Golden Age of Science Fiction: Sir Arthur C. Clarke

A Fall of Moondust

A Fall of Moondust

A Fall of Moondust

A lot has been written about Sir Arthur C. Clarke (he was knighted in May of 2000). He wrote 2001 A Space Odyssey, which grew out of his short story The Sentinel. I also read Rendezvous with Rama. Fortunately I did not read those books first. I found everything to do with the Rama mythos and novels boring, over done and just dry as can be. Sacrilege I know but they are just not to my taste. And clearly Sir Arthur C. Clarke loves the idea because he wrote several incarnations of it.

The first novel I read of Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s was A Fall of Moondust. I found it absolutely fascinating. The descriptions of the moondust and its effects on the mechanical apparatus of the vehicles were superb. The characterizations were a bit weak but still, I was young and it was the first of his novels I’d read.

Because I found A Fall of Moondust so much to my liking I went searching for anything else of his I could get my grubby little hands on. I read The City and The Stars and The Deep Range. I loved many of his short stories: The 9 Billion Names of God, A Meeting With Medusa and The Star all captured my imagination and made me think about things.

I recently bought and read Richter 10 by Sir Arthur C. Clarke and Mike McQuay and while there were moments of brilliance, I found it just overwrought with murky characters who were at best disagreeable and at worst completely sociopathic. There were places in that book where I could actually tell what Clarke had written because the style was his style. It was a good idea that got too caught up in intrigue and clever characters that dragged the story down and made it a slog to get through. So much time was spent setting up these awful characters that the ending was anticlimactic. Not enough time was spent on the science fiction part.

What was supposed to be a paradigm shift in the reader’s idea of what it means to be human, of what life and death are, falls flat because very little time is spent in the story even mentioning this very important aspect of the plot. Instead too much time spent on introducing and developing these ugly characters so the reader is left with a bad taste in their mental mouth about characters possibly cheating death, rather than what it means to be human and to be alive.

I, personally, find that I like the earlier, hard science fiction that Clarke wrote. I didn’t and still don’t much care for the later stuff that gave rise to and became 2001. I feel that Clarke’s work is strongest when he is working with the science fiction, the speculative fiction of his stories. He postulated the proper orbits for the communications satellites. The geosynchronous orbit that our modern technological civilization relies on is named after him: It’s called the Clarke belt. This man was and could still be a true visionary.

The City and The Stars

The City and The Stars

This is not to say that he doesn’t have anything to say about things like religion and politics. The short story The Star is very thought provoking. But he shouldn’t let that part of the story run away with the entire work. He is strongest in his craft when he maintains a balance between how deeply he delves into his characters and how clearly he presents the science fiction. K.

My Life List, Such As It Is

Earthgrazer: Above is a colorful example of a Perseid meteor (from the Perseid meteor shower of 1993). This type of meteor is known as an "Earthgrazer." Earthgrazers enter the sky from below the horizon, skim the atmosphere horizontally and leave a colorful and long trail. Earthgrazer meteors are seen in the early night, just after 9 p.m. Even though the colors in this image have been enhanced, they are representative of the colors seen when the meteor streaked across the sky. 

Image Credit and Copyright: S. Kohle & B. Koch (Astron. I., U. Bonn)

Earthgrazer: Above is a colorful example of a Perseid meteor (from the Perseid meteor shower of 1993). This type of meteor is known as an "Earthgrazer." Earthgrazers enter the sky from below the horizon, skim the atmosphere horizontally and leave a colorful and long trail. Earthgrazer meteors are seen in the early night, just after 9 p.m. Even though the colors in this image have been enhanced, they are representative of the colors seen when the meteor streaked across the sky.  Image Credit and Copyright: S. Kohle & B. Koch (Astron. I., U. Bonn)

Earthgrazer: Above is a colorful example of a Perseid meteor (from the Perseid meteor shower of 1993). This type of meteor is known as an “Earthgrazer.” Earthgrazers enter the sky from below the horizon, skim the atmosphere horizontally and leave a colorful and long trail. Earthgrazer meteors are seen in the early night, just after 9 p.m. Even though the colors in this image have been enhanced, they are representative of the colors seen when the meteor streaked across the sky.
Image Credit and Copyright: S. Kohle & B. Koch (Astron. I., U. Bonn)

I told you, gentle reader, that I would post about my life list when I wrote about getting to see Cirque du Soleil “O” in Las Vegas. There are many topics I want to blog about and I have very limited time right now. Rest assured I have not forgotten about the Golden Age of Science Fiction series I’m doing.

