Friday, November 4, 2011

Top Ten: Books

Some of my lists are hard to find ten things I want to list. This top ten list is the hardest to limit to ten. The written word has been around for a long time with a lot of good material out there and I used to be an avid reader.

I wasn't always fond of reading. Before I was nine, reading was a chore. When I moved out west with my mother and sister, I was torn from my friends and any life that made sense to me. I became quite the loner, preferring to have no friends if I could not have my friends.

Reading filled the hole in my life. I read everything. Some things took me by surprise. I remember reading a science fiction book about satellites in orbit that had electric propulsion systems. After reading it, I discovered it wasn't a fiction book!

The written word became a doorway to EVERYTHING! Knowledge, wisdom, romance, excitement and humor. It is a discovery and a passion that I try to instill in my children.
  • The Stainless Steal Rat (Harry Harrison). I don't remember what the first books where that really captured my interest in reading. However, this series is a great primer for getting young minds into reading. It is the hilarious adventure of Slippery Jim set far in the future.
  • Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card). Another great book for teens because the hero is a boy himself. An exciting story with a surprising twist. The whole series is pretty decent and sometimes thought provoking.
  • The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley). A book I could not put down until I finished it! The well known tale of King Arthur told from the perspective of the women. The first book I remember reading that told a familiar tale from a different perspective.
  • Iron Tower Trilogy, The Silver Call Duology (Dennis McKiernan). McKiernan, an engineer by trade, lay in a full body cast after an accident. To wile away the time, he wrote some of the best fantasy based on Tolkien's Middle Earth ever! Not as deep as Tolkien's own work, it was full of action and (for a fantasy) believable world. If you find Tolkien too slow, try these books for a wild fantasy romp. McKiernan originally wrote these books to be in the Middle Earth world, but the Tolkien Estate does not allow anyone to impose on their franchise so he changed names to make it different enough to publish.
  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (Stephen Donaldson). This series will seriously twist you up inside. The main character is not a hero, he is an anti-hero. The book does not make you feel good. It makes you feel! Sad, angry, lonely...just about everything but good. You miss characters, because you like them and they are gone! It makes you miss places because you becom attached to them and then they are destroyed! You won't like Thomas Covenant, but you will not put down the books. You will wish you were there, to slap him. To appreciate what he didn't. To be in his place.
  • Watchmen (Alan Moore). A captivating story about gritty 'realistic' super heroes. My favorite super hero used to be Spiderman until I discovered Rorschach. A hero who accepts no rationalization. Right and wrong is all black and white. If in doubt, ask "What would Rorschach do?" Probably break a nose.
  • The Mote in God's Eye (Larry Niven and Jerry Pournell). Excellent story about first contact with an alien species. Unlike much science fiction that treats aliens as just another character, this story is an exploration of aliens. Exploration and discovery that make you think and wonder.
  • Wealth (Aristophanes). Much of Aristophanes works are good reading. Not only was he good at his craft, it is amazing how much life in ancient Athens mirrors modern day life. In this play, he explores wealth and poverty in the world's oldest democracy and he could be writing about modern America.
  • The Message (Eugene Petterson). For centuries, the Catholic church fought amateur interpretations of The Bible. The demand for irrefutable proof before changing established belief that most of the western world relied on led to conflicts against individuals (like Galileo), other branches of Christianity to whole countries and cultures. Now, it is seen as more important to get the message to people than corral them into a specific church. Whether you are religious or not, The Message is a good read for what it is. It is not the Bible. If you are strict in your interpretations of the Bible, don't read this without your Bible near by to bump it against. It might draw your kids into a good mind set, but you might balk at some of the rewording.
  • The Dictionary (Any). There is no book that sees more attention in our house than the dictionary. No home should be without one. Specially if you have kids. I often look up meanings online now. It was quite a surprise that, although my children could find the meaning of a word online, they had a lot of trouble finding words, meanings, pronunciations in the dictionary. Now it is a routine exercise.

Not making it to my list but deserving mention is C.S. Lewis' The Problem of Pain. I wouldn't expect non-Christians to really understand Christianity. The only thing they want to know about it is what they can use against it. But it is surprising that so many Christians don't understand their own religion. A read through this book should help.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Top Ten: Music

I am not educated enough in the realm of music to speak intelligently about it, so there will be little commentary in my list.

