Destiny of the Republic, by Candice Millard

This book can only be termed as a sleeper. I was flying back from the UK, suffering from jet lag and the onset of what I found out later to be an upper respiratory infection, but this story kept me turning the pages. And I thought it was going to put me to sleep.

I only bought it on the recommendation of one of my doctors. After my examination that day, we somehow got started on reading, starting off with Nelson Demille and one of the main characters in his books, John Corey. John has a way with smart ass remarks that I love, but the doc was not enamored of him. Anyway, it morphed into his favorite genre–history. While I do like some history, I like it best when it’s married into a bigger story, like Dead Wake, which chronicles the sinking of the Lusitania–great book, by the way.

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Cancun 2013

Getting prepped for the zip line (not me)

After the zip line through the jungle, more at the cenote

Megan zip lining

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. Even grandma participated–although the trip to the first zip line on a bicycle did not end well. But, it was her birthday, and nothing was going to spoil the day. I thought for sure she was done after falling off and rolling about three times, but up she popped, and off we went, no problem.

The best day for me, was the day we spent travelling to two Mayan pyramids–Tulum and Coba. Tulum is the only pyramid build next to water, and Coba is the highest pyramid on the Guatemala Peninsula (110 feet).

Megan, Mason, and Jordan at Tulum

Getting ready to climb Coba

Better than walking, huh?

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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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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