Getting a little bookish with Berry

Bookworm?
Bookworm?

Strawberry Singh offered another of her Monday Memes. I don’t tend to do a lot of them, but every so often one grabs my attention and does prompt me to actually start, well, thinking. Her Book Meme is one such example, in which she asks her readers to divulge their reading habits through a series of questions. So here are my answers…

Are you a bookworm? Probably, yes. There are bookcases crammed with books in almost every room in the house.

Which do you prefer: hardcover, paperback or electronic? Depends. My reference books, cookery books, history books, biographies etc., are almost all hardcover. Novels, anthologies,  etc., are almost all paperback, as they’re the ones that travel with me on holiday, etc. I’ve yet to really like electronic formats. That may eventually change now I have a tablet.

Which book is your favourite? That’s a tough one. I’m not sure I have “a” favourite, but there are a number I love to read and try to make a point of diving into every so often just for the “old friend” feeling I get from them.

Which children’s book is your favourite? That’s easier: The Hobbit, because it takes me back to my childhood and Dad reading it to me at bedtime.

What’s the last book you’ve read? Criminal Shadows, Inside the Mind of the Serial Killer by David Canter, the UK’s pioneering expert in psychological profiling. Prior to that, Lucky Man, Michael J. Fox’s memoir.

Name your top five favourite writers.  I can’t do five! Arthur Conan Doyle, P.D. James, James Ellroy, Patricia Cornwell , Colin Dexter; J.R.R. Tolkien, Anne McCaffrey, Marion Zimmer Bradley, David Eddings, G.R.R. Martin; Greg Bear, Kate Wilhelm, Melinda Snodgrass; Douglas Adams, Tom Holt; Shakespeare, Homer, Chaucer, Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan,  …  I’ll stop there … 🙂

Name a book that had a strong impact on you. Fiction-wise, probably Juniper Time, by Kate Wilhelm. A little dated nowadays, but a powerful story with compelling characters.  Non-fiction, there’s more than one that stands out to me, all for different reasons.

Favourite & least favourite book genres? Favourites: fiction-wise: crime, science-fiction, fantasy; I also like biographies, and I read a lot of reference works. Least favourites: historical romances, romances, anything to do with Harry Potter (see, you’re not alone, Berry!) …

Favourite & least favourite book-to-movie adaptations? In terms of number of times watched, probably Lord of the Rings (there’s a surprise!). I’ve been enjoying Game of Thrones (GRRM’s Song of Ice and Fire), and have DVD boxed sets of things like Sherlock Holmes (Brett & Hardwicke) and Inspector Morse, which can be the visual equivalents of sitting down with the books.  Least favourite: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. No studio can match the power of one’s own imagination when it comes to travelling through Adams’ wonky galaxy.

Have you ever bought a book based on the cover alone? No.

Where do you usually buy your books? Waterstones for the most part, or on-line.

Do you go to the library? No.

How many books do you own? A lot. Seriously.

If you were to write a book about Second Life, which topic would you focus on? The history of the platform and its social positioning.

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Polychronies: looking upon an ancient future

Polychronies
Polychronies

Polychronies, Gem Preiz’s latest exhibition of his RL fractal artwork opened on Monday February 24th at the Le Bronx gallery. As with his recent exhibits Cathedral Dreamer, and Ride The Universe, both of which I’ve reviewed in these pages, it’s a fascinating exhibit, with some seventeen of Gem’s pieces on display across seven rooms.

As with his previous exhibitions, there is a central theme to this piece; this one somewhat a mix of ancient astronauts and futuristic science-fiction. It seems a race of ancients one populated the universe and built great temple-like structures and enormous cityscapes which have survived them. Having stood empty for millennia, these great structures now stand as an enigmatic reminder of a much older race as our own descendents reach outward to the stars. Yet who or what that race was, and how they may or may not be related to us, remains a mystery perhaps hidden in the depths of these magnificent temples.

Polychronies
Polychronies

To get to the exhibition, teleport down from the region’s landing point to the ground (Le Bronx). You’ll arrive alongside the gallery’s foyer, where you can pick-up a catalogue of paintings featured in the exhibition, which also includes the backstory. There’s also a freebie spacesuit on offer if you feel like really getting into the mood. Three circular teleports are available to transfer people to the exhibition space itself.

Here Gem’s work is displayed within a series of interconnected rooms, with two or three pieces mounted on the walls per room. Semi-transparent walkways direct you through the exhibit, passing through some of the images or through bare walls along the way.  The images themselves are truly stupendous, and Gem has done a huge amount of work to bring his pieces into SL and present them in what are effectively seamless montages up to 50 or 60 metres in length. Such is the wealth of detail, I’m not sure the pictures here are going to do any of them justice; they really do have to be seen.

