Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

    Chinese New Year, that is.  This is the Year of the Horse.

    The two years that I took Mandarin Chinese at the local community college, we always took a "field trip" to the nearby Chinese Cultural Center to soak up the festivities and celebrate this most important Chinese holiday period.  We were required to purchase or ask about something, but of course we had to use only Mandarin, and were graded (leniently) by our Chinese professor.

    It was fun times.  Most of the Mandarin vocabulary (and Chinese characters) have receded into my long-term memory cells.  But the culture we absorbed as a by-product of learning the language will stay with me forever.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Book Excerpt for the Day

    “For example, you recall Aristotle’s view – that, if anything, we allow the people too much say in government, that too much democracy is a weakness.”

    “But Aristotle was a Greek.”

    “Even Greeks can say something worthwhile.  Now and then, anyway.”

    “So you agree with him?” Maaherbal asked.

    “Of course not.  He was a Greek.”

    (from The Father,  by Chris Craig)

    9*/10.  The full review is here.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

RIP - Pete Seeger

    Folksinger, Songwriter, Activist, Peace Patriot.  It's not just a matter of us missing you.  You are irreplaceable.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Science Monday

     Oh, us scientists.  Such a wacky sense of humor we have.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Reading Is Fun

    For the record, we will have highs in the low 80's here in Phoenix for the next couple of days.  Eat your heart out.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Book Excerpt for the Day

    Ibrahim gathered his top team at the rotunda to announce their sponsor’s visit.  He tried to sound enthusiastic about it.  He tried to make out that it had been his idea.  He asked people to be available to do show-and-tells, if needed, and promised tea and coffee and cakes and a buffet lunch afterward in the museum, then reminded them all subtly that this man was paying their wages.  He suggested they make an event of it.  In short, he did everything he could to spin it into a good thing.  When he was done, he invited questions.  No one said a word.  They were archaeologists; they detested sponsors.

    (from The Alexander Cipher by Will Adams)

    8*/10.  The complete review is here.

Friday, January 24, 2014


    Really.  For the record, I sleep with three pillows.  Two under my head, one as a "hug" pillow.  With a fourth on the floor as a "spare".

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Demotivational Thursday

    I can sooooo relate to this.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Book Excerpt for the Day


    A mancer like me.

    Dad always said she was a special woman.  I tried not to think about it, but it was hard not to.  Ceinwyn Dale said the Mancy drove you insane if you didn’t use it right – one of the few things Ceinwyn Dale told the total truth about – and suddenly my screwed up life wasn’t the blame of one cowardly screw-up parent but partly the product of fate or chance or an asshole universe that likes to play with people and God and dice and strings and crap.

    (from The Foul Mouth and the Fanged Lady,  by Richard Raley)

    9*/10.  The full review is here.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Science Tuesday!

    True dat.  It's all about one's perspective.

Monday, January 20, 2014

How not to end a book

    Note to all authors - established, aspiring, self-published, gonna-be-the-next-Stephanie-Meyer, whatever.  As a reader, I do not do well with cliffhangers, previews, to-be-continued, teasers, and the-next-chapters-are-in-the-next book type endings.

    As a reader, I expect a complete story.  Yes, it may be part of a series.  Yes, the protagonist(s) may carry over into the next book.  Yes, the story may be just part of "the bigger story".  But I expect closure of the immediate plotline, with more, if not all of the loose ends tied up.

    It's like watching a series like CSI, Bones, or Cold Case on TV.  There may be a season-long personal-interest story involving the show's characters running in the background.  But you still get a complete story every week.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

RIP - The Professor

    Russell Johnson (b. 11/10/24), an actor best known for his portrayal of The Professor on the 60's sitcom Gilligan's Island passed away this week. His passing means only the two young female castaways, Mary Ann and Ginger remain.

    Gilligan's Island only ran for three seasons.  It's ratings were #17, #19, and >#30, respectively.  The humor was slapstick, and not groundbreaking at all, but it made people, including me, laugh.  As such, it seems to be in perpetual syndication.

   RIP, The Professor.  I can't say you inspired me to become a chemist, but  I can say I always looked forward to your ingenious-but-ultimately-ineffective inventions on the show.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Why scientists will never rule the world

   Trust me.  I'm a scientist.  This flowchart is entirely accurate.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Book Excerpt for the Day

    “Well, then, for those who meet us, you’ll be my younger sister.  My very young and very headstrong little sister,”  he added, growing more confident with what he felt was the only obvious solution.
    “Brother.”  She sniffed, her chin raised to indicate her disdain for his idea.  “I’m your brother.  I’m not going to play some helpless and useless female delicacy to your chest-thumping hero.  I’m perfectly capable of boorish behavior.  I can scratch and spit and swear with the worst of them.  I can pass as a member of the masculine idiocy.  No insult to yourself, of course.”

