Sailing to Byzantium

May. 29th, 2017 03:11 pm
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[personal profile] thomryng
On this day in 1453, the great and holy city of Constantinople fell to the Turks and the Christian Roman Empire came to its apocalyptic end. This morning, I am reminded of Yeats.
The Fall of Constantinople, 1453
Sailing to Byzantium
That is no country for old men. The young
In one... (more at http://www.thomryng.com/amateurmonk/byzantium-falls/)



Originally posted at Mundus Tranquillare Hic. If you wish to comment, please do so there.

http://www.thomryng.com/amateurmonk/byzantium-falls/

File under: History, Meditations
thomryng: A Sepia Man in a Hat (Default)
[personal profile] thomryng
Just across the creek from the village of Tosantos, you can see a structure carved into the cliffs. In the thirteenth century, a holy hermit lived in these caves. From her hermitage, she ministered to the passing pilgrims and was revered by the townsfolk. After her death, a chapel was built into... (more at http://www.thomryng.com/camino/camino-photo-of-the-day-ermita-de-la-virgen-de-la-pena/)



Originally posted at Pilgrims on the Way. If you wish to comment, please do so there.

http://www.thomryng.com/camino/camino-photo-of-the-day-ermita-de-la-virgen-de-la-pena/

File under: Map, Photo of the Day
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Syfy is revving up the engines by dropping a second nutty trailer for its upcoming Grindhouse-style series Blood Drive.

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Posted by Judith Tarr

When I first got to thinking (as one does) about horses in space, I had in mind Earth horses traveling on spaceships and living on alien planets. There’s another side to them however, if one is a science-fiction fan, and that is the idea of the equinoid alien.

Writers have based their aliens, iconic and otherwise, on any and all species of terrestrial creatures, from lions to lizards (and dinosaurs) and even saguaro cacti. But horses have tended to make their way into space with few modifications, and I haven’t seen or heard of any spacefaring sentients based on horses.

(Yes, please, commenters: if you’ve found them, let us know about them.)

Centaurs, yes, but that’s a semi-humanoid variation. John Varley’s Titan, for example. Even, in a weird way, Larry Niven’s Puppeteers. But no horses as such.

One obstacle might be the fact that horses are hooved animals, and therefore (humans might think) severely limited in their ability to build and manipulate technology. Even the word “manipulate” implies hands and, more specifically, opposable thumbs. Hooves in contrast are literally blunt instruments.

Elephants get around this problem by having long, supple, extremely manipulable trunks with a “finger” or two on the end. Horses don’t have anything close to this, but their upper lips are amazingly flexible and extensible. They have a surprising degree of shall we say dexterity with their teeth as well. I have one who can untie people’s shoes (and he has proved that he knows exactly where to tug, which means he has a sense of the structure of a knot; he also understands English sentences, but that’s neither here nor there, here), and there are horses who have to be locked in with combination locks or padlocks because their lips and teeth can jigger latches and fasteners. Once one of these equine geniuses figures out how to undo it, he’s staged a jailbreak and headed for the feed room. And probably liberated all the other horses on the place as well.

So there’s potential for ability to develop and build technology as humans would conceive it. Probably machines would be large, with very large parts, and keys or levers operable by teeth and hooves. Building would in some ways be easier for equinoids than for preindustrial humans: horses are extremely strong, and can both pull and carry significant weights. Building pyramids, raising standing stones? No problem.

Building starships? Supposing the equinoid has the intelligence to conceive of all the essentials, from life support to propulsion to stellar navigation, she’ll quite probably manage to construct something to suit. Worldships and generation ships would make sense: lots of space to run, and lots of room to grow fodder, fertilized by the crew, with water cycled and recycled through both the crew and the on-board pasturage.

We don’t need to be constrained by the one-hooved model of equine, either. The original horse, the Eohippus or hyracotherium, was a small-dog-sized, five-toed animal. Modern horses keep vestiges of all five toes. They walk on the middle toe which is now the familiar hoof; the nail of a second toe, called the ergot, appears on the pastern joint above the hoof; and a third manifests as the chestnut or callosity up past the knee or just below the hock. The remaining two toes have essentially disappeared; there are faint remnants in the splint bones between the hooves and the knees or hocks.

