Archive for January, 2014


Year 9 Day 201

I still don’t know whether this is a very large island or part of the northern continent, but is very mountainous and very large. Large enough to support large predators, and large enough that at I am fairly sure it extends north of the Arctic Circle. There is no sign of an ice cap yet, though.

I have been following the western coastline, which is forested and cut by deep fjords. It is getting quite cold at night, and the deciduous trees are starting to change color. I am glad that I traded for furs as I did, and that Rainbow was able to make them into warm clothing – I need it here. In fact, I have reached the point when I envy some of the predators their coats. Especially the large one I saw today.

It had the teeth of a carnivore, but it was stuffing itself on dried berries. Luckily I can levitate, because when I inadvertently disturbed it in its feeding, I thought for a moment it was going to attack me in spite of the warnoff. Once I was out of its reach the warnoff took effect, and it went back to feeding. But the northern hunters must regard this animal as their greatest enemy.

I didn’t try to trade for the larger skins, though now I have a better idea of their origin. If I had one, I could wrap up in it at night, and study the nightlife around me. On the equatorial continent many of the animals, especially the predators, are most active at night. I really ought to check here.

Perhaps a number of the smaller furs, sewn together, would make a robe to keep me from freezing at night. If not, I will have to postpone my further explorations until next year.

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Quotes from Mercedes Lackey

cover, Sleeping BeautyThese are the contexts of the quotes tweeted from @sueannbowling from January 23 through January 29, 2014. The first six are from The Sleeping Beauty by Mercedes Lackey.

“It was nothing more than a lot of village politics, just on a bigger scale.” What Celeste has taught her daughter about inter-Kingdom politics.

“I can help simply by being calm while others are throwing their hands in the air and bleating.” Part of Seigfried’s reason for staying for the Challenges for the Princess’s hand

“A busy man does not have leisure to make trouble.” One reason Siegfried does not like cities.

“A good sound sleep is worth more than anything to a fighter than a full meal.” Siegfried to Leopold, admitting that a secure bed in an inn is worth something. A good fighter (or any kind of athlete) needs rest and food.

“If you are not a leader, no one is shooting at you.” Siegfried to Leopold on the first contest, a race (rather an unusual one) with a time limit which is basically an elimination bout. They are safer just trying to beat the time limit rather than trying to come in first.

“Just because my people are sometimes dim, it does not follow that they are not cunning and treacherous.” Siegfried to Leopold, pointing out that he knows something about dirty tricks.

“A completely paralyzed slave was useless.” Homecoming, by Sue Ann Bowling. Snowy, a slave who finds himself paralyzed after an illness, is trying to understand why he is still alive.

AZ 2014 logoWell, I signed up for the A to Z blog challenge again.

Not the way I did it last year! As those who follow this blog know, I have four regularly scheduled posts a week: snippets from my books on Sunday, Alaska weather on Monday, contexts of quotations from books on Wednesday, and Jarn’s Journal (part of the background story of the universe in which I set most of my science fiction) on Friday. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday have posts if I have something to say. Last year I kept those up in addition to 6 posts a week on letters of the alphabet.

Ten posts a week? Too much for me and I suspect too much for many followers, not to mention the cross indexing of the posts needed.

This year I’m doing things a little differently. The four scheduled posts a week will continue, but each one will incorporate the letter of the alphabet assigned to that day. On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday I’ll post something that interests me that starts with the letter of the day. Meteorology, science in general, and writing will be dominant, but I don’t promise not to break out of that framework completely.

A second change, which I will implement fairly soon, involves the time of day that the posts go live. Aside from Sunday, I have been scheduling posts to go live at 8 am Alaska Time. The problem with this is that Alaska time is so far west – 9 hours after UT. 8 am here is noon on the East coast, and the next day in much of the Eastern Hemisphere. Since A to Z is a global blog challenge, this means that many people will find only the blog for the previous day. So I am going to start scheduling blogs for 00 Alaska time (4 am Eastern, and 0900 UT aside from the daylight time shift.) I will try to implement this change in February.

If you’re interested in the A to Z blog, it opened for sign-up Monday. You can reach the website by clicking on the logo above (new window) or the one in the sidebar (I haven’t yet figured out how to set up a sidebar image to open a new window in WordPress. Suggestions are welcome if you know how!)

Sunrise 1-25-14The days are getting longer – 6 hours and 25 minutes today. Sunrise this morning will be 9:52 in the morning, and it won’t set until 4:17 this afternoon. Add to that that it’s high enough in the sky (7° now) that only clouds prevent sunshine on my walls. That doesn’t mean that we expect warm weather – the average temperature here at the end of January is the coldest of the year. Usually.

