Category Archives: Where

Top 10 Bookstores in the East Bay

A nice write-up on a key subject! Omits “Dan Webb Books”, doesn’t mention “The Booktree” right across the street from “A Great Good Place For Books” but my picks belong in my list. This is theirs and I’m glad to have found it!

The writer mentions the Montclair Egg Shop as a pairing with A Great Good Place for Books. Absolutely yes! Best place I can think of to take a new book or an old friend or both.

Source: Top 10 Bookstores in the East Bay


Father’s day tides at Moss Beach:

Here’s the tide table for this coming weekend at Moss Beach, just north of Princeton By The Sea, at the north edge of Half Moon Bay. High tide, +6 feet, at Midnight between Friday and Saturday, 1:00am between Saturday and Sunday. Low, low, tides at 7:00am, -1.5 feet!! on Saturday, -1.25 feet, at 7:48am, Sunday.
So, by crackie, we’ll be there as early as we an on Sunday. Sunrise is before 6:00am, so no shortage of light. Do a web search and you’ll discover this place has the best tidepools that ever existed- perhaps 1/4 mile or more along the coast, as much as 200 yards off shore of the normal high tide mark. A huge shelf of very low quality rock, normally around or perhaps a bit below the 0 foot level, that will be a good foot above sea level on Sunday Morning.

Hawker Hurricane Camouflage and exterior / interior colors.

I’ve just completed a series of color profiles of Hurricanes and I’m going to explain them here, with links to click on to show the images. I can’t seem to imbed them in this page without making a literal copy, which seems like a bad idea. So here’s literal copy to show what kind of image we’re talking about, and then descriptions and links:

Hurri Mk I, A patt

Hawker Hurricane, 1939; port profile,”A” pattern camouflage; 2 speed de Havilland prop; black, white, aluminum under v.12

Here’s the first plane, chronologically by subject:

Hawker Hurricane Mk I, 1938, digital image, by me, "A" pattern camo, Watts prop, no strake, tube mast, alu. finish under.

There are four parallel histories here, one, of the exterior colors and camouflage the RAF and RN used on all their airplanes, from 1937 to 1946. Second, the evolution of Hurricanes as a new-build manufactured item from Hawkers, Gloster, etc., in the UK, and Canadian Car and Foundry in Canada. Third, the evolution of Hurricanes in service, as operated, maintained, and repaired in the RAF, RN and Empire Air Forces. Fourth, the colors and markings specific to Hurricanes in the RAF, RN and Empire.

RAF camouflage and exterior colors  evolved in this sequence:

  • Overall Aluminium
  • Dark Earth and Dark Green upper surfaces, Temperate Land Scheme; black propeller blades
  • Aluminium undersurfaces
  • Black and white undersurface identification marking
  • Black spinner, yellow propeller tips
  • Sky undersurfaces (Sky type ‘S’)
  • Black starboard wing underside returns, departs
  • Sky spinner and aft fuselage band
  • Black overall night fighters
    • Special Night, ultra-flat black
    • Smooth Night, matte black.
  • Dark Earth and Mid-Stone, over Azure Blue
  • Dark Green and Ocean Gray, over Medium Sea Gray
  • Dark Green and “Mixed Gray”, over Medium Sea Gray
  • Black undersides for night intruders
  • Dark Earth and Dark Green, over Medium Sea Gray


RN camouflage and exterior colors evolved in this sequence:

  • Overall Aluminium
  • Slate Gray and Extra-Dark Sea Gray upper surfaces, Temperate Sea Scheme; black propeller blades
  • Aluminium undersurfaces
  • Black and white undersurface identification marking
  • Black spinner, yellow propeller tips
  • Sky undersurfaces (Sky type ‘S’)
  • Black starboard wing underside returns, departs ?
  • Sky spinner and aft fuselage band
  • All white lower surfaces, gloss below, matte above


Hurricanes as manufactured: The original Hurricane production line followed Hawker’s usual practices of the mid 1930s, building up the fuselage truss and wing center section spars from tubing and rolled sheet metal. A family of joints between multiple tubes had been designed at Hawker, with tools to form the tubing into flat-sided, readily joined pieces, brackets to allow the formed pieces to be bolted together securely, and fittings to anchor the joints to internal tension wires. The fuselage girder was internally wire braced from the engine bearers to the rudder pivot.

The first 500 airplane’s wings were also fabric over metal frames and featured high strength sheet steel spars, rolled from single sheets into avertical web and top and bottom octagonal tubes, fore and aft. Ribs zig-zagged between the spars (/\/ww.\/\) forming a light, strong, stiff structure. The wide-track, retractable, landing gear was attached at the outside of the inner wing stubs. Ribs attached to the spars, front and back, to give an airfoil shape to the linen that was stretched over the whole structure and then doped.

Photographs clearly show the tube frames were painted a light color, almost certainly the familiar Aluminium lacquer or enamel, as were the interiors of wheel wells, spars, ribs, etc. The cockpit walls, outside the tube frame, were, in production, painted with the RAF’s standard, gray-green, fuel-proof, coating. (Lacquer? Enamel? something else?)

