Ready for Guest Bloggers

April is about to start in a few minutes, so I though I’d do something new for April. I going to be participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, so I may be spending a bit more time writing for that, rather than blogging.  However, I don’t intend to have the number of blog posts decrease.  I’d like to provide you with great content and great posts to discuss.  So, I am asking for guest bloggers.  If you are interested in being a guest blogger, please leave me a comment on this page, or you can go to my About page and send me an email.

The content of the post should be related to books.  They can be about any genre, as long as it’s not erotica.  I want to keep this blog PG.  Also, no advertising, as that is against’s terms of service.  You can write about writing, reading, discussing different genres, different aspects of books, and so on.  Let me know what you’d like to write about just so I can give it the green light.  I will be linking back to your blog from the guest post, of course.

Let me know if you’re interested!

Blog by the Numbers

I love statistics.  I often look at numbers whenever I can.  I want to see how they change and look for reasons why.  I also enjoy seeing other bloggers post their numbers.  It’s just fascinating to me.

So, here are some statistics related to this blog.  First, let’s look at the number of views.

Since I started this blog in January 2012, I have reached a total of 9,744 views.  This isn’t a big amount.  My Japan blog has far, far more views, and regularly outperforms this blog even when I don’t update it while posting daily here.  My audience is steadily growing here, though.  Before November 2013, my best month was July 2012, when I did a post a day.  I had 512 views that month.  In November 2013, I did another post a day and had 730 views.  The majority of those views came in the last half of November.  December 2013 was a great month, because I continued posting on a daily basis, and achieved 1,152 views.  I continued doing the same for January and got my best month to date at 1,259 views.  February dropped a lot because I didn’t post much.  I had computer problems and I was preparing for my sister’s visit.  I had only 551 views.  This month isn’t finished, and I already have more than 1,000 views. This year, I have more views in this past 3 months than I had in all of 2012.  I’m on pace for 11,680 views this year, though it’ll likely be more.

I love comments.  This blog currently has 1,077 comments.  But who comments?  My top 5 commenters are:

  1. Carl V. Anderson
  2. winterbayne
  3. Sierra
  4. kamo
  5. Tom

Who views my blog?  The top 5 countries of my readers are:

  1. United States (4,213 views)
  2. Japan (1,665 views)
  3. Canada (946 views)
  4. United Kingdom (533 views)
  5. Australia (305 views)

Rounding out the top 10 are: South Korea, India, New Zealand, Germany, and Norway.

My top 5 viewed posts this year are:

  1. Book Review – Macbeth (198 views)
  2. What does an earthquake feel like? (168 views)
  3. INTJ – An Analysis of My Personality (128 views)
  4. The Best and the Worst of 2013 (69 views)
  5. Are Writers Introverts or Extroverts? (39 views)

Interesting that a review is my top viewed page.  And it’s Shakespeare!  But the second highest is actually a long-time favourite of my readers.

Going off this blog for a bit, let’s look at a couple other things.  First of all is my Twitter account.  I currently have 1,829 followers, and the number is growing quite steadily.  It’s been increasing more quickly recently.  I should be reaching the magic 2,000 barrier fairly soon.  On Twitter, I have made 5,485 tweets.

Looking at Alexa, this blog’s global rank is 3,464,696.  In the past 3 months, I’ve improved by 91,163 places.

On YouTube, since I’ve been pretty inactive and have merely used it for some rather random and unimpressive videos, none of my videos have more than 1,000 views.  My most popular video has 749 views, and it shows what I see during a lull in a typhoon.

In the future, I’m going to be very interested in seeing how my book sales go.  It just seems really interesting to me.

Once Upon a Time VIII

Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting another reading event.  I’ve participated in the last two of their sci-fi events, but this one is for fantasy.  It’s called Once Upon a Time VIII.  That’s 8, not Vee I I I.


What’s nice is that this event is 3 months long, spanning the entire season of spring from March 21st to June 21st.  Plenty of time to get some good fantasy reading done!  What I find interesting is that I hadn’t even heard of it before!  I didn’t know about it last year, yet I still participated in the Sci-Fi Experience.  Well, I’ll rectify that and participate in this now.

