Saturday, June 30, 2012

Lineup

Today's Atrononomy Picture of the Day shows our morning sky. Even without a telescope you can see other worlds!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Dark Skies

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is of the dusty region of the Aquila Rift. Darkness falls from the sky.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hidden Treasure

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Alpha Centauri, one of the stars closest to our home system. Look at the treasures hidden in the glare! (Alas, so far, no planets have been found hidden in the glare, Wunderland or others.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Of Mist and Grass and Sand

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Simeis 188, towards the galactic center. An amazing collection of stars and gas and dust.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

Who's Who?

SF author pseudonyms. Who do you read that is somebody else? Multiple somebodies?

I wonder if I've ever read the same author under two names and decided Author A was good and Author B was not!
The Starry Way

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the Milky Way over Piton de l'Eau on Reunion Island.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Short Round

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the exploration of Shorty Crater during the Apollo 17 mission. Yes, boys and girls, once we sent humans to other spheres.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Culture

Interesting talk with Ian (M. mode) Banks about his work and his favorite game. Which game it is amuses me to no end.
Not Sandwiches

Steampunky real and fictional submarines.
Mis(History

The astronauts didn't eat on Apollo? Apollo missions to the Moon? What about a 14 day Gemini mission? Fact check in aisle one, cleanup!
Everyday Carry

I can't imagine this being allowed on a plane these days. And, as a friend wondered, do you need the ability to write underwater in order to jot notes on a fish?
Wordage

To Knoll (verb).
All Around the World

Space agencies around the world. Who knew?
John Carter

I watched John Carter last night. I had gotten to the point where John Carter and Sola realize that Deja Thoris is leading them towards Helium when my wife and daughter came home, so I went back to the beginning and the three of us watched it from the start.

Odd to say that despite having been married more than 25 years, my wife kept saying (with the trailer, with the movie in the theater, and then when I told her I was watching the DVD) "I don't know what that is." Failure of marriage or failure of marketing?

The three of us enjoyed it. They had no problems following the movie or accepting a Mars with air, beings, etc. Woola was the hit, but so were the Tharks.

As for me: Several years ago I waited with anticipation the release of Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World, based on another set of favorites, the works of Patrick O'Brian. I thought it was going to be one or the other of the two books in the series (as titled). What I saw was a mash-up of elements of many of those books.

Many fans were (initially) disappointed. I saw the wisdom of not literally translating the series book-by-book on the screen, but doing a synthesis of the books (it would have been even better if they had made three movies instead of just one, as they could have taken plot elements that are repeated over the series and made three good stories from them).

I think this is the approach that John Carter took. Did it work? I'm not sure, but I liked it enough to watch it again. And, I'll revisit it in time to see how it "grew".

You can do a complete translation of a book to the screen. The Lord of the Rings films did this, but even it took compromises (dropping Tom Bombadil, shuffling elements of The Two Towers and The Return of the King around to make the two storylines match better chronologically).

You can half-ass it. See either version of Dune, any film involving Stephen King (almost all), Philip K. Dick or Robert A. Heinlein (other than Destination Moon). "Hey, we have this property! It'll sell hotcakes! Just throw something on the screen!"

You can try to do it in a new/different medium (John Carter as a book vs. John Carter as a boardgame vs. John Carter as a comic). It may work. it may not.

Time will tell.
A Disturbance in the Force

I'm always amused when the mainstream media decides to do an in-depth well-researched story about genre fiction.
First Dean

Happy (belated) birthday to the first Dean of Science Fiction, Murray Leinster!
Color Rocks

Amazing false-color image of Mars.
Artemis

A starship bridge simulator! Another view here.
Memories of the Future

Douglas Trumbull shares memories from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
LOLA

Fun with data from spacecraft and a free program for ordinary folk.
Solar Bottle

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the so-called "green flash", but from northern climes. I was once informed that the only way to see the green flash was to observe the setting sun through the bottom of a bottle of beer.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Youngster

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows IC 2574, a.k.a., Coddington's Nebula, an irregular galaxy still "young" enough to have active star-forming regions.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ring

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a ring nebula, but not the more familiar summer Ring Nebula: this is WR 134, in Cygnus.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The State of the Art

Hey, look! I'm on SF Signal!