The heel-boards leading from under the seat to under the rudder pedals were unpainted aluminium or possibly painted Aluminium colour. Cockpit seats also appear to be unpainted aluminium, but Aluminium colour is again possible. There aren’t any contemporary color photographs and few Hurricanes led a sheltered life. Forensic sanding, as the Smithsonian did on the rudder counterweight of the Mustang “Excalibur” would be interesting. Presumably, this is what leads to the schemes used by Hurricane Restoration and other professionals.

While those were being built, Hawker designed an all-metal wing of monocoque construction. It was lighter, cheaper and easier to build than the traditional form, but required Hawker’s technology to evolve, while the original form poured off the production line and into RAF service.

It was painfully clear that centralized manufacture of anything in war-time was an invitation to disaster. Hurricane production, like everything else, was dispersed to many locations, each building as much value into their piece as possible, before having to send it to another workshop to integrate into the next step.


Other operators: Hurricanes in the Belgian, Dutch East-Indies, Royal Egyptian, Finnish, Imperial Iranian, Irish, Portuguese, Soviet, Turkish, and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia Air Forces started out in RAF/RN colors, and if they survived, further evolved locally. A single Hurricane shipped to Australia during the war, a single example shipped to Argentina after the war and three that were transferred to the Belgian AF after the war had similar histories. The RAF identified many of its own squadrons by the country of origin of most of their pilots, for example, Royal Australian, Royal Canadian, Czechoslovak in exile, Danish in exile, Free French, Royal Indian, Royal Hellenic. Royal New Zealand, Royal Norwegian, Polish, and South African. All operated within the RAF and their equipment was the same as near-by RAF units.

I do not attempt to describe what camouflage was carried by the 20 Hurricanes built by the Zmaj factory in Yugoslavia or the two built in Belgium. More than one Zmaj-built example fell into Italian hands, two Mk IIb Trop models fell into Japanese hands and a number of working or repairable examples came into German hands.

The RAF and RN standard, when Hurricane production began, was overall Aluminium (note spelling) dope, lacquer or enamel, depending on substrate. Fabric surfaces of Hurricanes were Irish linen, with a dark red dope applied to tighten it, then the Aluminium top coat. Aluminium dope is a excellent finish for fabric covered airplanes, because it blocks all Ultra-Violet light, which would otherwise bleach and degrade the underlying dope and fabric. A trained worker can get a satisfactory finish using standard tools and techniques.

Before the Munich Crisis, someone in the RAF realized it was time to hide the airplanes, and the familiar Dark Green and Dark Earth were applied. These were not repeats from WWI practice. There must be a history, but I don’t know it. They were collectively named “Temperate Land Scheme”. The Royal Navy soon had both a Temperate Sea Scheme, and a Tropical Sea Scheme. Eventually there was a Desert scheme for the RAF. All of these camouflage schemes applied only to the upper surface of the airplane. The underside finish was the previous, non-camouflage, standard, Aluminum, dope, lacquer or enamel.

Yes, these rabbit holes go very deep. See, for example,

The prototype Hurricane had its exterior metal panels polished, the very first production planes might have had Aluminium lacquer over gray primer. The green and brown finish became the factory standard, quickly, and the Maintenance Units would have updated any early production.

All this first set use the Temperate Land Scheme and the Desert scheme. (Capitalized? “S”cheme? There is no end to this stuff.)

Temperate Land colors are Dark Earth, a golden brown, much like a freshly plowed field in UK, and Dark Green, a nice, mature foliage color. On my first visit to the UK, looking out of the airplane window, I saw these same colors spread out in the countryside, and I realize this is precisely what this camouflage was intended to blend in to.

Here are relevant examples:

Captured Hawker Hurricane

Color photo of captured RAF Hawker Hurricane undergoing testing in German hands. Note Luftwaffe markings, worn appearance of finish.

Canadian Hurricane

Contemporary color photo of Canadian Hurricane in flight

Preserved Hurricane

British Science Museum’s Mk 1 Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire. Hawker Siddley overhauled the Hurricane in 1963, the finish may not be original.



Contemporary WWII photo of Hurricane production, in Desert scheme


When Hurricanes went to Crete, Malta, Palestine, the Suez Canal Zone, and Egypt, they went wearing the standard green and brown. An Azure Blue for undersides to match the deep, dark, blue of a drier sky, appeared. A yellow-brown named “Mid Stone” replaced Dark Green and that was enough. Night bombers and intruders got black undersides, sometimes, but I’ve never seen evidence of all-black night flyers in the Mediterranean.

Undersides are a different kettle of fish. Originally left Aluminium, they were then intended to be painted half black and half white, divided down the middle of the underside. with the black on the left or port underside and the white on the right or starboard underside. This would make it very easy to recognize RAF airplanes compared to any others. The tersely worded official telegram instruction was open to more than one interpretation, however, resulting in airplanes with the wings painted white and black underneath, but the fuselage and tail left all Aluminium. In other cases, the black and white on the wings extended to the centerline under the fuselage, but the fuselage, fore and aft of the wings, remained Aluminium.

