or what any of the soldiers expected when they volunteered to serve their country.

Individually, each book presents a different facet of the Iraq invasion and occupation, raising many unsettling questions that the country would have been wise to consider before the president issued the final order to attack. In particular, Fiasco and Cobra II translate many of our blunders into terms and concepts that the non-military layman can readily grasp, making them fully accessible to the public. Taken together, these books and others like them are a wealth of information and insight, providing the reader with a sobering assessment of what can go wrong when optimism and resolve succeed in equating doubt or skepticism with disloyalty.

In the end, unless we can find a solution to our present dilemma, our era may well prove to be defined by our efforts in Iraq. For better or worse, we are faced with an open-ended commitment with no clearly-defined victory in sight. Many of those who came of age forty years ago grew up to see the world through the prism of Vietnam. Unless we prove wiser than those who led us through that era, our legacy may well be to bequeath yet another prism to the youth of today—just as dark, and just as depressing. But if it leads them to take to heart Santayana’s observation that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, then perhaps they will have learned more from the deserts of Iraq than their parents seem to have learned from the jungles of Vietnam.

JEFFREY CAMINSKY, a veteran public prosecutor in Detroit, Michigan, specializes in the appellate practice of criminal law and writes on a wide range of topics. His books include the science fiction adventure novel The Star Dancers, the exciting second volume in the Guardians of Peace-tm series, The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, and the acclaimed The Referee’s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating. All are published by New Alexandria Press, and are available on Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher.

A Glossary of Soccer Terms, Definitions, and Terminology

Excerpted from The Referee's Survival Guide by Jeffrey Caminsky
Available from New Alexandria Press

Like every sport, soccer has its own unique vocabulary, derived from years of history and tradition. Some soccer terms are familiar, others are a bit more obscure.

Added Time: Playing time added to the end of a half to compensate for playing time lost to injuries, substitutions, time-wasting, or other any other cause for which the referee deems appropriate. Also called “stoppage time”or “injury time.”

Advantage: A decision by the referee to allow play to continue, despite witnessing an act of foul play, when doing so would benefit the fouled team.

AR: An assistant referee

Assistant Referee: An official positioned along the touch line, who communicates with the referee by means of a flag signal; formerly called a “linesman.”

Attacker: A player who is in the opposing half of the field; or any player whose team is in possession of the ball.

Backpass: The common name for the technical offense of a keeper handling the ball following a deliberate kick or throw-in to him by a teammate, punishable by an indirect free kick.

Caution: A formal warning by the referee to a player or substitute whose behavior or play has become unacceptable, signified by the display of a yellow card.

Center Circle: A circle in the middle of the field marking the ten-yard radius from spot of a kick-off.

Charging: Bodily contact undertaken against an opponent in order to win or obtain possession of the ball. If done unfairly, it is a penal foul.

Club Linesman: A non-neutral official, pressed into service on one of the touchlines due to the absence of a qualified assistant referee, and asked to signal when the ball goes out of play.

Coach: The team official allowed along the sidelines, who is entitled to pass tactical advice and instruction during the match; sometimes called the manager.

Competition Authority: The organizing league or agency which is organizing a soccer competition.

Corner Arc: A one-yard quarter circle from the corner of the field, marking the spot for a corner kick.

Corner Kick: The restart of play occurring when the ball passes over the end line after last being touched by a defender.

CR: The referee (or “center referee”).

Dangerous Play: A technical foul, consisting of any act considered by the referee to be dangerous to an opposing player.

Defender: A player on his own half of the field; or a player whose team is not in possession of the ball.

Direct Free Kick: A free kick from which a goal may be scored, awarded as a result of a penal foul.

Dissent: A form of misconduct consisting of protesting a call by any of the officials, punishable by a yellow card.

Dropped Ball: A means of restarting play after a stoppage caused by something other than an offense by a player. Also called a “drop ball.”

End Line: The boundary line at each end of the field, upon which each set of goals rests. Also called a “goal line” or “bi-line.”

Extra Time: The additional period or periods of play to obtain a result at the end of a match that ends in a draw, usually during the later stages of tournament play where the match requires a winner.

Free Kick: A kick awarded to a team due to an infraction committed by the opposing team, free from interference by the opponents.

Fourth Official: An extra official appointed by the competition authorities to assist at the match and serve as a substitute official for the referee or assistant referee.

Game Report: The official account of a match, including the score and any misconducts issued, prepared by the referee.

Goal: (1) The targets of both teams, consisting of two uprights and a crossbar, placed at the end line on opposite ends of the field and defended by each respective team. (2) A score, occurring when the ball passes entirely over the end line and into the goal.

Goalkeeper: The player on each team designated as the one entitled to handle the ball inside its own penalty area and required to wear a distinct jersey, different from the rest of the team.

Goal Line: The end line; usually, the end line between the goal posts.

Goal Posts: The physical boundaries of the goal, usually made of metal or wood; often described by their components, consisting of a cross bar, and two upright posts.

Half-time: The interval of time between the end of the first half, and the beginning of the second half of a soccer game.

Half-way Line: The physical line marking the center of the field extending from one touchline to the other.

Handball: Another name for “handling.”

Handling: A penal foul, consisting of the deliberate use of the arm or body to control the ball. A goalkeeper cannot be guilty of handling the ball inside his own penalty area.

Holding: A penal foul, consisting of unfairly hindering or restraining the progress of an opponent, usually by means of the arms or hands.

Impeding: The act of physically obstructing or impeding the progress of an opponent. Also known as “Obstructing.”

Indirect Free Kick: A free kick which requires a touch on the ball by a second player before a goal may be scored, awarded as a result of a technical or non-penal infraction.

