Archive for February, 2012


Quotes from Jean Auel

The first six of the quotes for today are from Jean Auel’s most recent book, The Land of Painted Caves. I reviewed this book yesterday.

“It was their home to use, but not to abuse.” Part of the Mother’s Song, and one of the beliefs of the Zelandoni, Auel’s Cro-Magnon tribe.

“It is greater than us, greater than everything.” Ayla’s comment on the star-filled skies. We don’t see the sky today as she did; there is too much ambient light.

“Never go forth when the mammoths go north.” Jondalar, quoting a Zelandonii saying. The idea behind it is that mammoths travel north to escape the deep snow a storm brings. True? Depends on where (and when) you are.

“If the snow doesn’t catch you, the lions will.” A continuation of the same saying. Cave lions supposedly had a relatively easy time preying on mammoths in deep snow.

“It’s hard to talk with your hands when you are holding a torch.” Ayla giving her reasons for thinking the Flatheads (Neanderthals) would not have entered caves often. Their conversation was carried out mostly with gestures.

“Her son was near grown. His mind was his own.” Again, part of the Mother’s Song. Children inevitably grow up and develop their own minds.

“I am alive, which still astonishes me.” Sue Ann Bowling, Jarn’s Journal, being posted a bit at a time on this blog. Jarn, a human-like alien, has crash-landed on Pleistocene Earth, and is trying to pull himself together.

Jean Auel began her “Children of Earth” series over 30 years ago, with Clan of the Cave Bear. The Valley of Horses, The Mammoth Hunters, The Plains of Passage and The Shelters of Stone followed. Her latest addition, The Land of Painted Caves, continues to follow Ayla and Jondalar, still having difficulty communicating, and this time includes a tour of the cave paintings of France.

All are long books – The Land of Painted Caves is 828 pages in paperback and the others are about the same length. All are well researched. I discovered the series 30 years ago, primarily because of my interest in the Pleistocene and human evolution, and most of this review will be from that perspective.

From a writer’s point of view, the most recent book is full of information dumps, and rather weak on plot. That hasn’t stopped it from being a best seller, but there were times when I had to force myself to pick it up. I did manage to find a number of usable Twitter quotes, which are being posted and their contexts will be explained on February 29.

A good part of the book is description of the cave art of France. Auel does include a map keyed both to what the Zelandonii of her book called the caves and what archeologists call them, but I wanted to see some pictures of the cave art, not just descriptions. I actually searched the web for images from the caves, but found very few even when I knew the name of the cave. Good general references are http://myrencounter.blogspot.com/2011/07/land-of-painted-caves.html and http://www.donsmaps.com/indexauelfans.html, but they have more photos of the locations of the caves than of the actual paintings. White Hollow, identified as Lascaux, does have some images of the art at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/12/inside-lascaux-the-versai_n_712645.html.

One possible source, at least for drawings of the cave art, is The Nature of Paleolithic Art, by Dale Guthrie. Dale is an artist himself, and while he suggests that a good deal of the “art” in the caves was equivalent to graffiti found in mens rooms, his first interest in cave art was as guides to reconstructing extinct animals. This is a huge book, with hundreds if not thousands of drawings of Pleistocene art from all over Eurasia, but putting the drawings in this book together with what Ayla saw would be a major project.

Leaving the art, there has long been a controversy in archaeology as to whether modern humans and Neanderthals (what Ayla calls the Clan) ever interbred, or whether such interbreeding was even possible. The argument went back and forth during the time period over which Auel’s books were being written. DNA for a time was used to claim such interbreeding never occurred. Then, less than a year ago, DNA evidence made it quite clear that such interbreeding had in fact happened. The basis of Auel’s books was if anything ahead of the archaeology of the time.

In one point, however, she was clearly wrong, though there was no way she could have known it at the time she started the series..  Jondalar and Ayla are described as being blonde and having blue and gray eyes respectively. Recent gene sequencing has strongly suggested that all blue and gray-eyed people are descended from a single common ancestor who lived between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago, well after the setting of Auel’s books. There is at least some argument that blonde hair may have evolved after the ice ages. Still, I cannot help but wonder if it could be derived from that Neanderthal admixture. If fair coloring is an adaptation to getting vitamin D in a region with little sunlight, such as Europe, the Neanderthals lived in Europe long before the Cro-Magnons arrived.

