Sunday, July 29, 2007

Eye Candy

Ladder Of Years

Ladder of Years, by Anne Tyler
$7.99 at Amazon.com
ISBN: 0804113475
One of the best books I've read with a female protagonist, Ladder of Years is about a woman named Delta. She's in her early 40s, has a beautiful family from Baltimore, and a pretty sweet life.
Yet she remains unfulfilled, and so while on vacation at a Delaware beach, she impulsively abandons her family wearing only a bathing suit and carrying a purse containing $500. Under these peculiar circumstances, she decides to start a new life.
She sounds dreadful, but she's actually a very kind and sensible woman. Anne Tyler (right) wrote Delta's character so perfectly that I not only understood why Delta did what she did, she actually led me to a deeper understanding of the women in my life. Hopefully you will, too.
After purchasing clothes, Delta finds an apartment and job in a shore community, mainly through resourcefulness and thrift. The police find her and she calmly explains that she is fine, didn't wish to worry anyone, and asked her family for some privacy.
This all seems a bit bizarre: you'd think she was a nut, or stupid, but she's neither. It's interesting how often in literature dad runs off, rarely is it mom as in this book. She's not a villainous character at all, just a rebel who plays no one's rules but her own.
Much of the story revolves around the people in her adopted town. They're polite yet understandably curious about the lady who was in all the newspapers (her disappearance was highly publicized by the local media). A 12-year old boy from town becomes a curious friend to her; curious since the boy is motherless and she cares for him while neglecting her own children.
Of course her family gets in touch with her eventually, asking if she ever intends to come home. She tells them she probably will.
"A woman's prerogative" is a phrase that kept coming to mind, an idea I'm beginning to grasp. A queer dude is like any other dude: I don't really understand women. Thanks for some enlightenment, Anne! Wonderfully suspenseful, this book is a treat for the senses.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Eye Candy

The Planets

Here's my long-awaited posting on the first three planets in our Solar System. Interesting that we call them "the first three" since evidence suggests they were the latest planets formed. Anyway, there's an outstanding book on the subject called Astronomy: A Visual Guide, by Mark Garlick, for those who are fascinated by this sort of thing.

Mercury:
Diameter: 3031 miles (38.2% Earth)
Mass: 0.055 Earth
Mean Surface Temperature: 800 F (430 C)
The closest planet to the Sun, Mercury is a scorched, airless ball of iron covered with a thick crust of rock. Astronomers suspect the planet was originally much larger before a collision with a proto-planet, billions of years ago, blasted pieces of it into space. Mercury resembles the moon: an endless sea of craters. This is because the planet lacks an atmosphere and has never had water on its surface: the only erosion comes from the occasional impact of meteorites.

Venus:
Diameter: 7521 miles (94.8% of Earth)
Mass: 0.95 Earth
Mean Surface Temperature: 900 F (490 C)
Venus has been called Earth's sister because of its similar mass and size, but our nearest planetary neighbor is anything but Earthlike! The surface is permanently hidden beneath an atmosphere of carbon dioxide choked with clouds of sulfuric acid. This noxious sky pushes down on the surface with a pressure equivalent to that at the bottom of a lake nearly 900 M deep. The atmosphere is a heat trap, too. Despite being farther from the sun than Mercury, Venus is hotter. Both tin and lead would melt there.


And last, but certainly not least, my favorite planet:


Earth:

Diameter: 7926 miles
Mean Surface Temperature:
72 F (22 C)
Mass: 13,140,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds
The largest of the terrestrial worlds, Earth is the only planet in the Solar System capable of maintaining liquid surface water. In fact, 70% of the planet's surface is covered in it, many miles deep in places. It's also the only planet known to support life: is this very common? Or quite rare?

There are posts on the other planets here.

Hope everyone is enjoying their summer!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Eye Candy

Dove

Dove, by Robin Lee Graham
$10.19 at Amazon.com
ISBN: 0060920475
Travel memoirs are a favorite of mine, and this one is out of this world. Apparently it's been a classic for years: I'd never heard of it until this week and now wonder where it's been all my life: Treasure Island meets Harry Potter.
In 1965, Robin became the first teenage boy to sail solo around the world. This book is the story of his impressive voyage, told in only 199 pages.
The trip took two years on a 24-foot sloop called Dove, with only a pair of kittens for companionship. During his trip he encounters storms so bad one breaks the mast off his boat. On one of his stops, he finds true love, and returns from his trip a married man. There are so many outstanding themes here: romance, adventure, and coming-of-age on the high seas.
We begin our journey when Robin and a few of his friends build a homemade boat that falls apart during a squall. The boys are rescued by the Coast Guard, but Robin's wanderlust has been ignited. His parents help him buy and build Dove so that he can take his dream trip in relative safety the second time, and on July 27, 1965, he takes off from California for Hawaii.
He visits the Solomon Islands, where his boat is in desperate need of repair, and the archipelago of Tonga, which he calls "the Friendly Islands." In Fiji he visits an island settled by a Scotsman in the 19th Century. Most of the inhabitants are his descendants, they are rather inbred and very odd.
Through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean, across the Atlantic and through the Panama Canal back to his home port. It's a very exciting trip, especially impressive since the author was so young. And handsome, if I may say so. There's a series of photos in the book: in most of them he's shirtless on the deck or sunning himself on an exotic beach.
It's a lonely and dangerous trip for Robin, but a fun read for the rest of us. You'd have to be out of your mind not to find this story interesting. Check it out!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Eye Candy

Quotations

They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.
Dorothy Parker (1893 - 1967)

Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.
Mother Teresa (1910 - 1997)

Be civil to all, sociable to many, familiar with few, friend to one, enemy to none.
Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790)

I do not want people to be agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them.
Jane Austen (1775 - 1817)

Everything you can imagine is real.
Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973)

Watch out for the fellow who talks about putting things in order! Putting things in order always means getting other people under your control.
Denis Diderot (1715 - 1784)

One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.
Elbert Hubbard (1856 - 1915)

We may go to the moon, but that's not very far. The greatest distance we have to cover still lies within us.
Charles de Gaulle (1890 - 1970)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Eye Candy