Archive for September, 2013

Plant room shelves, 9/27/13 The sun rose this morning at 7:59, and will set after 11 hours 22 minutes at 7:21 this evening. The days are getting shorter by about 6 minutes 38 seconds a day, and the maximum solar altitude is down to 22.1°.

At least it’s warmed up enough to melt last week’s snow, though chances of snow at night (and rain in the daytime) still continue. The trees are almost all yellow to russet now, and the leaves are beginning to carpet the lawn. It’s time to get the moose fence up around the Amur maple, and the leaves piled over the perennials. This year I’m going to try the leaf Heliotrope and geran. 9:27:13piling over the mints, though I’m not very optimistic. The named mint varieties aside from ginger mint have not proven very hardy up here, though they are bouncing back from the frosts we’ve had so far.

The potted plants I’ve brought into the plant room are doing fine so far, and they do include rosemary, pineapple and orange mints, and pineapple sage as well as heliotrope and some scented geraniums. I hope the full-spectrum fluorescents keep them going through the dark days of winter.

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It’s Sunday again and time for Weekend Writing Warriors (click on the logo above) and Snippet Sunday (click on the logo below.)

This week it’s Horse Power again,  FREE on Amazon for possibly the last time. I put it up to experiment with Kindle Direct; now I’m planning to try it with CreateSpace.

This snippet is a continuation from two weeks ago.


NGC2074 HubbleTimi pushed another cow — the female silkies were cows, Roi reminded himself, while the males were bulls — into the squeeze chute and busied himself under her tail.  “The pregnant cows go in a field by themselves; those that aren’t go back into a bull’s herd.”

“I could do that, if you like,” Roi offered.

Timi had always been prickly about Roi’s use of esper abilities, but the twenty-two years since they’d seen each other must have made a difference.  “Thought you’d never ask,” he grinned.

Roi’s eyebrows raised.  “Thought you might jump down my throat if I suggested it,” he replied.  “That one’s pregnant, a few days post-implantation — where do you want her?”

About Horse Power: Roi is now the acknowledged heir to Lai, kept busy learning to be a member of the Inner council. Flame and Penny are still with him after their trip on Falaron, but Amber and Timi have become colonists on Horizon, a world Terraformed for stock rearing. It’s an idyllic planet, but the colonizing company has set things up in such a way that the colonists have a difficult time avoiding debt slavery.

Roi is sent to investigate the problem, but it appears that the colonizing company’s actions however immoral, are legal. All it seems he can do is see that Timi and Amber’s children at least have the pets they crave. But a few things have been forgotten over the centuries, and those “pets” may have a great influence on Horizon’s future.

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Year 8 Day 113

It was hot yesterday above the rift valley, so I started very early this morning – barely sunrise at the lake where I live, but already uncomfortably warm at the north end of the linear sea. I flew up the rift valley toward the glint of water that tantalized me yesterday, and before long crested a few low hills to find the valley dropping away before me.

How low were the hills? Oh, perhaps a hundred and twenty times my height above the sea surface, far lower than the walls of the valley. What surprised me was that I was soon at the level of the sea surface behind me, and still going down. And down. By the time I got a good look at the surface of the water ahead – and it was water – it was clear that it was considerably farther below sea level than the hills were above it. Certainly it was not connected with the tideless sea!

It had to be a salt lake, and one with no signs of life within it. There were a few freshwater springs in the slopes bordering the rift, and these provided a few pockets of greenery on the shores, but there were no fish perceptible in the lake, no tracks except near the springs, and hardly even any insects.

I managed to find a dry branch near one of the springs, and tossed it into the water. It floated high, confirming my suspicion that the water must be very salty. If I had any doubts, they were rapidly erased by the discovery of a beach of translucent pebbles. I assumed at first they were quartz, but a mental probe found salt – the pebbles were almost pure halite. I dropped a handful in my collecting bag to show Rainbow.

I was tempted to try a swim, as it was getting very hot. But I’ve seen lakes in closed basins that were so alkaline they’d burn skin. Could I bring a sample of the water back for testing?

At home ten years ago I’d never have considered trying it by esper talents alone. Here I’ve been forced to rely on them, and I thought I could hold a globule of water together, teleport back to my laboratory (such as it is) where I had a bowl of the same fused sand I’ve used to make windows, and dump the water in the bowl. To my astonishment the water was not alkaline, but had almost the same acid pH as my skin. I think I will start tomorrow morning with a swim!

Jarn is a human-like alien who was stranded in Africa 125,000 years ago, and has become friends with a group of our ancestors. His Journal to date can be found on my author site, and is part of the remote back story of my science fiction novels. By the way, halite is sodium chloride — common table salt.

Quotes from Andre Norton

These are the contexts of the quotes tweeted from @sueannbowling between September 19 and September 25, 2013. All but the last are from ‘Ware Hawk, by Andre Norton.

'Ware Hawk cover“One does not give half oaths.” The Falconer has given his oath to Tirtha, and even though he is reluctant to back her in what he considers magic, he still considers himself bound.

