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

crossword puzzle
. One moment please.

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Transgender Sexism

This will be a short piece on the strange kind of sexism experienced by Doctor Ben Barres, a transgender man. When he was born in 1954 his gender assignment was female. At that time there were only two to choose from and the doctors had to give you one or the other. Sometimes there was “minor” surgery to make you fit your assignment. He grew up as a “tomboy.”

Ben Barres, known as Barbara at the time, did really well in school (MIT, Dartmouth Medical School, Harvard) and embarked on a successful career in neurobiology. Actually he did much better once he transitioned from female to male. While a woman he faced typical sexism. Accused of “getting help” from a boyfriend when he outshone his male classmates. Research supervisors unwilling to take him on. Lost scholarship to lesser candidate. Lost scientific competition to less capable male competitor. I think many women will recognize the pattern.

Perhaps the most interesting example of sexism came after he transitioned to male. People who didn’t know his history treated him with the respect due to a person of such accomplishments. Before the transition he didn’t get that respect. Most interestingly, after he spoke at his first seminar as a man, one scientist in the audience was overheard to say, “Ben Barres gave a great seminar today, but his work is much better than his sister’s work.” They thought Barbara Barres was his sister. This is a strange twist on the Matilda effect.

This makes me wonder what would have happened if the transition had gone the other way.


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Guest Post – Observations on American Politics

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

Recently, I received a picture from an American friend on Facebook which truly shocked me! I’m a centrist and it takes a great deal to jar me but this picture and caption did just that. It was a family picture of a husband and wife and three daughters aged eight, ten, and twelve. All were well dressed and smiling ear to ear. That’s not too shocking is it? It was what they were holding that jolted me. All five of them were holding semi automatic rifles slung across their chests. The daughters were each holding an AR-15 while the parents were holding firearms with much bigger stocks. I couldn’t determine exactly what kind of firearms they were but they were not hunting rifles. I thought for a moment that the family was just doing a spoof when one of the comments the pic received was, that the oldest daughter was a marksman and had won many competitions. The caption read,”repost this and watch a liberal’s head explode!” I wrote to my friend and asked him about the pic. His reply was that someday they might have to resort to defending themselves from the Democrats because the Democrats are a bunch of crazy radicals!

This is not the America that I lived and worked in for 6.5 years. The America I knew was peace loving, friendly, and exuded warmth. Americans were a people I grew to love and respect. The gun toting family picture was anything but friendly. It was downright scary! However, the picture reminded me that we Canadians have an undercurrent of hate and fear mongering swirling in our culture too. Not too long ago I was speaking to a Canadian friend on the phone, a man I respect and honour and have known for 35 years. He spoke of the American Democratic Party having members who were cannibals and have committed all kinds of atrocities to aborted fetuses. To say the least I was shocked! I asked him where he got this information and he said that radio and TV Christian preachers were saying these things and including other accusations too. At the time I found that very hard to believe. I went to the online Democratic Party statement and was unable to find anything that my phone friend was accusing them of. Then later I saw the picture of the gun toting family and read the caption, then I understood that the American Democratic Party was under fire with rumour and innuendo!

I look back to 1975, in which began my 22 year stint with what I call the Control Church(CC). The church was part of a North American wide movement of loosely affiliated groups of Christian churches of born again, Bible based, tongue talking, spirit filled, converted members, mostly youth, some who were former hippies and Jesus Freaks. This is where rumour and innuendo festered. For examples, at our church we once heard that Crest toothpaste had the sign of the devil on it, so many of us stopped using Crest. Canada Safeway grocery chain was supposed to be owned by the Mormons so we were obligated to stop patronizing Safeway. Then white bread was bad for us along with watching TV and participating in amateur sports teams. Going to university was also frowned upon, among many other leadership induced no-nos. Most accepted those leadership decisions without question, myself included.

As I look back at those formative years, I see the hands of the trusted CC leadership fully controlling our lives by allowing rumour and innuendo to infiltrate our social circles.
It looks like the same thing is happening in the CC today. Trusted Christian leadership is villainizing the American Democratic Party which in turn is creating mistrust and fear among the faithful. Similar beliefs were fostered by Hitler during his rise to power and we all know where that went. Is that where our beloved United States of America is going? Will each party villainize the other to the point where they will come to blows leading to civil war? I don’t know of anyone who wants that, but with the current river of fear and mistrust, that seems to be the direction that the nation is headed. I hope I’m wrong because I have friends and family in both camps and don’t want to see anyone hurt.

