Sunday, June 27, 2010

It's the end of the world as we know it...

Well, an asteroid hits the moon, knocking it into a closer orbit which in turn messes with the Earth's tides, climate and tectonics (lots of volcanic eruptions which also messes with the climate). A family in Pennsylvania (in the first book) and in New York City (in the second) learn to cope with the new post-apocalyptic world. This generally consists of less food, loss of services, uncertainty about family members not immediately local etc. The 'event' occurs in May and people spend a lot of the first summer waiting patiently for the government to put things right... and then in a panic when that doesn't happen. The first winter starts early and is brutal with many many people dying of starvation and disease.

The first two books tell essentially the same story from two different viewpoints through the first year, with the first being a better story and having more sympathetic characters. Book three brings the survivors of the two families together through the second year. I did not like the third book nearly as much, the main characters lost all the sympathy that you built up in the first two books by acting incredibly selfishly and... well, this isn't a spoiler post so I'll leave it at that.

All three books are a quick read and of course, required reading for post-apocalyptic fans.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Girls..tattoos..dragons..what's not to like?

This book has often been reviewed as very dark with explicit rape/torture scenes, poorly translated, jumpy narrative, etc.

I didn't find any of that to be true. Ok wait, the rape scenes were fairly explicit... but certainly not any worse than your fairly standard fare found in crime fiction published by several bestselling American authors (Coban, Patterson, Cornwell come to mind) or the details discussed and discovered in popular television programs like NCIS, Bones, and the various CSI series.

My feeling is that many of the reviews that I read (on LibraryThing and Amazon) suffer from a bit of prejudice... that a Swedish author could write such a good story with such compelling characters. While I didn't end up liking the main protagonist, Mikeal Blomkvist, very much at the end of the book... the girl with the dragon tattoo, Lisbeth Salander, was dynamite! I'll read the next two books just to find out more about her.

Lastly... the author, described as a radical, Nazi-hunting journalist with communist ties, died in 2004 at the relatively young age of 50. While the circumstances aren't terrifically suspicous (massive heart attack).. it does leave the door open for conspiracy enthusiasts, and has almost certainly contributed to the popularity of these books.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


And that's why we watch, folks! How exciting was that?? A goal in the 91st minute to take the US from not getting through to the next stage, to winning the pool!

edited to add ESPN snarky comment... ESPN had the soccer win as the lead story on their afternoon edition. Alexi Lalas (retired American soccer star) and some South African (retired soccer star) analyst talked with the ESPN analyst (who was obviously less than interested in soccer) for all of about 5 minutes. They showed some video... talked about it, and then cut to commercial. When they came back, the soccer guys were gone, and the ESPN announcer then spent the NEXT TWENTY FREAKIN MINUTES talking about the marathon Wimbledon match between two guys no ones ever heard of with video of point after point after point after point. Sure, that match broke (totally smashed) every tennis record for longest match ever. But it's only interesting in a kind of train-wreck fascination kind of way, and only one of the guys was American (Isner)... who came off as surly and pissed-off in his brief interview (opposed to Mahut who was gracious and excited to be part of something amazing). As of this morning (June 24) they still haven't resolved the match...

Give me the soccer story anytime and all the time. Thanks.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Things I like but not like me...

As I poke around the links to blogs that share interests with my own, I came across a few that are not remotely like me. For example, I clicked on the link to bloggers who also like to nature journal. Woooooo... lots of homeschool, religious types there. And while I am not opposed to homeschooling per se, nor am I opposed to religion (in small controlled doses), I cannot in good conscience suggest that I am in any way interested in those two subjects. But I do like to sketch, draw and write about the outdoors; taking notes while standing in the rain by a rocky outcrop was something I learned to do as a geology student. And I like it.

I've occasionally used this idea of writing and drawing about nature in my science classes... with mixed results. As one would expect, some students really enjoyed it and performed superbly, providing me with excellent examples of nature journaling. Others... not so much, even to the point of wondering what my 'agenda' was in promoting something so touchy-feely in a science class.
So it struck me as odd that something I enjoy is so often related to others things that I don't enjoy or care about.

Pictured is an example of a nature journal page found on this site:

Sunday, June 13, 2010

World Cup 2010

I didn't grow up playing soccer. My first exposure was in college on an intramural team... where it took about 10 seconds for me to realize that I knew absolutely nothing about the game. The St. Louis kids made it look so easy (at that time St. Louis was the soccer capital of the USA). My second exposure to 'big-time' soccer was during my NROTC cruise to Italy during the 1978 World Cup. Visiting Rome during one Saturday while Italy was playing, one could walk down a street and hear the game on every radio and TV in the city. And nobody on the streets or in the shops and markets.

Despite intense marketing and promotion, the game has never really caught on in the US. We cannot handle the long stretches where nothing much happens. A 0-0 game? Where's the fun and excitement in that? And... I confess that sometimes I watch and wish that something would happen. But the pure athleticism, the chess-like strategy, and the heart-pounding excitement when something DOES happen.... is unsurpassed. So I'll be watching this year, cheering when the USA ties England 1-1, grousing about yellow cards, or what should be yellow cards. And maybe dream of retiring to a place where soccer is a national passion.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

modern technology

Like this picture? Real time from South Pass Wyoming. I spent 3 summers knocking around out there ~25 years ago courtesy of the University of Missouri's 6-week geology field camp. This website has real-time webcams all over the state... fun to check in on occasionally and you often get reminded as to why few people actually live in some of these places. The one below is the same view on a 'normal' summer day.

To be fair, South Pass is at about 8000 feet of altitude. It's called South Pass because it passes just to the south of the Wind River mountains on the Oregon Trail. Off to the left in the pictures (you can't actually see them from the highway) are two mining ghost towns; South Pass City and Atlantic City. There are a few people who still live in these two towns, and a rather well-known saloon is a bit of a tourist attraction.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Who knew? Showtime series presents ... Weeds; five seasons of comedic drama based on surburban family (sans dead dad) in the pot-selling business. Hilarious in the beginning, becoming darker and deadlier later on. Strong language, sex, marijuana in all shapes and uses... pretty good show. I've watched all but the last few episodes of season 5 over the last 3-4 days. Kinda warped me I think. I like seasons 1-3 better than 4 & 5; less dark drama, more comedy. Season 6 starts this fall on Showtime... I'll be watching.

On to jollier things

Tired of naval gazing... soooo

I've been rereading John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series, at least the ones I can find in the local library. I first read these stories when I was stationed on the USS Kitty Hawk CV-63. To fill the time between watches and ship's work, I hid out in the ship's library and grabbed the first few off of the paperback rack. I was hooked. Paperbacks make great time fillers while standing in line, of which there is a lot of on a large ship... waiting for chow, to get paid, to get a haircut etc.

I like and admire Travis's take on life, his philosophy, and his ability to find a way out of almost any problem he found himself in. I think there are worse role models. I'm probably going to get a tattoo of his houseboat on my back... right shoulder blade I think.