Archive for May, 2012

Off to the Shows!

Every year the Tanana Valley Kennel Club holds 3 days of dog shows and obedience trials over the Memorial Day weekend. I used to participate in both breed and obedience. (In tracking, too, but that’s a different weekend.) Sadly, I was already too unbalanced (physically) to participate by the time the AKC added agility, herding, and rally obedience, but I still enjoy watching and fantasizing about what some of my Shelties could have done if those activities had been available back when.

I still attend, to catch up on old friendships and watch the dogs. Here are a few of the things I saw—mostly this year, though I’ve included one shot from past years to show the Chinese Crested.


This Papillion won Rally Advanced B, which included heeling off lead between a dish of bacon treats and a toy.

Great Danes

Harlequin and mantle Great Danes. Cropped and uncropped ears are now equally acceptable (at least in theory.)

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

A Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, not a common breed.

Last Minute before the ring

A blue merle Sheltie , ring ready, with ringside activity in the background.

Campers and tents

Most of the exhibitors camped out on the fairgrounds, with a wide assortment of campers and tents.

Shelties resting

The first day’s group second, chilling out after ring time. Exercise pens are common in the camping area.

Chinese Crested

Not a breed adapted to Alaska!. This Chinese Crested is not shaved; the breed has hair only on the head, legs and tail. The spotted skin is actually not uncommon in some white dogs.

A pair of whippets outside the shhow building.

A pair of Whippets outside the show building

Quotation Contexts

The first 6 quotes are from Owlsight, by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon. These are the quotes that were tweeted from @sueannbowling last week.

“Pain shared is pain halved, as joy shared is joy doubled.” One of the things the Elder Rainlance says as part of the Hawkbrother marriage ceremony.

“You must not pledge yourselves thinking you can change each other.” Rainlance, a little farther along in the marriage ceremony.

“It was easiest to get something done if you didn’t stop to ask permission first.” Keisha’s thought as she is preparing to move out of her parents’ house.

“It isn’t what you call me, it’s what I answer to that counts.” Tayledras proverb, quoted to Darian by Firefrost when he is wondering about the Tayledras habit if taking (or being given) use-names.

“The more stress you’re under, the fewer stresses you notice.” Darian noticing that quarrels have increased in the village, which is under far less stress than the party that first rescued him.

“Bluffs either cost you half or twice.” Shin’a’in saying, quoted by Snowfire when it looks as if they will have to bluff an invading tribe.

“If you see me heading off in the wrong direction, say something. Sue Ann Bowling, Tourist Trap. Roi’s comment to Penny when she objects to his taking over in what he sees as an emergency.

Arctic Dinosaur program coverDinosaurs in the Arctic? I live in Alaska and know several geologists, so I heard about the dinosaur bones on the North Slope almost as soon as they were rediscovered. My first reaction, years before this DVD was made, was, “what was the latitude at the time the dinosaurs lived there?” After all, the fossils were about seventy million years old, and plate tectonics has reshaped the continents and oceans considerably since that time. At first, the answer was “it hasn’t been checked yet,” but when it was checked, it turned out that the fossil location was even closer to the pole that it is now: probably at around latitude 80°.

Rediscovered? Turns out the bones were discovered clear back in 1961 by a Shell Oil geologist named Robert Liscomb. He sent them back to Shell, but when he was killed in a rockslide the following year, the bones were forgotten in the Shell archives. It was not until well into the 1980s and renewed interest in petroleum on the North Slope that the bones were sent to the Geological Survey, where they were first identified as being from a dinosaur.

None of which answers the question of how dinosaurs managed to live at a latitude where there was no sunlight for four months of the year, and no night for another four.

This DVD focuses on two questions. First, it examines the digging of a tunnel into the permafrost along the banks of the Colville River in an effort to find bones that were not broken up by freeze-thaw cycles. Second, it speculates on how dinosaurs managed to survive so near the pole. Were they migratory? What did they eat, especially in the winter? What ate them? What was the climate like? What does the discovery of dinosaurs at such a high latitude suggest about whether dinosaurs, like their bird descendants, were warm-blooded?

Certainly there is evidence for a climate far warmer than today’s on the North Slope, even though the latitude was higher. There is no evidence for sea ice that far back, and an open ocean would have made for a much warmer climate. But plants could not have grown without sunlight, so what did the herbivores eat? Moose today winter on bark and twigs – they certainly nipped all the buds off of my Amur maple last winter, and when I had a crab apple tree, it got smaller every year as the moose nibbled its twigs over the winter. Could dinosaurs have done the same?