I have some books to contribute, I’m sure.  I’m currently reading Terry Brooks’ Angel Fire East and M. R. Mathias’ The Sword and the Dragon. I should be able to get to Terry Pratchett’s Moving Pictures and George R. R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords during this time, and maybe even Brian Kittrell’s The Circle of Sorcerers. If I can dedicate myself to reading all of that, I’ll be surprised, though.  I have plenty of science fiction in the mix, so it’s not all fantasy.

There are some challenges in this event, and it looks like I’ll only be going for Quest the First.  That is, read at least five books in the four categories.

I encourage you to check out the main page and the review page. I’m going to enjoy reading all that fantasy!

My Presence on YouTube

Did you know that I have a YouTube channel?  You didn’t?  Well, here it is.

I haven’t done much on YouTube recently, but I have plans to use it quite a bit in the near future.  So far, I’ve mostly put up some rather unimpressive videos I took, such as fireworks, the sound of cicadas, some not very exciting typhoon videos, and so on.  I’ve been going back over my videos and thought I’d showcase some of them here, just so you can get a taste of what I’ve taken.

In honour of the blooming of the cherry trees, let’s start with this one.  It was taken three years ago.

Four years ago, I attended all three sumo tournaments that take place in Tokyo every year.  Here are a couple videos from one tournament, starting with a Yobidashi singing, and then followed by a fan cheerleading.

Five years ago, I went to Odaiba in Tokyo to see a museum, but there was also a full-sized Gundam model.  Of course, I had to take a video.

So, what am I planning to do with my YouTube channel?  I may actually do some vlogging.  The topics will include Japan, books, and nature.

Comments are always welcome!

Book Review – 2061: Odyssey Three

20612061: Odyssey Three

Author: Arthur C. Clarke

Series: Space Odyssey #3

Genre: Science Fiction

Published 1987

Review Copy: Paperback bought new

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Goodreads Description

Arthur C. Clarke revisits the most famous future ever imagined, as two expeditions into space are inextricably tangled by human necessity and the immutable laws of physics. And Heywood Floyd. survivor of two previous encounters with the mysterious monoliths, must once again confront Dave Bowman—or whatever Bowman has become—a newly independent HAL, and the power of an alien race that has decided Humanity is to play a part in the evolution of the galaxy whether it wishes to or not.


2061: Odyssey Three is the third book in the Space Odyssey series by Arthur C. Clarke.  Obviously, this takes place 51 years after the events in 2010: Odyssey Two.

Returning as an elderly man who is unable to walk on Earth due to being in space too long, Dr. Heywood Floyd takes a final journey to see Halley’s Comet, but he’s in for a bigger adventure than he bargained for.  Inevitably, the story goes to the Jupiter system to find out what’s going on there.  I won’t spoil it for you, but it will definitely involve a monolith.

Heading the cast of characters is Dr. Heywood Floyd, the only person from the Leonov expedition to be present in this book.  He’s now quite old and seems quite ready for an adventure.  Unfortunately, I found him to ramble on a lot in his thoughts.  Rolf van der Berg is a scientist on Ganymede, and he seems like a pretty selfish scientist who doesn’t like to heed warnings.  I never really liked him.  Floyd’s grandson Chris is also a major character, and he seems to be fairly level-headed and a likeable character.  We also have a collection of other characters, such as the celebrities that accompany Dr. Floyd.  They are a bit odd, but they are all quite one dimensional.  They aren’t very memorable and have little to do with that actual story.  The rest of the crew of the Universe isn’t very interesting.  The crew of the Galaxy has a more interesting crew, though with the sheer number of characters and little time exposed to each of them, they are also easy to forget.  I found that the character development was extremely lacking and most were very one dimensional.

The story was not so predictable, but I found a lack of suspense.  I wanted to know what would happen next, but I wasn’t on the edge of my seat.  It wasn’t as dramatic as I’d hoped.  It lacks the dramatic flair that the first book and, to a lesser extent, the second book had.  Some chapters were rather dull and did nothing to progress the story.  In those chapters, we had a lot of rambling in the narrative about something that was only vaguely related to what was going on.  It was like an old man who is talking about one thing, then goes off on a tangent about something else entirely.

