Archive for September, 2012

NGC 1512 (Hubble)Here’s another bit from War’s End. Coralie has found the pilot, Kelty, but he’s tangled in some sticky vines. She’s asked her dog to find the medic, Ginger. If you want more background, click “Index” above, and then “Six Sentence.”

Again, she projected her image of the person sought.  This time the dog didn’t even bother to air-scent, just went to the broken vegetation where Coralie had entered the clearing and trotted away.  Within minutes she heard Ginger call the dog’s name, and Coralie called back, “Follow her.  Bounce, come.”  As soon as the dog came in sight through the underbrush, she added, “Find the others.   Ginger, is there anything in your kit that will dissolve that sap?”

Six sentences at a time isn’t much, but that’s it for today. For the other fine authors who’ve posted six sentence snippets of their work today, click on the logo.Six Sentence Sunday logo

Camera Design

There are times I wonder if product designers ever use the products they design.

3 diginal cameras

My digital cameras. Top to bottom, they are 2.1 MP, 5 MP and 10 MP. The photo was taken with my iPhone.

This is not a new complaint for me. My second post was on smoke detectors, and a couple of months later I included cars and washing machines.

Now it’s digital cameras.

I’ve had three of the things, steadily increasing in resolution and decreasing in price and size. That part’s great. But my first digital camera, the clunker on top, had a viewfinder as well as a very small screen. I finally retired it when it started giving me double exposures, photos which were cut in half in the middle, and other peculiarities, but at least I never had a problem knowing what it was pointed at.

Camera number two was a Kodak with over twice the resolution of the first, and it took great pictures – except in bright light. I couldn’t see what I was photographing. No viewfinder, and while young eyes may be able to see those digital screens outdoors in bright light, I can’t. A good many of the photos on my blog before last fall were taken by guessing where the camera was pointed, as I certainly could not see the screen. It was large enough; I just couldn’t see anything but gray.

Last fall my brother-in-law showed me his camera, which had both a large screen and a viewfinder, like my first digital camera but with a large screen. Great! I wrote down the name and looked it up on the internet when I got home. I found it all right – a discontinued model. So I searched, not just Canon, but several on-line stores, for a digital camera that had both a screen and a viewfinder. After all, I’m surely not the only person who has trouble seeing those screens in bright light.

Turns out that the combination, or even a viewfinder, was available only in expensive, SLR cameras, not in the pocket point-and-shoot I wanted. I wound up getting a “used” camera of the type my brother-in-law had, and it’s been quite satisfactory, though I’m sure I’m not using a tenth of the features. But sooner or later, I suspect, it will refuse to work with a computer upgrade, as the Kodak did, and I’ll have to look for another camera.

Why on earth did the camera designers decide that a viewfinder was no longer necessary? Have they never tried to take a picture in bright ambient light? A cell phone I can understand – picture taking is strictly secondary. (Of course it’s rather difficult to dial a number if you can’t see the screen, but it’s usually possible to find some shade.) But why has the viewfinder become obsolete in cameras?

Year 4 Day 81

zebra head, MorguefileThe gather is almost over for the year.

I keep telling myself, as the time for parting approaches, that they are clever animals, that their resemblance to my species is superficial, that I can have no real relationships with them.

I fool no one but myself, and I don’t do a very good job of that.

Meerkat, now plump again, has taken over the job of preparing my food and clothing. She is careful not to annoy me, but there are times, when she does not know I am watching her, that she looks strangely wistful. Did my refusal to accept her as an acolyte last year hurt her that much? She still has no real place with Rain Cloud’s group; they have taken her in because she has no place to go, but none of the males of that group would be willing to take her as a second mate. I am not sure why. Certainly her skills at cooking and clothing preparation are above average—far better than Songbird’s were when I first took her in, and even those were far better than mine. I suspect she is not willing to take second place.

I say were, because Songbird has learned a great deal from her mother since the days when she lived with me. Although Meerkat does most of the cooking, Songbird still prepares some of my favorites when she can coax me into bringing her the ingredients. Giraffe has become a good hunter, and is one of the few who seems able to work with Patches.

I will miss them, and the care they take of me.

Most of my writing work this past week has been reformatting and rereading my trilogy before sending it to my editor. I still like it, and might even start tweeting quotes from it–but not challenging people to name the context!

Sky Photo

I was going to skip today, but I finally got my iPhone and my iMac talking to each other and managed to download some photos. Yesterday the sky was spectacular and I didn’t have my camera with me. I can’t see the screen of my iPhone in bright light (same is true of my camera) so this was basically point it at the right part of the sky and guess where the trigger (also on screen) was.

The sky was unusual in that there was a retreating  edge of cloud to the north, which I couldn’t quite figure out. The evening weather show made it clear: there was a strong spiral low in the Gulf of Alaska to the south, and the blue sky was a clear air sector between two cloud bands. The spiral was turning in such a direction that the clear band moved over us from south to north. The photo was taken looking east, and the clouds thickened to opacity just to the left of the photo.


Clouds looking east, Fairbanks 9/26/12. The feathery stuff is cirrus, blending into altostratus farther to the left.

