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What point at the top of the atmosphere gets the most solar radiation on the day of the summer solstice?  Would you believe the North Pole?

Yes, that’s right. If the Earth’s pole of axial rotation were perpendicular to its orbital plane, the North Pole wouldn’t get any incoming radiation, and summer solstice would not even be defined. But with an axial tilt of only 23.5°, the pole still gets more radiation over 24 hours on the date of the summer solstice than any other point of the northern hemisphere on any date. Only the South Pole gets more, on the day of the winter solstice.

It doesn’t show up in temperature, first because much of the incoming solar radiation is scattered away during its long path through the atmosphere, and second because the ice and snow at the North Pole reflect much of the radiation back to space. (The second factor may be changing, and this is one of the reasons the Arctic is such a sensitive region.)

But suppose the axial tilt were 90°?

Uranus (Hubboe)

Uranus, as viewed by Hubble.

We do have one planet in our Solar System that approaches this: Uranus, with a tilt of 82.14°. But let’s stick with the Earth and assume it has a tilt of 90°. What would the seasons be like?

Summer solstice at the pole would be unbearable. Imagine the sun directly overhead at noon. Now stretch that noon out in time, so that the sun stays overhead for 24 hours. Hot? No place on Earth has that much incoming solar radiation today. Granted there would probably be clouds. In fact, there would probably be hurricane-like monsoonal storms unknown on our planet today. But it would still be hot.

By contrast, the South Pole would be in the middle of a six-month long night. It would have some stored heat left from the intense summer, probably enough to keep maritime climates above freezing. But it would still be dark except for the stars, the moon, and the southern lights.

The equator? At summer solstice, the equator would be pretty chilly. The sun would never rise or set, but just appear to sit at the northern horizon. As time moves toward the autumnal equinox, the sun gradually begins to rise in the north-northeast at 6 am, ride to its maximum height in the northern sky, and then set in the north-northwest at 6 pm. By the equinox, the sun would rise in the east, rise to directly overhead and then set in the west. But at the north pole, the sun has been spiraling gradually down the sky from overhead, until it finally just glides along the horizon at both poles on the day of the equinox, which begins a 6-month night for the North Pole and a 6-month day at the South Pole.

What happens if you add up all of the incoming solar energy over the course of a year? Not too surprisingly, the poles are the winners, with the equatorial regions being relatively cool. Given that water is much better at storing heat than land, the oceans would be warmer at the poles than the equator. Land areas are far more likely to follow a strong annual cycle. High-latitude continental climates would have tremendous seasonal variation, while maritime climates would be much more uniform. Monsoons, which are driven by these land-sea differences, would be extreme. And equatorial climates, which on our earth are primarily wet or dry, would be intensely cold near the solstices and as warm as they get on the equinoxes.

I haven’t actually tried this as a science fiction world—I want my planets to be habitable! But I do have a planet with zero axial tilt—Eversummer—in Tourist Trap. To quote Marna, the planet’s name must have been picked out by a publicity agent!

Note that today is the midsummer blog hop, and you can enter the draw for prizes by commenting. The prize on this blog is a PDF of one of my books, Homecoming or Tourist Trap (your choice.) In addition, anyone who comments on this blog is eligible for the grand prize drawing: 1st Prize – winner’s choice of a Kindle Touch or a Nook Touch
2nd Prize – a library of science fiction romance titles donated by various authors and an Anabanana Gift Card. Most of the books will be in digital format, with one print anthology.

No more than one comment on a single blog will count, but you can comment on multiple blogs to improve your chances.

Kathy Collier-Miehl tagged me for the Fourth Writer’s Campaign Lucky 7 meme. The Rules are:

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines – sentences or paragraphs – and post them as they’re written. No cheating
4. Tag 7 authors
5. Let them know

I’m not going to do numbers 4 and 5, because I understand how exponentials work and I’m not sure there’s anyone left who hasn’t been tagged. If you haven’t been and want to do this, consider yourself tagged. And I have a little problem with 1, because my files are by chapters, with no consecutive multi-chapter page numbering. So I went to line 7 of page 7 of chapter 7 instead. (Which leads me to wonder what one does if one’s WIP is less than 77 pages long.)