  • Stay (Shakespeare's Sister).  I'm not even sure what the lyrics are about, but I love to listen to this song.
  • Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash).  A rugged voice, a pleasure to listen to him sing.
  • Fur Elise (Beethoven).  My favorite piece of classic music.  I hum or whistle it all the time.
  • Born Slippy (Underworld).  Great travelling music when driving around Europe.
  • Tears From the Moon (Conjure One).  Introduced to me by a friend.  Lovely music.
  • Why (Annie Lennox).  An amazing woman and an amazing performer.  I love all her music.
  • Carry On Wayward Son (Kansas).  Kansas, Pink Floyd, Boston, Journey
  • Cat's in the Cradle (Harry Chapin).  It always reminds me of my father and the differnce that he as a father dictated our relationship and how me as a father dictates the relationship I have with my sons.
  • Wind Beneath My Wings (Bette Midler).
  • Extraordinary Way (Conjure One).

Top Ten: Television/Web Cast

This was a really difficult list.  There is not much in television programming that I think deserves recommendation.  It is mostly all garbage.  I'll just get right into it I guess.

  • Good Eats.  Science and cooking.  Natural partners, great show host.  Watched 10 seasons but the show is ending this year, after about 250 episodes.
  • Farscape.  One of the best ever science fiction series.  I disliked the main character.  The human.  Remember, if you are ever cast to the other side of the galaxy, you are an ambassador of your race.  Don't make us look bad.
  • The Guild.  Felicia Day shows us the life of a World of Warcraft addict.  Funny as heck.
  • Mythbusters.  Two stunt men set out to prove or disprove everything!  I love science.
  • Welcome Back Kotter.  An oldie but goodie.
  • I Love Lucy.  Another timeless oldie.
  • Columbo.  Best crime show every.
  • The Daily Show.  I hesitate to add this one.  For years, Jon Stewart poked fun at 'the man'.  And pretty much poked fun at everything else.  Then Obama became president.  Stewart seemed to reverse his role and became a government apologetic and rationalizer.  I was so disappointed that I stopped watching the show for a couple of years.  I have noticed that even he is becoming disillusioned enough by our current regime that he has started poking 'the man' once again.
  • Bill Whittle.  The host of a couple of political commentaries, Bill Whittle provides us the with reasoned, intelligent and elegant monologues that I wish all political show hosts used, left and right.  Debate would be so much more meaningful.  Watch something, anything at all by Bill and tell me you don't agree.

Top Ten: Food

My favorite top ten subject! It is said the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. It's a shame that such great home cooking was unappreciated as a child. I always wanted fast food. Now I can't stand fast food, at least in America where everything from cheese to onion rings are sweetened to make them more alluring to children.

I've been exploring nutrition and cooking ever since I had children of my own. First, for their sake, now for a true love of the science and art of food.

  • Savory Cheesecake. I want to start of with this one as something I discovered before I even realized their was a difference between good food created by someone who cared for their craft and garbage pushed out as cheaply and quickly as possible. I was stationed in Germany and my girlfriend bought a wedge of cheesecake and some bread from a roving bakery truck, knowing that I enjoyed both of those foods. The cheesecake was the best I ever ate. I have looked hard for something as good in America, even trying expensive specialty shops. No one seems to make cheesecake as well as a Germany bakery.
  • Rib-eye. I don't go much for meat in my diet. Deli sandwiches, Thanksgiving turkeys, baked ham, I could do without them all. But I cannot resist even the smell of a charbroiled rib-eye. Just the right balance of meat and fat, the taste is irresistible. I might happily forgo sirloin for a salad, but I would beg for a rib-eye!
  • Lobster. Well, add all those cretaceous arthropods. Crabs, shrimp, crayfish even. If you can keep from cooking them into rubber, the taste and texture are delicious and they are quite healthy for you.
  • Oranges. As a juice, a snack, made into a sauce or as part of a strict diet, oranges are manna from heaven!
  • Apple Cider. Apples are amazing. Their fruit, their trees, their biology, their history, their taste! The most iconic apple taste, for me, is apple cider.
  • Fresh Home Made Bread. For comfort food, nothing hits the spot like bread. I've eaten breads from all over the world and I love them all. My favorite, I think, is probably the flat bread I ate in Turkey.
  • Corn. Thank you natives of the Americas for this treasure! Boiled, steamed or grilled on the ear. Cut of the ear as kernels. Creamed. Ground into cornmeal and eaten as porrige, cornbread, cakes. Or, if your not hungry, made into medicine, fuel, or used as fodder.
  • Artichoke. Who looked at a thistle and said "I want to eat that."? Give that guy a medal. High faluten food. You might not think of eating it with fried chicken, but it is yummy no matter what else you are eating.
  • Cheese and Butter. A good deal of fat and a great deal of yummy.
  • Dates. These are so delicious that I don't understand why they are not everywhere in the U.S. I specially enjoy dates stuffed with pecans or walnuts.
  • Mushrooms. I called oranges 'manna from heaven' but historically mushrooms carried that moniker. Some people have an aversion to them and I suspect that is from corporate advertising. There is a financial interest to convincing people that the most abundant food available to them free might be toxic and they should only pay for one or two varieties and forgo all the rest.
Now I am really hungry! It was hard to limit my list. Onions, garlic and peppercorns find their way into just about everything I cook. Snow peas, carrots, pears and pineapples can be found in my kitchen all year long. I like to keep meals simple, four or so items at the most. But each meal features different stars.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Top Ten: Movies

