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Reviews Written by
John A. Dodds (Ann Arbor, MI USA)

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The Arrow
The Arrow
DVD ~ Dan Aykroyd
Offered by 1stVideo
Price: CDN$ 16.49
15 used & new from CDN$ 10.35

5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable--and sad--story, June 15 2005
This review is from: The Arrow (DVD)
I came across this movie while playing flip-the-channel on TV one evening. I had heard of the Arrow before, but I had not realized how ambitious and successful the project had been, how precipitously it had been cancelled, and how all the airplanes, equipment, and plans had been destroyed. It seemed from the movie (I want to read more on this) that many officers in the U.S. military were impressed with the Canadian machine and wanted to buy it or at least investigate it. I wish they had been able to win the day, and that Canada's fighter had been fairly evaluated.

Robot Dreams
Robot Dreams
by Isaac Asimov
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.49
48 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Mostly NON-robot short stories, July 17 2004
I expected this to be a collection of robot stories because of the title, but only two are robot stories. They are the first two, and the first one is also a story from _I, Robot_ (which I just re-read). The second one is "Robot Dreams" from which the book takes its title, and it is another Susan Calvin robot story like those from _I, Robot_ but was written in the mid-'80s (_I, Robot_ was written 30 years earlier). It is in the same mold with the earlier stories, but with a nod to advancing technology (small computers, for instance).
Many other stories in this collection center on "Multivac," an immense computer. The name is an obvious derivative of UNIVAC, a large, vacuum-tube based computer of the early 1950s. UNIVAC became famous for predicting that Eisenhower would win the 1952 election based on early returns (against pundit predictions that Stevenson would win). That led directly to one story, "Franchise," which takes the ability to sample a small number of votes to predict a total election outcome and drives the idea to an absurd (but nevertheless interesting) extreme.
There are a variety of other stories, from ones dealing with beings without bodies to one talking about an alien medical investigator who has come to Earth to find out more about a disease. All are worth the read, and some are truly fascinating and end in very unexpected ways.
Ralph McQuarrie provides the cover illustration and several others for individual stories; they are of the style familiar to anyone who has seen original art from "Star Wars" (which he worked on). Asimov's introduction is amusing; he explains what he got right in predicting the future--and what he got spectacularly wrong. He discusses this with respect to both stories in the book (Multivac, for instance) and to other books and stories he had written decades earlier.
All in all, this book was a fun read.

DVD ~ Jonathan Coy
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 11.16
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5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful tale of vital historical importance, July 12 2004
This review is from: Longitude (DVD)
The beginning of this film makes clear the importance of knowing one's position at sea. Disasters--some of epic proportions--were distressingly regular when doubts about one's position relative to land or dangerous reefs were the order of the day. This film tells two stories in parallel. The first is of John Harrison's efforts to make accurate nautical clocks--called chronometers--that could be used at sea and provide a simple means of acertaining longitude (by comparing the time at the home port of known longitude to that of the ship determined by the sun or the stars). Harrison had to struggle against many technical odds to make his machines--and against many bureaucratic barriers to getting them accepted.
The second story is that of Rupert Gould, the Royal Navy officer, who, suffering from his experiences in the first world war, begins the process of restoring the old Harrison clocks to working order. This story is of less historical significance than the first, of course, but it is why we are able to go to the Royal Observatory at Greenwich and see the clocks running today. The poor fellow turned the clocks into an obsession as his life changed dramatically around him.
Well done, and well worth the time.

Bleeding Maize and Blue
Bleeding Maize and Blue
by Susan Holtzer
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
24 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Fun for anyone, Ann Arborite or not, July 12 2004
This mystery takes place at the University of Michigan in the mid-'90s. Anyone around town then will find a lot of fun, familiar elements in this book. Early on in the book, a meeting is held in Michigan Stadium, which is unusual but not unknown since the stadium is generally open during the day. For the uninitiated, "maize" is the specific shade of yellow that Michigan uses in its school colors.
There is a lot of journalistic intrigue in the book, too, as a writer for the campus paper (the Michigan Daily) competes for scoops with the Detroit dailies. All in all, it's a fun read.

How to Lie with Maps
How to Lie with Maps
by Mark Monmonier
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.40
39 used & new from CDN$ 9.52

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just how to lie with maps, but how they're made, July 11 2004
This review is from: How to Lie with Maps (Paperback)
This book is about maps in general, which must, as a matter of necessity, reduce the level of detail from the reality they represent. So all maps "lie" in that regard. This book then explains how maps can be made that distort the perception of reality through a variety of methods, both unintentional and otherwise. Along the way, the reader will learn about many different types of maps and the kinds of problems to look out for when using maps.

