Sunday, July 22, 2012


I remember the late, great astronomer, Carl Sagan from his Cosmos television series based on his book of the same name.* Sagan did for astronomy then, what scientists haven't really able to do successfully for a hundred years or so: bring science to the public in a compelling and accessible way.

Contact also reached the public in a way that many other science writer's work rarely does, in the form of a big budget movie. Contact starred Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey and was re-imagined for the screen by Sagan and his wife Ann Druyan.**

In other words, the book isn't the same as the movie; its substantially different. I'm not sure if its condescending to say how surprised I am that this sci fi novel is as good as it is, written by a man who presumably doesn't have any special training as a writer, or if its okay to feel that way because I'm encouraged to continue my own amateur writing.

Sagan doesn't just tell the story of humankind's first contact with an alien species, but hypothesizes what the actual processes that may take place on earth to deal with such a re-defining event. His experience work with the international science community and the nations that support them--or in some cases forestall them--allows him to build a powerful sub-plot revolving around international cooperation. Another vein that runs through the story is how policy is influenced by powerful religious groups in the face of what could be seen as a difficult development for many religious traditions to assimilate: discovery that there are other civilizations, which may or may not have similar belief systems--contact with which could potentially challenge long standing religious tenets.

There is a lot going on in this story, and Sagan does a masterful job of walking the line in tricky spots, and tying up loose ends like a pro. I really enjoyed this one, but I don't think I'll be reading three books at the same time for a while.

Read this one. Its better than the movie. But you knew that.

* Carl Sagan's book, Cosmos, was recently included in the Library of Congress' Books That Shaped America exhibit, which kicks off their 'Celebration of the Book' event, which will continue over the next few years.

** Druyan and Sagan met while she was the creative director of the NASA Voyager Interstellar Record Project. You remember the gold records strapped to the sides of the Voyager spacecraft right? Who could forget? The thing almost killed us all!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

home grown bookmarker

As I'm sure you know, I'm a fan of bookmarks. SO much so, that I've dabbled in making them myself a little bit. In most cases, this means hand drawn, one or two color jobs on card stock, but in this case I made a bookmark for a specific task. The office lending library.

I work in an office where we design library buildings as a large part of our business, and what better way to embrace the democracy of free libraries, then to start your own. We have even discussed ways to open it to the public, as micro libraries become more and more popular.

The way our library works is: you bring in a book or books that you think others might enjoy, jot your name in them and stick them on the shelf. When they've been there for a while without a lot of action, take them home and replace them with some others. I had the idea to add another layer (and convenience) to the process by adding my own bookmark. Not only does it remind the reader whose book it is, it also can help them to remember how long they've had it. you can see in this case, no one wanted to borrow my alan guth book. no date.*

Easy-peasy, right? This marker was created using a graphics program, and then a series of the them were printed on card stock, and then annotated by hand and hand stamped with a couple of my handmade vinyl stamps. These stamps are cut from vinyl erasers. The red one is a personal logo of my Irish-Italian household I like to call the Four-leaf Pepper Pub. The second is another personal logo I use for marking my books; it represents the full moon over snowy mountains and pines.

Want to borrow a book?

* Inflationary Universe was great by-the-way. Its a little out of date now, but the basics of how the early, hot universe expanded really quickly, then cooled and slowed, is still included in most of the universe models.