Favorite Book

A few weeks ago, truthfully, a few months ago, I convinced a friend to read my favorite book. When she finally got to read it, she didn’t enjoy it as much as I did. For a while I couldn’t figure out why. The book is “Rendezvous with Rama” by Arthur C. Clarke.

The short version of the story, a short bad summary, is that an unknown object enters out solar system. It is discovered to be not natural, and turns out to be an interstellar ship. A group of astronauts are sent to intercept the ship and explore it. They are supposed to find out everything they can about the ship before what ever it’s final intent becomes known.

So, I am not going to say that this is why my friend didn’t like it, but it is my guess, and it is a reason some people didn’t like the book. It leaves a lot of questions unanswered. You never find out who sent space ship, or why they sent the ship to our solar system. It just travels through our systems, comes close to the sun, and then leaves.

But that is what the book is about. Clarke meant for this book to be science fiction, not science fantasy. Its about exploring a an alien vessel, not about who sent it.

Odds are that if an alien ship like the Rama came through our solar system, we wouldn’t know who sent it or why. In the real world, there probably would a lot of unanswered questions, even after exploration.

I actually think that is why I like this novel. It is very open ended. It ends on a cliffhanger. This, to me, is not a bad thing.

It is a shame that there is a sequel to this book… actually, three sequels.

Three Thing Friday

1. Drones – I admit, I was really indifferent to the use of drones. Not really for their use, but not really against it either. I didn’t like how easily this country could use them against our “enemies” and that they had a history of killing non-combatants. But, their use was protecting soldier’s lives.

Now, the president had recently announced that a few months ago a drone mission killed two hostages. This I have a problem with. If you are an American Citizen who takes up arms with terrorists, you have what is coming to you. I have no issues with you being killed without a trial. Sure you are an American citizen, but you waived your rights when you started to hang with the absolute wrong crowd. I would prefer a trial and a conviction, but I can live without one, and sleep perfectly fine at night.

However, we now killed innocent civilians. Apparently we need to work on our information gathering. We need to make sure we know what we know before we launch an attack. Two innocent civilians. Two people who were true non-combatants. And I already had issues with non-combatants being killed; this just makes it even worse.

Maybe we should slow down the drone attacks. And I know a few of my friends who would disagree with that, but killing of innocents is what “they” are supposed to do, not us.

2. Local Shark – This week I was made aware that someone spotted a shark in a local body of water. A coworker said that my diving with sharks just got a lot cheaper for me. Personally, I was thinking that I found a new place to kayak. However, the person who brought this to my attention was more curious about what type of shark it could possible be. I mean, what kind of shark can live in brackish water up here in Maryland?

Well, being the fan of sharks that I am, I could actually answer this. What type of shark would be in this area, and can live in brackish water, and actually cause fear (this is for my enjoyment)? Well, I listed the Bull shark. Sure, they may not be common in this area but it is possible that it was a bull.
Odds are that it wasn’t though. There are other sharks more common in the area, and while they may not survive for long in brackish water, they could survive for a while, depending on the currents.

3. Grover Cleveland – I am currently reading a biography on the only man to serve two non-consecutive terms as president of the United States. And first, this biography is actually a biography, unlike the crap book on Bush Sr. that tried to pass off as a book.

Now, this is a two-volume biography. While I am only half way through the fist volume, I already like President Cleveland. Sure, he was a democrat, but he was actually trying to be honest. At least so far in his career.

I know that I have two presidencies to go through, plus however long he lived after his presidency. So far, he may be one of my top 5 favorite presidents… well, maybe top 10.

Differences

Today, for some unknown reason, I found myself thinking about the differences between how the English treat their children compared to how we, the American’s, treat ours, at least when it comes to death.

Surprisingly, I think Doctor Who started this thought process. Doctor Who, for those few who don’t know, is a science fiction children’s show from the across the pond. It started airing in the 1960’s. Well, a companion during the era of the fourth doctor named Adric died in his final episode. That’s right, a children’s show killed off one of the main characters.

While someone can argue that they killed him off in the early 80’s, I can also mention a more recent children’s story. Harry Potter. Harry Potter was a children’s story of sorts, and look at all the death and destruction that happened in those books. Harry’s parents. Dumbledore. Snape (my personal favorite character). Ron’s brother. The list goes on and one for the amount of characters killed off. George R. R. Martin may kill off a character a chapter, but he wasn’t writing for children. And people here were calling the Potter books too violent, and not just the religious fanatics.

