Archive for August, 2012

Year 3, Day 295

Sun in sky with birdsWell, they’re gone again.

I shouldn’t be surprised. They follow the herds, and the herds had gone on. I think now that they stayed in one place much longer than usual when Songbird led them to me, perhaps because Storm Cloud wanted to learn what she could from me. But I will be seeing them again at the Gather.

Songbird and Giraffe will be formally mated there, and I would not be at all surprised if Songbird is pregnant by then. Not that it will make the least difference to anyone; it is considered rather a good omen if the fertility of the bride is proven.

Meanwhile I might as well start deciding what I want to take with me and what is the best way to manage power. The solar panels are limited, they will not last forever, and I have no way of building more, so some other kind of power generation will be necessary if I plan to stay on this planet. As if I had any choice!

The computer needs electricity. It also has instructions on how to build a simple generator, though for that I will need to find copper and iron. Native copper is used by the People for ornaments, so it should be no real problem to form it into wires telekinetically. I may have to use some very delicate telekinesis to get iron from iron oxide, though.

The energy to run a generator? There are several possibilities. Direct heat from the sun, focused by a curved mirror, is one, and perhaps the best. A water wheel is a possibility as well, and the same spring that is supplying my drinking water runs into a stream flowing fast enough to use. I want something that will not require constant attention.

What to take with me? I am a little surprised at how much I have accumulated. Some of my first, rather crude containers can be left. The panels and insulation from the original escape capsule may still be useful, and of course clothing made by the People. My own crude attempts at tanning skins and using them for clothing can certainly be abandoned. Cooking utensils and the cooker from the capsule – yes, if I can manage electric power. I haven’t been using them here, but that’s because what power I have from the solar panels has to be used for the computer and lights.

I might as well start planning how to move the computer.

Jarn’s Journal is the fictional journal of a fictional alien stranded on Earth 125,000 years ago. His story is part of the remote background of my science fiction universe, the one in which Homecoming and Tourist Trap are set. The entire story to date is on my author site.

I’ve had quite a few comments about Bounce, Coralie’s dog, on the six sentence snippets I’ve been posting on Six Sentence Sunday. So I thought I’d post a somewhat longer excerpt on how Coralie got Bounce, the better part of a year earlier. This is from the second book of the proposed trilogy, which I’ve given the working title of Horizon War. That will almost certainly change, since that title really applies to the whole trilogy. Anyway, here’s some background on Bounce. (Soot is Kevi’s pocket herder.)

"Rose" of galaxies (Hubble photo“How is Coralie getting along with Bounce?”  Bounce was my wedding gift to the couple, a herder puppy.  I’d done her dam’s owner a favor months before, and he’d agreed to let Coralie see if any of the pups would take to her in repayment.  Bounce, a bright sable bitch with hardly a white hair on her, had taken one look and flung herself into Coralie’s arms.

Kevi shook his head, grinning.  “Hard to believe Soot’s only a month and a half older.  Bounce has helped heal a hurt I didn’t even know about.”

“Coralie seemed so taken with Soot–and she’s good with all the pocket herders.  But what hurt do you mean?”

“She had a herder, as a young girl.  When it died of old age, she was so torn up she decided never to let herself love a dog again.  That’s a lesson I had to learn a long time ago — you don’t forego love because sooner or later the love will end in death.  For a while, maybe, though I’ve found it’s easier if the loves overlap.  But she was ready for another dog.  I’m glad you pushed her into it.”

Not that it had taken that much pushing.  I looked around.  At this elevation, the air was beginning to be cool in the mornings, and a few leaves were even starting to turn.  The sun was warm enough today, pouring down from a brilliantly blue sky, but once the fall sales were over, we’d be heading to lower elevations for the winter.  The nomads moved their winter camp from year to year, mostly to spare the grazing but increasingly to avoid slavers.  Mik already had scouts out, looking for a good wintering area within a day’s ride of Doc’s cave.  “Come on,” I said as I legged Idaho back into motion toward the next herd. Kevi pushed Smokescreen up by my side.

I might add that Kevi does not age – he’s over 250 years old – but most of the people surrounding him age as we do. Let me know if you’d like to see more excerpts, perhaps as a substitute for Six Sentence Sunday when that goes away late this year.

Quotes from Mercedes Lackey

These are the quotes that have been tweeted from @sueannbowling from August 23 through August 29.

Foundation Cover“Change is on us, and not everyone likes that change.” Foundation, by Mercedes Lackey. Nikolas, recruiting Mags to help in his observations.

“Ethics—that is the slippery side of ‘right and wrong’” Foundation, by Mercedes Lackey. Nikolas, helping Mags understand the ethics of using his Gift.

Cover, Intrigues“Pretend long enough that you belong, and eventually even you will believe it.” Intrigues, by Mercedes Lackey. Dallan’s advice to Mags

“There will always be bad times; it’s in the nature of things.” Intrigues, by Mercedes Lackey. More of Dallen’s advice to Maggs.

