Welcome to Green Comet

These free novels, Creative Commons licensed Green Comet, and its sequels Parasite Puppeteers and The Francesians, tell an expansive story of love and adventure on an inhabited comet. To learn more about the trilogy, and for samples, visit the Welcome Page. To download the books, visit the downloads page.

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Cirrus Homogenitus

Credit Craig Sunter – CC-BY

Cloud of the Day – Cirrus Homogenitus

In the past, meteorologists refused to include human-made phenomena in their classifications of cloud types. Yes, they said, the steam and smoke coming out of our smokestacks can appear like clouds or fog, but they’re not really. While weather observers might observe reduced visibility and even attribute it in part to our activities, there was no place for them on the reporting forms. If they were going to mention smog or condensation trails, it would be in the comments only. In the case of condensation trails, they became abbreviated in common language as “contrails.” On the reporting forms they appeared in the comments section as “COTRA.”

Credit Acabashi – CC-BY-SA

Now, with the updating this year of the International Cloud Atlas, hosted by the World Meteorological Organization, as reported on the Green Comet blog, a number of new cloud types have been included. I’ve already reported on asperitas, volutus and flumen, which are natural cloud types that have been included in this edition of the Atlas. Today I present another inclusion, this time a cloud type that results from human activity: cirrus homogenitus. Literally, cirrus made by humans. Condensation trails can now come out of the comments and take their rightful place in the form proper.

Credit Adam Jones Ph.D – CC-BY-SA

Cirrus homogenitus is the new name for contrails that have persisted for at least ten minutes. It comes in the one type only, with no sub-types or varieties. That’s because contrails are usually quite ephemeral and either disappear or change rapidly.

Credit Blue Stahli Luan – CC-BY

Cirrus homogenitus are like other cirrus clouds in that they don’t result in any precipitation or other weather. Unlike cirrus, they can’t even be credited with foretelling the approach of a weather system. They’re just the result of an airplane flying in the stratosphere, portending nothing more than its arrival, hopefully at its destination.

rjb

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The Plainsrunner

Credit: finetooth- CC-BY-SA

The writing is continuing to go well. I got two chapters done last week and I made a good start on chapter four today. Sometimes when I think about a story I wonder how there could ever be enough to put in between the beginning and the end to make a whole book. Then as I write, ideas pop up about where this is going to lead the character and what she’s going to have to do to get there, and I wonder if I’m going to be able to keep it down to a reasonable size. I’ve learned to not worry about having enough to write about. Once I put my characters in motion, it’s more a matter of keeping them from taking the story away from me. I keep reminding myself that I’ve alloted only 80,000 words for this one, so discipline is the key. For myself and for my adventurous characters.

So far, though, I haven’t tripped over the idea for the next novel. No worries. That doesn’t usually happen until about halfway through the current one.

rjb

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Back to Writing at Last

Peter Claesz – Public Domain – Metropolitan Museum – tap for large original

I’ve finally begun writing the next book. Working title: The Plainsrunner. I’ve finished the first chapter and chapter two is underway today. It feels good to be back writing after a couple of months of taking care of other chores. I had to publish The Francesians and record the audiobook. Then I had to take some time off. Meanwhile, the story was steeping in my brain and that seems to have made it practically ready-to-write.

I don’t know what picture to put with this post. I don’t have a cover, or even much in the way of cover ideas, so I can’t use that. I can’t think of anything in the story that could be represented by photos or other pictures available to me. I can’t just take the cover image I’ve been using for the Green Comet trilogy and give it a different color, as I did for those three books. The trilogy is over and this is a different story. Maybe I’ll just throw something up there and think about engaging an artist to create a cover for this book.

So, what to throw up there …

Anyway, I’ve decided to try to write a shorter book this time. The last three were all well over 100,000 words — Green Comet was 134,000 — and I’d like to offer readers something a little less daunting in this one. I’ve set myself a tentative limit of 80,000 words. Still fairly substantial, but a lot smaller than I’m used to. We’ll see how I do within these new constraints. I’ve also set myself a new daily goal for words written. The last one was a little higher than the previous two, and this one is higher again. We’ll see how it affects the quality of my output. I’m accustomed to doing a lot of editing before I do any writing, so with more writing each day I might end up having to do more editing afterwards. If it works out, I might be able to raise it again for the next book.

The Sun is shining here today after a long spell of wet, cloudy weather. I put out the birdfeeder yesterday and the chikadees are enjoying it today. And my fountain pens are smiling at me again, after being lonely for so long.

rjb

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NASA Video – 2017 Hurricanes

NASA – Public Domain

NASA has compiled a two minute video showing the interactions between the major hurricanes of 2017 with the aerosols dust, smoke and sea salt. The dust (brown) can be seen coming from the Sahara and heading out over the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the smoke (grey) is from wildfires in western North America, with some coming from Portugal. The sea salt (blue) comes from the ocean, of course. The video shows how the hurricanes directly affect the aerosols, and how the larger atmospheric currents affect everything.

