Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Carrie Goes Off The Map, by Phillipa Ashley

With a Phillipa Ashley novel, you know just what you're getting before you open the book to the first page. There are fascinating locales, endearing protagonists, quirky secondary characters, an amazing love story and a gloriously happy ending. Carrie Goes Off The Map follows this trail perfectly.

Carrie Brownhill and Huw Brigstocke have been together for ten years. Their lives are thoroughly interwoven at Huw's farm, where Carrie works (when she's not doing amateur theater) and where the two of them live. None of this prevents Huw from breaking off their engagement just two weeks before the scheduled wedding festivities. Carrie is left with a broken heart, no home and no job. When she hears (in a rather atypical way) four months later, that Huw is marrying someone else, she tries to show her indignation up close and personal. She's stopped on the church steps by Dr. Matt Landor, their friend from University who is home on leave from his stint as a charity doctor in Tuman.  Embarrassed by the emotional state she's been driven to, Carrie resolves to get over Huw once and for all and get on with her life. She and her friend Rowena plan a trip to the Continent to see a bit of the world before moving on to the next part of their lives. And Dolly, the so-named VW camper who plays a big and beloved part in the novel, is their vehicle of choice. When a last minute acting job prevents Rowena from going with Carrie, a substitution is made, and Matt takes her place.

The book really comes into its own as Matt and Carrie head, not for the Continent as Carrie had hoped,   but to Cornwall. As the destinations come and go, Matt and Carrie get closer, almost without realizing it. There's this slow dawning of understanding between the two that deepens as the miles pass. For Carrie, there's "something" about Matt. And for Matt, there's that same "something" about Carrie. And when they finally do realize that what they really want is each other, it's Matt, the serial commitment-phobe, who wants something more permanent. And Carrie, scarred from her experience with Huw and desperate not to lose her heart without an impossible guarantee, steps away.  Matt returns to Tuman, their relationship now reduced to email and Facebook posts.

It's at this point that I am so glad that Ms. Ashley doesn't get her inspiration from Nicholas Sparks, because if that were the case, this story would not have that hoped-for happy ending. There are some tense moments when we wonder if Carrie was not too hasty in sending the good doctor away the year before.  But Ms. Ashley doesn't leave us hanging in suspense too long, thankfully, and everything comes right in the end for a girl who had nothing left to her in the beginning.

Carrie Goes Off The Map is published by Sourcebooks, due out December 1, 2011. I'd love to see  this one into a made for TV movie. Any plans  for that, Phillipa?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Still Faster Than Light

Like an Earth-centered cosmos, a fixed speed of light is a scientific edifice that shows signs of cracking. Neutrinos are mysterious particles that pass through matter nearly undisturbed. Millions of them pass through our bodies each second. Wolfgang Pauli first predicted their existence in 1930, but his prediction was so revolutionary that he did not present it until the Solvang conference in 1933. Not until 1956 was the existence of Pauli's neutrinos proven. Recently neutrinos were found to transform between their three flavours spontaneously.

In September the OPERA collaboration reported that neutrinos have been clocked traveling slightly faster than light, Neutrinos Pass Through Light Barrier. This result challenges the Physics we read in books, that nothing travels faster than light. Fortunately, neutrinos don't read books.

Other physicists have challenged the OPERA results, but in a new set of experiments this month the group verified their findings. Some of the OPERA group would not put their name on the initial report, but their doubts have slowly been erased. zmore tests by other groups will be needed to prove the superluminal neutrinos. As readers of this blog know, there is a body of evidence that light itself slows with time. The speed-of-light barrier is slowly breaking down.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Happy Thanksgiving week in the US! Most of NASA took the week off, though last Wednesday at Johnson Space Center was a banquet featuring the ST-135 crew. Former NASA administrator Michael Griffin is in the foreground wearing glasses. Dr. Grifin had some choice remarks about the current direction of NASA.