Polychronies - the detail evident in the individual pieces is captivating
Polychronies – the detail evident in the individual pieces is captivating

As with Cathedral Dreamer,  a powerful feeling is evoked when camming slowly over the incredible structures displayed in each painting; the three-dimensional feel within each of them makes one long to be able to step into it, to see the tall towers reaching into strange skies from within, to look out over their majestic vistas and feel the light of the alien suns which have warmed them through the long millennia and, ultimately, step into their myriad rooms and discover the secrets they hide. In short, to truly be an astronaut explorer making the most incredible archaeological finds of human history.

Polychronies is another marvellous examination of the beauty of fractal art, and for those who have the physical in-world space, one which can be enjoyed at home, as each of the pieces on display is also available for sale.

Definitely not one to be missed.

Polychronies
Polychronies

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Sometimes going backwards is the best way forward

CuriosityCuriosity is once more moving forwards – by going backwards.

Since crossing the “Dingo Gap” sand dune, the rover has been on terrain dubbed “Moonlight Valley” which is far smoother than has been encountered in recent travels, exactly as the mission team would hope would be the case. Nevertheless, precautionary measures are still being used to offer Curiosity’s aluminium wheels some additional relief after a routine inspection of them revealed some had suffered much greater wear and tear than had been anticipated crossing some very rugged terrain.

While the damage to the wheels is not an immediate threat to the rover, mission planners were aware it could happen, and so have been considering various alternatives to minimise further undue wear. One of these alternatives involves the rover proceeding by driving backwards.

A white-balanced look back at the “Dingo Gap” sand dune Curiosity drove over on February 9th (Sol 538) to reach smoother driving terrain. For scale, the distance between the parallel wheel tracks is about 2.7 metres (9 feet) across (click to enlarge)

Theoretically, the design of the rover means that it can make forward progress either by driving with its front end (mounting the robot arm and science turret), or with its rear end, the large RTG cooling system, facing the direction of travel. However, the technique has never been fully tested on Mars, only having being tried over any significant distance using Curiosity’s Earth-based test bed twin; but with much smoother terrain now before the rover, mission managers were eager to discover how well Curiosity could drive when travelling backwards.

“We wanted to have backwards driving in our validated toolkit because there will be parts of our route that will be more challenging,” said mission Project Manager Jim Erickson at  NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. To this end, on Tuesday February 18th, Sol 647 of the mission, Curiosity covered just over 100 metres (329 feet) whilst driving backwards, a traverse which was also the first long trek the rover has made in more than three months, bringing the total distance it has driven since arriving on Mars in August 2012 to some 5.21 kilometres (3.24 miles).

Casting a long shadow: a black-and-white Navcam image captured by Curiosity at the end of its 100-metre reverse drive on Sol 547 (February 18th, 2014). The linear markings near the rover’s shadow are not wheel marks but surface patterns in the ground over which it is travelling (click to enlarge)

With the reverse driving now proven, Curiosity is set to resume its primary mission, which will see it make its way to an area previously referred to as “KMS-9”, comprising three different terrain / rock types offer a relatively dust-free area, and which has now been renamed “Kimberley” after a region in north-western Australia noted for its ancient, exposed rocks.

Following the February 18th drive, Curiosity faced a 1.1 kilometre curving trek to reach “Kimberley”. Once there, the rover will stop there to conduct further science activities, including gathering further rock samples using the turret-mounted drill. At the same time, mission managers will use orbital imagery to select the preferred route the rover will be instructed to take in order to continue onwards to its primary destination: the lower slopes of “Mount Sharp”.

“We have changed our focus to look at the big picture for getting to the slopes of Mount Sharp, assessing different potential routes and different entry points to the destination area,” Erickson said, commenting on the need to reassess the route. “No route will be perfect; we need to figure out the best of the imperfect ones.”

Reaching Kimberley: the white line marks Curiosity’s route. Prior to cross “Dingo Gap” (top right), the rover’s route would have been more-or-less directly to “Kimberley” (lower left). Since crossing the dune onto smoother terrain, the rover has travelled some 100 metres (to “547”), with the yellow line showing the revised route to “Kimberley” the rover will be negotiating (click to enlarge)

It is not clear how long the rover will remain at “Kimberley” once it arrives there; part of this decision will likely only be made once the rover have been able to survey the area for itself.

MSL reports in this blog

Images and video courtesy of NASA / JPL.