“I do not know what may threaten, only this is a dangerous land.” Tirtha to the Falconer, stressing that she needs him to give help willingly.

“Night was when the Dark held its greatest power.” The group is reluctant to trail the Dark ones by night.

“What strength one has must be saved for a time when it is most needed.” Alon, recognizing that he must save his strength for the actual confrontation with the Dark.

“Upon each other they must depend until the very end.” Tirtha recognizes that she, the Falconer and Alon are now bound together in her quest.

“The Power had always been a danger for those who could summon it even lightly.” Power corrupts, and Tirtha is wondering just why Yachne valued Alon, though she did not seem to love him.

“What’s the disaster this time?” Tourist Trap, by Sue Ann Bowling. Marna to the planetary administrator Anden, when he accosts her with news of another problem. Luckily this time it’s a solution, though Anden does not recognize it as such.

Happy News: CT Scan

ClearI had a CT scan with contrast yesterday, and I’m happy to report that there is no sign of the ovarian cancer recurring. I’ll probably be followed for another 5 years, at least (possibly for the rest of my life) but at the moment my only problem is the amount of liquids I’m supposed to be drinking to flush the contrast dye out of my system. Not to mention the inevitable side effects of drinking some 5 liters yesterday, with a 3 liter goal for today.

Aside from a cold head (I’m still nearly bald) and continued loss of balance, I’m feeling fine. Should get back to the final editing of the trilogy soon.

Alaskan Trees, 9/21/13The sun rose this morning at 7:38, and will set 12 hours, 8 minutes and 33 seconds later at 7:46 this evening. We’re still losing 6 minutes and 37 seconds a day.

Wait a minute. Yesterday at 12:44 pm was the Autumnal Equinox, the time when day and night are supposedly equal at 12 hours each. What are we doing with days still longer than 12 hours?

Actually, the 12 hour days on the equinox would be true if (a) the sun were a point source of light and (b) the earth had no atmosphere. Since neither is true, the days are still longer than 12 hours today and tomorrow. Why?

The sun actually has an apparent diameter of half a degree, and sunrise and sunset are defined as when the upper edge of the sun is just on the horizon. Further, the air is densest near the ground, which means that the light rays are to a certain extent bent around the Earth’s curvature. This last means that there is actually a day-to-day variation in the difference between the geometrical sunrise and the observed sunrise, so the times I give are only approximate. Specifically, they are taken from a website that calculates them based on a standard atmosphere (which is certainly not the case here in the winter!) To quote from the website I use:

Sunrise and Sunset

My yard, 9/20/13The times for sunrise and sunset are based on the ideal situation, where no hills or mountains obscure the view and the flat horizon is at the same altitude as the observer. Sunrise is the time when the upper part of the Sun is visible, and sunset is when the last part of the Sun is about to disappear below the horizon (in clear weather conditions).

If the horizon in the direction of sunrise or sunset is at a higher altitude than that of the observer, the sunrise will be later and sunset earlier than listed (and the reverse: on a high mountain with the horizon below the observer, the sunrise will be earlier and sunset later than listed).

The Earth’s atmosphere refracts the incoming light in such a way that the Sun is visible longer than it would be without an atmosphere. The refraction depends on the atmospheric pressure and temperature. These calculations use the standard atmospheric pressure of 101.325 kilopascal and temperature of 15°C or 59°F. A higher atmospheric pressure or lower temperature than the standard means more refraction, and the sunrise will be earlier and sunset later. In most cases, however, this would affect the rising and setting times by less than a minute. Near the North and South Poles it could have greater impact because of low temperatures and the slow rate of the Sun’s rising and setting.

For locations north of 66°34′ N or south of 66°34′ S latitude, the Sun is above the horizon all day on some days during the summer and below the horizon all day on some days during the winter.

Technically, sunrise and sunset are calculated based on the true geocentric position of the Sun at 90°50′ from the zenith position (directly above the observer).

In case you’re wondering, my house is at 64° 33′ North latitude.

The photos above, by the way, were taken Friday. Saturday night and yesterday we had mixed snow and rain all day. I’ll add a current photo below as soon as it’s light enough to take one, but I fully expect an inch or so of snow.

9:23:13 Nyard

This morning, 7:50 am

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It’s Sunday, and time again for Weekend Writing Warriors (click on the logo above) and snippet Sunday (click on the logo below. Both blog hops involve authors posting 8 sentences or less of their work, anywhere from first draft to published. Mine for this week is from a published work, Homecoming, available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble in a variety of formats.

Last time I quoted from Homecoming I covered Marna’s discovery of the mummified body of a plague victim and her immediate response. Here is the follow-up to that discovery. I’ve done a little creative punctuation to get it under the 8-sentence limit.

Starburst galaxyLogic said she should get away, that the person was long gone and the body might still harbor the plague.

She could not abandon the remnant.

The body refused to be composed into any semblance of rest, but she brushed away the last of the sand and carried it into the sun, now high in the sky. Deaths among the R’il’nai had been rare, and she finally had to ask the computer for the proper words.

