August 31, 2007

Book Review - The Terrorist Conjunction

What influences your understanding or fear of terrorism? Have you ever considered what makes people act in ways that others would classify as terrorism?

The Terrorist Conjunction: The United States, the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, and al-Qa'ida
Alfred G. Gerteiny
HV 6431 .G47 2007

Gerteiny, a teacher on the Middle East, has combined his academic training and years of introspection on this subject in writing this book. He begins with an analysis of power, political legitimacy, and the role of violence within political entities. With this grounding, he dedicates the bulk of this work to the examination of terrorism--the organization and philosophies of terrorist groups and their relationship to the state. He looks more closely at Islamic terrorist groups and delves deeply into the role of terrorism in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. He also probes the relationship that has developed between the United States and terrorism. This book is extensively footnoted and the author offers a bibliography of scholarly sources that have helped to inform his understanding on this subject.

August 30, 2007

Book Review - Communicating Nature

How do you think about the environment around you? Have you noticed how others use nature or environmental ideas as they communicate with you?

Communicating Nature: How We Create and Understand Environmental Messages
Julia B. Corbett
GF 75 .C697 2006

Julia Corbett examines how attitudes toward and images of the environment are created and reinforced. She considers environmental beliefs that are formed during childhood as well as those that are promulgated and influenced by activist groups of all sorts. The majority of her book, however, addresses how these ideas are translated into behaviors and actions. Among these, she analyzes consumer behavior and the use of nature in advertising, leisure time, including both vacation time and associations with animals, and communication, especially the way that news organs and political groups relate to the environment or use it as a message to carry other beliefs and opinions. This "eyes open" study will give you a new appreciation for the role that nature plays in your everyday life.

The Chief of Engineers is reading... Life Matters

Life Matters: Creating a Dynamic Balance of Work, Family, Time, and Money
A. Roger Merrill and Rebecca R. Merrill

This books is about examining the assumptions and social pressures on your life in order to discover what you find most satisfying. This husband and wife writing team share personal anecdotes throughout this book to illustrate their points. Their concept of a balanced life includes choices about how you see your work and how you relate to your family that they believe are inherently intertwined. They also discuss at great length how individuals use and schedule their time, including their assertion that some priority must be given for self, family, and activities that generate inner happiness. Finally, they discuss individual and family finance, not only discussing spending patterns and the accumulation of "stuff," but also the timing of purchases and how money is used. While making numerous recommendations, this book primarily emphasizes being conscious about how you conduct your life every day and how these daily decisions affect you long term.

August 28, 2007

Book Review - Disaster Response and Homeland Security

Hurricane Katrina and other recent disasters have caused lawmakers and organizations to take a hard look at the disaster response system in the United States. Recent disasters have prompted adjustments in this system, but have left the basic structure intact. How is this approach working?

Disaster Response and Homeland Security: What Works, What Doesn't
James F. Miskel
UA 927 .M55 2006

Miskel, a defense contractor and former National Security Council member, closely examines the disaster response system in the United States. He looks at which organizations are involved and how the communicate with one another. He also examines the process by which the system is activated, specifically that which prompts involvement by the Army and the Department of Homeland Security. He spends several chapters analyzing several recent disasters, many of them hurricanes, pointing out successes and failures of the system. He asserts that the adjustments to the existing system, which he feels have been relatively minor, have been ineffective at improving government response to disasters in the United States. He, then, proposes two alternative models on which the disaster response system could be reorganized and makes recommendations for changes to be undertaken in the near future.

Book Review - Mechanical Engineers' Handbook

This four volume reference set addresses major thematic areas in mechanical engineering.

Mechanical Engineers' Handbook
Myer Kutz
TJ 151 .M395 2006 v.1-4

In this set, one volume is dedicated to each of the following four themes: Materials and Mechanical Design, Energy and Power, Manufacturing and Management, and Instrumentation, Systems, Controls, and Mems. Within these major themes, individual chapters treat individual topics through article-length chapters written by experts. For example, the Manufacturing portion contains chapters on Production Planning, Computer-Integrated Manufacturing, and Coatings and Surface Engineering, as well as many others. Throughout the set, citations to other materials are integrated sporatically. All of the volumes are thoroughly indexed. This set is not designed to be read from start to finish, but instead is intended to be used for the overviews of individual topics that it collects together.

