Not Your Average Library Book Checkout

I started October a week behind in my re-reading schedule of the Wheel of Time series.  I started the seventh novel, A Crown of Swords on the 8th, but managed to finish it early on the 22nd, leaving me almost ten days to get some non-WoT reading squeezed in before I set out on the Path of Daggers in November.

Just in case you missed it, after I reported the Prologue for A Memory of Light released early in late September, Tor also released the first chapter , “Eastward the Wind Blew” a few days later.  Last week, in late October, Tor released an audio version of chapter two, which I have yet to finish listening to.  I’ve completed the first section of ‘The Choice of Ajah” prior to writing this blog and will listen to the rest later today.

I reviewed all my neglected book clubs and found several great books in the line up for next month, including the Demolished Man by Alfred Bester for the Beyond Reality group at GoodReads.  These days, I prefer to read ebooks as much as possible, since I can tote around my entire library wherever I go on my Nook Color.  However, this classic science fiction novel, written by Alfred Bester in 1953, just isn’t available in electronic format yet (and may not be any time soon).  In fact, it was last published by Gollanz in 1999 in paperback format and is not currently in print, so only used copies are available to buy.

So, I went searching for a copy at my favorite library, the Kansas City Public Library.  The reason this is my favorite library, aside from the fact that a branch is located in my office building, is they have a large, extensive catalog that rarely disappoints.  The Demolished Man failed to make the cut, though, and no amount of tweaking my search criteria could get this book to magically appear in the search results.

The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester in the leather-bound collector’s edition published by the Easton Press in 1986

I sighed.  My fallback library resides in my almost hometown of Leavenworth.  I hopped on their website and searched their catalog and found a copy available on the shelf.  I placed a hold, requesting pickup at the Leavenworth Public Library.  A day or so later, I received an e-mail telling me my reservation was ready for pickup.  Saturday afternoon, I stopped by and checked out the book you see in the photo to the right.  I couldn’t believe what I was holding in my hands.  A near pristine leather-bound collector’s edition of the classic.  It even sported a gold satin bookmark!  As far as I could tell, no one had read it since it was published in the early 80s.  While I enjoy the ease and convenience of ebooks, limited editions or collector’s editions of hardcover novels are just plain cool.

I flipped through the book once I got it home and found illustrations placed sporadically throughout the book.  Here are three examples:




And a shot of the title page and bookmark:


I’m looking forward to reading this novel, and not just because I lucked into checking out a collector’s edition from my local library. Here are some blurbs and the synopsis from GoodReads:

“One of the all-time classics of science fiction.” – Isaac Asimov

“A masterful compounding of science and detective fiction.”  – The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction

“A magnificent novel… as fascinating a study of character as I have ever read.” – Groff Conklin in Galaxy Science fiction

In a world policed by telepaths, Ben Reich plans to commit a crime that hasn’t been heard of in 70 years: murder. That’s the only option left for Reich, whose company is losing a 10-year death struggle with rival D’Courtney Enterprises. Terrorized in his dreams by The Man With No Face & driven to the edge after D’Courtney refuses a merger offer, Reich murders his rival & bribes a high-ranking telepath to help him cover his tracks. But while police prefect Lincoln Powell knows Reich is guilty, his telepath’s knowledge is a far cry from admissible evidence

Blast from the Past: A Glimpse Into Rare Science Book Collection

My dad and I attended the general meeting of the Astronomical Society of Kansas City yesterday evening.  We arrived earlier enough to also attend the Astro 101 class.  The topic happened to be on binoculars, although I vaguely remembered it advertised as astrophotography.  Next month, perhaps, provided the speaker doesn’t postpone for the third time this year.  Nevertheless, we learned quite a bit about binoculars and the handout included a dozen or so winter observing targets.

With just five minutes to spare, Dad and I changed lecture halls in Royall Hall, walking across to the larger one where the general meetings are held.  Jay Manifold and Rick Henderson made several announcements.  Another club member, Bob Sandy, gave a brief ten to fifteen minutes demonstration of his equipment used to videotape the Transit of Venus, including the video from that event and also a separate one of the re-appearance of the asteroid Ceres from behind the Moon.

Jay introduced our guest speaker, Bruce Bradley Librarian for History of Science at the Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering and Technology, who spoke about the library’s rare books on astronomy. The Linda Hall Library, located just two hundred yards west of Royall Hall, is the world’s foremost independent research library devoted to science, engineering and technology.