The Get Fuzzy Experience: Are You Bucksperienced
The Get Fuzzy Experience: Are You Bucksperienced
by Darby Conley
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.69
69 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Bucky is a cat not to be trifled with, July 9 2004
This book continues the adventures of Satchel and Bucky and their "owner," Rob Wilco. This book begins the epic battle between Bucky Katt and Fungo Squiggly, the next-door ferret. Darby Conley is amazingly creative with coming up with new ways for the "pets" to mess with Rob's life or fight each other or just hang out at the house.
This set of strips covers the period around Sept. 11, which Conley handles very well and even manages to get a few giggles in as Rob goes to the Red Cross to donate blood. That's not easy to do.

The Andromeda Strain
The Andromeda Strain
by Michael Crichton
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
42 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book playing off an issue of the time, July 9 2004
This book was written around 1969, when astronauts were first landing on the moon. There was a serious concern about the possibility, however slight, that there were micro-organisms on the moon that might return to Earth and cause an epidemic. This concern led to the quarantine of returning astronauts (and the rocks they collected) from the first few missions that landed. This ended when the fears proved unfounded. (There is an interesting side note. The second moon landing recovered several pieces of an unmanned probe that had landed several years earlier. It was found that bacteria in the probe had survived the launch, the landing on the moon, and several years on the airless surface of the moon with temperature swings of hundreds of degrees.)
This book plays off of this idea of "bad stuff from space causes problems on Earth." There are more than 300 other reviews, so I'll mostly leave the plot alone here. What I liked about it was the sense it gave of scientific investigation of an important topic on a short time scale. Trying to "beat the clock," the scientists have to come up with and discard theories for how the unfamiliar organism works with unaccustomed speed, which (as you might imagine) stresses them out. In parallel with other Crichton books, the action takes place over about a week, with simple errors and accidents costing valuable time. The book is newly relevant with the possibility of "designer" biological agents from labs in rouge nations (or from terrorists) playing the role of the alien infectious agent in the book.

The Perfect Machine: Building The Palomar Telescope
The Perfect Machine: Building The Palomar Telescope
by Ronald Florence
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.34
22 used & new from CDN$ 10.40

5.0 out of 5 stars The story of the Palomar telescope and its predecessors, July 8 2004
I purchased this book at the telescope gift shop on Mount Palomar back in 1996. I read it in the next few days. It is the fascinating tale of George Hale, a remarkable man who had to battle personal demons (in the form of debilitating mental breakdowns) to build the world's largest telescope--then do it again and again! I can't remember the first one offhand, but the 100-inch Hooker Telescope on Mt. Wilson was next, then the 200-inch Hale telescope on Mt. Palomar. This book talks about all the technical, financal and other difficulties that were overcome to make the giant telescope possible. It explains large earlier telescopes and how the problems encountered in their construction provided lessons for the designers and builders of the Palomar telescope. Anyone interested in the history of technology or astronomy should give this book a look.

Sherman's Lagoon 1991 to 2001: Greatest Hits and Near Misses
Sherman's Lagoon 1991 to 2001: Greatest Hits and Near Misses
by Jim Toomey
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.57
37 used & new from CDN$ 2.32

5.0 out of 5 stars These fish are funny, July 8 2004
These are not your typical cuddly cartoon characters. Sharks eat other fish--and people--with regularity. (The fish refer to people as "hairless beach apes.") But they carry on like people most of the time: ordering from catalogs (Sharker Image), watching TV, taking trips to exotic (for them) places. The guy who writes this has a really funny turn of mind, and each character has a well-developed personality. Take a look at the current strips at [...] if you want.

Museum Of Hoaxes
Museum Of Hoaxes
by Alex Boese
Edition: Hardcover
29 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Fun for what it is, July 7 2004
This review is from: Museum Of Hoaxes (Hardcover)
This book is basically a well-organized laundry list of hoaxes. The author arranges hoaxes in logical categories based on the type of deception involved. Some, especially those from further in the past, sound preposterous, but one must always account for the differences in knowledge and thought processes between times past and now. What was most disturbing to me is the fact that some of the hoaxes sounded plausible; it makes you wonder how many pieces of knowledge we take for granted might be well-contrived hoaxes. Conspiracy theorists take THAT attitude to the extreme, seeing hoaxes everywhere. But hoaxes are most prevalent when it is hard to get independent supporting data about a topic, which this book points out. For instance, if a white fellow turned up in Europe and claimed to be a Taiwanese native, we would laugh at him. But a white fellow did turn up in Europe several centuries ago, claiming to be a native of Formosa (Taiwan's former name). Without additional information (that Taiwanese are Asians), the people of Europe were unable to quickly discount the story.

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