The Best Friend, by Shalini Boland

Very good psych thriller. Louisa’s husband is a mess and they’re on the financial rocks. But, she finds a new friend that promises to help them both, socially and financially. Unfortunately, slight cracks start to appear in the relationship, and soon develop into full fledged breaks.

My wife and I listened to this book on the way to a mountain vacation a couple of weeks ago, and it kept us both interested the whole way. The villain of the story is very shrewd and extremely wicked, but like the best villains, charismatic. That’s the trap that Louisa falls into. How far will she fall?

TV Guide for cordcutters

I’ve been frustrated by normal TV guides when it comes to showing OTA channels. I’m sorry, but I just can’t remember what channels are represented by 8.2, 35.3, etc. And a normal channel guide shows programs by channel name, like MyTV, MeTV,  or Comet–same problem–what number belongs to what channel? After much searching, I found a solution–in the Android store, search for “TV Listings & Guide Plus.”

And BTW, “Best of the Week” has some amazing videos every day. That would be on MeTV.

The Hunt for Vulcan, by Thomas Levenson

While the story of Vulcan is relatively short, the majority of this book is spent covering the science that led up to how this colossal mistake called Vulcan was made. It started with the triumph of mathematics and observational accuracy that led to the discovery of Neptune in 1846. It was almost exactly where the mathematician Urbain La Verrier predicted it would be, using the unexplained deviations in the orbit of the planet Uranus. La Verrier reasoned that another planet must be influencing Uranus’ orbit, and he was right. The planet was discovered within on hour of the initial search with a telescope.

Largely due to this success, La Verrier used the same approach to explain the error in Mercury’s orbit. Mercury’s orbit was also a mystery–its orbit did not fit any calculations. So, La Verrier assumed that another planet was causing the problem. His argument was so convincing, and his reputation so impeccable, that astronomers were soon announcing that they had seen this planet–presumptuously named Vulcan. After one well known astronomer announced that he saw it, the New York Times published “there is an end of all discussion. Vulcan exists…” But Vulcan refused to appear. Le Verrier even made a prediction that Vulcan would transit the Sun in early October of 1876. But, it did not appear.

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Black Hole, by Marcia Bartusiak

Black holes were a theoretical device before they were considered to be actual physical objects. This book shows how the idea was gradually accepted–and it took a long time. Even Albert Einstein found it too mind boggling to accept–he actually wrote a paper “proving” that they could not exist. This is a great quote from the book that summarizes the battle:

“There is a curious parallel between the histories of black holes and continental drift. Evidence for both was already non-ignorable by 1916, but both ideas were stopped in their tracks for half a century by a resistance bordering on the irrational.”

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Cancun 2013


Prepping for the zip line (not me)

Jordan climbing to the first station

We took three of the grandkids this year–Megan, Mason, and Jordan. And the biggest kid of all, Aunt Lala. Probably the most fun day (for the grandkids) was the one they spent zip lining–once through the jungle, and another over the waters of a cenote. 

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We are Legion, by Dennis Taylor

Well, if I had to die, I guess I could settle for this. Bob lives in the future, and in that world, you can have your body frozen and preserved. I think we’ve heard this one before. But, in this version of that scenario, Bob gets to live forever–but not the way you would ordinarily think of it.

He has no body. Just his brain. And not really, even that–his brain circuity has been converted to a software program, and his body, including the brain, has been destroyed. So, he’s alive, but only in thought. Fortunately, while he was frozen, technology had advanced to the point where scientists were able to enhance his program to the point he could hear, see, and talk, via software interfaces to appropriate hardware.

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The Girl with all the Gifts, movie review

This is the movie based on the book by the same name. And it does live up to the book. It suffers from the same malady that movies based on books typically suffer–too many shortcuts, and no ability to understand what the characters are thinking as the plot moves along. But this movie does a pretty decent job, and the main characters–Melanie and Dr. Caldwell, are very convincing, indeed.

Here’s a link to my book review:

Tucker and Dale vs Evil, movie review

A great comedy, using a slasher film as a basis. In fact, if you don’t watch the beginning of the movie long enough, you’ll turn it off, thinking it’s another of the same old same old. But, if you watch long enough to realize the gag, you’ll be rewarded with numerous laughs. Out loud laughs.

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England, 2017

My very own British phone booth–from my cousin June

I have been promising family in the United Kingdom for years that I was going to visit soon, and I finally managed to do it. I correspond fairly regularly with two cousins–June Ward and Tony Neve, so I had a definite location in mind–London, where Tony lives. June lives in Spain, but she’s an expat, and luckily, she told me that she would be travelling to England for some family time just around the time I decided to shoot for–March 28, 2017. 

The first two tips–get money exchanged to pounds, and buy some conversion plugs for the electrical outlets. It takes a couple of days for banks as large as Suntrust, so do it in advance, and be prepared for the fact that they’re not going to give you the going exchange rate. It was 1.20 when I made the request, and Suntrust gave me a 1.33 rate. And to add further insult, tacked on a $10 conversion fee. I ordered the conversion plugs from Amazon.  I also bought some gifts from the Virginia Ship for my cousins–some nice whiskey glasses with the Virginia state emblem engraved on the side.

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