Title Page of Starry Messenger by Gallileo

The collection Mr. Bradley oversees is kept in the Helen Foresman Spencer Rare Book Room in the History of Science Center at the library which is open to the public Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. An appointment is not necessary for individual readers and visitors, but groups are advised to make an appointment in advance of a proposed visit.

In February of 2004, several ASKC members visited and marveled at these well preserved treasures:

  • The oldest book in the place printed by Nicolas Jenson in Venice in 1472, Pliny the Elder’s (23-79 AD) Naturalis Historiae Liber open to a section entitled”CAII PLYNII SECVNDI NATURALIS HISTORIAE LIBER X,” subtitled”De Natura auium Cap. i.” Beginning with a beautifully illuminated capital S in blue, red, green and gold, the colors appeared to have barely faded in 532 years.
  • Tycho Brahe’s Astronomiae Instauratae Progymnasmata from 1602 open to a star map showing the location of the supernova
    of 1572 in Cassiopeia.
  • Galileo’s Dialogo, printed in Florence,”Per Gio: Batista Landini,” 1632., displaying a Copernican diagram of the Solar System showing orbits of the planets, the Moon and the four large moons of Jupiter that Galileo discovered.
  • A handwritten observational journal of William Herschel open to a section containing observations of Saturn with drawings, formulas and figures.
  • A very large format book with a full-color, two-page drawing of Tycho’s observatory, labeled Stellaeburgum (also called Uraniborg) as it appeared in 1558.
On of Galileo’s illustrations/engravings of the Moon

At the October general meeting, Mr. Bradley started with a history of the founding of the library.  He then showed us many images taken of the rare books in the collection.  He also related interesting and intriguing stories about the men who wrote these early science books.  We even got a crash course in the Gutenberg printing process, right down to the materials used for the bindings, the paper and the ink.  Mr. Bradley spent quite a bit of time paging through a couple of Galileo‘s books (see excerpt at right) and explaining the challenges Galileo and his printer faced in publishing his ground-breaking astronomical observations and conclusions confirming Copernicus‘ theory of a sun-centered universe (solar system).

He concluded his talk with a question and answer session and an invitation to the Library to see these treasures first hand. I plan to make a trip during lunch to the Linda Hall library’s current exhibit, called ‘On Time: The Question for Precision‘ featuring revolutions in time keeping within the next week or so.

Excellent review from Far Beyond Reality on Janny WurtsInitiate’s Trial, which I read about this time last year. I awarded the novel, the ninth in the Wars of Light and Shadow series, five stars at GoodReads, but never felt adequate to the task of writing a worthy review.  I highly recommend all of Stefan Raets’ reviews and regularly participate in the Beyond Reality GoodReads group where he is a moderator.  I also highly and heartily recommend the fantasy series the Wars of Light and Shadow by Janny Wurts.  Some of the best writing I’ve read, bar none.

Movie Review: Machine Gun Preacher (2011)

Machine Gun Preacher (2011)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Disturbing to watch, and not just because of the language and violence.  I cannot endorse ‘the ends justify the means’ as proclaimed by the real Childers during the end credits.

Gerard Butler definitely hit the nail on the head with his portrayal of Sam Childers.  Michelle Monaghan also performed well as his wife, Lynn, and provided at least one beacon of Christian grace.

I recommend perusing this review from which resonates with my feelings and conclusions after ‘sleeping’ (restlessly) on the viewing of Machine Gun Preacher.  The only bit I disagreed with involved the amount of sexuality protrayed in the film.  First, the sex was between Sam and his wife.  Second, nothing explicit is shown on screen.  After scanning through the positive comments, I found a reference to an excellent essay (an excerpt from On Combat by by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman) called On Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs which I do highly recommend.

Youngest Slimmest Moon Sliver Yet

The new Moon occurred at 7:02 a.m. Monday October 15, 2012.  Since sunset on Monday occurred less than twelve hours after the new moon, I didn’t even bother searching the western horizon for an assuredly invisible sliver of the young moon.  Besides, we were still finishing up the hanging of the new garage doors.

Tuesday evening, after a quick repast of leftover grilled chicken and some frozen veggies (reheated of course), I gathered up my camera equipment and my binoculars and went in search of a good observing site.  I ended up just past the entrance to Mt. Muncie Cemetery, with a clear view of the horizon, overlooking the local Home Depot and the Hallmark plant.