Mount Toberead grows ever larger. I don't know if this linked to some theories about why people overeat (i.e., we grew up as a race starving all the times, so we're hardwired to overconsume as we expect another famine just around the corner), but I always buy more than I have time to read. This has been made doubly true as the Crackdle, I mean, Kindle, makes buying eBooks so dang easy (one click, and away it downloads). The pile, real and virtual grows and grows.

On the plus side, I have always been able to read several books (sometimes several dozens of books) simultaneously and over long stretches of time. I even put one book down for two years (to be honest, it got shelved incorrectly, out of sight, out of mind), spotted it, picked up the thread of the story where I left off, and read until the end. So my current reads is big, and up next to read is as big.

So current reads? The biggest batch are the books and stories in the Hugo and the Campbell Not-A-Hugo-But-We-Keep-Awarding-It-At-The-Same-Time-So-We-Are-All-Confused. You can find those titles here. I've gone through most of the shorter works at this point and I'm simultaneously reading Embassytown, Leviathan Wakes and Among Others.

Other current reads include:

The Blade Itself: The First Law: (Book One) by Joe Ambercrombie. Recommended, insistently, by author Myke Cole; about 50% done and I've bought all the sequels; gritty fantasy, puts me in mind of Glen Cook's Black Company tales. Excellent so far.

The Gabble and Other Stories by Neal Asher. Short works in Asher's Polity series. I've read a few randomly here and there, it is nice to have them between electronic covers. I've also been acquiring electronic copies of all of Asher's books that I didn't own in paper (he's been hard to find in the US, alas).

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Thoughts of a Roman Emperor. His philosophy, boiled down as it were.

Vacuum Diagrams by Stephen Baxter. A collection of stories set in Baxter's Xeelee cycle. Revisiting the book after many years.

Welcome to Bordertown as edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner. A collection of new stories in a well-regarded old series. Somehow I managed to miss Bordertown and similar early entries into urban fantasy, but I'm enjoying this reboot. Hope it does well enough that the older out-of-print volumes come back out again.

The Dresden Files Collection (Books 7-12) by Jim Butcher. An eBook omnibus of the second half of Butcher's fantasy noir series. I've bought them in a variety of forms over the years (paperbacks, hardcovers), but I recently gave all my paperbacks away and bought the set in eBook format.

Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole. Military Fantasy? Military Urban Fantasy? Whatever the label, a kick-ass book. When's that sequel coming? (Not soon enough!)

Tales from Gavagan's Bar by L. Sprague de Camp. Before Callahan's, before Draco's, around the time of the White Hart, but after the club that Jorkens attends we had Gavagan's. Connected by the setting, each entry has a similar format (tall tales...or are they?). Somewhat aged, but still fun.

The Jewel-Hinged Jaw by Samuel R. Delany. One of several non-fiction collections from Delany. I read this in the original version, years ago. I even read one entry in its first appearance in a multi-author collection and saw Delany at a convention where I heard the basis for one of the other entries.

The Planet Strappers by Raymond Z. Gallun. One of my favorite books, by an author that all too many of us have forgotten. Get your free copy at places like Gutenberg or Manybooks and see what you've been missing.

Distrust That Particular Flavor by William Gibson. Read it when it first came out, re-reading it for a much overdue review.

Spook Country by William Gibson. Another re-read. As Gibson keeps getting closer and closer to "now" he continues to keep a SFnal lens on the subject matter, no matter how mundane.

Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome. I saw a television movie based on this years ago and laughed endlessly. It is quoted by Heinlein and others. The best time I had reading this was when I took my daughter raining and I had to put up a recalcitrant tent in a torrential downpour. I read it in the tent as we dried off and laughed enough to scare away the bears. Fun stuff.

Blackhorse Riders by Philip Keith. The story of a combat in Vietnam that was forgotten for years. Amazing stuff, somewhat overlaps the service of genre author David Drake (his same unit, but not the same cav troop). Reading it a second time with an eye to adapting it for a game.