Laird Smith

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Security Certificate Restored

credit Alvesgaspar – CC-BY-SA

Good news! The missing security certificate has been applied and you need no longer fear visiting the Green Comet website. I scolded them for their lapse and they promised that it would renew automatically next time. No harm done, I hope.


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The Great Cloud Conspiracy

Credit Craig Sunter – CC-BY

In the past week I’ve had a couple of visits from people who saw a link from another site to a post here. Being curious I backtracked them and found myself reading about the Great Cloud Conspiracy. Apparently when the International Cloud Atlas released a new edition with some added cloud types it meant that they were actually new clouds that didn’t use to exist. And of course that means that someone, probably the government, had done something that caused them to appear. Something about chemtrails? Note that my posts were linked to as a form of validation for their theories. In one case the author of the conspiracy post simply cut-and-pasted my post right off the screen. Any reasonable person who reads my posts will realize that I don’t subscribe to the conspiracy theories they’re supposed to support.

To be misunderstood is bad enough. To then be used as back-up for some wingnut’s conspiracy theory is going too far.


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“Volunteer Appreciation Event 2010 067”by thewomensmuseum is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I think we should reward volunteers for all the good they do. Here is a copy of an email I sent to my MP toward that end.

Richard Cannings
MP, South Okanagan — West Kootenay

Dear Mr Cannings

Canada depends on volunteers. Many of the services we depend on would not be available or would be too expensive without them. We don’t do much for them in return. We might tell them how great they are and buy them lunch once a year, but we don’t give them anything tangible.

I would like to suggest a way that the country, and all of us collectively, can reward our volunteers. We can donate to the Canada Pension Plan in their name. Ideally we could make contributions commensurate with the value of the work they do; with what we would otherwise pay a person to do that work. More pragmatically we could tie the contributions to the minimum wage. Whatever method we choose, we would be rewarding them with a little extra income in their retirement.

Let’s tell our volunteers how much we really appreciate them.

Jim Bowering

If we’re going to use volunteers to do things we would otherwise have to pay people to do, the least we can do is thank them in a tangible way.


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More Drought

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

Droughtman is strangely quiet these days. It has been cool and cloudy and is forecast for more of the same, with the possibility of precipitation, and he hasn’t said anything snide about it. It might have something to do with the latest information from our water management people. They have raised the drought level to 3, very dry. Although that would normally trigger Droughtman to sneer at them and point out that there’s still water in the big lakes, they also mentioned that Okanagan Lake, the biggest, is low. His go-to proof that he knows more than they do has let him down, and he has gone quiet. In addition, the upper-elevation reservoirs, which Droughtman had failed to consider in his earlier claims, have failed to fill this year.

All this is giving water utilities cause for concern. Their supplies look as if they might not meet demand, so they are replacing voluntary measures with restrictions on their customers’ use of water. So far it’s just for outdoor use, such as watering lawns and gardens on a strict schedule, but if it continues dry the restrictions will escalate. Already the lakes are low, as are the reservoirs and some wells, and even with the cooler and damper weather recently, we’re well below average for precipitation. It could be that all this information has been enough to quiet even Droughtman.

Time will tell, I guess.


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Am I Meant to be a Boy or a Girl?

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

In my last article, I spoke of my hormonal disability which I was born with and was undiagnosed until I was in my early thirties.

When I look at my life as a preschooler, I was comfortable with adults but not so comfortable with children, although my parents were unable to discern that fact in my life at the time. I started school at the age of five because my birthday fell in early December which was the cut off to make me ineligible for grade one. The failure of beginning school that early didn’t really come to fruition until I started grade seven and entered puberty. But that is getting ahead of myself.

As an primary school student, I wouldn’t punch anyone in the face, which is what boys did to one another when they fought. Nor would I fight, I just cried a lot. The boys in my neighborhood chased me and I ran away as much as I could. If the boys caught me, all it took was a mean look and I would break down into tears. Sometimes I took a punch then broke into tears. Generally I got along with most children. At no time did I think that I was anything other than a boy. Girls cried, boys didn’t cry. I cried, but it never made me question whether I was meant to be a boy or a girl.

Grade seven was a troubled year for me. My lack of surging male hormones caused me much trouble because my emotions were out of whack and I was deeply confused. The adults in my life were of no help either. One teacher that I had for five subjects, tormented me continually and I wept a great deal. The adults misunderstood me as much as I misunderstood myself. The stress caused by a hormonally unbalanced body leaked into my whole life and colored my every decision, but at no time did I question whether I was a boy or a girl. I failed grade seven and was glad because the tormenting teacher wouldn’t be part of my life anymore, I reasoned.