What did we have here in the states? G.I. Joe who had the accuracy of storm troopers from star wars (and yet they always won). The smurfs (communists!) who built their only female character. Tom and Jerry…I hated that mouse.

My point is that we teach our children to fear death, while the British don’t seem to have that issue. They seem more accepting of the natural process. None of the Joes could kill their enemy, but if it was a British show, I bet you they would have.

I don’t know what this says about our cultures, but it sure says something.

By Its Title

A few months ago I decided to add to my collection of presidential biographies by picking up a book titled “George H. W. Bush Character at the Core” by Curt Smith. And while the extreme right wing wackos will probably defend this book to their death, and the left wing wackos will probably ask why I would waste my time with a book about a right wing nut, I decided that I wanted to read a biography on Daddy Bush. Well, apparently not all biographies are about the person listed in the title. I am going to go through my list of complaints about this book, but please realize I am only on page 42.

  1. The first chapter covered Bush’s beginnings, through WWII and into the 1950’s. What? You mean that other than getting shot down this man did nothing exciting in WWII? It barely covered his youth! Ok, fine… maybe the book will get into more depth as the chapters go on.
  2. Chapter two starts with the word “I”. What the fuck? I don’t want to read a book about the author; I want to read a book about the president. What do I care that the writer grew up in NY? The second chapter covered the author, in way too much depth.
  3. Thus far, this book has covered Nixon, Ford, Pat Nixon, Bush, and Curt Smith (the terrible writer of this book). I understand covering some of the history, but this book reads more like a defense of every republican president since Dwight Eisenhower (oh yea, he was in it to), even those who don’t need it, like Nixon and Eisenhower.
  4. I’m not even sure this qualifies as a presidential biography, so I may have to buy another book after this.

I even checked the book sleeve to see if maybe the description would explain the difference in what I expected and what I got. It didn’t. This book lied. I have heard of “Don’t judge a book by its cover” but even the title of this book lied. If I am lucky, a third of this book may be on the former president. I have this fear that the rest of it will be a defense of presidents who do not need defending. I couldn’t even wait to finish the book to write a review it disgusted me that much, and yet, I will finish it.

If any one wants to read a book on a president, do NOT read this book. It may still be a good book, but it is not a good biography on Bush.

Do not judge a book by its title.

Nobody Gets It

Nobody Gets It.

I seem to make a lot of references that no one else gets. And once you have to take the time to explain the reference to someone, it looses something. Actually, it looses everything in translation. Some of the references I make, some people get, but not all, not even most.

For example, sometimes when I am asked a question, I quickly answer “42” regardless of the question. This answer does get a few chuckles on occasion, but not every gets the reference. Most people don’t get it. And when I have to take the time to explain that it is from “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,” a series of books I didn’t even like all that much, I feel that I shouldn’t even put in the effort. And yet, I continue to make that reference.

Another example I can make is from yesterday. I made a reference to the old BBC show “The Prisoner”. And this time, even fewer people got the reference. Actually, no one got the reference. I will grant that in this case, it is a much more obscure reference, but still!

Maybe this says more about me than everyone else… what am I saying? Of course it says more about me. I watch and enjoy the obscure shows so I will be the one making the obscure references. I just have to remember that most people won’t get them.

But “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy?” Really? No one?

Tommy Wilson

I have frequently said that I am a big reader. I own over 400 books and have read all but 13 of them. I usually can be found reading science fiction with some science non-fiction and biographies thrown in there. Right now I am reading a biography on Tommy Wilson, or as most of us would know him, Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president of the United States.

I firmly believe that every American should read at least one president’s biography. These are 43 of the most important people in the history of this country. People who have been elected to run a country, to run the “free world”. These are people who dictated where this country would head. These are people who whose decisions affected the lives of millions. And sadly, most Americans couldn’t name the first five presidents in the order that they were elected.

Now, I have read 23 presidential biographies, and I haven’t limited myself to a single party. I have read biographies on Democrats, Republicans, and even biographies about presidents from the Whig party. And of all the biographies I have read, I have to admit that President Taft’s biography was my favorite.

