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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Image for the Prime

NASA – Public Domain

I might have found an image to use for The Prime. I think it will work for the cover as well as for all other purposes, such as on this website. Of course I will have to add the title and my name and maybe a bit of subtitle text, but the image lends itself well to that. One nice thing about it is that it is in the public Domain, so there won’t be any restrictions on how I use it. My thanks go out to NASA, which puts its images into the public domain, and to the American taxpayers who put up the money to get the images in the first place.

If you’re reading this, please let me know in the comments what you thing of this image for the cover of The Prime.

Thank you.

rjb

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Drought Two

“Enchanted Light | New Mexico” by Jim Crotty is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0


Look up in the sky! Is it a cloud? Is it rain? No, it’s Droughtman! Yes, I’m afraid our blogger is at it again. Our water watchers have raised the advisory level to 2, which stands for dry conditions and the first signs of potential water supply problems. It is the time when some water suppliers might consider asking their customers to begin voluntary water conservation. The snowpack is gone and rainfall is still well below normal, so these are wise precautions. Not for Droughtman, though. To him it’s fear-mongering. Apparently the people we pay to keep watch for us are drought-crazy and they get some kind of mysterious benefit from scaring us unnecessarily.

I think I have gleaned a clue into Droughtman’s thinking now. He points out that the big lakes haven’t dried up. It seems that, to him, as long as we can pump water out of the lakes, there’s no drought. So he defines drought, not by precipitation, but by the availability of water for our use. I guess this means that we could go ten years without rain or snow and, as long as the lakes haven’t dried up, there’s no drought.

He didn’t mention the upper elevation reservoirs, though, where we get much of our water during the dry season. These reservoirs won’t be replenished without rain and snow, but maybe Droughtman would have us fill them by pumping water out of the big lakes.

rjb

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The Power of Smell.

Credit Ben FrantzDale – CC-BY-SA

Guest Post

From time to time I will be publishing posts from guest authors whose writings I think will interest people. Of course, all opinions and assertions in these posts belong solely to the authors and do not necessarily agree with mine. Please direct your praise and criticism to the author. — rjb

Today’s guest author is Laird Smith

Note: See my posts on smell, parts one, two and three.

Laird Smith

Apr 9, 2018, 8:48 PM

Lately we all have had enough of tragedy. The South Okanagan with its loss of Greg Norton and hockey with its loss of fifteen players and associates of the Humboldt Broncos.

I’m going to veer off into some self deprecating humor. As many of you know, I was born with a defect, a hormone deficiency which wasn’t discovered until I was in my early thirties. My medication treatment started with pills for four years, which gradually ceased their effectiveness, then shots for thirteen years, which created a lot of scar tissue in the injection site, then finally a cream to apply to my skin.

The cream was prescribed because it didn’t have to go through my liver like the shot serum had to. The cream was made up in the lab at the pharmacy. The pharmacist informed me that the skin didn’t absorb the cream easily so he would put a certain chemical in it for better absorbency. He went on to tell me that the chemical would cause my body to smell like garlic as the drug was being absorbed. I nodded in understanding and forgot about the matter.

Three years later I found myself working in an oil field truckers’ camp in Rainbow Lake, Alberta. My position was called Night Man, which meant that I worked from 6 pm to 6 am, and then slept all day. I kept an eye on the camp while the workers slept. I washed towels for the Camp Attendant, and I cleaned up the kitchen from the supper hour. I did that shift for fourteen days straight then went home for a week.

The medical plan of the trucking company had great coverage for my prescriptions. I switched my drug store manufactured cream to a commercially manufactured gel. The cream came in a big, clumsy, plastic jar while the gel came in individual sachets which were easier to administer.

I started the gel the day after finishing the cream. I walked into the kitchen at 4 pm to say hi to Shirley the cook. She looked at me and said, “You smell differently!” I thought for a moment, and said, “I’ve changed medications!” She said, “Oh, I thought you never bathed!” I replied, “Why didn’t you say something?” Her response, “I didn’t know how to word it.” She put up with that misunderstanding for three months, what a trooper!
I got an “aha” moment when I realized that it was the garlic smell from the cream medication that led her to assume I wasn’t bathing.

