Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Reading Stephen King

My oh my. How time flies. My first Stephen King novel was the doorstopper Under the Dome, published in November 2009 and probably read shortly thereafter when the OCR'd copies were still pretty crappy.

Maybe that's what colored my perception of the book. But then I read other reviews on Goodreads, and I realize that it probably wasn't the quality of the OCR. The book could be divided into two parts. The first showed the characters reacting to the dome's appearance, while the second... I don't even want to think about the second part. It was just that bad. The ending... It was not well-written, and I feel like I was cheated by the lack of foreshadowing. Maybe there were some hints, but I doubt it.


Turning my attention to the present time, I managed to finish reading Bag of Bones from September 1998. My interest in this book was first sparked by the A&E miniseries of the same name, but the first copy I got was a whopping 1400 pages long. Yeah. That number does not inspire excitement towards reading the book. The next copy was a lot more manageable at 770 pages. In May, I started to read the book. And promptly forgot to finish it until about 3 days ago.

I think it was the beginning that got me for a while. It was slow, but I think that it was a good kind of slow, showing the difficulties of the main character that led him to return to his little cabin by the lake where all of the really good stuff happened. The book had a lot of twists and turns, and even though I ended up awake at 4 in the morning today (and had been awake for about 25 hours), I couldn't put it down. I had to see what happened to the characters. I feel like even though 11 years separated these two books, Bag of Bones stood out as being better written.


Just curious, but have you guys read anything by Stephen King? And if so, what books and what did you think about them?

Images from Goodreads, with links to the books in question.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Haboobs, Monsoons, and New Pools

As many of you can guess, Phoenix, Arizona is hot in the summer. Temperatures will hover around 110 degrees, and even the shade provides little relief. Summer is a time to stay inside or find a place in the shade. Just yesterday I saw a woman park 30 feet further from the entrance of Wal-Mart just to get under a tree.

The summer months also mark the start of the monsoon season. The monsoon storms can be massive, dumping tons of rain in a relatively short time. The ground in Phoenix does not absorb this deluge very fast, so you can find yourself with a spiffy new, shallow pool in your back yard. It's not uncommon to find at least one depression called a wash in a subdivision.

Just this past week, one of these large storms struck Phoenix. In fact, the red (most severe) part of the radar images swept right over Gilbert. It was amazing watching the rain come off the roof. We ended up with a three-inch-deep flood in the back yard. Of course, the ground did eventually absorb all of this water over a few hours. A few trees, one probably 30 feet high, got torn down.

Haboobs are exciting and scary at the same time. These massive dust storms ride in from the desert and cake everything in a thin layer of brown. The sky becomes this strange orange-brown color, and the wind becomes horrendous.

It's also apparently why the Chase Field dome roof is a brownish color. It was originally painted white, but a large haboob on July 5 of last year rolled in before the paint could dry. Thus, a brown roof.

Images from:
AZ Department of Transportation
Virtual Bird's Eye

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Finding Everett Ruess

I recently won a free copy of Finding Everett Ruess by David Roberts. I can't say that I was all that impressed with it. I had read a bit about Everett Ruess, a young man who disappeared into the Southwestern wilderness in the early 20th century, in Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven, so I was interested in a book about him.

The book's premise was interesting. What caused a young man to wander around the Southwest for years, and what happened to him? But I feel that the author dropped the ball on this one. I couldn't keep interested enough to finish the book. It's too bad though, because like I said, the idea was interesting.

Overall Grade: D

Image from Goodreads.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

One Step Back for Astrobiology

Astrobiologists around the world are disappointed. The idea that bacteria could live on something other than phosphorus is exciting, and it would expand the possible environments where life could exist. A study published two years ago seemed to prove that arsenic could replace phosphorus (a major component in DNA).

Except... It turns out that the study was wrong.

Two new studies have found that while the study did find bacteria that were really resilient to arsenic in Mono Lake, the bacteria still required phosphorus to survive.

Thus, astrobiologists are completely heartbroken.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Birdman & Itsy Bitsy

Last week's Free Fridays special from Barnes & Noble was Mo Hayder's Birdman. Despite what my Goodreads account says, I haven't gotten around to reading The Map of Time by Felix Palma or Bag of Bones by Stephen King. Considering how my copy of Bag of Bones is over 750 pages long, I might not finish it...

Getting back to Birdman... This is a decidedly British book, and more than a couple of times, I wished I had even a rudimentary map of London and its surrounding environments.

The book itself was good, but incredibly... strange. I guess that would be a polite way of saying it. The book had some parts in it where I was screaming at my Nook to show me what the characters were looking at. I was surprised when the author showed who the killer was pretty quickly, and I was even more (pleasantly) surprised by the twists in the story. The author interwove seemingly random details about the characters that turned out to be important in the end, and, as fitting a series, some things about the main character, Detective Inspector Jack Caffery, were left unanswered.

All in all, the book had both good and bad sides.


If you really must get technical, I finished Itsy Bitsy before starting on Birdman. This short story by John Ajvide Lindqvist of Let the Right One In fame was decidedly weird, and I was left wondering what exactly I had read. I'm not completely sure if the main character was completely sane through the 30-some pages, and I felt like he was a little flat for my tastes. Then again, short stories don't have time for grandiose character development, so I won't begrudge Mr. Lindqvist.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Another Check off the Bucket List

I got to see the transit of Venus on Tuesday. So happy that I kept the eclipse glasses from the solar eclipse. I didn't get any good pictures this time (since my camera's only got 4x zoom), but I did see it with my "naked" eye. The picture on the left is essentially what I saw.

Considering that a child born for the next 5-25 years (assuming they live to 80) won't see another transit, I'm excited. It's a good time to be alive.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Awesome Stuff on Mars

Last fall, I took a course called Fundamentals of Planetary Geology, taught by Dr. Ronald Greeley, whose death was actually the topic of one of my first posts. The majority of the grade came from a semester-long project focusing on some aspect of geology. I chose to do a review of the literature on potentially alluvial deltas in some craters on Mars. Not particularly exciting stuff, I'll admit.

Another student, Andrew Ryan, chose to study lava flows on Mars. He found strange spiral patterns in the flows. No one had ever seen these types of flows, called lava coils, before on another planet. They have been seen in Hawaii and near the Galapagos rift in the Pacific Ocean.

Ryan made his presentation, and some of the faculty helping to grade the presentations, since this was after Dr. Greeley's death, told him that he should polish up the report and send it into Science to try and get it published.

The SESE Source, a newsletter for the School of Earth and Space Exploration at ASU, announced that Ryan did indeed get published in Science on 27 April 2012. Here's a link to the article's abstract:
Coils and Polygonal Crust in the Athabasca Valles Region, Mars, as Evidence for a Volcanic History

That lucky bastard.