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.  The novel The Plainsrunner is available for purchase at these outlets.

Meanwhile … Enjoy Your Daily Crossword Puzzle

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Cumulus Flammagenitus

Credit Jeremy A Greene – CC-BY-SA

Cloud of the Day – Cumulus Flammagenitus

The International Clous Atlas fifth edition, published in 2017, has included cloud types that were not recognized before, including types that are caused by humans and other unexpected sources. I’ve already posted on cirrus homogenitus, upper etage clouds forming from the condensation trails of aircraft. Today’s post is about cumulus flammagenitus, cumulus clouds formed by convection caused by a heat source. The heat source could be a wildfire or a volcany, for example, but the cloud can’t be just smoke or ash. It must include water droplets to qualify as a cloud. This type of cloud is also known by the name “pyrocumulus,” or “fire cloud,” which combines fire and the basic cloud type.

Wikipedia has a more in-depth article on flammagenitus than does the Cloud Atlas. As with other cumulus clouds, the convective clouds of the lower etage, flammagenitus can vary in vertical development, with bigger clouds being named accordingly. So we can have cumulus congestus flammagenitus, also known as towering cumulus flammagenitus, and cumulonimbus flammagenitus, complete with the lightning, wind and precipitation associated with thunder clouds.

Credit Jan Knight – World Meteorological Organization

I have seen flammagenitus rising above forest fires, and it is impressive. The heat is so intense that the smoke, combined with the water driven out of the burning trees, can be driven rapidly high into the atmosphere. These clouds easily rival regular towering cumulus and cumulonimbus in their size and appearance.

rjb

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The Prime – Halftime Report

Credit David Vignoni – GNU Lesser General Public License


I still haven’t come up with an image to use with this book.

I have been writing my current novel — tentatively titled The Prime — for three months now, and I’m halfway through. That means it’s time for a halftime report, just like during a sports game, or any project where the participants want to assess their work so far. It’s good to see if we’re meeting our goals, and to plan the strategy for the second half.

Unlike my last book — The Plainsrunner — this one isn’t being shared in a serialization as I write it. At least not yet. That serialization was good in many ways, and I mostly enjoyed it. On the negative side, it was a lot of work, and that effort didn’t result in much return. Not only did it not result in many sales, it also didn’t even result in any reviews, and that has left me feeling that there wouldn’t be much point in doing another one.

I would like to say that I’m enjoying writing this book, but it feels strange to not be sharing it as we go. In addition to the serialization of the last one, I have shared portions of other uncompleted novels too. The first one, Green Comet, was released whole and complete. The second one, Parasite Puppeteers, was released as eight extensions, and The Francesians as four. I discovered as I went that there’s a lot of work involved in proofing and formatting and releasing and announcing several different versions of a story, and four is easier than eight. Now, with The Prime, it looks as if I’ve brought it down to zero. Right back to the first one.

So, what am I enjoying about writing The Prime? What I always enjoy about writing. Thinking every day about the growing story. Seeing it develop as I write it, seeing what happens next. Learning more about my characters as I get to know them better. Showing them where we’re going, and following along as they take us there. And sometimes reining them in as they head off in directions of their own.

It’s a bit lonelier this time, writing the whole thing without sharing it as we go, but a writer’s life is supposed to be a lonely one, isn’t it?

So there’s the halftime report on my novel, The Prime. So far, so good. Now it’s another three months of writing, then there’s the proofing, preparing it for publication and recording it. Oh yeah, and finding an image for it. Pen up, head down and back to work.

rjb

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Green Comet Available in Stores

Green Comet is showing up in stores. I’ll update this post as it appears in more outlets. Even though I have released Green Comet with a Creative Commons license, I’ve been encouraged to give people the opportunity to reward me with a little money if they want to. Choice is good, right?-) So, here are the stores:

Amazon
Kobo
Apple Books
Scribd
Odilo

Even though I set a price, it seems to only be a guideline with some stores. You might be able to shop around. Drop a review while you’re there.

rjb

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Transliterations of Alien Texts


People ask why I use human referents in my stories about aliens. Why, for instance, did Archie take the name Archimedes when his history doesn’t include Archimedes? Shouldn’t Archie have named himself after a great mathematician from his own world? The answer is, he did, and I’ve substituted that alien name with one we recognize immediately. I have communicated why he chose the name without having to write an explanation of his history into the story. I have saved the reader a lot of reading, and myself a lot of writing, if only we agree to imagine the alien equivalent when we see a human referent.

