And all the rest: January

Stuff I read or watched but didn’t write about (January 2012).


  • Space: 1999, season 1.
  • Space: 1999, season 2 (eps 1-8).
  • The Sarah Connor Chronicles, season 1.
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NCompass Live: Presentation Skills‬

‪NCompass Live: Tech Talk with Michael Sauers: Presentation Skills‬. January 25, 2012. 1 hour 11 minutes.

- Jenica Rogers, Director of Libraries at SUNY Potsdam.
- Jezmynne Dene, Director of the Portneuf (ID) District Library.
- David Lee King, Digital Branch & Services Manager at the Topeka & Shawnee County (KS) Public Library.

Very interesting talks and discussion about how to, and how not to, give a professional presentation. Recommended.

Notes after the cut. Read more »

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Cloud Roads

Book cover: The Cloud RoadsCloud Roads, by Martha Wells.

Continuing my quest for good non-Tolkien, non-Celtic fantasy… I don’t remember why I picked up this book — I think I just looked up “2011 Fantasy” in the library catalog — but I’m glad I did.

Moon isn’t sure what he is. There are many kinds of peoples in the Three Worlds, of all shapes, colors, and skin textures, but he’s the only shape-shifter he knows. Unfortunately for Moon, the shape he shifts into looks just like the Fell, vicious creatures who destroy camps and communities. Moon has been hiding his true self his whole life as he tries to fit in with the other peoples.

Just when things look dire for Moon, he meets someone who knows what he is. The stranger also knows that Moon could make a big difference to the future of his own kind.

In Cloud Roads Martha Wells has created a believable world with many different, yet plausible, peoples and societies. Despite everything being new, she doesn’t overwhelm the reader with overly complicated vocabulary and names. She tells what we need to know, when we know it, and doesn’t make us resort constantly to complicated glossaries, all while telling a great story.

First in the Books of the Raksura series. Recommended.


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Parenting for Primates

Book cover: Parenting for PrimatesParenting for Primates, by Harriet J. Smith.

When Harriet J. Smith was a comparative psychology graduate student, she hand-raised cottontop tamarins — a kind of small monkey. She was able to raise them to adulthood, but things kept going very wrong when the tamarins had babies of their own. Smith had to figure out how to teach the monkeys to become good cottontop tamarin parents.

The book goes into detail about the many and very different ways that primates, including humans, go about raising their young. Don’t let the cover discourage you. This is a very interesting book.

Chapter titles: Learning to parent – The primate recipe for mothering – The diversity of primate fathering – The babysitter’s club – Weaning wars – The quiet years – Emptying the nest – Parenting with partners – Parenting solo – The dark side of parenting – How much do parents matter?


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Vuelta Atras

Book cover: Vuelta AtrasVuelta Atrás, by Robert J. Sawyer. Translated into Spanish by Rafael Marin Trechera. Original title: Rollback.

In 2010, Dr. Sarah Halifax had been the first to decipher the alien signal from Sigma Draconis. Thanks to her work, a reply was sent by Earth but, because of the great distance involved, a second signal wasn’t expected from Sigma Draconis for almost forty years.

Now it’s 2048 and the second signal has been received. Sarah is now in her late 80′s and feeling her age, so she’s not sure she’ll be able to work on this new puzzle. Out of the blue, a millionaire offers to pay for her to go through “Rollback,” a rejuvenating procedure that would “roll her back” to age 25. She agrees, but only if Don, her husband of sixty years, can go through Rollback too.

The millionaire agrees. Don and Sarah undergo the treatment together. It works beautifully for Don, and he regains the body and sharpness of mind of a 25-year-old. Unfortunately, the treatment doesn’t work for Sarah.

This is my first Robert J. Sawyer book and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d seen his name but really had no idea what kind of science fiction he writes. Now that I’ve read this one, I hope to read more. It’s more about the people than about the science. It’s about how people deal with, and react to, advances in science and technology. Nominated for the 2008 Hugo Award.


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Podcasts: A Brief History of Mathematics

Podcast: A Brief History of Mathematics.

This short podcast series — ten 15-minute episodes — covers some of the people who helped bring math to where it is now, starting with Newton & Leibniz and ending with Nicholas Bourbaki. The series is presented by Professor Marcus du Sautoy and originally aired in 2010 on BBC Radio 4. It’s an excellent introduction to the people behind the math.

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Reading list: How to start reading science fiction

Back in April and May, Kirkus’ science fiction and fantasy blog posted a six-part series called, How to Start Reading Science Fiction. Like it says on the tin, it’s a series of recommendations for beginning SF readers.

  1. What you need to know
  2. 10 accessible science fiction books
  3. Award winners
  4. Short stories
  5. A sampling of genres
  6. A reading trip through the history of science fiction

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Wasp book coverWasp, by Eric Frank Russell.

You know how distracting it can be when a wasp flies into a car that’s speeding down the highway? One little wasp could cause a deadly car crash and, best of all (for the wasp), it doesn’t even have to sting the driver. All it has to do is… distract.

James Mowry has been sent to Jaimec, one of the planets of the Sirian Empire, to be a wasp. His mission: to single-handedly disrupt Jaimec society, government, and military establishment.

James Mowry is very good at his job.

Don’t let the thinness of the book deceive you. This is a very good book. Recommended.


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The Kitchen Counter Cooking School

Kitchen Counter Cooking School book coverThe Kitchen Counter Cooking School, by Kathleen Flinn.

Everybody should get cooking lessons like these. Flinn took nine Seattle-area women of different ages and backgrounds, all with different levels of cooking skill. Over the next several weeks, she got them over their fear of real food — and of knives — and had them able and willing to improvise dishes based on whatever is available.

Where do I sign up?


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And all the rest: December

Stuff I read or watched but didn’t write about (December 2011).


  • Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
  • Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe.
  • The Dark Knight.
  • The Road.
  • Inglorious Basterds.
  • Tron: Legacy.
  • Mamma Mia.
  • Inspector Lewis, series 3.
  • Spooks, series 4.
  • Little Mosque on the Prairie, series 3.
  • Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. eps. 1-17.
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