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Year 10 Day 10


The denser ice, to the north and west of where I first encountered it, is indeed almost continuous, with only narrow (and often fast-closing) lanes of open water. It even looks like snow-covered land, with rough ridges as well as flat plains of ice. There are animals living on top of the ice, too, though most of those I have seen until today were obviously at least in part aquatic, with streamlined bodies, flippers rather than legs, and only a hint of land adaptations. I suspect they live on fish, which in turn live under the ice.

I’ve glimpsed others though. White foxes, for instance, though with the white on white color I’ve not been sure of them. Then today ….

Remember the animals I called bears, on land? Today I saw a white one, slightly more streamlined than the massive brown beasts I saw on land, but with the same powerful jaws and teeth and if possible even larger. And they are swimmers; I saw one swim across one of the lanes of open water, drying itself afterwards by rolling in the snow on the other side. From what I saw they hunt the seals I saw earlier, though the hunt I saw was not very successful. Still, this is not a predator I would want to face in its own environment!


Letter O: OLLI

OThe Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, “A Health Club for Your Mind,” has been in Fairbanks almost since the turn of the century. Originally Adventures in Lifelong Learning and then Alaska Lifelong Learning, the name was changed to Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in 2006, after the Osher foundation provided funding. The program is currently part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Summer Sessions, open to students 50 years and older.

Members celebrated OLLI’s 10th Anniversary in 2010. There are now 800 members in OLLI.

All instructors are volunteers, and many are current or former UAF faculty members. Most are delighted by the eagerness and willingness to ask questions that characterize OLLI students. I know I was, when I taught a class in basic genetics! As a general rule there are four sets of 4-week classes a year, in March, April, October and November. This spring I’m taking seven: iMovie and iDVD, Beringia, and Ancient Sumer in March; Alaska’s 1964 Earthquake, Climate Variability and Change, iPhone and iPad, and Alaska Weather in April.

As you can see I tend to go for the science and computer classes, but those are far from the only ones taught. There are classes in art and handiwork, computer applications, exercise and recreation, films and photography, healthy living, history and politics, literature languages and philosophy, science and mathematics, and social studies. In addition there are field trips and special interest groups.

There are OLLI programs across the country. All are university affiliated and received funding from the Osher Foundation, but they are run independently. Is there one where you live?


Magestone coverNN is for Andre Norton (1912-2005) who was one of the first science fiction authors I discovered (in grade school.) She was the first woman to be Gandalf Grand Master of Fantasy, first to be SFWA Grand Master, and first inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. She heavily influenced my own writing. N is also for Nik, a character in Homecoming and Tourist Trap.

“By surviving severe danger together, we have learned to cooperate.” Andre Norton, The Magestone. Merith of the Dales (who have been at war with Alizon) in her farewell to Kasarion.

“May the Light strengthen our resolve, and ward us against the Dark.” Andre Norton, The Magestone. Continuation of Merith’s farewell to Kasarion.

Warding cover“Apply your strength to some task that can be accomplished.” Andre Norton, The Magestone. Part of Merith’s thought of what Doubt, her long-dead fiancé, would have said. The whole quote is: “When you have more questions than you have answers, and when most of the questions demand time to be resolved, there is no use in wasting energy by fretting. Apply your strength to some task that can be accomplished, and let time furnish the facts you need to deal with the excess questions.”

“Patience was one of the female’s weapon-shields.” Andre Norton, The Warding of Witch World. Liara’s thought. She lives in the extreme paternalistic and warrior society of Alizon.

“Trust is something which can never be sworn to.” Andre Norton, The Warding of Witch World. Singala’s advice to Liara.

“With a common goal even enemies swear battle-oaths.” Andre Norton, The Warding of Witch World. Merith is telling Liara what her brother Kasarion has already learned.

“There are decisions you can legitimately make for him, but this is not one of them.” Sue Ann Bowling, Tourist Trap. Roi’s father Lai is trying to make a medical choice for him, and Nik, the physician and Lai’s half-brother, intervenes.