Would you believe our high temperatures hit freezing last Tuesday and they’ve been at or above freezing every day through Friday? when the official high only reached +30°F? That it actually rained Thursday (practically closing down the Fairbanks area) and reached 45°F Friday? It hit 30 (officially) on Saturday, Sunday a truck on the highway was spraying water on my windshield, and we could reach above-freezing temperatures again today.

The jet stream is still the culprit both for our warmth (it’s blowing from Hawaii to the north over Alaska, locally known as the pineapple express) and for the cold as it turns south from the Arctic Ocean over the central and eastern states.

The air aloft here is actually much warmer than the surface temperatures would suggest. In windy areas such as McKinley Park and Delta, the temperatures are in the 40’s. Here it is cold at the surface due to radiation to space, and the winds are confined to higher elevation. This also means very poor mixing of pollutants. Have a look at the video* at around 14 minutes. That freezing level map implies a really warm bubble of air over our heads. (In case you’re wondering, I’m just south of the comma in the 8,000 feet near the border with Canada.)

*The video of the Sunday night weather program finally was posted around noon.

Meanwhile, here’s the map of freezing level heights.The red lines, showing the height of the top of freezing air, are normally entirely south of mainland Alaska this time of year.

Freezing level 1-27014

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It’s Sunday again, and time for Weekend Writing Warriors (click the logo above) and Snippet Sunday (click the logo below.)I’m posting again from Tourist Trap, and this excerpt follows immediately after last week’s. Roi is trying to work out what is wrong with the compensation circuit on his hang glider, while in midair just after diving off a cliff. A very high cliff.

A sideslip would be compensated for by lengthening the flight cable to the inside wing, changing both weight distribution and dihedral. There were other, more subtle changes in wing shape and angles, but the direction of change in cable length was fundamental to compensation.

When his glider had started to sideslip, the left wing cable had been in Roi’s field of view, and he was sure he had seen in shorten.

Very carefully, he pulled back on the control bar, bringing the glider’s nose down and increasing speed. He was watching for the nose cable to lengthen, and when he saw it shorten instead he immediately pushed out, bringing the glider back to level flight.

The glider’s flight had been normal yesterday, but today the compensation circuit was somehow working backward, destabilizing the already inherently unstable wing instead of stabilizing it. He couldn’t imagine how that could happen, other than deliberate sabotage, and in that case the sooner he bailed out the better. He moved a hand to the emergency chute on his chest, and felt a sudden unease.

In Roi’s universe, hunches are an untrained, empathy-driven form of the esper ability of conditional precognition. Listen to that unease, Roi!

Tourist Trap is available from Barnes and Noble, iUniverse and Amazon, though the Amazon Kindle price is out of line with the other two e-book prices. The blurb:

A vacation with his three best friends from slavery and a manhood challenge: Roi is given the graduation present he has dreamed of. Dogsledding, hang gliding, a chance to see Pleistocene animals transplanted to a Terraformed vacation world, horseback riding, sailing … all the sports he has returned to with his recovery from paralysis, and a few new ones to learn.

They’re prepared for danger from weather, wild animals and extreme sports. But none of them realize that Roi’s half brother Zhaim, determined to recover his old position as Lai’s heir, intends to kill them if he can—and he’s decided that the dangers of the trip will make a perfect cover for his schemes.

How long will it take them to realize that the “accidents” they keep running into are more than just accidents?

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Year 9, day 195

If there’s a northern ice cap I haven’t found it yet, though I’ve seen a lot more of the northern continent.

I’d already observed that the northern shore of the tideless sea was very different from the southern one. I’ve come to the conclusion that the equatorial continent on which I landed is quite different from the northern one, and not just in latitude and climate.

The equatorial continent has a relatively smooth outline, at least on a large scale. Few islands or peninsulas, to start with. Then what mountains exist are mostly volcanic or associated with rifting and thermal uplift. This continent is spitting apart. I’m pretty sure at this point it is also crashing into the northern one, which helps explain all the mountains to the north.

The northern continent is very irregular in outline, with so many embayments and peninsulas I can hardly keep track of them. I haven’t mapped the whole coastline yet, or the islands offshore. But I’m now mapping the north shore of the continent, which is considerably closer to the pole than any part of the equatorial continent. My calculations indicate a latitude around 54°, rather low for an ice cap, though some of the higher mountains are glaciated year-round. But this morning I ran into a peninsula heading north, and when I followed it to the end, near sunset, there were more mountains to the north.

There is an arm of salt water to cross, though it seems less salty than most of the ocean. But I think I’ll fly north to this new land tomorrow.

Jarn’s Journal is part of the back story of the Jarnian Confederation, in which my science fiction is set. The Journal to date is on my author site.