Astronaut Sandy Magnus, one of the first people I met upon coming to JSC. Author Gloria Skurzynski also received an award for her writings about Space.. How nice to live in a world where women can dream about the stars.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Greyson Chance

pagi ini V chanel memutarkan sekilas tentang Greyson Chance, penyanyi kelahiran 16 Agustus 1997 asal Amerika Serikat. yang terlintas di pikiran saya, wah JB punya saingan nih. apalagi sekarang JB udah ga terlalu kedengeran berita yang baik2nya [apa sayanya yang ga ngikutin?]

pertama kali tau anak ini, saat dia meng-cover lagu Paparazzi milik Lady Gaga. videonya sempat hangat menjadi pembicaraan di berbagai macam sosial media. tapi dulu saya tidak terlalu amaze, karena dulu pas jamannya JB lagi booming2nya. sekarang justru malah saya lebih suka Greyson, wajahnya masih imut dan pure anak2. selain suaranya yang khas, Greyson selalu tampil dengan pianonya. naah saya suka banget ni sama penyanyi yang lihai main piano.

sekarang lagu yang sering beredar di channel music berjudul Waiting Outside The Line. simak gan!
dan saya sangat nantikan saja saat Greyson beranjak dewasa, saat dia mengalami perubahan suara hihihihi..

Eyes can deceive you!

intermezzo aja...

perhatikan gambar dibawah ini

apakah anda berpikiran kotak yang diatas berwarna lebih gelap dibandingkan kotak yang dibawah?
selanjutnya tutupi garis batas kotak atas dan kotak bawah dengan telunjuk anda.

see, eyes can deceive you :D

Uranus Hot Spot

This photo of Uranus was taken by the Gemini North telescope atop Mauna Kea. It shows a mysterious spot ten times brighter than the planetary background. Astronomer Heidi Hammel appealed on her Facebook page for others to confirm this observation. Hopefully the Hubble Space Telescope can be used to get better images.

The spot is interpreted as an eruption of methane gas high in Uranus' atmosphere. Heat and methane indicate an internal source. Uranus was thought to emit very little heat compared to Jupiter or Saturn. The planet's spin axis in tilted nearly sideways from the solar system plane, so one hemisphere can be warmed uniformly for 42 years. How such a concentrated hot spot could appear is a complete mystery.

If Uranus formed around a Black Hole, the singularity would provide a source of internal heat nearly indefinitely. Radiation would erupt in jets from the Black Hole, following magnetic field lines. Uranus' magnetic poles are tilted 59 degrees from the spin axis, indicating the direction of the Black Hole's spin axis. Because of this tilt, heat plumes from the jets do not erupt at the poles but are carried along in the atmosphere to erupt in the lower latitudes.

This hot spot occurs at 22.5 degrees North, roughly at rest with the planetary interior. This could be more than just an asteroid impact. Source of the hot spot must be something deep inside Uranus. The interior of a giant planet like Uranus is a good place to find a Black Hole.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Belajar Tentang Hidup dari Serial Last Christmas (7)

Episode 7

Hubungan Aoi dan Haruki mengalami ujian saat Hitomi, eks kekasih Haruki meneleponnya. Tak hanya itu, orang tua Hitomi bahkan tiba-tiba datang ke apartemen Haruki dengan membawa cucu mereka dan mengklaim bahwa bayi itu adalah hasil buah cinta antara Haruki dan Hitomi di masa lalu. Mereka memaksa Haruki untuk mengurusnya sementara Hitomi tengah berada di Hongkong. Aoi dan Haruki pun jadi kerepotan saat bergantian mengurus bayi Hitomi yang terus menangis. Keduanya kurang tidur karena terus terjaga untuk menenangkan sang bayi. Merasa kewalahan, Haruki akhirnya minta bantuan Sachiko untuk mengurusnya. Rekan sekantor mereka pun mengira kalau Haruki dan Aoi diam-diam telah lama menjalin hubungan hingga memiliki anak. Keadaan makin kisruh ketika Fujisawa melihat Higaki memeluk Aoi saat menghiburnya. Tak ingin menyakiti Aoi, Fujisawa pun bertanya pada Higaki tentang perasaan Aoi terhadapnya. 

