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WiseGuy: The Author's Blog

Review: Sapphire by Joanna Hardy READ FREE: Gemmology Today Magazine

Sapphire: A Celebration of Colour
By Joanna Hardy
Edited by Robert Violette
Thames & Hudson, 2021
978-0-500-024775 $125.00
Sapphire is the third volume in a series on precious gemstones written by Joanna Hardy, produced by Thames & Hudson and edited by Robert Violette. The other two are appropriately titled Emerald and Ruby.
What strikes the reviewer immediately is the book's size. At 10.3 x 1.6 x 13.8 inches, it qualifies as an elephant portfolio, weighing in at a whopping 7.4 lbs. (3.36 kilos)
Hardy's depth of scholarship is impressive, though the book would be more appropriately titled "Sapphire Jewellery" as that is the focus of the discussion throughout. Hardy begins with an impressive historical introduction followed by an opening chapter on Early Trade, which contains much of interest. For example, I had assumed that most sapphires, even those in early European jewelry, came from Sri Lanka. I was totally unaware of the existence of a source in the Auvergne region of France. This chapter is followed by Medicine and Magic. READ ON FREE

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Graybeard: Monster Wave Stalks The North Atlantic (short story)

December, 1965: the ship had pulled a Bravo over the Christmas holidays. Thirty days steaming in a giant square of ocean off of Argentia, Newfoundland, charting icebergs. They had ridden through two official hurricanes. Winds up to force nine.  Seas running twenty to thirty feet for the first fifteen days of the patrol. Two weeks with the hatches battened down—without a breath of fresh air—the crew was getting squirrely.  It was a Thursday night just past 2100 hours (9:00 PM).  The watch had changed an hour before. 
Clark was reading a novel in his cabin when the monster wave hit. It was a rogue, a graybeard, eighty feet tall—some later claimed it was over a hundred. Clark had heard of them, but like most sea stories—he figured—they were more hyperbole than fact. The Yakutat was steaming upwind, plowing into the oncoming swells. Nobody knew where the huge wave came from or why. It hit the ship dead astern. READ CHAPTER ONE FREE ON KINDLE VELLA:   Graybeard

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Youngkin: The Republican Cult Strikes Back.

Last Friday, the Republican party censured two of its members, Representatives: Adam Kinzinger and Liz Chaney. It also denounced the congressional committee investigating the January 6th attempted insurrection and labeled its work as the "persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse."
While a majority of Republican office holders remain in thrall to the cult of the former president, others are touting the successful campaign of Virginia Republican governor Glenn Youngkin as a new, softer, model in Republican electoral strategy.
Youngkin, a soft-spoken multi-millionaire with a full head of hair, won a close election (50.6-48.6%) against a popular former Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe in the state's most expensive governor's race to date. Several reasons have been given for the Democratic loss, but the primary reason may be McAuliffe's gaff in a debate over the issue of Critical Race Theory (CRT) when he said: "parents should not be telling schools what they should teach."
The attack on CRT--a term that has come to mean teaching any of the truths about American history that discomforts conservatives-- came seemingly out of nowhere, appears to be the brainchild of one Christopher Rufo, a west coast conservative activist. Rufo, raised the issue in a September 2nd 2020 appearance on the Tucker Carlson Show. CRT had infested the federal bureaucracy. Rufo stated that the president could ban it by executive order. The next morning, Rufo received a call from Trump chief of staff, Mark Meadows. Trump was ready to act.
Youngkin, a kinder, gentler acolyte, avoided Trumpian braying and stuck to bread and butter issues during the course of the campaign. While Republican activists whipped up the base and newly formed parent's groups began to Mau-Mau local school board meetings, Youngkin embraced the anti-CRT movement and the idea that parents should be active in their children's education including having a right to have a say in school curricula.
Once elected, Youngkin's people introduced bills in the state legislature that would ban "divisive concepts" (see previous blog post) and set up a state system of charter schools. This new system of education which would have paralled the exiting public system and bypassed local school boards, would include state per capita funding being withdrawn from local school districts and transferred to schools set up by for profit companies.


Aside from using state funds to off set the cost of sending his friends kids to private schools, according to Youngkin's strategy, fix failing schools by simply choking off their funding.