Countdown: The Liberators by Tom Kratman (military thriller; lots of gun pr0n, more than slightly right of center, but Kratman tells a fast-moving story).
Reamde: A Novel by Neal Stephenson (started it, got pretty far into, got sidetracked despite enjoying it immensely, will need to go back...if I take a vacation this year!).

Roadside Picnic by the Brothers Strutatsky. What if you had a picnic and left your trash scattered around. What would the ants and other small critters think of your discards? The Strutatsky's write of the trash discarded by alien visitors and what grows up around those discards. I first read this in the early 1980's, this is a new edition (and a new translation).

The New American Bible by Various Hands. An ongoing continuous project.

Stuff I intend to getting to Real Soon Now include:

Armored, edited by John Joseph Adams. A collection of power-armored tales by various authors (a very nice lineup here).

The Mongoliad: Book One by Greg Bear, Neal Stephenson and Diverse Hands. Stephenson got interested in swordfighting and wanted to show it "done right". This is one of several projects linked to this desire. The series will be written by well-known folk (e.g., Bear and Stephenson) and others. Marketing tool? Literary experiment? Well-known author gone wild? It'll be interesting to see (already bought a prequel and ordered the sequel).

Existence by David Brin. It seems about forever since David Brin has written a SF novel and whiile this is not the book I really want (I want another Uplift story, even a standalone!), I will read it very soon. Hard SF from one of my favorites? Yes, please. Heck, I even re-bought his collaboration with Gregory Benford, Heart of the Comet, as soon as it came out as an eBook.

The Monster Hunters (omnibus, three novels) by Larry Correia. So, what happens when your boss turns into a werewolf? Why, you gun him down and toss him out the window, of course! Pure action adventure, tons of fun, interesting...ummm...people and page-turners through and through. I love books that know exactly what to do with a vampire: stake him in the sun, fill him with garlic, sprinkle with holy water and make him sparkle by filling him with tracer-tipped high-velocity, armor-piercing rounds.

The Year's Best SF (29th Annual Collection) as edited by Gardner Dozois. An annual purchasing tradition. Another annual tradition is not to finish it in the year in which it is published. Will I break that tradition this year? And, almost as interesting for trends, will I purchase the paper copy as well as the electronic copy?

God's Mechanics by Brother Guy Consolmagno. Brother Guy is an astronomer. And he writes great books about observing stars, hunting for rocks from Mars that have fallen into the Antarctic and more. In this he talks about geeks and God. Geeks and God? Can it be possible?

How to Build an Android: The True Story by David F. Duffy. So this company built an android that looked like Philip K. Dick that even was programmed to speak the words of Philip K. Dick. Then they lost him. Which lead to jokes about "Bring me the head of PKD" and this book. Looks amusing.


Zombiestan by Mainak Dhar. Zombies, Afghanistan and lots of bullets; how can one go wrong?

Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco. Before Dan Brown spewed his malformed conspiracies upon the world, Umberto Eco wrote a well-thought and carefully constructed conspiracy novel that treaded on some of the same ground. Time for a re-read!

The Infinite Library by Kane X. Faucher. I bought this eBook because (a) it was cheap; (b) had a kick-ass cover; (c) have I mentioned the cover? Take a look.

The Year's Best SF 18 as edited by David G. Hartwell and Katherine Cramer. As with Dozois, I rarely finish the collection in the year it is published. For this series I've already jumped from paper to electronic only, in fact, the last three volumes were purely electronic and I'm purchasing the volumes in reverse chronological order and given away my paper copies.

Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl. While Heyerdahl's theories on migration may have been at least partly-discredited (until people change their minds again and he is "rediscovered" or such), this is one amazing story about building a raft out of balsa and sailing it across the ocean.

Lost Horizon by James Hilton. One of several books I bought on sale when Amazon had a special "books that have been made into famous movies" promotion. Read it in high school (sometime around the Pliocene Era), so it is time to read it again.

Going Interstellar, edited by Les Johnson and Jack McDevitt. Another themed anthology from Baen, similar to Armored. Baen is providing reading guides and such to attract school use, it'll be interesting to see if any science and/or literacy teachers follow through.

