Friday, June 29, 2018

Last Day on Mars (the book), by Kevin Emerson

NOTE:  this review is for the book by Kevin Emerson, not the unrelated movie with the same title

I enjoyed this book a lot. The setting and conflict are awesome. The technology's cool. The pacing for the last 2/3 is really good. Things keep going from bad to worse in a very edge-of-your-seat way. The voice in the prelude is fantastic.

I did think the tiny bit of "romance" is completely unnecessary and felt forced, like it was added after some editor said, "Hey, Kevin, you need romance. Every book needs romance." But every book doesn't. This would have been stronger without.

I personally don't like science fiction with time travel / time manipulation. I know, I know: any sufficiently developed technology looks like magic. But...I just don't like even the appearance of magic in my sci fi. However, it's very popular lately to add time travel / non-linear time / time manipulation in your sci fi, so if you don't mind it you'll love this book.

Even if you hate the time travel element, you'll still enjoy the book. It's well written and exciting and a great off-Earth adventure. It does end on cliff-hanger, so be prepared to read the next book (or wait for it to come out, as I must now) 

I certainly plan on reading more by Kevin Emerson.

More accurate rating: 4.5

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

How to Win Games and Beat People by Tom Whipple

This is a really interesting book, with information about--and quotes from the experts in--each discipline.  Some of this is rather tongue-in-cheek, especially about things like apple bobbing and stone skipping.  

I love the "how it ends" section for each game—most quite funny.  Good humor, but also physics, math, strategy, logic, and lots on strange tidbits.  Great book if you like games as much as I do. 

Oh, and thanks to this, I spent entirely too much time alternately laughing at and being amazed by, the AI internet program that can play twenty questions with you.  Go look it up. 

A very strong 4.5 stars.   

And just in case you can't read the subtitle, here's the whole thing:  "How to Win Game and Beat People; Demolish your family and friends at over 30 classic games with advice from an international array of experts."

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Old Dominion Park in Globe, Arizona

Cool old mining equipment at Old Dominion Park in Globe.  It's at the site of an old mine and you can see old ruins and read a lot of really interesting information about the history of the place and the industry.  There are also picnic tables, short hiking trails, a cool playground, and a frisbee golf course.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Saguaro Flowers and Ironwood Blossoms

Between Phoenix and Superior, Arizona, on May 13, all the little saguaros had flowery hats, and even the ironwood was blooming pale purple.  Lovely day.

Can you believe that each saguaro flower blooms for only one night (and into the next day) and then closes up?  It's tragically beautiful.  Here you can see the ones yet to bloom, the ones that opened the night before, and the ones who have already done their duty. 

The ironwood tree isn't showy, but it's beautiful.  It's the first year I remember seeing so many ironwood blossoms (or maybe I just didn't know what they were before).  However, they only bloom when conditions are right, so maybe this WAS the best year I've seen. 

Friday, June 1, 2018

South Mountain Night Hike, late April

Sunset light on an almost-blooming saguaro,
South Mountain Park, Phoenix, April 28:

The lights of Phoenix:

We did the Mormon Trail-Fat Man's Pass-Hidden Valley loop from the Mormon Trailhead.  It was a great short jaunt and a peaceful evening.  But...we couldn't find a single scorpion with black light.  It was kinda creepy.  (Now that I read that back, it seems weird to be creeped out by NOT finding scorpions, but there it is.  Where were they all?  A scorpion convention?  See...THAT is creepy.)