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Governor Youngkin's Virginia RAT-LINE:


Virginia's newly inaugurated Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin is off to a great start. After issuing an executive order banning Critical Race Theory along with other "inherently divisive concepts", Youngkin has set up an email "tip-line" so local students/parents can rat out their teachers.
"We have set up a particular email address called helpeducation@governor.virginia.gov for parents to send us any instances where they feel their fundamental rights are being violated, where their children are not being respected, where there are inherently divisive practices in their schools," Youngkin said.
As if polarization was not bad enough, Virginia's Republican governor is dedicated to making it worse. What an opportunity. So, for those (not you and me, of course) who may have a secret grudge against Miss Riley, your old 8th grade history teacher? Now's your chance: RAT HER OUT!
Unhappy with your grade from Mr. Rock n' Roll's in 10th grade Civics? RAT HIM OUT! Let's make a mockery of school discipline.
Let's remember that this is the Old Dominion. When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, Virginia's government responded with Massive Resistance against integration. When my wife, Rebekah, and I first moved to Virginia four years ago, we thought all this had changed.  We were moving to the New Virginia. The state had a Democratic governor and both houses of the state legislature were controlled by Democrats. That has now flipped with Republican's in control of the administration and the state senate and the proponents of Massive Resistance may have been in stasis for a while, but they were still out there, lying in the muck, waiting.  And, institutional racism has since slouched into Richmond and been reborn.
"Ridicule is man's most potent weapon."
                                               Saul Alinsky
Generation Z to the Rescue: Spam The Rat-line.
Recognizing Youngkin's latest for what it is, a transparent attempt to suppress free speech and intimidate educators, several Tik Tok activists immediately responded with a campaign to spam the rat line: Sofia Ongele, a 21-year-old from Santa Clarita, California, is one of those who has responded by establishing a website: https://crtmail.netlify.app The website includes a button which will generate an email direct to the Virginia Rat-line. You may customize it or replace text with your own. Another Instagram account includes a number of GenZ groups: https://www.instagram.com/p/CZSX8s3lald/
Speaking from the perspective of an old-time Alinsky-style community organizer, let me say I'm impressed by the GenZ response. It demonstrates a speed, technical savvy and tactical flexibility that is frankly lacking in much of the stodgy tactics I hear about from the old progressives with their emphasis on purity and political correctness. Let's get out there and SPAM.

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Book Review: Emerald: Modern Gemmology by Swartz and Curti

I do regular book reviews for Gemmolgy Today and occasionally for other publications as well. For those interested in emeralds, Click the image to go to the Fall/Winter issue of Incolor Magazine and read my review of Emerald: Modern Gemmology, a study of world sources of gem emerald.

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Book Review: Isle Of The Blest by Eugene Christy

With the August publication of The Isle of the Blest, Eugene Christy has completed the final volume of his American Quintet. The series traces the story of Christy's immigrant family. The Isle of The Blest also completes Christy's coming of age as an important American writer. The 600-page final novel, a fictionalized memoir, traces Christy's yearlong sojourn in Ireland (1971-72) in the midst of sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland known as "The Troubles". This book is quite simply a masterpiece. 
After a visit by the FBI, Petrovich has been fired by a Massachusetts anti-poverty program for organizing anti-war protests. Disillusioned with his country, he is on his way to the emerald isle to reunite with his native-born wife and daughter. The book begins with a view out the window of his aircraft and continues in a small village in County Mayo. Christy's portraits of the countryside, his in-laws and life in a rural Irish village are beautifully nuanced, his command of language and his memory for detail, stunning.
It is with Nick's move to Dublin in search of a job, to support his wife and daughter Aisling, that the novel really hits its stride. The gritty details—his colorful characterizations—set the reader down amidst the quotidian reality of working-class Dublin. Soon enough Nick encounters and joins Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Provisional IRA. We meet Mick, the budding revolutionary, the sultry radical Bernadette and Comrade Krishna, the Indian expatriate, all young people dedicated to the Republican cause.
 We are on the ground with the protestors during Dublin's Mountjoy Prison Riot. We see much of it from the perspective of the men wielding the petrol bombs. We experience the short-lived Northern Island "Truce" and get down and dirty with the residents of Belfast's infamous Bogside ghetto. And through it all, Christy, using masterly language, literally rubs our faces in the smells, the sights, the sounds and the desires and disappointments of the people of The Blessed Isle.
The Isle of The Blest is the story of an alienated young man—like so many— who came of age amidst the turmoil of the 1960s. It is also the story of young love and a political statement. The writing will shock, entertain and enchant you.  The story will keep you turning pages. Get it!  Read it! Don't worry if you haven't read the earlier books; The Isle Of The Bleststands on its own. It is a unique and compeling narrative. it won't disappoint you.

