Archive for December, 2013

North Pole New Year

Ran across this video on YouTube and thought people might enjoy it. We don’t have much in fireworks on the 4th of July; too much interference from the midnight sun. (Not to mention high fire danger.) So here’s last year’s New Year’s display. This is about 5 miles from where I live.

Safeway PL 12-27-13

Ice fog in the Safeway parking lot.

The days are getting longer again, and perceptibly. The sun will rise at 10:56 this morning, and set 3 hours and 55 minutes later at 2:51 this afternoon. Tomorrow will be a whole 3 minutes longer than today, and the noon elevation of the sun is now increasing by about a tenth of a degree per day. It’s still getting colder, simply because the northern hemisphere takes time to cool. Our coldest weather, on average, is in January.

Distance from the sun has nothing to do with this. In fact our closest approach to the sun will be this coming Friday, when the earth is only 91,413,000 miles from the sun. We won’t be at our most distant, 94,510,000 miles, until early July. Seasons are all in the tilt of the earth’s axis toward and away from the sun.

Badger Rd 12-27-13

The road home. There is a traffic light just beyond the cars, but it’s not visible through the ice fog.

It’s finally turned cold even by Alaska standards. My electronic thermometer was stuck on LL (somewhere below 40 below) for several days around Christmas, and the dial thermometer reached close to 50 below. Officially, the temperature at the airport broke 40 below the day after Christmas, and ice fog was too dense to risk driving into town last Friday.

The road between North Pole and Fairbanks is a divided expressway, but it runs right by an Army base with a notorious power pant. The cooling pond is such a producer of ice fog that there are warning signs for low visibility, and servicemen recently rotated in from warmer climates sometimes take the 55 mph speed limit seriously, even when tail lights are invisible at ten feet. There have been several deaths due to collisions on this stretch of highway, and I went to the Safeway in North Pole for some desperately needed food. I didn’t miss the ice fog completely, but it was better in North Pole (which is where I took the photos) than on the Richardson Highway.

I’m glad to say it clouded over and gave us (relative) warmth over the weekend, though we haven’t gotten up to zero where I live. The forecast is for above zero even in the low areas New Year’s Day, though, so we can hope.

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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.) Today I’m posting 8 sentences from my first published book, Homecoming available in a variety of formats from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iUniverse.

This is a continuation from last week, with Roi as he is forced to relive a memory.

Snowy had learned so early that he could not remember learning that crying, struggling, or any expression but happiness or eagerness to please would bring uncontrollable pain. He knew how to keep his owners happy, if anything he did could manage that.

Still, he hated being a catamite. He wanted to strike out, and kick, and struggle, but he knew better than to think he could get away with it. So he hated and ran, head down and arms pumping as he returned along the balcony to the slave quarters.

Corner ahead – better slow down; one of the guards might be – was! – coming the other way.  But neither his body nor the mind inhabiting it responded in the slightest to his concern. Horrified, he tried to rouse himself, knowing to the smallest detail what was to come, but helpless to do anything except to keep running until his lowered head slammed into the guard’s groin.

Not a good move for a slave.

*Oops, I scheduled this for Saturday instead of Sunday by accident, so you’re getting it a day early.

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Year 9 Day 46

Well, Songbird had her baby today.

I’m just as glad I was at the salt lake. Salt is still an eagerly accepted gift, and to my surprise the salt pebbles are very popular – perhaps because they can be carried so easily in skin bags.

Giraffe went out with a group of the men early this morning, as a small herd of gazelles had been reported not far away, and is not back yet. Luckily there are at least two experienced midwives here, though from what they will tell me, this birth went a lot easier than the first.

Songbird and her new baby, a girl they tell me, are still confined to the birthing hut. At least this time the moon is a late crescent, so new moon is only a few days away.

I’d better see what is upsetting Patches.


Thank goodness I responded to Patches’ vocalization and feeling of distress! Songbird’s birth pains had come quite quickly, and she had assumed that the women watching the children would continue to watch WildDog. They did not, and with the men away hunting, the little boy had wandered down to the shore of the lake. When I found Patches, she was trying to drag him away from a crocodile which he apparently wanted to approach! So Giraffe had quite a greeting when he returned with a gazelle quarter over his shoulder – news of a new daughter and a good deal of teasing that his son didn’t seem to know that a crocodile was dangerous. Most of the latter seemed to slide right off him; he was far to relieved to get the news of a new daughter. He may not know anything of biological paternity, but he is turning out to be a good father.

At least I should not be needed for the naming ceremony this time!

Jarn’s Journal is the fictional journal of an alien stranded in Africa some 125,000 years ago. The journal to date is available on my author site.


Thermometer 12-26-13

December 26 2013, shortly after noon.

Quotes from Mercedes Lackey

These are the contexts of the quotes tweeted from December 19 through December 25, 2013. All but the last are from The Sleeping Beauty by Mercedes Lackey.

cover, Sleeping Beauty“The list of good reasons was shorter than the list of bad ones.” Godmother Lily’s thoughts about sleeping potions.

“Hero work doesn’t exactly pay well.” Siegfried, talking to the bird who has just assured him that he is in a rich kingdom.

“At ten, Doom didn’t seem quite as horrid a fate to avert as a girl was.” Siegfried started his hero career very early.

“No bee will abide in the presence of evil.” Rosamund’s thoughts, on seeing the bees friendly to “Maggie.”

“I wish I didn’t agree with you so much.” Rosamund speaking to Lily, who has just commented that if any Kingdom needs two Godmothers, it’s this one.