As for my Life List, it is brief really, because I haven’t really sat down and thought about things I want to do while I have the time to do them. There are a few things I’ve wanted to do though and I would like to share them with you so that you might get an idea that life lists are intensely personal, there is no wrong way to do a life list (well unless it includes things that are illegal, harmful to others or cause pain to those around you).

First up: When I was young I read a story about a little girl who got to see the Leonids with her grandmother. Ever since I read that story the idea captured my imagination to see a meteor shower. I’m happy to say that I did. In fact I’ve seen the Peseids several times now.

In the same vein, I saw a comet too. Comet Hyakutake passed very near the Earth in 1996 and was visible to the naked eye. We drove up to the International Rose Test Garden and watched it from there. Which reminds me: Comet ISON is supposed to be visible starting in December of this year and I hope to get a glimpse of that one too.

I would like to see the Northern Lights. Someday I hope to. There have been a couple of times this past year when they’ve been bright enough to be visible quite a ways south but not in my area, or not bright enough to cut though the surrounding light pollution, or it was overcast. One of these days though I hope to see them.

Cirque du Soleil was spectacular and I loved it. You can read my review here.

US National Figure Skating Championships: 2005. I love figure skating and I’ve been to many events but this one was a week of amazement.

Disney Land: It really is the happiest place on Earth.

The Circus: I had never been as a child and I loved going. It was fun.

Write a book: Yes. In The Flesh is one of my books. I’m currently working on the sequel.

I would like to get to Hawaii or some Island in the Caribbean at some point.

Concerts: Erasure, yes. Pink Floyd, yes. Owl City, Yes. David Crowder Band, yes. Newsboys, yes. Sean Cassidy (it was a long time ago, ok?) yes.

I would like to get to Comic Con, World Con and G-Fest at some point. That’s about all I’ve got for now. I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing my list and I’d love to hear some of your ideas for your own. K.

The Latest News for Comet ISON

Hubble's view of Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) on April 10, 2013. This image was taken in visible light. The blue false color was added to bring out details in the comet structure. Credit:NASA, ESA, J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute), and the Hubble Comet ISON Imaging Science Team

Hubble's view of Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) on April 10, 2013. This image was taken in visible light. The blue false color was added to bring out details in the comet structure. Credit:NASA, ESA, J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute), and the Hubble Comet ISON Imaging Science Team

Hubble’s view of Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) on April 10, 2013. This image was taken in visible light. The blue false color was added to bring out details in the comet structure. Credit:NASA, ESA, J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute), and the Hubble Comet ISON Imaging Science Team

NASA’s Hubble Telescope took an amazing shot of Comet ISON in April that shows its coma against the velvety backdrop of space. The coma is already approximately 3,100 miles across (approx: 4,988.97 km). The really mind boggling thing about this is that early measurements indicate that the nucleus that is producing this enormous coma is no more than 3 or 4 miles across (4.828 to 6.437 km).

There is some speculation that it could get as bright as the full moon come late November, early December after it skims a bare 700,000 miles (1,126,540.8 km) above the surface of the sun on November 28th during the swing around before heading back out of the solar system.

For more information and to keep track look to NASA’s website.

“O” Cirque Du Soleil in Las Vegas

Cirque du Soleil "O"

Cirque du Soleil "O"

Cirque du Soleil “O”

Yes I went to Las Vegas this last weekend. I flew in Friday afternoon and spent my first night in sin city taking a relaxing bubble bath and eating bon-bon’s in my room. It was heavenly. Because really, when do I get to do something like that at home? There are always eleventy-billion things I need to do when I’m home. Not that I’m complaining, mind you, that’s just the way things are.

Speaking of heavenly; we got VIP tickets to see Cirque Du Soleil “O” at the theater in the Bellagio Saturday night. Seeing Cirque Du Soleil is one of my ‘bucket list’ items so of course I couldn’t pass up the chance to see it.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Sure I knew it was acrobatics and fantastic costuming. But that’s like saying a Ferrari is wheels with an engine. The music is live just like the rest of the performance and they planted people in the audience to tell the story.

The costumes and choreography along with the vocals and music and the emoting of the dancers, acrobats and actors was so amazing, so purely beautiful that I was moved to tears more than once. Granted I’m a softie but this was so incredible, so beautiful it was as close to perfection as I can imagine anything being.