I interpreted the start as the paragraph in which the 7th line fell, and then copied that and the following 6 paragraphs. The WIP in question is science fiction, with a working title of Rescue Operation.

Well, the horses hadn’t been that dirty to start with.  Each had free access to a generous grassy paddock, and a daily session with the autogroomer.  Their stalls and paddocks were likewise kept clean by robot extensions of the Big’Un.  The dirt Rabbit had managed to accumulate, however, was mostly now on Crys, who was continuing to brush as high as she could reach on the mare’s hindquarters.

“Is she clean enough?” the child asked, turning as she heard Dusk’s hoofbeats.  “I couldn’t quite reach the middle of her back.”

“Clean enough to ride,” Roi chuckled, and gave Dusk a firm mental order to stand still.  “Here, hold Dusk for me a minute, will you, while I get a saddle on Rabbit?  Dusk needs to be cooler before I put him up, and you might as well ride along while I’m getting him walked dry.”

The sheer bliss on Crys’s dirt-smudged face told him that he was finally getting to understand her.  I think, he thought at Emeraude, that you’ve just lost your horse.


“You really don’t mind?” Roi asked that evening, watching Emeraude brush her hair before bed.

“Of course not.  I like being with you, and you like company when you ride.  I’m not all that fond of horses and riding, but I know you are.  If Crystal is, wonderful.  With a little practice, and you contacting Rabbit’s mind, she’ll probably keep up with you better than I do.  You need children, Roi.  She’s already done a lot to relax you.  I don’t know why the Genetics Board doesn’t want you to foster R’il’noids that need parenting any more.”

“They figure I’m too busy trying to run the Confederation.  Young R’il’noids take a lot of attention.”  Roi lay back on Emeraude’s bed, letting his eyes roam over the rather spare room.  Like his other two wives, Audi had her own building, opening off the series of jump-gated rooms loosely called the corridor system.  As a general rule she preferred Roi’s oversized bedroom to her own, and she’d put most of her energies here into facilities for her sociological research.  The bedroom was adequate for sleeping and had a bed large enough for two, but that was about all.

Three years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

There is nothing like cancer to make you realize that your time on Earth is limited, especially if you’re in your late 60’s to start with. If I wanted anyone to read the five novels I’d written, I had to do something. I went to a round table discussion on publishing shortly after I finished radiation therapy, and for the first time heard of assisted self-publishing. This sounded do-able, and I wrote down two names: Lulu and iUniverse.

I checked their web sites and decided to try the first book with iUniverse, which offered an editorial evaluation as part of the package. I had it edited by Carla Helfferich, who’d edited much of my popular science, and sent it off. The result, with Editor’s Choice right from the start, was my first published book, Homecoming. I submitted it to several contests, of which only Reader Views offered an online book review as the first step in judging. The review was published, and the book won 2nd place in science fiction. Further, it was evident from the review that the reviewer had really read and fully evaluated the book.

Tourist Trap, which Carla thought was the better book of the two, did not fare as well with the editorial review at iUniverse. I think the problem was that I did not use a standard science fiction plot arc. My protagonist leaned a few things about himself, rather than getting himself out of an impossible situation without help. The iUniverse editor wanted me to drop the last two chapters and have the protagonist get himself out of trouble, which would have completely ruined what I saw as the main point of the book.

With Carla’s backing, I went ahead without Editor’s Choice. This has meant among other things that bookstores did not get discounts or returnability, which has certainly hurt sales. (I think that, at least, has been fixed.) Partly because of this I entered Tourist Trap in only one contest, Reader Views, as that way I would at least get another unbiased review.

I hoped to get another placing in science fiction.

I know I had that March 1, when they announced the finalists.

On March 7 the winners were announced, and I was pleased to find Tourist Trap took 1st place in science fiction. Then I found a later e-mail, and discovered that Tourist Trap had won the Garcia Award for the Best Fiction Book of the Year. What? Science fiction books don’t do that! But when I checked the winners list again, there at the end of the post were the special awards, and Tourist Trap had won a $1000 value publicity package from Maryglenn McCombs Book Publicity.