During the Battle of Britain, providing easy identification of British planes was reconsidered, and a new underside color, named Sky, was required, from sunrise on May, 1940. Also referred to as “duck egg blue”, Sky was a light, slightly greenish, blue. It had been worked out as the overall color for a notionally civilian Lockheed owned by a man named Cotton. As war became more and more likely, it became clear that accurate maps of Germany might be valuable and hard to get. Mr Cotton’s twin-engined Lockheed had a hidden camera installed, with a remote controlled cover that could open in flight,

Some experimentation revealed the light greenish blue concealed it best from ground observers. Thus painted, it ranged far and wide in European skies, in the fading years of peace, building a foundation for British aerial mapping throughout the war.


Additional reading:

“Duel of Eagles” – Peter Townsend

Camouflage & Markings: R.A.F. Fighter Command, Northern Europe, 1936-1945 
by James Goulding

Explore Hawker Hurricane and more!


Colors & materials for Apollo 11 CM, SM & LM. What the hardware looked like. For the Dragon kit.

Thanks to my beloved wife Jean, I got a Dragon Apollo 11 on the Moon kit, for Christmas! 1/72 scale, new tooling (same as their die-cast metal collectable?)

The short form on real, as-flown-in-1969, surfaces and finishes:

Command Module.

The actual Apollo Command module was covered with strips of mirror finish aluminized plastic micrometeoroid shield and thermal insulation, on the visible surfaces. The ablative heat shield, not visible until the CM and SM are separated, is said to have been painted a light gray color. During re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere, the mylar was mostly burned off and a light-gray painted structure under it became visible. Below that paint appears to have been a composite honeycomb material. I think it is unlikely that the actual pressure vessel that the crew lived in touched the outside surface except at the hatch edges.

In pictures of the remaining, unused, Apollo CSM (the emergency rescue vehicle for Skylab), you can see the stripe pattern of the plastic tape on the CM exterior, but in contemporary photographs, it looks like one piece of mirror polished aluminum. Like an American Airline’s jet airliner.

The fold-flat handles on the outside of the CSM, for astronaut Extra-Vehicular Activities (EVAs) were painted a glossy yellow, like the similar hand-rails on the the Hubble Space Telescope.

The docking capture and latch mechanism mounted on the outside of the tunnel, above the front hatch of the CM, is primarily titanium-looking metal, with a chromed, presumably retractable or spring loaded or damped, shaft.  There are darkened metal handles in the mechanism, probably painted or anodized a dark blue dark gray or black.

The inside of the tunnel itself, behind the docking capture mechanism, is light gray with 12 blue-anodized cylinder-topped arms at the top, some black and some other colors of boxes, and wires,

Service module:

The Service module exterior was  painted with an aluminum paint, except for radiator areas fore and aft which were white, two “ram’s horn” antennas that were white or light gray, and 24 narrow stripes (about 25%) on panels under the RCS thrusters. The area under “United States” may or may not have been light gray, and many labels on the exterior appear to be black text on light gray background.

The main engine exhaust bell is complex, but a bluish gray for the biggest, lower, part, outside, and reddish gray for the upper part, outside, is a good start. The top of the bell joins the reddish part at a flange, with bright bare metal fasteners by the dozen. The top of the bell, the last part visible beyond (below) the Inconel heat shield, is wrapped in the mylar and-or “H-film” ( aka “Kapton”) insulation and micrometeoroid shield. The back of the CM is mostly covered by 4 stamped quadrants what looks like thin Inconel nickel-copper high temp metal. The furthest outer edge of the end of the Service Module is painted with aluminum paint just like the sides.

Lunar Module:

The Lunar Module has two very different areas of finish: The descent (lower) stage is primarily wrapped in thermal insulation / micromedeoroid protection, a multilayer collection of  Kapton (“H film”) and Mylar, and other, exotic, things, with metal evaporated/ plated on them for protection. A lot of what looks ‘black’ is actually a black-finished foil or mylar.

The descent engine has a medium gray exterior and nestles in an Inconel-lined cavity in the descent stage.

The ascent (upper) stage of the Lunar Module is about half black-finished and half anodized Aluminum. Yes, the Aluminum looks like its dark, like Titanium, or has a distinct gray-beige-green tone. All true, many have remarked on the hard-to-describe colors. Grumman’s construction documents for the whole thing, facet by facet, are on line, and they specify Phosphoric acid and Sulfuric Acid anodizing of the various aluminum alloy pieces.  Some Mylar or “H film” wrapping is on the the outside of the ascent module. The ascent engine has a semi-gloss white exterior, with a textile-like “wrapped” texture. This may be thermal insulation, similar to the thick batts of insulation wrapped around the F1 engines of the Saturn V first stage.

There are two dish antennae on the ascent stage, Both have white-painted dishes and are generally black otherwise. The antenna directly above the lunar egress hatch and the front windows has black foil everywhere except the inside of the dish. The signal radiator in the center of the dish is white.

