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Mon Jul 16 2001 at 00:29:16 (20.3 years ago )
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Mon Dec 19 2005 at 04:58:35 (15.8 years ago )
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mission drive within everything
under a tall tree I will lie, and watch the stars go sailing by
aerospace, archaeology, science fiction, girl scouts, mythology, and applications thereof, or so it would seem today
The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas-covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away, and think this is normal, is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be. - Douglas Adams
most recent writeup
Cedric Diggory
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Don't mind me, I'm just talking to myself . . .

74.14% cool (up from last check)
93.10% factual

Who put the tribbles in the quadrotriticale?


Aerospace engineering graduate from the University of Maryland.

I like Factual Writeups.

I like non-factual nodes, too, if they're very original, very readable, well done, and grab my attention. Not many apply.

I downvote random Simpsons quotes. Actually, I downvote allrandom quotes, especially random pop culture quotes. Simpsons quotes are the most ubiquitous and annoying.

I am attempting to use everything as a study tool. You know, hear it, learn it once, write it, learn it twice, node it, learn it for good. Node your homework.

It's going very slowly.

Woo! I have a node code!
Version: 0.1.2
NF 1++ xp? n C- H+ c e+ d- D-- p+ g- N

Like some other people, I'm going to start keeping a list here of books I've read recently with a short review. Looking at what I read is probably an easier and more useful way to get to know about me than by reading a blurb I write. (It's written from most to least recent.)
This is very, very Out of Date.
  • Tolkien's Ring by David Day, illustrated by Alan Lee.
    A comparison of all sorts of European mythologies to the one Tolkien created. As I've been obsessed with LOTR lately, and with all the reading I've done on Norse mythology, it was clearly irrisitible. Oh, and when I watched the special features on the Fellowship DVD, I learned that Alan Lee did a lot of the concept sketches for the movie, so this book is extra-spiffy for that reason.
  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by [Stephen R. Donaldson.
  • Beyond This Horizon by Robert Heinlein.
  • The Mirror of Her Dreams and A Man Rides Through by Stephen R. Donaldson.
    Mordant's Need duology. I hadn't read any Donaldson before, and I was absolutly enthralled by these books.
  • The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson.
    Another good book with a bad ending ... These mysterious monoliths start appearing, with dates of victories 20 years in the future on them. Of course this has a profound effect on the world, and the story follows a group of people who are rather obsessed with the monoliths. It's told in first person, though, and the protagonist never gets a lot of answers, so the reader doesn't either, which was very very annoying.
  • Lord Demon by Roger Zelazney and Jane M. Lindskold.
    Zelazy = good. Zelazny + ancient Chinese all-powerful demons = even better.
  • Le Petit Prince par Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
    Le Petit Prince! Oui, bien sûr, je l'ai lu en français, mais c'est certain que je m'ai manqué de beaucoup, parce que je ne suis pas perfectement fluente. Tout même, c'est un trés trés bon livre, et comme toujours, j'ai pleuré quand le petit prince a disparu. *sniffle* Eventualment, il faut finir traduiser le livre pour ma soeur Melannen ...
  • A King of Infinite Space by Allen M. Steele.
    Very good book. Very bad ending. Well, who knows, some people on Amazon seem to like the end; it just felt like a surrender to me, not a victory, as if Alex had learned absolutely nothing from his adventures. Anyway, the story goes like this: Alex is a spoiled rich punk kid in the 1990s who dies in a car accident. His guiltridden father has him carbon-frozen, and a few centuries later he wakes up and finds he's a servant on a crime lord's personal asteroid, and he spends the rest of the story trying to get away and find his old girlfriend, who was also frozen when she eventually died. He gets shunted through wheels within wheels, and has a lot of his illusions stripped away in the process - though as I think I mentioned, you wouldn't know it from the end. /msg me if you want to know how I think it should have ended. *grin*
  • Tales from the New Republic edited by Peter Schweighofer and Craig Carey.
    More Star Wars stories. Lots of great stories about well-loved Expanded Universe characters, including a few by familiar authors.
  • Tales from the Empire edited by Peter Schweighofer.
    Star Wars stories. Mostly good, particularly the Zahn/Stackpole collaboration where Thrawn dresses up like Boba Fett and foils Corran Horn.
  • The Shelters of Stone by Jean M. Auel. This latest in the Earth's Children saga was good, if a bit disappointing. We see how Jondalar's people live and how they react to Ayla. They go to a Zelandoni Summer Meet, get married, and Ayla finds Lascaux. Also, there's some intrigue, and a whole lot of great new characters, as well as the usual wonderfully researched culture and landscape, but this book was basically slice-of-life. The really good stuff should come in the next book, though (soon! soon!), when Ayla has her baby, becomes one of the Zelandonia, and (hopefully) gets to see some Neanderthals again.