I use these words and they pale in comparison to what the experience was like. There is a nameless emotion that takes over when you are in the presence of a performance of such exquisite artistry that takes over and lifts you with it to a place of deep gratitude for being permitted to witness it. The last time I was moved by a performance like this was when Anissina and Peizerat were skating for the Olympics.

Cirque du Soleil has 7 shows in Las Vegas, I believe. We saw the “O” show which involved a lot of water. The genius behind it is evident in every motion of the acrobats, dancers and everyone involved. The costuming is out of this world and even though there are very few spoken lines, the characters come to life through the motions and expressions of the actors and actresses.

The amazing things they did with dance, the acrobatics and the contortionists were breathtaking. Every motion pushed the boundaries of what a human being could do, without ever sacrificing the beauty of it. I saw the most astounding examples of angular momentum, vector addition and parabolic trajectories I’ve ever seen. There is a purity to what they do that I cannot overstate. It is a purity of beauty, of art, of physics, of the human form, of music and dance that defies my grasp of language.

I am so happy that I got to see it. Given half a chance I would see Cirque du Soleil again. I’ll have to write a post about my personal “bucket list” since I’ve been slowly checking things off of it as the opportunity arises. If you get the chance, and you are at all interested in the performance arts, do see Cirque du Soleil. K.

Beth Sotelo colorist of Fathom and Soulfire, launches Kickstarter Project

Beth Sotelo's Grump

Beth Sotelo's Grump

Beth Sotelo’s Grump

Veteran comic book colorist, Beth Sotelo, renowned for her work on such titles as Michael Turner’s Fathom, Soulfire and Shrugged for Aspen Comics over a ten year span, has developed and introduced her own new original series entitled “Grump”, launching recently on Kickstarter.com with a debut 40-page fully illustrated graphic novel first -offering. A longtime passion project for Sotelo for many years, the creator describes “Grump”:

“Most neighborhoods have that one crazy house. Its wood is rotting and weeds are flourishing. No matter what time of day it is, it remains in the shadows. Maybe you aren’t afraid of that house, but you definitely won’t be trick-or-treating there–just to be safe.

That’s where Grump lives.

Grump doesn’t realize he is all alone, yet he knows that something isn’t right. Eventually, it takes a series of unusual circumstances for Grump to finally meet some neighborhood kids outside his comfort zone—and soon his world is completely shaken!

Like it or not, Grump. You’re going outside!”

“Grump” is created, written and fully illustrated by Beth Sotelo and the Kickstarter for the debut graphic novel is currently live now to pledge support. Incentive packages include PDF copies of the graphic novel, iron-on patches of the “Grump” characters, original hand-drawn “Grump” trading cards as well as “Grump” mini-prints by comic creators Joe Benitez, Keu Cha, Peter Steigerwald, Kizer Stone and Sotelo. The “Grump” graphic novel can be found at the following link:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sotelo/grump-the-loneliest-kid-on-your-block-until-now

Pacific Rim the Official Movie Novelization also a Sequel is in the works

Pacific Rim Promo

Pacific Rim Promo

Pacific Rim Promo

Director: Guillermo del Toro
Story: Travis Beacham
Screenplay: Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro
Novelization by Alex Irvine.

I got a chance to read and review the Pacific Rim official novelization and I am happy that I did. I’ve read a lot of books written from movies (mainly Star Trek novels) and generally I like whichever I get to experience first, book or movie. Not so with the Pacific Rim novel. The movie is far and away superior to the novel. Not that the novel isn’t good, mind you. It’s just that the movie is very action-packed and the book, by its very nature, moves more slowly. The movie can show you things that the book must describe and that, of necessity, slows the pace down.

I did enjoy the little extra tid-bits about the Antiverse and the Precursor race. There was a tiny bit more flavor about the characters but I liked what I got from the movie better. Alex Irvine did a top notch job of converting the movie to a novel, in fact the Pacific Rim novel follows the movie more faithfully than any other movie novelization I’ve read.

My only quibble were the spec sheets, or bits of the dossiers that were inserted between scenes. While they are informative and provide important plot points, they get a bit tedious towards the end. In fact in the final exciting battle I found they actually got in the way of the flow of the story.

All in all, I enjoyed reading the book but not as much as I enjoyed seeing the movie. Go see the movie. Go ahead and pick up the book too. K.