Danse Macabre and On Writing by Stephen King. Read them both, years ago. I still have my paper copy of On Writing but my paper copy of Danse Macabre was probably stolen by ghosts (both these are electronic copies). I've run hot and cold on King for years, but these two have been long-standing favorites.

Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella. As with Lost Horizons, above.

The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence. I've seen the movie! I use his visage as my internet icon on several services! I really should read the book! In actuality, I've sort of read the book, more than once, in various abridged versions. Now I have the full version.

What It Is Like to Go To War and Matterhorn: A Novel of Vietnam War, both by Karl Marlantes. Marlantes came to my attention about a year ago with the publication of Matterhorn and a series of interviews on various sites. As it relates to a long-standing interest (generally and specifically), I picked up both in a heartbeat.

The Goblin Corps by Ari Marmell. Fantasy wars from the viewpoint of the other guys. For when I get tired of all this serious stuff I read.

Looking for Calvin and Hobbes by Nevin Martell. A quest novel! What is the mysterious force behind a belovd comic and will the author ever meet him?

The Sand Pebbles by Richard McKenna. As with Lost Horizons, above.

Annals of the Former World by John McPhee. An omnibus of McPhee's separate books on geology. Worth it for McPhee's wonderful narrative style, dense with information. A highpoint is a thirty-odd-page narrative table of contents.

Weekend Warrior by Mervin Kevin. Kevin is a reservist in the United Kingdom who served in Iraq. Reservists? In the United Kingdom? An instant purchase, just based on that and from looking within, a good true story as well.

Solstice Chronicles by Jeff Patterson. How can I resist a book by a fellow SF Signal Irregular?

One More Book Before I Die by Lyndon Perry. With a title like that, I had to read it. My philosophy!

The Bible Repairman and Stories, The Stress of Her Regard and Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers. Powers is one of my favorite fantasy authors. He specializes in writing "secret histories", books that could be set in our world except for one tiny little thing that blows your mind apart. Bible Repairman is a collection of his short works to date, often published as chapbooks or other hard-to-acquire means. The Stress of Her Regard is a re-read as it relates to the subject matter of Hide Me Among the Graves.

The Crying of Lot 49 and Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. Two works by Pynchon that have had a lot of influence upon genre writers. These are both recent eBook versions, so I'll re-read them "soonish". I was preparing to re-read Gravity's Rainbow this year anyway, so the eBooks are serendipity-do-dah!

Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds. As with Brin and Robinson, a new book by Reynolds is an instant purchase, especially if it is Hard SF or Space Opera. It will be hard to decide between this and the Brin and Robinson books as to which is read first!

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson. After a long series of side trips, Robinson again visits the territory of books like his Mars series or Antarctica. Decisions, decisions, this first or Brin or Reynolds!

Adrift on the Sea of Rains by Ian Sales. Alternative Apollo missions by a new-to-me author.

Red Shirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi. Saving this one for when I have read too many serious works.

Jump Gate Twist by Mark L. Van Name. An omnbius of the first few novels and tales in Van Name's Jon and Lobo series. Re-reading before working up to the newest entry. Great combination of commentary, Space Opera and Hard SF.

With all the titles I've listed, I'm just scratching the surface. Remember when I said I buy books faster than I read them...there are 369 titles in the Current Reads folder of my Kindle. Those are books I'm really currently reading, books I intend on reading next, books I'd like to read after that and so on.

And...all my back issues of Analog, Apex, Arc, Asimov's, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld, Fantasy, F&SF, Intergalactic Medicine Show, Interzone, Lightspeed, Locus and whatever else I've subscribed to electronically that I haven't gotten to. Instead of slick and pulp paper piling I, I have the electronic magazine equivalents.

They keep saying that the short story is dead, but I don't see it. They also say that print is dying, but I don't see it. So many books, so little time, so many ex-lover's to bury!
Midnight Transit

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is another view of the recent transit of Venus, this time from the land of the Midnight Sun!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

NuStar!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day depicts NASA's latest orbiting observatory. Almost as interesting as what it'll observe is the structure of the vehicle.