  • Lost Cities of North and Central America by David Hatcher Childress.
    I picked up this book because of my lingering fascination with the ancient Mayan civilization of Mesoamerica. The author is a widely traveling amateur archaeologist, and in places it reads like John Lloyd Stephens' Incidents of Travel. Childress is very much into fringe theories, and has little respect for professional archaeology, though, so I came away with a lot more knowledge of crackpot theories than fact. As the book was published by the author's own company, Adventure Press or something like that, it probably did not go through any sort of peer review, and it definitely could have used a few more runs through a spelling and grammar checker.
  • Attack of the Clones by R. A. Salvatore.
    The book has a lot more scenes than the movie, especially concerning Anakin's mom. Salvatore also added some dialogue, and toned down some of Lucas' ludicrous dialogue and video game emulation. There's a bit more character development, through additional scenes and knowledge of what the characters are thinking. In a few scenes, he did lose some of the emotion, however, by just not managing to bring across the intensity and expression of the actors' portrayals, especially Hayden Christensen's. I'd say, read the book if you're a rabid Star Wars fan, or if you thought parts of the movie were dumb and unrealistic and want to give the characters a chance to explain themselves.
  • Merlin's Ring and Merlin's Godson by H. Warner Munn.
    After King Arthur was put to his semi-eternal rest, Merlin leads a group of Romans and Saxons across the Atlantic, where they have various adventures, create and empire, and Merlin becomes Quetzalcoatl. Gwalchmai, Merlin's godson, is eventually sent across the ocean to tell Rome to come inhabit America. It takes him many centuries to succeed, which he survived by having drunk one of Merlin's elixers. During his journey he meets Corenice, his one true immortal love, who was born human in Atlantis. These stories are definitely epic. There's a lot of good European and Asian history in Merlin's Ring, but I think a lot of the "history" of the Americas in Merlin's Godson is outdated. Either way, they're fun, and they're definitely not your average Arthurian fantasy, whatever that is.
  • The Dream Master by Roger Zelazney.
    Another Zelazney. It's about a century in the future, psychology has progressed to where doctors control people's dreams to cure them of psychoses. The main character is one of these dream shapers. He meets a blind woman who wants to become a shaper, and starts dream sessions with her to acclimatize her to sight so she'll be able to help non-blind patients without spazzing. There's also a couple of relationshippy and dystopian subplots. I thought the ending was rather disappointing.
  • Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams.
    According the The Salmon of Doubt, this is the book that DNA was most proud of. It's non-fiction and tells about Douglas' travels around the world in 1988 with the zoologist Mark Carwardine to see a bunch of endangered species. It is good; funny, and informative, sometimes poignant. No one seems to have heard of it, though. Incredibly, all the species he was visiting are still endangered - none are extinct
  • .
  • The New Jedi Order by various authors.
    Yes, all of them that are out so far. I'm re-obsessed. Quiet, you.
    Reasons to read these books: 1) You need your fix of really good epic Star Wars literature. 2) See almost all of the characters from the other books again, only older - even some from the early 80's stories. Be impressed by the continuity wizards and the obvious fun the authors are having with their little round robin. However, if you want to continue to think of the Star Wars galaxy as a nice, happy place where the good guys always win and people get to live happily ever after, DO NOT READ THESE BOOKS. You will find yourself with a very strong desire to mail-bomb the authors, publishers, and George Lucas. You have been warned.
  • Specter of the Past and Vision of the Future by Timothy Zahn.
    Continuing my return to Star Wars geekdom. I thought I'd read both of these books before, but as it turns out, they were released just as the glut of Star Wars books was turning me off about as much as the glut of Star Trek books already had, and I'd only read the first. Big mistake then, but a nice treat now. Vision seemed much more exciting and well-written than Specter, but that could just be because it was new to me. Highlights? Admiral Pelleon has grown up a lot since Thrawn died. So has Mara Jade. Han and Lando whine about being old, but those two haven't changed a bit. Zahn can't resist the opportunity to needle his fellow Star Wars authors - Mara berates Luke rather thoroughly for playing too rough and ready with his Jedi powers. Altogether, super fun. My only regret is that Han and Leia's kids are seen only fleetingly - it would have been fun to know how Zahn expected them to be as they grew up.
  • The Courtship of Princess Leia by Dave Wolverton.