Warm Weather in Alaska

It was so warm today that the airport was closed down because of rain: warm air aloft producing water on top of white ice made it too slippery for planes. It’s supposed to be above freeing tomorrow.

For some of the rain we’re getting farther south, see 4:35; for the jet stream turning south over the U.S. see 15:44.

P.S. Friday morning in Fairbanks at 8:30 am (well before sunrise): Temperature well above freezing, Schools from kindergarten to University level closed. DOT begging motorists to stay off the roads if possible. Sled dog races cancelled or postponed. Weather this warm in winter in Alaska is a disaster!

Quotes from J.R.R. Tolkien

Map of the Misty Mountains, from the original English version of the book.

Map of the Misty Mountains, from the original English version of the book.

These are the contexts of the quotes tweeted from @sueannbowling between January 9 and January 15, 2014. All but the last are from The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien.

“Time does not tarry ever.” This and the two following quotes come from a conversation held by the company as they wait for daylight so they can portage around the rapids of Sarn Gebir. The first quote is from Legolas, denying that time actually stopped in Lorien.

“Beneath the sun all things must wear to an end at last.” Legolas.

“Time flows on to a spring of little hope.” Aragorn.

“I know what I should do, but I am afraid of doing it.” Frodo, when Boromir is trying to persuade him to turn aside to Minas Tirith from the direct route to Mordor.

“It is by our own folly that the Enemy will defeat us.” Part of Boromir’s argument to Frodo.

“Your legs are too short, so use your head!” Sam, realizing that there is no way he can keep up with Strider – but he knows Frodo better than anyone else in the party.

“What was wrong with her, that she had forgotten so completely the dangers of her home?” Homecoming, by Sue Ann Bowling. After two centuries on an isolation satellite, Marna has totally forgotten the fact that predators are dangerous – something some tourists seem never to learn.

P.S. it was +30° when I woke up this morning. Slippery roads!

AKUSThe sun will rise this morning at 10:12 and set almost 5 hours 40 minutes later at 3:52 this afternoon. Day length is increasing fast now, by more than 6 minutes a day, and by the end of the week we’ll be past 6 hours with the sun above the horizon. Not very far above it. We’ll make 5.3° at solar noon today (1:02 pm local time) but the sun’ s getting higher by about a fifth of a degree a day.

We seem to be having another of those winters with wide swings in temperature. Last weekend I stayed home to avoid 40 below temperatures. Two days ago I was worrying about freezing rain (slick roads.) Today’s highs are supposed to be in the 20’s (above) with decreasing clouds. But if you’re really interested, the weather forecast as of last night is below. (Remember how big Alaska is!) These YouTube videos of my favorite weather program are experimental; let me know how you like them.

The jet stream’s wandering, or more exactly it’s a high-amplitude pattern, with warm Pacific air traveling northward over central Alaska, then turning back south from the Arctic Ocean to slam into the central and eastern states. Polar vortex? There’s always a polar vortex, but it usually stays more or less over the Arctic Ocean, where it belongs.

P.S. The news just announced that the Kuskokwim 300 sled dog race (Southwest mainland) was so warm there was water on the river ice and bare tundra in places.

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Sunday’s the day for snippets from all kinds of authors. To find those posting on Weekend Writing Warriors, click the logo above; for snippet Sunday click the logo below.

I’ve picked 8 sentences from my second published book, Tourist Trap. This follows immediately after last week’s sentences.

Roi swallowed hard and took a couple of deep breaths. “I’m having control problems,” he said. “Stay clear.” His mind was working frantically, trying to make sense of what he thought he’d seen when he started the turn.

Designing a glider was a battle between maneuverability and stability.  Performance gliders like their Hangin’ Frees were so unstable in basic design as to be almost unflyable. Micro circuitry controlling cable lengths and fabric curvature made them manageable. If a glider nosed forward too steeply, for instance, the compensation circuit would lengthen the nose cables and warp upward the trailing edges of tail and sail, thus lifting the nose away from the dive.

What did Roi think he saw? Come back next week or buy the book.

Tourist Trap is available from Barnes and Noble or Amazon. The Blurb:

A vacation with his three best friends from slavery and a manhood challenge: Roi is given the graduation present he has dreamed of. Dogsledding, hang gliding, a chance to see Pleistocene animals transplanted to a Terraformed vacation world, horseback riding, sailing … all the sports he has returned to with his recovery from paralysis, and a few new ones to learn.

They’re prepared for danger from weather, wild animals and extreme sports. But none of them realize that Roi’s half brother Zhaim, determined to recover his old position as Lai’s heir, intends to kill them if he can—and he’s decided that the dangers of the trip will make a perfect cover for his schemes.

How long will it take them to realize that the “accidents” they keep running into are more than just accidents?

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