Go to the NASA site and watch the video. Make it fullscreen.

rjb

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Bring and Take

Credit Matuschka CC-BY-SA

Grammar of the Day – Bring and Take

I imagine this conversation in front of a restaurant where two people have just had lunch and they’re getting on with the rest of the workday:

Person One, handing Person Two a file folder: “Bring this to the office. I’m going to meet a client.”

Person Two: “Do you mean you want me to bring it to you at the office when I come in tomorrow?”

Person One: “No. I want you to bring it to the office now.”

Person Two is confused because Person One is goint to meet a client and won’t be at the office to bring it to. Then their face lights up as they get it. “Oh! You mean TAKE it to the office.”

Person One, frowning: “That’s what I said.”

Some English language users use the word “bring” where the rest of us would use the word “take.” Most of us speak with the sense that things are brought here and taken there. “Please bring the coffee here, to this table.” “Please take the coffee there, to that table.” But some people use “bring” in both cases. (Is anyone else beginning to think that “bring” sounds funny?) To us, that usage just sounds wrong, while to them it’s perfectly natural. I’ll bet they can’t even see why it would be a problem. The truth is, I can see their reasoning. When they are taking the coffee to that table, they are going there and bringing the coffee with them. When looked at in that light, from the point of view of the destination rather than from where the statement is made, the concept of bringing becomes synonymous with taking. Therefore, the people making that mistake have no compelling reason to change, nor to even see that anything is wrong.

This grammatical error is probably permanent.

Brief definition in the Oxford dictionary.
Longer definition in the Cambridge dictionary.
Quite long discussion by the Grammar Girl at Quick and Dirty Tips.

rjb

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Is it Worth the Effort to Produce Audiobooks

Credit Joe Mabel – CC-BY-SA

As must be obvious from the last few posts, I have spent much of the last two months recording The Francesians and preparing it for general release. It is a lot of work and it takes a lot of time. If I didn’t record my stories I could have been writing the next one for the last two months instead. Since I don’t get very much feedback from my listeners, I wasn’t sure if all that effort was worth it. Were enough people listening to and enjoying my recordings to justify the time and effort I put into them?

I took the question to the MobileRead forum, where people who read ebooks gather. I asked straight out, “Is it worth the effort to produce audiobooks?” Since there is a great deal of conversation about audiobooks as well as ebooks there, I thought it was the right place. The question didn’t set the forum on fire, but it did manage to gather a few responses: “Does the profit outweigh the cost?” “Do you read the audiobooks yourself, or pay an actor to do so?” “Do you enjoy the process of making the audiobooks?” “After listening to a couple of books read by big name (SF) authors… I say: Get a professional Voice Actor (or 2).” (There is a widespread feeling among MobileRead denizens that authors make horrible narrators.)

Credit Peter Eder – Public Domain

Among the suggestions were these: “I say go for it if you want too.” “If you enjoy making the audiobooks and this doesn’t cost much, carry on doing so.” “There are people who prefer them.” “There are also those, like the blind, who rely on them.”

The questions about profit vs cost didn’t apply of course, since I don’t charge for the books and I do the recordings myself. I have tiny bits of income from a few generous people – thank you again – and a few small expenses in the recordings. As to whether I enjoy doing it, I have found that I do. It is onerous and painstaking and time consuming, but it also has its rewards. With this in mind, the suggestions became apropos. I am advised to continue if I enjoy it, and reminded that there indeed are people for whom the audiobooks are preferable, and even necessary.

I decided that I would continue, and here is what I told them: “You’ve helped me decide that recording the audiobooks is worth it. Although the numbers might be relatively small, audio is important to the people who use it, so I’ll keep providing it. Thank you for your help.”

As a consequence of this discussion, one (or more) of the people at MobileRead decided to download the audiobook and see what it was all about. The motive might have been piqued interest in the stories, or it might have been curiosity, or possibly even to see if I was as bad as those other authors who recorded their own books. After a bit of a kerfuffle when one of them told me that she couldn’t open the file – it turned out that her tablet didn’t know how to handle BitTorrent – I was motivated to provide a direct link to the book. It hadn’t occurred to me that there might be a problem with such an established format as BitTorrent, but it seems that tablets haven’t caught up yet. This is one of the reasons that I cherish and long for feedback. It can illuminate problems that I can solve, which I did in this case. I made a change and she was able to make the download and hear my voice, and I was able to enjoy the satisfaction of making it possible.