During the summer holidays I did many things, climbed trees, fished, climbed in the hills near our house, and picked tree fruits for money. The question of whether I was a boy or a girl was not a question in my mind. I was called a girl because I cried when intimidated or punched by the bullies, but sexual identity was never a serious consideration. The lack of hormones gave me a great deal of indecision which culminated in running away from all difficulties. I quit high school and went to seek my fame and fortune.

The driven male sexuality was never part of my life especially as I grew into adulthood, and again I still didn’t question whether I was a boy or a girl. I continued to cry when frustrated right on into marriage. One time my wife told me that men don’t cry. I took that to heart and forced myself to stop the tears and never again cried out of frustration.

The discovery of my hormone issue arose when we were attempting to get pregnant. I went to a urologist and he told me the news, that the issue could be treated with medication, but I would never father children. I began the treatment and my emotional life began to stabilize from that point on as my body reacted to the stress relief given it by the male hormones.

This whole previous dialogue is to illustrate how we change as we grow from children into adults. Today children are supposed to be how they feel. If they feel like a girl while in a male body, then they want to change their sex to a girl and vice versa. Surgery is a radical transformation. When that child goes into puberty and the hormones begin to kick in, then they will have to take medication to counter the sex they were born as anyways, unless the prostate is removed with the testicles in the case of boys changing to girls. So, why cannot those children be counseled to hold off on surgery and be treated with medication during puberty instead? These children will likely change their minds again and again as time passes by. Children being surgically altered to make them happy is very short sighted. Counseling is by far the better choice.

I feel very fortunate to have grown up when I did. As a child I had enough on my plate without trying to figure out whether or not I was meant to be a boy or a girl.

Laird Smith

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Jet Stream – Related Phenomena

Credit sleske – CC-BY-SA

Cloud of the Day – Other Phenomena Related to the Jet Stream

As promised in the original post on the jet stream, today’s post will cover related phenomena such as the polar vortex and the Southern Oscillation.

You will recall that jet streams form at the boundaries between major air masses, and at the boundary between the troposphere and the stratosphere. The Polar Jet, for instance, marks the boundary between the colder air mass to the north and the warmer one to the south. As a rule, the greater the difference in temperature of the air masses, the higher the wind speed in the jet stream. The Subtropical Jet is in addition affected by el niño and la niña. which are in turn affected by the Southern Oscillation. Whereas el niño and la niña are ocean events having to do with the warming and cooling of the surface waters of the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, the Southern Oscillation is an equivalent atmospheric effect. When the two events synchronize they reinforce each other. During an el niño event the subtropical jet stream trends further south, and further north during la niña. When the periodic oscillations of the ocean waters and the atmosphere reinforce each other, the effect on the jet stream is greater and we experience more extreme weather modification. When they tend to cancel each other out, the weather events are less pronounced. This description is vastly simplified and once again I’m impressed by the persistence and attention to detail shown by meteorologists and other scientists.

The polar vortex has made it into the news recently as the eastern part of North America has been subjected to outflows of frigid arctic air. Strangely, people tend to blame the polar vortex, as if its existence were responsible for their frostbitten noses. The fact is, as you will see, it is the polar vortex that normally holds the cold air in, preventing their nasal misery.

Both poles have a polar vortex. They are persistent, large-scale low pressure areas generally lying poleward of sixty degrees latitude. These vortices are upper air phenomena, with their bases in the upper troposhpere and lower stratosphere, around the tropopause, where jet streams live. The strength of the vortex depends on the temperature differential between the equator and the poles. This is greater in winter, which is good for keeping that cold air in and saving our noses.

Unfortunately the vortices are more commonly ill- rather than well-defined. There is not always a strong jet stream wrapped around them. They can break up into two or more vortices, resulting in the flow of arctic air becoming disorganized, sometimes breaking out and spilling southward.

Climate change, for various reasons, is resulting in a decrease in the pressure and temperature differential between the equator and the poles, resulting in weaker vortices and less containment of arctic air. This causes the apparent paradox of localized cold snaps brought on by global warming. The atmosphere is dynamic and complex. There’s more to it than the nightly weather report.


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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 think of this image for the cover of The Prime.

Thank you.


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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.


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