One thing that impressed me is Clarke’s detail concerning the planets and moons, as well as space travel itself.  It makes me feel like I’m there, although surrounded by uninteresting people I don’t care for.

I may sound a bit harsh, but I was disappointed in the character development and some of the writing.  It is an interesting story, though.

Overall, I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars.  It’s not great, it’s not bad, but it’s reasonably interesting.

A Wishlist for Solar System Exploration

Space exploration has been quite exciting in recent years.  Mercury, Venus, the Moon, Mars, and Saturn currently have probes in orbit or on the surface.  There are probes en route to Pluto, Ceres, Mars, and Jupiter.  There are planned probes to Venus, Mars, the Moon, asteroids,  and Jupiter’s moons.  There’s a lot going on.  However, I feel there could be more.

I have six missions in mind that I would like to see happen.  These are currently not planned, but some have been discussed in recent years.

240px-Venus_globeVenus Lander and Flyer

Venus currently has an orbiter, and has had several orbiters and landers in the past.  It has been completely mapped by radar, and the atmosphere is currently being studied.  Although there have been landings in the past by the Soviet space program, those landers succumbed to Venus’ incredibly high temperatures and volatile atmosphere.  I’d like to see a lander built to survive on the surface and provide us with several weeks of data.  I’d also like to see a flyer that can observe both the atmosphere and the landscape.  Maybe it can also see lightning.

Europa-moonEuropa Lander

Galileo studied Europa, and there’s currently a probe on its way to Jupiter to study the planet, as well as the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer planned to launch in 2022, but nothing planned to land on Europa.  This is one of those places in our solar system that may have life.  It has a liquid ocean under its icy crust, and that ocean is covering a silicate mantle.  It’s quite possible that it could be geologically active with hot smokers like in Earth’s oceans, where microbial life may exist.  But we have to be careful not to contaminate the world if we drill through the ice into the ocean.

Titan_natural_colorTitan Lander

Saturn’s largest moon has already been visited by a lander, the Huygens probe, but it only lasted a short time.  Cassini has done a great job seeing through the clouds to study this remarkably Earth-like moon’s hydrocarbon lakes in the polar regions.  Titan needs a dedicated lander that can study the conditions for a much longer time.  Perhaps a flyer would be useful, as well.  I’d love to see some of Titan’s landscapes.

240px-Uranus2Uranus Orbiter

Uranus has only been visited once, by Voyager 2.  This is a fascinating planet that’s sitting on its side.  It has a ring system and plenty of very interesting moons, like Miranda, Titania, Ariel, Umbriel, and Oberon.  This is a system that needs to be studied up close by a dedicated orbiter.  We also need to understand more about the interior of the planet, as it’s most likely very ice.  It’s called an ice giant, not a gas giant.

244px-NeptuneNeptune Orbiter

The other ice giant, Neptune, has also been visited by Voyager 2.  This planet has a more dynamic-looking atmosphere, but most of the moons are quite small.  However, it has a unique moon, Triton, that is likely to be a captured Kuiper Belt object.  It’s also geologically active.  The most distant planet in the solar system needs an orbiter.

Eris_and_dysnomia2Eris Probe

The largest dwarf planet (larger than Pluto) should be explored in the future, as well.  It’s a lot farther away than Pluto, but it could be reachable by a probe within our lifetime, I hope.  Pluto will be explored next year, but I’d love to see what Eris is like, too.  What is a world so far away like?  It would be amazing to see it.

These are the missions I would love to see in my lifetime.  I’m anxious to know about these worlds.  What would you like to see?

Updated About Page with Contact Information

I’ve just updated my About page with a contact form in case you’d like to email me.  You can use my email address or just fill out the form.

Check it out now!

I’ve also got some other updates in the works.  I’ll be making some individual pages for reading challenges.  I’m also considering a change in the theme of this blog.  It’s been this way for two years, and I’m interested freshening it up.

Any comments?  You know what to do.

Creating a Fictional Planet’s Calendar

When humans finally manage to colonise another planet, there will be some significant differences between life on that planet and life on Earth.  One of them is the calendar.  Why would the Earth’s calendar be inadequate?