The Depression Quilt My Grandmother Made

Grandma's Depression Quilt

Grandma's Depression Quilt

Grandma’s Depression Quilt

My grandmother lived through the Great Depression. She was a child then and she, very rarely, told occasional snippets of what it was like. One thing that stuck with me was that her father was so proud that he let his family go hungry rather than accept assistance, which he called a “hand-out.” I have very mixed feelings about that. On the one hand having pride and wanting to pay your own way is admirable. On the other hand, if you are out of work through no fault of your own, is it really all that admirable to make your children go hungry for the sake of your own pride?

Those are my thoughts because grandma never complained. She mentioned these things to let us know how difficult things were back then and how proud people were and how desperate people had to be before they looked to the government for help. Grandma never judged anyone. She talked about how my great uncles, her brothers would make machines out of bits and pieces of scrap they found laying around. Nothing went to waste. My grandmother could look at an empty refrigerator and somehow make supper for 4. Hot buttered noodles with a bit of garlic are delicious.

One year for Christmas, in fact the first Christmas I spent with my new husband after my marriage, my Grandmother sent me a depression quilt she’d made for us that year. My Grandmother had terrible arthritis when she made this quilt and it is one of the most beautiful quilts I’ve ever seen. She made it by using a worn out top sheet from a king sized bed as the backing. For the top she stitched together a myriad of scraps and pieces from her sewing bag. The note she included with this wonderful gift explained that this is how quilts were made during the depression.

People couldn’t afford to buy blankets so women returned to the old ways of making quilts from scraps and blocks of cloth. Quilting became a big thing during the depression because it was something that women could make a living doing and it was a social thing too. Patterns were shared and tips and tricks printed in local newspapers. Many quilt patters were old family patterns and they have identifiable geometries. Not so the one my Grandmother made for me. This kind of depression quilt is special. It literally uses whatever scraps can be found in a sewing bag. For this kind of depression quilt, quilters used pieces from worn out clothing, old worn jackets, trousers, blankets and anything else they could get bits of cloth from. This made these kinds of quilts completely unique and individual. It is a beautiful gift, full of love and thoughtfulness.

There is something very special about a quilt that someone makes for you. I think there really is love in every stitch. It’s a tangible expression of my Grandmother’s love for us and I think of her fondly every time I put it on the bed. Yes, I use it. It was meant to be used and I love it. Maybe the day will come when I put it away, preserve it for future generations but for now it was made to be used and I think of Grandma and her love and how much I love her every time I put it on the bed. K.

Portland International Beerfest

Portland International Brewfest promo Poster from PIB FB Page

Portland International Brewfest promo Poster from PIB FB Page

Portland International Brewfest promo Poster from PIB FB Page

I don’t drink except for special occasions and the occasions I think are special are beer festivals (beerfests). Beerfests are fun and they are a way to try a lot of different beers without getting drunk or drinking more than I want to. One of our favorite beerfests is the Portland International Beerfest. We always meet the friendliest and kindest people at the beerfests. This year I tried a lot of different beers that were excellent and a couple that just weren’t to my liking.

The runaway winner for me was Nostradamus by Brasserie Caracole Brewery in Belgium (I do love Belgian beers). I got 4 tasters of it over the course of the day. Nostradamus is a Belgian Strong Ale and it is crisp and delicious with a hint of anise on the finish. The Belgian yeast comes through but is not too assertive. It’s perfect for a summer day.

Another excellent beer I tried for the first time was from Epic brewery: Epicurean Coffee and Fig stout. I’ve had quite a few coffee beers because I like stouts rather a lot. I’ve never had a coffee beer that was so faithful to the flavor of coffee. I could smell espresso in the aroma before I even took the first drink. The flavor did not disappoint, I tasted coffee with just a hint of sweetness from the fig. The fig was rather overwhelmed by the coffee flavor, which I am ok with because I love coffee.

I also tried Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout. Chocolate is another flavor that I’ve had in a lot of beers, once again because I favor stout beers. I’ve never had a beer that preserved the flavor of the chocolate like this one though. It wasn’t just a hint of dark chocolate in the finish of the beer, it was a chocolatey beer. It really tasted like chocolate and it was delicious. Cool, smooth, a bit malty and chocolaty; I really enjoyed it. I got 1.5 tasters of this one (the .5 involved a trade).

