A Whole [Old] World

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Recently I read “surfing the ether”in a story.

Amateur radio operators used that phrase, back in the day of continuous wave key operations, referring to sending CQs, asking anyone who detected their signal to respond. Respondents would exchange post cards to confirm the contact. When conditions were right their relatively weak CW signals bounced or “skipped” off the ionosphere, facilitating an extraordinarily long reach. My Dad had a pile of post cards from around the world.

My brother and niece caught the ham radio bug, but I didn’t. Dad went “silent key” in 1992. (Somewhere I have one of his old brass keys. It differed from the illustration by its polished wood base.)

Funny how a phrase in fiction can open a treasure chest of memories.

Book Review: The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Five Stars)

Book Review: The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Five Stars

“There’s things worse than bombs.”

A deep, honest look at life on the cusp of a great war and the end of childhood. Told penetratingly deep from the perspective of a young girl whose life is turned upside down by the evacuation of children from wartime London.

“The house looked asleep.”

Writing that may not appeal to adult readers has a simplicity and directness that sounds authentic. Despite the many decades elapsed since I was ten, I can attest that it comes uncomfortably close to how I sometimes felt during that awful and wonderful time of life.

“You’re in luck, then because I’m not a nice person at all.”

Winner of numerous awards for young readers.

“Saying something stupid doesn’t make you stupid. Luckily for all of us.”

Bought it for our granddaughter. (Don’t tell her.)

“I had so much. I felt so sad.”


Movie Review: I’m Not Ashamed (Four Stars)

theatrical release poster

theatrical release poster

Movie Review: I’m Not Ashamed, Directed by Brian Baugh

Four Stars

Rachel Joy Scott died during the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999. This movie chronicles the last year of her life. For an admittedly Christian movie, there is little preaching and no one is perfect, least of all Rachel. The story is drawn from her journals. It’s about forgiveness and compassion in the pressure of modern life set into bold perspective by Rachel’s murder. The film also explores the motives and plotting of the shooters.

The production values and acting are good for a small,  independent production. (It was shown once a day in the smallest venue of our local multiplex.) The actual shooting is realistic but not gory.

“I just want to make a difference.”

She did.

Election Fatigue

If this were a normal election (whatever those are), we’d be hearing a lot more about Obamacare’s implosion, with each side blaming the other. And the deficit. Ditto. And the Battle of Mosul, with both sides taking credit.The weather. Ditto.

Instead we’re stuck with character assassination.

Not a good way to run a country, no matter who survives this stupidity.

I’m tired of it. I just want it to be over.

(I have voted.)

Backyard Observing

Cool. What we all need in our backyard.

Misty Midwest Mossiness

20161021_175740 Friday evening setup: tarp (to catch falling bits and pieces in the dark) and the base.

All last week, I looked forward to the weekend as a chance to get some astronomical observing accomplished. The weather forecast seemed too good to be true: Sunny and clear, highs in the mid 70s and lows in the 50s, with dew points in the upper 40s and lower 50s. My astronomy club hosted a club star party, but I did not want to lug the scope to Louisburg and share the observing grounds with a previously scheduled private party.

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Book Review: A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (Five Stars)

Book Review: A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers #2) by Becky Chambers

Five Stars (provisional)

“Life is terrifying. None of us have a rule book. None of us know what we’re doing here.”

Great story; great storytelling. Starts where The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet stopped, but is not a sequel. It’s even better. Largely a different cast. A different story; a different kind of story. Reflective and introspective; action is de-emphasized. Parallel stories intertwine before coming together.

She “hung on tight, more grateful for that weird alien hug then she’d been for anything in a long time.”

That said, Chambers explores some universal philosophic questions in a hard, deep science fiction setting. The comparison with Asimov’s I, Robot stories is inevitable, and Chambers may be better. Certainly she’s taken advantage of Continue reading

Book Review: Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow (Four Stars)

Book Review: Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

Four Stars

“Instead of glorying in his might, he feared its terrible weight’s potential misuse.”

An encyclopedic survey of the life of George Washington. Well done, but Chernow was so heavily engaged in selling his theories of Washington’s personality and style that parts felt like the 2016 election campaign. “The most interior of the founders.” Pages of pithy epigrams by and about Washington. At 900 pages, it’s hardly “crisply paced”

“Things seldom happened accidentally to George Washington, but he managed them with consummate skill that they often seemed to happen accidentally.”

Modern availability and cataloguing of founder correspondence allows Chernow to explore both sides of many conversations, facilitating greater understanding of the bonds and divisions between Washington and Continue reading

Book Review: Crosstalk by Connie Willis (Four Stars)

Book Review: Crosstalk by Connie Willis

Four Stars

“Communication’s not everything.”

Contemporary social media is the perfect environment for Willis’ trademark self-induce attention deficient characters. Hard to review this book without giving away too much. (In fact, the book is so laced with current culture references that it may soon seem dated.)

“Internet conversations always involve Hitler.”

Willis has a talent for letting the reader figure out the next plot twist just before the protagonist catches on, then surprises both.

“According to Wikipedia, which as we know is always accurate.”

Dark night of the soul” dates to far earlier than F. Scott Fitzgerald.

A good read for fans of Connie Willis. If you haven’t tried her, this might be a better entrance than some of her historical science fiction.

“Never underestimate the power of a good book.”

Green Grapes #3

15ribbonMy third rendering of this bunch of grapes was awarded First Place among watercolors at the fall Lee Artists Association show at Windemere Art Gallery in Mechanicsville, Virginia. The grapes aren’t quite as good as #1, but the background is much better.

The show is up through the end of the month. Come on by.

Other paintings, including #1, are viewable at the link under Paintings.