Tourist Trap is a book about a young man’s coming of age as well as a science fiction adventure, and that young man already knows he will face an awesome responsibility as an adult. He must learn the difference between justice and revenge, and recognize that he himself may be destroyed by his own choices. But it’s also a book about a group of teenagers traveling through a world populated by the animals we lost at the end of the ice age—mammoths and sabertooth cats, to name a couple. The travelers don’t even realize—until it’s almost too late—that they are the intended victims of a murder plot. To quote from the review: “Tourist Trap” is a great read for anyone that wants motivation and feeling to accompany the action in their sci-fi adventure. Alien beings and super powers are an integral part of Roi’s story but what makes this novel really shine is the heart. Nobody is good or evil just because that’s their assigned role. Just like in real life, everyone has their own motivations and desires, and Bowling does a great job of letting the reader see what it would be like to walk in the shoes of Roi, Xazhar, and even madman Zhaim.

Sometimes it pays to stay with your own feeling about what’s right with a book.

The sun rose at 7:27 am and will set at 8:27 for 13 hours of daylight. What’s more, the air flow has shifted from northerly, off the frozen Arctic Ocean, to southwest, off the Pacific and Bering, and it’s warmed up almost to freezing. The noon sun is high—almost 28° above the horizon—and sunglasses are a necessity outdoors. Highs next week are predicted to be near or actually above freezing, so I hope we can forget 40 below for the rest of this winter.

The clean snow still shows no sign of melting, but where it is dirty, the sun is eating a honeycomb structure into any south-facing slopes. Luckily the main roads are bare, and the plows have scraped back the berms along the sides enough that what little meltwater there is does not run across the road. There is still white ice at intersections, and the roads were really slick yesterday wherever the pavement had residual ice and snow.

The engineering students at the university build an ice arch every year. After over 40 years up here, I have to say I’m not too impressed with this year’s effort.  But it’s another sign of spring.

(P.S. March 27–all but the anchored corner of the snow festoon collapsed yesterday afternoon.)

#WriteMotivation. My goals for March were:

1. Learn to use at least one legal method of getting images other than photos I’ve taken on my blog. (I’d love to have some shots of Africa on Jarn’s Journal, for instance.) I’ve found 2, not counting using photos from a friend.

2. Continue to blog at least 5 days a week. (I’m doing 7 now, but I’ve signed up for a number of adult classes in March.) March 30 and 31 are the only two days I don’t have a blog either published or scheduled, and I know what I’ll be writing for those.

3. Edit Chs 2 and 9 of my WIP to give more showing, less telling. Done! I finally got to Chapter 9 yesterday morning.

4. Participate in at least one Platform-building challenge–hesitate to commit for more without knowing what they are. The first one’s supposed to be out today.

I did both.

Now if I can just get my taxes done…

Ice bird carving in front of the hospital lab.

The sun rose at 7:43 this morning and will set at 6:22 for 10 hours 39 minutes of daylight. Spring may not be here officially, but sun on snow was almost too bright to look at Sunday. My snow stake agrees with the official snow depth: 20”. That’s actually not too bad for this time of year; not so much that it will take forever to melt, but enough to insulate the ground from getting any colder. Regretfully, I’ll be back to “sun will rise” next week—this post goes live at 8 am my time, and daylight savings will once again put sunrise before I get up. Only for the one week, though. We’re gaining 6 min 45 sec a day, and by March 19 I’ll again be getting up after sunrise.

It’s been on the cold side—temperatures above zero in the middle of the day but well below zero at night. No sign of melting yet, and I’m going to try to photograph the ice sculptures before they start thawing this year. (Watch for tomorrow’s post.) They are, however, beginning to accumulate snow. Never very much at a time, but we seem to get a fraction of an inch a day rather often this year.

The commonest real birds this time of year.