Header image and thumbnail photograph by Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. http://www.flickr.com/photos/sahlgoode/

The sun will rise this morning at 8:08 am and set at 6:00 this afternoon for 9 hours 52 minutes of daylight. The sun even shines on the floor sometimes! We’ve had several days of light snow – scattered flakes falling vertically from a barely cloudy sky – but less than 3” total. My driveway does have a little buildup over the plowed surface, but the main thing I notice is the berm where the road was plowed. By next week I’ll be able to say that the sun rose instead of will rise, as this post goes live at 8 am. It feels like spring, though the temperatures are supposed to go right back down.

The snow festoon tore loose completely sometime Tuesday. Once that tear opened I guess it was just a matter of time.

I can now go to afternoon events; in fact I went to the symphony yesterday. I got to hear Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture and triple concerto, and Brahms’ Tragic overture. But I could only stay for the first 10 minutes of Brahms’ concerto for violin and cello — the program started at 4 pm and in order to get home before dark I had to leave at 5:45. It was a nice change to have the sun shining on the campus during intermission. The temperature was close to freezing, and the roads were fiendishly slippery. Luckily after 48 years in Alaska a feather touch on both brake and accelerator is automatic.

This week OLLI classes start, so I’ll be busy with classes 4 days a week, Platform-building Campaign, and WriteMotivation. I’ve already achieved one of my March goals: the first Campaign challenge was a prompt to write a piece of flash fiction. I posted mine last Thursday. Next Challenge is supposed to be out March 5. I still haven’t figured out what the pictorial clue is supposed to represent, but it’s supposed to be harder. Wish me luck!

One more snippet from the first chapter of Rescue Operation. Note that all Six Sentence Sunday posts can now be accessed from the Index page.

“Is it that serious?” Keishala asked, putting her music tablet down on Lelani’s table. “I mean, I know how you feel about slavery, but there are planets in the Confederation that sell their own citizens. Ginger says it’s a lottery on hers.”

“It’d be every bit that serious,” Emeraude shot back. “Yes, there are planets that accept slavery, but Horizon doesn’t and never has. Anyway, people will accept things from their own governments that they’ll go to war to keep from having imposed on them from outside.”

For more Six Sentence Sunday snippets, click on the logo.

11 Question Tag

I was tagged by Anna Mittower of Writer’s Nook to answer 11 questions, make up 11 more questions of my own and ask them of 11 other people. Well, I’ll do the first two, but instead of passing it on I’ll simply say that any one who reads this is encouraged to answer my questions. Especially if you haven’t been tagged yet.

Why? Because I’m mathematician enough to know how a chain letter, a Ponzi scheme, population growth or any other exponential works! Suppose everyone tagged did indeed tag 11 others. The first round, there’d be 11 new people. The next, 121. Then 1,331, 14,641, and by the 5th round, 161,051. By the 8th reiteration you’d hit 214,358,881 people: over 2/3 of the population of the United States. By the 10th, you’d vastly exceed the population of the Earth. So, on to the questions.

1. What country is the home of the majority of authors you read? USA, with England and Ireland pretty well tied for second.

2. An otaku is someone who’s obsessed with something (not necessarily anime/manga). What kind of otaku are you? Uh—are we speaking English? I’m totally lost on this one.

3. Ebooks vs. Paper: which do you like better? I like paper as I tend to flip pages as I read. But e-books certainly store easier, and are nice for travel and waiting rooms. I worry a little about whether the readers will still be around in 10 or 20 years, but at my age that probably isn’t very important.

4. Do you have a sweet tooth or are you a salty dog? Sweet! Which doesn’t fit well with my diabetes.

5. Would you ever dress up as a favorite character? If so, which one? I’m not much into dressing up, period. But I once went to a Halloween party as the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. In fact, I remade the costume for a party at the stable where I boarded my horse and did it on horseback.

6. What upcoming movie are you most looking forward to? The Hobbit.

7. “Cats rule, dogs drool.” Do you agree or disagree? I prefer “Dogs have families, cats have staff.” And not all dogs drool. My Shelties didn’t. (Though I have to admit they did shed.)

8. What fictional world do you spend the most time in? My own Jarnian Confederation. I’ve been building it for over 50 years.

9. You are given a $1000 gift card to the store of your choice. Which store would you pick and what would you buy? Probably the Apple Store. I don’t really want to upgrade any of my computers (new systems invariably cause all kinds of problems) but I might be forced to, and if so a little extra toward the computer of my choice wouldn’t be amiss.

10. Who or what encouraged you to pursue your current career? Current career is retired! My father certainly encouraged my going into physics, and geophysics was the part of physics that took my interest. Retiring a year early was due mostly to health issues. And the geophysics certainly goes into my planet building.

11. If you could build your own house, what room has to be included and have the most money/care spent on it? At this point in my life I’m trying to cut down, but when I had some remodeling done on this house I added the plant room (timed fluorescents, windows on three sides.) The most practical would be a large storage room/pantry.