Hitomi yang akhirnya muncul mengambil kembali bayinya dan mengatakan pada Haruki bahwa dia bukan ayah dari anaknya. Masalah tidak langsung selesai karena suami Hitomi yang seorang fotografer berperangai buruk dipekerjakan oleh perusahaan tempat Haruki bekerja untuk menangani pemotretan untuk iklan. Saat suami Hitomi menghinanya, Haruki pun kena jotos karena membela Hitomi. Aoi yang merasa menjadi penghalang bersatunya kembali Haruki dan Hitomi lalu memutuskan hubungannya dengan Haruki.

Mari belajar tentang hidup dari Haruki Kenji:

Meski sempat kena pukul oleh suami Hitomi yang bertingkah menyebalkan, Haruki tetap profesional menjaga hubungannya dengan suami Hitomi yang notabene adalah juga rekan kerjanya. Ia tidak balas memukul, justru bersikap dewasa dan masih bersedia bekerjasama agar perusahaan tidak dirugikan.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Belajar Tentang Hidup dari Serial Last Christmas (6)

Episode 6

Aoi bermaksud membuatkan sup untuk Haruki, tapi hasilnya justru "bencana" yang terjadi di dapur. Saat membahas "bencana" itu, Haruki tanpa sengaja melihat ke peta yang dia pasang di balik pintu, maka mereka pun lalu membuat keputusan untuk bersama-sama pergi ke Kanada. 

Saat Aoi menemani Haruki menjenguk ibunya di rumah sakit, ibu Haruki bercerita tentang kisah nama Kenji yang adalah cinta pertama dari ibu Kenji, seorang pria bertangan besar yang tak pernah ia temui lagi. Aoi pun tergerak untuk mengatur kencan ganda antara dia dan Haruki, dan ibu Haruki dengan dokter yang merawatnya yang ia minta berpura-pura sebagai Kenji, cinta pertama ibu Haruki yang telah lama menghilang. 

Shintani mengeluhkan masalahnya pada Haruki bahwa ia tidak bisa mengenalkan Takase pada keluarganya karena gadis itu berasal dari keluarga miskin. Hal itu tanpa sengaja didengar juga oleh Takase dan Hayama yang lalu membela Takase. 

Haruki meminta Aoi untuk pergi ke Kanada bersamanya pada hari Natal berikutnya. Aoi menjawab bahwa Haruki akan sangat sibuk, tapi Haruki meyakinkannya bahwa mereka akan mencari jalan keluarnya. Aoi pun setuju dan menghabiskan malam bersama Haruki dan keesokan paginya menyiapkan sarapan untuknya.

Higaki yang tanpa sengaja menemukan surat yang dikirim sahabat dari almarhum tunangan Fujisawa berikut surat dari almarhum yang ditulis sebelum kematiannya membuatnya marah karena Fujisawa berniat menetap di New York selama setahun. Setelah bertengkar dengan Higaki, Fujisawa pun berlari pergi sambil menangis. Aoi berusaha menengahi dengan mengejarnya dan memberitahu Fujisawa bahwa Higaki akan selalu mencintainya.

Setelah gagal menyabotase rencana Shintani yang menyewa seorang gadis untuk berpura-pura menjadi kekasihnya untuk diperkenalkan pada orang tuanya, Hayama lalu meminta Shintani untuk menikahi Takase dan meyakinkannya bahwa gadis itu adalah gadis yang baik. 