Another top ten list. This time I explore the movies that I love.

Movies, television and music are important parts of our culture. While they can be seen as a distraction, irrelevant and a time sink, you actually exclude yourself from American culture if you do not have at least a passing knowledge of this art that is so woven into the fabric of our life.

  • Bladerunner (1982). This is a good one for me to start with. I have many copies of the movie and watch it whenever I get the itch. However, there are many things I don't like about the movie, like the constant narration that explains what is going on. I got it. I don't need it explained to me. To be honest, the only reason I watched it in the first place, and probably the only reason it stuck with me all these years is because my mom saw it at the cinema, came home and said she thought I would really love it. So I do.
  • Ghost Busters (1984). "Who you gonna call?" One of those examples of how a movie is so woven into our culture. Who hasn't heard that line in advertisements, from friends, in songs or other movies? Plus it was a really fun movie.
  • Princess Bride (1987). Probably the most quotable movie on my list. A movie that's got it all, except ninjas. Fantasy fairy tale with romance, pirates, revenge and magic. A family 'must see' movie. The first movie I thought of when I started my list.
  • Across the Universe (2007). The only musical on my list. I can't stop watching this movie. I love the music and I am a sucker for a good tear-jerking romance. I recommend this movie to everyone but can't seem to get anyone to watch it.
  • Twin Warriors aka Tai-Chi Master (1993). Another thing I am a sucker for is high fantasy martial arts. Twin Warriors is my favorite in the genre and features my favorite martial arts actor, Jet Li.
  • The Restless (2006). Combines two of the three things I am a sucker for. High fantasy martial arts and romance. A Korean movie about ... well...martial arts and romance!
  • V for Vendetta (2006). Set in a near future dystopian U.K. ruled by a police state, V is a revolutionary fighting oppression and getting revenge for atrocities committed to him. What is different between this movie and any other of it's ilk? Let me quote Mega Mind when asked what the difference is between being a villain and being a super villain. "It's presentation. *CHOMP*" V is cool! Elegant, intelligent, theatrical and maybe even wise.
  • The Matrix (1999). A futuristic mind twisting romp. Includes all three of the things I am a sucker for. Romance, martial arts and sci-fi!
  • Kung Fu Hustle (2004). Set in China in the won't get anything historical from this, just pure martial arts comedy. The movie stars Steven Chow, known as 'The King of Comedy'. We own many of his other fantastic movies like CJ7, Shaolin Soccer and many others.
  • Somewhere in Time (1980). This is the movie that turned me on to romances. Dude actually travels back in time through sheer force of will to find his true love. His true love? None other than the beautiful Jane Seymour. I would travel back in time for her too!
  • Seven Samurai (1954). Not sci-fi. Not fantasy martial arts. Not romance. This movie reflects the true art of film making.
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Quatermass and the Pit (1967), The Thing From Another World (1951). These movies are great sci-fi horror movies in their own right, but also serve to illustrate how our percpetions and cultural concerns shift over the years.
  • 9th Company (2005). I watch war movies, but they rarely become something I want others to watch too. If you want to watch a war movie, watch this one.
  • Ballad of a Soldier (1959). Although set during WWII about a soviet soldier, it is not a war movie. This is a movie about a guy you can't help liking. A young soldier full of heart, empathy and sincerity. And there is a romance...

There are so many movies deserving a mention, and many many more deserving a thrashing. I'll leave it at this but please, let me know what movies keep you coming back. I might discover a new favorite.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Top Ten: MMOs

I thought I might list some of my top tens. I am going to start with MMOs (Massively Multi-player Online games). I started making several lists on paper (remember what that stuff is?) and MMOs filled up first.