First, the orbital period of the new planet will be different than Earth’s 365.25 days.  Second, the length of the day is going to be different.  Third, with these two basic pieces of information, the year will start at different seasons, and midnight would happen at different times of day.  It would make no sense.

So, what we need to do is create a new calendar and timekeeping system.  I’m going to use my fictional world of Ariadne as an example.  I have yet to figure out the calendar, so I’m doing it on the fly as I write this post.

First of all, we need to determine the distance of the planet from the star, which is Beta Comae Berenices.  To do this, we need an equation.  We’ll start with the equation that is used to determine the temperature of a planet (and rearranged to solve for distance D).

D = (Ts^2Rs/2Tp^2)((1-a)/(1-τ/2))^1/2

D is the distance to the star, Ts is the temperature of the star, Tp is the temperature of the planet, Rs is the radius of the star, a is the albedo of the planet, and τ is the optical depth of the planet’s atmosphere.  Going through this, I want Tp to be equal to 288 Kelvin, which is similar to Earth’s.  The albedo should also be similar to Earth’s which is 0.39.  And the optical depth should be similar to Earth’s, considering the atmosphere is very similar.  Therefore, that should be 0.6.  The temperature of Beta Comae Berenices is 5,935 Kelvin, which is slightly hotter than the sun.  The star is also slightly larger than the sun, 1.106 times the size, and therefore has a radius of 770,154,252 metres.  Plug all these in the equation, and we get a distance of 152,657,589 km, which is slightly larger than the distance of the Earth from the sun.

Now, to determine the orbital period of the planet, we need the mass of the star, the orbital radius, and the mass of the planet.  We’ll use Kepler’s Third Law for this. To simplify this, I used this very handy tool to calculate the period.  The semimajor axis is set to 152,657,589 km, the mass of the planet is 1.028 Earth masses (as it’s 2.8% more massive than Earth), and the mass of Beta Comae Berenices, which is 1.15 times the mass of the sun.

We have a result of 0.961094 Earth years, or 351.046 days.

Now, as for the calendar, I’m going to be making up some numbers a bit here.  I’ll keep the numbers the same for the planet and star, but the year will be 351.1 days.  This means that the day on Ariadne is slightly shorter than Earth’s day by 13 seconds.  That’s all.  For the clock, a standard 24 hour clock with 60 minutes can continue to be used, though it’ll have to be adjusted a little.

As for the calendar, to get a nice round number of days per month is a bit difficult.  However, based on a 351 day year, a 12 month calendar with 29 day months is possible.  There are an extra 3 days, though.  They could be distributed around to 3 other months, but I’d like to do something special.  At the beginning of each year, there will be a 3 day month.  It’ll be a 3 day period for people to celebrate the colonisation of the world.

Now, to account for that extra 0.1 days, we can add leap years every 10 years.  Add an extra day on the decade to the holiday month, so on every 10th anniversary, there’s an extra long holiday.

As the year is slightly shorter, people’s ages will increase a bit faster.  So, a 50 year old person on Earth would have an age of 52 on Ariadne.  It won’t make a big difference, though.  However, colonists will have to figure out a new birthday based on this new calendar.  That can be calculated by regressing the calendar into negative years to find the birthdate.  The landing date will start with year 1, holiday month day 1.

Another matter is to name the months.  This will come at a later date, as the colonists haven’t arrived at the planet yet!  They’ll have time to name them.

I hope you found this post informative.  This is going to be Ariadne’s standard calendar, and it will be described with names in the future.

Book Review – Scavenger’s War

scavengerswarScavenger’s War is the first book of The Marlowe Transmissions by Jack Sheppard.  It’s a short post-apocalyptic science fiction novella that left me with very mixed feelings.

Desmond Marlowe is a man who has been traveling a long time through the former United States, which is now a wasteland populated by pockets of people and the scavengers, a race of part human, part technological beings who prey on people for energy.  There are a few city-states, and Dez is on his way to one of them, Detroit.  Detroit is a fortress ruled by dictator Terrence McHale.  Dez meets his daughter, and everything goes to hell for him.