Hyracotherium illustration by Heinrich Harder.

There are legends of polydactyl horses in historical times—throwbacks with extra toes. Julius Caesar supposedly had such a horse, and a few have been documented in the past couple of centuries. There’s not much evident use in a terrestrial horse with spare toes, but an alien horse might evolve something resembling hands. Then she would have enhanced toolmaking (and using) capability.

Even if that doesn’t happen, there may be other ways to compensate for the lack of fingers and thumbs. Living tools, for example.

Humans and horses have a unique symbiosis: human cares for and feeds the horse, horse carries or pulls the human or helps plow the fields or log the woods. Unlike any other species of terrestrial animal, the horse is regularly and consistently ridden, and riding requires at least some degree of mental connection with the animal.

Now suppose we reverse the polarity. The horse is the one in charge. The rider, a primate or other smaller creature with good eyesight and dexterous hands, executes the horse’s commands. Originally this might involve planting fields of grass or grain, building storehouses for fodder and shelters for horses and their helpers, constructing containers for water and feed, fashioning harnesses, and so on. Later, with developing technology, horses might design and their helpers execute tools and machines and, eventually, starships.

This isn’t as improbable as it might sound. Horses, like dogs, do not have the anatomy for human speech, but they can certainly understand it. An equinoid with high intelligence would come up with ideas and technologies that her physical body might not be constructed to build—but that’s what tools are for.

Once I got to thinking about horse-as-brain, I realized that there are even more ubiquitous and much smaller creatures which might serve in the right circumstances. Horses are a magnet for flies and insects of all sorts. If, on our alien planet, our equinoids found a way to turn pests into an asset, they would have what amounted to swarms of living nanobots.

Think about what ants or bees could do under the control of a highly intelligent entity. Flies are far more random, but they do swarm, and if bred and eventually engineered for specific purposes, could build quite sophisticated mechanisms, all the way to computer parts. They might even, far along in the history of the species, build their own replacements: actual, mechanical nanobots that would, in turn, build starships.

Then we would have our spacefaring equinoids, and a complete planetary infrastructure to support them—though with time and expansion through the star roads, that infrastructure might move into space as well. Traveling planetoids and rogue moons as well as huge generation ships would be more than comfortable for a species that needs ample room to run.

Next time I’ll tackle the issue of psychology and culture, because now I’ve started, I can’t stop.

That’s worldbuilding for you. One thing leads to another leads to another, and before you know it you’ve built a universe. Populated, in this case, by equinoids—and if we’re writing science fiction for Earth humans, that means first contact somewhere along the way. And that, considering how humans feel about horses, would be a very interesting proceeding.

Top image: a direhorse from Avatar (2009).

Judith Tarr is a lifelong horse person. She supports her habit by writing works of fantasy and science fiction as well as historical novels, many of which have been published as ebooks by Book View Cafe. Her most recent short novel, Dragons in the Earth, features a herd of magical horses, and her space opera, Forgotten Suns, features both terrestrial horses and an alien horselike species (and space whales!). She lives near Tucson, Arizona with a herd of Lipizzans, a clowder of cats, and a blue-eyed spirit dog.

I'm an idiot

May. 29th, 2017 10:33 am
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Instead of just futilely bouncing ideas around in my head, I could just ask:

Does there exist a check list of tasks for establishing a small, one-day con?
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Posted by Chris Lough

One of the many ways the The Dark One attempts to unmake the world in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series is by influencing the weather. When the series begins an unnaturally long chill has pressed itself over the land, and it is broken only by the emergence of the series’ savior, The Dragon Reborn. Later on in the series, the world (or at least the part of the world that we see) is beset by an endless summer. Heat pervades, drought persists, and there is no doubt that The Dark One is doing so in an attempt to smother the denizens of the world into submission. The threat is considered so great that the advancing plot of the entire series is eventually called to a halt so that this “endless summer” can be thwarted.