The antenna off on the starboard side of the ascent stage has a semi-gloss black mechanism and flat black on the back on the dish. Black, also, on the 4 legs and the forward reflector in front of the dish.

In more detail:

Command Module.

The Reaction Control System (RCS) engine nozzles on the CM have an oxidized copper color in their throats, and a slightly corrugated texture. Photos of post-re-entry CMs show a ring of the same oxidized copper color outside the nozzles, but the aluminized mylar covers these rings up to the edges of the RCS engine bells.

The forward and side windows for the two outside crew stations have black anti-glare finish around the windows, and red-orange silicone seals at every layer of the windows.

Below or behind the port side windows and the crossed RCS nozzles are a pair of drain valves, white 5/8 spheres with gold-toned dots at the outside. A very similar purge valve is installed on the starboard side of the side hatch.

On both sides, below windows, RCS nozzles, etc and the edge of the ablative re-entry shield, there are translucent white dots. Under the Mylar there are black partial circles around these two translucent circles,. On the Service Module, there are matching white partial circles painted on the fairing at the top edge of the SM

A minor (very minor) mystery is what kind of plastic the reflective stuff on the CM is. The expected temperature range in the space environment was wider than NASA was comfortable using Mylar, generally, uncovered, in the thermal insulation blankets covering the LM Descent Stage. Therefore, the outer layer of those blankets is always Kapton (“H film”), which is usable over the expected temperature range.  Of course, a blanket of up to 25 layers of plastic, using microthicknesses of vacuum deposited metal for insulation, is fundamentally different from a pressurized honeycomb structure wrapped with a layer of glued-on plastic tape. Maybe the thermal mass and inertia of the CM (and the slow-rolling passive thermal control regime) kept conditions on the outside of the CM suitable for Mylar, Maybe the CM plastic has the metal side “out”, unlike the majority of LM applications which are generally plastic side out (hence the gold-amber color: its not gold foil, its aluminized Kapton with the metal in and the plastic out.

Service module:

Inside the main engine exhaust bell is complex. At the bottom, inside the bluish gray outside, are 16 dark metal petals with strong textures. Inside the reddish-gray part of the bell are a set of 6 petals and then a solid ring- all a glossy dark color.  Above the dark, solid, ring, is a white metal ring, something like aluminum colored. Above that is an orangey brown and then at the peak of the engine is a light, metallic-finished plate with 5 stamped spokes and a central cap.

Lunar Module:

How I plan to reproduce these colors:

Command Module:

The glued-flat aluminized mylar on the real thing doesn’t look like any paint, even mirror polished aluminum. It looks like mylar, darker than polished aluminum. I have seen photos on-line of Apollo CMs finished in Bare Metal Foil, in the correct striped pattern. But I don’t see the stripes unless I look very closely in the 1960s photos- they’re easy to see in flash photos taken today, on the leftover CSM lifeboat for Skylab that never flew. But not in pictures of Apollo 11, or 15, or any of the other hardware that was flown.

Sooooo: Bare Metal Foil remains possible, or very thin aluminum foil, polished and clear-coated. “Chrome” spray paint would not be a bad choice. Having the kit part polished and then vacuum coated with aluminum would be very close to the real thing. Brush-painting Testor’s Chrome Silver oil-based paint or another similar non-water-based product is also a thought – the occasional brushmark could be said to represent the stripes of the Mylar…

“Chrome” spray paint or Metalizer Buffable Aluminum rattle can are the top two contenders at the moment. I’m going to do a study with each and see which I like more  watch this space.

Service Module:

Polly-scale Reefer White (that’s as in Refrigerator White, the rail-road color) is my call for the white paint on the lower and upper ring radiators, the two ‘tabs’ containing the ram’s horn antennas, and the white areas near the RCS boxes. My own mix for Boeing Aircraft Company #707 Gray is my first choice for the Light Gray RCS boxes, unless they’re white too, have to check again before I commit myself. The Inconel heat shield could be Polly Scale Stainless Steel, maybe with a bit of yellow added to bring out the nickel ‘color’… Inconel is a copper-nickel alloy and its attraction is that it holds its strength at high temperatures, not that its intrinsically tough stuff like titanium. It actually cuts and polishes pretty readily, but the important thing is that its clearly NOT aluminum. Completely different color. Not unlike stainless steel, which is, itself, not like steel OR aluminum.

Lunar Module:

Corrected captions for the Denver Post’s Plog of WWII in the Pacific.

Have a look at the well chosen pictures at the Denver Post’s Photo Blog or Plog.

Sadly, the captions seem to have been either the intentionally uninformative wartime stuff, or edited to reduce meaning. I ended up with strong feelings about a bunch of the captions and sent them back the following suggestions. You may snicker knowingly if you please. I stopped after photo #19, and I tried to hit the meaningful stuff, and wound up sending them the following as comments. In each case I’ve put the photo caption and then my comment:

“2: December 7, 1941: This picture, taken by a Japanese photographer, shows how American ships are clustered together before the surprise Japanese aerial attack on Pear Harbor, Hawaii, on Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941. Minutes later the full impact of the assault was felt and Pearl Harbor became a flaming target. (AP Photo)”

Not to quibble but shore installations (Hickam Field) are already aflame, bombs have clearly gone off in the water of the harbor, torpedo tracks are visible and an explosion appears to be illuminating the third ship from the left, front row, the USS West Virginia. This photo is seconds, not minutes, from the full impact being felt. It is credited “Photo #: NH 50931” by the National Archives.

