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Bird Dream: Adventures at the Extremes of Human Flight
Bird Dream: Adventures at the Extremes of Human Flight
by Matt Higgins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.68

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Look at the Extremest of Extreme Sports, July 15, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I did a little skydiving when I was in college. It was in the early days of the sport, which just a few years earlier had become popularized due to the 1961-63 television show "Ripcord." Back then, the novice skydiver's equipment consisted of an auto mechanic's coveralls, a pair of Army combat boots, a football helmet and military surplus main and reserve parachutes. Training to land involved jumping off a 55-gallon oil drum. My 'chute was round and had two openings, or "blank gores," in the back (a design called a "Double L," if memory serves) that gave it a little forward speed and maneuverability. I weighed so little back then (125 pounds) that I came down like a feather. Even though I'd learned the "Parachute Landing Fall," my first landing was so gentle--about like stepping off a curb--that I ended up standing on the ground and wondering what all the training was for.

With all that said (TMI, eh?), I was really interested to read Matt Higgins' "Bird Dream" when it showed up as a Vine program selection. I knew that the science and art of skydiving had come a long way since I was involved, but this book was an eye-opener. It not only covers the culture, hardware and technology of BASE (Building, Antenna, Span, Earth) jumping--the most extreme and dangerous (and often illegal) form of the sport--it also gets inside the heads of those who practice it. BASE jumping offers virtually no room for error. Opportunities to die are many, from unexpected wind gusts to improper 'chute openings to human error when scant seconds of time separate the BASE jumper from oblivion. Mr. Higgins' penetrating looks into the thought processes of such notable extreme jumpers as Jeb Corliss and Gary Connery when faced with life-threatening situations are enlightening indeed.

But BASE jumping is only part of the story that Mr. Higgins tells. The rest of it is the fascinating tale of wingsuits, and of the dedicated efforts of athletes and equipment makers around the world in their pursuit of the Holy Grail of extreme skydiving--to land without a parachute. Possible? Well, yes, theoretically, given a wingsuit with appropriate performance. Expensive? Very, which is why sponsorships are so important. Dangerous and risky? Most assuredly, especially once the skydiver trying to land with a wingsuit enters the "dead-man zone" where he (or she) is too low to deploy a parachute if something goes wrong with the landing attempt. Successful? Well, read "Bird Dream" and find out.

Well-written in an immediate, compelling narrative style, "Bird Dream" is fast-moving but deep. Mr. Higgins explains the concepts involved in parachuting, BASE jumping and wingsuit flight very well, in terms that all readers should be able to relate to, and his insights into the players' motivations and feelings are useful and relevant. Extensive footnotes steer the reader to sources for more details about many aspects of the sport. My only caveat--my pre-publication copy of "Bird Dream" had no photographs, which would immensely help the reader to visualize the people, technology and locations covered in the story. I hope the final version has a good photo section.

Speaking of which, be sure to check on youTube for BASE jumping and wingsuit videos as you read "Bird Dream." I initially just looked for Jeb Corliss' "Grinding the Crack," but I also found many other wingsuit videos, some of them featuring characters you'll meet in the book. Seeing videos of this extreme sport added immensely to my enjoyment of "Bird Dream."


An Underwater Ice Station Zebra: Recovering a Secret Spy Satellite Capsule from 16,400 Feet Below the Pacific Ocean
An Underwater Ice Station Zebra: Recovering a Secret Spy Satellite Capsule from 16,400 Feet Below the Pacific Ocean
Price: $1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The Fascinating Story of a Top-Secret, Audacious Cold-War Mission, July 11, 2014
HEXAGON was the code name for the largest, heaviest and most capable film-return photo-reconnaissance satellite that the U.S. put into service during the Cold War. Roughly as big as a Greyhound bus, HEXAGON spacecraft carried three high-resolution cameras, four re-entry vehicles (RVs) and more than 30 miles of special ultra-thin photographic film (later versions carried up to 60 miles of film). The first HEXAGON flight, designated Mission 1201, launched on June 15, 1971, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. As the cameras photographed thousands of square miles of territory in "denied areas," the exposed film fed into the RVs. Each RV separated and returned to earth when it had a full load of film, or whenever mission needs dictated. In theory, each RV would deploy a parachute and then be snatched from mid-air by an Air Force C-130 aircraft as it descended over the primary recovery zone north of Hawaii.