Haruki sudah lebih dulu membeli tiket untuk perjalanan ke Kanada Natal berikutnya bersama Aoi. Tak dinyana eks kekasihnya tiba-tiba muncul dan mencoba menjelaskan padanya alasan mengapa dulu ia meninggalkan Haruki. Tanpa menggubris penjelasan itu, Haruki segera berlalu dan menunggu Aoi. Sementara yang ditunggunya tengah berusaha menyelesaikan lukisan pohon Natal yang dibuat oleh Fujisawa. Berhubung Aoi tidak punya bakat melukis, hasilnya justru berantakan, sehingga mau ataupun tidak, Higaki turun tangan untuk membantu menyelesaikan lukisan itu. Belakangan Higaki malah berusaha menahan Aoi untuk terus menghabiskan waktu bersamanya karena ia merasa kesepian setelah kepergian Fujisawa.

Mari belajar tentang hidup dari Hayama Tappei:

Meski ia sebenarnya mencintai Takase, tapi Hayama tanpa ragu menolong gadis itu dengan meminta Shintani untuk menikahinya. Mengesampingkan perasaannya sendiri, ia justru meyakinkan Shintani bahwa Takase adalah gadis yang baik meski berasal dari keluarga miskin.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Vettes Day

Veterans Day (Armistice Day) was celebrated with a big parade through downtown Houston. I was able to drive with a contingent of patriotically dressed Corvettes. Since Alan Shepard arrived in 1959 driving a shiny new Corvette, the American sports car has been a minior tradition among NASA personnel.

The reviewing stand with VIP's and members of the military. This was a busy few days; more posts are coming soon. Time slows down everything, even a Corvette. Why not a slowing speed of light?

Belajar Tentang Hidup dari Serial Last Christmas (5)

Episode 5

Saat bicara dengan Haruki di telepon, Sachiko mengatakan bahwa Haruki tidak menyadari bahwa dia menyimpan perasaan khusus terhadap Aoi. Karena itu saat bertemu Aoi, Haruki pun jadi merasa canggung. Aoi mengira kecanggungan Haruki disebabkan dia sebelumnya meminjam bahu Haruki untuk bersandar; tapi tak lama hubungan keduanya kembali normal seperti biasanya. Sementara itu Higaki melamar Fujisawa yang setelah menerima sepucuk surat dari almarhum tunangannya memilih untuk menyembunyikan hal yang mengganggu pikirannya itu dari Higaki.

Di tempatnya bekerja, tiba-tiba beredar rumor bahwa Aoi mendapatkan posisi sekretaris karena bersedia tidur dengan Shintani. Haruki yang mengetahui rumor itu mencoba memberitahu Aoi. Sayangnya belum sempat ia memberitahu Aoi, gadis itu sudah telanjur mengetahuinya dari orang lain. Aoi pun mencoba bersikap tegar menghadapi cobaan itu. Takase yang prihatin menanyakan padanya apakah ia baik-baik saja, tapi rekannya segera mengingatkannya untuk menjauhi Aoi; kalau tidak, rekan-rekan yang lain akan menganggap dirinya sama dengan Aoi. 

Sejak kabar burung itu beredar, Aoi pun tersudutkan. Saat penyakitnya kambuh dan dia terjatuh ke lantai, tak seorang pun bersedia menolongnya. Hanya Haruki yang kebetulan melihatnya terkapar di lantai lalu mengantar Aoi pulang dan membuatkan makan malam. 

Meski berusaha tabah, Aoi akhirnya memutuskan untuk berhenti dan pindah. Niatnya itu dicegah oleh Haruki yang mengatakan padanya bahwa Aoi akan menempatkannya pada situasi yang sulit jika ia harus menjalani hidupnya tanpa Aoi. Mendengar pernyataan Haruki, Aoi pun tak kuasa menahan tangisnya. Ia berujar bahwa ia masih menyimpan hal yang tak diketahui Haruki. Perkataan itu mendorong Haruki untuk menemui dokter yang merawat Aoi.