My online gaming started before there was a publicly available Internet. My dad subscribed to a dial-up bbs, Compu-serve I think. I could periodically connect to the bbs and enter 'moves' into a game.

Multi-player games played on one system gave you the enjoyment of social engagement but at the cost of control and view space. While stationed in Germany in the '90s, my friend Ron introduced me to an arcade that brought a new dimension to gaming. It was a 3-D game. 3-D was not the new dimension, however. It was a multi-player game in which each player had their own view of the world through their own goggles. Each player shared the gaming experience with their friends but also had their own content. For example, if you were playing a human you might find scribbles on a wall while your friend, playing an elf, saw legible 'elven' writing.

Modern MMOs provide us with a dazzling array of stories, IP (intellectual properties) and game mechanics. What they all have in common, though, is the ability to experience gaming on a grand social scale.

My top ten list for MMOs lists the games that I feel were important in my discovery of this genre or are games that are timeless and bring me back again and again.

  • Ultima Online. This was what I consider my first true MMO. The isometric view was acceptable for it's time. The story line was familiar and fun. I still recall, decades later, some of the people I met there. Most notable was the open mechanics that allowed you to attack or steal from other players. There were few artificial limits on what activities you could engage in. It was frustrating at the time and I left the game for a while. When I came back, ready to engage misfit players, it was a great experience.
  • Everquest. While I was stationed in Korea, away from family, a supervisor talked on and on endlessly about killing dragons and casting spells in some game called Everquest. He played it, he said, to stay connected to his wife. They played the game together. After I returned to America, I gave it a try and it was very engaging. The game was so addictive, research has been done on it.
  • Everquest II. Following on the footsteps of it's aging but popular Everquest, Sony brought out a larger, more graphically advanced, more immersive evolution of their game. Unfortunately, it was a very empty world. It was fun to play, but without social interaction you are better off with stand-alone games. It is going free-to-play soon and I intend on revisiting the world.
  • DAOC, Dark Ages of Camelot. I played this game for years without getting anywhere. I liked it. It has a unique system where there are three different factions, each with it's own races and classes. End game is endless player versus player combat between the different factions. I played for three years and never got a character above level 34. When friends started playing with us, my wife and I both leveled up new characters to the max level in a few weeks. I love the game, but most fondly recall the enjoyment of playing with friends. The end game PvP is not for me.
  • EVE Online. A sci-fi game where you play a ship. Until recently, you never left your ship. It is such an amazing game, I cannot do it justice. The company pushes innovation after innovation and is advancing the state of game programming to mind blowing levels.
  • Rift. A really odd game with three distinct play mechanics. You have regular player versus environment interactions. You have rift combat, where rifts open up and you battle elemental combatants. You also have faction based player versus player combat. While the different factions have different races, their classes are identical. Having said that, there is so much variety in the development of your class that you have to try to get yours identical to someone else's. What I really love about this game is that it is the most bizarre and alien environment I've seen and fun to explore.
  • LOTRO, Lord of the Rings Online. My favorite IP set in the most beautifully detailed world. I love this game. I thought, at first, I might be disappointed in the very few cookie cutter classes. I still wish, from a gaming point of view, that I had more variety in my development, however they are telling a story and there are archetypes in the story to follow. No matter how I may feel about the classes, there is no end to what you can do or achieve and it never gets old. This is my all time favorite MMO.
  • DDO, Dungeon and Dragons Online. I started playing Dungeon and Dragons when it first came out. Although I had stopped playing the paper and pencil game before DDO came out, I could not avoid trying a game based on IP that I grew up with. Some elements are disappointing for me, but the easy game play makes for group fun.
  • ATITD, A Tale in the Desert. The game takes place in ancient Egypt. Completely strange in that there is no combat. It is a giant crafting game. It is pretty flat and one dimensional in that respect, but what they did with that one dimension! Best crafting mechanics in any game. I wish more games would take a page from this one. I don't play it any more and would be unlikely to return to it, but if you have time, you should check out the crafting system.
  • Fallen Earth. Worth a mention. It is a good post-apocalyptic MMO.
  • Anarchy Online. Worth a mention. A good alien sci-fi MMO.
  • Voyage Century. Worth a mention. Sailing, farming, pirating in the old world.
  • Darkfall. Special mention. I was really looking forward to this game. Open mechanics reminiscent of Ultima Online with good graphics. I waited patiently during it's development for what seemed like a dream game. However, when it was released I decided to boycott the game and I have not tried it.

