Archive for October, 2012


Quotes from Mercedes Lackey

All of the quotes tweeted from @sueannbowling last week (except the one this morning) were from The Fairy Godmother, by Mercedes Lackey.

Cover, The Fairy Godmother“Being angry now would be like being angry at a thunderstorm because it happened to rain on you.” Elena, suddenly realizing that the Fairy Godmother who she thought neglected her was Fairy Godmother to the entire kingdom.

“It was as if wholesome bread were being taken, and a tastier bread made of sawdust used to replace it.” Refers to the actions of the more far-seeing of the evil magicians, gradually limiting “rights” and replacing them with meaningless privileges.

“With familiarity came, if not contempt, certainly a loss of urgency.” In Elena’s first successful use of magic her concentration was driven by fear, but in future me must learn to concentrate without that goad.

“Men. You never can depend on them not to play the fool when there’s a lot of them together.” The women of the village, speaking of their menfolk’s probable behavior during harvest.

“Only love could have turned rut into passion.” Elena is being jealous of Arachnia and her poet.

“You’re as ready as I was.” Madame Bella, as she hands over the job of Fairy Godmother to Elena and drives off with the Little Humpback Horse.

“People—and societies—don’t make decisions on logic.” Bowling, Rescue Operation. This is a work in progress, so I hardly expect anyone to identify the context of the quote. The speaker is Roi, arguing to the Council that slaving will not be accepted by Horizon.

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Sunrise today will be at 9:31 this morning, and sunset at 5:37 this evening for a nominal day length of 8 hours 6 minutes. That’s 6 minutes 44 second less than yesterday. Since I can’t drive in the dark, and daylight savings ends next Sunday, I am severely limited on where I can go and need to schedule things like doctor visits carefully. In fact I’ll probably have to take Van Tran (the local handicapped transit system) for OLLI classes next week.

Fairbanks winter roads

White ice on pavement. The stop sign is the one I skidded through last week. Saturday (when the picture was taken) I started braking early enough to stop — just.

Last week started mostly clear and cold (nights near 0°F.) It hasn’t warmed up much, but for the last few days it’s been cloudy with very little change in snow cover: no snowfall, no melt. The sun is rapidly approaching 10° above the horizon at noon, and it won’t be long before it is completely hidden behind the trees south of my house, even at its highest. I can still see it when I go to town, but it is so low that driving into the sun is a daylong problem.

Roads with lots of fast-moving traffic get blown clear as the snow falls or plowed, but the secondary and slower roads are all white ice. This isn’t too bad at low temperatures, but I’ve been surprised a time or two by just how slick they are in the 20’s and above. Especially paved roads: the gravel roads actually have an advantage when everything’s covered with white ice.

Update mid-morning: now that it’s light out, I can see that we did have a little snow last night, and it’s still snowing. (VERY lightly; I couldn’t be sure through the window screens.) Also, I just signed up for #Writemotivation for November. I’m not getting in NaNoWrite, but I need to get cracking on the edits for Rescue Operation.

Crab Nebula, HubbleOnce again I’m posting six sentences from War’s End, which is approaching professional editing. Bounce has just returned with Madame Irela (a diplomat who was traveling with the group) and left again to find Audi. Ginger is still trying to free Kelty.

The baby had dropped off to sleep again.

“Ginger,” Coralie asked, “are there other things we should avoid touching?  And where are we?  How did we get here?”

“Yes, Rakal, and it felt like we were teleported.  Rather clumsily: the momentum and energy matching weren’t precise, though the mind-touch was very soft.”

But all Coralie really knows about Rakal is that something went terribly wrong there.

Want some more six sentence goodness? Click on the Six Sentence Sunday logo below.Six Sentence Sunday logo

Sorry, I do not have a single photo of a pearl–just haven’t been able to find one. Sponenberg doesn’t, either. You’ll have to go with the descriptions.

Last week we discussed palomino as if there were just two forms of the gene associated with palomino color: cream and non-cream. The whole story is a little more complex, but I’ll have to introduce some genetic terminology to explain it, even though I’ve used the terminology, without explaining it properly, several times already.

The three new words we’ll be using are locus, allele and wild–type.

Locus means place in Latin, and it originally meant a place on a chromosome. Since genes code for proteins and are now known to be a little more complex than just the place on the chromosome, it now means the particular protein coded for.