I ordered my bean and squash seeds yesterday. Rocdor (yellow) and Gina (Italian type), both of which I know do well up here, and are actually earlier than the regular green beans, are my bean varieties of choice; Gold Rush and Contender for zucchini. I enjoy visiting the local greenhouses too much to order seeds for herbs and flowers I know will be available as starts locally. Besides, I try to avoid pesticides indoors, and my seedlings almost always get bugs if I try to grow too many.


My goals for March were:

1. Learn to use at least one legal method of getting images other than photos I’ve taken on my blog. (I’d love to have some shots of Africa on Jarn’s Journal, for instance.) Progress? Mostly looking up creative commons on Google, and finding a few pictures I’d like to use. I’ve also talked to a friend about using some of his African photos.

2. Continue to blog at least 5 days a week. (I’m doing 7 now, but I’ve signed up for a number of adult classes in March.) Progress? So far I’ve blogged every day and have posts lined up for 10 of the remaining 26 days.

3. Edit Chs 2 and 9 of my WIP to give more showing, less telling. Progress? I think I have Ch 2 done.

4. Participate in at least one Platform-building challenge–hesitate to commit for more without knowing what they are. Progress? I accepted the first Campaign Challenge and posted the result. Not sure if achieving this goal in February counts, though.

And I received notice that my second novel, Tourist Trap, is a finalist in the Reader Views Literary Awards contest! So I’m on track, at least.

Well, I’ve had a couple of good days. First was the email Thursday that Tourist Trap was a finalist in the Reader Views Literary Awards. Yes, that’s the same one Homecoming received last year.

Then I got a phone call from the clinic saying the box of replacement sets had arrived, and I picked them up Friday, thus ending a very nervous couple of weeks.

Replacement sets?

The other end of that plastic cord feeds into me.

I use an insulin pump. It’s about the size of a small stack of business cards, and it normally lives in my pocket. It contains a reservoir of insulin, which theoretically should be changed every three days. (I normally average about six, because that’s how long a full reservoir lasts me, and I have yet to see any drop in effectiveness after six days at body temperature.) The pump gradually pushes that insulin out very fine tubing a couple of feet long to a set, which is fastened to my body by a piece of adhesive and has a fine Teflon cannula piercing my skin and delivering insulin into the subcutaneous tissue. The set has a needle which is used to insert the cannula under the skin, and is then removed. The set has to be changed every three days – any longer than that in the skin, and scar tissue starts to build up and insulin no longer gets through. These sets are not reusable; in fact they become medical waste.

I’m lucky to have very good supplemental insurance as well as Medicare, and every 3 months I get shipped 30 sets. A couple of weeks ago the shipping company called me to check how many sets I had.

“Two. When are you going to ship them?”

“We did, a couple of weeks ago.”

I have them ship to my doctor’s office, because in my experience mail order pharmacies never adequately package temperature-sensitive medications being shipped to regions where 40-below temperatures are common, and in some shipments I get continuous glucose sensors which must not be frozen. So I called the clinic, which usually calls me when a package arrives for me.

They couldn’t find the box.

By that time the pharmacy was closed, so when I called back the next morning I got the details of the shipment. They insisted it had been signed for at the clinic and gave me the exact time and date of delivery.

I called the clinic back. I think it took about a day before they finally said that yes, they had received the box. The person who signed for it remembered it. So did several staff members. But they couldn’t find it, and they’d looked everywhere. They said they’d call the mail-order pharmacy back and pay for a replacement shipment. (This is stuff no local pharmacy carries.)

The mail order pharmacy said that Medicare rules did not allow them to send out a replacement shipment – never mind that it was the clinic, not me, that verified I had never received the sets that are essential to my life, or that the clinic was willing to pay for the replacement shipment.

The clinic combed the offices of the doctors that treat diabetes, and managed to come up with a few sets to tide me over. They also called the pump (and set) manufacturer. The manufacturer FedExed me a few more sets. Finally, Thursday, the clinic called and said they had the sets from the manufacturer, and I picked them up yesterday.

I realize that Medicare does have a huge fraud problem. But in this case the clinic was offering to pay for the lost shipment, so what kind of fraud did they think was involved? It’s not as if the sets were valuable to anyone else, but they are life or death to me.