Monday, June 18, 2012

River and Observers

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the river of stars and those that have observed for centuries.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Jupiter (and Beyond the Infinite)

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the rings of Jupiter, never known until we got off this planet and started exploring the cosmos.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Happy Birthday!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day celebrates an anniversary. Oddly enough, it is the anniversary of somebody else!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Galactic Pairing

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is two of the three so-called Leo Triplet of galaxies: M65 and M66.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Summer Cluster

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is one of my favorite summertime sights: the great globular cluster (M13) in Hercules.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Baltic Transit

In today's Astronomy Picture of the Day we see Venus creeping across the face of the setting Sun.
Setting Transit

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the setting Sun and the setting Venus during the recent transit.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Thackeray's Globules

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Thackeray's Globules, clouds of dust and gas. Free-floating "pillars of creation".
More Schlock

I've talked about Schlock Mercenary before. I've been reading the strips again, from the beginning, via an "app" for my Android Phone (the app has slowly improved with a couple of versions, and it is great to be able to read the strip whenever I have some spare time). Most recently I've read two of the storylines (books), Longshoreman of the Apocalypse and Massively Parallel.

Howard Tayler has always been a fun writer since the first strip and has improved the drama, story structure, characters, etc. strip by strip. These two are wonderful stories, as good as any SF novels that I've read. Highly recommended.

Addendum: Now completed Force Multiplication.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Our Quiet Sun

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video showing how "quiet" our star really is.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Moon Belongs to Everyone...

...but the best things in life are free. Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day talks about the recent gifting of two Hubble-class telescopes to NASA. Will NASA (and Congress) manage to make good use of this or will NASA (and Congress) end up with a public relations disaster on their hands?

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Another Sun Crosser

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a close-up of the night face of Venus against the Sun.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Planet and Star

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is another nice shot of the Venus transit. Not only a nice shot of Venus against our home star, but lots of detail of activity on the Sun itself.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Eclipse Moon

It was a busy time for astronomers this week (the planetary types). Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the partially-eclipsed Moon setting over Wyoming.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Sun Crossing

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Venus just at the edge of the Sun during the transit (this had been a live feed during the actual transit).

Monday, June 04, 2012

Hugo-A-Rama (Plus...Readings from the Campbell-Not-A-Hugo)

So decades upon decades of reading science fiction and fantasy and I finally get around to supporting the Hugos last year. What can I say? Any group that would have me as a member, I would not join?

Anyway, I'm a supporting member again this year. Which means I am not attending, but can vote. So blame me for who wins. Or not (if my candidate does not make it into the finals).

One thing that has become a plus in membership is that the various con committees and the publishing industry (and nominess in other categories) have figured out that, hey, maybe we should use this "internet" thing that has been around for a couple of decades. So various items, ranging from books to short stories, have been included in an electronic packet.

Good on them! Makes me want to participate more. Now if they'd all stop using Adobe Acrobat ("portable" my posterior) as their solo format (some do EPUB or MOBI).

2012 (published in 2011)'s lineup read so far include...

(Categories are not precise. I need to look up where short story vs. novella vs. novellete all break.)

Paul Cornell: The Copenhagen Interpretation (June) (short story).

Nancy Fulda: Movement: A Short Story About Autism in the Future (May) (short story)

Mira Grant: Feed (no, not nominated, but the sequel is, so I felt I had to read it first!) (June) (novel).

Mary Robinette Kowal: Kiss Me Twice (June) (short story).

Mur Lafferty: The Argument Against Louis Pasteur (June) (short story).

Ken Liu: The Paper Menagerie. The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary (June) (short stories).

Mike Resnick: The Homecoming (June) (short story).

John Scalzi: The Shadow War of the Night Dragons; Book I: The Dead City (June) (short story).

E. Lily Yu: The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees (May). The Transfiguration of Maria Luisa Orgeta. The Lamp at the Turning (June) (short stories).
SOUND COLLISION ALARM!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day takes us to the "impending" collision between our galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy.