Last year, New York City, and really the entire northeastern United States, experienced the hottest summer in recorded history. This endless steamroom of a season was probably what Rand, Mat, Egwene, and company had to suffer through in The Wheel of Time. As we gear up for another potential four month-long heatwave, I got to wondering: how long did the world of Jordan’s Wheel of Time have to hold out?

The beginning of The Wheel of Time’s heatwave has no exact start date, but we know that Book 3, The Dragon Reborn, starts in late winter. From the Prologue chapter “Fortress of the Light”:

Twin fires on the long hearth at either end of the room held off the late winter cold.

The Dragon Reborn largely concerns itself with Rand scampering off to Tear as Moiraine, Perrin, Mat, and company follow behind. Rand starts his journey near the beginning of a calendar year, but how long does it take for him to get to Tear?

Steven Cooper’s Chronology of The Wheel of Time provides an exact answer, tracking the character’s movements by the phases of the moon and (at this point in the series) the length of time it would take the characters to travel by foot/horse/boat. Cooper’s chronology then appends that data to our 12-month calendar since the events of The Wheel of Time actually take place on an Earth in the far future/distant past.

Cooper’s chronology notes the events of The Dragon Reborn as starting in January or February, and concluding on May 20th. If The Dark One has implemented its “endless summer” stratagem then its effects are not yet apparent on account of it still being late winter and spring during the events of Book 3.

Book 4, The Shadow Rising, obfuscates the issue by setting two of its three plotlines in A.) The equivalent of the Gulf of Mexico and B.) A vast desert. The only setting where it is possible to find evidence for the onset of the “endless summer” is in Perrin’s plotline, which takes the character back to the temperate woodland climate of Emond’s Field on June 9th. Not long after the arrival of the characters, the narrative gives an indication of the summer’s heat. From Chapter 30, “Beyond the Oak”:

[Mistress Al’Vere to Loial] “I do wish there was something we could do about your height, Master Loial. I know it is hot, but would you mind wearing your cloak, with the hood up?”

The events in The Shadow Rising extend to mid-summer, where Book 5, The Fires of Heaven, begins. Chapter 1, “Fanning the Sparks” gives the reader the first direct evidence that The Dark One is causing an unnatural lengthening of the summer heat, accompanied by drought:

South and west it blew, dry, beneath a sun of molten gold. There had been no rain for long weeks in the land below, and the late-summer heat grew day by day. Brown leaves come early dotted some trees, and naked stones baked where small streams had run.

While summer naturally begins in The Shadow Rising, it is The Fires of Heaven that makes it clear that summer is being unnaturally extended. (How The Dark One is pumping that much energy into the atmosphere is unclear, and a bit beyond the scope of this article. Maybe The Dark One is cheating and just diverting global jetstreams around the Westlands continent, naturally creating a massive dome of stagnant high pressure air?) Cooper’s Chronology can now be used to find how long the summer lasts. Nynaeve, Elayne, and Aviendha use the Bowl of Winds in Book 8, The Path of Daggers, to fix the weather. The first indication that they have succeeded is in Chapter 20, “Into Andor”, when a light rain begins to fall. Cooper pegs Chapter 20 as occurring on January 20th.

June 20th (sometimes the 21st) is the summer solstice, marking the beginning of summer on Earth’s northern hemisphere. Therefore, the “endless summer” in The Wheel of Time lasts almost exactly seven months. That is a long, dangerous stretch of what are most likely 100 F/37 C+ days, especially when coupled with an absence of rain.

But in a roundabout way, did this “extra” summer actually help the forces of Light?

Heatwaves are dangerous. Over time they disrupt the body’s ability to thermoregulate, making a person heat-sick and eventually causing permanent organ damage. (At a certain threshold the body is storing more heat than it is emitting, so a person’s internal temperature rises and the organs start cooking slowwwly.) Heatwaves also shove out cloud cover, and the constant direct sunlight hastens drought conditions. This dry vegetation is essentially tinder for naturally occurring wildfires, which can wipe out large swaths of forest and usable farmland. (This land recovers but is unusable for habitation until it does.) Heat also disrupts the pollination and growth process of plants, leading to lesser, or even negated, crop yields. An unending heatwave can eliminate water, food, and the animal and manpower required to harvest it.