A bit more than ten. Look forward to more top ten lists in the future.

Friday, September 9, 2011

F*ck Da Soulja Boy

Excuse the vulgarity of the title, but it is difficult to address rap music without being exposed to vulgarity.

This post is my take on the current outcry over Soulja Boy's lyrics in Let's Be Real. Specifically, everyone is in an outrage over "Fuck All Da Army Troop." There is even a movement to have Soulja Boy's music boycotted in military exchanges.

Can there be any doubt that he is disrespecting the military? I remember, during the younger Bush presidency, Democrats commenting on the low the intelligence and education of military members. How they were innocent puppets of Bush, culled from the economically impoverished, coerced into fighting for his oil empire.

There was a great outcry that, hate the war, but support our troops. Now that Obama is in office, there is not even much of an outcry over the wars, all of which are still ongoing and another log has been thrown in that fire.

Culturally, it has become taboo to criticize the military. You can tell that it is this cultural taboo at work because, by examining the entire line we see he says "Fuck Da FBI and Fuck All Da Army Troop." I have looked at hundreds of comments throughout the Internet and news articles and Facebook posts and no one says "How dare he say anything against our FBI agents!"

Ten years ago, we would have said "You should thank God you are in America, where you have the freedom to criticize the military and the government." My how times have changed. It is both taboo to thank God and to criticize government.

But is he really criticizing the military? The FBI? Maybe indirectly and certainly not intentionally (confirmed by his own apology). The next line, and many more after confirm that this song is not meant to criticize anyone directly, but rather prop up his own image. "Fighting For What Bitch, Be Your Own Man." It comes around now, to the same rhetoric we heard during the Bush years. The troops and agents are not fighting for their own cause, just jumping at the master's whip.

He even goes on to say he is no Obama. Interpreting lyrics can be tricky, specially when they don't seem to even be written in your language, or any known language. What I take from his song is Soulja Boy's expression that he is his own man, working to his own purposes with his own followers. He doesn't jump through someone else's hoops for someone else's gain. He is more his own man than even President Obama.

Of course, the fact that he was cowed into apologizing shows he jumps through hoops for the same master as every other American, the Holy Dollar.

Some of my own thoughts:
  • It is not surprising that military dependents and some civilians would attack the wording. What surprises me the most is that military members have become so enamored of themselves that they would vehemently attack someone whom they think is speaking out against their profession.
  • If Soulja Boy would have said "Fuck All Da McDonald's Troops" would there have been a similar uproar? Would McDonalds stop selling him Big Macs? If the line targetted Wal-Mart cashiers, would Wal-Mart stop selling him blank CDs to put his music on?
  • I've listened to some samples of Soulja Boy's songs. How is it enough people listen to this garbage that it is even an issue?
  • As a 20 year veteran and an American citizen, I dislike his music but support his rights to express himself and I see no intended offense leveled against anyone.
  • For current news that is deliberately meant to be offensive, check out Ben and Jerrys new flavor, Schweddy Balls. It was funny 13 years ago when the comedy was flirting with it's 'unintended' offensiveness. Now it is real and on purpose.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Let Go Your Eggo

Ego. Latin for 'I'. Pronounced like eggo in Latin.

Ego, I find, is my biggest stumbling block when trying to communicate with other people. Not my own ego, does anyone find their own ego to be a problem? No, trying to communicate through ego. Allow me to give an analogy to the problem I often encounter.

I am travelling in a foreign city and enter a market. There is a fruit vendor in the market. As I approach the fruit stand, the vendor comes around and greets me hartily. "Ah, welcome to my fruit stand. This is the best fruit around." I spy, over their shoulder, some large oranges amongst the fruit. "Thank you." I say. "I think I will take a look at your sumptuous looking oranges." A look quickly passes over the vendor's face, but is just as quickly replaced with a smile. "There is nothing wrong with my oranges, just tell me how many you want to purchase." "Of course I am sure they are all fine oranges." I quickly insert, hoping to mollify an unexpected reaction. "I only meant I would like to pick for myself the most appealing oranges." Now the vendor's face becomes beet red and their lips drawn so tight spittle flicks out with their every breath. "How dare you imply I would lie about the quality of my oranges! I don't even want to sell you oranges any more! Begone from my stand!"