Header image and thumbnail photograph by Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The sun will rise this morning at 8:08 am and set at 6:00 this afternoon for 9 hours 52 minutes of daylight. The sun even shines on the floor sometimes! We’ve had several days of light snow – scattered flakes falling vertically from a barely cloudy sky – but less than 3” total. My driveway does have a little buildup over the plowed surface, but the main thing I notice is the berm where the road was plowed. By next week I’ll be able to say that the sun rose instead of will rise, as this post goes live at 8 am. It feels like spring, though the temperatures are supposed to go right back down.

The snow festoon tore loose completely sometime Tuesday. Once that tear opened I guess it was just a matter of time.

I can now go to afternoon events; in fact I went to the symphony yesterday. I got to hear Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture and triple concerto, and Brahms’ Tragic overture. But I could only stay for the first 10 minutes of Brahms’ concerto for violin and cello — the program started at 4 pm and in order to get home before dark I had to leave at 5:45. It was a nice change to have the sun shining on the campus during intermission. The temperature was close to freezing, and the roads were fiendishly slippery. Luckily after 48 years in Alaska a feather touch on both brake and accelerator is automatic.

This week OLLI classes start, so I’ll be busy with classes 4 days a week, Platform-building Campaign, and WriteMotivation. I’ve already achieved one of my March goals: the first Campaign challenge was a prompt to write a piece of flash fiction. I posted mine last Thursday. Next Challenge is supposed to be out March 5. I still haven’t figured out what the pictorial clue is supposed to represent, but it’s supposed to be harder. Wish me luck!

11 Question Tag

I was tagged by Anna Mittower of Writer’s Nook to answer 11 questions, make up 11 more questions of my own and ask them of 11 other people. Well, I’ll do the first two, but instead of passing it on I’ll simply say that any one who reads this is encouraged to answer my questions. Especially if you haven’t been tagged yet.

Why? Because I’m mathematician enough to know how a chain letter, a Ponzi scheme, population growth or any other exponential works! Suppose everyone tagged did indeed tag 11 others. The first round, there’d be 11 new people. The next, 121. Then 1,331, 14,641, and by the 5th round, 161,051. By the 8th reiteration you’d hit 214,358,881 people: over 2/3 of the population of the United States. By the 10th, you’d vastly exceed the population of the Earth. So, on to the questions.

1. What country is the home of the majority of authors you read? USA, with England and Ireland pretty well tied for second.

2. An otaku is someone who’s obsessed with something (not necessarily anime/manga). What kind of otaku are you? Uh—are we speaking English? I’m totally lost on this one.

3. Ebooks vs. Paper: which do you like better? I like paper as I tend to flip pages as I read. But e-books certainly store easier, and are nice for travel and waiting rooms. I worry a little about whether the readers will still be around in 10 or 20 years, but at my age that probably isn’t very important.

4. Do you have a sweet tooth or are you a salty dog? Sweet! Which doesn’t fit well with my diabetes.

5. Would you ever dress up as a favorite character? If so, which one? I’m not much into dressing up, period. But I once went to a Halloween party as the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. In fact, I remade the costume for a party at the stable where I boarded my horse and did it on horseback.

6. What upcoming movie are you most looking forward to? The Hobbit.

7. “Cats rule, dogs drool.” Do you agree or disagree? I prefer “Dogs have families, cats have staff.” And not all dogs drool. My Shelties didn’t. (Though I have to admit they did shed.)

8. What fictional world do you spend the most time in? My own Jarnian Confederation. I’ve been building it for over 50 years.

9. You are given a $1000 gift card to the store of your choice. Which store would you pick and what would you buy? Probably the Apple Store. I don’t really want to upgrade any of my computers (new systems invariably cause all kinds of problems) but I might be forced to, and if so a little extra toward the computer of my choice wouldn’t be amiss.

10. Who or what encouraged you to pursue your current career? Current career is retired! My father certainly encouraged my going into physics, and geophysics was the part of physics that took my interest. Retiring a year early was due mostly to health issues. And the geophysics certainly goes into my planet building.