But a heatwave needs time to affect crop yields to such an extent, even when coupled with a supernaturally maintained drought. (In the 1930s it took three unceasing years of drought–and bad plowing practices–to turn the farmlands in the U.S. plains into dust. The extended drought experienced by California this decade took a similar length of time to reach a point where the effects became widespread.) While a summer that is a little hotter and a little drier than usual will affect crop yields, it is safe to assume that food production in The Wheel of Time could function as normal through the seven months that comprise The Dark One’s “endless summer”.

That the heatwave lasts only seven months is key. Even though conditions worsen as the heatwave sticks around into the fall and deep winter, farmlands and food crops in the Westlands could remain viable until the following summer, when lack of water would be severe enough to trigger widespread crop loss, with famines following. However, since the “endless summer” sticks around for only 4 months after the onset of autumn, does this mean that the Dark One’s machinations actually ended up giving farmers an extra growing season?

When considering what could be grown in a temperate climate that was given an extra (though dry) summer, there are three groupings of food crops that should be taken into account.

  • Biennials, which need two years, and a “cold period” in the middle, to grow to maturity. In essence, they begin growth in one summer, continue through an altered cycle of growth over the winter, then finish growing the next summer.
  • Annuals, which take one year to grow. They begin growing in the spring and reach maturity in the late summer or fall of the same year. (There are also “winter annuals”, which start growing in the fall and finish in the spring.)
  • Perennials, which grow on a constant rapid cycle, regardless of the time of year, if the climate is favorable.

An endless summer would seriously hinder biennial crops like spinach, certain onions, carrots, some lettuces, and assorted herbs, since a portion of their growth cycle is being directly disrupted by the loss of a cold season.

Wait, spinach, onions, carrots, lettuces…

THE DARK ONE HATES SALAD.

While biennials would struggle, annuals, since their growing season is three to four months, would suddenly have an entire extra summer in which to be planted and harvested. These crops include much of the mass-produced food that forms the basis of our diet, like wheat, corn, rice, and soy. Perennials don’t quite receive an entire extra growing season, but they would most likely be a go-to choice for farmers taking advantage of the warm weather thanks to the necessity of “crop rotation”.

As plants grow they extract nutrients–specific minerals and elements like nitrogen–from the soil in which they are planted. That soil typically needs a growing season to refresh the store of those nutrients. Crop rotation also controls fungi and other pests that feed on particular crops. For example, if a farmer rotates their potato crop to a new field in the next season, then any potato bugs lingering in the first field lose their food source and die out, making the field fit for replanting of that crop.

Crop rotation can be as simple or as complex as the farmer needs it to be. Better Hens has a handy overall chart explaining one possible order in which to plant and rotate crops:

Better Hens crop rotation

And here’s a crop rotation schedule from Ukraine Farming that specifies rotation of grains over land-type:

Crop rotation grains

Essentially, the extra growing season provided by the “endless summer” would result in more grains and fruits for the Westlands continent. And while the fruits wouldn’t keep past the following spring, the grains would be able to last 1 to 2 years, which easily encompasses the time between the events of The Path of Daggers and the end of the series.

While the weather and the soil remain amenable to an extra growing season during this period of endless summer, it’s an open question as to how many farmers would be willing or able to take advantage of it. A farmer is not going to break from their annual rhythm and replant just because of a warm September. But what about a warm October? A warm November? Winters are a struggle for farms, both in terms of finances and food, and while farming is a cautious and practiced profession, it’s quite possible that crop farmers would at least take advantage of the warmer weather to plant perennials. Those with larger estates would most likely consider reseeding for wheat, as well, instead of leaving perfectly temperate fields inactive.

Farmers and estate owners who do decide to replant during this extra growing season could face issues with labor shortages and possessorship of land. During the events of The Fires of Heaven, certain lands would be too war-torn to be able to plant new crops. The Shaido tear through large swaths of Cairhien during this point in the series, the Two Rivers has just been through hell, and Andor’s leadership is in absentia. These three territories hold vast tracts of farmland, and it can be surmised that a significant portion of it is abandoned or damaged, since the Dragon Reborn orders grain to be shipped north from Tear after stabilizing Andor and Cairhien.