There can be slightly different forms of a protein having the same function, and the different stretches of DNA (genes) that code for these slightly different forms are called alleles. Using this terminology, every horse has two alleles, one from each parent, at each locus (plural loci.) Last week we discussed two alleles, cream and non-cream, at the cream (C) locus.

The complications come from the fact that there are in fact three rather than just two alleles at the cream locus. Each individual horse can have any two of these three alleles. To avoid confusion, I am also going to introduce the term wild-type for the gene assumed to be the “normal” allele at a locus in the wild ancestor of a domesticated animal. What we called “non-cream” last week is in fact the wild-type gene that gives normal full color.

(Note that the wild ancestor of the horse is not the “wild” horse of the West—these are in fact feral, descended from domesticated stock. The only true wild horse alive today is Przewalski’s horse in Asia. The Tarpan in Europe was also wild, but became extinct in the 19th century.)

Using our new terminology, the cream locus has three alleles: wild-type, cream, and pearl. Pearl was recognized quite recently, and it has a very low frequency except in a few Spanish and Portugese breeds and their derivatives. It could be considered a weaker allele than cream, as it has less diluting effect on the coat.

A horse with one wild-type allele and one pearl allele will look very much like a wild-type horse—chestnut, bay or black depending on what genes are present at other loci. A very close look will show skin slightly lighter than normal, or with small pale spots.

A horse with two pearl alleles will have the red pigment diluted only slightly more than would be expected for a horse with one cream allele and one wild-type allele. Black pigment, however, will be diluted much more than is the usual case for a horse with one cream and one wild-type allele. Thus a bay with two pearl alleles at the cream locus dilutes to tan or gold on the body with chocolate mane, tail and lower legs. A chestnut becomes virtually identical to a pumpkin-skinned palomino (technically gold champagne.) And a black becomes a grayish tan with chocolate mane, tail and lower legs. All of these colors appear very similar to those produced by a single dose of the champagne gene, which is a completely different gene at a different locus, but give very different breeding results. Luckily there is a DNA test for pearl.

If a horse has one pearl allele and one cream allele, the resulting color will be cream, usually slightly darker than the cream resulting from two cream alleles (cremillo, perlino or smoky cream.) In particular the eyes are generally blue or amber, and darker than those of cream horses with two cream alleles.

As I mentioned before, there are a number of different ways of diluting horse color, and when two or more at different loci are combined some very odd colors can result and it may not even be possible to tell what genes are present—or what colors can be produced—without DNA testing.

Next week I’ll consider linebacked dun—one of the few horse genes where the wild-type allele is rare today in many breeds.

(If anyone has photos I could use to illustrate some of these horse coat colors, I would really appreciate them.)

Year 4 Day 225

Globe showing NE corner of Africa. P.S. Schubert, MorgefileI wish I could remember Kana’s pregnancy better. She was a colleague years ago, and the only R’il’nian woman I ever saw pregnant. It seems to me she changed a lot more than Songbird, while staying much better balanced, which goes along with what little information I can find on the computer. With Songbird, I am forced to rely on Meerkat, who still insists the pregnancy is going well.

Mapping the coastline has hit a couple of snags. The northeastward trend changed abruptly when the coastline turned due west, to my relief. I know there is salt water far north of where I first crash-landed the emergency craft, and the turn to the west seemed to indicate that I was finally moving toward it. But yesterday I suddenly realized that another coastline was approaching the one I followed, from farther north. Today I found that while they approach each other so closely that I hardly have to levitate to see the northern landmass, they do not actually meet. Rather, the approach forms a gateway to a wider sea leading north-northeast.

Do I follow the coastline to the north-northeast? If only the computer had been recording images from space, but it was totally focused on finding a safe landing spot. All I have is my own memory of a wide east-west trending continental mass with a southward extension at its trailing edge. I know I am on the southward extension, but how is it cut off from the main mass? By water?

The water north of the gateway is saltier than the ocean, so it is not a river estuary, but does it lead to the northern sea? Why did the northern sea not show tides? Is it an inland sea, salty because there is no outflow?