As for the question of whether I should be hiring professional voice actors, and to the immodest point of this post, this is what she said to me after she listened to a bit of my recording: “You sound like a professional narrator.” I thanked her for her compliment and for her help in improving this website. Now I can’t wait until I finish the next book so I can start recording it. It’s definitely worth the effort.

rjb

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Reading – The Francesians

The reading of The Francesians is complete and ready for download. The link on the downloads page will connect to a torrent hosted by the Internet Archive, so be sure you have a torrent client installed. Alternatively, you could go directly to the The Francesians page at Internet Archive and download the ZIP file.

Please download it and enjoy.

rjb

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Daydreaming is Good

Wandering Thoughts – Frederick Alfred Slocombe – Photo by Bonhams – Public Domain

I knew it! All those hours I spent gazing out the window weren’t an indication of my bone-lazy inattentiveness at all. They were showing how smart I am. Yeah! I knew it.

The online science magazine, Eurekalert!, tells us about a paper published in the journal Neuropsychologia. It’s about a study about daydreaming and cognitive ability.

A new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology suggests that daydreaming during meetings isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It might be a sign that you’re really smart and creative.

Those who reported more frequent daydreaming scored higher on intellectual and creative ability and had more efficient brain systems measured in the MRI machine.

… higher efficiency means more capacity to think, and the brain may mind wander when performing easy tasks.

So, there you go. Next time someone upbraids you for wool-gathering, tell them it’s because you’re smarter than they are.

via Daydreaming is good. It means you’re smart | EurekAlert! Science News

rjb

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Jesus and Mo and LGBT

jesusandmo.net

See what Jesus and Mo have to say about LGBT rights. You will find the rest of the cartoon here. As usual they have a well-considered and balanced view. ‘Cause there’s always two sides to everything, right?

rjb

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Volkswagen Not the Only One Cheating

I think I’ve settled down enough from the hectic exercise of publishing The Francesians to lift my head up and post about something else. How about nefarious cheats?

Cory Doctorow opens his article, Demon-Haunted World, with “Cheating is a given.” That sounds cynical, until you think about it. When corporations are said to be responsible only to their shareholders, and their directors pander to those shareholders to protect their bloated incomes, it becomes less cynical and more clear-eyed.

what happens when the things you own start to cheat you? The most famous version of this is Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal, which has cost the company billions (and counting): Volkswagen engineered several models of its diesel vehicles to detect when the engine was undergoing emissions testing and to tilt the engines’ performance in favor of low emis­sions

In 2015, HP pushed a fake security update to millions of Officejet owners, which showed up as a routine, ‘‘You must update your soft­ware’’ notification on their printers’ screens. Running that update installed a new, secret feature in your printer, with a long fuse. After six months’ wait, the infected printers all checked to see whether their ink cartridges had been refilled, or manufactured by third parties, and to refuse to print with any ink that HP hadn’t given its corporate blessing to.

The mobile phone industry has long been at war with its customers. When phones were controlled primarily by carriers, they were designed to prevent customers from changing networks without buying a new phone, raising the cost on taking your busi­ness elsewhere.

What began with printers and spread to phones is coming to everything: this kind of technology has proliferated to smart thermostats (no apps that let you turn your AC cooler when the power company dials it up a couple degrees), tractors (no buying your parts from third-party companies), cars (no taking your GM to an independent mechanic), and many categories besides.

In the face of all that, it’s a good thing we can audit the software and see whether it’s trying to cheat us, isn’t it? Well, it would be if the software was open, but it’s not. It’s proprietary software and it has all kinds of protections in place to prevent that. In addition, it has the government creating laws that make it a crime to even try.

What’s worse, 20th century law puts its thumb on the scales for these 21st century demons. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (1986) makes it a crime, with jail-time, to violate a company’s terms of service … Then there’s section 1201 of the Digital Millen­nium Copyright Act (1998), which makes it a felony to bypass the software controls access to a copy­righted work.

We have some allies. I’ve written before on the work of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and iFixit. These people and others work tirelessly to expose and counter the abuses of cheating corporations and bad laws. They need to because the cheating corporations work tirelessly to get bad laws enacted and to find ever more ways to cheat their customers, from farmers who aren’t allowed to fix their own tractors to cars that clean up their act when they’re in an inspection facility. Last word to Cory Doctorow.

Cory Doctorow – photo by Paula Mariel Salischiker

Making better computers won’t solve the world’s problems, but none of the world’s problems are ours to solve for so long as the computers we rely on are sneaking around behind our backs, treating us as their enemies.

via Locus Online Perspectives » Cory Doctorow: Demon-Haunted World

rjb

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