What Did You Do For Your Job Today?

Me: Built a couple of tables in the Data Warehouse, continued to be surprised at the rigidity of  Teradata, put off yet again that division-wide SOA meeting

These dudes: Spent the day arguing the merits of various landing sites for Curiosity (personally, I’m partial to Gale Crater)

Current career: 0

Planning for the future: +1

I meant to post something like this last week when the conference wrapped up…

Review: Tomorrow When The War Began by John Marsden

Tomorrow When The War BeganI learned of Tomorrow, When The War Began by John Marsden while trolling the Twitterverse. Cory Doctrow retweeted @Churba about a book and mentioned how great it was. That’s about all it took for me to find it at my local library and put it on reserve. I must also mention that I did cursory review on Amazon and I have to say that this is the first book I have seen there with a 5-star review, with more than 150+ reviews. Everybody can’t be wrong!

So I dive in an immediately, I am thinking Wolverines, Australian-style (BTW, they betnot mess up one of my all-time favorite movies with the 2011 remake). The book is classified as YA and the author does keep it simple. Not gory, not overly intense. But, he gave me a great feel for what it’s like to live “out in the country” in Australia. The scenery descriptions were spot on and I could imagine myself walking around the semi-civilized outback.

As for the story itself, I’ll rate it an “OK”. The premise is pretty clear. And after a little thought, I have to agree that a blitz against the Australians would catch the world by surprise. But, I would like to think that an invasion of this magnitude would kick off WWIII. Most stories I read are focused on the US, it was great to step outside of that comfort zone with Tomorrow.

And I am a sucker for apocalyptic stories. Having someone invade your country is just as good as zombies in my book. I pushed through to the end and found myself really caring for these kids. A very diverse bunch, each of them finding their way in their new reality. The protag is great. A girl (for a change), with the guts and determination to make some big moves for the group. I found each of the characters to be realistic and easily imagined a younger version of myself or a slightly older version of my kids in the same scenario.

I will be recommending this as a read for my daughter. Although, she finally agreed to read the 1st Harry Potter and I must take that opportunity while it exists. Maybe this can be on-deck after the Sorcerer’s Stone.

After visiting the author’s site (http://www.johnmarsden.com.au/home.html), I saw that there was a movie for the book as well. It was released in Australia in 2010. Hopefully, it will make its way to US region DVDs/BluRays this summer. The trailer is below (pretty smokin!)

Sorry Shuttle, Mine Eyes Will Not See You Fly :(

For the longest time, I had “See a space shuttle flight” on my TODO list. There is only one more to go and unfortunately, I have not hit it big with a hot web app (90s’), nor a spectacular mobile app (00′s). Thus, there is no spare cash to flit me back and forth to Florida to catch an ever delayed launch (got to keep the day job). So, I’ll have to revise this particular TODO.

Hopefully, with the onset of some really exciting happenings in the commercial space flight arena, I may still get that opportunity to feel the rumble of thousands of pounds of thrust in my bones. SpaceX is leasing out Pad #40 and with the coming the Falcon 9 Heavy, I may get the opp to see a new Lunar or Martian mission push up and out of the gravity well.

And if I do eventually hit it big with the next goldrush in technology (nano?), maybe I’ll be able to afford to not only watch, but participate. Assuming that Mrs. Calrissian will allow me to see the dark side of the moon.

Image from Quest for Stars’ Senatobia-1 Mission: http://twitpic.com/photos/questforstars.

Review: The Lost Fleet: Beyond The Frontier, Dreadnaught by Jack Campbell

The Lost Fleet: Beyond The Frontier, Dreadnaught (note: I did not read this book in a few days, but completed it before I could post the review of the last one)

I absolutely devoured the first Lost Fleet series. A great “realistic” version of space battle (no super weapons here, just pure physics). And although I was about burnt out by time I read the last book (which was somewhat of a let down), I was excited to hear about the new series.  The Lost Fleet: Beyond The Frontier, Dreadnaught by Jack Campbell continues with more of the same. However, it’s subpar to the first series thus far.

The first third of the book is focused on politics. What’s the alliance going to do now that Black Jack has brought the fleet home and won the war? Which senators or other members of the government are conspiring against Geary? What about at fleet headquarters? Geary and Captain Desjani debate and counterdebate with other leading members of the fleet as they also take on their new mission: seek out the enigma race and find out what they want.