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IGI Reviews The French Blue

Just imagine:


A humble mapmaker's son travels the ancient world, discovers fantastic treasures, rescues a damsel and rises to the highest levels of French aristocracy.


It's a true story

If you don't know it, "The French Blue" is a terrific read for true-lovers of diamonds, gemstones, travel, excitement and romance.  Based on true events, the book recounts the remarkable voyages of Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, a 17th Century trader of precious gems best known for discovering the phenomenal 115 carat blue diamond which later became the French Blue and, ultimately, the


Hope Diamond.


Author Richard W. Wise, takes factual events and blends them with plausible speculation to create a long and delightful tale; rich in history, action and romance. It could have been a far longer saga, in fact. The author states that before editing to 584 pages his book was over 1300 pages long. I find his editing prowess sustained richness and kept the pages turning. (click image for more)

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Lecture: Secrets Of The Gem Trade at the Gemological Institute of America Washington DC Chapter

For those of you who missed or may be interested in a recent lecture i gave at the Washington DC, chapter of the GIA Alumni Association, here is a free link to the You Tube lecture: 

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A Matter of Optics: Kabul Looks a lot Like 1975 Saigon, but it’s a whole lot worse.

The last helocopter to leave the American Embassy in Saigon, April 30, 1975

The optics of the U. S. pullout of Afghanistan looks a lot like Saigon in 1975. According to White House spokesman, Jake Sullivan, speaking on this Sunday's Meet the Press, we have evacuated 30,000 Afghanis since the airlift began in mid-June, 25,000 of those in the past two weeks. 
In a May 1975 article in the New York Times, President Ford discussed resettlement of 120,000 Vietnamese who had been brought to the U. S. as part of the American pullout. The images of helicopters airlifting diplomats and Vietnamese nationals off the roof of the American embassy on April 30th 1975 was dramatic, but by the following month we had taken in many more as part of Vietnamese resettlement effort.  Obviously, this all must have begun months prior.


To be fair, the optics are somewhat misleading. Many of the those desperate people crowding the Kabul airport and hanging off of planes are not the people we should be concerned with anymore than were those surrounding our Saigon embassy. 


More than 300,000 Afghan civilians have been affiliated with the American mission over its two-decade presence in the country, according to the International Rescue Committee. This doesn't count families, though not all of them qualify for resettlement, plenty do or should. About 60,000 have been resettled thus far.


Although, the buck stops with Biden, I can't imagine the chaos that would have ensued had Trump been reelected and stuck with his May timeline, but that is no excuse.  Biden, not Trump is our president. Pentagon planners knew Biden would order troops out since the day he announced his run for the presidency. Where were the planners? Why was there no contingency plan in place? How will we save these people?


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Redlined: A Novel of Boston: 5 Star Review from Goodreads

Jun 29, 2021 Leila rated it:  "It was amazing"


"I was worried what this book would be like. It was written… differently. (Not bad). I found the written language and terminology to be different than the norm." I found it slightly difficult to read because of this and found myself re-reading parts to ensure I understood it, but the storyline itself is what grabbed me from the start and did not let go.


Initially, I really was wondering where this book would lead. I was worried it was going to be political and educational and boring, but then I found myself engrossed in the story, turning pages, trying to read faster (which did not work!) and did not want to put the book down! I had to read more; I had to know who and what!


In addition to the engrossing story; I was educated. I bonus, in my opinion. Who doesn't like to read a good suspense read while learning something new at the same time!?


Redlined is the first book I have read by Richard Wise, and I hope he writes more suspense and thrill because this was an excellent read. I highly recommend picking up Redlined and giving it a read!"

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