Next up: Mad Viking Night Raid (Cognac Barrel). I have to say I really enjoyed this beer. It was a heavy beer but then it is an Imperial Stout. It was really yummy with a bit of a bitterness on the finish. With an alcohol content of 11% I had to keep to just one taster of those–there were a lot of beers to try and I didn’t want to be too tipsy.

The beer that I tried and traded was Olvisholt Lava, a smoked Imperial Stout. It really did taste like liquid smoke. Thankfully my soul mate liked it a great deal so he traded me for his Organic Chocolate and that’s how I got .5 of a taster of that.

Feeling adventerous I tried the Dutchess de Bourgeon which is a Flander’s Red beer but this one was made with bourgeon and boy could I taste it. It was one of the most interesting beers I tried at this beerfest. The first taste was really delicious and a bit sweet but a good kind of sweet for beer. Then the middle taste was this weird flavor that made me think of roast beef and I realized it was the bourgeon that I was tasting. My brain kind of got all confused because my tastebuds wanted to like it but there was a funky finish that made my brain think of something that’s gone a bit past its good to eat date. I think it would be worth a try and it did get better as I drank more of it.

Brainless On Peaches Label from Epic website

Brainless On Peaches Label from Epic website

Sadly I made a tactical error in following this very strong flavored beer with a lighter beer. I went back to the Epic table and got their Brainless Peach beer and unfortunately it did not follow the Contessa very well at all. I found it disgusting but that could be because of the way the two beers mixed on my palette. A drink of water between those two tasters could have saved the day for the Brainless Peach beer. It was light and summery and I could get a hint of peach but it didn’t beat you over the head with it.

From there I moved on to Andech Brewery’s Dunkles Weissbier. That was delicious, smooth, light and just a wonderful beer. If I hadn’t been so taken by the Nostradamus I would have gotten another taster of this one.

Saison brewing caught my attention next with their Saison the Beach which was a Saison made with candied ginger and peppercorns. Now I have only myself to blame for this one because I know I don’t like pepper very much. I just thought there would be more ginger flavor in this beer and I really like ginger beers. A good, strong ginger flavor could be highlighted by a little bit of a peppercorn flavor but this beer was a strong peppercorn flavor. I couldn’t taste the ginger at all. There was almost no sweetness and no ginger flavor. It was smooth but not to my taste at all. Please note this is not a flaw of the beer, it is just that I don’t like peppercorns.

I tried to get a taste of Thor’s Hammer Barleywine but they sold out the first day. Alas. Another time. The nice thing is that this whole beerfest was sponsored by John’s Market and they’ll likely have a lot of these brews for sale. The Portland International Beerfest remains our favorite in 2013. K.

In My Garden: A Rose Called Distant Drums and Hummingbirds

Distant Drums bud

Distant Drums bud

Distant Drums bud

My garden is a source of great satisfaction, peace and joy for me. I have several rose bushes and one of my favorites is one named Distant Drums. It has a mauve, dusty rose color to the blooms that I find soothing and gorgeous. This week it has burst into bloom. I have some lovely pictures to share with you.

The hummingbirds are still visiting the Crocosmia Lucifer, much to my delight. I had planned on removing most of the flowers and moving the rest of them to other places but I’m going to hold off on that so long as the hummingbirds visit.

Hummingbird

Hummingbird

It has been quite dry here so I’ve had to water more than normal. My Gunnera isn’t grwoing as large as I would like but I suspect it’ll take a year or two to develop a large enough root system to produce the really huge leaves I’m looking for.

Gladiolus

Gladiolus

My gladiolus is blooming one at a time. I’ve got three coming on but they don’t look like they will bloom together. It keeps my garden pretty though to have different flowers blooming at different times.

I also have this gorgeous double flower daylily I got from a neighbor who was moving out and had some landscaping done. They were throwing away the plants and asked if I wanted any. Since I had a corner of my garden that needed a ground cover and I love flowers I accepted a few of them. Much like the Crocosmia Lucifer, these are naturalizing quite nicely. K.

Double flower daylily--name unknown

Double flower daylily–name unknown

Distant Drums in bloom

Distant Drums in bloom

Video: Adam Savage Meets Giant Robot at Comicon

Yes, Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame is at Comic Con (yet another of the myriad of reasons I wish I could be there) and he gets to meet a giant robot for the first time in this video.

Thanks to Wired, YouTube, Stan Winston School, Legacy Effects and Conde Nast Entertainment for this amazing robot and video. Plus Adam Savage is very cool.