“4: December 7, 1941: The battleship USS Arizona belches smoke as it topples over into the sea during a Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The ship sank with more than 80 percent of its 1,500-man crew. The attack, which left 2,343 Americans dead and 916 missing, broke the backbone of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and forced America out of a policy of isolationism. President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced that it was “a date which will live in infamy” and Congress declared war on Japan the morning after. (AP Photo)”

The battleship USS Arizona had already sunk, on an even keel, as she still lies today, before this photograph was taken. Note the forward main gun turret and gun barrel, in the lower left. The forward mast collapsed, as shown, into the void left by the explosion of the forward magazine, which sank the ship. The flames are from burning fuel oil. The fires were not extinguished until December 8, so this picture may have been taken on the Day of Infamy, of the day after. Compare to official U. S. Navy photo Photo #: 80-G-1021538, taken on the 9th of December, after the fires were out, showing the forward mast in the same shape.

“9: April 18, 1942: A B-25 Mitchell bomber takes off from the USS Hornet’s flight deck for the initial air raid on Tokyo, Japan, a secret military mission U.S. President Roosevelt referred to as Shangri-La. (AP Photo)”

When asked where the US bombers that struck Japan on April 18, 1942 had flown from, President Roosevelt replied (humorously) “Shangra La”, an imaginary paradise invented by novelist James Hilton. He showed shrewd tactical sense, the imaginary location was placed on the Asian mainland, opposite the direction the B-25s had actually came from. The U. S. Navy later had an air craft carrier named the “USS Shangra-la”, making it the only US ship named after an imaginary place, work of fiction, or a presidential joke, your choice.

(not shared with the Denver Post – I built a model of one of the Doolittle raiders and posted this writeup about it:…olittle-raider/)

“10: June 1942: The USS Lexington, U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, explodes after being bombed by Japanese planes in the Battle of the Coral Sea in the South Pacific during World War II. (AP Photo)”

The Battle of the Coral Sea is usually dated May 4–8, 1942, not June, 1942. This photograph must have been taken after 1500 (3:00pm) on May 8, and may be seconds after the “great explosion” recorded at 1727, 5:27pm. It is Official U. S. Navy Photo #: 80-G-16651. The USS Lexington was scuttled by US destroyer torpedos and sank about 2000, 8pm, that day.

“17: June 1942: Crewmen picking their way along the sloping flight deck of the aircraft carrier Yorktown as the ship listed, head for damaged sections to see if they can patch up the crippled ship. Later, they had to abandon the carrier and two strikes from a Japanese submarine’s torpedoes sent the ship down to the sea floor after the battle of Midway. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy)”

Belongs directly after Photo 11, showing the damaged and listing USS Yorktown. The two photos were taken the same day, after the second Japanese air attack on the Yorktown, after noon, June 4, 1942. This is official US Navy Photograph #: 80-G-14384.

“18: Oct. 29, 1942: U.S. Marines man a .75 MM gun on Guadalcanal Island in the Solomon Islands during World War II. (AP Photo)”

75mm gun, not .75 (100 times bigger!). 75mm is slightly less than 3 inches. .75 would be slightly less than .030 inches, 1/10 the size of a “30 caliber” aka 0.30″ rife bullet. Given the short barrel, light construction and high elevation, its probably a howitzer and not a gun. “Artillery piece” might be more constructively ambiguous.

“19: October 16, 1942: Six U.S. Navy scout planes are seen in flight above their carrier.”

SB2U Vindicators were withdrawn from all carriers by September, 1942. Marine SB2U-3s operated until September, 1943, but only from land. The photo may have been released or dated October 16, 1942, but is unlikely to have been taken on that date.

(I’ve edited the original captions in for reference here – what I sent didn’t quote the captions, except for #18. I rebel at mumbojumbo like .75mm or .20mm, conflating the common “.(something)” inch dimensions for inch dimension ammunition with the dimension “mm”.

Generally “0.(something)” is the recommended format for dimensions, but “50 caliber”, “.50 caliber”, “.45-“, “30-” etc., clearly intersect with 75mm, 20mm or 9mm and produce a muddle in the mind of writers and editors…)

If the NRA really cared about educating people, they’d work on this issue.

Bat-Mitzva and Bar-Mitzva book lists

Here’s an update, with the 40 titles I’ve typed into a Listmania list at I’ll probably need a 2nd list for the rest.
Books for 13 year olds. “Today, I am an adult, and I take my place…”

“For Bar mitzvah or Bat mitzvah I used to wonder what to give, then I realized I had a list of books in my head that I’d found illuminating and helpful to have read as a young person. Books to return to as you grow into adulthood, books to provide a guide, a commentary, and perhaps, an inspiration. Books I gave to high school graduates, and camp counselors at my son’s summer camps. I’d have been pleased to get any of them, and I’m honored to give them, in turn.”