    This one was a reread as well. Dave Wolverton's style seems too simplistic, and his plot and characters could use some work. He's ok with the characters that aren't original, though. Anyway, not one of the best Star Wars novels, but it does tell about how Han and Leia finally decided to get married, which is a fairly important part of the story, at least if you care about that sort of thing. Also, it establishes some characters and settings for the Young Jedi Nights and New Jedi Order series.
  • The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time by Douglas Adams.
    His friends, secretaries, and editors raided his hard drives after he died, and put together this collection of articles, letters, interviews, and story fragments by the great master. If you like DNA, it's definitely worth a read. The largest part is what might eventually have turned out to be the next Dirk Gently novel, so Dirk fans will want to check it out especially.
  • Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command by Timothy Zahn.
    If you're going to read any Star Wars spin-off novel at all, read these. They're the first (well, first post-1985 or so), the most well-written, and they have the same "feel" as the original movies. Also, they have a great villian, and if you like clones, they're here, too.
  • Against Infinity by Gregory Benford.
    Colonial Ganymede. Ancient artifacts. A young boy must come to terms with his father, his mentor, Earth, the nature of intelligence, and eventually, the state of the Universe. The description of the changing face of Ganymede (undergoing terraforming) is really wonderful. As I was reading it, I had the thought that if Dune took place on Tattooine, this story is Dune on Hoth - though of course it hasn't nearly the same scope or impact.
  • The Source by James Michener.
    This is an extremely good book. It begins at an archaeological dig in Israel in the 1960s. Then it goes back through the past 11000 years, telling the story of all the people and societies who have lived at that site through the ages, rooted firmly in the origins and evolution of the various religions to spring up in the area. Each chapter is interspersed with episodes back at the dig, so you're left with a keen sense of how ancient history is reflected in today. If you're interested in archaeology, history in general, jewish/mideast history in particular, the bedrock of the current conflict in the middle east, or just want to read a really great and absorbing book, pick this one up.
  • A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes by Stephen W. Hawking.
    I only read about half if it, actually. It's more than ten years old, and I'm afraid it's a bit out of date. I was hoping (read: procrastinating) that it could help me a bit with my astrophysics homework. No such luck.
  • Wolfling by Gordon R. Dickson.
    Pilfered this one from Recluse's shelf. I think it's one of Dickson's earliest, and it shows, but it's still absorbing. The premise is that a galactic empire made up of supremely-evolved humans has recently been idly thinking about re-absorbing the Earth, and the tale is of an Earth resistance agent sent to infiltrate the Imperial center. The Empire gets a little more than they bargained for. See also: noyau.
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
    Yes, I'd read it before. Written nearly 200 years ago (wow .. ), it has aged *extremely* well. Every girl thinks she's Elizabeth, and every guy should be like Darcy. *chuckle* 'Twas a bit amusing to read this time, now that my roommate has a cat named Darcy. Heh - "As Elizabeth entered the room, Darcy turned to Bingley, and said in a low voice, 'Mrrrowww!'"
  • How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell.
    Long, thin, slimy ones; short, fat, juicy ones ... This one desperately needs to have a node written about it. Feel free to get there before me, my brain's very slow recently. Anyway, if you know anyone younger than 12, make them read this book - after you read it yourself, if you haven't already. Alan bets Billy fifty dollars that Billy can't eat a worm a day for 15 days, and - well. Maybe he can. Yum!
  • My Name is Legion by Roger Zelazny.
    This is a collection of stories about a man whose identity is unknown to the early-2000s society - he deleted all of his information from the master computer banks shortly before the country went entirly digital. His anonymity makes him a valuable asset to the most powerful privite investigative firm in the nation.
    Lots of Zelazny books this round. Notice a pattern in their subject matter? If you like 'em, read the Amber series, too. Though my favorite Zelazny is still Doorways in the Sand.
  • Isle of the Dead by Roger Zelazny.
    This is the story of Francis Sandow, a man who's basically immortal, who's spent most of his last few centuries visiting various worlds and creating various others. On the world of his alien mentor he acquired the aspect of one of their gods, and now that that god's ancient enemy has created and kidnapped clones of some of Francis' old friends and enemies, he must leave his retirement and prepare for a battle he doesn't know how to fight. The battleground is his most fearsome planetary creation - the isle of the dead.
  • Creatures of Light and Darkness by Roger Zelazny.
    Another from Zelazny about people who rule as gods and goddesses, this time about the Egyptian gods. This one's mysterious and metaphysical, and spans space and time. Set, son and father of Thoth, returns from the Halls of the Dead to fulfill ancient prophecies.
  • Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
    is about a long-colonized world in the far-flung future, where the original crew of the colony ship had discovered the secret to reincarnation and still ruled the descendants of the passengers as the gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon. Zelazny really enjoys writing about gods and godlike people .. but I digress. The story is about the one member of the crew who's devoted to ending, or at least changing for the better, the rule of the 'gods'. The interplay of the gods reminded me a bit of stories I've heard about MUD gods. A very good read, as always from Zelazny.
  • The Night Fantastic edited by Poul and Karen Anderson.
    This is an anthology of stories about dreams. Like most anthologies, some of the stories are very good, others mediocre, a couple bad. It's worth picking up and thumbing through, though.
  • The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe.
    Read this node and then read this node, and then go read this book.
  • The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander.
    Mmmmm ... Prydain. Old, old favorite of mine. Kinda similar to LOTR, and meant for younger people - but good. Go read the node on 'em.
  • Vampire$ by John Steakley.
    A gang of modern-day vampire hunters employed by the Pope destroy the fiends, for a nominal fee. It's a horrifying, depressing, thankless job. It's a harrowing read. Probably the best vampire novel I've read (Interview with the Vampire, Dracula, Carpe Jugulum, and The Silver Kiss are the four that come immediately to mind .. I may've read other, less memorable ones too)(I w/the V does come close, though). Then there's Bunnicula - well, no comparison. Writing this, I've realized that it's actually rather similar to The Godfather, in a lot of ways. I'll leave those ways for you to figure out, after you go read them both.
  • Starman Jones by Robert A. Heinlein.
    One of the first Heinleins I ever read, way back when, and still one of my favorites. It has nearly all the elements of a good classic science fiction story.
  • The Godfather by Mario Puzo.
    Mafia. New York. Guns. Hollywood. Family. Friends. Money. The final battles of a great mafia Don and the reluctant rise of his successor. I'm in no position to say how accurate the representation of Mafia society is, but it rings true, and I couldn't put it down. Maybe someday I'll see the movie.
  • In the Beginning ... Was the Command Line by Neal Stephenson.
    An extremely funny essay about the history and evolution of computer operating systems, from ticker tape and teletypes to Linux and BeOS. There's a particularly amusing analogy with car dealerships, which I won't ruin by writing here. A required book for one of my sister's classes this spring. Recommended for a light, funny read. You might learn something too.
  • Bard: the Oddessy of the Irish by Morgan Llywelyn.
    This historical novel takes place in about 600 BC in Iberia (Spain) and Ierne (Ireland). It tells the story of a family of Gaelic Celts in Iberia and how they followed the dream of their bard to a new home in Ireland, where they'd meet their fate and go on to become the distant ancestors of today's Irish. Also gives an interesting theory about the origins of the Tuatha De Dannan legends. Fairly engrossing, intriguing picture of the time period and places, well researched.
  • The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
    This story takes place in the distant future, on a pair of planets that has just recently made contact with Earth and the rest of the galaxy. A few centuries earlier, a fringe religious group had split off from the mother planet and moved to the large, life-supporting moon. There has been no contact aside from minimal trade in the intervening years. The book tells of the brilliant physicist Shevek from the religious planet who risks everything in a voyage to the homeworld as he tries to cross boundaries, forge ties and bring an important scientific discovery to the galaxy. The religious planet is a fascinating attempt at a utopia that basically works, and the decadent homeworld is frighteningly similar to today's Earth. Written in 1974, it was meant to be a commentary on the current state of the world. It succeeds and is utterly engrossing.
  • At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, and Other Troublesome Things by Diane Purkiss.
    I enjoyed this book as a good overveiw of the origins of fairies (well, the idea of fairies). My sister read the book and complained that it was obviously written by someone who doesn't believe in fairies. Well, I'm the sort of person who enjoys detailed historical reconstructions of how myths and ideas came to be, so I liked it. The writing style is a little fragmentary, though, particularly in the earlier chapters - she'll mention a person, go off on a six-page tangent about something else entirely, and then come back to it. Lots of good ideas for nodes, although some of the creatures are pretty obscure - see kubu.
  • Harry Potter by JK Rowling and The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
    Both reread, saw the movies too. No need to give a redundant review here. *grin*

Webcomics (and online newspaper comics) I read currently: (This list is getting scandalously long.)
* = highly reccommended