MMansfield Park, the novel by Jane Austin, will be 200 years old on May 9. In celebration, I am reviewing as many spinoffs and DVDs as I can find, and today I am reviewing the second DVD,  based on a screenplay by Patricia Rozema, who also directed the shooting.

Fanny is not the Fanny written by Jane Austen. The basic plot elements are the same, and the three interlocking love triangles are still there: Fanny-Edmond-Crawford, Edmond-Mary-Fanny and Maria-Rushworth-Crawford. But Fanny becomes a combination of the Fanny of the original Mansfield Park and Jane Austin herself. She is a storyteller and writer, and many of the lines she is given were actually written by Jane Austen, in the juvenalia as well as the novels.

Ms. Rozema’s research into Jane Austen also turned up the fact that she greatly admired abolitionist writings. The original Mansfield Park has several veiled references to slavery, which was the ultimate source of the wealth Sir Thomas derived from his estates on Antigua. Ms. Rozema has brought the problem of slavery to the foreground of her adaptation, and made it the source of all the problems Sir Thomas has with his children.

As an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park (which I like as it is) this did not work for me. As an independent movie looking at the interrelationship between the horrors of slavery (some of which are portrayed in Tom’s sketchbook) and the wealth of the landed gentry of England, it is excellent. But it is not Mansfield Park.


LThe sun will rise this morning at 6:19, and set 15 hours 6 minutes later at 9:25 this evening. At is highest it will be 34.8° above the southern horizon, and civil twilight does not start until 10:23 in the evening.

At least it’s beginning to warm up. Last week was really cold — well below zero at night, and often near freezing in the daytime. Yesterday things took a sudden turn for the better — or at least warmer — it actually reached above 50°F according to the thermometers along the road. And it looks like it may stay that way.

Lightning storms aren’t quite here yet, but the thunderstorm season is definitely approaching.

Lightning is caused by particles of different sizes and compositions striking each other in strong updrafts. These collisions often transfer charge between the particles, and if they are falling through the updraft  at different rates (as would be the case for light ice crystals and heavy, often wet hailstones) the result will be the buildup of charge of one sign (usually negative) near the bottom of the cloud, and the other near the top. The charge near the bottom of the cloud will induce a charge of the opposite sign in the ground, and a transfer of charge occurs during a cloud-to-ground lightning strike.

Strong updrafts require heating near the ground, which can occur in volcanic eruptions (common in the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands) or by strong solar heating of the ground. This is common during early summer in Interior Alaska, and in fact most of the wildfires here are caused by lightning strikes. The worst of the lightning (and the forest fires) are generally in June, but there is nothing unusual in thunderstorms from May through July. August thunder and lightning are rarer, and the ground is generally still too wet and snow-covered in April for the sun to heat it adequately. It certainly is this year!



logo WWW Vet

Welcome to another episode of Weekend Writing Warriors (click on the logo above) and Snippet Sunday (click on the logo below.)

Roi has told Penny that he is going to try landing his crippled hang glider on a grassy area he’s spotted, and is telling her how to find a nearby thermal. Penny has the violet glider, Timi the amber. Wind is coming from the east, toward the escarpment they started from.

“And another broken area, looks like an old black lava flow, north of it.  The dark area’s putting up a good thermal, if you want to use it to keep soaring near my landing spot.”  The violet and amber gliders were coming down from the northwest to meet him, and he saw them split apart, the violet wing swinging into the rising column of air while the amber one continued on, passing him on the left and disappearing behind the scarlet wing overhead.

The west edge of the grassy area was ahead, and he turned the wing into the wind for his final approach. He could see and hear the wind rattling last season’s dead grass, now, and smell the new green blades, less than a finger’s length long, poking up through the snow-wet soil.  He pulled his feet free of the streamlined harness and pushed out just a little, killing speed and slowing his drop rate as he allowed his body to rotate to a vertical position.  Then the grass was almost touching his boots and he pushed out hard, stalling the wing and slamming his feet into the ground.

Somehow he managed to crawl out of his support sling before his legs gave way and he sat down on the wonderful, wet, solid ground.