These conflicts are settled by the end of The Fires of Heaven, but is that in time for the survivors to return to their farms and begin a new crop? Would the destruction of their lands actually motivate the farmers to plant anew so they can get back on their feet? Or would there simply not be enough manpower to plant again?

There isn’t enough detail to determine a reliable answer to that question, but the advantage of an additional growing season remains for the forces of the Light (and really, thanks to the forces of the Light. If Aviendha, Elayne, and Nynaeve hadn’t ended the summer when they did, farmlands would have quickly started to become unviable.) Even if only 15% of farmers in the Westlands are able to take advantage of that extra growing season, that is still a massive amount of extra food. Considering that crops begin to fail in the following summer (around Books 10 and 11), and that Rand himself spoils food up to the end of Book 12, The Gathering Storm, it is possible that this additional 15% is the only thing that prevents the people of the Westlands continent from being starved out by the time that The Last Battle arrives.

Which means that the only reason the forces of the Westlands number large enough to win Tarmon Gai’don is because of The Dark One’s own intervention.

With every turn of the Wheel, the Shadow’s hatred of salad leads to its own undoing.

This article was originally published in September 2016.

(No_Scans) JFK Centennial

May. 29th, 2017 10:16 am
bradygirl_12: (jfk (sun))
[personal profile] bradygirl_12 posting in [community profile] scans_daily
This is my first post. I read the rules but if I messed up, just let me know! :)

Today is not only Memorial Day in the U.S., but the 100th birthday of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th President of the United States. He served his country during World War II and in the White House, and has made his share of appearances in comics over the years. He met Superman more than one time in the comics, and Supergirl, too, when her cousin revealed her to the world in 1962.

http://superman.wikia.com/wiki/John_F._Kennedy

I also recall a Marvel Invaders comic in which a bad guy was attempting to kidnap a young war veteran running for Congress in 1946. Why? To rule the world in the future, of course, when that young man became President! :)

Anyway, I wanted to post something as it's a pretty sure bet none of us will be around for his 200th birthday! ;)
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Posted by Fran Wilde

Once upon a time (cough, August 6, 2013, actually), Tor.com published “I Hate Boats,” by Carl Engle-Laird. Carl’s gone on to brilliant things, but I still want to argue with him about the post, and especially this sentence in particular: “Whenever my beloved protagonists get on a boat, I groan, put the book on the table, and pace around the room muttering angrily to myself, alarming friends and loved ones.”

Carl, now that you’re a big-deal editor at Tor.com, I’m finally ready to tell you that I feel exactly the opposite way. I love boats, and when I see one in a book, I feel a lot of hope. I grew up sailing on the Chesapeake Bay, reading nautical histories, and what I want in my fiction is a boat that feels real and suits the plot. When a book takes me over water, I’m eagerly looking for the most seaworthy craft.

Such boats do exist! I am pretty sure we agree on this, because when you said, “The sad thing is that I think stories about boats and sailors can be incredibly compelling. A vessel on the open sea is a full, totally enclosed world unto itself…,” I nodded enthusiastically. But you left your readers a warning, “Don’t just treat your sea voyage as an opportunity to have things happen to your helpless protagonists, who don’t know any more about how to sail than you do. If you do, the only result will be wasted pages,” and I wanted you to know that they’re out there, those exciting boats you seek!

To prove it, I made a list of my favorites. This list is a relatively short one for me, in part because I don’t fall in love with many literary boats, magical or otherwise, for the same reasons you cite. I am, however, a collector of favorite hulls—even those that get only a chapter or a small mention in a much larger story, when they are written well and become their own enclosed world for a moment.

To gain a berth on the list, a boat must first and foremost feel like a boat. It must not be any other conveyance or structure in disguise. Boats behave differently than, say, Inns or Carriages, for instance. The very physics of a boat is different from everything else. The boat must travel over water (with apologies to the lovely spacefaring Diana, the ship in Arabella of Mars by David Levine, and many others). And it must be a sailing ship. That’s personal preference. (I have nothing against motorboats. I just don’t like them.)

So here are nine hulls that number very high among my favorites. Carl, perhaps we can revisit the boat-hate sometime? And for the rest of you, what are your favorites?