Jarn’s Journal is the fictional journal of a human-like alien,  Jarn, who was stranded in Africa some 125,000 years go. This was the height of an interglacial, so sea level and climates were about like today’s. Jarn’s story is behind the founding f the Jarnian Confederation, the universe in which all my science fiction novels are set. The Journal (as it exists to date) can be read in its entirety at my author site.

Quotes from Anne McCaffrey

All but the last of this week’s Twitter quotes are from Anne McCaffrey, from the Dragonsong trilogy. The first five are from Dragonsinger, the sixth is from Dragondrums.

Cover, Dragonsinger“There will always be fools in the world, fearful of anything new or strange.” Silvina, commenting on Dunca’s reaction to Menolly’s fire lizards.

“She wondered if envy was akin to fear?” Menolly, trying to understand why the girls who are supposedly her fellow students seem to hate her.

“Find you own limitations, but don’t limit yourself with false modesty.” Seball to Menolly after she has told him how she was treated for “tuning” at home.

“The young of every kind tend to be easily alarmed.” Robinton to Menolly when she refers to her concern for Piemur, who Robinton knows is quite capable to taking care of himself.

cover, Dragondrums“You want things badly when you’re young.” Lord Groghe to Menolly, when she tells him that she thinks the key to her fire lizards fetching her pipes was that she wanted them so badly.

“I wish we hadn’t changed so.” Robinton, in a rare moment of feeling his age and being aware of how much Pern had changed in the 400 turns without Thread, and how much it has had to change since.

(If you’re wondering why the yellow sticker, this is one of the books I replaced after the fire.)

“I shouldn’t let you get away with just taking over like that.” Sue Ann Bowling, Tourist Trap. Penny to Roi after Roi has taken charge from Penny, the tour guide, when a wild stallion kidnaps one of their saddle horses.

It’s time to revise Rescue Operation, so I won’t be blogging as regularly for a while. Six Sentence Sunday and Quotation Wednesday are already scheduled through the end of November, so you will definitely see posts Sundays and Wednesdays. Meteorological Mondays will continue, but may be very short. Tuesdays and Thursdays will be skipped most weeks. I will try to continue Jarn’s Journal Fridays, but I don’t promise pictures. Saturday will be reposts on the horse genetics if I have time to get the new pictures in.

Now I’d better see what I can write to get a better story arc on Rescue Operation!

sunrise, looking SEThe sun rose this morning at 9:08 am, and will set at 6:01 this evening for eight hours fifty-three minutes of daylight: 6 minutes and 43 seconds less than yesterday. Looks like we have the start of our winter snow cover, with temperatures generally in the 20’s for the daily high and near 0°F overnight. So far, the snow is barely deep enough to cover the grass.

Roads in town have enough packed snow to be slick—I went through one stop sign where I fully intended to stop. No traffic, luckily, and I was a little more cautious from them on. Even anti-lock brakes will skid on the kind of roads we have right now. One thing rarely mentioned: road markings painted on the roads and parking lot lanes are completely covered by white ice. Lane markings for turn-only lanes or pedestrian crossings are invisible.

The sun is now quite low in the sky, as you can see from the series below. The photo at the top was sunrise yesterday; the three at the bottom are around 11 am, 2 pm (solar noon) and sunset.

8:10 am update: we have now had our first official subzero (F) temperature of the season. My thermometer reads -6°F. The sky is barely starting to lighten.

Sun about 10 amNoon, looking SSunset, SW

Jet in Carina: HubbleBack to War’s End, with Coralie worrying about shelter from rain, though it is certainly warm enough! If you want more background, click on “Index” above and then on “Six Sentence Sunday.”

Possibly quite soon; the way the lower clouds were moving relative to the upper ones looked threatening to Coralie.  Water itself was unlikely to be a problem, as long as they had some way of storing rain.  Food?

“There you are,” said a tired voice, and Coralie turned to see Madame Irela trudging alongside Bounce.  The woman came on, waving insects away from her face, but the little dog turned back as soon as she had seen Coralie.  Still hunting for Audi, Coralie thought approvingly as she jiggled Michelle.

All this while Ginger is working to get Kelty free from the vines and Coralie is nursing Michelle.

The first book of the trilogy, Rescue Operation, is now in the editing process.