August 27, 2007

The Chief of Engineers is reading... America Alone

America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It
Mark Steyn

Conservative columnist Mark Steyn takes a close look at American and global politics in this book which is said to be "laugh-out-loud funny." He argues that America's historic belief in diversity is becoming its undoing. Steyn believes that Western promotion of multiculturalism undermines other long-held social and political institutions and that its social and economic programs undermine the very countries that advocate their use. Steyn asserts that if Western civilization is to continue, rather than falling to Eastern, specifically Islamic cultures, it America that must preserve it. In order to do this, he asserts that America must believe in its own deep-seated virtures--self-reliance and family--and have faith that our government, religion and way of life are superior to options advocated by other cultures.

Book Review - Coastal Environment

Do you think that all coastal areas are comprised of sandy beaches? This book looks at marshes and wetlands, coastal sediment regions, and other coastal areas.

Coastal Environment: Environmental Problems in Coastal Regions IV
edited by C.A. Brebbia
GB 450.2 .C597 2002

This book examines environmental issues caused by human activities as well as problems caused by nature itself. A few of the chapters address the well being of plants and animals living in coastal zones, but far more of them are concerned with the health of the land or water itself. Toxicity is one major theme, including the effects of oil spills and chemicals dumped into local waters. Another focus is erosion, both the removal of coastal land by tides and coastal winds, but also the depositing of sediment and how it changes the character of the coast. Hydrodynamics are considered throughout many studies, showing effects on weather, water temperature, and wave behavior. Considerable studies also examine pollution, both in coastal waters and in the air.

August 24, 2007

The Chief of Engineers is reading... The Leader of the Future

The Leader of the Future: New Visions, Strategies, and Practices for the Next Era
edited by Francis Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith and Richard Beckhard

Leadership comes in many shapes and sizes. This book begins by establishing a vocabulary which can be used to discuss organizations and leaders within them. Next, it defines some of the contexts in which leadership emerges within organizations, many of which exist apart from the management hierarchy. Parts two and three of the book discuss the behaviors and activities of leaders, both now and in the future, and skills to be learned to improve leadership ability. The book concludes with wisdom from executives in leadership positions. Their discussion of leadership's challenges, confusions, and views will be valuable for those seeking to lead at all organizational levels.

August 22, 2007

Book review - Digital Land

Land use planning via computer is not just for gamers anymore. Digital mapping techniques, data sets, and architectual design software allow new communities to be created and modeled on computers prior to building.

Digital Land: Integrating Technology into the Land Planning Process
James L. Sipes and Mark S. Lundhult
HD 108.15 .S57 2007

New developments have many stakeholders - government officials, local organizations, existing community members, developers, financial backers, architects, engineers, environmental advisors, and many other types of consultants. This book illustrates how each point of view can be combined using electronic tools to generate a composite picture of the new community, all before a single shovel touches the dirt. Highlighting the geospatial and geophysical data that are available from ESRI, satellite imagery, and other data sources, Sipes and Lundhult suggest that the most inclusive and holistic development processes now include mapping, visualization, imagery and other electronically-assisted methods for understanding communities and places, whether existing or planned. They further demonstrate that computer-aided drafting can assist in making a developer's vision understandable to stakeholders, allowing for greater participation in community growth and planning.

August 17, 2007

Book Review - Ocean

Over half of the earth's surface is covered by oceans. This encyclopedia, packed with stunning pictures, maps, and other images, addresses every aspect of oceanography.

Ocean: The World's Last Wilderness Revealed
American Museum of Natural History
Introduction by Fabien Cousteau
GC 21 .O29 2006

This brilliantly colored and illustrated book separates ocean science into understandable component parts. Chapters are dedicated to explaining its geology, climatology, plant and animal life, environmental conditions, geography and topology, and even the commercial ventures and living conditions that oceans generate. One of the aspects of this book that makes it so appealing is the way that it places these different components into the context of one another. For example, articles on animals address migration, breeding, diet, and predator/prey relationships while entries on coastal landscapes address local geology, environmental microclimates, and interaction between the land, the sea, and their inhabitants. This book is a fascinating read, whether treated as a reference book or enjoyed cover to cover.