“Ye kin paint a crow white, but that ain’t gonna make it a dove.” Intrigues, by Mercedes Lackey. Mags’s thoughts on the appalling behavior of the Bard Marchand.

“You are still the same person you were before you learned all this.” Intrigues, by Mercedes Lackey. Dallen’s response to Mags’ discovery of his parents’ fate.

“Even now, the memories of that time were hard to face.” Sue Ann Bowling, Homecoming. Marna, faced with the failure of the isolation satellite’s life support system, remembering the plague that wiped out the population of her planet.


Pern booksThe first time I read a Pern story I was in high school, and I generally grabbed my father’s Analog and read it cover to cover before he even had a chance to see it. In October 1967 there was a short novel, called “Weyr Search,” by Anne McCaffrey. It was followed in December and January by a serial called “Dragonrider.” The following year the two were put together in a book called Dragonflight, and the Pern series was on its way.

I haven’t read everything by Anne McCaffrey, and probably won’t. Some of her collaborations, in particular, just don’t interest me. But the story of Pern fascinates me, and I enjoy keeping track of the characters and their relationships. I wish Ms. McCaffrey were still here, to let us know how the story of Toric and the Abominators came out.

Just for the heck of it, I once worked out how the various Pern books and stories fit into the internal timeline. Here’s what I came up with, with the aid of the timeline in First Fall. The years are approximate; even the Pernese couldn’t quite get them right!

“The Survey: P.E.R.N.”, in First Fall. ~200 years before colonization.

Dragonsdawn. First 10 years of the colony; Thread; breeding of dragons from fire-lizards.

“The Dolphins’ Bell,” in First Fall. Overlaps end of Dragonsdawn.

“The Ford of Red Hanrahan,” in First Fall. Year 19, founding of Ruatha, whose bloodline produced many dragonriders.

“The Second Weyr,” in First Fall. Year 28, founding of Benden Weyr.

“Rescue Run,” in First Fall. Year 49, the result of Ted Tubberman’s emergency beacon.

Dragonseye. Year 258, beginning of second pass, the star stones.

Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern. Year about 1505, near the end of the 6th pass. The plague.

Nerilka’s Story. Overlaps Moreta, from a different point of view.

The Masterharper of Pern. Robinton was born about 50 years before the end of the second long interval; this book goes through the beginning of Dragonflight.

Dragonflight. Covers Lessa’s Searching and Impression of Ramoth through the end of the long interval 3 years later. Book ends about 2408.

Dragonquest. Year 2415, 9 years into ninth pass. Problem of oldtimers.

Dragonsong. Overlaps Dragonquest; starts Harper Hall emphasis. The Masterharper of Pern was actually written considerably later., though it is set in an earlier time.

Dragonsinger. Overlaps Dragonquest.

Dragondrums. Overlaps The White Dragon.

The White Dragon. 2420 through 2425; 12th through 17th years of ninth pass. Includes discovery of Aivas.

The Renegades of Pern. 1st through 17th years of ninth pass.

“The Girl Who Heard Dragons,” in The Girl who Heard Dragons. This short novel was reworked and modified into The Renegades of Pern.

All the Weyrs of Pern. Ninth pass, 17th through 21st years. First appearance of the Abominators.

The Dolphins of Pern. Overlaps All the Weyrs of Pern.

“The Smallest Dragonboy,” in Get Off the Unicorn. This was first published in 1973, but the names of dragon and rider make it clear that this was the Impression of the same K’van and Heth that appear in The Dolphins of Pern, though the story is somewhat changed there.

The Skies of Pern. Ninth pass, 31st year. More about the Abominators, and the threat of planetary impacts. What will dragons do when there is no more Thread?

I have not included the books with Todd McAffrey; sadly, I have found it a chore to finish those I’ve bought. If anyone knows of books or stories I’ve missed, please let me know.

Plants to be brought inThe sun rose this morning at 6:18 and will set this evening at 9:25 for 15 hours 7 minutes of daylight. Nautical twilight now starts before midnight, though astronomical twilight lasts all night—the sun never gets more than 18° below the horizon. And it’s not even getting to 35° above the horizon at noon.

Dry Creek Fire

The Dry Creek Fire, as visible about 5 miles from where I live.

Actually, astronomical night hasn’t meant much the last few days. August is finally acting like a Fairbanks August should. I really shouldn’t have been blogging about how dry it’s been—we were up to .53” rain for the month by Saturday night, and over half of that fell Friday and Saturday. Saturday was alternating sunshine and showers. Sunday was solid, steady rain, for a daily total of .82″, the most we’ve had in a single day for over two years. No flood worries; it was too dry to start with. The forecast for today is more of the same, but it’s still smoky, too.