Jumping: The act of leaving the ground under one’s own power by leaping. If directed at an opposing player in an unfair manner to prevent the opponent from making a play on the ball, it is a penal foul.

Keeper: A goalkeeper.

Kicking: A penal foul consisting of unfair contact against an opponent by means of the foot or leg.

Kick-off: The means of starting a half, or restarting the game following a goal, taking place from the middle of the center circle.

Kicks from the Mark: A method of obtaining a result following a draw, where the rules of the competition require a winner, consisting of a series of penalty kicks.

Misconduct: An act deemed by the referee to be unsporting, reckless, violent, or flagrantly in violation of the laws and spirit of the game, and punishable by a caution (and yellow card) or a send-off (and red card).

Offside Line: An imaginary line signifying the furthest point down field that an attacker may be without risk of being penalized for being offside.

Offside Offense: The act of participating in play from an offside position. Also called “offside infraction.”

Offside Position: A position in the attacking half of the field in which a player is closer to the opposing goal than (a) the ball, as well as (b) the next-to-last defender.

Obstructing: The act of physically obstructing or impeding the progress of an opponent. Also known as “impeding.”

Outside Agency: Any force acting on or influencing a match which is not part of game, or part of the physical field.

Penal Foul: An infraction resulting in a direct free kick; often called simply a “foul.”

Penalty Arc: The marked arc extending outside the boundary of each penalty area, marking 10 yards from the penalty spot.

Penalty Area: The marked area around each goal, measuring 18x44 yards, within which the defending keeper has the privilege of handling the ball, and inside which a penal foul by the defensive team will result in a penalty kick.

Penalty Kick: A direct free kick from the penalty spot, pitting the attacker taking the kick directly against the defending keeper; sometimes called a “spot kick.”

Penalty Spot: The marked spot 12 yards from the middle of each goal, from which penalty kicks are taken.

Persistent Infringement: The misconduct of continuous or repeated foul play, punishable by a yellow card.

Pitch: Another name for the soccer field.

Player: A competitor at a soccer game.

Pushing: A penal foul resulting from the unfair use of the arms or body to push, shove, or otherwise force an opponent into changing position or direction.

Red Card: The misconduct card shown to a player who is being sent off either for a serious act of misconduct, or for receiving a second caution.

Referee: The match official responsible for supervising and controlling a soccer match; also called a “Center Referee” or “CR.” Often called other names, as well.

Restart: Any method of resuming the game after a stoppage of play.

Result: The final outcome of a soccer match, whether a draw, or a victory by the team scoring the greater number of goals.

Send-off: The dismissal of a player following the display of a red card, either for a serious act of misconduct or for receiving a second caution in the same match.

Serious Foul Play: A misconduct, often violent, which consists of the clearly disproportionate use of physical force against an opponent during a contest for the ball on the field, and while the ball is in play.

Spitting: A penal foul, consisting of the deliberate attempt to direct bodily fluid from the mouth onto the person of someone else. It is also an act of misconduct, punishable by a red card.

Striking: A penal foul, most often resulting from the unfair use of the hands or body to hit an opposing player, or to hurl an object that strikes an opposing player. If done intentionally, it is usually a misconduct, often a form of violent conduct.

Stoppage Time: Playing time added to the end of each half at the discretion of the referee to compensate for lost playing time; see “Added Time.”

Substitute: A non-participating player along the sidelines, who is eligible to replace a player on the field.

Tackle: An attempt to obtain possession of the ball by using the feet. If a tackle results in contact with an opposing player before contact is made with the ball, it is a penal foul.

Throw-in: The method of restarting play after the ball has gone out of bounds over a touch line.

Touch Line: The boundary lines marking each sideline of the field.

Tripping: The penal foul of tripping an opponent.

Unsporting Behavior: The most common form of misconduct, consisting of conduct or play which the referee deems to be unacceptable. Consisting of a wide range of misbehavior, it is punishable by a yellow card.

Violent Conduct: A misconduct consisting of a violent act against any person at a soccer match, punishable by a red card.

Yellow Card: The misconduct card shown to a player who is being cautioned by the referee for an act of misconduct.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Welcome to all who come to visit...whether you're just passing through, or curious about what I have to say. I suspect this site will be undergoing changes in the coming months...and may move entirely. But I've been meaning to start up a Blog for quite some time---and with everything else that's been happening, I haven't had the time to set one up on my own website (http://www.newalexandriapress.com/ and http://www.jeffcaminsky.com) so I thought I'd take the easy way for now, and see how it goes.

Through the course of the summer, I've been busy readying my latest three books to send off to the printer. Already a half-month behind schedule, it looked for a time as if I'd never be finished...but now I'm just awaiting the new proofs (and hoping I don't find anything else that needs correcting).

I hear that "Perfect" should never be the enemy of "Done"...but when it's your own work that's about to be sent off into the cruel world to fend for itself, it's hard not to fuss and fret. I hope to release all three books---The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, The Sirens of Space, and The Star Dancers---within a matter of days, and should be scheduling book signings and appearances before long.

While I've been planning to release the sci-fi noves (Sirens and Star Dancers) for quite some time, the Shakespeare book is probably what's put things so far behind schedule. With three books to lay out, edit, and proof read, it's taken quite a lot of time and effort. And doing it all by myself, while juggling work, home, vacations, and other committments, hasn't exactly been relaxing. But we're nearing the end...and I hope to have good news to report later this week, once the new proofs arrive.

I'll be posting here and elsewhere...and will keep readers, visitors, and other interested souls apprised of the latest in the World of Caminsky. (Non-interested souls, bless their hearts, will be kept apprised as well...though I suspect they won't be paying much attention). I'll also post links to other sites and blogs I'll be maintaining...and if anyone has any comments or suggestions, I'll be happy to hear them.