Book Review - Among Warriors in Iraq

"Hemingway's dead-solid right about war--it's a street fight ... Win the street fight, and you win this war." --Specialist Sylas Carter

Among Warriors in Iraq: True Grit, Special Ops, and Raiding in Mosul and Fallujah
Mike Tucker
DS 79.764 .U6 T83 2005

Mike Tucker, a Marine special forces veteran, traveled throughout Iraqi Kurdistan in 2003 interviewing local people from all walks of life in order to understand the backdrop of the fighting in Iraq. He later traveled with U.S. Army infantrymen and special forces troops and tries to portray the fighting that he saw and experienced in Mosul and Fallujah through their perspectives. Tucker captures the soldiers' expressions, frustrations, and experience-informed observations with the detail of an investigative journalist. His shared experience and comaraderie with the men is evident in his admiring portrayal of the troops' varied and challenging missions.

August 14, 2007

Book Review - The Tensioned Fabric Roof

Have you ever considered roofing materials that weren't firm and resistant to water and flame?

The Tensioned Fabric Roof
Craig G. Huntington
TH 2449 .H86 2004

With training in both architecture and mechanical engineering, Huntington explores the use of fabric as an alternative roofing medium. This flexible material allows for architectural interest as well as flexible implementation. Fabric roofing systems use rigid support structures such as masts, arches, or other supporting beams and employs steel cables to stretch PVC-coated polyester or fiberglass fabrics in place. Huntington shows numerous and varied examples of how these roofing systems have been used around the world. He also offers drawings and statistical data illustrating the mechanics behind them and their effectiveness.

August 13, 2007

Book Review - Stream Hydrology

Have you ever wondered how healthy the environment around you might be? This book will help you get started with your investigation by pointing out what issues to consider.

Stream Hydrology: An Introduction for Ecologists
Nancy D. Gordon and others
2nd ed.
GB 1205 .G65 2004

This book, intended for ecologists, is easily understandable by anyone with a science background. It begins with discussions of water's physical properties, biological criteria for studying water bodies, statistical methods that might be used, and possible sources of data. Subsequent chapters delve deeper into these issues by focusing on specific characteristics of streams. The final chapter explains how to assess all that you have learned to come up with an evaluation of the environmental health of the stream being studied. The narrow topical focus of this book makes it appropriate for water researchers and environmental experts, but the clear progression of thought that is shown by the book's careful organization makes it an appropriate text for novices in this field as well.

August 10, 2007

The Chief of Engineers is reading... Good to Great and the Social Sectors

Good to Great and the Social Sectors: Why Business Thinking is Not the Answer: a Monography to Accompany Good to Great
Jim Collins
HD 57.7 .C645m 2005

In an author's not at the beginning, Collins states that he had originally intended this material to be a new chapter in future editions of his book Good to Great the first edition of which was published in 2001. Following some rethinking, he decided to release this piece alone, stating that it stands on its own. He also comments that he feels that it is particularly important to address the growing role of the social sectors at this time because such a high percentage of his readership, more than a third, feels that his writing is as applicable to their work as it is to the business world.

After quickly reminding his readers of the definition of great, Collins proceeds to discuss issues such as leadership, hiring the right people, organizations with motivations other than profit, and building organizational momentum, culminating his discussion with how these factors contribute to becoming great. His conclusion, however, is that becoming great is not accidental or lucky. Rather, it is a deliberate choice and a matter of disciplined behaviors.

Book Review - Marketing Green Buildings

Environmentally conscious, or "green" building is all the rage right now. This book is intended not as a definition of green building nor a guide to how to building in environmentally aware ways, but rather for service providers--engineers, architects, construction services, and manufacturers--to guide them in marketing their products and services to this market segment.

Marketing Green Buildings: Guide for Engineering, Construction and Architecture
Jerry Yudelson
HF 5413 .Y83 2006

The preface of this book states that it is intended to be read from cover to cover. However, Yudelson is conscious that not every reader will take the time to read the entire thing. With that in mind, he organizes a number of his chapters into marketing strategies for specific groups of product or service providers. He dedicates others to understanding the market surrounding green building, including the clients that are interested in the movement and differentiation of being "green" from the standard sectors of the architecture and construction arena.