1. The Periodic Table by Primo Levi
“Unique and magical, a chemist’s life, each chapter centered on one element and its relationship to the author and those around him. Mercury, Lead and Carbon are imaginary, the rest autobiographical. My favorite chapter is the story of the chemists at lunch, and the slice of onion in the linseed oil.”

2. The Caine Mutiny: A Novel by Herman Wouk
“A detailed dissection of a failing organization and the price it extracts. Not to mention a great novel. (The typhoon made my hair stand on end when I was a kid) I give this book to people in crazy organizations (most organizations are crazy…). I have never read a better description of where the distress and responsibility fall when things aren’t working right.”

3. The Maltese Falcon (Crime Masterworks) by Dashiell Hammett
“Hammett’s best, not withstanding the Charles’ of The Thin Man (and the movies it gave birth to…). All the elements are familiar, and yet the way it unfolds is riveting. The writing is gripping, laugh-out-loud funny and timeless. The subjects are honor, duty, loss, romance and having to get up every morning and get on with your life. Because “..a man … has to do something.””

4. A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes by Stephen Hawking
“This is it – how we know what we know, only one equation, and as readable and instructive now as ever. Hawking’s ability to express himself against the challenges of his own body is beyond my words. This book is so clear, and starts with a wonderful joke. I was overseas the first time I read it, and his contrast of Einstein and Aristotle gave me courage to get the job done.”

5. Emma (Penguin Classics) by Jane Austen
“One of those remarkable books which seems dauntingly long when you start and far, far, too short by the time you’ve finished. Emma, of good family and comfortable circumstances, trys to help her friends by matchmaking. The results are far from what anyone wants, complication and crisis compound on each other. But all is made well. Her own match is concluded in the sweetest way.”

6. The Wisdom of the Bones: In Search of Human Origins by Alan Walker
“This terrific book focuses on the Nariokatome Boy, a 1.6M yr old Homo Erectus’ skeleton. Kamoya Kimeu found the first pieces, Alan Walker and Meave Leakey assembled them, the scientific descriptions were published by Walker. The Boy is most complete Homo Erectus skeleton so far. Like us. But not us. Pat Shipman, Walker’s wife, is gifted writer. The story is his, the voice hers.”

7. The Autobiography of Malcolm X (Penguin Modern Classics) by Malcolm X
“I read this book in 1971 and I found it electrifying- Brother Malcolm X plumbed the depths and climbed the heights and had his life torn from him just as it seemed his greatest work was beginning. The hell of segregated America is something we must never forget. How one man educated himself out of prison and became a national leader is always worth knowing.”

8. The Hominid Gang: Behind the Scenes in the Search for Human Origins by Delta Willis
“A great how-they-did-it adventure, led by Richard and Meave Leakey, Kamoya Kimeu, etc. Kimeu is a treasure in his own right, worth meeting. Willis was with the expedition as they, Alan Walker, etc, found the Nariokatome Boy, a 1.6M yr old Homo Erectus skeleton. She also covers friction between the Kenyan team and the Institute for Human Origins (from Berkeley), who found “Lucy” in Ethiopia”

9. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values by Robert M. Pirsig
“Pirsig wastes no time. You need a thin aluminum shim for your top of the line BMW motorcycle. Do you buy expensive shim stock from the BMW dealer, or snip a piece of essentially the same thing from an empty beer can? Pay someone to think for you, or call it yourself and accept the consequences? What *is* high quality, how do you define or apply it? A great story too!”

10. When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson & S. J. McCarthy
“Written by a noted natural science reporter and a once-enfant-terrible of Freudian Psychology, is very readable and not always comfortable. Elephants are not the only species here. Animals feel and express emotions; cases to cite don’t hurt.
Full disclosure: S. J. McCarthy is a personal friend of mine. my admiration of her writing has been verified in double-blind tests.”

11. To Kill a Mockingbird: 50th Anniversary Edition by Harper Lee
“Some people can’t stop writing books. Harper Lee had one book to write. Her love of her father and the story she wanted to tell is worth more than the whole production of many other writers.
Atticus Finch’s story wasn’t leading straight to Rosa Parks, Brown Vs. Board of Education or the Voting Rights Act of 1964. Low-key person-by-person didn’t get the job done. But it wasn’t a coward’s path.”

12. The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage by Clifford Stoll

13. The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme by John Keegan
“A landmark book, explaining the often unrealistic conventions of military history, as far back as Julius Caesar and as close as the Charge of the Light Brigade. He then describes three notable battles in the history of England and Great Britain, and what the typical soldier would have experienced. Keegan’s account of the first Battle of the Somme is heartbreaking.”

14. Ancient Engineers by L. Sprague De Camp
“A wonderful (filled with wonder) history of engineering in the long ago and far away. From the Tigris/Euphrates and Nile civilizations to Leonardo, who De Camp rightly points out, was the last of the ancients- wise, but secretive, not pubishing during his lifetime or after. Not a specialist book on any area or culture, its a guided tour by someone who loves the subject.”

15. Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey

16. Fate is the Hunter by Ernest Kellogg Gann

17. Funny Money by Mark Singer

18. A Garlic Testament: Seasons on a Small New Mexico Farm by Stanley G. Crawford

19. The Fallen Man by Tony Hillerman

20. Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters (P.S.) by Matt Ridley

21. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

22. Incredible Victory: The Battle of Midway (Classics of War) by Walter Lord
“The best kind of history, built of quotes from 350 survivors, 250 from the US and 100 from Japan. How code breaking, courage, luck and sacrifice stopped the Japanese conquest of the Pacific. A human tragedy, triumph and a victory that comprised 1/3 of what Winston Churchill called “The Hinge of Fate””

23. Rising From The Plains by John McPhee

24. Stranger in the Forest: On Foot Across Borneo by Eric Hansen

25. Assembling California by John McPhee

26. The Survival of the Bark Canoe by John McPhee

27. Young Men and Fire by Norman MacLean

28. Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body (Vintage) by Neil Shubin

29. The Simple Art of Murder by Raymond Chandler

30. The Immense Journey: An Imaginative Naturalist Explores the Mysteries of Man and Nature by Loren C. Eiseley

31. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

32. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd edition by Edward R. Tufte

33. Synapsida by John C. McLoughlin

34. Five Equations that Changed the World: The Power and Poetry of Mathematics by Michael Guillen

35. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

36. A Country Year: Living the Questions by Sue Hubbell

37. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

38. Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journeys by Michael Collins

39. The Prince (Bantam Classics) by Niccolo Machiavelli

40: Ultramarine: Poems by Raymond Carver

Buy a copy for your brother. Read one of the poems to him.

I think I’ve bugged more of my friends and family with Carver’s masterpiece, “The Car”, from this book, than with any other poem I’ve ever read. More than “Howl”, more than “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, “McCavity the Mystery Cat” or “Greed and Aggression”. There are teaching guides for middle school teachers to use this one as an exercise. Find it. Read it. Make up your own verses. Make up your own poem when you’re driving somewhere with your family. I’ll come back and edit in an excerpt, but trust me, you need this book, as a gift if nothing else.

When I bought my brother a copy and stopped by his house and read him, “The Car”, he laughed and looked thoughtful, his wife squeezed his hand. and he paused, at the end, after,

“… Car of my sleepless nights.
My car.”

and then he said, “‘The car I struck with a hammer.’ ‘The car I struck with a hammer.’ The car I cut to pieces with an oxy-acetylene torch !”


Yeah, there’s sadness here too, but there’s a LOT of that tough heart that people, not just men, need to have to get by in this world. The first poem is called “What You Need To Paint” and lists (from a letter? a notebook?) things a well regarded fine art painter recorded. Brushes, Colors. And then the zinger, that gives the whole thing life: “The ability to work like a locomotive”.

Its what we all need. Raymond Carver had it, and its beautiful to listen to, to watch, to live up to in your own life.

So buy this one for your brother, or sister, or someone who YOU love, who can work like a locomotive, when its required.

You won’t be sorry.

41: Seizing the Enigma: The Race to Break the German U-Boats Codes, 1939-1943 by David Khan

—=== Original Post: ===—
Its that time of year again, so beside a check, its time to pass around books that I think are worthwhile to those who are learning how to take their place in the wide world

Last year I put “The Prince” by Machiavelli into the hands of a couple of Benjamin’s classmates, JG and JB. Dunno if either read it. Both boys and Benjamin had been talking politics, so it seemed like a natural. I also gave JB a copy of “Carrying the Fire” by Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins.

JG did have an actual Bar Mitzva and by way of celebration, I gave him:
The Periodic Table – Levi
A Brief History of Time – Hawking
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Pursig (His dad noted this approvingly – “ah”, he said, “Pursig? Well, its not depressing like ‘Lila'” and I said, “Now he takes his place…” or something similar.
The Maltese Falcon, Hammett
I’ve also got a copy of
“The C Programming Language” for him.
He’d probably enjoy “The Curve of Binding Energy” too.

For JB I’ve got:
The Face of Battle – Keegan
Brazen Chariots – Crisp
and not-yet delivered:
Assembling California – McPhee

For SL I’ve got:
When Elephants Weep – Mason and McCarthy
The Fallen Man – Tony Hillerman
The Thin Man – Hammett
For this child and the next, both girls, I need books with a strong female character/voice. Sue Hubbell, Jane Goodall, Pat Shipman, Delta Burke… Obviously fiction such as Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Anne of Green Gables or Little Women would be appropriate, but at least some is likely to have been given… Neither Kinsey Milhone in “A is for Alibi” or in “Shooting the Boh” are quite right for 13 year olds. This is harder than it looks. “October Sky” has been recommended for an inspirational teacher who is an unconventional woman who inspires the author. His mother also has a strong role. Good suggestions, from a woman who’s son is all over the submarines, tanks, airplane books used to read. She also says she was big on Judy Blume at age 13. I’ve certainly seen Judy Blume’s books, but haven’t read any yet. Probably ought to, and October Sky too. We had a copy once…
How could I have not included
“To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee?

