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Showing posts from 2016

Intriguing Radio Bursts from Deep Space

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Source Article: Science News

Eighteen fast radio bursts since 2007, each lasting a few milliseconds, have been recorded from the Christopher Crockett, is the repeating nature of these transmissions - which indicates these transmissions are not isolated to a one-time event.
same place. Where are they coming from? The source of these strange transmissions is over 3 billion - yes that Billion with a capital B - LIGHT YEARS away, in the constellation Auriga. The interesting thing about these, according to

Some of these intercepted transmissions were even picked up right here in West Virginia, at the Green Bank Observatory. It is suspected that these bursts of radio waves may be from neutron stars, but it is purely suspicion at this point. Green Bank Observatory made news in 2016 when it went 'rogue' after the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Green Bank's parent organization, cut funding in efforts to tighten its fiscal belt. This was quite a shock to Green Bank Observato…

Review: Red Mars

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Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Red Mars is a long, albeit good hard SciFi read that takes the reader deep into the ruddy landscape of Mars via a massive cast of characters. I must admit that I found the central love triangle a tiresome repetition of soap opera-like dialogue, but the level of realism combined with the scope of the work is truly admirable.

The author of Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson, clearly did the necessary homework to displace the reader from our natural environment and deposit us deep into the vast desert-like terrain of Mars. The multicultural facets explored along the way, and their inclusion into the martian mindset, make this a work of SciFi artistry.

While a bit drawn out, the perseverant reader will walk away from Red Mars with his head held high, a mouthful of Martian dust, and a deeper understanding of what it is to tackle a completely alien world and redefine it in only a way humans might.

A very good read for the dedi…

Mess-Cranking in the North Atlantic

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Gaeta, Italy is a quaint little Italian town just south of Rome and I knew it as home for a little while. The USS Belknap, flagship of the US Sixth Fleet, called Gaeta her home port. I remember watching the pier, and the rocks I had sat upon so many times, drift away for the last time as we left Gaeta for the last time in November of 1994. Those rocks had become my solace. I would sit on those rocks, high above the rolling tide of the ocean’s waves, and listen to my Sony Discman while scratching out plots for short stories, writing poetry, or just daydreaming about anything and everything. We were heading back to the United States, and Belknap was heading for the mothball fleet. We passed the Rock of Gibraltar which, after all I had heard about it, was a bit of a disappointment. I remember being excited about going out on the Atlantic for the first time; my first ‘crossing of the Pond,’ as sailors like to say. Let me just say this here, ‘Crossing the Pond’ in November­—especially the…

Review: Armada

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Armada by Ernest Cline
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Armada! A fun and exciting adventure worthy of Alex Rogan and his Gunstar in The Last Starfighter!

Armada is a geek's paradise, full of 80's and 90's pop culture references, action, adventure and heroism that makes the reader want to find a way to get X-Wing Vs Tie Fighter, or some similar game, out of mothballs and fire up some star-fighting par excellence. A wild and reckless ride into the virtual reality of video games, Armada escorts the geeky reader into a world where anything is possible.

Highly Recommended!






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Review: The Screwtape Letters

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The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While The Screwtape Letters is definitely outside my reading norm, as I am not given to reading Christian Apologetic novels, it was necessary for the research in my current writing project.

Ostensibly, The Screwtape Letters appear contrived to move one toward the ideas and principles of Christianity by highlighting the mechanistic plotting and manipulative nature of the demon Screwtape and his nephew Wormwood. The real gem of this novel lies in the way C.S. Lewis examines the human condition from the outsider perspective of Uncle Screwtape. In my opinion, there is some real sociological gold within the pages of The Screwtape Letters.

Royce Sears
www.roycesears.com



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Review: The Plot to Save Socrates

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The Plot to Save Socrates by Paul Levinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Time Twisting Tale of Epic Proportions

The Plot to Save Socrates is a head spinning time travel mystery that leads the reader deep into an action packed rabbit hole of cascading paradoxical events via a cast of characters assembled from across the ages. An intellectually stimulating read of epic proportions, The Plot to Save Socrates draws the reader in and keeps the pages turning all the way through. Highly Recommended!!

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Thoughts on the Movie Arrival - Multiculturalism and Humanity's Future

I'm a sucker for a good Science Fiction movie, and I always have been. Arrival was not just good Science Fiction, but great Science Fiction. Language shapes who we are and how we think. It not only defines our culture, but it defines our species. What we communicate, and how we communicate it, defines who and what we are to those around us.

