Pronoun is Shutting Down

One of my distributors is going out of business. Pronoun was an ebook publishing site that took submissions from authors and put them up on retail publishing sites for them. It was one of the efforts I joined in their alpha and beta phases to help them get going. The others are, OpenBooks and BitTorrent Bundles. is still going strong. The other two, while still there, have dwindled to the point that their life signs are almost undetectable.

One of the options for readers is gone. At this point I don’t know whether I will submit the books to another distributor. It’s a way to get them in front of more eyeballs, which would be good, but I don’t know if it’s worth the effort.

Farewell to Pronoun. It was a good try, but I guess it didn’t work out for them.


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Top Ten Posts of 2017

Credit Marjaree Mason Center – CC-BY-SA

Here are the ten most viewed posts of 2017, not including permanent site components such as the home page, Downloads, Welcome, etc. Once again it seems I’ve become the Internet gateway for people wondering about spanking their wives.

1. Spanking for Love

What is it with spanking? This post has just over twice as many views as the second one.

2. Bipedal – The Savanna Theory

The interest in this continues. It spikes at the same times each year. School assignments?

3. Ants in the Devil’s Garden

After a big drop-off from #2, people seem to love these orchardist ants.

4. Bipedal – The Aquatic Ape Theory

The curve flattens from here on down. This one is probably spillover from #2.

5. Altocumulus Castellanus

The only Cloud of the Day in the top ten. That surprises me. And I wonder why this one in particular.

6. Collective Nouns

A perennial favorite, and a favorite of mine. Murders and murmurations.

7. Most Unpleasant Sounds

This one also surprises me. A quirky little list.

8. 15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just point them at this and not have to deal with them over and over?

9. Milankovitch Cycles – Obliquity

The only top ten post that I actually wrote this year. Part of a demanding series.

10. Microsculpture – The Insect Portraits of Levon Biss

Oh, good. I’m glad the list includes a tribute to beauty and hard work.

So, that was 2017. What are the odds that spanking will be #1 again in 2018?


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FactChecking Science Claims in 2017

FactCheck is a website that checks claims made by politicians and others to see if they hold up under scrutiny. In this era of fake news and other lies, they help us to see what’s true and what isn’t.

In our roundup of 2016 claims, we hypothesized that SciCheck would have no dearth of false and misleading claims to cover in 2017. That proved true.

Oddly, the politicians and other liars don’t seem to be changing their behavior. They continue to say whatever they want regardless of whether it’s going to be publicly exposed as false. I guess that’s because the people who are inclined to believe them will do so even when their mendacity is clearly demonstrated.

For instance:

In July, Rep. Lamar Smith, the chairman of the House science committee, said climate change “alarmists” ignore the “positive impacts” of more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, including increasing food production and quality. But the net effect of higher CO2 levels on agriculture is likely negative, especially in the future.

In February, Trump claimed there’s been a “tremendous” increase in autism in children in the United States. There has been a large increase in the reported cases of autism. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the increase is due to a broadening of autism’s definition and greater efforts in diagnosis, in addition to some actual increase in the number of individuals who have the disorder.

In May, Obama falsely said that Let’s Move, a project of former First Lady Michelle Obama, “helped bring down America’s obesity rates for our youngest kids for the first time in 30 years.” Research shows the obesity rate for 2- to 5-year-olds has been decreasing since 2004 – way before the Let’s Move project began.

We might continue to be accosted by people trying to spin the facts, but we have FactCheck and others watching out for us now. Look at the rest of their best of 2017.

via FactChecking Science Claims in 2017 –


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Books Now in MOBI

After a very patient education by my friends on MobileRead, I have decided to make the books available in the mobi format. Contrary to my expectations, given its association with the Amazon Kindle, the mobi format has been freed, along with associated software. From Wikipedia:

Mobipocket SA is a French company incorporated in March 2000 that created the .mobi e-book file format and produces the Mobipocket Reader software for mobile phones, personal digital assistants (PDA) and desktop operating systems.

The Mobipocket software package is free and consists of various publishing and reading tools for PDAs, smartphones, mobile phones, the e-readers Kindle and iLiad, and applications on devices using Symbian, Windows, Palm OS, Java ME and Psion.

This is a great relief to me because I no longer have to rely on external sources to provide Kindle users with copies of my books. I don’t have a Kindle, but I understand that they are able to use files encoded in the mobi format, so they aren’t completely tied to the Amazon book store. Now my readers who only have a Kindle ereader can get their copy with the least fuss possible.

I think that covers all the major formats now, for both the ebooks and the audiobooks.


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Audiobooks Now in MP3

MP3 file structure – CC-BY GFDL – If you want to read this tap for larger

When I started recording readings of these books, I chose to offer them in OGG Vorbis format because it’s a free and open standard. That meant there would be no encumberances on the audio files due to patents or any kind of imaginary property (IP.) That’s important to me. I have licensed my novels with Creative Commons enhancements to their copyright, to ensure their freedom. They are not weighted down with digital restrictions management (DRM) because I want readers and listeners to be able to enjoy my books without having to restrict themselves to any single device or place. I use Free Software to write the books, and to convert them to useful formats, which are also free and open. I use Free Software to produce the audio recordings, and I use open standards to present them. For the audio, that meant OGG Vorbis, the best choice for the lossy compression needed to make the file sizes reasonable for downloading. At the time, the more popular format, MP3, wasn’t free or open. It was locked in a proprietary web of patents. I couldn’t insult my listeners by offering them something like that. It’s possible that this choice has meant fewer downloads of the readings because many people only recognize MP3 and might be unwilling to download something with a strange name like OGG. I was willing to take that risk because freedom and openness are important to me.

Vorbis trademark – Credit – CC-BY

Lately the patents on the MP3 format have run out. Well, as far as I can tell. There were a mess of them held by a mess of people and organizations and I don’t have the training or experience to sort that all out myself. I rely on other sources for that, and they’re all saying that, once the patents finally ran out in the US, MP3 became an open standard. They hedged a little on that, apparently unwilling to commit themselves fully in the face of the the, uh, complexities of IP. I was hesitant too, but I decided to take the plunge and accept MP3 as an open standard. This meant that I could finally offer people the readings in a format that they recognized. This is good because, even though all modern operating systems and devices should be able to handle OGG, it sometimes requires the extra step of installing some necessary software to do so. People don’t like extra steps. After paying, sometimes quite a lot, for their operating systems and devices, they shouldn’t have to take extra steps to get them to handle a simple open standard like OGG. That’s annoying, and now I can finally make it a little less annoying for them by offering my audiobooks in MP3 format.

Public Domain

You’ll find them on the downloads page. Along with the direct links to the OGG Vorbis-encoded files hosted at the Internet Archive, there are now links to MP3-encoded versions. Don’t hesitate. Download them now.-)


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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