The first two RVs of Mission 1201 re-entered the earth's atmosphere, popped their 'chutes and were successfully recovered, although the C-130 missed snagging the first one and it landed in the water, to be recovered by Navy divers. Something went horribly wrong with the third RV, however. When it re-entered on July 10, 1972, its parachute tore loose. With nothing to slow it down, the film-packed RV, weighing 1,100 pounds, hit the Pacific Ocean at hundreds of miles per hour and promptly sank to the bottom. The water depth at that point was 16,400 feet.

If you think that was the end of the story, then you're not accounting for the incredible audacity, determination and technical expertise of America's intelligence agencies at the time. A team consisting of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the U.S. Navy, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the Department of Defense (DoD), academia and private contractors conceived and executed a bold plan to recover the RV where it lay on the ocean floor more than three miles down. This short book is their story.

I say "short" because the narrative of the recovery operation itself, which first appeared in 2012 in the Vol. 19, No. 3 issue of "Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly," covers only about 12 pages of this 36-page pamphlet. There are also two pages of footnotes, six full-page black-and-white and color photos, 10 pages of scans of formerly classified memos and several pages of other material. With that said, though, the full story is presented here in detail and with clarity. Many black-and-white and color photos appear throughout the text. Some of them show parts of the RV and the film reels on the ocean floor. They're particularly excellent, and easily worth a thousand words each. If you're the type of techno-geek who likes to read about engineering minutia, state-of-the-art technology and clandestine operations under extreme conditions, you'll eat this up.

You probably know that, as with many other formerly classified U.S. government documents, you can find "An Underwater Ice Station Zebra" (the title comes from the 1968 movie, based on the 1963 book, about the recovery of an RV in the Arctic) on-line and download it for free. Regardless of whether you hold it in your hands or read it in Kindle or Adobe Reader, you're sure to enjoy this brief but fascinating real-life adventure from the dark days of the Cold War.


An Underwater Ice Station Zebra -- Trieste II DSV-1; Hexagon KH-9
An Underwater Ice Station Zebra -- Trieste II DSV-1; Hexagon KH-9
by David W. Waltrop
Edition: Pamphlet

5.0 out of 5 stars The Fascinating Story of a Top-Secret, Audacious Cold-War Mission, July 11, 2014
HEXAGON was the code name for the largest, heaviest and most capable film-return photo-reconnaissance satellite that the U.S. put into service during the Cold War. Roughly as big as a Greyhound bus, HEXAGON spacecraft carried three high-resolution cameras, four re-entry vehicles (RVs) and more than 30 miles of special ultra-thin photographic film (later versions carried up to 60 miles of film). The first HEXAGON flight, designated Mission 1201, launched on June 15, 1971, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. As the cameras photographed thousands of square miles of territory in "denied areas," the exposed film fed into the RVs. Each RV separated and returned to earth when it had a full load of film, or whenever mission needs dictated. In theory, each RV would deploy a parachute and then be snatched from mid-air by an Air Force C-130 aircraft as it descended over the primary recovery zone north of Hawaii.

The first two RVs of Mission 1201 re-entered the earth's atmosphere, popped their 'chutes and were successfully recovered, although the C-130 missed snagging the first one and it landed in the water, to be recovered by Navy divers. Something went horribly wrong with the third RV, however. When it re-entered on July 10, 1972, its parachute tore loose. With nothing to slow it down, the film-packed RV, weighing 1,100 pounds, hit the Pacific Ocean at hundreds of miles per hour and promptly sank to the bottom. The water depth at that point was 16,400 feet.