In Arrival, we see the use of the word 'weapon' change the entire nature of the conversation almost instantaneously. We see the world diving into chaos because of the arrival of these alien craft. We see a church setting itself ablaze, mass hysteria, looting, rioting, and wide-spread panic worldwide. Would we react this way to an actual event? Probably, and I imagine it would be even worse than what we see in the movie.

Why?

As Arrival points out, we're a divided species. We're divided along race, gender, nationality, religion, and a multitude of other divisions. We've seen these issues arise time and time again, and just wh…

Happy Writing Holiday Season!

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The Holidays are approaching fast, this is the thought I woke up with this morning as I tried to go back to sleep, despite the eighty-pound dog taking up most of my leg room. What does a thought like that really mean to someone like me?

I'm former Navy, and I think I remember one or two Holiday seasons where I wasn't on duty. I am now a Registered Nurse, and my thirteen-year-old son lives 400 miles away, with his Mother. The Holidays do not carry the same meaning for him anymore, not at this age. I volunteer to work during the Holidays so my co-workers, young mothers with young children, can spend the Holidays with their children. I think that's only fair. Their children are only young once. They should get to spend the Holidays with their children, and I'll gladly work over the Holidays for them so their kids get to have Mommy at home. I mean, what kid wants to spend Christmas Day waiting for Mom to get home from work so they can open their presents?

And lastly, I am …

Review: The Enemy of an Enemy

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The Enemy of an Enemy by Vincent Trigili
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I just couldn't do it. I couldn't finish this book...

It started out interesting enough, and the premise seemed strong at first. The dialogue was stiff and formal, the main character grew more annoying as I continued reading, and then a glaring plot hole just pushed me over the edge.

The main character is a Mary Sue...he's proficient at everything, weaknesses? flaws? Anything to make the character relatable? Nope. I found the main character to be a combination of Luke Skywalker, Captain Kirk, and Harry Potter.

Rather than go on, I'm just going to leave it there and let you decide. Based on some of the other reviews, some folks have enjoyed it. The Enemy of an Enemy was, sadly, just not my cup of tea.
Marking it as Read to get it off Reading List.

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Review: Legacy

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Legacy by David Lynn Golemon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Legacy Event Group Thriller #6 by David L. Golemon is a really good read for anyone who enjoys government conspiracy theories and ancient alien theories. Golemon creates a rich and exciting world that spans across eons of time as it explains the secrets of Mars, Earth, and the forgotten history of mankind.

While Legacy is admittedly the first book in Golemon's series I have read, (it looked interesting on the public library shelf) I plan to read the rest of them in the near future. Golemon's voice and easy-to-read writing style bring the action and adventure of Legacy to life as the drama plays out in a well-structured timeline that takes place between the Nazi's of World War II and what appears to be the very near future. Political intrigue, governmental posturing, and religious fanatics who are hell-bent on maintaining the unquestioning superiority of their brand of God all combine to make Legacy a suspense…

Review: Fringe Runner

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Fringe Runner by Rachel Aukes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked (3 stars) Fringe Runner because it was similar to one of my favorite space operas, that being Firefly. I enjoyed the way the author brought diversity in the differently abled character, Throttle (my favorite character) and the author's voice made for easy reading. Now, on to some other things...

Fringe Runner borrows from, and in some instances quotes, Joss Whedon's fan-favorite television series, Firefly. The characters are likable, even though many are somewhat two-dimensional facsimiles of the character archetypes found in the Firefly series.

I found the dialogue somewhat stilted and forced at times as the characters seemed to be restrained from fleshing themselves out into what they might have become if the author wasn't trying to force them into the mold of Whedon's characters. Don't get me wrong. I, and many people I know, love(d) Firefly, but I see a difference in using Whedon's stor…

Review: The Mote in God's Eye

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The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely loved this book!

The Mote in God's Eye is an exciting, thought-provoking read that leads the reader on a wild adventure into a first contact situation with an alien species, which is interesting because the inhabitants of Niven's universe have never encountered a truly alien intelligence before.

I found that I connected well with Niven's characters and identified with many of them, which was a nice change considering I didn't like his award-winning "Ring World" very much.

I highly recommend The Mote in God's Eye to Science Fiction lovers of any caliber.

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Review: Pandora's Star

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Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I finally finished this book, but it took some effort. The overall premise of the story is fascinating, but it was hard to slog through. There are many, many character arcs to try to keep up with and there were times when I had to go back and re-read to try to figure out who was doing what and where they were doing it. I liked Pandora's Star because of the interesting ideas, but I'm hesitant to continue reading the series.