“To their mind, strength was only found in the male.” Lily’s rather contemptuous thought of the old men of the Council.

“If you feel like hitting someone, run it off.” Sue Ann Bowling, Homecoming. Snowy’s advice from his mother, who knows that he will be a slave who has to hide his abilities to survive.

P.S. The photo below was taken at 12:30 today, with the electronic thermometer reading LL: translation, colder than 40 below. Merry Christmas!

S yard 12-25-13

snow stakeThe sun will rise at 10:59 this morning, and set 3 hours 42 minutes later, at 2:41 this afternoon. The days are getting longer, but only by about half a minute since the solstice, nor is the maximum height of the sun much more than 2°. That will begin to change with increasing rapidity. By Christmas the day will be 2 minutes longer than today.

We’ve had a little more snow; the snow stake in the yard indicated around 18” in the brief period of daylight yesterday, and it’s still snowing lightly. The forecast was for more snow, so I could have more by the time it’s light enough to see. Note that only half of the stake now shows. (Update 10:45: the snow depth is now 21″.)

Photo on 2013-12-22 at 15The temperatures are not extreme by Alaskan standards: generally below zero, but nowhere near forty below. I can live with that, especially since I now have a heated garage.

And I’m actually beginning to look (and feel) as if I have hair again.

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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.) Today I’m posting 8 sentences from my first published book, Homecoming, available in a variety of formats from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iUniverse.

Last week was a break, with an excerpt from the sequel of HomecomingTourist Trap. This week I’m going back to Homecoming, but to a point a little after the scene with Derik and Roi. Just remember that Roi was originally called Snowy.

“If you feel like hitting someone, run it off,” Snowy’s mother had told him. “Just make sure you’re running in the direction your owner wants. You’re not likely to get in trouble that way.”

Snowy had done a lot of running in the six months since he’d been sold away from his mother. Six months? Wait a minute, that had been years ago. Not that he’d liked his mother’s owner, or the overseers who gave most of the orders. But this new owner, and the brutes he expected to keep his slaves in line, left him half sick with fear.

Wondering about the italic portions? The controlled dreaming Roi is being subjected to has that effect — he cannot change the memory, but he is simultaneously remembering and reliving it.

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Winter Soltice today!

The days are getting longer!

This post is scheduled to go live at 8:11 Saturday morning, Alaska time, at which time the earth reaches the point in its orbit where the south pole points as closely as it ever does directly at the sun. The north pole, of more interest to those of us in the northern hemisphere, is pointing as far as possible from the sun, so that the sun is never visible from points north of the Arctic circle.

In Fairbanks the sun will rise. It will poke its upper edge above the horizon, 25° east of south, at 10:58 in the morning, and will set at 2:40 this afternoon, 25° west of south. At its highest, at 12:49 pm, its center will be a mere 2°, four times its own diameter, above the horizon.

But from now on the days will be getting longer.

(This was last year, when it was clear on the solstice. I’m pretty sure it was taken out of an office window at the Geophysical Institute, probably from right next to my old office, if not from it. The slight jaggedness on the horizon is the Alaska Range, seventy to a hundred fifty miles away. The mist is ice fog in the Tanana Valley — the temperature last year when this was taken was between -38° F and – 45° F.)

Year 9, Day 34

I don’t know why I even spent time wondering whether I should tell the People about the northern hunters. I’d asked Little Gnu about the spear tips.  I had Rainbow trying to tan fur and make me warm clothing. And I unthinkingly assumed that only those two knew?

I might as well have stood up at the most populated part of the Gather and announced everything I knew or had surmised about the hunters. It probably would have taken longer for word to get around. Everyone seemed to arrive knowing of my explorations. They may call themselves the People, but I have to say the Gossipers would be a better name!

Granted, it was fresh news to most of them, and the salt pebbles and stories of the salt lake were of far more interest than the northern hunters. The exception, of course, was Songbird, who was rather obviously pregnant again. The soft-tanned furs and my tales of skiing the mountain snowfields fascinated her.

“If you took me to watch the women preparing furs, I might be able to learn by watching them,” she said hopefully.

I looked at her protruding belly. “I can teleport you, yes,” I said. “But right now there are two of you, and I cannot teleport both of you together.” I wasn’t really sure, but I did not want to take the risk. “Besides, the season for the best furs is past. It is getting warmer, and the fur animals are beginning to shed their winter coats.”

“Winter coats?”

“Here we have rainy and dry seasons. In the far north, they have warm and cold seasons. In the cold seasons, the animals grow thick coats. When it becomes warm, they shed them. Right now there is shed hair caught on every twig. The skins would not make good furs.”

She thought a minute or so. “My child will be born soon, probably before we leave. How soon will it be cold again there?”

“The cycle of seasons – warm to cold to warm again – takes about as long as the time from gather to gather. So it will always be warming up there at the time of a gather here.”

She frowned and thought a little. “So the furs would be getting thick again when the new baby has teeth?  But before it can walk?”

I was stunned. The People simply did not think ahead that far. At least, the men did not.

Songbird looked at my face and giggled. “I am a woman,” she informed me loftily. “We must think ahead, for our children. So can you take me to see the snow and these northern hunters when I begin to chew food for my baby? I know you can find me.”

I sighed and gave in. “Yes. But remember we must stay hidden. They do not know of my existence, and I do not want them to find out.”

What have I gotten myself into now?

Jarn’s Journal was supposedly written by a human-like alien stranded in Africa some 125,000 years ago. This is part of the very early back story of the universe in which I have set my science fiction. Jarn’s Journal to date is on my author site.