It won't be that bad. For one, if E.E. "Doc" Smith is right, we'll have lots of planetary formation and we'll finally get ether-eating spaceships!

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Another Sign of the End Times

Mira Grant; Feed (Orbit; 2010; ISBN 978-0316081054; cover artist not indicated)

There's a lot of fascination about zombies over the past several years and the trend has yet (it appears) to peak and recede. Mira Grant (pseudonym for Seanan McGuire) joins the shambling hordes (sorry, it was an obvious line to use) of those exploring the end times and after with the first of a trilogy.

Feed was up for the Hugo last year (I did not vote for it, as I just did not have time to read it) but I heard it reviewed during a number of podcasts that I listen to. The commentary was, to put it mildly, pretty decisive as to where people came down on the book.

I'm coming down somewhere in the middle.

Plot? Oh, right. Zombie uprising. Lots of dead (30%+). Life goes on and we have news gathering, social interaction and a presidential election. A lot of the details are revealed here, I'll leave it to you to click on the link or not.

The story revolves around adopted brother and sister Georgia (George) and Shaun and associate "Buffy" when they are asked to cover the campaign of one of the presidential hopefuls. It is after the "Rising", the outbreak of zombies and while life goes on, it goes on with the constant threat of more zombies coming into being (in one bit that I really liked, Grant sets a body mass limit to the ability to "rise" so that animals over forty pounds can become zombies...imagine a zoo of zombie elephants...).

The plot thickens as a series of events make it clear that this is not just a simple run for the presidency that they are covering. In fact, things get hairy, more than once, and Grant has no trouble dispatching quite a few characters. The story ends, relatively cleanly, it is not clear if the "trilogy" came after or each book was conceived early on (but designed to stand alone).

On the plus side, I enjoyed the role of bloggers (in their various forms) as news gatherers. It was nice to read a zombie novel where people were adapting and even moving forward. But...

I also had problems with the world building. Somehow, after losing 30%+ of the population, living with the virus within everyone (able to break out relatively easily) society builds armored vehicles, armored buildings, extensive weaponry, test equipment, continues to pump oil, etc. This is where my disbelief was having trouble being suspended.

I think that the closer to "now" that you set a genre story (and Feed has elements of both horror and science fiction in it) the more carefully you need to build up your background. When "Doc" Smith is tossing galaxies around, I tend to be more forgiving because everything is fantastic. But the closer to our world that you get, the harder it is to be believable. William Gibson succeeded with each trilogy (getting closer to "now" until he was writing what amounted to, in the first book of the latest trilogy, a historical novel) by keeping the ideas employed relatively few.

Don't get me wrong, there was a lot here that I liked; enough so that despite getting a free copy of the next novel in my Hugo packet for this year, I bought the second book. However, I wish that Grant had done an infodump on how society functions when it comes to factories, mining, etc. (heavens knows there are infodumps aplenty in here, so one more wouldn't have really hurt!).

Addendum: In thinking about it last night, the second major reason that the book "irked" me came to light. The villains. Without ("Spoilers, Sweetie!") ruining it all, could we not have picked a less typical bunch of Hollywood-style evildoers? Well, it didn't appear that the military was involved (yet, maybe that'll be in the sequel), but come on...one of the unholy trio really had no reason to be involved, given how much money they were making due to the world situation.

And I read the "alternate ending" (follow the Wikipedia link if you'd like to as well). I'm glad she did not use that one, I probably would have tossed the book across the room as a result!
Sun-Crossing

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a wonderful shot of the 2004 Transit of Venus.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Dipper Whirl

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is possibly the second most famous (easily viewed) spiral galaxy in our night skies: M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy. Found in the neighborhood of the Big Dipper (but actually in the constellation known as Canes Venatici, it is a nice target in a backyard telescope.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Rich Starfield

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows you one of the best areas to view during the summer. The region around Sagittarius and Scorpius are rich with nebula, dense starfields, globular clusters and more. Use binoculars or a telescope with a wide field of view and log magnification. After you explore these regions, head "up" along the Milky Way for less dense, but occasionally as spectacular, sights.