Now, my questions:

1. What was the first computer/operating system you owned?

2. Do you write by hand, on a typewriter, or on a computer?

3. What species was your first pet?

4. Is there a writer whose new books you grab when they appear? Who?

5. What is your favorite television show?

6. What’s #1 on the list of things you’d like to do before you die?

7. What health problem do you most hope you never get?

8. What is the first movie you remember seeing?

9. Who do you write for?

10. Who of your characters have you piled the most trouble on?

11. What was the first thing you remember writing?

Have fun thinking of answers!

This an excerpt from the (fictional) journal of an alien, Jarn, stranded in Africa roughly 125,000 years ago. Jarn’s story is part of the remote background of the science fiction world of my novels Homecoming and Tourist Trap, as well as an upcoming trilogy. For his Journal to date, see my Author Site.

Year 2, day 140

The headaches have almost disappeared. Score another round to my esper instructors.

They kept telling me that my headaches were analogous to sore muscles when I tried something new physically. Well, they were right. Over the last few fivedays I have seen more parts of this continent than I have over the past two years, and while my head felt as if it was going to explode the first few days, I can now go almost anywhere I have seen and levitate to a height which is uncomfortably cold with no headache at all. And once I am high enough, I can pick out landmarks and teleport to them with little effort.

It is a large continent that I have landed on. To the north, trees and watercourses become steadily more frequent until finally I find myself in jungle. By the sun, this jungle continues past the equator, bordered to the north by more savannah and eventually by true desert, drier than anything near my shelter. Farther yet, I came to a great salt sea. It may be partially enclosed, as there seem to be few tides in spite of the large moon.

South, the land again is washed by salty water, but stormier and with definite tides.

There are mountain ranges, valleys, even volcanic areas, and a great valley which makes me suspect this continent may be rifting apart. I have yet to find snow or ice, though I think I glimpsed some coming in. Still, by the height of the sun this continent is centered on the equator and even its most northerly and southerly limits are far from the poles.

I am mapping at after a fashion – it gives me something to do while I am alone. I can get both latitude and longitude from the position of the sun, though absolute distances have to be expressed in terms of the unknown radius of this planet. I keep hoping I will find the gather, but even the area green from the rains is far too large for anything but blind luck to lead me to them. I wish I knew where they were.

Shadows crept across the wall.

Richard didn’t see them, at first. He was too sunk in the stark reality of the agricultural reports before him, too chilled in a building built for solar heating.

He buried his face in his hands. Who knew for certain how it had started? A volcano, atomic bombs, a meteorite strike? All had been discussed, but it was impossible to tell rumor from truth. Even the reports, with their sentence of mass starvation, were late and scanty.

All he was sure of was that the sun was gone, hidden behind a pall of dark clouds, and he wasn’t even sure whether those clouds were ash, smoke or water. That, and the fact that without the sun, no crops could be grown.

He threw his head back and opened his eyes, looking upward in some half-remembered impulse toward prayer. His vision started to sweep past the shadows, stopped. Shadows?

The image of tree branches?

Scarcely daring to hope he turned to look at the window, uncovered to let in what little light remained, and saw the sun. Feeble, to be sure, but there, returning. Crops would grow again.

His eyes filled with tears, and everything faded.

Platform-Building Challenge #1 is the following:

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “Shadows crept across the wall”. These five words will be included in the word count.
If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), do one or more of these:
end the story with the words: “everything faded.” (also included in the word count) Yes.
include the word “orange” in the story No.
write in the same genre you normally write Yes, science fiction.
make your story 200 words exactly! Yes, if I counted right.

To see the other entries in the first Challenge, click the logo above.

Quotations from Andre Norton

These are the contexts of the quotes tweeted from @sueannbowling between February 17 and 22, 2012. The first six quotations are from Web of the Witch World, by Andre Norton. Originally published in 1964 and I have the original paperback, very yellowed but still holding together. The cover price is 40 cents.

“One who climbs to heights must beware of the footing.” Loyse, speaking to Aldis about the Duke.

“Perhaps the bold move was the right one.” Simon in Duke Yvian’s hold, as he feels something is wrong.

“What better hammer than those its builders had devised?” Simon as he is first falling under the domination of the Kolder, looking at their sky ships as a way to enter their fortress of Yle.

”When need drives, we obey.” The lady of Tor, explaining why the Tormen are turning Simon over to the Kolder.

“We do not yet know the limits of this we hold.” Jaelith to Simon, when he begins to doubt whether he should have asked her aid in dealing with the Kolder.