Although this video does have some dinosaur animation of reasonable quality, it is of interest primarily for what it reveals about dinosaurs and their fossils. It was originally a TV program, from PBS on Nova. Get it for information, rather than entertainment.

Transplanats, hardened off

Ready for the garden.

The sun rose this morning at 3:43, and it will set at 11:57 this evening for 20 hours 14 minutes of theoretical sunshine, 6 and a half minutes more than yesterday. Tomorrow we start sunsets early in the morning of the following day. It’s all very theoretical; the last few days have been mostly rain and clouds, leading to flood advisories on local rivers, and the forecast shows more of the same this week. Good for the garden and for fire season; not so good for the rivers and actually working in the garden. At least the overnight lows are staying in the 40’s, though the highs are forecast to be in the 60’s.

Dwarf columbines

Some of the perennials are showing color already

The perennials are growing fast, and some are even showing bud color. I have a table full of transplants ready to go into the garden, and I’ve planted a few seeds in the holes of the cement blocks, but I’m hung up waiting for the rototiller. I hand dug and ro-hoed the pea bed, and may do the same for the beans and squash if the tiller doesn’t show up today. I wanted to beat Memorial Day this year!

#WriteMotivation check-in:

1. Get the garden going. Given the earlier springs up here lately, I’ll try to get the beans started indoors by April 25 and the squash by April 30; plant outdoors before Memorial Day. Get seeds in before Memorial Day if possible. This will involve getting the hoops to support plastic covers up on all three raised beds.

Delphinium, columbine and daylillies

Perennial bed

I’m ready and the transplants are ready, but everything’s waiting on the rototilling which should have been done last week. I did say “if possible,” and I’ve done everything I can.

2. Keep up daily blogging using my existing schedule: Alaska weather Monday, review Tuesday, quotation context Wednesday, wild card Thursday, Jarn’s Journal (back history on my sf novels) Friday, Science/technology/health Saturday, and Six Sentence Sunday Sunday.

The only blog of the month not written and preloaded is that for May 31, which I plan to do about the dog show this weekend. (Yes, including this morning. I got some pictures yesterday, but hope to get more.)

3. Keep up Context? Tweets daily @sueannbowling

Done so far

4. Put at least two interesting science links a day on Homecoming’s page

Up to date.

5. Get outdoors for at least a couple of hours a day when the weather cooperates, either gardening or tricycle riding.

The weather has not been cooperating lately, but between the Farmers’ Market, the garden, and the dog show I’ve been outdoors quite a bit.

6. Read over entire trilogy for flow; put bits on Six Sentence Sunday; find a beta reader or two if possible.

I’d still like a second beta reader. I’m going to put that request on Six Sentence Sunday next week. Yesterday was the first time I posted a bit from the third book.

P.S. 8:40 am. The sun is shining! Maybe I can get some plants in after I get back from the dog show.

Welcome back, Sixers. I’m going to post something today that is completely different from what I’ve done before, though still in the same universe. This is from the third book of the trilogy, working title War’s End — though I hope I can come up with a better title before publication. This is roughly halfway through the book, and a moment before this scene, Coralie is on a spaceship.

She had to protect the baby.  Coralie tried to make a rigid shield of her body and arms as she rolled through wet, foul-smelling greenery, punctuated by harder masses that might have been tree trunks or rocks — she was too confused to tell.  Around her, familiar voices cried out in shock, and somewhere a dog yelped.  What had happened?  This wasn’t the ship!  The uncontrolled tumble ended with a blow that drove the breath from her lungs, and for a moment she could see nothing but colored flashes as she struggled for air.

If you like this excerpt, or want to play yourself, check out the other fine authors at Six Sentence Sunday.

Diet Sleuth Main Window

Last Thursday’s lunch

One of the problems in carbohydrate counting is figuring out how many grams of carbohydrate are in any given meal. I explained last week how I weigh my food whenever possible. But to get from that to the number of grams of carbohydrate, protein and fat are in a meal, I use a program called Diet Sleuth. This is a program designed for Mac, though a Windows version is available. There are things that have me screaming at it, but I’d have a much harder time controlling my diabetes without it.