The clouds became a concern, obscuring my early efforts to locate the slim sliver of the young waxing moon.  I appreciate clouds for their sunset value (see photo and album below), but they just get in the way when I’m hunting the young moon or Mercury (which happened to be very close to the moon Tuesday evening).  While I continued to take photos of the sunset, I used my binoculars to scan southwest and vertical along the ecliptic, hoping to catch a glimpse of the moon through the clouds.  Ten minutes after sunset, I stumbled across the sliver in my binoculars, so beautiful and almost filling my field-of-view (if it had been a full moon).  Stunning sliver, so slim and delicate, peeking through some dark purple blue clouds, took my breath away.  This has to be the youngest thinnest moon I’ve observed yet.

First sighting of Waxing Crescent Moon: 7:51 p.m. Tuesday 16 Oct 2012

24 hrs + 12 hrs + 49 mins = 36 hrs 49 mins


Ten minutes later:


Meanwhile, just a bit to the right, a nice sunset continued:

Mid-October Sunset
Mid-October Sunset (click image for rest of album)

Swan Lake of Stars

Last week I posted about counting stars, assuming I’d have ample opportunities to star gaze any evening, thanks to one of the worst droughts since the early 20th century.  And that same evening, a week ago on Monday the 8th of October, I took my binoculars with me to the backyard at 8:30 p.m. and let my eyes adjust for night vision for fifteen or twenty minutes.  A few wispy clouds striated the night sky and a high school football game just a block away to my northeast made for less than stellar seeing.  I estimated I could see fourth magnitude stars in the constellation Cygnus, but knew I could see better if the conditions improved bit.  I’ve seen more stars in that constellation from the exact same spot in the past, including last year’s star count.  I decided not to report my findings on the 8th to the Great World Wide Star Count web site, opting to observe on a succeeding evening.

As the week wore on, I began to despair.  Clouds rolled in on Tuesday or Wednesday and stubbornly blocked the sky, but didn’t drop much rain, until Sunday morning.  I am overjoyed for the rain, but disappointed at the lost observing opportunities.  Rain all day, but please dissipate when the sun sets.

Installing Garage Doors - Sunday MorningMy next opportunity to observe came Sunday evening, after a long day of hanging garage doors.  We called it quits around 8:30 p.m. and sent my dad home to get some rest just after 9:00 p.m.  I didn’t remember about the star count until Monday morning, when I stepped outside and saw Venus, Jupiter, Sirius, the Pleiades and Orion for the first time in a week.  I went back in and got my binoculars for a quick fix of planet, star, open cluster and nebula observing before leaving on the morning work commute.

Monday evening, I got home to more progress on the garage doors and wispy clouds during sunset.  Grrr.  I took Apollo on a short walk after eight o’clock.  During our walk, I kept trying to look up at Cygnus, but with it being directly overhead, I risked tripping over something if I tilted my head back far enough to observe.  Once back home, I went right back outside and laid down on my patio.  After fifteen minutes or so, I determined I could see fourth and possibly some fifth magnitude stars in the constellation.

I texted my husband, asking him to bring me my binoculars.  I didn’t want to get up (still very sore from the garage door project and my strength training exercise class at work) and/or ruin my night vision.  He graciously brought them to me, and I went looking for the double cluster in Perseus.  I think I found it, but I couldn’t’ confirm it because my star atlas was locked in the backseat of the car on the other side of the house, where I’d left it after my final stint as a volunteer staff member at a Powell Observatory public night.  Saturday night, the one where thunderstorms and lightning further discouraged star gazing.

Tonight, after raking the front lawn under the odious burr oak tree, I will try to catch the new moon just after sunset and then drive to northwest Leavenworth County to places I frequented in my youth.  I will repeat the star count and compare notes, so to speak.

If you haven’t observed and reported your star count findings yet, you still have four days.  The deadline is this Friday, October 19, 2012.

Movie Review: The Hunger Games (2012)

The Hunger Games (2012)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Better than the book, barely.  I read the book and gave it three stars.  I knew then, when I finished reading it, that a movie would deliver more impact in some respects, and it does.  I missed some of the back-story (although the first book doesn’t give you much to work with).  The book did provide a better window and more intimately through Katniss’ eyes and thoughts, into the plight of the ‘citizens’ of the Districts.