Quotes from Andre Norton

These are the contexts of the quotes tweeted from @sueannbowling from Sept 20-26. All but the last are from Gryphon’s Eyrie, by Andre Norton and A. C. Crispin.

Cover, Gryphon's Eyrie“Only those who have no understanding of what makes a true man rush headlong.” Kerovan’s advice to Guret, when he is ambiguous about his upcoming manhood ceremony.

“I was not ready to accept that part of me, until I could accept my own humanity.” Kerovan, after he has finally accepted his link with Landisl.

“When one loves truly, little is impossible.” Joison to Kerovan, after he has asked her for patience – which, as she says, is not her greatest attribute.

“There is a time for choices of the mind, and a time for choices of the heart.” Kerovan to Joisan, when she has reminded him of his earlier decision to be all human.

“True perfection is a thing outside of nature.” Kerovan’s thought as they face the perfection of Nidu’s mount – a Keplian, not a horse.

“Ten heartbeats’ worth of remorse would never make up for ten centuries of destruction.” Kerovan/Landisl, facing down Maleron.

“I think you got some stuff I never intended to tell you.” Sue Ann Bowling, Homecoming. Roi, when he realizes Derik has had to invade his mind to understand his poltergeist reaction.

Alaska Sky

Just a picture today, of the Alaska sky last Saturday. It was an amazingly warm day for this time of year, especially after the sun came out.

Cloudy sky

What kind of cloud? Mixed, mostly what I would call cumulostratus with a fairly low solar illumination. This was taken near solar noon, looking southeast, but the sun was less than 30° above the horizon.

This year's red beet cropThe sun rose at 7:42 this morning and will set at 7:42 this evening, so will be above the horizon for a few seconds more than twelve hours. What, wasn’t the equinox several days ago? Yes, but as I said, the times of sunset and sunrise are determined by the top edge of the sun, adjusted for the refraction of the atmosphere. Here in Alaska the angle of sunrise and sunset is very shallow, which makes the day even longer relative to when the center of the sun is geometrically on the horizon.

Although it has been warm enough this past weekend, actually reaching 67°F Saturday, this is well above normal. It’s snowing in the northwest of the state, and it wouldn’t really surprise me to see a snow shower here, though I wouldn’t expect snow to stick yet. It won’t be long, though.

Colored-leaf geranium basket

This colored-leaf variety isn’t even grown for its flowers.

I’ve taken in the plastic covers for the raised beds. I harvested the last of the beets, getting several over a pound, and the rest of the produce is pretty well dead. I might still be able to cut and freeze some rosemary sprigs from the beds closest to the house, since I didn’t get any rosemary potted up. I did get the potted mints and the geraniums in, though they still need pruning. The outdoor mints are still growing vigorously, as are the pansies, but most of the outdoor plants are through for the season. If I needed further proof that the lemon mint wasn’t quite a normal mint, its reaction to the frosts we’ve had should give it.

I’m not going to get everything done this fall, but I do need to get the hoses into the shed and some of the perennials cut back next week. I hope the snow holds off that long, and my cough gets better. The last day of the farmers’ market was yesterday, so I won’t be selling books there any more. I will, however, be editing—talked to my editor last week about doing the trilogy, and I’m working on the formatting and having a final read-through. So I’ll keep busy!

He 2-47; Hubble image.Here’s another snippet from War’s End, still following Coralie. If you want more background, the index (above) includes links to all of the Six Sentence Sunday snippets. In this weeks snippet the pilot, glued by sticky vines to a tree trunk, is referring to Ginger’s medical kit.

“The way it’s packed, it should be all right. But I don’t know what’s what inside it, beyond the survival kit I added.  Do you?”

Coralie shook her head, looking at Bounce.  The little dog was sprawled on the ground, panting in the moist heat, but she couldn’t rest yet.  “Bounce,” Coralie said, “find Ginger.”

That’s it for this week. To visit the other fine authors participating in Six Sentence Sunday, click on the logo.Six Sentence Sunday logo

The Basic Colors of Horses

Light Chestnut horse

One of the lighter shades of chestnut, with flaxen mane and tail. This horse almost overlaps the darker shades of palomino, but it is a chestnut.

This is a repeat of a post originally dated October 2010. Because I now have far more photographs of horses than I had at that time, and because the horse color genetics series has been so popular, I am reissuing it with more photographs.

I got a new book two years ago: Equine Color Genetics third edition, by Philllip Spoenenberg. I already had the first two editions–and how things have changed since the first edition came out! Even the second edition had only four types of dilution genes. Now there are six, with at least one more that has not been located yet.

Medim chestnut, flaxen mane

A more typical shade of chestnut, with a flaxen mane and self tail.

Lineback duns and creams were clearly separate by the second edition, which also greatly expanded on silver dapple and added champagne. But the third edition added pearl, mushroom and a rare dilution, probably recessive, found in Arabians.