That reminds me of another time, many years ago, when I was a cook’s helper in Houston BC at a sawmill camp run by Northwood Pulp and Timber. One morning while I was preparing for lunch, the Millwright, who had worked all night, came in for his meal. I was cutting garlic close to the serving line when he asked me what I was doing. I told him and he asked for a garlic clove. Just for a joke I gave him the whole garlic corn and he took it. By the time I went back to get the corn from him he had eaten the whole thing! I was not amused but I took it in stride and went back to work.

When I got off shift at 5 pm and went into the bunkhouse, it absolutely reeked! Even my room stunk and I had the door closed and locked. The smell lingered for a week! Every pore in the Millwright exuded garlic stink, nauseateing us all. After three days the garlic had gone through the man but it took another four days to get the garlic air out the bunkhouse.

I’ve tried to avoid the overuse of garlic in my diet, but several times have failed to notice how much I’ve consumed. The smell always persisted much longer than I’d realized.
I think you would have to be nose blind to be a dentist or a doctor. I’m glad I’ve not been either considering the stink I’ve made others put up with.

Laird Smith

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Crossword Puzzle Decision

Credit Suzie Hudon – CC0

The crossword puzzle experiment will continue. I have learned that some people do like it and would be disappointed if it were to go away, so it can stay for now. I have found that it makes the site take longer to load, but only on the home page where the puzzle appears, so that is not enough to banish it. I also found out that the source site for the puzzles uses a tracking cookie. It shows up when I visit my own home page using Firefox. I don’t think they have any infernally nefarious motives for doing that, but there it is.

So, there you go. The daily crossword puzzle stays. You can find it on the Home Page.

rjb

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Jet Stream

Credit sleske – CC-BY-SA

Cloud of the Day – Jet Stream

The jet stream was discovered by Japanese meteorologist Wasaburo Ooishi when making over 1200 balloon observations of high altitude winds between 1923 and 1925. This information was later used when the Japanese launched nearly 9000 hydrogen-filled paper balloons to carry explosives across the Pacific Ocean to North America during the second world war. The remnants of one of these were found near Lumby, British Columbia, Canada as late as 2014.

Jet streams — see video here — form at the tropopause, the boundary between the two lowest layers of the atmosphere, the troposphere and the stratosphere. There are four major jets, two in each of the northern and southern hemispheres. They are referred to as the polar and subtropical jets and they form at the boundaries of the atmosphere’s major circulating air masses. The northern hemisphere’s polar jet flows at the mid- to northern latitudes and is a regular feature of television weather reports for many of us. The southern hemisphere’s polar jet mostly just circles Antarctica. The subtropical jets are weaker than the polar jets and don’t have as much effect on our weather patterns. There are other jets streams that form at particular times of the year or in particular places, but they don’t have much wider effect either.

Credit Accuweather

Jet streams form at the boundaries of air masses where there are steep pressure and temperature gradients. The tendency of the air to move rapidly from high to low pressure down this steep pressure gradient, and its diversion by the Coriolis force results in a strong current of air at the boundary between the air masses. This current flows generally from west to east in prevailing westerlies. Since weather systems also tend to form at the interface between air masses, it is common for those systems to follow the jet stream. The polar jet streams track north and south with the seasons in concert with the Sun. The streams are quite concentrated phenomena, being only a few hundred kilometers wide and less than five thick.

The wind speed in a jet is often a hundred kilometers per hour and can exceed four hundred. It is easy to see how this could affect the flight of aircraft by reducing or prolonging flight time, depending on whether the flight was with or against the flow. Before this was understood, aircraft were known to take longer than anticipated to reach their destination, sometimes running out of fuel before arriving.

The jet stream is not straight, but rather meanders in its flow from west to east. These meanders look like waves and are called Rossby waves. These waves also travel from west to east, carrying the different weather on their north and south sides across the land below. Recently, probably due to climate change, Rossby waves have been stalling their eastward movement for unusually long periods, subjecting areas to prolonged rainfall or heatwaves. These extreme weather conditions are becoming more common.