Rather than thinking of these stories as translations of alien texts, I think of them as whole-text transliterations, where I present the human equivalent and not the raw result. So, if you will agree with me to use this shorthand, we will save ourselves both a lot of work.

rjb

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Cavum

© Tsz Cheung Lee – Tap for larger

Cloud of the Day – Cavum

Cavum is one of the new clouds that show up in the latest edition of the World Meteorological Organization’s International Cloud Atlas. I reported on the release of the new edition in this post. Cavum is really just a new name for a cloud type previously known as a fall streak hole, which I reported on here. There are more great pictures in that post. The full name for the example shown in this post is altocumulus stratiformis perlucidus translucidus cavum. That is, the middle etage cloud altocumulus (my previous post on altocumulus) which is in a layer thin enough to allow light through, and which has gaps between its elements and a great big hole with virga in it. Here’s how cavum is described in the International Cloud Atlas.

A well-defined generally circular (sometimes linear) hole in a thin layer of supercooled water droplet cloud. Virga or wisps of Cirrus typically fall from the central part of the hole, which generally grows larger with time. Cavum is typically a circular feature when viewed from directly beneath, but may appear oval shaped when viewed from a distance.

When resulting directly from the interaction of an aircraft with the cloud, it is generally linear (in the form of a dissipation trail). Virga typically falls from the progressively widening dissipation trail.

Occurs in Altocumulus and Cirrocumulus and rarely Stratocumulus.

And here’s the description of the image from the International Cloud Atlas.

This thin, translucent and extensive layer of cloud is Altocumulus stratiformis translucidus. In the top part of the picture it also displays the variety perlucidus, as there are the gaps between the cloud elements. However, the most striking feature is the large, roughly circular hole beneath which there is virga. The large hole is the supplementary feature cavum, popularly known as a “fallstreak hole” or “hole-punch cloud”. The full classification for the cloud is therefore Altocumulus stratiformis perlucidus translucidus cavum.

Also of note is a linear gap in the cloud between the fallstreak hole and the horizon. This is an aircraft dissipation trail, or distrail, formed as a result of an aircraft flying through the cloud layer. Informally this is sometimes known as a “canal cloud”. It later transformed into a circular-type hole.

The supplementary feature cavum is formed when glaciation occurs in a thin cloud layer consisting of supercooled water droplets that are in a liquid state and at a temperature below 0 °C. As the supercooled water drops glaciate, the resulting ice crystals fall from the cloud layer to a lower level as virga, or fallstreaks. The resulting cloud hole typically grows larger with time while the glaciation process continues.

There’s not much I can add to that, except to invite you to visit the International Cloud Atlas website.

rjb

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Measuring Dimensions

Credit SiBr4 – CC-BY-SA


We live on a rocky ball about 12,750 kilometers through and 40,050 kilometers around its widest diameter. It has a mass of about six quadrillion megatonnes, which is so ridiculously large compared to things we’re used to that it doesn’t really mean anything to us. Our size compared to Earth’s size is roughly equivalent to the size of viruses compared to us.

That is not to imply that humans are like germs living on Earth. It just provides some perspective on where we are. To go a little further, the next level at the same ratio compares the size of the planet Earth to the size of the whole Solar System. Give or take a few billion kilometers. It’s not an analogy that can stretch forever. (Here’s a link to a video that goes from the very small to the very large – 10 minutes)

And it doesn’t imply that humans are merely an unimportant example of a repeating theme. After all, why is our size one of the levels? We could just as easily be included with all of life to fall between the very small and the very large. As in – subatomic particles – living things – planets and stars. But that’s another analogy that shouldn’t be pushed too hard.

We choose humans as a level because we’re human. We tend to look at things relative to what we’re used to, so we don’t think twice about our size being one of the steps on the ladder. Besides, it was necessary to use something familiar as a point of reference in such a wide array of dimensions.

The dimensions of the physical universe are measured by such huge numbers, both hugely big and hugely small, that they don’t convey much meaning on their own. The very large is measured in billions of light years. Light years are trillions of kilometers each. Even a single kilometer is big compared to us. The small is measured in fractions of meters, changing the numbers from positive to negative right about our size. The very smallest things are such small decimals of a meter that we don’t write them out in full, using special mathematical shorthand instead.

In all that vastness, all that range of realities and possibilities, what is most amazing is that part of it is conscious. A narrow band in the middle has produced something that can look out and try to understand the whole thing.

I think we can justify being a little self-centered.

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Two Spaces

Grammar of the Day – Two Spaces

There should be two spaces after a full stop. I know everyone says there should only be one. The style guides agree with them. Even this blog software agrees with them, turning all of my double spaces into singles. The one-spacers say we two-spacers are living in the past. They say that two spaces might have been needed when people were using those old-fashioned printing presses, but not now with our modern technology. They say we’re stubborn. Luddites, even. They dismiss us with condescension. They’re blithely sure that they’re right and we’re wrong, but they’re mistaken.

I have challenged one-spacers with eight little words, and not one of them has been able to meet the challenge. My challenge: Is this one sentence or two?