Blurb for Tourist Trap: A vacation with his three best friends from slavery and a manhood challenge: Roi is given the graduation present he has dreamed of. Dogsledding, hang gliding, a chance to see Pleistocene animals transplanted to a Terraformed vacation world, horseback riding, sailing … all the sports he has returned to with his recovery from paralysis, and a few new ones to learn.

They’re prepared for danger from weather, wild animals and extreme sports. But none of them realize that Roi’s half brother Zhaim, determined to recover his old position as Lai’s heir, intends to kill them if he can—and he’s decided that the dangers of the trip will make a perfect cover for his schemes.

How long will it take them to realize that the “accidents” they keep running into are more than just accidents?

Reviewers of Tourist Trap say:

“Fans of Sue Ann Bowling’s novel Homecoming will not be disappointed with its sequel. Tourist Trap returns the reader to the world of the Jarnian Confederation—to Roi, Lai, Marna, and all of their friends and relations. The author does a stellar job of bringing these characters to life, allowing the reader to not only see their actions but to understand the culture and politics that motivate them. (ForeWord Clarion review)

“Tourist Trap” is a great read for anyone that wants motivation and feeling to accompany the action in their sci-fi adventure. Alien beings and super powers are an integral part of Roi’s story but what makes this novel really shine is the heart. Nobody is good or evil just because that’s their assigned role. Just like in real life, everyone has their own motivations and desires, and Bowling does a great job of letting the reader see what it would be like to walk in the shoes of Roi, Xazhar, and even madman Zhaim. (ReaderViews review)

Tourist Trap (iUniverse, 2011) is available from: Barnes and Noble, iUniverse, and Amazon in dust jacket, trade paper, and e-book formats.

Snippet Sunday logo

SFR Presents logo

Click on the logo above to get links to other SFR Brigade snippets. This one is from a WIP, Both Sides Now

KHe was Kevi. Roi knew perfectly well who he really was, but the other name was so deeply set in his first awakening that he knew he himself must have set it there, deeply, before he slept.

Further, he had no idea of where he was or how he had gotten there. That argued that he’d been confident enough of his safety that he’d gone into HealSleep. Which in turn meant that he was no longer in Zhaim’s hands.

So why had he awakened with someone else’s pain ringing in his head?

The scent of hay and grain was heavy in the air, and he lay on something that, while not soft, molded itself to his body and shifted slightly when he moved. He opened his eyes to see stacked hay bales, dim in the light of a rechargeable hand light, and found he was lying on piled sacks of grain, with a sheet tucked around them to make a bed. Fine. How had he come here?

It took a little thinking to recover his rescue from Zhaim’s hands, and Terry. How had he ever forgotten that youngster, even for a moment? Then Mikal and Doc, doing what they could to get his shattered body to safety, even though they had no reason to think of him as anything but an enemy, and finally the explosion of Zhaim’s rage as he found Roi missing. He had a faint memory of trying to tell Terry what to expect, no longer able to keep himself conscious, and then nothing.


JFor most of the last four years my Friday posts have been taken from Jarn’s Journal, a Journal allegedly recorded roughly 125,000 years ago by a human-like alien named Jarn who was stranded in Africa. So who was Jarn? To what extent is he representative of his species?

Jarn is a R’il’nian. (The apostrophes indicate palataliztion of the preceding consonant.) The R’il’nai are very human-like in external appearance but differ in two important ways. First, they do not age. This does not mean that they are immortal, though life spans of several millennia are not uncommon. It does mean that the females are very infertile and show secondary characteristics associated with childbearing (hip width, breasts) only when approaching fertility, about once a century.

AZJarnSecond, the R’il’nai have a range of mental abilities (telepathy, teleportation, levitation, telekinesis, perception) and emotional abilities (ability to share the emotions and sensory impressions of other beings) though these vary a great deal between individuals. However, they are not very creative, especially regarding artistic creation.