The first figure is the main window, with my lunch for last Wednesday selected. (To enlarge the image, click on it.) Double clicking on a food brings up a window to add the food to a meal, with a variety of

Diet Sleuth Entry Window

Entry window for adding a food not in the database

serving sizes or number of grams. I use grams to enter except for the cherries. Since they are pretty uniform in size and one cherry is one of the portion sizes given, I just fill in the number of cherries (10 in this case) and let the program calculate the grams.

The program comes with a large database of foods, based on the USDA database of nutrients. It also has a number of prepared foods, including frozen dinners, fast foods, and snacks. You can easily add any packaged food with a nutrition label. The second figure shows the window for adding a food, filled in.

You can also add recipes. This is particularly useful when you make a large quantity of something and freeze it in serving-size portions. The cookie recipe shown comes up per cookie, but it’s impossible to make every cookie the same, so I go by grams when I’m actually eating one. The only ingredient not in the

Added recipe for Florentine cookies

Florentine cookies, showing window for adding a recipe.

included food database was the candied orange peel, which I added from the package. (By the way, these cookies store very well in the freezer, and I’ll probably make a larger batch next Christmas when candied orange peel is again available. But I rarely eat more than one at a time.)

Problems? Loss of data when I change versions or upgrade my operating system! This is a real problem with added food items and recipes. (It is also the reason I do not guarantee that the version shown is the latest.) There is also a minor bug that puts the “duplicate” button in the middle of the expanded data entry window instead of at the bottom with the other buttons, but I didn’t even know that one existed until I was trying to capture the windows for this blog.

There is another problem that comes up with using any nutrition database: all fruits of the same kind, for instance, are not equal. Take an apple, for instance. Apples vary enormously in sweetness and carbohydrate content per gram. They also vary a great deal by size, if you want to use the “per apple” option rather than per gram. The sizes given don’t often agree with what’s available in the supermarket. That can be addressed by using grams, but the sweetness cannot. Neither can bones in meat.

All in all I’d recommend it as an excellent meal planning tool. You can even use it to keep track of your weight. Just don’t count on it for saving your recipes!

Year 2, Day 355

African landscape, from Morguefile.comFifteen days it took them to get Meerkat to the place where Storm Cloud’s group was encamped, and by that time most of Storm Cloud’s group had moved on. They’d left a few behind, and everyone seemed to know where they were going, so I didn’t worry too much about leaving them at the old camp site. Lion’s group had reached good grazing and water several days earlier. Everyone was feeding themselves and finding water,  so all I had to do was continue to have Patches track Storm Cloud’s group to the Gather.

The Gather. Patches. Two problems for me to worry about. Do I really want to go to their Gather? Should I, or have I interfered more than enough already? And what am I to do about Patches? How easily the impulse to help can lead us into trouble!

I could have ignored the orphaned and starving puppy. Then I would not be agonizing over the moral problem of just how far I can justify meddling with Patches’ mind. She is not a domesticate, whose mind is adjusted to living with a dominant species. She is a tamed wild animal, and her instincts are telling her she should be part of a pack, challenging the dominant female for the right to breed. But she understands nothing of pack living.

I could free her, easily enough, but she could never survive on her own. No pack would accept her. Any dominant female would kill her on sight. She knows nothing of fighting; I myself have conditioned her against the very things that might keep her alive.

True, she is not a sentient, a creature that is aware of its own mortality, I can modify her mind, deepen her acceptance of humans as her pack, even reduce the instinct to mate. Perhaps that is what I should do? I cannot think of anything else. Perhaps I should not have saved her, but would I myself be alive if I had not?

In case you’re new to Jarn’s Journal it is a Friday feature of this blog, and represents the (fictional) journal of a (fictional) human-like alien stranded in Africa 125,000 years ago. The journal to date is on my author site, and is the remote back story of the setting of my science fiction books.

It’s Award Time Again

I received two awards last week: The Kreativ Blogger from Chris Kelworth at the Kelworth Files, and the Liebster from Cindy Brown at Everyday Underwear. I’m a bit conflicted about these awards. On the one hand, I appreciate receiving them, and I have no problem thanking the bloggers and linking back to them. On the other hand, both are the type that say “pass it on to x number of other bloggers”, and I know too much about exponential functions not to be aware that this is another version of chain letters, Ponzi schemes, population growth, or the failure to recognize limits in economic theory. (Yes, they all depend on exponentials, or rather on most people not understanding how exponentials work.)

I am not going to post another chart showing how many iterations of these awards it would take to reach the entire population of the world. I’ve already done that for awards passed on to five, seven, and eleven other blogs. And I’m going to follow my own advice on the Liebster: since this is the second time I received it, I’m not passing it on.