As one reads through these biographies, you can learn interesting facts about these great men. Yes, Taft was the fattest president, but he had an amazing sense of humor. Woodrow was named Thomas but decided to go with Woodrow because it sounded more formal and professional. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the same day, within a couple of hours of each other.

These were great men; every one of them should be appreciated for that fact. So, pick up a book, read about a president, and maybe learn something about a man that ran the United States.

And maybe, pick up a book about a president you didn’t like. You may gain an appreciation for what they did, even if you still do not agree with it.

Three Thing Friday

1. Social Beings – I have heard it time and time again that human beings are social animals. I am so tired of hearing this. I would be perfectly happy living in Montana or Alaska, away from people, all to myself. Granted, I would want to be close enough to civilization so I can have indoor plumbing (like the Romans). I would want to live within the vicinity of a shopping center so that I wouldn’t have to grow my own food. And yes, I do enjoy hanging out with my friends, but I am just as happy locked away in my home.

Hell, I am beginning to understand why one of my friends just shaves his head. I had to get a hair cut today, and having to interact with the cutter of my hair made me realize I would have rather not have to get my hair cut by others. I should just shave my head so there would be one less person for me to interact with.

I am not a social being.

2. Vacation Prep – I spent this morning getting some minor preparation done for my up coming trip. Like I said, I got my hair cut, I got my back and neck cracked by my chiropractor, and I bought some things I feel that I will need. Travel shampoo, travel deodorant, travel toothpaste, and Dramamine we some of the items I bought for my upcoming dive with our friends, the sharks. Am I all set? Of course not, but I am slightly closer. Plus, I have three weeks till I leave.

Usually I leave all of my preparation to the last possible minute. If I were leaving on a Friday, I’d buy all the crap I need on that Wednesday and pack on either the Thursday or possibly even that morning. But with this trip, I am trying to get things set weeks in advance. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to swim with great white sharks… well, twice in a lifetime. Ok, this will probably become a ritual every other year… but it is still special.

3. Goodreads – A friend introduced me to the Goodreads app and I am slowly logging in all of my books into it. Now, while I am very competitive about how much I read, that is not why I am doing it. I tend to forget what book I own. I mean, some of these I bought over a decade ago. In fact, while scanning the book in, I realized that I do actually have 2 copies of the same book. One in hardcover and one is paperback. It is really convenient to have all of the book titles I own at my fingertips. With how often I buy books, getting duplicates was bound to happen. Now, at least, I am doing something to reduce the odds of me buying a book I already own.

Now all I have to do is get back to reading like I used to.

Three Thing Friday

1. Sharknado 2 – I stayed up on Wednesday to watch the incredible movie on the SyFy channel. Of course I did. This is just one of many bad B movies that should never have been made but that I thoroughly enjoy. It was corny, lame, had bad acting, and was just a fun movie. It set the record for most viewers for any SyFy programming. It was, for a brief moment in time, the holder of all the top ten in tweets (not from me, I don’t tweet).

I would recommend this movie to everyone. As long as you go in thinking this will be the worst movie you ever sat down and watched, you will not be disappointed.

2. Ebola – I cannot believe that in this day of modern medicine that we have to deal with an Ebola outbreak. I cannot believe how little news this is actually getting. I cannot believe that we are flying two infected people into the United States for treatment. I know, they are U.S. citizens, and I do believe that they need and deserve treatment, but lets fly a few qualified doctors, and the proper medical supplies, and treat them over in Africa.

I am sure that the proper steps are being taken to prevent these two unfortunate people from becoming the latest Typhoid Mary, but mistakes happen. And one small slip up, and we will have a massive outbreak in this country. And I am not sure that this country could handle an outbreak. By the time CNN and Fox stopped pointing fingers, and by the time congress realized that there actually was a problem, most of this country would probably be infected.

3. Man Cave – My house, a three-story townhouse, is a total man cave, possibly even a geek cave. My three shedding roommates and I did all of the decorating. I have a room that is completely turned over to books, Godzilla and Doctor Who. Another room has a signed movie poster and my DVD collections. Even the bedroom has a sword collection hanging on the wall… for self-defense purposes only.

But the craziest thing about this man cave is the tons of plastic Warhammer models. They are in every single room of this house, possibly even the bathrooms (I cannot confirm this). Heck, even my living room has my hobby table. And right now it is covered in small projects I am working on.