 

Lookfar (aka Sanderling)

earthseaLookfar was my first boat made of paper and words, and my best-beloved, because of the exchange that happens when Lookfar is re-named: “… do you call her Lookfar, and paint eyes aside her prow, and my thanks will look out of that blind wood for you and keep you from rock and reef. For I had forgotten how much light there is in the world, till you gave it back to me.” The brown/red sailed clinker isn’t as fancy as Sea Otter, Dolphin, or Shadow (an archipelago trilogy requires many boats), but it gets the mage Ged where he needs to go in Le Guin’s Earthsea Trilogy.

 

Nightjar

Daughter-NoNationThere are many ships in Stormwrack, but this one is mine. “Nightjar was a seventy-two-foot cutter with a crew of twenty-five. It had been enchanted so that it was ever-so-slightly inconspicuous, easily overlooked by casual observers.” Created by A.M. Dellamonica, Nightjar is among the first of a fleet of enchanted ships in a portal universe, beginning in A Daughter of No Nation.

 

Vivacia

LiveshipAmong of the liveships created by Robin Hobb (The Liveship Traders series, 1998-2012), the Vivacia captured my imagination first. Crafted from wizardwood and sentient, Vivacia is a standout craft with Opinions. (For the record, The Paragon also commands my readerly attention.) Hobb’s liveships are compelling characters as well as ships.

 

The Giggling Goat

drowning-eyes-coverEmily Foster’s weather-mage beset ship and its stalwart captain in the novella The Drowning Eyes [Editor’s note: acquired by one Carl Engle-Laid for Tor.com Publishing…] handle wind shifts and storm tides equally well. The Goat’s deck and gunwales are a fantastic setting within which its characters interact, but it’s also an excellent vehicle for the plot. (I also love the map in this book, too, but that’s for another post).

 

HMS Surprise and HMS Hotspur

HMSSurprisePatrick O’Brian’s own creation, titular novel and frigate both. Yes, I know this is nautical fiction, not fantasy. It is still the shiniest boat, and a beautifully rendered world unto itself. HMS Hotspur is also a gorgeous sloop, crafted by C.S. Forester. (Look, Carl, it is not every day that a sloop gets a fancy position in a movie and I am a sucker for sloops and this has NOTHING to do with Ioan Gruffudd being really impressive as Horatio Hornblower. Not a thing.)

 

Clalsu

FifthSeason“Its sails are tawny canvas, also much-mended and sun-faded and water marked.” Though readers spend only a very short time aboard the Clalsu, after just a moment we realize we’re sailing with people—especially Captain Meov—who really know what they’re doing. Best of all, this boat reacts to the behavior of those aboard in a way that is much different from land because the author rocked it. Thank you, N.K. Jemisin, thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing good boat physics in The Fifth Season.

 

The Poison Orchid

RedSeasCaptained by Zamira Drakasha and drafted by Scott Lynch in Red Seas Under Red Skies, the Orchid is my favorite pirate ship in part because it’s got all its working bits and is an actual working ship (a brig, actually…) You can practically hear it creak as it comes about. (To be fair, Carl did include The Poison Orchid as a good example of boat writing in his “I Hate Boats” post, too.)

 

The Left-Handed Fate

LeftHandedFateA privateer ship that has its home port in the magical Nagspeake, the Fate carries Lucy Bluecrowne and her friends Max and Liao through the troubled waters of the War of 1812. While sailing up and down the Chesapeake, the Fate calls at my own former home port of Fells Point, Maryland, further endearing it to me. Author Kate Milford has created a wonderful set of ships and ports for this middle grade book, The Left-Handed Fate.

 

This article was originally published August 2016.

Fran Wilde taught sailing on the Chesapeake Bay and can still tie a one-handed bowline. She is the author of the Andre Norton-, and Compton Crook Award-winning and Nebula-nominated novel Updraft (Tor 2015), its sequel, Cloudbound, publishing from Tor in September 2016, and the novella The Jewel and Her Lapidary (Tor.com Publishing). Her short stories appear in Asimov’s, Tor.com, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Nature. She writes for publications including The Washington Post, Tor.com, Clarkesworld, iO9.com, and GeekMom.com. You can find her on twitter @fran_wilde, Facebook @franwildewrites and at franwilde.net.

