Wednesday, September 27, 2006

No Prints for the Prince Needed

The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain is available on Libravox as audio. It is read by John Greenman, who has an excellent voice and delivery.

The book itself is a classic, must read, or at least listen. I was able to mostly listen to just one 20 (or so) minute chunk per day. A the end, though, i pretty much had to find out how it turned out. Should i say it has a happy ending? No. I won't. Feel free to consider the ending a mystery.

The basic plot is that Prince Edward of England switches with a poor boy who happens to look like him. A complication is that the King is ill. The interesting thing is that the Prince gets to see how the other half lives, and acts on it. Another interesting thing is the footnotes. It gives the work the feel of non-fiction, making one wonder just exactly what was, and what wasn't made up. Maybe it's non-fiction, and it really happened 1547 as narrated. You decide.

Monday, September 18, 2006

To Be A Republican

What if you grow up, go to school, decide to plug into society, only to discover that you are both scientifically literate, and a Republican? I mean, you might be a Republican sort of by default. Your parents are Republican, and have told you that the party is conservative. That sounds nice. But as time goes on, you start hearing Republicans, right from the top, talking about how ID should be taught in schools as science. You hear nonsense like "there's no quick answer to the fuel crisis". And it just continues. What do you do?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Eye color

Your Eyes Should Be Brown

Your eyes reflect: Depth and wisdom

What's hidden behind your eyes: A tender heart

They are in fact, blue.

While we're at it:

You Are 50% Left Brained, 50% Right Brained

The left side of your brain controls verbal ability, attention to detail, and reasoning.
Left brained people are good at communication and persuading others.
If you're left brained, you are likely good at math and logic.
Your left brain prefers dogs, reading, and quiet.

The right side of your brain is all about creativity and flexibility.
Daring and intuitive, right brained people see the world in their unique way.
If you're right brained, you likely have a talent for creative writing and art.
Your right brain prefers day dreaming, philosophy, and sports.

I'm of two minds on this one.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Invisible Man

I was going to write this review with the text set to white. You'd be able to read it only by highlighting it. For example: The Invisible Text. It's almost like a cypher. Only the enlightened can read it.

The Librivox recording of H. G. Wells's book, The Invisible Man was read by Alex Foster, of Nottingham. The narrator, Alex Foster, has a great voice for this book. It's a radio voice. There are few, if any, errors. And very importantly, it isn't an American accent. The story takes place, if i understand my geography correctly, near London, so having an accent from that area is a plus. And yet, the text is very clear, with no misunderstanding, even by an American such as myself.

Interestingly, the description for how invisibility works is strikingly believable. In high school chemistry class, they had you put a certain amount of water in a beaker, put in a Pyrex rod, add a certain amount of a clear liquid, mix it, and boom (well, it was a surprise, anyway), the Pyrex rod that's in the liquid vanishes. The index of refraction of the water was altered to match that of Pyrex. The Invisible man is invisible because he's not only transparent, but in index of refraction matches that of air. Yet, Wells doesn't go so far as to tell you the details on how the thing works, exactly. Just enough to get you going. Masterfully done.

Now, the story has been done again and again in literature. Typically, the rip offs change the man's character greatly. Sometimes they come up with solutions to his various problems. Problems? Sure, well, he's only really invisible when he's naked. That's a decided disadvantage when it's winter. And in summer, the bug bites must be terrible. The solution was actually presented in the book, though the author chooses not to have the character use it.

Wells clearly wanted to have the book stand on it's own. Not a serial like Tarzan. So, the Invisible Man is smart enough to be dangerous, but not smart enough to live forever. Many of the rip off's, including a TV series, have the Invisible Man with a support network, and enough smarts to do interesting things as a serial.

The original book stands the test of time. Speaking of time. The Librivox recording of The Invisible Man is only about five hours long. Keep in mind that reading the text yourself is typically about three times faster. So this is a fairly short piece of entertainment. It's broken up into fairly short readings. Sometimes three chapters in a single file, but always under about 35 minutes. The chapters must be very short. In any case, it means one can get through a whole scene, and have a convenient break point.

Now, i mostly listen to these things while doing something else. This summer, i've listened to several books while gardening. I bought a non-motorized lawn mower so that i can listen while doing that task. Most of my listening time, however, happens during my commute to work. In a break with tradition, i actually found myself speeding up a little during the most exciting parts. (This doesn't get me to speeding, exactly, as i drive slower than the limit as a fuel conservation measure - which saves me more than an estimated $100 per year). It's an hour each way, so it's roughly ten hours a week. Against ten hours a week, a five hour book is pretty easy. The Tarzan books were about eight hours each. And when I listened to those, it was about one per week. Imagine reading fifty books a year.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Gas prices lower

Notice gas prices (here in the States) have come down, just in time for Labor Day travel? This is in a complete break with tradition. I've not heard really anything in the news about it (not that i've looked). One might expect that whoever is responsible might trumpet their achievement.

It's almost as if it's an election year.