This is why I cannot have people over… they may see the real me. That… and the cat hair.

Three Thing Friday

1. Trust – When you have someone with 30 years of experience in the government, and over eight years of experience with one contract in particular, you would think that one would trust his or her opinion. Too bad that this does not hold true in the government.  Top to bottom, no one seems to want to listen to the experts. And believe me, I am not saying that it is I that people are not listening to (although that is true as well), it’s other people that have been ignored.

And thanks to this, our contract is in serious trouble. So much so that the contractors may not be able to continue their work on 1 October. You have employees for a reason. You have experts for a reason. Use them properly, and everything may be able to work somewhat well. Well, it might workout well enough for government work.

2. Climate Change – I am a firm believe that climate change is a fact. I believe the scientists and their facts. Yes, it has become known as “Global Warming,” and the end game may be a warmer globe, but the main point is that the Earth’s climate is changing, and we are directly responsible.

However, the weather at the end of this July has just been bloody pleasant. If the climate would change to this, and stay like this, I would not mind at all. Nine of the last 10 years set record highs, but this year just hasn’t that bad at all.

So yes, I still believe we need to get a handle on the pollution that is causing climate change. Yes, I think we as a nation, and as a species, need to become more green.

Now, I am going to go open some windows and enjoy the changing climate before it drowns me.

And now that I wrote this, next week will probably top 110 degrees.

3. Story Time – A few years ago, I would read about a book a week on average. I wouldn’t read anything spectacular, and not that many books that would teach me anything. Sure, I would read some biographies, and mostly presidential biographies. Mostly I read science fiction and science fantasy. Recently, however, I haven’t been able to get more than a book a month, if I was lucky. I should just join some book of the month club. I need to start setting myself some new goals. I need to take out my books and start reading again. The pile of unread books grows. I need to knock it down. I need to concentrate.

I need to read. I didn’t get go to elementary school to not use my ability to read.

Predictors

Throughout human history, man has tried to predict the future, and most of the predictors were frauds. The majority of the time, it is proven that when making predictions, mankind usually greatly underestimates the future. Just one example of this would be when computers were first invented, some people predicted that only the richest nations would be able to afford them, and that they would be massive machines. But I sit in my living room typing on my own personal computer. Some cell phones have more power than the computers that NASA used to send men into space. However, there are a few people who have gotten their predictions right, or at least close. When one wants to see what the future may look like, one just needs to read some science fiction. Science fiction (not science fantasy) seems to have a nasty habit of coming true. Maybe it’s because science fiction writers actually do some research, unlike FOX news reporters.

Jules Verne, for example, was actually pretty good at predicting the future in his novels. Obviously, I don’t mean 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but a few of his other stories were pretty accurate. In From the Earth to the Moon, Verne told the story of a three-man trip to the moon. Now remember, this novel was written in 1865, 100 years before the U.S. actually accomplished sending a three man team to the moon. Verne also nearly predicted where the missions would launch. He was within miles of where Apollo 11 launched in Florida. And Jules Verne even nearly got the landing site correct. Now, I cannot say that From the Earth to the Moon was 100% correct in predicting the future. Jules Verne thought that gunpowder would have been used, as he didn’t understand rocket fuel (since it didn’t exist). And in Verne’s Paris in the Twentieth Century, he predicted everyone would have TV’s, Air Conditioning, Glass Skyscrapers, and high speed trains. Not bad for a book written in 1860.

Sometimes, science fiction writes get it right; they are just off by a few years, in some cases, many years. Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek is a good example. Just look at all of our cell phones, in the 60’s they didn’t exist, but in Star Trek, everyone had their own personal communication devices. Tricorders and universal translators are being perfected now.

This history of “predicting” the future give me hope. Maybe one day we will see Arthur C. Clarke’s vision of an elevator to space (which some people in California are working on now) or his moon rail gun (which could cheaply fire supplies to outposts on the outer planets and moons). Maybe we will see Roddenberry’s transporter beams and warp engines. Maybe we will see the day when androids are among us, and have the same rights as we do.

The flip side of science fiction writers’ predictions of the future is the negative predictions. Will we end up with Clarke’s killer computers? Will we end up going to war with Alien races? Will the human race become extinct? Will androids run our lives because we cannot do it ourselves?