Monday, May 27, 2013

Conquest 2013

On our way home from Florida, Hubby and I paused in Kansas City to attend Conquest. Hubby would participate in 3 panels. I also had 3 panels, plus I had a time set aside for a reading and autograph session!

I didn't do as well with those panels as I'd hoped I would. I thought I was ready, but my shyness asserted itself; I gave short answers, I didn't insert my 2 cents if it meant interrupting, and on one panel in particular, I found myself unable to invent wild tales at a second's notice. Yes, I'm a writer, and I do spin wild tales, but they don't come to me at the snap of a finger.

As a panelist, I need to 'grow', but at least I didn't completely freeze, so that's a point in my favor.

I didn't get to any of the parties on Friday night, so I made an effort to make the rounds on Saturday night. I didn't expect to be the life of any party, I just wanted to find a drink (soda) and join in a little conversation with - well, anybody. And then move on to another party/conversation. Dip my toe in, you might say, rather than hide in my room. My introverted self kept me from spending more than a few minutes in any one party, so it didn't take me long before I got to scurry back to my room. And I survived! So next con, I'll work on spending a few more minutes at the parties.

My reading was scheduled for 10 AM on Sunday. What few people were up that early chose to attend a different panel, so the only ones there were me, Hubby and the other author sharing that time slot. I did do my reading, for the practice, and Hubby gave me some pointers later. When Dennis did his reading, I realized I had read at least one of his books, probably two of them, possibly as many as three! So that was a nice discovery! And I knew better than to be upset by the poor turn-out. I was happy to be ON the schedule, happy for the opportunity to practice.

All in all, Conquest was a good experience for an author taking her first few steps to market herself and her work.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


Yesterday, my husband and I visited the Orlando Science Center. We'd heard they had a NASA person coming in to give a talk on Curiosity, their latest probe on Mars. Since we both had expected there to be at least one space station, a moon base and a Martian colony by now, we are always eager to hear if we're getting any closer to that.
The talk started with a few questions from the audience as the rest of the audience filed into the auditorium. One guy asked if it was true NASA had recently launched from some old base in Maryland, and young Samantha, the rocket scientist who had been with NASA for 2 years, said, yes that was true. Then the guy asked if Maryland was a better location for launches than Florida. No, she returned, Florida was the better location for an equatorial orbit like the ones they want. Then why launch from Maryland at all? Sam, flustered, turned to her older cohort, Rich, who promptly answered, "Because some Congressman told us to."
He went on to explain that this unnamed Congressman thought it would be a good idea for NASA to make some launches from his district, and because he thought that, they had to rebuild launch pads, construct a clean room and several other buildings, and finally, make a launch. Billions of dollars used for that effort that some people feel could have been used in better ways. My first thought was that it was no wonder NASA was 'behind', if they had to stop and fulfill every Congressman's egotistical whim.
They touched on the International Space station, roughly the size of a football field, counting all the solar panels, but the living space for the crew of 6 is about the size of the interior cabin of a 747. The ISS is expected to be decommissioned by 2020, did you know that? Well, the US expects to do that, but the Russians think it should be left there. The Russians tend to keep using what they have until it can't be kept in one piece any more.
There was a lot of information in that one-hour talk. Next week, I'll try to remember enough to talk about the Kepler telescope and the Curiosity robot on Mars.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Rose by Any Other Name...

We’re all aware that language evolves, right?
Somewhere in school - probably in an English class - the teacher gave us a glimpse at that evolution. Language in Europe and Asia started from an unknown Indo-European language that split into other languages, including Germanic and Latin. Latin developed into French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. That was all we heard about the ‘Romance Languages’.
That teacher spent much more time on the Germanic tongue. I remember she mentioned High German and Low German, though I don’t remember what the difference was. As I remember it, the Low German used in the British Isles became Old English, then Middle English, and eventually, something that resembled the English we speak today. To emphasize how much the English language had changed, she had us students read The Canterbury Tales - in the original (Old? Middle? I don’t remember).
It seemed hopeless, but I tried. If I was lucky, I might have seen 1 word out of 10 that possibly bore some semblance to a modern word, although the meaning had probably changed. Our ‘reading’ of the Tales was more of her translating to us.
This past week, I read an article that asserted that at least 23 words had traveled down through the various versions of language relatively unchanged for the past 15,000 years. I read the article twice to be sure I understood what they were saying: A core vocabulary has remained fairly unchanged from the original Indo-European, and sound remarkably similar in the various regional languages in that area today.
This list includes thou (you), I, not, that, we, who, man, mother, and hand. These are words that would have been used all the time, no matter what time period a person lived in. But as cave-dwellers became farmers, they would have needed new words to describe the soil, the plants and what they were doing with them. And so on until man’s vocabulary became full of ebooks, cyberspace and so on.
A few words that appeared on this basic vocabulary list did surprise the researchers, and one was bark (of a tree). It’s not a word we use incredibly often today, and those not constantly used are the ones that change. Anthropologists explained that 10-15,000 years ago, tree bark would have been extremely important; people would have talked about it all the time.
So, words change over time. It makes me wonder what a rose would have been called way back when. Maybe some sound combination that roughly translates into “pretty thing that stings”?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Outer Goldilocks Planet

Last week I took a more detailed look at Kepler-62-e, one of two Goldilocks planets discovered recently. Today I'll give a few thoughts to its sibling, Kepler-62-f, which is a little further from their star.
The article said 62-f might have a climate rather like Alaska. Again, I'm going to assume that means the temperate zone. And Alaska stretches from 51 to 71° North. The middle, then, is 61°, and if we move that down to 45° (the midpoint between the equator and north pole), we are moving 16°.
If you remember from last week, Barrow AK sits at 71° North, so moving its climate 16° south would put it at 55°. This would mean the Alaskan panhandle, northern Ireland and the middle of Scotland/England would have 8 months of temperatures below freezing, and its warmest month would have an average temperature of 47. Brrr!
The climate at the equator of this outer planet could be approximately what Earth has at 16° north or south. Brasilia, Brazil, is at 15 3/4° south, so I looked at its climate. The average temperature is about 69°F. The record low has been 32°F, and the record high has been 99°F.
So that sounds intriguing, doesn't it? Nicely temperate around the middle. I'm thinking, though, that it could be pretty snow/ice bound around the poles, and extending about 1/3 of the way to the equator.
The article did not offer any guesses about the ratio of water surface to land surface, and that ratio could definitely influence the climate. We could imagine whatever ratio we would like. If it's a pretty dry planet, there wouldn't be enough water to moderate the temperatures, so the cold temperatures might migrate even closer to the equator. On the other hand, with so little water available, the 'polar caps' might be only designated by temperature, or perhaps a dusting of snow, rather than the vast ice fields that Earth has.
It's a nearly-blank slate, then. We have a little sense of what the climate might be like, the rest of the details are left for us to imagine. I can work with that.