Some good bedtime reading

books, communication, human spaceflight, reading, science, science communication, space exploration

Some good bedtime reading. Chris Hadfield’s book & A Hands-On Guide to Science Communication.

Many thanks to my very good friend, Paul Money for Chris Hadfield’s book. It’s a pity I didn’t catch him in the UK for signing, but I know this will make a very good read.

Through my work here at ESO, I was allowed to have a copy of “A Hands-On Guide to Science Communication” by my boss, Lars Lindberg Christensen who is the Head of the Education and Public Outreach Department (ePOD). I am looking forward to gaining some new experience here at ESO in science communication.

My reading list

books, e-books, Kindle, reading

I find myself excitingly overwhelmed with the shear amount of new books I have either in print or on my shiny new Kindle. I had a £50 gift voucher of which I spent on some great classics, including (in no particular order):

Nineteen eighty-four
George Orwell – 2004 – Fiction
Catch-22
Joseph Heller – 2011 – Fiction

Dark alchemy: magical tales from masters of modern fantasy
His Dark Materials Trilogy: Northern Lights, the Subtle Knife, the Amber ...
Phillip Pullman – 2011
The time traveler's wife
A Christmas carol and other Christmas books
Charles DickensRobert Douglas-Fairhurst – 2006 – Fiction

In fact, I have started with “The Time Traveler’s Wife” as I have seen the film, which proved to be interesting. I am already finding though, that Henry and Clare’s story in the novel is much more fascinating. Niffeneger really brings to life her characters in the novel, compared to the film which seems to lose an element of that. The film always seemed as though it could have been better.

“Dark Alchemy” includes a number of shor stories by authors including Garth Nix, Eoin Colfer and Neil Gaiman. I’ll more than likely read a couple of short stories at a time, in order. I saw this book on sale in Blackwell’s bookshop on the university campus, fascinated by the preface and knowing of Neil Gaiman in particular. Gaiman wrote the episode “The Doctor’s Wife“, the fourth episode in the latest (sixth) Doctor Who series.

I am spoilt for choice among “Catch 22”, “Nineteen Eighty-Four” and “His Dark Materials Trilogy”. More likely I will move onto “Nineteen Eighty-Four”. I am fascinated to hear about this character, Big Brother.

For Christmas I was bought:

Brilliant Book of Doctor Who 2012
Tbc – 2011
The Quantum Universe: Everything that Can Happen Does Happen
Brian CoxJeff Forshaw – 2011 – Science
The Doctors: Who's Who: The Story Behind Every Face of the Iconic Time Lord
I am also reading “The Quantum Universe” which I say is presented very clearly by Cox & Forshaw, in what is quite an intimidating subject for many. I highly recommend it to those who want to get a grasp of the subject.  Where I do have foreknowledge of the subject and a high-level mathematical background, I have been able to read through the first four chapters of it very quickly. The authors do break down the few equations that are in the book – the formulae used are not to an exceptionally high level of mathematics. I’d say the book is made accessible to those whom have no great mathematical background. The book does nicely guide the reader through the ‘weirdness’ of quantum theory. I think it does highlight however the necessity of how mathematics is so important to physics, as much as the subject is very well explained.
The “Brilliant Book of Doctor Who 2012” is effectively an annual of the latest series of the show. I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first, but it is really packed with some great content. What I look forward to reading is that by the guest writers.
Being a fan of classic Doctor Who, as well as the revived series, I am curious to read “The Doctors: Who’s Who”. I have read mixed reviews of this on Amazon, so we’ll see.
I am still to finish:
Moab Is My Washpot
Stephen Fry – 2004 – Biography & Autobiography

Stephen Fry really admires me as a character – hence why I bought this, his first autobiography. I did find myself rather hooked to this book, although I never managed to finish it. Fry talks about the first twenty years of his life, which for him was a great struggle. I have my own “baggage”. This past year for me has been a very difficult one after losing my father and coping with an emotional turmoil of it all. After reading about the book some years ago and knowing of Fry’s many struggles, I came across this again at a time I was going through many of my own. I somehow found it inspirational and felt better reading it, although somehow I never got back to it.

In fact, once I was one third the way through I knew I should buy his second autobiography:

The Fry Chronicles
Stephen Fry – 2010 – Biography & Autobiography
So, I have a lot of reading ahead of me. And I haven’t even started on e-books yet….
As I said in my last post, I have a shiny new Kindle, the latest Kindle 4. I am really enjoying it at the moment as it lets me subscribe to newspapers, as well as store journal articles and download e-books. In fact, I am rarely parted with it. I shall comment about newspaper subscriptions in another post and possibly journal articles as well. Here, I shall talk about e-books.
Since I received my Kindle on Christmas morning, I have been fascinated by how many e-books are freely available. It is so very easy to download an e-book from Amazon’s Whispernet. I didn’t realise this, but many classics are completely, 100% free (and legal!). I have the Complete Works of Charles Dickens, the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection, Thomas Hardy’s Complete Fiction – plus so many more. Over the holidays, I was fascinated by the film “Dorian Gray“, a portrayal of Oscar Wilde’s novel, “A Portrait of Dorian Gray”. I have the e-book, so I look forward to reading that at some point. I have many classics I look forward to devouring, but for now, in advance of the film “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo“, I bought the e-book for only £2.70. I have heard great reviews of the Millennium Series. I doubt I’ll be able to read the book before I likely see the film, but at least I should see what the book is like, to read on perhaps to the rest of the series. I also have my eyes on the Inheritance Cycle series by Chris Paolini but I have more than plenty to keep me occupied for the next few months at least.

