Wednesday, October 18, 2017

[personal] Fire Update



Hello everyone -- sorry to be absent yesterday. We lost DSL/phone/internet due to the Bear Fire. Back online now. The fire's about 6 miles from us, but not moving in this direction, so no evacuation order for this neighborhood. It's incredibly smokey, though, in addition to what blew south from the Santa Rosa fires. At last count 6 firefighters have been injured and a bunch of homes destroyed. You can see from the image how rugged the terrain is. They're guessing the total acreage will be around 500. On the plus side, rain is forecast for tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Horse Fodder and Other Incredibly Cool Science Stuff

Grazing horses on better pastures

Annual grasses offer options during summer slump



Sudangrass and sorghum-sudangrass showed the greatest yields and regrew the most after grazing. Siberian millet was the lowest yielding grass. Horses most preferred the annual cool-season ryegrass, but among the warm-season grasses, they highly preferred teff and sudangrass. All of the grasses were found to supply adequate nutrition for horses. 


Citrus fruit peel: Potential alternative to mosquito control discovered



The essential oils were extracted in large amounts from the peel of a fruit similar to an orange, which is available throughout many countries in the world. With such ease of access and productions of the oils, it could potentially be used in areas which have little or no access to an alternative.
Believed to be the first ever example of such an experiment, it was found that the essentials oils were highly effective in mosquitocidal activity on the larvae, leading researchers to conclude it could be used as an eco-friendly alternative in mosquitoes control programs.


Bizarre Dwarf Planet Haumea Has Rings


"We started to see something weird in the light curve," Santos Sanz said. The light dimmed just before and after Haumea passed in front of the star, as if something else were obscuring it. "I remember that José Luis, from the first [moments], said, 'OK, this could be a ring,'" Santos Sanz said. Months of scrutiny bore out the scientists' initial suspicions: The results suggest that Haumea's equator is encircled by a 43-mile-wide (70 km) ring of debris located about 620 miles (1,000 km) from the dwarf planet's surface.


Ancient Mars Likely Had Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vents


"Ancient, deep-water hydrothermal deposits in Eridania basin represent a new category of astrobiological target on Mars," researchers said in the statement. "Eridania seafloor deposits are not only of interest for Mars exploration, they represent a window into early Earth."

Friday, October 13, 2017

Short Book Reviews: A Magical Bed and Breakfast, with Occasional Werewolf

The Innkeeper Chronicles, Volume One, by Ilona Andrews, Subterranean Press, 2017. (Clean Sweep, Sweep in Peace, One Fell Sweep).


This husband and wife writing team, using her name, Ilona Andrews, obviously had a terrifically good time with their free, serialized urban fantasy “Innkeeper” novels. 

A charming young innkeeper, Dina Demille (from the innkeeper family of the same name), is like any other innkeeper bonded to her sentient and extremely powerful and magical inn, Gertrude Hunt. Scattered over Earth, these inns provide neutral havens for interstellar creatures. Dina is dedicated to the safety and comfort of her guests, many of whom would otherwise be at each other’s throats. Predictably, events and blood-thirsty, revenge-driven and otherwise unlaw-abiding forces collude to interrupt that peace. 

Although blessed with supernatural powers within the inn’s grounds, Dina becomes ordinary the farther she gets from home. To meet the various threats, she therefore acquires allies and (sometimes would-be lovers) in the form of sexy werewolves and equally sexy vampires, but the real charm of these stories lies in her courage and resourcefulness, coupled with a not inconsiderable thread of whimsy. 

Humor, romance, and suspense are nicely balanced against each other, and the central characters are so appealing, I was sad when I finished the last page. (Not to be too sad: the Innkeeper website assures me there will be more! Check it out here: http://innkeeper.ilona-andrews.com/)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Martian Sand and Other Wonders




"The mantle of the Earth is made mostly of a mineral called olivine, and the assumption is usually that all planets are like the Earth," said Jay Melosh, Distinguished Professor of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University, who led the study. "But when we look at the spectral signature of rocks exposed deep below the moon's surface, we don't see olivine; we see orthopyroxene."
Around 4 billion years ago, an asteroid collided with the moon and created the largest and deepest impact on the moon: the South Pole-Aitken basin. The collision exposed lunar mantle in the basin and splashed up material onto the far side of the moon.




Discovered in images from the Context Camera, this region exhibits dark material that is being eroded from dark layers in the bedrock of a semicircular depression near the boundary of the Southern highlands and the Northern lowlands. Downslope lineations support the notion that these dark sediments are derived locally, and did not accumulate here by coincidence because of the winds.
Sand grains can also roll along the ground as they are blown by the wind, and they are also jostled by other sand gains that are similarly flying across the surface. All of these repeated impacts tend to wear down the sand grains, smoothing them into a more spherical shape and breaking off small fragments that supply the vast dust deposits of Mars. This process (known as comminution) ultimately destroys sand grains and limits the length of time that the particles exist. The fact that we see active sand dunes on Mars today requires that sand particles must be resupplied to replace the grains that are lost over time. Where are the modern day sources of sand on Mars?

Best Way to Recognize Emotions in Others: Listen



Across all five experiments, individuals who only listened without observing were able, on average, to identify more accurately the emotions being experienced by others. The one exception was when subjects listened to the computerized voices, which resulted in the worst accuracy of all.

Jupiter and Two of Its Biggest Moons


Io and Europa are two of Jupiter's four Galilean moons, which are so named because famed Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei discovered them back in 1610. (The other two Galilean satellites are Callisto and Ganymede.) Io is the most volcanic object in the solar system, and astrobiologists regard the ocean-harboring Europa as one of the best bets to host life beyond Earth. 


Unusual Mountain Ahuna Mons on Asteroid Ceres


Ahuna Mons is the largest mountain on the largest known asteroid in our Solar System, Ceres, which orbits our Sun in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Ahuna Mons, though, is like nothing that humanity has ever seen before. For one thing, its slopes are garnished not with old craters but young vertical streaks. One hypothesis holds that Ahuna Mons is an ice volcano that formed shortly after a large impact on the opposite side of the dwarf planet loosened up the terrain through focused seismic waves. The bright streaks may be high in reflective salt, and therefore similar to other recently surfaced material such as visible in Ceres' famous bright spots.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

"Famous Local Author"

Our county celebrates "Open Studios Tours," which are just that: a time when artists hold open house, displaying their paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and so forth, chatting with the folks who drop by, guided by distinctive fluorescent-green signs. Some days during the season it seems as if everyone is either at an event or on their way to or from one.

This year, my neighbor -- musician and songwriter Karie Hillery -- timed her fall music bash to coincide with the opening weekend. Her place includes a small natural amphitheater, backed by the river and shaded by the redwoods. Besides her own wonderful music and that of her musician friends, she provided space near the entrance for "artists alley." A small collection of us set up shop: a potter advertising her classes (and demonstrating crochet), a mandala artist, a couple displaying lamps made from found objects, a jeweler, a couple of tables with CDs by the performers...and me, the local author.

I re-created the sort of display you might find in "authors alley" at a science fiction convention, a table draped with a beautiful shawl, upon which I arranged as many books as would tastefully fit, everything from the anthology containing my first short story sale (the first volume of Sword and Sorceress) and my first published novel (Jaydium) to Book View Cafe's Nevertheless She Persisted, edited by Mindy Klasky, in which I have a story. I stocked "Autographed Copy" stickers and cards.  Then I set up my laptop and proceeded to demonstrate my work...writing away on the novel-in-progress.




A good time was had by all.