“I do not know who you are,” she told the body finally, “so I cannot speak of your life and the joy you brought those who knew you. I can only say the final farewell. Take the goodness and joy of your life with you as you go before, and let all sorrow and evil be consumed with your body in the furnace from which it came.”

She reached out to cup her hands around the skull-like face, locking her mind on the body; then she gathered herself mentally, reached for the sun, and thrust the body into its nuclear heart.

Funeral rites of the R’il’nai.

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Year 8 Day 112

The northeastern extension of the linear sea ends even farther south than the northwestern branch I checked out earlier, but it is in a valley that continues north-northeastward. Could it reach the tideless sea with only a narrow bridge of land separating the two, as does the western branch? I needed more height!

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Photo Credit Wood’s Hole.

I foresaw two problems with getting high enough to see far ahead. The first was getting enough oxygen, and the second was balancing the air pressure in my inner ears and sinuses against that of the atmosphere. Oxygen debt takes time, so I could probably look for about as long as I could hold my breath. Air pressure was actually more of a problem, but with some practice I have found that I can hold a sort of second skin over my body that prevents my eardrums from popping and my blood from boiling. I’ve never done it at more than mountaintop height, but I have the principle and I was confident that for a short time I could manage to survive and look around above about nine-tenths of the atmosphere.

It had not occurred to me that the desert heat would feel so welcome when I got back down; it’s cold up there!

I also got my look, and as I warmed up I tried to make sense of what I had seen.

The tideless sea is indeed where I expected to find it, ahead and to the left as far as I could see. To the right, sand and mountains. But straight ahead, bordered by steep sides and even higher mountains, is what I can only describe as a trench in the land, . I think I saw water ahead, separated by higher ground from what lies below me, but I saw no sign of any connection to the tideless sea. Neither can I see an end to the trench.

I’ve wondered before if the continent on which I crashed might be rifting apart, and indeed if the lake on whose shores I now live might be part of that rift. Is it possible that this vast linear trench is part of the same system?

I am going to have to investigate this rift.

Jarn’s Journal is a part of the back story of my science fiction universe. Jarn is a human-like alien, a Ril’nian, who was stranded in Africa by a starship accident some 125,000 years ago. His story is being added to each week on my author site. In this episode, he has just discovered the Dead Sea Transform.

Quotes from Anne McCaffrey

Here are the contexts of the quotes tweeted from @sueannbowling from September 12 through September 18, 2013. All but the last are from The Skies of Pern, by Anne McCaffrey.

Cover, the Skies of Pern“We came because that was what we’d done, had to do, did. M’Rand, quoting the old Question Song as he prepares to step down.

“It was the set of their minds: their self-appointed mission to deny choice to others.” Tagetarl’s thoughts on how the Abominators differed from others.

“Not everything and anything new meant an improvement.” Tagetarl remembering something Menolly had said—but he goes on to say that people must make their own choices as to what to accept.

“It never occurred to him that he had only himself to blame.” Toric, stuck in a meeting about the new observatories. I’ve often wondered what Anne McCaffrey intended to do about Toric, who by this point is rather obviously going to have to be dealt with.

“Such people are afraid of what they don’t understand, won’t understand.” F’lar talking to Lessa about the problem of the Abominators.

“Practice, I believe, always improves performance.” Lytol, after F’lessan says that he hopes to be able to make a more graceful landing in the future.

“I believe” shades into “I know.” Homecoming, Sue Ann Bowling. Lai, explaining why he is not against religion (and has his own) but is doubtful of dogma.

P.S. I think summer’s over, regardless of the calendar. This is what I woke up to this morning.

I'd better get the plastic off the herbs today.

I’d better get the plastic off the herbs today.

But I'll need help to get the moose barrier up around the maple.

But I’ll need help to get the moose barrier up around the maple.

Early fall FairbanksThe sun rose this morning at 7:17 , and will set almost 12 hrs 55 minutes later, at 8:12 this evening.  We’re still losing 6 minutes 38 seconds a day, and the equinox is less than a week away. Trees and plants in general are starting to respond to these shorter days, and some of the birches are now all yellow, though the leaves have only started to fall.

Plants respond to day length as well as temperature, and with clear skies the last couple of nights frosts have finally arrived. I’m not up to fall cleanup this year; I’m still too much off balance. So I hired help to cut the perennials short this year, as well as bringing in the potted plants, pulling the squash plants, draining and storing the hoses, and a few other things that were needed before it got any colder.

CleanupAside from the lingering balance problems I’m doing well. Chemo is over (I hope) and I’m back to the stationary bicycle just about any time I watch TV or DVD’s. I can now manage a couple of hours a day. My hair is still showing no sign of growing back, and while the wig looks good if it is properly positioned, it keeps wanting to slide down my forehead. It’s going to be an interesting reunion in Tulsa next month.

P. S. Monday morning: it’s now official that the first frost at the airport was early Sunday morning, and my thermometer read 28° F at 8 this morning. What’s more, snow is forecast for Tuesday night, though it isn’t expected to stick. Summer may not be over officially, but it certainly feels like fall here.