I could not even truly address the oranges because the vendor put themselves between me and the fruit. Any interest I had in the oranges was redirected to the vendor. Communicating about the fruit was impossible because of the ego, the 'I' of the vendor. Why is the vendor in the way? Most likely they feel intimately connected to the fruit, fruit from their own trees. Any perceived slight is seen as a slight on the part of the vendor. Let's try another analogy.

I am having some joint pain. It's another gout attack. I get them too frequently. I am not able to work this way, so I go to a doctor to get a note for my supervisor. The doctor is examining my ankle while I explain my history with gout. He briefly looks over my medical history and proclaims, "You don't have gout, this is a mild sprain. You can go back to work." Hmm. I have to ask, so I do. "Why don't you think this is gout. I have been having gout attacks like this for ten years." "I have had eight years of medical school and several years of practical experience. You are not old enough to have gout, your diet does not suggest gout. It looks like a mild sprain, which are quite common in your line of physical work."

This analogy really happened to me, while I was in the military. I finally convinced him I was having a gout attack by insisting on a urine sample being tested for high uric acid levels. Why did I have so much problem with the doctor? He ignored my own observations about my symptoms, he ignored the data in my medical record. His preconceived conclusions about gout and my work kept him from doing an honest diagnostic of my condition.

Ego is often used as a curse word. Used with a connotation of over-inflated sense of self worth. As I mean it, though, is putting yourself where you do not belong. Like between a cart of fruit and a potential customer. Like between a diagnosis that is virtually a foregone conclusion and a suffering patient. Like between a generalization and a fact, because you don't feel the fact fits you as much as the generalization does.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Microscope Review

For a nice change, we will not be talking about politically explosive issues.

I am 'home schooling' my children. All five of them. What a chore, but what a satisfying chore! I urge anyone who has both children and the time to invest in them to try their hand at home schooling.

Now I am not doing what is traditional home schooling. I do not create their curriculum. I should say, I do not create all of their curriculum. There is a lot of freedom to add to what I teach them. Instead of traditional home schooling, I am a learning coach guiding my children through an online public school called Connections Academy. No one that I have steered towards Connections Academy has been disappointed.

The freedom to explore their education leads to many educational discoveries. We are exploring amateur radio, Latin and computer programming to name just a few. Today, I want to give a review of a device we are incorporating into our classes. A microscope.

The microscope I bought us and we are having a hoot with is the My First Lab Duo-Scope, model MFL-06. It cost me a modest $63.99 (free shipping with Amazon Prime) through It is not the heavy metal behemoth you used in high school. Much of it is plastic and it feels light weight and deserving of special handling. I frequently tell Amaya to not lean on the eye piece, afraid she will break it off. Regardless of how it feels, it works great. Focus is crisp and sharp, the lights are bright, nothing is loose or jiggly.

It calls itself a duo-scope because it has two different light sources. One that shines up through the material you are viewing and one that shines down on the material. When I went to school (am I so old, really?) there was a metal reflector that you had to use to reflect sunlight up through the material. It was a real challenge for me to get enough light and I never really enjoyed using a microscope. Boy did I miss out on a lot! The bright LED lights use three 'AA' batteries. I do not know how long they will last. We have been using ours for four days so far. Not nearly enough time to judge the efficiency of the lights.

For optics, it has a x10 eyepiece, a x4 objective lens, a x10 objective lens and a x40 objective lens. I considered buying a microscope with a higher magnification (X1000 vs x400) but based on other reviewer's comment I decided that a clear x400 was better than a blurry x1000. I've not be disappointed with the optics or my choice in a lower magnification range. Most of the things I have viewed have looked wonderful on the lowest setting of x40 (eyepiece times objective lens). Some things have required a higher setting to see more detail but a clear image at x400 has been enough to open a whole new world of discovery.

Something that I discovered (I discovered it because I didn't read the manual to learn it) is that you cannot use the overhead light at the highest magnification. The x40 objective lens gets so close to what you are viewing that it blocks the light.

Things I wish were different. I am very pleased with the microscope. I can think of only one thing I wish was different. I wish there was a power cable for the microscope. I find it needlessly expensive, wasteful and ecologically unfriendly to require batteries. A USB connector would be ideal, but even a normal wall adapter would be useful.

I didn't add any picture because I don't have an adapter for my camera. If you want to see the outside of the microscope, just follow the links I posted. I really wish I could show you some of the great images that have been eliciting squeals of delight from my children, made my wife shudder and keep the smiles on my face.