11. If you could build your own house, what room has to be included and have the most money/care spent on it? At this point in my life I’m trying to cut down, but when I had some remodeling done on this house I added the plant room (timed fluorescents, windows on three sides.) The most practical would be a large storage room/pantry.

Now, my questions:

1. What was the first computer/operating system you owned?

2. Do you write by hand, on a typewriter, or on a computer?

3. What species was your first pet?

4. Is there a writer whose new books you grab when they appear? Who?

5. What is your favorite television show?

6. What’s #1 on the list of things you’d like to do before you die?

7. What health problem do you most hope you never get?

8. What is the first movie you remember seeing?

9. Who do you write for?

10. Who of your characters have you piled the most trouble on?

11. What was the first thing you remember writing?

Have fun thinking of answers!

Shadows crept across the wall.

Richard didn’t see them, at first. He was too sunk in the stark reality of the agricultural reports before him, too chilled in a building built for solar heating.

He buried his face in his hands. Who knew for certain how it had started? A volcano, atomic bombs, a meteorite strike? All had been discussed, but it was impossible to tell rumor from truth. Even the reports, with their sentence of mass starvation, were late and scanty.

All he was sure of was that the sun was gone, hidden behind a pall of dark clouds, and he wasn’t even sure whether those clouds were ash, smoke or water. That, and the fact that without the sun, no crops could be grown.

He threw his head back and opened his eyes, looking upward in some half-remembered impulse toward prayer. His vision started to sweep past the shadows, stopped. Shadows?

The image of tree branches?

Scarcely daring to hope he turned to look at the window, uncovered to let in what little light remained, and saw the sun. Feeble, to be sure, but there, returning. Crops would grow again.

His eyes filled with tears, and everything faded.

Platform-Building Challenge #1 is the following:

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “Shadows crept across the wall”. These five words will be included in the word count.
If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), do one or more of these:
end the story with the words: “everything faded.” (also included in the word count) Yes.
include the word “orange” in the story No.
write in the same genre you normally write Yes, science fiction.
make your story 200 words exactly! Yes, if I counted right.

To see the other entries in the first Challenge, click the logo above.

The sun will rise today at 8:33 and set at 5:37, for 8 hours 47 minutes of daylight. We’re gaining 6 minutes 49 seconds a day now, and the run rises over 14° above the horizon. On clear days like yesterday the sun is blindingly bright on the snow, and tracks are easy to see. Temperatures are actually a little warm for this time of year – lows around 5 to 10 below, highs in the teens and 20’s. Actually much better than a thaw that won’t last.

The hole in the snow festoon is unchanged. I have a feeling that most of the gradual movement of the snow occurs when the temperature is relatively warm. That’s certainly true of glacier ice, and it seems reasonable to expect it of the ice bridges holding the flakes together.

Yesterday morning I saw some quite unexpected tracks. A moose had wandered into the yard and perambulated around it. The end of one raised bed was pretty well cleared off – do moose like lavender and rosemary? I didn’t actually pull either last fall.

It’s not weather, but I’ll be adding to the weather reports for the next month. I’ve signed up for WriteMotivation for March. The Challenges are:

1. Make a list of realistic goals for the month – and achieve them.

2. Make a Blog Post every week (preferably Monday, but if you don’t post on Mondays just add it to the next day you would normally post ). This is to help us keep tabs on our own progress, and for others to cheer us on if it’s a difficult week. Please link to the post in the #writemotivation hashtag

3. Visit your #writemotivation team mates blogs, and participate in the #writemotivation hashtag to cheer people on

My goals?

1. Learn to use at least one legal method of getting images other than photos I’ve taken on my blog. (I’d love to have some shots of Africa on Jarn’s Journal, for instance.)

2. Continue to blog at least 5 days a week. (I’m doing 7 now, but I’ve signed up for a number of adult classes in March.)

3. Edit Chs 2 and 9 of my WIP to give more showing, less telling. (Ch 2 has been on Six Sentence Sunday; Ch 9 is the next section from Tod’s POV.)

4. Participate in at least one Platform-building challenge — I hesitate to commit for more without knowing what they are. The first one’s out today. Wish me luck!