Leaves are beginning to litter the lawn. I don’t need to worry about frost as long as it stays cloudy, but I’d better get the plastic out for the raised beds at the first sign the clouds will clear. We have cold air aloft, and while official low forecasts are still in the 40’s or possibly high 30’s, a radiation frost is certainly possible.

Reversion branch on tricolor geranium

One branch on this tricolor geranium has reverted to normal zonal color, and needs to be pruned out. Otherwise, being more vigorous, it will take over.

The garden is still producing more zucchini than I can eat, though the beans have slowed down. Beets and chard are still producing, though beets will store. Looks like I’ll have quite a few to store this year.

I need to prune the potted plants (above) that I plan to bring indoors for the winter, and decide if I want to dig up one or two of the prettiest begonias. They will winter in the plant room, and even continue blooming for a while. I did cut out a branch of one of the colored-leaf geraniums that reverted to green—need to check the other two for reversions.

Plastic over raised bedsMy blogging schedule will be a little erratic the next few weeks. I’ve joined GUTGAA (gearing up to get an agent) which will take some blog spots in September, and I’m going to the Alaska Writers Guild conference in Anchorage the second weekend in September. I’ll try to write a blog post about that, but I’m not sure I’ll have internet access during the meeting. I forgot to ask if the hotel has Wi-Fi.

P.S. at 5 pm. We have gusty wind, 55° F and the clouds are breaking up. I’ve put the plastic on the raised beds.

Today I’m posting another six from War’s End, continuing Coralie’s efforts to use her dog Bounce to find the rest of the group that was on the ship before she suddenly found herself, her baby and her dog in a strange, swampy jungle. At the beginning of this snippet, she’s seeing through her dog’s eyes, and Kelty has just waved his arms at her request.

Pistol Star; HubbleThere!  Bounce still had trouble seeing the man, but she did catch motion.  Coralie squinted her own eyes, which of course did no good at all, and tried to see what was holding Kelty.  Some kind of vines, she thought, vines which were wrapped closely around a huge fallen tree.  She suspected Kelty would need the help of all of them to get free.

Michelle burped, yawned, and dropped off to sleep.

This is from the third volume of a trilogy I’m polishing, set a couple of hundred years after the close of Tourist Trap.

I’m far from the only person posting six sentence snippets today. Visit the other authors posting bits from anything from first drafts to published books at Six Sentence Sunday. Just click on the logo.
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Cirrus Clouds

Jet stream cirrus is by no means the only kind of cirrus cloud. Cirrus clouds come in many different forms. The thing they have in common is that they are all made of ice crystals, and thus they are all in cold parts of the atmosphere – generally below -20°C, or -4°F. At these temperatures, the ice nuclei that turn supercooled water droplets into ice are generally common enough that at least a few droplets freeze. Since ice can grow by direct sublimation of water vapor at humidities where supercooled water would evaporate, the ice particles grow rapidly at the expense of the water droplets.

cirrus streakToday I’m going to talk about (and illustrate) those types of cirrus that are closest to the original meaning of the word: latin cirrus, or curl of hair. This original meaning is maintained in the fact that cirrus clouds often appear fibrous or silky.

Cirrus are sometimes considered warning clouds, because they are often the first sign of an approaching warm front. In such a front relatively warm, most air is pushed upward along a sloping surface, with colder, drier air below. The warm air cools as it is forced upward, and at its highest, which is the first part we normally see, it is very cold indeed – cold enough that when the moistest patches cool enough to produce condensation in the form of tiny liquid water droplets at temperatures well below freezing, the droplets freeze almost at once.

Mares' tail cirrusThe air has cooled enough by then that it is more than saturated relative to ice. The ice crystals formed by freezing of drops grow very rapidly and fall, the fall streaks being drawn out by the winds at various heights of the air. The result may be what is called mares’ tails, or it may be less well defined, but the fibrous or silky appearance is pronounced. This appearance is not always due to an approaching front, but if the cirrus is increasing with time and gradually covers the whole sky, it’s best to prepare for a storm.

contrailsA hundred years ago that was the prevailing type of scattered cirrus, but today contrail cirrus is probably more common. Contrail cirrus differs from warm front cirrus in that the original water cloud is formed because burning of fossil fuel produces even more water vapor than it does carbon dioxide. As a result, planes actually add water vapor to the air. In addition, the eddies formed by planes moving through the air may cause local lifting and cooling enough to cause condensation.

If humidity is such that ice can grow while water drops evaporate, and the temperature is low enough that a portion of the water drops freeze, the result is a persistent contrail that grows with time. In areas with heavy air traffic, the contrails of multiple airplanes may actually produce a sheet of cirrus that covers most of the sky. More often streaks of cirrus clouds follow the planes.