“When I was dying?” Fran finished for him.

The only way to know for sure is if full stops are consistently followed by two spaces. As it is, we don’t know if that question mark is at the end of a sentence, or in the middle of one. For clarity of communication, we have to bring back the double space.

So there.

rjb

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Daily Crossword Puzzle

Credit Suzie Hudon – CC0


I’m experimenting with running a daily crossword puzzle widget. I’m not sure how it’s going to work out, that is, whether anyone will want to do it, or if it’s a trojan that will take over the website and hold it for ransom, for example, but I’m going to run it for at least a while.

If you do use it, let me know. Likewise let me know if you don’t think it’s appropriate, or if you know that it’s a trojan that’s going to hijack this website.

It’s only visible on the main home page, so you won’t see it if you link here to a specific blog post.

rjb

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Industry Groups Paint Dark Picture of Right to Repair

Credit: ShakataGaNai CC-BY-SA – tap for big

If you have been following this blog, then you know that I have posted several times about the right to repair movement, and the despicable behavior of some vendors who would rather you couldn’t. I wrote about how John Deere was abusing their customers, and how the farmers were pushing back. I wrote about how farmers were using ‘unauthorized’ software to work on their tractors. I wrote about how iFixit is leading the way in the fight for the right to repair. And about a small victory that means people can work on their own cars now. We’ve seen the problem: vendors who treat their customers like mere users of their products, with no ownership rights. And we’ve seen good-hearted people pushing back, to the point where some jurisdictions are developing legislation to give people the right to repair their own stuff. Now the pushback is going in the other direction. The manufacturers have hired lobbyists to try to convince the politicians to not enact the laws. They want to continue with the present system, where people buy something, it breaks, and they throw it away and buy something else. They don’t mind that people throw away so much stuff — Americans alone throw away over 400,000 cell phones per day — because it’s good for business to sell them more stuff to replace it. And, after all, they’re not responsible for anything besides their shareholders’ dividends. Their own convenient little sandbox, and everything outside of it is someone else’s responsibility. These are the paragons in our funny little world.

The battle lines were drawn at a hearing in New Hampshire last week for a proposed right to repair law, with supporters calling for economic justice for consumers and opponents warning of crime and injury should the law pass.

… the proposed legislation would stifle commerce, leave New Hampshire consumers vulnerable to cyber crime and even physical harm at the hands of clueless owners and inexperienced or unethical repair professionals.

The proposed legislation in New Hampshire would

… require original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that do business in New Hampshire to make the same documentation, parts and tools available to device owners and independent repair professionals as they make available to their licensed or “authorized” repair professionals.

and

… documentation, tools, and parts needed to reset product (software) locks or digital right management functions following maintenance and repair would also need to be made available to owners and independent repair professionals on “fair and reasonable terms.”

That’s all. If you want to do business in New Hampshire, then treat your customers right. But the lobbyists paint a different picture.

… repairs performed by the owners of lawn equipment, electronics and home appliances or independent repair professionals carry serious economic, safety and security risks.

They go on to outline the risks, painting a picture of economic decline, grievous bodily injury and death. I think you get the idea. For full details, I recommend following the link to the article at Security Ledger, as well as a supplementary article at the US Public Interest Research Group website.

via In Granite State: Industry Groups Paint Dark Picture of Right to Repair | The Security Ledger

rjb

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People Who Know the Least Think They Know the Most

gmo

The Edmonton Journal has an article about an inverse correlation between how much a person knows and how much they think they know.

People often suffer from an ‘illusion of knowledge,’ write the authors of a new study that finds that people who hold the most extreme views about genetically modified foods know the least.

“The less people know,” the authors conclude, “the more opposed they are to the scientific consensus.”

The problem is similar to the Dunning-Kruger effect: The less competent a person is at something, the smarter they think they are.

“Extremists have this characteristic of being much worse than the other people at evaluating how much they know.”

The answer would seem to be education, but …

Sometimes it backfires, and people double down on their “counter-scientific consensus attitudes.”

You should see the comments.

Peter Lawless
A big whitewash not so much for science, but for the GMO’s! The thing here is that these “scientists ” and “experts” either get it totally wrong through genuine ignorance, or make it so by lying for corrupt reasons like being in the pay of big corporations.

Wayne Alan
Did you read the article?

Wendy Dann
This is a TERRIBLE INSULTING ARICLE. It began with a discussion about the GMO debate and then it went on insulted people about everything.

John Brookes
How is this insulting? It just says that people who don’t know anything think that they do.

The scientists are going to test their findings in other areas, such as vaccinations and homeopathy. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that the results will be very similar to this study of attitudes toward genetically modified foods. Do you think I’m cynical?

via People with extreme anti-science views know the least, but think they know the most: study | Edmonton Journal

rjb

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