Happy New Year!

Kindle, phd, random, rantings, reading, travel, university

Well, it is that time again. Another year, another time where one can reflect and look back at a year passed.

For me, I will gladly leave 2011. It sure wasn’t the best of years. If anything, it has been the hardest year of my life. I haven’t said this publicly here – I have been getting to terms with it myself, but many friends will be aware that in December 2010 my father passed away. It really isn’t appropriate to discuss it too much here, but as you can imagine, it has been very hard. I am an only child, my mother also has a difficult condition and I have felt the weight on my shoulders.

This past year, I really have felt my life has been a great roller-coaster. I have faced some really difficult personal challenges. Knowing what is best under these circumstances has been really hard. I have struggled with my PhD which didn’t really get going afterwards through various circumstances. I have found myself torn in many ways, which is hard to explain to anybody who doesn’t know me well enough. So much of this past year has been so very personal, but even those who know me I’m not sure understand fully the pain I have felt. Only now are things starting to turn around for the better, although the future remains uncertain. My biggest challenge will be getting through financial barriers which is my greatest worry.

I’d like to think that through my bad experiences I have become a stronger person. Who knows? I sure have had to be defiant in my ambitions. I have been made to see life a little differently, but that has taken a number of months to work through and even now, I ponder. Perhaps my confidence has been knocked, but 2012 is a new year. I have been considering challenges I should work towards; namely, a first author paper. I plan to focus much, much more on my work which is the ambition towards my intended career path.

I am aware I have put on a few pounds over this past year and have become rather inactive. I have already started this “Couch to 5k” running plan to help get back into shape. I intend to keep track of my progress using a website I heard called Runkeeper where one can post their activities in a sort of Fitness “diary”. The great thing is, it lets you map your movements using an app on your mobile phone. That tells you the distance, time, range of elevation, average pace and route map of your activities.

This month, I am cutting alcohol from my diet totally (except possibly, Burns’ Night for some Scotch Whisky). I am not a massive drinker, but perhaps I was drinking more frequently last year.

I’m monitoring what I eat in a food diary and I am recording my weight every day in an attempt to lose weight.

I joined the university mountaineering club after a friend/work colleague encouraged me to join. I haven’t taken it so seriously as I ought to have done but I plan to attend at least once a week no matter what. I plan to go to the upcoming Pennines trip in a couple of weeks’ time.

I am a little embarrassed to say this but I have never been to a big live concert. Anyone who knows me should know I’m not into massive crowds. I have a ticket to see Dream Theater next month which I am really looking forward to. I hope to see a symphonic metal band, Delain, in May. It would be awesome if I could get to Ruisrock in Finland. I really want to see Nightwish who are set to be playing there. Many of the bands I like either have released or will release an album before the festival, most of whom are Scandinavian/Nordic.  I’ll try to write a separate blog about that. I will be seeing the comedian, Jimmy Carr in a week, which should be fun, so a few things to look forward to.

I have no real travel plans at the moment. My focus has to be work which has suffered this past year. I’d like to visit Italy some day. I enjoy Italian wine, food, coffee and cars. I’m also very curious about exploring Roman history, as well as the astronomer Galileo Gailei. With uncertainty about the Euro, we’ll see about that for the moment.

I’m enjoying things a bit more at the moment. I think what was much-needed was the Christmas break, the first proper break I had all year. It sure was great to see old friends and family who I hadn’t seen for a long while. I know I felt exhausted about everything that happened over the past year. It is good to be back though. I’m looking to a better 2012.

Term hasn’t yet started, so university is very quiet currently although that is all set to change this weekend. Postgraduate demonstrating will in part keep me busy. I’m enjoying my new Kindle I received at Christmas. I love that there are so many free e-books out there – so many great classics. I now have at my leisure: the Complete Works of Charles Dickens, the Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection, Thomas Hardy’s Complete Fiction – plus so many more. In fact, I have so much reading material at the moment, it is phenomenal. I had a £50 book token, so I also have a number of great books there such as Phillip Pulman’s “His Dark Materials” which I am itching to read.

Currently, I am reading “The Time Traveler’s Wife” which proved to be an interesting film. I am already finding though that Henry and Clare’s story in the novel is much more fascinating. Niffeneger really brings to life to her characters in the novel, compared to the film which seems to lose an element of that. The film always seemed as though it could have been better.

I am trying to preoccupy myself much more with those things I really enjoy and that enable me to enjoy life. At the same time, I aim to be more healthy and active. I’m looking forward to a trip to the Pennines with the University Mountaineering Club which will be in a couple of weeks time.

2011 really got me down big time, but I feel I am finally escaping the “hole” I felt I was in. “Things can only get better.” – which leaves me with this, remembering the classic hit song by D:Ream (whose keyboard player was British Particle Physicist, Prof. Brian Cox)

LEISURE

personal, reading

Something reminded me of the following, this week. I remember it from old Yorkshire Television years ago now. I find it quiet a neat poem I thought I should care.

“LEISURE”

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

By Wm. Henry Davies. (1871-1940)