Want some more fascinating snippets, from rough drafts to finished and published books? Just click on the Six Sentences Sunday logo below.Six Sentence Sunday logo

Palomino (Cream) Genetics

Horse herd, chestnuts and palominos, credit MorguefileSometimes scientists get it wrong. With time other scientists generally catch and correct the errors, but the initial efforts to explain the palomino color were wrong on two counts: first, the assignment of palomino dilution to the albino locus C (for color,now known to be the gene that codes for the enzyme tyrosinase) and second, the assumption that all dilute colors were palomino. We now know both are false, but the early investigators did explain why palomino does not and cannot breed true.

Palomino. A bay and another palomino are in the background.

A palomino is, ideally, a horse the color of a new-minted gold coin with a white mane and tail. At one time, breeders tried to get them to breed true, and there are still breed registries based on palomino color. But two dark-skinned palominos, mated together, will produce only about half palomino foals, and many of them will not be the pure gold with white manes and tails wanted. Why?

Palomino is an example of what is sometimes called over-dominance or partial dominance. The color is due to a dilution gene, cream or cremillo, acting on a chestnut background. The locus is still called C, with primary alleles C+ and CCr. A single dose of cream will dilute red pigment to golden yellow, while having very little effect on black pigment—thus the dark skin. A double dose will further dilute the red to a pale cream hard to tell from white, and black to a shade that varies from a slightly dirty white to pale gray.

A palomino with a Bend Or spot

Palomino with a Bend Or spot on the neck, far more conspicuous on a palomino than it would be on a chestnut.

All horses, in fact all mammals, have two copies of each gene, one from the father and the other from the mother. If the basic color of the horse is chestnut and the horse has a cream gene from one parent and a non-cream gene from the other, the result will be a palomino. If one parent is a cremillo (the result of a double dose of cream acting on chestnut) and the other is chestnut all of their foals will be palomino. But if both parents are palominos, about a quarter of their foals will get the non-cream gene from both parents and will be chestnut, a quarter will get the cream gene from both parents and will be cremillos, and half will get one of each kind of gene and be palominos.

Cremillos are popular with some horse owners today, but at one time they were considered very undesirable by palomino breeders. They have pink skins and blue eyes, and they may be more subject to sunburn than horses with dark skin and eyes. They are not, however, albinos or due to any form of the albino gene. The cream gene has been found and sequenced, and a DNA test for cream is available.

Palominos don’t necessarily have a clear gold body color, or white manes and tails. Remember chestnuts have varying amounts of black hair sprinkled through the coat, and these black hairs will remain and become even more conspicuous if the red of the coat is lightened to gold. Some chestnuts even have what are called Bend Or spots, areas much darker than the body, or even black. These will be much more conspicuous with  the C+  CCr combination..

Further, chestnuts often have manes that are self-colored or even darker than their bodies. These characteristics will carry over into the dilute animals, and it is not unusual to find palominos with considerable black shading or dappling, and black hair mixed into their manes and tails.

What happens if the cream gene is combined with a base color other than chestnut?

Buckskin horse

The effect of a single does of cream dilution on a bay, giving buckskin. There is considerable confusion between buckskin and dun, but this horse has the palomino or cream dilution.

One dose of cream on bay gives a buckskin, with a yellow body and black mane, tail, and lower legs. A double dose of cream gives a perlino, a cream horse with mane, tail and lower legs very slightly darker than the body, blue eyes and pink skin.

A single dose of cream on black may be missed entirely, and the horse just called black. Some blacks with a single dose of cream are slightly lighter than normal, and are called smoky. With a double dose of the cream gene, a black becomes a smoky cream, again with blue eyes and pink skin.

Although the darkest variants of cremillo, perlino and smoky cream can be distinguished from each other, the lighter variants are very difficult to tell apart. Often they are just called cream, the distinction becoming important only if they are bred.

A base color of brown or very deeply black-tipped bay? I saw one once in winter coat, and at first glance he looked like a blue roan. Looking closely, however, he did not have a mixture of black and white hairs; rather each hair had a cream base and a black tip. I was able to recognize the same horse in summer coat only because a stable employee pointed him out. In summer coat he was a typical seal brown.

I emphasized palominos with black skin because it turns out that gold horses with lighter skin (sometimes called pumpkin skin) are due to a completely different gene, champagne. I’ll talk about this later.

If you want to read some very basic information about genetics, especially genetics of coat color, have a look at http://bowlingsite.mcf.com/Genetics/Genetics.html