In a future post we will cover related phenomena such as the Southern Oscillation, el niño/la niña, the polar vortex and the Dust Bowl.

rjb

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Combating the Elements

Credit Ben FrantzDale – CC-BY-SA


Guest Post

From time to time I will be publishing posts from guest authors whose writings I think will interest people. Of course, all opinions and assertions in these posts belong solely to the authors and do not necessarily agree with mine. Please direct your praise and criticism to the author. — rjb

Today’s guest author is Laird Smith

Laird Smith

Just a quick mention about the GMO issue. The discussion is not likely to go away any time soon.

I came across an interesting web site which had a debate on GMO’s. During the debate I came to the understanding that the foundation of GMO’s argument is based on feeding the world and reducing pesticide and herbicide use. Who can argue with that? One hundred thirty countries have signed on to use GMO grown food. In the coming years we will know its impact, negative, positive or no change.

Combating the Elements

The coming spring is the time when tree fruit blossoms of soft fruits are most at risk from frost. On Wally’s farm, he planted the peaches on the highest part of the farm which was the ridge. He then planted pears on the west side of the ridge and cherries on the east side.

The term commonly known as “smudge pots” was frowned upon by Wally. He said the correct usage was “fire pots” because it was the heat from the fire which protected the fragile blossoms from the frosty air and not the smudgy smoke.

Wally would place the fire pots in all three soft fruit blocks. The pots were metal containers each capable of holding two gallons ( 8 litres ) of diesel fuel. If I remember right, the pots were about 30 feet apart and placed to the side of the tractor track for easy refilling.

Wally and Auntie Kay carefully listened to the evening radio frost report. If there was a chance of frost they slept little for they checked their thermometer regularly.

When the thermometer dipped below the safe point, Wally would take the blow torch out and light all the fire pots. That was quite a task I must say!

When the frost threat was over, the flame was extinguished by placing a wooden shingle over top of each pot snuffing it out. On occasion, the pots were lighted earlier in the evening than expected. It was those nights when the pots burned all the fuel and had to be replenished before the night was over.

In the morning as the sun rose, the Valley air was laced with diesel smoke from another gallant fight with the killing frost. The work wasn’t finished though, for the pots all needed to be refilled before the grower and his wife sought the comfort of their bed to get a few winks before joining the ranks of the day workers.

Laird Smith

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Drought Conditions

“Enchanted Light | New Mexico” by Jim Crotty is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

In my area precipitation has been below normal for the last few months. This is the time of year when we would normally expect a good part of our annual rainfall, and the appropriate authorities have been warning us of the possibility of drought. The conditions are abnormally dry. If they continue abnormally dry then the criteria for moderate or worse drought conditions will be met, hence the warning. That’s what we pay them to do. We pay people to collect the data and we pay other people to interpret it for us so we can plan accordingly.

It’s not a perfect system. It doesn’t always get everything right. Sometimes the actual amounts of precipitation will differ from the forecasts used in their projections. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s the one we use. They have to work with the available data and this year the data is saying that it’s drier than normal. It would be wrong to criticize them for employing current best practises with an abundance of caution.

We’ve had some rain in the last couple of days. We’re still below normal for the period, and there are dry, sunny days in the forecast, but a local blog operator has made a post mocking the reports warning of possible drought conditions. He thinks it’s clever to sieze on two wet days and mock the efforts of the people we pay to watch out for us. This same blogger has used a cold snap in the winter as an opportunity to say, “So much for global warming, eh?”

What are you supposed to do with people like that?

rjb

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The Prime – Three-Quarter Report

Credit B4bees – CC-BY


I have been writing my current novel, The Prime, for four and a half months, and I’m three-quarters finished. Time for another report.

Unlike my last book, The Plainsrunner, this one isn’t being shared in a serialization as I write it. Serialization was good and I enjoyed it, but it was a lot of work, and the effort didn’t result in much return. Not many sales, no reviews, and I was left feeling, “What’s the point?”