If you think that was the end of the story, then you're not accounting for the incredible audacity, determination and technical expertise of America's intelligence agencies at the time. A team consisting of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the U.S. Navy, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the Department of Defense (DoD), academia and private contractors conceived and executed a bold plan to recover the RV where it lay on the ocean floor more than three miles down. This short book is their story.

I say "short" because the narrative of the recovery operation itself, which first appeared in 2012 in the Vol. 19, No. 3 issue of "Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly," covers only about 12 pages of this 36-page pamphlet. There are also two pages of footnotes, six full-page black-and-white and color photos, 10 pages of scans of formerly classified memos and several pages of other material. With that said, though, the full story is presented here in detail and with clarity. Many black-and-white and color photos appear throughout the text. Some of them show parts of the RV and the film reels on the ocean floor. They're particularly excellent, and easily worth a thousand words each. If you're the type of techno-geek who likes to read about engineering minutia, state-of-the-art technology and clandestine operations under extreme conditions, you'll eat this up.

You probably know that, as with many other formerly classified U.S. government documents, you can find "An Underwater Ice Station Zebra" (the title comes from the 1968 movie, based on the 1963 book, about the recovery of an RV in the Arctic) on-line and download it for free. Regardless of whether you hold it in your hands or read it in Kindle or Adobe Reader, you're sure to enjoy this brief but fascinating real-life adventure from the dark days of the Cold War.


[Apple MFI Certified] AYL® 8-Pin Lightning to USB Cable (6 Feet/ 1.8 Meter) ★ Made For iPhone 5S / 5C / 5 / iPad Air / iPad Mini ★ iPad 4th generation, iPod 5th generation and iPod nano 7th generation ★ OFFICIAL LICENSED PRODUCT ★
[Apple MFI Certified] AYL® 8-Pin Lightning to USB Cable (6 Feet/ 1.8 Meter) ★ Made For iPhone 5S / 5C / 5 / iPad Air / iPad Mini ★ iPad 4th generation, iPod 5th generation and iPod nano 7th generation ★ OFFICIAL LICENSED PRODUCT ★
Offered by Accessorise Your Life
Price: $29.00
3 used & new from $16.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Works Well, Reasonably Priced--What's Not to Like?, July 8, 2014
What can I say about a computer cable? My reviews normally run 400 or 500 words or so, but I'd really be loping the mule if I blathered on that long in this review.

So here it is in a nutshell: this cable, which I received free in return for an honest review, seems very well made. It works great charging my wife's IPad. I didn't time it, but it seemed to charge faster than the short cable that came with the device. It's quite a bit thicker than the standard cable in order to conduct current over the greater length. The Lightning and USB end connectors are precisely constructed, and they lock into their respective receptacles with firm authority. The cable resists coiling up a little more than the standard one due to its greater stiffness, but that's not a problem. It doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

If you need a longer-than-standard cable for your newer Apple device, you should definitely consider this one. You can't go wrong with its performance, quality and price.


New Balance Women's W840v2 Running Shoe,Silver/Purple,7 B US
New Balance Women's W840v2 Running Shoe,Silver/Purple,7 B US
Offered by Kindwalker
Price: $109.95
3 used & new from $109.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, a Pair of Shoes that Fits!, July 2, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
These shoes were not for me, obviously, so here's what my wife has to say about them:

"I liked these shoes right off the bat, as soon as I found out they're made in America. That's a definite plus for me. I'm not fanatical about the subject, but I do prefer to buy domestic items if possible. In my experience, it's very unusual to find any article of clothing or footwear that's not made overseas.

"Other than that, these shoes seem very well made of quality materials. They're true to size in both length and width. I normally wear a 6.5 or 7, and this size 7 fits perfectly as long as I wear relatively thick socks. The sides and top easily spread out very wide, so they're exceptionally easy to put on. I'd rate the built-in arch support as medium--not too little, not too much. It's just right for me.

