Saturday, December 1, 2018

Pillownaut Christmas Picks

Here it is, December 1st! Time to select goodies for the scientist, astronomer, cosmologist, Trekkie, Browncoast, Ewok, or astromech wrangler in your life! If you don't have these people in your life, come meet one at a rocket launch sometime.

It may seem weird to have Christmas picks from someone who notoriously hates shopping, but all of these GEEK TREATS can be purchased on the internet. That is literally my only requirement for selection when I'm sharing news of cool Science or Science Fiction products. Like that R2-D2 pen I just found? Yeah, you actually have to schlep down to Office Depot to recycle your massive collection of spent ink cartridges to find it. So, disqualified.

Ultimate Guide to the Cosmos by David Dickinson & Fraser Cain
My arms are too short for selfies,
so I just tried to keep the book in the middle.

 My top pick for the year is The Universe Today Ultimate Guide to Viewing The Cosmos by David Dickinson with Fraser Cain. The sub-title is a bit mystifying. "Everything You Need to Know to Become an Amateur Astronomer" seems a bit of an abbreviation for such a visually stunning and skillful collection of knowledge. From reading the sky to choosing a telescope, from identifying celestial phenomena to staying safe during eclipses, this is more like a comprehensive guide on being a GOOD astronomer. Even if you have no hardware at all.

This book is a giant galactic poem, and every spacetweep should own it. I've seen just about every astronomy book in my lifetime, and this is the one that will show you how to be a stargazer in the way that best fits your abilities and interests -- not merely canned instructions for meteor showers. As the author notes in his introduction, "The act of gazing skyward is a minor stroke of rebellion." 

ALIENS bath bomb from SICK SOAPS

 I've been a big fan of FrakkingBombs after seeing them at Dragon*Con; their Star Wars & Doctor Who bath products are still awesome -- but I branched out a bit to try Sick Soaps, owned by a woman named Cheynne de Boer, who sold me this very original "Aliens" themed bath bomb. I keep wanting to use it, but also enjoy just having it to look at. I'll fizz it up and watch the face-hugger spring out sometime. She has dozens of Sci-Fi soapy things, plus classic horror movies in the mix.
Do the puzzles while the stuff bakes

Unshockingly, my cookbook of the year is a Chocolate BIBLE. That's what it said. BIBLE. It's light on the scripture, but heavy on the chocolate advice, chocolate history (from the Aztecs to modern artisanal truffles), development of chocolate cultivation and products across many cultures through the centuries, and types chocolate delicacies all over the world. There's a coffee section, too. Maybe someday I'll read that. Right now, still stuck on learning how to cope with tempering. It's harder than those Instagram videos make it look. 

My puzzle pick of the year for the first time ever is NOT crosswords. I'll never be as good at Sudoku as my older brother -- which is why this is his Christmas present. Celestial Squares by atheist vegan Sci-Fi author Ant Ryan has 50 easy, 50 medium, 50 hard, and 50 advanced puzzles... perfect for the husband who wants to teach his wife to Sudoku. Apologies in advance to my sister-in-law.

Both of the above are British printings by British authors, but available for purchase to the USA. And both are the best gifts I also found for others in 2018.

Best Fiction Book for the year? The one I'm writing. For all the reviews and promotions I've done for others, I hope you'll support me when the time comes.

We may have opened this toy a bit early. K, we opened this toy really early. Sphero used to charge $130 + shipping for the app-controlled R2-D2 astromech, but had a product surplus and dropped the price to $40 for the holidays. You download the Sphero droid app, and enjoy the BEEPS and BOOPS! Droid has an integrated speaker with all of Artoo's recognizable conversations and... screams. Authentic functional LEDs, radio system, and very easy to move. WAY easier than the 200lb. trash can! From opening the box to driving, twe had this little guy up and running in 7 minutes. So hilarious. I've been sending it all around the kitchen with my iPhone while waiting for blog uploads.

My non-fiction pick of the year is Kick Some Glass: 10 Ways Women Succeed at Work on Their Own Terms, an examination of the glass ceiling women experience in various career fields, and how to cope with society's models in the changing landscape of finding both success and balance. I like the approach here, because it acknowledges, unlike many self-help guide-style books, that there is no single solution, and every woman has to get to the core of her own ideals and choices to be a resilient, adaptable, and effective worker.

Disclaimer: I went to college with co-author, Portia Mount, who also wrote Beating the Imposter Syndrome in 2014. We lived in the same dormitory at Mills. On second thought, never mind, I'm not disclaiming anything. She's brilliant, and I'm proud to promote this for Portia. She is #BlackGirlMagic personified!
Kitty Approved

One last book pick! While not newly written, this blast from the past is absolutely still relevant, applicable to continuing evolutionary studies, and pertinent knowledge to understanding how the creatures of Earth will (or won't) adapt to rapidly changing climate. The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction was written by David Quammen in 1997. Not many people heeded his warnings then. I don't much expect people in charge to heed them now, but it's a great read about how we're all basically going to go extinct. RAY OF SUNSHINE, YO.

NOTE: This book is also the current pick for THE STEMULUS book club, and we will be discussing it on livestream soon!

Lastly, my Life Is Like a Box of Chocolates pick of the year is the Moonstruck Crescent Moon Collection, conveniently in the shape of an actual crescent moon. Anyone and everyone is free to send this to me -- at any time of year. This lovely box features their Champagne truffle, Ocumarian, their signature caramels, and one specialty of the Distillery Collection, the Clear Creek Pear Brandy, native to the Portland, Oregon area where their chocolate factory resides.

Add if you're into more whimsical selections, they carry holiday-wrapped truffles, as well as penguins, snowballs, snowdudes, little trees, sugar plums, and all manner of Decembery cacao goodness. It's a fun website, go crazy.

It's also the best chocolate this side of Belgium.

I would know. 

I've been to Belgium, and ate my way home through Hershey, Pennsylvania.