Although we sometimes refer to jet contrails, the only real connection with jets is that most of the planes flying that high today are jets. In fact, contrails first became a problem during World War II when propeller bombers, flying high to avoid detection, found themselves leaving cloud trails that shouted “we’re here!” to antiaircraft batteries on the ground.

female silhouetteSongbird has become a woman.

I don’t know why I am so surprised. I knew that these people mature far faster than my own species, that the females are fertile quite often – they must be, to have several children of different ages at once. I had deduced that with them, pelvic width and breast development were not a sign of rare fertile periods, as is the case with my own people, but normal once sexual maturity was reached.

Somehow I had not applied that knowledge to Songbird.

I decided to go looking for Rain Cloud’s group, with the aid of Patches. She knows them, so I just levitated high enough I could see a day’s journey in all directions, and then teleported her to the vicinity of any concentrations of game I could see. Within three days she had located the group, and I flew to them, lowered myself to the surface and walked in.

They appeared pleased, if surprised, to see me. “Are you not staying by the lake?” Rain Cloud asked me.

“I have built a shelter there, but I have not yet moved everything I need,” I explained.

They looked at me in utter bewilderment. Shelters, to them, are temporary things, intended to last no more than a few fivedays at most. Possessions are worn or carried. The idea of having more possessions than could be carried was totally foreign to their way of thinking.

I seem to need more than that: the computer, a safe and reliable water supply, protection from wild animals as well as the elements, and a place to sleep. And footwear, of course, which still totally puzzles them.

What will they think of my new dwelling?

Well, at least I had a chance to visit with old friends. Songbird seems quite happy with Giraffe, and they plan to be formally mated at the next Gather.

Why does that make me fell sad?

A Bird in the Hand

No, I have no idea how he (or she – I didn’t check) got into the house. Those windows that open all have screens, and I don’t leave doors open – the worst of mosquito season is over, but we still have white-socks, no-see-ums and yellow-jackets. But Sunday, shortly after noon, I walked into my office to find a bird perched on the windowsill. Inside.

Mystery bird

My avian visitor. I took the picture while trying to figure out how to get him outdoors. That’s his tail against the window, and I think the outer feathers are white. My brother-in law says he’s a junco.

The bird obviously wanted to leave, and was fluttering against the window when he wasn’t perching on my laser printer. I wanted to get rid of him – not permanently, I like birds, but he didn’t belong in my office. Or anywhere else in the house, for that matter. But how was I to help him get out?

Those windows that open are screened, and the screens don’t come off easily. I didn’t think I’d have much luck chasing him to an open door, since every time he was disturbed he tried to go through the window glass. I’ve seen nature shows where people carefully hold birds while banding them. So I knew it could be done, but how to catch the bird without injuring it?

I considered trying with my bare hands for about ten seconds. I’m just not that well coordinated, and the bird panicked every time I came near. I considered a towel, but this wasn’t a big bird, and I was afraid the weight of the towel would injure him. I needed a lighter weight fabric to throw over him, and I finally remembered that I had a piece of weed-stop fabric, too small to use, that I’ve been using as a background when I need to photograph books.

It worked beautifully. The bird was trapped between the fabric and the window pane, and I had little problem grasping the bird – very gently – through the fabric. I carried him out the front door and carefully peeled back the fabric from what I thought was his head. As soon as he saw light he took off, flying for the bushes.

I think he was a slate-colored junco. He was a lovely soft gray-brown, shading into white, and the outer tail feathers were white. I know a few of our winter birds (there aren’t all that many) but I suspect this was a summer visitor. Wikipedia says slate-colored juncos breed in evergreen or mixed forest, so that goes with his being a summer visitor. At any rate, one like him flew out of the squash bed Monday. I hope he was eating weed seeds or insects!

Quotes from Anne McCaffrey

These are the quotes that have been tweeted from @sueannbowling over the last seven days. All but the last quote are from Dragonquest, by Anne McCaffrey.

Cover of Dragonquest“There are other ways of remembering important matters.” Canth to F’nor, when they have first found a fire lizard and neither human records no Canth’s memory holds any trace of dragons being bred from them.

“Is age a prerequisite for a loving heart?”  Brekke, when F’nor seems to question Mirrim’s impression of three fire lizards.

“Does maturity always bring compassion?” More of the same.

“Make no judgments where you have no compassion.” Brekke scolding Mirrim when she suggests Kylara is less than would be expected of a weyrwoman.

“Silly people waste time assigning or assuming guilt.”  Robinton, when Lessa tries to consider herself at fault for the present disagreement between the oldtimers she brought forward in time and the modern dragonriders.

“Talk makes no miracles.” Fandarel, speaking to F’lar and Lessa after they have laid out the problem of the oldtimers.

“While saying good-bye forever was hard, it was harder yet not to have the chance.” Lai, grieving over Cloudy. Sue Ann Bowling, Homecoming.