I have gripes with the casting though.  Peeta in no way convinced me of his strength or of even being a baker’s son.  Same goes for Gale, only I thought the casting went over-the-top the other way on that one.

I noticed from the credits that the author, Suzanne Collins, had her fingers in most of the pots, including as an executive producer, so I really have no quibble with deviations from the written vision.

I will say I was a bit disappointed by the special affects, which seemed on par with a television show and not a ‘normal’ science fiction film.

Movie Review: Taking Chance (2009)

Taking Chance (2009)

4 out of 5 stars

Truth may be stranger than fiction, but it is an arrow aimed straight for your heart and cannot be denied or denigrated.  Films based on actual events have an allure I can’t seem to resist and Taking Chance caught me with its simplicity and humility.

I am struggling this morning to write this review.  I can’t see my screen very well.  It keeps blurring out of focus as I continue to tear up.  Yes, I’m a sentimental fool, but I’m also a mother.  I watched the DVD extras and I’m amazed at the strength of Chance’s mother.  From the home videos and family memories related there, I could easily see a reflection of my son Derek, who was born just two years after Chance.  They had similar interests, personalities and capabilities.  This story could easily have been my story had Derek made different choices.

I would agree with most of what I found under the ‘Critical Reception’ heading at Wikipedia, especially with respect to the ‘apolitical nature’ of the film:

One review from The Baltimore Sun, said that it “… is one of the most eloquent and socially conscious films the premium cable channel has ever presented,” and USA Today, said “A small, almost perfectly realized gem of a movie, Taking Chance is also precisely the kind of movie that TV should be making.” On the other end is Slant Magazine, saying “Instead of well-drawn characters or real human drama, we are presented with a military procedural on burial traditions. The film desperately wants the viewer to shed tears for its fallen hero without giving a single dramatic reason to do so.”

The film was the most-watched HBO original in five years, with over two million viewers on the opening night, and more than 5.5 million on re-airings. Critics often attribute this success to its apolitical nature, not directly depicting nor offering an opinion of the Iraq War.

Critical Reception, Taking Chance, Wikipedia

I found it refreshing to hear the name Phelps and not have to cringe.  Imagine my relief when the marine’s funeral proceeded without blemish and no apparent protest from the other Phelps of Westboro fame (or shame).

I also found this film more recommendable and uplifting than a similar ‘based on a true story’ tale I watched about eighteen months ago called The Tillman Story.

I may add this film to my library so that I can watch it each Memorial Day.  A reminder of all our soldiers, past and present, who gave the ultimate gift to preserve our freedoms and keep us safe at home.

Semper fidelis.

Second Year in the Life of My Blog

I’m two days late getting my annual review post composed and published.  I seem to be forming a pattern as I did the nearly the same thing last year, although I was twice as late then.

The following are high (and low) lights from the past year’s worth of blog posts:

October 2011

November 2011

December 2011

January 2012

February 2012

March 2012

April 2012

May 2012

June 2012

July 2012

August 2012

September 2012

October 2012

Star Light, Star Bright, May I Count You All Tonight?

I missed the opportunity to count stars over the weekend.  Clouds obscured the heavens Friday and Saturday night, but I had absolutely no excuse not to step outside Sunday evening and participate in the Great World Wide Star Count.  Thank goodness that Sky & Telescope‘s Facebook feed reminded me with their article ‘A Star Count for Everyone‘ this morning.

I checked my local five day forecast and I should be able to find Cygnus and count stars tonight and Wednesday.  Tuesday, Thursday and especially Friday are iffy.  This year, I’m going to try to do it from a couple of different locations, not just my backyard (like I did last year).

Here’s all you need to know to participate:

All you’ll need are a clear evening sky sometime between October 5th and 19th, your own two eyes, and a set of simple star charts. First, download the handy five-page activity guide (available in 16 languages) and print the star charts. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you’ll be looking high up for the constellation Cygnus, and its Northern Cross asterism. If you’re south of the equator, the target area surrounds the Teapot in Sagittarius. Each of the seven maps shows stars down to a different magnitude limit, plus one for a cloudy sky.

Then, after stepping out under the early-evening sky and letting your eyes adjust to the darkness, match one of the charts to what you see overhead. Step back inside and report what you’ve found online. You’re done! (Unlike many contests, you can enter more than once! You might be surprised by how much the sky’s darkness can vary from night to night.)

A Star Count for Everyone, Sky & Telescope, Oct. 5, 2012