August 8, 2007

Book Review - It's Okay to be the Boss

Management is a popular topic today. Large organizations and famous CEOs as well as academics each seem to have a prescription for becoming the perfect manager. But how does this relate to the day to day activities around the office?

Its Okay to be the Boss
Bruce Tulgan
HD 38.2 .T85 2007

Bruce Tulgan begins his book with the assertion that many employees do not have sufficient management or guidance in the workplace. Most of the chapters that follow are broad guidelines and steps to be taken to provide more structure in the workplace. In one chapter, "Tell People What to Do and How to Do It," he states that it is not enough to get someone started on a project with one task, even if you lay out the thinking behind the entire project. It is necessary to also be specific about what you want delivered to you as a product and discuss a timeline for the project, or different phases of it, to be completed.

What differentiates Tulgan's book from others is the clear, simple, practical, and almost common sense advice that he gives for managers. It is easy to nod along with Tulgan's suggestions and reasoning. While there are vignettes and anecdotes scattered throughout the book, Tulgan is not particularly explicit about how managers are to put his suggestions to work. For some managers, these activity goals will be enough to change the way that they interact with their employees, but for others, this book will just explain the principles of good management without complicated jargon.

August 7, 2007

The Chief of Engineers is reading... Good to Great

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't
Jim Collins
HD 57.7 .C645 2001

For years, Jim Collins asked himself, "What makes some companies great and keeps others mediocre or even in decline?" Using measurable data, Collins and his research team identified a number of companies that could be described as "great" and compared them to find similar traits and characteristics. His book examines leadership, work ethic, use of technology, and other traits that great companies share. He focuses on how these traits were historically apparent and important in great companies and how they can be adopted by others to improve themselves.

Book Review - New Urban Housing

City planners and architects are interested in the way that people interact with the spaces around them. One author suggests that building homes where people can take care of business while interacting with nature will reinvigorate urban areas.

New Urban Housing
Hilary French
NA 7110.F73 2006

French focuses on revitalizing urban areas through architecture. Her book, full of illustrations and floorplan drawings, provides examples of housing options for cities which integrate living with other social functions. She suggests that apartments and other urban living spaces not only be practical, but also attractive, accessible to business centers, and appreciative of nature. Most of her examples come from European cities, but there are several examples of how socially-aware modern design has been incorporated into large American cities also.

Book Review - Infrastructure

Have you ever wondered how power lines work, why highway exits form a cloverleaf, or how clean water gets to your home for drinking?

Infrastructure: The Book of Everything for the Industrial Landscape
Brian Hayes
TS 190.5 .H394 2005

Using clear, understandable explanations, Brian Hayes reveals the whys and hows behind the structures that we see in cities, rural areas, and industrial complexes. Chapters are dedicated to industrial sectors such as "Oil and Gas," "On the Road," and "Bridges and Tunnels." Subtopics within the chapters address the different functions within that industrial areas. For example, in the "Waterworks" chapter, discussions include dams, flood control, water treatment, water storage in tanks, and rain water drainage. Examples are illustrated with pictures and Hayes explains how the shape and design is influenced by how the structure works. This is fascinating reading for those who are curious about infrastructures around them and makes modern engineering accessible to those without technical backgrounds.

August 6, 2007

Book Revew - Adapting Buildings and Cities for Climate Change

The homes that we live in are a source of interest for many architects and environmentalists. While little agreement has been reached by this academic discussion yet, many are suggesting adopting "Green" building practices.

Adapting Buildings and Cities for Climate Change: A 21st Century Survival Guide
Sue Roaf, David Crichton, and Fergus Nicol
NA 2541.R63 2005

Academics Roaf and Nicol, along with Crichton, a consultant on insurance issues, assert that we are experiencing dramatic climate change and that its impacts on humankind will be far worse than we currently expect. They assert that current building practices, particularly those of cities, will not offer people enough protection as weather continues to worsen. They assert the need to drastically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and emissions of gases when we build, opting instead for clean, renewable energy sources and "resilient," "low-impact" buildings that are environmentally sustainable.