For HM I’ve got:
Genome – Ridley
Assembling California – McPhee – both sent today via Ben. Maybe “Rising from the Plain” would be better, with so much coming from the geologist’s mom’s diary. I think a Sue Hubbell and/or Pat Shipman needs to follow.
5/13: Added When Elephants Weep – Mason and McCarthy
The Fallen Man – Tony Hillerman

For GS I’ve got
Assembling California – McPhee, and I need a couple more-
I’m thinking The Period Table – Levi
Fate is the Hunter – Gann
All Creatures Great and Small – Herriott

for GM I’ve go little beyond good intentions, yet

For MG I’m getting another copy of
The Periodic Table

For the school’s library I donated
“Fighting On Two Fronts”
“Autobiography of Malcom X” by Halley,
“Animal Farm” by Orwell

Sitting here burning a hole in my bookshelf are give-away copies of

“Desert Solitaire” – Abbey,
“A Garlic Testament”, – Crawford
“Robinson Crusoe” – Defoe
Your Inner Fish – _______
“The Curve of Binding Energy” – McPhee
“The Wisdom of the Bones”, – Shipman & Walker

I’ve got between one and several copies of

“The Curve of Binding Energy”,
“The Periodic Table”,
“The C Programming Language”,
“The Wisdom of the Bones”,
“Your Inner Fish”
“Broadsides from the Other Orders”,
“A Country Year” and
“Waiting for Aphrodite”

on order and presumably making their way to get there.

I realize I need more female voices. I’ve received some suggestions, along the lines of young adult fiction with strong female characters:
Judy Blume
Mercedes Lakey
M Pierce (not the other Pierce)
Earthsea (Not U. K. LeGuinn’s Earthsea Trillogy)
Harper Lee writes from a young girl’s perspective, and if “To Kill A Mockingbird” isn’t quite in the’ books for girls’ zone, neither is The Diary of a Young Girl by Ann Frank, who is also an undeniable girl.
Besides Hillerman, Hammett, Chandler and Conan-Doyle, Rita Mae Brown’s mysteries, written with her cat Sneaky Pie, are said to be child-friendlly and female voiced. I picked one up for a look through at the library sale.

I need to add
“Young Men and Fire”
“Fate is the Hunter”
“The Simple Art of Murder” – Chandler
“Incredible Victory” – Lord.
And more

Alphabeticly, by title, this all and some other old favorites adds up to:

The Autobiography of Malcolm X – Hailey
A Brief History of Time – Hawking
Brazen Chariots – Crisp
The Cuckoo’s Egg – Stoll
The Curve of Binding Energy – McPhee
Desert Solitaire – Abbey
The Face of Battle – Keegan
The Fallen Man – Hillerman
Fate is the Hunter – Gann
Funny Money – Singer
A Garlic Testament – Crawford
Giant Squid – Ellis
Genome – Ridley
Huckleberry Finn – Twain
Life on the Mississippi – Twain
Incredible Victory – Lord
Little Women – Alcott
The Maltese Falcon – Hammett
The Phantom Major – Cowells
The Periodic Table – Levi
Pride and Prejudice – Austin
Rising From the Plain – McPhee
Robinson Crusoe – Defoe
Sense and Sensability – Austin
Stranger In the Forest – Hansen
Taking Wing – Shipman & _____
The Thin Man – Hammett
To Kill A Mockingbird – Lee
Waiting for a Ship – McPhee
When Elephants Weep – Masson & McCarthy
The Wisdom of the Bones – Shipman & Walker
Young Men and Fire – _______
Your Inner Fish – _______
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Pursig

Now that’s a list of old friends!

Monogram Fiero chassis, engine, suspension

Jean got me this Fiero kit as my Christmas model kit. Pretty cool. GM could never decide if this was the parts-bin special that had been sold to upper management or the sporty sports car it might have been. It did accomplish one major thing for the American automotive industry- the funny reaction-injection-molded plastic body panels never matched painted steel in quality of appearance, and the steel manufactuerers went to GM and said, how come you did that, and GM said, “You never talk to us about what we want”. And a dialog began.

Now here you can see what I was trying to accomplish: I used 4 or 5 different dark, dark, grays, mostly Polly S black with a touch of Polly S white. The shiny one is Testor’s Acryl “Semi gloss” black mixed 5:50 with Testor’s Acryl flat black, and the results lightened slightly with Testors Acryl Flat White. The basic chassis is the lightest tone I used. My theory is that the “flat black” used on an industrial scale for things like chassis is seldom dead flat OR a deep black.. Its dark enough you’d call it “black” but its not loaded with black pigment like a high quality black artist’s oil paint.

I took the liberty of painting the engine in my own ideas of good colors. I find the metallic silver-blue-green that Pontiac actually used as a corporate paint for engine blocks particularly uninspired. Sorry, Pontiac fans.