Once the fleet gets underway, the action picks up pretty quickly. And in trademark Campbell style, the author does a great job of making a days long encounter exciting and fun. But where the first series had a lot of intrigue and mystery in between the battles as the fleet tried to fight their way home, this new novel has some pretty boring “in betweens”. I felt like much of the time was setup for what we will see further down the line in the series. The story ends with a lot of unanswered questions. So I’m holding my breath right now…

I’m going to hold off my final verdict for now…and we’ll see after book 2 (8 in the total series)…

When you have a sec, be sure to visit the author’s web site (under his real name, John Hemry; Campbell is a pseudonym):

http://www.johnghemry.com/

Review: Center of Gravity: Star Carrier, Book Two by Ian Douglas

Center of Gravity: Star Carrier, Book TwoA decent follow-up to the first novel in this series. Center of Gravity: Star Carrier, Book Two by Ian Douglas continues the human push against the Sh’daar and their proxy warrior races in battles between the stars.

I reviewed the first book in the series a few weeks ago and I had the follow up waiting on the “to read” pile. There are no surprises here. The main characters continue to fight. The aliens continue to press against humanity. More explosions. More space battles. Some character development. Except this time, the humans take the fight to foreign territory. Overall I was a little let down though. Maybe it’s because I have been reading too many books in this genre for quite a while. But, parts of the story just seemed to be out of focus. For humans to be so near transcendence, they still come across things that wow them.

And here is another example: there is a scene where a couple of characters are speculating on why the Sh’daar want to block the GRIN technologies: “Maybe part of the Sh’daar has transcended and those left behind are mad about it” (in so many words).  And sure enough a few pages later, we get some hints from the alien side that that is exactly what has happened. Really? We humans are so smart. Okay.

I guess I am becoming a much more discriminating reader. I want deep intrigue. I want something to twist my mind around. I guess that’s what Inception has done to all of us. With all of that said, if this is a trilogy, I will be reading the next one.

Titanium Rain Is Coming True

A few years ago, I was browsing around one of Columbus’ best comic shops and stumbled upon a great graphic novel. Titanium Rain, by Josh Finney (author) and Kat Rocha (illustrator), chronicles a combat pilot that’s a part of an elite unit that has undergone cybernetic enhancements to increase their combat potential.

The timeline: in the near future

The battlefield: a Chinese civil war (I love the name Jade Empire)

Throw in a few early prototype mechas & some UCAS (Unmanned Combat Air System) and you have the makings of a great story!

So while I wait on volume 2 of the story to be delivered, I read at Wired the other day that the next step in the evolution of the UCAS had its maiden voyage earlier in the week. Boeing’s Phantom Ray will have a 1500 mile range, will be able to fly up to mach 0.85 and will serve as a hunter/killer, a reconnaissance platform, and/or an electronic warfare sentinel. I envision that for many near-future battles, UCAS hardware like the Phantom Ray will become the military’s tip of the spear (a role currently served by cruise missiles).

Stealthy and quick, the looks of the Phantom Ray alone will strike fear into the hearts of any enemy on the wrong side of America’s wrath. I’ve said it before, I would not want to go up against the US anytime soon.

Review: Day by Day Armageddon, Beyond Exile (Book 2) by J. L. Bourne

Day by Day Armageddon, Beyond Exile (Book 2)The first book in this series is another book I finished just before I returned back to the helm of GC. And the first novel had me riveted. I am a big zombie fan and I was struck by the diary style telling of the death of the world. Beyond Exile, Book 2 continues the story of our daring and ever lucky protag in a world being dominated by a zombie outbreak. “Ever lucky?” you say…

Yes. As much as I liked the first entry, the second was not as good. In the first, the escape scenes were real and daring. Believable. In this edition…Well let just say Al Qaeda. Really?

I made it about halfway through the book before I turned on the fast forward. This was partially due to the cross-country dodge and evade scenes which dominate the 2nd half of the book. I could only take so much of the close calls and the hours long watch and wait scenarios whilst the protag looked for a safe place to sleep.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If this were to happen for real, then life would probably line up with this book at 95%, minus the “ever luckiness”. Each day would be a struggle between staying quiet to avoid the zombie love and finding food, water, and resources to stay alive. For a book, it just got sort of boring.

