Thursday, July 30, 2015

Old Characters

Like real people, characters get old. Or should. If a book only covers a couple years of a character’s lifespan, then that isn’t a problem. But if the author is young, and they have an old-ish character, they seem to make one of two errors:
Either their older character is afflicted with every old-age problem known to man, and a few we don’t know about, or the older character only talks about being old, and otherwise is as energetic and healthy as any young character. An author needs to have experience and in this case, most young authors don’t know what ‘getting older’ feels like.
I am no longer young, although I reject the idea that I am old. Still, I am beginning to experience some of those ailments that creep into the bodies of ‘old people’.
Arthritis is frequently thought of as an old person affliction. Mine started as occasional sharp pains in a knee, sometime during my 30s, but it really started slowing me down (literally, I could hardly walk more than 6 steps) in my mid-40s. That could have been earlier than most people, while a few people might not start experiencing it until their 60s or 70s. My knees are much better now (they’ve been replaced), but now I’m battling arthritic bone spurs in the shoulders that reduce my range of motion. And every time a thunderstorm is coming, every joint in my body aches - neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers, knees... I suspect my ankles and toes ache, also, but their message of pain can’t fight its way through the messages coming from so many closer-to-the-brain locations.
Also during my 40s, I started needing to use reading glasses. This included not only reading, but sewing, painting, computer work... The list is practically endless. I have slowly progressed to a stronger and stronger magnification. If your older character doesn’t have glasses, he/she might lean closer and/or squint to try to bring details into focus. On the other hand, my dad used to hold the newspaper at arm’s length and squint, trying to focus his eyes, and he died around 49. So your character might do it either way, but probably not both.
If your story takes place in the future, medicine might have cured these ailments, or delayed their arrival for decades, in which case, you don’t really have an older character. If your story is in the past, people died much younger, and these afflictions arrived much earlier.
Old people’s immune systems gets worn out, so they catch things easier and keep it longer. Gout is extremely painful and keeps that joint from bending for days. (These days, steroids send it packing quickly.) Do a little research on old age afflictions, and then pick a couple for your older character to deal with. Don’t load him/her down with every illness; it’s not only unlikely, they would be pretty useless. And don’t forget the common cold, flu, and all those other illnesses that even younger people have to contend with.

Make your character’s older age believable, but don’t make that character a burden to the rest of the war party. Unless, of course, that’s integral to the story.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

More on Pluto & Charon

Last week, I made a prediction to a friend that, alas, has come true. My prediction was that by this week, NASA’s look at Pluto and Charon would have fallen out of the news as being too old, and the ‘news’ programs will have returned to dissecting and analyzing some politician’s speech or statement made last week... or even earlier. As exciting as the Pluto/Charon photos and info are, the people analyzing that information are scientists who want to be sure they understand what they have before making any big announcements like “Life found on Pluto!” or “Charon a huge alien generation ship!”
I find Pluto and Charon far more interesting than all this way-too-early political jibber-jabber we’ve been getting for what seems like the past decade. So I’ll take this opportunity to go through my reasons why I feel Pluto (& Charon) should go through yet another reclassification.
In my research reading the past couple of days, it seems there is no upper size limit to ‘dwarf planet’. One article actually said that if an object larger than Mercury were found in the Keiper Belt, it would be classified as a dwarf planet, because it has not substantially cleared out its neighborhood of debris. Can you imagine? If Earth were located in the asteroid belt, it would be a ‘dwarf planet’! 
The lower size limit of ‘dwarf planet’ is pretty fuzzy, too, but from what I gathered, the lower size for a rocky planet is about a radius of 372 miles.
Pluto’s radius is 1,430 miles, about half the size of Mercury, and definitely bigger than that lower limit. NASA’s new photos show it as round and rocky/icy. But look at this; Charon’s radius is 751 miles (about half Pluto’s size), also bigger than that lower limit, and it is also round and rocky/icy. So, why is it still considered by most to be a moon and not a dwarf planet?
Technically, Charon does not revolve around Pluto. Both Charon and Pluto revolve around a common point that is located outside Pluto’s body. If Earth and Mars were in the same orbit and both revolving around a common point, they would be a binary planet. Why not just jump in and classify Pluto/Charon a binary dwarf planet?
I have to imagine that Pluto’s ‘other’ 4 moons probably revolve around that same point, or run the risk of slamming into Charon. If they’re small enough, they could zip around Pluto inside Charon’s ‘orbit’, but from what I understand, Pluto and Charon are pretty close.
The European Space Agency referred to Earth/Moon as a binary planet, and the moon is 1/4 the size of Earth. Another website said that unequivocally, Earth/Moon is not a binary planet, because the moon does not orbit the sun, as set forth in the current definition of planet. Really? How does the moon orbit Earth and not go around the sun at the same time? By that reasoning, binary planets are impossible, because their primary orbit would not be around their star. So, what would they be?
To be fair, I did glimpse some websites that indicate there are others who - like me - think Pluto and Charon are a binary dwarf planet. I hope the idea spreads. Pluto deserves to be somewhat special, in my mind.

What do you think?

Thursday, July 16, 2015


I was listening to the radio a few days ago - yeah, I do that, especially when I’m driving somewhere. It was a ‘news’ program, and one of the subjects that came up was emojis. They used to be called emoticons, now they are emojis.
Apparently, there is a social app (that is particularly popular in some parts of the world) where you type in your message, and the app converts it into emojis. These little emotion symbols have become so prevalent and so popular, that one man actually ‘translated’ Moby Dick into emojis. 😖
As I listened to this article, I pondered the meaning of this.
Way, way back in time, people started trying to communicate with other people by using pictures. These stylized pictures are called pictographs. These pictographs were eventually simplified into symbols, which then gave way to various alphabets, which were used to make words to convey ideas from one person to another. 🔁 
Now we seem to be going back to pictures. 🌲
Are we starting over? Has language failed us, somehow? Is this another of the cycles that seem to be a part of human history? Or is this just a blip, a fad that will fade out?
I don’t know.

Personally, I find words work pretty well... it’s my brain that sometimes can’t remember the word with the exact emotional nuance I want to convey. 😡

Well, this is embarrassing. All the cute little pictures and emojis I so carefully picked out for this blog showed up perfectly fine UNTIL I posted it! I'm too computer-illiterate to figure out what the problem is. Guess you'll have to imagine your own pictures.