The Kreativ is also a “Pass it on to seven others” award. I will confine myself to passing it on to one which I really like, but I will follow the other conditions. The first, thank and link back to the awarding blog, as I’ve done above.

2. Answer the seven questions or alternatives. (I’ll provide some alternatives.)

3. Provide 10 random factoids about yourself.

4. Pass on to 7 others? Nope. See above on exponentials. I will, however, pass it on to one I like, and leave it to her to pass it on to seven if she wishes.

The Seven Questions:

1. What’s your favorite song? My alternative, Who are your favorite vocal artists? That one I can answer: Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocceli.

2. What’s your favorite dessert? Unfair to ask a diabetic, but now and then I have a chocolate cocoanut crème brulee from Wolf Run. My alternative, What’s your favorite comfort food?

3. What do you do when you’re upset? My alternative: what sort of thing upsets you? Actually I don’t get upset easily now that I’m retired—except about politics and the way the world is going, which when you really think about it ought to upset anyone.

4. What is your favorite pet? I’ll have to use past tense, because when my last Sheltie died of old age I reluctantly decided that at my age and with poor balance, I really shouldn’t try to replace him. But the one that really was my heart dog was my first, Derry. He was a singleton Sheltie who I really think never figured out that he was a dog, and there’s a post about him in his puppy days on my Sheltie site. He was my first tracking dog, had titles in three activities in two countries, and I really ought to write more about him. My alternative: what do you look for in a pet?

5. Which do you prefer, black or white? The alternative given was do you prefer white or wheat bread? I’ll go a step farther in my alternative, and say what kind of bread do you prefer? Not white or wheat bought in the store! When I eat bread, it’s what I bake myself in the bread machine – apricot-almond and ricotta cheese being my two top favorites. Or Brioche bread. Blue corn bread with sunflower seeds and ancient seed bread are pretty good, too. Maybe I should post some recipes?

6. What is your biggest fear? Blindness. At the time of my retirement, diabetic retinopathy had left me blind in one eye, and the treatments had left my other eye such that I see a straight line as wavy. It seems to be fixed now except for limited peripheral vision, but I’m still worried. The alternate given was name one of your strong points or special skills.

7. What is your attitude mostly? I’d have to say laid back, I guess. Definitely not outgoing or sociable, I’m quite happy to be left alone, and downright uncomfortable in a crowd—though that’s partly due to my vision. The alternative given was Do you think it is better to help people or leave them alone?

Finally, 10 random factoids:

1. I can’t find shoes that fit.

2. I am perfectly happy living by myself. I’ve lived by myself since my second year of college.

3. However, there are times a third hand would be useful.

4. I remember (vaguely) the election of Truman.

5. When I went to junior high, girls had to take a semester of sewing and one of cooking. Boys had to take shop. I envied the boys. In retrospect, shop would have been more useful. I didn’t learn anything in sewing or cooking I hadn’t already learned from my mother.

6. I’ve lived in Alaska for almost 50 years.

7. My first home computer was a KayPro running CP/M and relying on two (literally) floppy discs, one for system and program and one for files.

8. I learned to code FORTRAN on punched cards long before the KayPro. Dropping a deck of 1000 cards was a disaster!

9. I live on a dirt road, with my own well and septic system.

10. I wish I had a dog that would alert to low blood sugar. Which leads into the one blog I plan to pass the Kreativ award on to: Sarah at Animals Help Heal. I love her post about seeing eye horses.

The first five quotes are from Dragonseye, by Anne McCaffrey. This is set roughly 200 years after the end of the first round of Threadfall on Pern.

“Good apples in every basket as well as bad.” Bridgely’s return to M’Shall’s “Not every holder in Bitra’s useless, you know.”

“Our glorious past is past.” This is actually two statements. Sallisha starts protesting the new, more practical curriculum, with “But our Glorious past –” and is topped by Sheledon’s “Is past.

“Failure had appalling consequences. Failure usually did.” The full quotation is “And yet, the scale of Threadfall was awesome and failure had appalling consequences.

“Failure usually did.”

“One had to know the bad to properly appreciate the good.” Iantine has been in Bitra Hold (and nearly died escaping) so Bendan Weyr seems like heaven.

“We’ve got what we’ve got and have to make do.” Clisser, the head of the College (precursor to the Harper Hall.) The whole quote is “ ‘Ours not to wonder what were fair in life,’ ” he quoted to himself, “which is a saying I should get printed out to remind me that we’ve got what we’ve got and have to make do.”