“Perhaps simpler, but not the right answer.” Jaelith, confirming Simon’s reluctance to attack the Kolder stronghold directly.

“Could one will good fortune or ill?” Simon fretting as he waits for action in the final strike against the Kolder.

“Feline curiosity was even stronger than hunger.” Sue Ann Bowling, Tourist Trap. This is inside the head of the puma stalking Roi.

Cinderella (DVD Review)

I’m not a big fan of modern records. My taste runs to Mahler, the classics, Andrea Bocelli, Sarah Brightman, and the occasional soundtrack. I can’t say that I ever consciously listened to a record by Whitney Houston. Nevertheless I feel I knew her a little through a DVD I’ve watched many times: Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, as co-produced by Whitney Houston and Walt Disney Enterprises.

I’ve loved the music since I first heard it, on the original CBS broadcast with Julie Andrews as Cinderella in 1957. I don’t know if there even were color televisions then. We certainly didn’t have one, and my DVD of the original broadcast is in black and white.

The Disney version has a somewhat more traditional ending than the original broadcast, but the music is just as glorious, if not more so. And color? This DVD fairly pops with color, from the fabric swathes during the food dance (I don’t know what else to call it) to the row of gaily-patterned stockings on the feet of the girls waiting to try on the glass slipper.

The cast is multi-ethnic to a somewhat startling degree. Whoopi Goldberg and Victor Garber as the king and queen gave me no problems, nor did Paolo Montalban as the prince. Brandi as Cinderella gave life to some of my favorite songs, and Bernadette Peters was a wonderfully wicked stepmother. But the stepsisters…

There is nothing wrong with the performances of Jenne Cox and Natalie Dusselle. Their interaction, as rivals united only in despising Cinderella, was excellent. But I can’t help looking at things with a geneticist’s eye, and for years I was bothered by the idea that the thin, pale-skinned redhead and the plump chocolate-skinned woman were full sisters, both the daughters of a very pale-skinned mother. Recessives are unlikely to be that well hidden.

Finally, I realized that there is absolutely nothing said about how many times the stepmother had been married! Three times, obviously, with her two daughters having different fathers, and the third marriage being to Cinderella’s father. Now I can relax, my inner geneticist satisfied, and simply enjoy the DVD.

Whitney Houston played the fairy godmother with the aid of some special effects from the Disney team, and she was magnificent in the role. According to the featurette on the DVD, she was a real-life fairy godmother to Brandi, too.

I suppose it’s a bit light and fluffy by the standards of today’s movies, but it’s still one I can watch over and over again. Go Cinderella – and some day I’ll do a comparison of some of the DVDs and retellings of this story.

The sun will rise today at 8:33 and set at 5:37, for 8 hours 47 minutes of daylight. We’re gaining 6 minutes 49 seconds a day now, and the run rises over 14° above the horizon. On clear days like yesterday the sun is blindingly bright on the snow, and tracks are easy to see. Temperatures are actually a little warm for this time of year – lows around 5 to 10 below, highs in the teens and 20’s. Actually much better than a thaw that won’t last.

The hole in the snow festoon is unchanged. I have a feeling that most of the gradual movement of the snow occurs when the temperature is relatively warm. That’s certainly true of glacier ice, and it seems reasonable to expect it of the ice bridges holding the flakes together.

Yesterday morning I saw some quite unexpected tracks. A moose had wandered into the yard and perambulated around it. The end of one raised bed was pretty well cleared off – do moose like lavender and rosemary? I didn’t actually pull either last fall.

It’s not weather, but I’ll be adding to the weather reports for the next month. I’ve signed up for WriteMotivation for March. The Challenges are:

1. Make a list of realistic goals for the month – and achieve them.

2. Make a Blog Post every week (preferably Monday, but if you don’t post on Mondays just add it to the next day you would normally post ). This is to help us keep tabs on our own progress, and for others to cheer us on if it’s a difficult week. Please link to the post in the #writemotivation hashtag

3. Visit your #writemotivation team mates blogs, and participate in the #writemotivation hashtag to cheer people on

My goals?

1. Learn to use at least one legal method of getting images other than photos I’ve taken on my blog. (I’d love to have some shots of Africa on Jarn’s Journal, for instance.)

2. Continue to blog at least 5 days a week. (I’m doing 7 now, but I’ve signed up for a number of adult classes in March.)

3. Edit Chs 2 and 9 of my WIP to give more showing, less telling. (Ch 2 has been on Six Sentence Sunday; Ch 9 is the next section from Tod’s POV.)

4. Participate in at least one Platform-building challenge — I hesitate to commit for more without knowing what they are. The first one’s out today. Wish me luck!

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