"I'm not really wild about the shiny silver finish on much of the material; I can't help but think it won't hold up well over time. The subdued purple and orange accents are subtle and attractive. I would prefer that the sides of the sole be gray rather than stark white, which I think will get dirty and scuffed very quickly, but that's not a big issue. The sole itself is flat and deeply textured, so grip is excellent--although I haven't yet tested them on a wet surface.

"These shoes fit me better than any others that I've owned in recent memory. With their pleasing design, excellent materials, perfect fit and sturdy construction, I expect them to provide me with many years of use. If you're looking for a good pair of shoes and want to "buy American," you should definitely consider these."


The Bamboo Saucer
The Bamboo Saucer
DVD ~ Dan Duryea
Offered by Blue Moon Discounts
Price: $16.82
28 used & new from $9.89

4.0 out of 5 stars A Pretty Decent Cold War Tale, June 30, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Bamboo Saucer (DVD)
I really like to run across "new old" science fiction movies--films made many years ago, like in the 1950s or '60s, that I somehow missed seeing when they were released. In most cases, you'd never consider these types of films to be "classics," but some of them can be quite good. Even if they turn out to be total, time-wasting trash, I still usually enjoy watching them, at least the first time, just because I'd never seen them before.

"The Bamboo Saucer" is one of these films that I missed. I'd never even heard of it before it showed up as an Amazon recommendation. I read the Product Description, checked out the reviews, procrastinated for a few months and finally ordered it.

It's really not bad at all. The picture quality throughout is crisp and sharp, with perhaps just a little too much color saturation in some parts, especially in scenes of the brilliant blue saucer. The sound level is fairly uniform, except for extremely high-volume gunshots and explosions, and the dialog is mostly understandable. That's good, because there are no subtitles or any other extras. Speaking of dialog, the "Russian" accents of some of the characters, especially Lois Nettleton, are absolutely laughable. Try not to cringe when she speaks. I'll bet you can't.

The plot is logical, consistent and fairly cerebral--a step up in sophistication from the typical "invasion from outer space" movies of the time (1968) when it was made. A flying saucer with incredible performance buzzes an American test pilot as he flies an experimental aircraft. Later, the U.S. government learns that the saucer landed in a small village in Red China, where the villagers are concealing it from their Communist masters. A team is dispatched to parachute into Red China and locate the saucer. The objective is to bring its advanced technology back to America. Of course, the Soviet Union has the same idea, and the race is on.

Most of "The Bamboo Saucer" depicts the conflicts between the American and Soviet teams that both seek to capture the saucer. As such, it's more of a Cold War adventure/espionage film than science fiction per se. Cold War references and behaviors abound, as the characters parrot their respective nations' belligerent rhetorics to each other. This might be incomprehensible to today's younger viewers. If you didn't live through the Cold War, facing the real likelihood that America and the Soviet Union would annihilate each other in a global thermonuclear holocaust, then you may not grok the massive levels of paranoia, distrust and hostility that each side harbored for the other. We're all really lucky that we're still around today...

Anyway, I found "The Bamboo Saucer" to be well worth watching as a period piece and also as an interesting story. It's earned a place in my permanent DVD library, which is more than I can say for many of the other "new old" movies that I've bought over the years.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 10, 2014 6:42 AM PDT


The Chemistry of Beer: The Science in the Suds
The Chemistry of Beer: The Science in the Suds
by Roger Barth
Edition: Paperback
Price: $37.95
42 used & new from $32.31

5.0 out of 5 stars A Chemistry Textbook for Beer Geeks and Geekettes, June 29, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Are you a fan of craft beers? Do you think you know quite a bit about how brewing works? Do you understand how grain, water, yeast and hops transmogrify into the delightful beverages that you enjoy? Do you think there's not much more for you to learn about beer and brewing?

Wrong-o, IBU-breath!