I’m enjoying writing The Prime, but it still feels strange to not be sharing it as we go. The first one, Green Comet, was released whole and complete, but the second one, Parasite Puppeteers, was released as eight extensions, and the third one, 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 and watching 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?

Three-quarters done. So far, so good. Another couple of months of writing, then the proofing, preparing it for publication and recording it. Oh yeah, and deciding if this image is right for it.

rjb

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Crossword Puzzle Follow-Up

Credit Suzie Hudon – CC0


I’ve been experimenting with running a daily crossword puzzle widget for almost two months. I’m pretty sure it’s not a trojan bent on taking over my website, but other than that I’m not sure how it’s working out. I don’t know if anyone has been doing the puzzles or whether or not anyone thinks they’re a good idea. This is your chance to let me know. If I don’t get a reasonable response asking me to keep it, then I’m going to delete the crossword puzzle widget.

Here’s a link to the puzzle, BTW.

rjb

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Irrigation for Tree Fruit

Credit Ben FrantzDale – CC-BY-SA

Guest Post

From time to time I will be publishing posts from guest authors whose writings I think will interest people. Of course, all opinions and assertions in these posts belong solely to the authors and do not necessarily agree with mine. Please direct your praise and criticism to the author. — rjb

Today’s guest author is Laird Smith

Laird Smith

Irrigation for Tree Fruit

This week I shall write about Wally Smith and his orchard irrigation.

Wally described the land he chose to buy, and I quote from his column dated December 22 1977: “…I had acquired 11 acres of what was classified as raw marginal land…” That meant wild rose bushes and poison ivy. The date of the purchase was sometime in 1934.

Wally had the good sense of purchasing land where the entire east side of the property had a creek, now named Park Rill, as its boundary. By this time “The Ditch” — a government financed concrete irrigation ditch which carried water from the Okanagan River through the central fruit growing areas in the Oliver BC district — had been built so that anyone wanting to use the river water could.

For Wally, his land was too far away from The “Ditch” and in 1934, Wally did not have the financial means to run pipe from The “Ditch” hookup to his land anyway, so he had to rely on Park Rill to provide irrigation for anything he planned to grow.

Wally built a water wheel which ran fine until the beavers objected to him interfering with their activities and plugged it up with mud and sticks. That was a constant battle ground until electricity came along and Wally installed a pump.

The actual watering of the trees involved making shallow, narrow, ditches in the ground along the tree rows. A flume carried the water from the water wheel to the earthen ditches and as the water flowed it soaked into the ground at each tree. The last tree in the row would get flooded while the others each got some. Sometimes the ditches plugged up so they had to be monitored. This was an inefficient way to equally water all the trees.

At some point Wally hooked up to buried pipes and brought the “Ditch” water to his property. I remember the metal flume running along the ridge, which was the highest part of the land. The end of the flume was blocked off forcing the water to back up to be released out of the flow holes. The flow holes spilled the water into the earthen ditches and down along the trees.

I know Wally was not happy with the job the earthen ditches did because as soon as he could he installed pump houses and sprinkler pipes. We had one pump house utilizing The “Ditch” water and two pump houses utilizing the water from Park Rill.

Using sprinkler pipes meant he could run five lines at the same time on twelve hour cycles and get the whole planting of eleven acres watered once a week.

During the late sixties or early seventies, he sold all but three acres. It was on those remaining acres that he decided to install a solid set irrigation system, all underground with just the sprinkler heads on short stems of pipe showing.

That was the best he could do as far as efficiency goes, turn on a valve, turn off a valve. There was a huge reduction in labor and waste was virtually eliminated, as long as you didn’t damage the sprinkler heads.

Incidentally, when I worked in the USA during the 1990’s, some tree fruit growers in north eastern Oregon were still using ditches to water their trees. I was appalled at the time, and remember thinking that Wally had abandoned that inefficient method by the early 1950’s.

Wally spent a lot of money on improving the land, but over the years of successive owners, most of the planting has returned to raw marginal land.

Laird Smith

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