Aside from the massive scope of the story, the thing that wore me out the most was the seemingly unending exposition. Yes, I get it, we're reading about an entire civilization of interlinked worlds, but there were many pages that I just skimmed because my eyes were glazing over and I was about to fall out of my chair.

The character development on some of the characters within the novel was good, but I had a hard time really connecting with many, or admittedly most of them, which …

Election Thoughts-How Do We Explain it to Them?

How Do We Explain it to Them? I honestly never imagined I would be writing something like this today, so I'm writing completely off the cuff here.

We as a people, as a nation, stand shocked today by the revelations of last night's election results. I had the unfortunate circumstance of watching this whole thing play out while I was at work (the whole time I was wishing I could be drinking something very high in alcohol content because, Damn!)

I see folks on social media, on both sides of the fence, almost equally shocked. The "Wow, I can't believe he actually won! I wanted him to win, but I didn't actually think he would..." as well as the "Holy Shit? He actually won? I can't believe my fellow Americans would actually elect this moron!" posts flooded social media this morning. Many of my friends, friends who identify as LGBTQ, friends of color, friends of differing religious viewpoints, and friends who have younger children are terrified of wha…

The 'Roman Coke' Incident

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The 'Roman Coke' Incident I arrived aboard the USS Belknap on September 21, 1994. (but my bags were still in Chicago) It was my first real duty station beyond Great Lakes. I was a real sailor! After a trip to the Navy Exchange to acquire some new working uniforms that would carry me over until my seabag arrived, I was good to go.
The things I remember most vividly were the walk down the long concrete pier and crossing the gangway onto the quarterdeck. The long walk down the pier was windy and there was a chill salty breeze on the air. The waters around Gaeta were absolutely rank, stinking of human waste and filth, but it was my first experience with the ocean and I didn’t know any different. Maybe the whole ocean smelled that way, how was I to know? I simply remember the crisp, cool salty breeze that carried with it the smell that I would grow to love-that briny smell of the ocean. I was nervous as I crossed the gangway and approached the quarterdeck. The quarterdeck of a Nav…

Review: Ark

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Ark by Stephen Baxter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ark, by Stephen Baxter is a great read! I loved how he addressed climate change and took it up a notch with the Earth surprising us by spewing forth subtectonic waters. (which according to my own research might actually be possible as there is evidence of water bound in mineral form within the Earth's magma, and at least one reputable article concerning an ocean's worth of water below eastern Asia) Why did this water come spewing out suddenly? No one knows, but sea level rise went well beyond the expectations of current climate change predictions (as if that weren't bad enough...)

A desperate plan is hatched to ensure the survivability of humanity, an arc of sorts that will use an Alcubiere Warp Drive to travel to a distant planet. Our characters are thrust into situations of life and death as a group of young people who have trained all their lives for the mission to save humanity, but things don't always turn …

Review: Saturn: A Novel of the Ringed Planet

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Saturn: A Novel of the Ringed Planet by Ben Bova
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Saturn: A Novel of the Ringed Planet was a good read, but I had to keep putting it down and coming back to it because it was a bit drawn out without much going on at some points. While I love Bova's work, and consider him to be one of the great Science Fiction Authors, I considered the book to be a little lackluster considering the possibilities of the plot.

The novel presents a great social experiment, a human colony of 10,000 people who will be living in a massive ship in orbit of Saturn. The major religious organization on Earth plans to take over the colony, via carefully planted people, who will save these secularists and scientists from themselves and bring them into the fold of the church proper with the help of a charismatic ex-con.

If you're a fan of Bova, you'll enjoy this book, but it is somewhat long winded.

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Review: Earth Alone

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Earth Alone by Daniel Arenson
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I want to share some positive thoughts about this novel before I go on. I love the level of diversity the author brings to the table. We see a drafted Human Defense Force that is doing its damnedest to protect humanity, and they are drafted from all walks of life. We see folks of differing backgrounds and various nationalities who are working together to accomplish a mission. I love this idea and wish we could see more of it, both in fiction and reality. Now the hard part...

