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, have 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: http://teebark.com/v2/index.php/2016/06/the-girl-with-all-the-gifts/

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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How did these giant telescope predictions work out?

I was culling my stash of old Sky & Tel magazines and ran across this article from 2000 about future telescopes. Here’s how that worked out:

Next Generation Telescope was originally planned for launching in 2009. It’s now called the James Webb Space Telescope, and its launch date is planned for 2018. Two pages over in the magazine, there’s a page titled “Next Generation Space Telescope on the Fast Track.”Giant Segmented Mirror Telescope was planned for “the end of this decade”. It has morphed into the Thirty Meter Telescope, currently being built atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii, next to the Keck Telescopes. However, construction was halted in 2014 by Hawaiian natives on cultural and religious grounds. Prior to the work blockage, the planned completion date was 2022.

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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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