The story is an interesting take on the post-apocalyptic genre, as there was no war, no alien invasion, no nuclear bomb, no asteroid impact, no disease.  It’s the result of a well-meaning attempt to expand the mind’s abilities.  People have telekinetic abilities, but it has resulted in people thinking they’re invincible, so the world became an anarchy.  War spread and the land was devastated.  This isn’t much of a spoiler, as it’s explained very early on, including in the book’s description.  It was an intriguing idea.  But I felt that there were some aspects that didn’t work for me.

The characters didn’t click with me.  Dez Marlowe seemed like a seasoned veteran of this dark future’s battles.  However, I couldn’t get the image that he was a young man for most of the book.  He was not even described until the final third of the book.  I didn’t know what he looked like or how old he was.  When he was finally described, my image of him was completely wrong.  We didn’t get to see much of Terrence McHale, but his daughter was central to the story.  Layla McHale seemed both spoiled and naive.  But she had to grow quickly.  I felt like I didn’t get enough time to like her.  There was some good characterisation, particularly with Huginn.  I liked him.

The technology is also interesting.  The scavengers seemed almost like animals acting on instinct, with only a remnant of their humanity remaining.  Some of the weapons that relied on mind control were intriguing, too.  The brain and technology interface was all telekinetic, not using a direct physical connection.  I liked that.

This story is told in first person using present tense.  This is a difficult way to write a book, and I found it somewhat jarring.  At one point, this was described as a transmission of Marlowe’s experience.  Wouldn’t he be talking about it in past tense?  I wasn’t sure why it was in present tense.  I’m not a fan of this kind of writing style.  This was the biggest problem for me.  But that’s just my personal taste.

Overall, I felt that this story had potential to be very good.  However, there were many things that didn’t make it as enjoyable as I’d have liked.  I am interested in seeing how it continues, though.  In the end, I have to give this 2 and a half stars out of 5.  Recommended for those who like post-apocalyptic stories with a twist.

Student for Life

I am a student for life.  I’m not officially a student of any school, but I consider myself a student of many things.  I am certainly not a career student, who continues to study at university accumulating degrees, but never working.  I will always be working, but also trying to learn.

Ever since I joined Coursera and FutureLearn, I’ve enjoyed studying new things, mainly in my field of study in university (astronomy), but also in my second choice (palaeontology).  But I’m not sticking with the familiar, I’m branching out.  I’m expanding my horizons.  Along with the astronomy and palaeontology courses, I’ll also be studying history, writing, philosophy, engineering, geology, and anything else that interests me.

I am also studying various languages, including Japanese, French, and Spanish.  I’ll be starting German, as well.  I’m considering Italian and Portuguese in the future.

Some people choose to stop studying once they finish school.  Not me.  I want to learn as many things as possible.  I want to know as much as I can.

There are some major benefits to studying for life.  It keeps the mind sharp and young.  It lets you keep up on new developments.  It helps prevent you from forgetting the things you’ve learned if you take similar subjects multiple times.  Learning languages has been shown to help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.  Language skills are also very helpful for travel and future job prospects.  Knowing about many subjects can help prepare you for a return to university, if you choose to do so.

If money was no object, and I had time, I would go back to university to study geology and possibly move on to a Master’s degree and PhD, focusing on planetary geology.  Planetary science is my passion, and geology would not only help me achieve that dream, but could also be used for more earthly purposes.

Most of all, I am learning for the pure joy of obtaining knowledge.  I love to know.  I have an insatiable desire to know many things.  I’m anxiously awaiting Dawn’s arrival at Ceres.  I can’t wait for New Horizons’ arrival at Pluto.  I look forward to reading about all the new exoplanet discoveries.  I’m hoping for a Europa mission.  I would love to see a Mars colony start in the next few years.

I also want to know how I can help improve our world.  I want to be a part of helping the environment, the people, the plants and animals.  I want to be a voice of reason and to be someone who can use knowledge and reason to help resolve problems.

I learn to better myself, and in turn, better the world.  At the very least, I want to enjoy it.

Now, the questions for you is, do you want to be a student for life?