Jarn has been little interested in training these abilities; he has been much more interested in engineering. Specifically, he has been a starship designer. Unfortunately his latest creation left out a few standard safety features, with the result that he crash-landed on Earth during a test flight.

Luckily the escape capsule computer survived the impact, and he is learning to use his mental abilities (which are subject to the conservation of mass-energy and momentum) from the computer.  He has also made contact with our remote ancestors (early sapiens) in Africa, and is occupying himself with exploring the new planet on which he finds himself.

Jarn’s Journal is the very early backstory of the Jarnian Confederation, which is the backdrop for most of my science fiction writing. His story is being transferred to my author site as it is written.


Letter I: Ice Sculpture

IEach year, from late February through most of March, IceAlaska hosts a kids’ park (ice slides, climb-on ice sculptures, ice mazes and skating rinks.) The same venue plays host to the BP World Ice Art Championships. These slide shows display the 2014 competition pieces.

The Single Block competition gives teams of 1 or 2 people a single block of “Alaska Diamond” ice, roughly 8′ x 5′ x 3′ harvested from O’Grady Pond Too. Heavy equipment is used only for the initial placement of the block. Power tools may be used, and the teams are allowed 2 1/2 days to work. Only the ice, ice shavings, and water (as glue) may be part of the finished sculpture.


The Multi-Block competition gives teams of up to 4 people 10 blocks of ice, each roughly 6′ x 4′ x 3′. (The 3′ in each case may vary; it’s the thickness of the pond ice.) Heavy equipment and skilled operators are available to move and stack carved and uncarved ice. The teams have 5 1/2 days to work.


HH is for Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988), one of the greatest science fiction writers of the 20th Century. I read his juveniles in grade school, and very early published stories such as “By his Bootstraps” (under a pseudonym) in my father’s collection of back issues of Astounding Science Fiction. I have to say I prefer his early work, especially the Future History stories, and these are the sources for the quotations below. So here are the contexts for the quotes I have tweeted and placed on my facebook pages between April 3 and April 9, 2014.

Past cover“Glad did I live and gladly die.” Stevenson, quoted by Heinlein in “Requiem” (in The Past Through Tomorrow) written in 1940, long before the first man walked on the moon. The beginning of the story is better than any context I could give:

On a high hill in Samoa there is a grave. Inscribed on the marker are these words:

“Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die
And I lay me down with a will!

“This be the verse you grave for me:
‘Here he lies where he longed to be,
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.’”

These lines appear another place – scrawled on a shipping tag torn from a compressed-air container, and pinned to the ground with a knife.

And the ground is the ground of the moon.

6xH cover “Americans are considered crazy anywhere in the world.” Robert A. Heinlein (1941), “—And He Built a Crooked House—” in 6xH. And the Americans say “it’s the Californians; the Californians say “it’s the Los Angelinos;” the Los Angelinos say “it’s Hollywood;” the residents of Hollywood say “it’s the canyonites.” And it all winds up with one architect who tries to build a four-dimensional house.

“Why should we be held down by the frozen concepts of our ancestors?” Robert A. Heinlein, “—And He Built a Crooked House—”The architect, Teal, voicing his ideas of architecture.

“You are a man; you should anticipate such things. Earthquakes!” Robert A. Heinlein, “—And He Built a Crooked House—” Mrs. Bailey, complaining of California after she has talked her husband (to whom she is speaking) into moving there.

“What chance has a thirty-year-old married man, used to important money, to change his racket?” Robert A. Heinlein, “Space Jockey, in The Past Through Tomorrow. The man in question is a spaceship pilot but the sentiment –published in 1947—sounds very timely today.

“Men—grown-up men, not mamas’ boys—had to break away from their mothers’ apron strings.” Robert A. Heinlein, “Space Jockey” in The Past Through Tomorrow. Phyllis, the wife of the spaceship pilot above, rethinking her objections to his career. Note that this story was written at a time when men, after WWII, were trying to push their wives back into housewifely roles.

Headaches aren’t hard to Heal.” Sue Ann Bowling, Homecoming. Well, maybe not hard for Roi, who has the esper talent of Healing!



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