If Mr. Bourne writes a 3rd book to complete the trilogy (which the ending leads me to believe), then I’ll definitely be reading it. I’d love to see how the story wraps up.

And let me say this too, for a web serial that turned into a novel and possibly a trilogy, I wish Bourne all the best. It’s stuff like this that will break writers out from under the publishing worlds discriminating embrace. Be sure to visit his website: http://www.tacticalunderground.us/.

And one final thing. The protag wondered about the fate of the crew on the space station at the start of the outbreak. I wondered too…

http://ficly.com/stories/24993

What’s Up @ NASA?

Last week, I put on my first JPL Solar System Ambassador event for this year. It was a brand new presentation I put together called, “What’s Up @ NASA?”. The aim was to highlight some of NASA’s current missions (there is much more going on than just the Space Shuttle) and to talk about what’s to come in the future. We (and I say we, because I had much help from the fam) held the presentation at the New Albany branch of the Columbus Library (the best library in the country, and I’m not just saying that!).

I timed the event for 5PM to catch the after school crowd as well as after work people. And it was a huge success! We had about 65 people to attend. Students, parents, and even a few grand-parents.

Big contributors to the level of attendance were the middle and high school teachers at the New Albany school district. I sent a few teachers a flyer for the event and the week before the presentation they were sending copies home with all of the students! It helped that they offered extra credit to students if they attended!

This was my 3rd or 4th event in the last few years and it felt really great. A nice change of pace from the drudgery of building and loading millions of rows of data in my company’s Data Warehouse at the day job. A few students stayed behind to ask questions, which is always nice. It’s not every day you get to meet kids that are geeky and into the sciences.

I look forward to putting on my next presentation. If you are in the area, drop me a line and I’ll keep you posted on the date and time…

Review: Earth Strike, Star Carrier – Book One by Ian Douglas

Earth Strike: Star Carrier, Book OneSpace battles, future tech, hidden alien enemies. Earth Strike: Star Carrier, Book One by Ian Douglas is a good dose of space based action adventure for the military soul. And it’s just what I was looking for at the time.

This book has been showing up in my “You also may like…” rotation when I search for new books to read. The trilogy is the most recent incarnation of space militarism from Ian Douglas in a long line of his other future soldier series. The Earth Strike series focuses on Navy pilots and humungoid star carriers as opposed to the dirtside trodding space marine. So you can expect to see lots of “high flying” action and battle sequences. While the descriptive drudgery of the various space manuevers can get boring at times, it shows that Douglas put a lot of effort into translating his battles into real world physics. Even if that physics includes creating and manipulating mini-black holes at will.

I found the story quite engaging. I took a quick liking to the main characters (there are more than one) and Douglas does a great (but at times slow) job of delving into their backgrounds (at least one in much detail). Compared to other military sci-fi novels, I would place this to sit in the middle of the pack. A pretty good read. A definite weekender or vacation take-along. Just don’t expect to be wowed with any new or exciting concepts.

And what is it with scif-fi author’s and their 1990′s websites. Mr. Douglas (note: this is a pseudonymn for William Keith), please hire a fresh web designer to spruce up your site and bring it into the 21st century.

When Book Covers Fib

I know. I know. Don’t judge a book by its cover. This age old adage rings true in a number of life’s scenarios. And when taken literally with actual novels, the meaning really hits home. However, I recently read the novel, Kop by Warren Hammond (I finished it just before I started blogging again). This was a great book!

True grit, anti-heroes, and a great detective story to boot. I have to admit, the cover design (by the talented Christian McGrath, whose repertoire includes other popular titles like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series) caught my eye. When I saw the book on the shelf in the bookstore, I thought, “Hmm. That looks quite interesting. Why is that city so dirty and crowded? Who pissed off that dude? Is that his girlfriend? Why is he carrying?”

KOP by Warren Hammond

After a quick barcode scan with the iPhone I pulled up the reviews on Amazon. From there it shot to the top of my must-read-next list.

So a few days later, I settle into the book and after reading through the “self-description” of the main character, I’m a little taken aback. Juno describes himself as:

“slightly darker than average skin and barely kinked hair were the last remnants of my diluted African blood.”