Tak ingin Aoi menderita, Haruki pun mengancam Shintani. Dia meminta atasannya itu untuk kembali mengembalikan Aoi ke posisinya semula. Jika Shintani menolak, ia mengancam akan berhenti juga. Saat Aoi mengetahui tentang kegigihan Haruki saat membelanya, dia pun tidak bisa berkata-kata dan langsung mencarinya. Sayangnya Haruki yang sedang sibuk menangani proyek yang dipercayakan kepadanya telah lebih dulu meninggalkan kantor. Aoi pun bertanya pada Sachiko yang lalu mengajaknya menemui ibu Haruki di rumah sakit. Setelah mendapat keterangan dari ibu Haruki, Aoi pun langsung mengendarai mobilnya dengan kecepatan tinggi. Apalagi perkataan yang diucapkan Sachiko saat siaran telah menggugah hatinya. Perjuangan cinta juga dialami Hayama yang hampir saja berkencan dengan gadis yang telah lama ia sukai, sampai ia menyadari bahwa Takase yang sebenarnya ia inginkan. Ia berusaha menggagalkan acara kencan Takase dengan Shintani namun gagal.

Aoi memakai alasan mengantarkan sweater hasil rajutan ibu Haruki untuk menemui laki-laki itu. Haruki yang masih bingung membuat Aoi salah mengira bahwa Haruki tidak merasakan hal yang sama seperti yang ia rasakan. Aoi pun berlari pulang. Saat Haruki mengejarnya, Aoi pun mengucapkan selamat ulang tahun. Di bawah cahaya lampu dari pohon yang menaungi mereka, Aoi dan Haruki pun mengabsahkan hubungan mereka dengan ciuman panjang, lalu bersama-sama mendorong mobil Aoi yang mogok.

Mari belajar tentang hidup dari Haruki Kenji:

Meski mengkhawatirkan kesehatan Aoi dan memperhatikan ibunya yang dirawat di rumah sakit, Haruki tetap fokus mengerjakan proyek yang dipercayakan padanya. Ia bahkan tetap giat bekerja hingga melupakan hari ulang tahunnya.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Rose Garden, by Susanna Kearsley

I've always used Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series as the yardstick with which to measure any book containing even a whiff of time travel. Up until Susanna Kearsley's novel,  A Winter Sea (reviewed here  in May, 2011) any and all have fallen short. With The Rose Garden, Ms. Kearsley's newest effort, I think even Ms. Gabaldon has met her match. The Rose Garden is a sumptuous love story, one which encompasses three centuries and will warm the coldest of the coming winter nights. I am not being flowery or overdramatic here. I mean it. It is that good. The writing is so descriptive and the characters so real, I could envision every paragraph of every page as if I were a part of the story too. That to me is the mark of a truly great book.

Eva Ellen Ward has recently lost her older sister Katrina, a celebrated movie actress, to an unnamed disease. Katrina's husband entrusts Eva to take his wife's ashes and spread them "where she was happiest." Eva, who worked public relations for her sister, knows just where that place is, and travels from Los Angeles to Cornwall and specifically to Trelowarth, the house and rose farm where the two girls spent many happy summers as guests of their late "Uncle"George and Claire Hallett, friends of their father's. Twenty years after she last stepped foot in the house she's welcomed back by Claire, as well as George's children Mark (Katrina's first love), and Susan, Eva's former playmate. When she starts to experience what she thinks are hallucinogenic episodes, she chalks it up to sleeping pills and grief over losing her sister. When the episodes become frighteningly real, Eva has to accept the fact that she is indeed straddling a time line that takes her in and out of the Trelowarth of 1715. She meets the then owners of the house, brothers Daniel and Jack Butler,  and their loyal friend Fergal. She is also a witness to the sowing of the seeds of the first Jacobite uprising, the plot to bring King James from France to assume his place on the British throne. What she doesn't anticipate are her feelings for Daniel Butler, who knows exactly what she is and not only accepts it, but returns those same feelings, seemingly tenfold. It is at this point in the novel where Ms. Kearsley infuses Daniel with a romanticism not often found in male protagonists, and allows Daniel to sum up their love with these words, "whatever time we have, will be time enough." Prosaic words for a man who falls in love with a time traveler with no control of her appearances and disappearances, except when she's away from Trelowarth itself.