     (from The Color of Fate,  by Leilani Dawn)

    7*/10.  The full review is here.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


    Both an inspiration, and an Awww moment.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

2015 Fashion

    I'm not much of a "hat guy", but you might talk me into wearing that helmet.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Stupid People

    Yeah.  They nailed me with this one.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Book Excerpt for the Day

    “I have compared good and evil enough today, my dear,” he said quietly.  “I can see too much of both sides, and the cost of each.  I should very much prefer to be able to speak with you of something pleasanter, or at least less full of pitfalls and failures, and mistakes that we see too late to help.”

    Her face filled with concern.  “I’m sorry.  I should prefer something more agreeable as well.  I have spent the day trying to raise money for the clinic, mostly from people who have far more than they need, and are still desperate for something further.  So many women of high fashion dress not to please the man they love, but to spite the women they fear.”

    (from Execution Dock by Anne Perry)

  8*/10.  The complete review is here.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Friday, January 10, 2014

Book Excerpt for the Day

    “You live for a chance to die as if it was a goal, as if there was nothing to live for.  You don’t value your life at all.  But the Great Spirits gave it to us not for the sake of throwing it away.  This gift is priceless, to be cherished.  But your people?  They see fit to kill a man like you, a man courageous, honorable, and very well trained.  Why would someone want to waste such a life?  Why would the gods, any gods, ask for the blood of their own creations?  It doesn’t make any sense.

    (from At Road’s End,  by Zoe Saadia)

    8*/10.  The full review is here.


Thursday, January 09, 2014

Diet Water

    If I could swim in a pool of it, the flab would just wash away.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Bunny Suicide

    I procrastinated until New Year's Day to go to Barnes & Noble to get calendars (wall & desktop) for my office at work.

    Needless to say, the selection was picked-overly slim.  Cutesy-wutesy pics of puppies and flowers, of sunsets and trains, of Justin Bieber and Jackie Evancho.  No Dilbert.  No Far Side.

    I was about to despair when I espied one called Bunny Suicides.  And suddenly my search was ended.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Baby, it's cold outside

    I lie.  That "Polar Vortex" may be pounding half the United States, but it isn't even close to touching Arizona.  We're having 70's for highs; mid-40's for lows.  We might get a trace of rain later in the week, and our highs might dip into the high-60's.  But that's as bad as it's gonna get.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Book Excerpt for the Day

    “The world is made up out of four elements, right?  Earth, air, fire, water.  Scientific types’ll try and kid you into believing there’s a whole load of other elements, with funny-sounding Latin names all ending in –um.  You don’t want to take any notice of that.  There are only four elements, and everything else is just a mixture of them.  Your lot have known that ever since the Dark Ages, but clearly you weren’t paying attention in school or something.”

    (from Earth, Air, Fire and Custard by Tom Holt)

  7½*/10.  The complete review is here.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Saturday Pun Day

    Genius.  Sheer genius.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Happy Berchtoldstag!

    Well, I'm a day late on wishing this (Berchtoldstag is celebrated on 02 January), mostly cuz I didn't open my 2014 wall calendar ("Bunny Suicides") until today.

    My calendar tells me Berchtoldstag is a Swiss holiday.  The Wikipedia entry for it tells me how they celebrate (including dressing up, as seen above), but not why.  But I have friends in Switzerland, and I'm hoping they will enlighten me.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 02, 2014


    A way-kewl composite photo that a FB friend shared the other day.  Basically, it simulates what the Andromeda Galaxy would look like from earth, if it was visibly brighter.  I am fascinated by it because it gives me, a non-astronomer, a sense of perspective as to its size.

    I'd be tempted to say the image would be getting smaller and smaller because the universe is expanding, so Andromeda's getting further and further away.  But IIRC, it and the Milky Way are on a collision course.  And that when this happens, Andromeda swallows us, not the other way around.  So don't be surprised if you look up one night, and there it is, growing bigger and brighter even as you watch.  (JK)

    Of course, I wouldn't worry too much about impending head-on crash.  It's not going to happen for another 3.75 billion years.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

15-Cent Hamburgers

    How old am I?  I'm so old, I remember 15-cent hamburgers at one of these joints.

   Yes, the 15-cent hamburgers at Carrols were  wretchedly small, on a plain bun, and without cheese.  IIRC you added your toppings yourself.  Our local Carrols was about 2 blocks from our High School, and was the first "food" place you ran into when walking home from school in that direction.  So guess who was their target audience?

    They relied heavily on teenage employees, who of course had to wear a Carrols uniform and a stupid-looking paper hat.  But you'd best not laugh at them openly, or they'd spit in your milkshake while making it.

    Wikipedia says the chain was eventually bought out by Burger King, who in turn sold the name to a Finnish group, who in turn just recently relegated the name to oblivion.  Thus, another small bit of Americana is buried without a trace.