"The Chemistry of Beer" will take you further along the path to a deeper understanding of beer than any other book I know of. If you've already read books about the history of beer, or about specific brewers, or about various beer styles, or about pairing beers with food, or about beers around the world--then you may be ready to tackle "The Chemistry of Beer." But be aware that this is definitely not a book for beer novices. I'd characterize it as a book that you, as a beer geek or geekette, should turn to only after you think you know everything there is to know about the subject. Then it will show you how wrong you are.

Make no mistake about it, this is a chemistry textbook. In addition to being filled with diagrams of molecular configurations and reactions, it has questions for the reader ("student") to answer at the end of each chapter. It focuses on the science of beer, and on the specific chemical reactions that occur in the brewing process. It is much more about the atoms and molecules than it is about beer as the end product. As such, it's probably a little--okay, a LOT--deeper than most casual beer enthusiasts would need, or even be interested in. While I enjoyed it very much, I admit that I've always been interested in chemistry, to the point of taking a continuing education course in organic chemistry many years ago. Other readers may not be as interested.

"The Chemistry of Beer" would probably be very useful to the professional brewer or the serious homebrewer. I recommend it to craft beer fans who REALLY want to get into the nitty gritties of brewing chemistry. It might be a bit much for some (Bud Light drinkers should definitely give it a pass), but you're sure to learn a lot from it. And imagine the conversations you can have at the next cocktail party or beer dinner that you attend...

Cheers!


Samsung Electronics 32GB EVO SDHC Upto 48MB/s Class 10 Memory Card (MB-SP32D/AM)
Samsung Electronics 32GB EVO SDHC Upto 48MB/s Class 10 Memory Card (MB-SP32D/AM)
Price: $19.68
12 used & new from $14.03

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Memory Card as Commodity, June 29, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I used to be very conscious of brand names when I bought technology. For example, many years ago, I wouldn't be caught dead with anything but genuine Nikon camera bodies, lenses, motor drives, flash units, whatever. I never considered buying "off-brands." Today, though, with few exceptions, I think the electronics playing field is almost perfectly level, and I usually don't even think about brand names in my purchasing decisions.

This Samsung Evo 32GB Class 10 SDHC UHS-1 memory card is a case in point. I typically use SanDisk memory cards in my digital cameras and video recorders, not out of brand loyalty but simply because they're the most widely available in my area, if not often the cheapest. But if I can get another brand, such as Sony, at a lower price for the same performance, I don't hesitate to buy it. Now Samsung is a third player in the game.

The memory card comes blister-packed in a thin but sturdy cardboard sleeve. The packaging is exceptionally secure, but it quickly succumbed to deftly wielded scissors. I popped it into the memory card slot of my Sony HDR-CX230 digital video camcorder. The camcorder recognized it within a few seconds and I was good to go. I formatted it, even though that wasn't necessary, and recorded some test video. It worked just as it should. According to blurb on the package, the card is waterproof, shockproof, magnet proof, temperature proof and X-ray proof, but I didn't test those attributes. I'll take Samsung's word for it rather than dunk, freeze, bake, magnetize or X-ray it!

As I said in the title of this review, memory cards are a commodity these days. I think buyers can expect all brands to perform about the same, so, at least for me, price is my main discriminant in deciding which one to purchase. But I do especially like one thing about this Samsung card that makes me prefer it slightly to other cards on the market, and that is that it's white rather than the more-common black. Thus I think it would be easier to find if one happens to drop it in a poorly lit area, as I did once with a black card at an airport gate.

I'm very pleased with the Samsung Evo 32GB Class 10 SDHC UHS-1 memory card, and I recommend it highly.


Dark Horse
Dark Horse
Price: $2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A Compelling Novel of Texas Politics at its Worst, June 23, 2014
This review is from: Dark Horse (Kindle Edition)
As an occasionally reluctant resident of Texas, I've seen some detestable behaviors from candidates for public office on both sides of the political spectrum. That's no different than elsewhere, though--mud-slinging, rancorous smear campaigns and character assassinations in lieu of focusing on real issues have become the norm today, as both Democrats and Republicans seem ideologically compelled to reject any considerations of what's best for the country in favor of their own selfish interests.