Okay, I'm going to be brutally honest here and say that I had to force myself to finish this one. Why? You ask. First and foremost, I felt like I was reading an ever so slightly revised rendition of the Starship Troopers movie; and there were so many things lost in translation between Robert Heinlein's original Starship Troopers and that horrible movie that it literally hurt my brain. Yes, it's fine to reuse tropes but some variety is ni…

Review: The Moon Maze Game

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The Moon Maze Game by Larry Niven
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Moon Maze Game was an interesting read that was fast-paced and full of fun 'gamer' tidbits that were great for an old D&D gamer like myself. Set in the future, where LARP has become a sport, The Moon Maze Game takes the reader on a fun-filled ride through a futuristic LARP game based on H.G. Wells The First Men in the Moon. The main conflict is centered around a prince of a small African nation who is heavily invested in these LARP games, but is a target for a group of terrorists who desire to free their country from what they see as dictatorial oppression. The more interesting conflict, at least in my opinion, was centered around an old argument between the game-runner and two of the players.

Overall, I enjoyed the author's use of LARPing as a plot device and found the book to be an easy and fun read.

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What the Future COULD be...(if We are Willing to Take it Seriously)

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This is what our future could be if folks like Franklin Chang Díaz and his team at AdAstra are successful with the integration of their VASMIR engine into our existing space programs.

What you see above is a test of the VASMIR engine, taking place here on Earth, but it is designed to function in space. A new rocket engine, big deal, right? We have all kinds of different rocket engines and they all do the same thing, There's not much difference between one rocket engine and another, right? They all push big, heavy things into orbit and make alot of noise while they're doing it.
Wrong.

The VASMIR engine is a completely new concept that uses a tenth of the fuel of a conventional chemical rocket and produces much more bang for the buck. Additionally, it's not using hydrogen and oxygen or solid rocket fuel but rather an inert, noble gas that is very safe to store and use. How does
this make it a good rocket fuel? Isn't rocket fuel supposed to make lots of noise as it BURNS…

Review: What the Night Knows

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What the Night Knows by Dean Koontz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I must admit that this is the first Dean Koontz novel I have read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The author's use of suspense and dread combined with a realistic merge between the natural and supernatural world was captivating. A very good read that I highly recommend.

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Review: Leviathan

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Leviathan by Jack Campbell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall this novel is very well written. Jack Campbell is, as his bio describes, obviously well acquainted with ship and fleet movement tactics. It would be interesting to see the MO boards he used for planning these massive battles in space. (MO boards are what we use in the Navy to track and plan maneuvering operations at sea) The author's use of professionalism amongst his characters, many of whom are officers in this spacefaring Navy, is a reflection of the professionalism and dedication of sailors serving in today's Navy. There is an obvious distrust of political figures and government within the novel that many military members share, both active duty and veterans alike. This is an enjoyable read and I highly recommend it, especially for those who enjoy military science fiction.

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What's beneath the clouds?

Science News: First peek under clouds reveals Jupiter’s surprising depths

Juno's data, and the analysis of it, indicates the colors and stripes we see on Jupiter extend at least 350-400 kilometers below the clouds. Added to that mystery is the fact that Juno measured the radio waves emanating from Jupiter, waves that ranged in frequency depending upon the depth of origin. What does it mean? Who knows? But it does lead up to some interesting questions.

Why are the frequencies different depending on the depth?

What's producing the colors and stripes that would maintain that degree of division across distances so vast?

What's really going on inside Jupiter?

Questions that this science fiction author's mind are eating up right now as I formulate all kinds of fun, freaky explanations for what we see. Story ideas are in abundance with news like this.

I'm Not Supposed to Be Here - More Adventures in the Navy

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I’m Not Supposed to Be Here
After bootcamp and ‘A’ School, my first duty station was in Gaeta, Italy, aboard the USS Belknap. Looking back on things, I probably resembled the Clerks character, Dante, in my recurring echo of, “I’m not supposed to be here.” While I was in college I learned about something called the “Peter Principle” from a very good friend, Dr. Marty Laubach, who is a sociology professor at Marshall University.  This principle set forth by Lawrence J. Peter states "In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence... [I]n time every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties... Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence."   Lawrence J. Peter is also quoted as saying, “Fortune knocks but once, but misfortune has much more patience.” How was I not supposed to be there? That’s a long story.
I entered the Navy under a guaranteed contract to become a s…

The Journey Begins

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This is the first of many posts in which I will be relating some of my experiences in the Navy. Some will be funny and some will be sad, but all are a culmination of adventures and life experiences that I hope will be entertaining. 
We've heard it said many ways: "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step," "Focus on the journey, not the destination," "...it is the journy that matters in the end," but I think Tolkien said it best, "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road,
and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." I read The Lord of the Rings when I was in ninth grade, so maybe that's where my love of adventure began...who knows. This is the tale of my journey, my adventure, into the United States Navy. 

The date was June 7th 1994, and I remember it like it was yesterday. I was eighteen years old and I thought I knew what was up. I had …