Thursday, 30 October 2014

Scalzi Double (Lazy Book Reviewer Jr. Returns)

This review hails the return of the Lazy Book Reviewer Jr. Recently I have given Jr (aged 12) access to my John Scalzi collection, and he has been busily reading ever since. I am glad to see he has my impeccable taste in books and Scalzi is now one of his favorite authors. 

John Scalzi has delivered yet again another highly entertaining Sci-Fi read. The narrative as always moves along at a thrilling pace with characters that leap of the page and give you a cheeky slap just to make sure you are paying attention.

Locked In delivers a plot that is both fresh, intriguing. As always the author weaves together a tale that keeps you engaged and your grey matter working right to the last page.

I don't want to give away any of this story, as a part of the joy of reading Scalzi is discovering the world he has created. So if you have yet to experience John Scalzi get of your collectives rear ends and get reading people.

4.5 Stars

The Lazy Book Reviewer Jr.

Hope your hyper drive's in working order for this awesome hilarious sci-fi adventure. Our main character Andrew and his friends Mya, Finn, Hester and Jimmy are transferred to the starship Intrepid and realize something is seriously wrong with the ship. Like personnel dodging commanding officers so they don't get on away missions to planets because people always die on away mission with certain officers. 

After our main characters are put on an away mission themselves and nearly die they seek out Jenkins, a hermit who hides in the cargo tunnels of the ship working on his independent research project. Jenkins tells them that their world is being warped by a Star trek like TV program, and things get pretty interesting from there. Over all it is an awesome read for teens and adults alike and it is one of my personal favorites.

5 Stars

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Blackwater Review Part 2

Here is Pamellia's second part of her Blackwater saga revieww. 

The house had stood alone without anyone living in it for so long...has someone or something else moved in?
Changes to the Caskeys continue to take place. What are Elinor's next plans. Sometimes the author gives us hints and sometimes he just shocks us. No matter how he goes about telling us, it is never dull and always interesting and sometimes a bit scary.

This part of the saga gives us insight into how the war in Europe effected not only the Caskey family but also the town of Perdido. Of course the USA becomes a part of the war and many men in the town become part of the military. Big changes at the mill as many government contracts are secured.
Elinor's daughter becomes involved with a young Army officer. His name is Billy. He falls in love with the Caskey family and their way of life. He is from a wealthy family, but his family never had the love and drama that the Caskey family has. He turns out to be a good man and a great asset to the family.
5 stars for both

Monday, 20 October 2014

History of the Microwave Oven

It has been a while since I have done o history of everyday items. So I thought I would kick things off again with an item we all use the good old Microwave.

Percy Spencer
The man was Percy Spencer.  At the age of just 18 months old, Spencer’s father died and his mother soon left him to his aunt and uncle.  His uncle then died when Spencer was just seven years old.  Spencer subsequently left grammar school and, at the age of 12, began working from sunup to sundown at a spool mill, which he continued to do until he was 16 years old.  At this time, he heard about a nearby paper mill that was “electrifying”, which intrigued him.  Given that few in his town, a remote community in Maine, knew much of anything about electricity, he began learning what he could about it and managed to become one of three people who were hired to install electricity in the plant, despite having never received any formal training in electrical engineering nor even finishing grammar school.

At the age of 18, Spencer decided to join the U.S. navy after becoming interested in wireless communications directly following learning about the wireless operators aboard the Titanic when it sank.  While with the navy, he made himself an expert on radio technology: “I just got hold of a lot of textbooks and taught myself while I was standing watch at night.”  He also subsequently taught himself: trigonometry, calculus, chemistry, physics, and metallurgy, among other subjects.

Fast-forward to 1939 where Spencer, now one of the world’s leading experts in radar tube design, was working at Raytheon as the head of the power tube division.  Largely due to his reputation and expertise, Spencer managed to help Raytheon win a government contract to develop and produce combat radar equipment for M.I.T.’s Radiation Laboratory.  This was of huge importance to the Allies and became the military’s second highest priority project during WWII, behind the Manhattan Project.  It also saw Spencer’s staff rise from 15 employees to 5000 over the course of the next few years.

World War II Radar
One day, while Spencer was working on building magnetrons for radar sets,  he was standing in front of an active radar set when he noticed the candy bar he had in his pocket melted.  Spencer wasn’t the first to notice something like this with radars, but he was the first to investigate it.  He and some other colleagues then began trying to heat other food objects to see if a similar heating effect could be observed.  The first one they heated intentionally was popcorn kernels, which became the world’s first microwaved popcorn.  Spencer then decided to try to heat an egg.  He got a kettle and cut a hole in the side, then put the whole egg in the kettle and positioned the magnetron to direct the microwaves into the hole.  The result was that the egg exploding in the face of one of his co-workers, who was looking in the kettle as the egg exploded.

Spencer then created what we might call the first true microwave oven by attaching a high density electromagnetic field generator to an enclosed metal box.  The magnetron would then shoot into the metal box, so that the electromagnetic waves would have no way to escape, which would allow for more controlled and safe experimentation.  He then placed various food items in the box and monitored their temperature to observe the effect.

Early Radarange Microwave Oven
The company Spencer was working for, Raytheon, then filed a patent on October 8, 1945 for a microwave cooking oven, eventually named the Radarange.  This first commercially produced microwave oven was about 6 feet tall and weighed around 750 pounds.  The price tag on these units was about $5000 a piece.  It wasn’t until 1967 that the first microwave oven that was both relatively affordable ($495) and reasonably sized (counter-top model) became available.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The First Man In Space

Starman tells story Yuri Gagarin the first man in space and by doing so tells us the story of the start of the space race. It is easy to forget that the USSR was miles ahead of the US in the early years of the space race and had an impressive list of firsts. Which included first object put in space and the first man and woman in space. 

The author has crafted a well-balanced book that delivers both  an entertaining and informative read. I entered this book with only cursory knowledge of Yuri and was fascinated to see how the son of a potato farmer became the first man in space. Even more fascinating was his life afterwards and how he was used as a political tool in the emerging Cold War. I am drawn to books on the Soviet Union like a moth to light and this one did not let me down. I always love having a peek behind the Iron Curtain.

As mentioned before to tell the story of Yuri is to tell the story of the start of the space race. The author goes to great length to give the reader an understanding of how much Yuri's flight and other achievements of the USSR impacted on the psyche of the West. It is easy to forget through the fog of time that the space race was a direct reflection of the might and threat posed by the Superpowers, and in the beginning the Soviets reigned supreme.

4 Stars