Introducing Fractals: A Graphic Guide

This is a great little book that tells you how the study of fractals began, its history, effect on culture, relation to nature, and how they’re generated. It’s presented in sort of a comic book format, with pictures, accompanied by tidbits in the margins about some of the people involved in that page’s discussion. It does not get deep into the mathematics of fractals, but presents the history of its development in a very engaging way.

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Skywatch at Midlothian High

ssa_logoThis is one of the skywatches that RAS (Richmond Astronomical Society) puts on for school systems around Richmond. It’s also part of my volunteer activities on behalf of the SSA (Solar System Ambassador) program that JPL/NASA hosts. NASA wants SSA volunteers to spread the word about NASA’s programs, especially to young people.

Around 20 students and parents enjoyed the night sky on Dec. 1, using my telescope to to view the Moon, Pleiades, and double stars Albireo and Zeta Lyra. And we saw a great pass of the ISS passing almost directly overhead. As you can imagine, the sky in Midlothian is pretty muddy with light pollution, so there wasn’t much point in looking for the Andromeda Galaxy or other fainter objects. But, it was worth the trip when one young man shouted out his amazement at seeing the magnified Moon as soon as we started. I need to hire him for my next sky watch.

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The Hike, by Drew Magary

What a wild ride. I normally don’t care for fantasy, but this book was well done. And FAR out there. A man checks into a hotel for a conference, decides to go for a hike, gets lost, and enters an alternate universe.

But, this universe has not only elements of fantasy, but it has lots of humor, bravery, horror, monsters, and huge stretches of imagination. I think you’ll find yourself laughing out loud at some of the situations. It’s so outlandish that I can’t really insert anything about it, as it wouldn’t make sense, being out of context.

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Radiant Angel by Nelson DeMille

John Corey is at his best in this book–sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong. He’s watching a person of interest. A very boring person, it seems. But when the suspect disappears at a party, JC can’t overcome his curiosity. So, he and his female partner decide to bluff their way into the party, posing as waiters. And as you might guess, he’s soon hot on the trail, on a luxury yacht, with a boat full of hookers, and maybe some terrorists.

Not only is he unmatched at fighting terrorists, but in his sarcastic comments. I actually enjoy his malicious verbal repertoire as much as I do his adventures. I was talking with one of my doctors last week, and we got into a book discussion–he likes DeMille, but does not like this aspect of JC’s character.

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Amazon Dot–now this is home automation

I’m having a ball with this thing. Its real power is when you combine it with a Harmony smart remote. This morning, KK said she liked my 2nd wife–she turned on the TV by talking to Alexa. I can also switch the TV to ESPN by asking Alexa. But even without a Harmony, it’s pretty useful–This morning, I got the phone number for our vet from Alexa, and when the appt. was made, I added the event to my google calendar via Alexa.

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Solar Observing event

I’m holding a STEM event at the N. Courthouse Chesterfield Library next week. Since it’s during a week day, it would be a good home school field trip, so I’m distributing the flyer to as many groups as I can find that relate to home schooling. If you’re interested in bringing a group, let me know ASAP, as the capacity is only 13 people. You can email me at to register.

I’ll hold a 30-40 minute session inside, to explain about some of NASA’s observation tools, sun viewing safety, the upcoming solar eclipse, and describe the telescope we’ll be using for observing–it’s Coronado Solarmax Telescope, and it’s specially designed to view the sun safely. It’s owned by the Richmond Astronomical Society, of which I am a member.

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The Panther, by Nelson DeMille

This is a sequel to “The Lion’s Game.” If you’ve read other books by DeMille, you know you’re in for a roller coast ride. The hero, John Corey, is a version of Jack Bauer (24 TV series) with the smart mouth of Homer Simpson. It’s a good combination.

Corey returns to Yemen, this time in order to track down the master mind behind the U.S.S. Cole bombing (code name The Panther). Only soon he finds out that he may be the one that’s being hunted. And it doesn’t help when your bosses give you reason to think they’re out to get you too.

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Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

Mr. Larson has done it again–he’s written a great historical story about an important event in America’s past. He also wrote “Devil in the White City,” about a mass killer at work in Chicago during the 1899 World’s Fair. This one is about the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. The Lusitania was a huge passenger liner, and the pride of England in that era, and like the Titanic, it was billed as “unsinkable.” Unfortunately, this turned out to also be untrue.

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Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch

For syfy, this book is as good as it gets. Jason is a college professor of Physics, has a wife and a kid, and is normal in every way. But one night, he gets hijacked, and ends up in the craziest world you can imagine. And if you can imagine it, just wait–you’ll get another chance. Literally.

If you keep up with science, especially cosmology, you probably know that there is a current theory out there about multiverses–where there are other universes surrounding us, but they’re in another dimension. What if this was true, and there was a way to get there?

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Orphan X, by Greg Hurwitz

Evan Smoak is an orphan who was recruited into a special government program, where he’s been trained to covertly kill for his country since being a teenager. It’s all he knows. So, when the program is disbanded, he can’t quit the life style, so he goes rogue. But in a good way–he offers his services to people in trouble, who might need a hired gun to save them.

He doesn’t exist, yet if you’re in trouble, you can ask for his help by calling a phone number. This number is passed from a previous ‘client’ to the next. He has never lost one yet. But this latest call has him testing his skills to the max.

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