27 December 2015

A lesson in life's priorities

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the lecture began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. Again, they agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous "Yes".
The professor then produced two bottles of beer from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand.The students laughed.
"Now," said the professor as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things--your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions--and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else--the small stuff."
"If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn. Take care of the golf balls first--the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."
One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented. The professor smiled and said, "I’m glad you asked, the beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers with a friend."

[Yep, couldn't agree more -- LS]
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24 December 2015

How to Read an Entire Book in a Single Day

I simply cannot imagine doing this, but if you’ve been putting off reading that book for weeks, and you’re supposed to have read it all by tomorrow, whether cramming for school, or trying to avoid looking like a lazy bum in your book club, don’t lose hope. You can power through that tome without forgetting everything and coming away with nothing.

Reading an entire book in a matter of hours may seem daunting, but it all comes down to simple math. The average adult reads around 200-400 words per minute. The average novel ranges between 60,000 and 100,000 words total. If your reading speed is right in the middle of the pack at 300 words per minute, and you’re reading a middle-of-the-pack novel at around 80,000 words, you’ll be able to knock it out in around five hours or less.

That might seem like a lot, but it’s totally possible. And you can do it without any skimming or speed reading trickery, which can be bad when it comes to truly absorbing information. For the most part, it’s possible to read at your usual pace, absorb information at your brain’s preferred rate, and all you have to do is buckle down, make the time, and get started as soon as possible.

Sounds a tad crazy, but if you're still interested you can click HERE and head over to Lifehacker to read the whole article.

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21 December 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens...can't wait to see this

Here we have one of the most anticipated movies in years, and it's one which is hoped will breathe fresh life into the Star Wars franchise under new owners Disney. Not that things ever got stale, but it's nice to see a the story continuing to move along. The Star Wars expanded universe is an amazing thing with books, comics, games & animated TV shows that demonstrate how huge the phenomenon is. If the movies can move into similar territory then we are in for a huge treat.

The first reviews are in and the general opinion is that it's bloody good. The trailers that have been released are enough for me to see that it's something special.

In lieu of my own review HERE is one from popular sci-fi blog SFFWORLD.


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05 December 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Mosquito Squadron by Robert Jackson

Mosquito Squadron by Robert Jackson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summer 1943.

The Battle of Britain is over. But the Battle of Germany has just begun. 

By night and day, RAF and USAAF bombers drive deep into enemy territory, striking at the heart of Germany’s war effort. 

Squadron Leader George Yeoman, veteran of the skies, has orders to protect the bombers on their long-range missions. He and his men will support in the elusive de Havilland Mosquito, a versatile plane made from wood but capable of stinging the Luftwaffe and sucking the fight from its airmen. 

Across the channel, Major Joachim Richter, Yeoman’s counterpart and adversary, bravely leads his squadron out each night to intercept the Allied bombers before they destroy German cities. 

The fight will be long and gruelling, but engineers behind the scenes on both sides are racing to build a plane that may soon decide the battle, the fighter jet. 

Will Yeoman survive the fight or will this be his last? 

'Mosquito Squadron' is a classic WWII adventure story.

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A solid war yarn telling of combat trials and tribulations of an RAF Mosquito fighter-bomber squadron during World War Two, as they rove across Europe from their base in England to harass the enemy. It's quite a short book made up of chapters which follow each other chronologically but are almost standalone in the sense that each one tells a distinct little story and depicts a specific sortie or battle scene. There isn't really much of an overall plot, just the various happenings and exploits but these are described in rather good detail and in a nicely written style that flows very well. The author appears to have a good understanding of the more technical aspects of the subject matter such as the aircraft and weapons which adds a touch of authenticity to the story, you often feel like you're right there in the cockpit with the chaps. Parallel to the Mosquito squadron, we also see the action from the perspective of a German Luftwaffe fighter commander and he plays his part in the increasingly futile attempt to defend their homeland from the growing Allied advances from all sides. We witness trials of experimental aircraft and weapons, given a seat of the pants ride across Europe on marauding raids seeking the enemy and shown the destruction wrought by these courageous knights of the sky. It's a fun read, the only disappointment being the lack of an overall story, this making it a tad underwhelming to read and left me a bit flat after finishing it. If that "bigger picture" was complete I probably would've given it five stars. In a nutshell it's a good piece of war fiction that an enthusiast of good yarns will probably enjoy.

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02 December 2015

BOOK REVIEW: New Earth by Ben Bova

New EarthNew Earth by Ben Bova
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Award-winning author Ben Bova brings us New Earth, his latest tale of science fiction in his Grand Tour series.

The entire world is thrilled by the discovery of a new Earthlike planet. Advance imaging shows that the planet has oceans of liquid water and a breathable oxygen-rich atmosphere. Eager to gain more information, a human exploration team is soon dispatched to explore the planet, now nicknamed New Earth.

All of the explorers understand that they are essentially on a one-way mission. The trip takes eighty years each way, so even if they are able to get back to Earth, nearly 200 years will have elapsed. They will have aged only a dozen years thanks to cryonic suspension, but their friends and family will be gone and the very society that they once knew will have changed beyond recognition. The explorers are going into exile, and they know it. They are on this mission not because they were the best available, but because they were expendable.

Upon landing on the planet they discover something unexpected: New Earth is inhabited by a small group of intelligent creatures who look very much like human beings.

Who are these people? Are they native to this world, or invaders from elsewhere?

While they may seem inordinately friendly to the human explorers, what are their real motivations? What do they want?
Moreover, the scientists begin to realize that this planet cannot possibly be natural. They face a startling and nearly unthinkable question: Could New Earth be an artifact?

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A superb fun sci-fi story, an engaging yarn of interstellar exploration that yields some surprises. This is one of those books that reminds me of why I love science fiction so much; it displays the wonder and glory of new worlds, species and cultures, a wonder that makes me want to be right there, in the story with the characters. Yes, it's a tad cliche, but I was totally drawn in, and this is due not only to the storyline, but also to Bova's relaxed style and his reasonable and believable characters. If you're looking for a ground-breaking masterpiece of cutting edge science fiction, this is not it, but what it is is a fine space adventure with most of the elements that make this genre so enjoyable. If I had to classify it, I'd say this book is hard sci-fi within a sort of space opera matrix which floats around in the background. There's an amazing setting to explore in subsequent books (I hope) within a galaxy teeming with life and a serious threat to all of this life about to sweep through. All good stuff really, and it epitomises fun science fiction. Anyway, I really liked it and it's the fastest read that I've had in ages. A top notch story.

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