Before starting to look at the effects of the dilution genes, not to mention the other genes that affect horse color, it is important to realize that horses, like most mammals, have two kinds of

Chestnut, dark mane and tail

A fast glance might misidentify this horse as a bay but the mane and tail, while darker than the body, have red as well as black hairs and the lower legs lighten toward the hooves.

pigment. One, eumelanin, is black, and while some of  the dilution genes may affect it, the kind of brown that produces the chocolate Labrador is not known to occur in horses. The other pigment, called phaeomelanin, varies from rich red-brown to a lighter golden red which can be confused with palomino. We’ll call that red, but that color can also be changed by other genes.

The three basic horse colors are chestnut, bay, and black. (Seal brown may be a fourth color genetically, but that is still under investigation.) Patterns of white,

Dark (liver) chestnut

A very dark shade of chestnut, sometimes called liver chestnut. A magnifying lens would show that the darkness of color is not due to the red/yellow phaeomalanin, but to interspersed black (eumelanin) hairs. The darkness of mane and tail are likewise due to interspersed black hairs, but the legs clearly lighten toward the hooves. The two horses in the background are more typical chestnuts.

interspersed white hairs, or dilution may act on any of these colors, as may a general scattering of black hairs through the coat. But these three colors are the base for all horse colors. DNA tests are now available for the genes that produce all of these colors.

Chestnut is predominantly red, including mane, tail and lower legs. The mane and tail may be lighter than the body (often called flaxen, and sometimes with interspersed white hairs) or darker than the body (usually due to interspersed black hairs.) The dark shades of chestnut, called liver chestnut, often have interspersed black hairs over the entire body.

Chestnut is due to a recessive form of the same gene, called extension, that produces yellow Labrador Retrievers. Chestnut is recessive to normal extension (which allows black mane and tail) but in contrast to dogs, black can occur in the coat. Recessive means that chestnut to chestnut breedings can produce only chestnut foals, but bay to bay (or bay to black or black to black) can produce chestnut.

bay horse, cantering

Typical bay, cantering. Any shade of phaeomelanin found in chestnut can also be found in bay, but the black mane, tail and lower legs are diagnostic.

Bay horses have red on the body, but the mane, tail and lower legs are black. Interspersed black hairs are again a possibility. In addition, many bay horses have some body hairs (most numerous on the upper part of the horse) which have red bases but black tips. This type of hair, with a band of red on a hair with black tips (and sometimes even black bases) is very common in mammals, and is called agouti. Bay is in fact an agouti gene. and is dominant to non-agouti.

Black horse

Black horse with star and snip. The owner thinks this horse could be a brown, but it is not uncommon for black horses to sunbleach slightly in summer, in which case they may appear to have brown in their coat.

Black is most commonly due to non-agouti. Black horses have primarily black hair. There is a separate gene, called mealy, that can produce lighter shading on the muzzle, though there is some evidence that a similar effect can result from an agouti gene called tan-point. Black is usually recessive to bay–that is, two bay parents can have a black foal, but it would be very unusual (and probably an indicator of the rare dominant black) for two black parents to have a bay foal.

Any of these colors may have white markings, and as long as the markings are confined to face and lower legs, the horses will still be called chestnut, bay or black. A bay, for instance, can have four white stockings and still be a bay. Only the most extreme white markings can hide which base color is present.

I’ll be blogging on more of the horse color genes in the next few weeks. If you want a primer on basic genetics, check out my website on coat color genetics in dogs.

Year 4 Day 64

date palm, MorguefileI think last year the gather was longer than usual, because of Storm Cloud’s illness and possibly because of my presence. This year I can see more clearly why they have these meetings, and that not all the scattered bands come. Two are here for the first time in several years, one sent word they were not coming, and three simply did not show up.

Mostly, the business of the gather is arranging matings, formalizing them, and recognizing and welcoming children born since the last gather. Beyond that, it seems a time for meeting old friends, exchanging information, and just plain partying.

Did I mention that they have discovered that certain half-rotted fruits affect them rather strongly? They don’t seem to affect me, and I don’t even care for the taste. Some of the young men, in particular, can get downright wild and irresponsible when indulging. I was pleased to observe that Giraffe was not among them.

I am getting quite spoiled by the cooked food they bring me, and I am doing my best to make returns by presenting them with things they have difficulty in procuring for themselves. Salt and obsidian, I have found, are always welcome, as are foodstuffs from the jungle to the north. I have found a kind of tree in desert oases that produces a fruit even sweeter than figs, and these fruits, dried, last for months. The children love them. The men are adding water and trying to ferment them.

Songbird is quite definitely expecting. Strange — I almost feel like a grandfather-to-be. I hope the birth is not difficult for her, as some seem to be for these people. I suspect their heads have enlarged faster than their hips have broadened. The women of my people broaden far more in the hips when they are fertile, but only then. Songbird would have a hard time keeping up with her band if he hips had broadened enough to have a child easily.

This is part of the Journal of Jarn, a fictional human-like alien stranded in Africa 125,000 years ago, when the climate was much like today’s. As I complete each week’s episode, I add it to my author site. I apologize for the trimmed fronds on the date palm in the photograph. The ones Jarn found would obviously have been much shaggier, and the wild dates were probably smaller.