What?! This was certainly a welcome surprise. It’s not often that I read a scifi novel where the main character isn’t white.

But this description did not square with the cover. Juno is not some rough and tumble non-latin looking white guy that I originally imagined. After reading through the author’s description, my mind’s eye saw something like the picture of Laz Alonso at right instead…

Why is this? Juno’s ethnicity has nothing to do with the story. It’s just who he is. The fact that he is of African descent is only mentioned in the story when the author needs to describe how Juno looks to the reader. That’s it!

Personally, I was very impressed that most all of the characters in the book were of one hue or another and not just cornbread white with cornbread white names and cornbread white backgrounds: Jim, John, Robert, Sarah, Jane, Emily. In my opinion, Hammond did a great job with fleshing out a more realistic and likely future where all of humanity has expanded out into the stars and not just white Americans.

So why the switcharoo on the cover art? Why not use an image of Juno that the author writes as having “brown” skin? Would the novel have been less appealing to a book shopper with a “minority” on the cover? Does it matter?

The purpose of the cover art is to attract the eye of a casual browser (like me). It should say, “HEY! Over here!” And once it has your attention, it should give you some semblance of what you will encounter as you dive into its covers. The cover for KOP definitely did that for me. But…but….but….

I don’t have an answer for this. I don’t think I even have an opinion. I thought that I had long reached the place where these types of quirks about race and ethnicity didn’t bother me much. America will be America. But, here I am blogging about it. I would love to hear a comment or two from the author or the artist. Maybe they’ll stumble across this blog entry.

What do you think?

Drop me a comment…

Review: Ex-KOP by Warren Hammond

Ex-KOPWhat better way to get back into blogging than with a book review. Over the past year, I have read at least 30 books. And while, I’m not going to go back and retro-review each of them, Ex-KOP by Warren Hammond will give you a good insight into what I have been reading.

This novel is the sequel to KOP which I finished reading a few weeks back. It continues the story of the ultimate anti-hero, Juno Mozambe. Kicked out of KOP (the law on his planet Lagarto), Juno struggles to make ends meet while flying with no cover, a sick wife, and an even worse anger management problem than the last book. Hammond is a pretty good writer and the story plays out very well. I hate when a plot is so obvious that you always feel two steps ahead of the writer. And while you may think you know what’s going on in Ex-KOP, Hammond does a great job of reveals on a need-to-know basis.

I particularly love the characters and their language. Each one plays an important piece in the story and no one is wasted. All of the pieces in this puzzle fit neatly together.

With this only being Hammond’s second novel, he’s definitely hit a nice groove. As I told you a few years back, I am a hard scifi junkie. This book fits my tastes to a T. I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

My only negative. The novel cover matches the feel of the story in all aspects except for one. I’ll address that in another post…

On a sidenote, do not visit the author’s website (http://www.warrenhammond.net/index.htm). It’s stuck in 1998 and may cause your modern browser to laugh and cackle at you.

Note to Mr. Hammond: use some of your royalties and get someone to build you an updated site. Just 1 page or 2 will do.

OK. I’m back…

I doubt that I have many people on the internets checking this blog everyday waiting to see if I have any new posts. If you are one of those people, I love you! It’s hard to believe that it has been almost a year (to the day) since my last post. Things got busy at work, one thing led to another, and before I knew it, I had not posted anything to GC for a long while.

So, I’m back now. I’m still a reading fool, so you can still expect to see my book reviews (although I may switch to something other than LibraryThing). I’m also getting back into my JPL Solar System Ambassador kick. I have a few presentations lined up. I’ll post my thoughts and some pics here later.

And oh yeah…I will be experimenting with the theme for the blog (WordPress! You have come a long way…)

Image via Flickr user Jelly Dude…

GeekDad: Future Space Jobs

geekdadnewlogoIt has been more than a while since I had a post on GeekDad. I thought of this one the other day as I realized that we are getting closer to having a true space economy. Check me out!

http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2010/04/10-space-jobs-from-the-near-future/

Review: Prophets: Apotheosis (Book One) by S. Andrew Swann

Prophets: Apotheosis (Book One)A great introduction for me to another scifi author and a new universe. I’ll be picking up the rest of the trilogy for sure. Be sure to visit the author’s site: http://www.sandrewswann.com/

Check out my review

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.