While the notion of time travel can be a hard sell in a story, Ms. Kearsley makes Eva's experience entirely believable.  It fits so well and flows so naturally here, that this reader did not question it as far-fetched fantasy. I actually caught myself thinking that anything is possible, and who's to say that something like this could not in fact, actually happen? I would make a wager that this reaction is not uncommon when reading this novel. And that's certainly a tribute to Ms. Kearsley's story telling abilities.

Without getting into too much more detail because this is a story best read and savored (and believe me,  you don't want me to give this part away), there is one surprise toward the end of the book that will leave you so enthralled, you'll read it over and over, just to help you work out all the brilliant clues left that you may have missed beforehand. These clues are scattered like breadcrumbs on a trail helping you find your way back from whence you came. It's masterfully done and adds an additional dimension to what was already a brilliant story.

It seems I've gotten into the habit of saying this for this author's work; The Rose Garden, by Susanna Kearsley is a must read. And as they say, there's no time like the present....

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Highland Storms, by Christina Courtenay

In the follow up to her novel Trade Winds, Christina Courtenay continues the story of the Kinross family, this time moving her characters from Sweden to their native homeland, the Scottish Highlands. Brice Kinross, son of Killian and Jess, the protagonists in Trade Winds, is bequeathed Rosyth House, the Kinross ancestral home, by his father as a consequence of the Jacobite uprising in 1745.  Living in Sweden with his family, Brice is betrayed in love by his brother and his brother's new wife, the girl he himself intended to marry. When his father suspects that things are not all what they seem at Rosyth, he encourages Brice to go to Scotland, take up the reins of his inheritance and put things to rights. With an eye toward a new beginning, he leaves Sweden and heads "home."

Marsaili Buchanan, Brice's deceased uncle's illegitimate daughter (more simply, his second cousin) acts as housekeeper at Rosyth. Instilled there by Brice's aunt and looked after by her half-sisters, Marsaili continuously butts heads with the estate manager, Colin Seton. He wants Marsaili for a wife, but she refuses him repeatedly. Seton is not what he appears to be, and only his son, Iain knows exactly what he's up to. However, Iain's loyalties are tested repeatedly as he loves Marsaili's half sister. When Brice shows up at Rosyth House and declares himself Laird, he begins to slowly win over his tenants by deed as well as character. At the same time, he makes some very powerful enemies. Faced with the ultimate threat to his plan, Seton begins to plot revenge and this revenge is what keeps the book moving through the final few pages.

On a personal level, Brice must overcome his reluctance to trust in love when he finds himself attracted to his beautiful cousin.  For her part, Marsaili has to make sure Brice's intentions are honorable before she reciprocates those feelings,  as she has a fear of becoming like her mother, a wanton who finally settled into marriage only to allow her husband to physically abuse her. But before this can happen, fate intervenes and puts them both into abject danger.

Set against the backdrop of the aftermath of Culloden and the dismantling of the clan system in the Highlands, Highland Storms evokes all the hardship and desolation faced and felt by the once proud inhabitants of that part of Scotland. Ms. Courtenay writes an engaging and fast moving story. The only problem I have with it is that a good deal of the dialogue and some of the action (for example, the characters, including the women, seem to like to punch each other in the arms a good deal to signify good humor) seemed a bit too contemporary for a novel set in the mid 18th century. It was a bit jarring and somewhat difficult to get past in spots, but I tried my best to put that aside, and once I did, it was easy to get lost in Brice and Marsaili's love story.  Just out now from Choc Lit publishers, Highland Storms is a fast moving, engaging, love trumps all tale definitely worth a read.