With that said, I sincerely hope no political campaign in American history was, or ever will be, as nasty as the fictional one waged between Democrat Mitchell Sutton and Republican Shakespeare McCann in the pages of Doug Richardson's "Dark Horse."

"Dark Horse" hooked me on the first page like a cow puncher lassoing a stray dogie and never turned me aloose. This is simply one of the most compelling, page-turningly readable, un-put-downable novels that I've read in many years. The characters are very well-defined, with natural-seeming, consistent attributes that enable the reader to distinguish among them easily. There are not too many of them to keep track of, unlike many other novels in which the reader can't tell the players apart without a scorecard. Most of the dialogue has the ring of truth to it, and the South Texas locations become as important as the characters and the plot thanks to the superb sense of time and place that Mr. Richardson conveys. Speaking of plot, hold onto your Stetson once you start into "Dark Horse." You won't be able to jump off of the non-stop roller coaster ride after you get on. I literally returned to it to devour as many pages as I could in my every spare waking moment, and I finished it in about three days.

I don't read all that much fiction these days. In fact, I picked up "Dark Horse" free from a discard rack at the public library when I checked out some nonfiction books. But, if this is any indication of what I'm missing , I may have to revise my reading interests for the future.

I recommend "Dark Horse" very highly to all readers who want to tackle an eye-opening tale as topical as today's headlines. It'll grab you by the throat and won't let you go until the last page. Well done, Mr. Richardson.


Reel future. The Stories that inspired 16 classic science fiction movies
Reel future. The Stories that inspired 16 classic science fiction movies
by Forrest J. Ackerman
Edition: Hardcover
106 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding--Not a Stinker in the Lot, June 16, 2014
In my opinion, "Reel Future" is unique. Unlike every other science fiction collection that I've ever read as far back as I can remember, this one has NO bad stories in it. Every single story in this thick, high-quality, themed volume is outstanding. I'm writing this review after having just re-read the book for the second time, and I enjoyed it even more this time than I did when I first read it several years ago.

Each of the 16 stories is excellent in its own right, but all of them become even more interesting when you compare them to the cinematic features they spawned. Having seen most but not all of the movies based on these stories (repeatedly, in many cases), I found it fascinating to speculate how different the movies may have been if they had adhered more closely to the source materials.

For example, "This Island Earth" is one of my favorite sci-fi movies. The reasons for the dichotomy between the first and second halves of the film are too involved to go into here, but, if you've seen it, you know it's like two different movies bolted together without benefit of a unifying editorial hand. The novelette by Raymond F. Jones on which it is based is far more integrated from start to finish. I think the movie would have been much better if the producers had followed the story line as Mr. Jones wrote it rather than diverting the action to Metaluna, which is utterly absent from the original.

Similarly, the original 1951 movie "The Thing (from Another World)" shares little with John W. Campbell's haunting and cerebral story "Who Goes There." Harry Bates' "Farewell to the Master" contains just a few of the core ideas that morphed into "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (the 1951 original, not the dreadful remake). Its ending couldn't be more different than that of the movie (and no, "Klaatu barada nikto" is nowhere in the story). That John Carpenter was able to expand the deceptively simple plot of Ray Faraday Nelson's 4½-page short-short story "Eight O'Clock in the Morning" into his 98-minute 1988 feature film "They Live" is a tribute to the richness of Mr. Nelson's original ideas. The movies "Enemy Mine," "Damnation Alley" and "The Fly" resemble the written stories fairly closely, whereas the gulf between Arthur C. Clarke's eight-page "The Sentinel" and the 1968 big-screen epic "2001: A Space Odyssey" is a huge one indeed. But, short or long, similar to the movie or not, every story in "Reel Future" is a landmark of the genre, in my opinion.

Whether you've seen any, all or none of the movies based on the stories in this superb compendium of science fiction masterpieces, you can't go wrong with "Reel Future." I recommend it most highly and rate it suitable for all audiences. Enjoy!


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