“We must be good at surviving to have lived so long on this planet.” Anne McCaffrey, Moreta. Moreta, as she comes to realize that the plague has probably infected her.

“She had to try.” Sue Ann Bowling, Tourist Trap. Amber, when she realizes that her leg is infected, but she must keep going.

And just as a nod to theme day on the blogathon, I’d choose a different title. Homecoming was the first book I published, but it’s not the only one now.

DVD CoverThis disc, although it has a copyright date of 2008, is a collection of TV programs originally aired between 2003 and 2008. Thus none are really up to date.

“The Mystery Dinosaur,” from 2006, deals with the discovery of  “Jane.” This fossil has been variously identified as a Nanotyrannus and a juvenile Tyrannosaurus Rex. The program is primarily about the argument, which could date it, but as far as I can tell, the argument has never been resolved. Thus the program is still fairly current, though it is more science than entertainment.

“Dinosaurs: Return to Life” deals with the observations that the differences between dinosaurs and birds appear to be due to a relatively small number of mutations. Could birds be “reverse bioengineered” to produce something like dinosaurs? Would we really want to?

The four-program series “Dinosaur Planet” first aired in 2003, and unlike the rest of the programs in this set, it is definitely intended to be entertainment. Each of the four episodes focuses on one or two individual dinosaurs and follows them through a period of their lives. Each episode also covers something that is important or intriguing in the fossil record, and links back to that record. Thus “White Tip’s Journey,” featuring a Velociraptor,  suggests one explanation for the famed (real) fossil of a Velociraptor locked in a death struggle with a Protoceratops.

“Alpha’s Egg,” featuring the large sauropod Saltasaurus and the medium-sized predator Aucasaurus,  is based on the discovery of  a Saltasaurus nesting ground,  fossilized in Patagonia.

Pod of “Pod’s Travels” is based on a Pyroraptor,  a European raptor genus. The episode includes the natural hazards (earthquake, tsunami) that made occasional travel between the islands that made up Europe 80 million years ago possible. The focus of the program is on the dwarfing effect that islands tend to have on species. Pod is a Gulliver among Lilliputians when a tidal wave sweeps him to a much smaller island.

“Little Das’ Hunt” follows a juvenile Daspletosaurus  (an earlier close relative of Tyrannosaurus Rex) learning to hunt, and a herd of Maiasaura. The episode is based on a group of Daspletosaurus and Maiasaura found fossilized together in Montana, but the evidence for the kind of pack behavior shown in the episode is scanty and controversial.

Obviously there is a good deal of imagination going into the behavior, color, feathers or lack of them, musculature and behavior of all of these dinosaurs. Here I want to mention three, because they struck me so strongly.

The first is the underline of the creatures portrayed.  Theropod dinosaurs did indeed have a bone jutting back from the pelvis. However, the velociraptors are shown as having this bone stick out of the body, covered by a narrow wedge of tissue. It seems to me that this arrangement would be very susceptible to breakage, and that evolution would have reduced the length of the bone fairly fast. It makes much more sense that the tail and the posterior part of the belly were much deeper, with the projection buried in muscle. In fact a mummified hadrosaur had exactly this conformation, with a tail much deeper than anyone expected. Why not Velociraptor?

Second is the behavior of prey dinosaurs. Granted they didn’t have much brain, but instinct is also guided by evolution. Threatening a predator with teeth adapted to munching relatively soft leaves, and exposing the vulnerable neck in the process, does not make sense. Kicking (recent work has shown sauropods had vicious kicks) or tail swipes are far more reasonable for the big plant-eaters. This bothered me as far back as the Disney dinosaurs in Fantasia, when the stegosaurus turns to try to threaten T. Rex with its tiny mouth, instead of lashing out with its spiked tail. Now Disney may be forgiven – after all, Fantasia came out in 1940. Between making his dinosaurs animatable by artists drawing each cel by hand and the paleontological knowledge of the day, he did a respectable job even if his sauropods did have necks like snakes and his characters never actually lived at the same time. But that stegosaurus is pure theater, and Discovery Channel should have known better.

The third is grass. There is now some controversy over whether dinosaurs and grass coexisted, but the amount of grass shown is almost certainly incorrect.

Overall evaluation? Watch, but don’t believe everything you see. This DVD has a lot of creative interpretation, some of it almost certainly wrong.