Final Visit

May. 29th, 2017 01:37 pm
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Posted by Julianne Lee

I’d thought I was going for a final visit. My father had been sick for a long time, and had been living on borrowed time since his heart attack in 2005. I pictured myself spending a couple of weeks hanging out with my dad, looking at old family photos, saying things that needed to be said, answering questions and settling misunderstandings.

My flight reservation was for 4:28 p.m. on May 2. That morning I got a phone call, and the caller ID said it was Dad. Half asleep, I picked up and when I heard a man’s voice say my name I groggily thought it was him. Surely calling to say he was feeling better, and he’d see me later.

But it was my stepbrother, telling me my father had passed away half an hour before. Suddenly my visit became a trip to a funeral.

I used to like flying. Before 9/11 it felt like a Grand Adventure to climb on a plane and head off to places I’d never been before. Scotland, New York, Montreal, Frankfurt…then the TSA entered the picture and it’s never been the same since. But today there were no hassles. The world had turned…soft. Dreamlike. As if everyone knew I was not really here anymore, and that no matter what happened in transit, it would still be better than the morning I’d had.

I landed in Spokane shortly before the car rental counter was due to close down at midnight, with an hour and a half drive still between me and Colville. One of the handles on my suitcase had been broken off, but I had more pressing things to deal with.

I turned on my phone to call my husband to tell him the plane hadn’t crashed, but the thing went into a beeping fit and turned itself off. Huh. Turned it on again, and it beeped some more before blinking off. It appeared I would need to plug it in once I got into the car.

The nice car rental fellow gave me a key and sent me to slot J4 where I was supposed to find a cheap, wind-up-toy sort of car. Economy was all I could afford.

No car in J4. I peered at the key fob to see what it said, but my reading glasses weren’t anywhere near my face and all I could see was a big J4 scrawled on the fob in black sharpie. And even I could see there was no car in J4.

I pushed the door unlock button on the fob, and the car in J5 blinked a “hereIam.” I blinked back. It was a 2017 silver and black Camaro. Convertible. I was tired enough to go, “Oh, dear.” I knew for sure the car rental guy was going to come scurrying out of the terminal any second, and take away the fob he’d mistakenly given me. He couldn’t possibly have meant for me to have this car. But I was too tired to do anything but say “screwit” and make a note to argue with them later.

The trunk was absurdly tiny, but my bag made it in. I climbed into the driver’s seat, and couldn’t see over the dashboard. It was dark, and I was afraid to feel around for random buttons lest I accidentally put the top down and couldn’t get it back up. So I tried to see what I was doing in the dark. (See above: no reading glasses.)

I got the car started somehow, though there was no actual key on the fob. Also a first for me. Good thing the dashboard gave me an error message telling me to put my foot on the brake, or I’d still be there, pushing that button. I found the cigarette lighter plug and plugged in my phone. Tried to turn it on, but it only beeped and pooped out again. I started to become frustrated.

The car was one of those newfangled, quasi-manual shift cars with no clutch. I like a standard transmission, but I don’t think they make those anymore. I had never, ever seen one of these with no clutch. I had not the faintest idea how to shift this thing.

I had a GPS with me, and felt around, hoping to find a second cigarette lighter plug. No luck. I had to unplug the phone to plug in the GPS. I didn’t much like being unable to call my husband right away, but I had no clue which way to go to get to the road north.

With the GPS booted, I went to enter my destination, which was my dad’s house. I realized I did not know the house number. Which was on my phone. Which I couldn’t turn on.

I unplugged the GPS, plugged in my phone, then sat for a moment, beyond frustrated and holding back panic.

I noticed an OnStar button, and pushed it in desperation though I figured I would get a robot voice asking for a credit card number. But instead I got a live person, to whom I spilled my guts about my situation. She happily sent me the directions to Colville via the onboard GPS.

So I backed out of the space, nearly an hour after my plane had landed, and made my way out of the parking lot.

That was when I realized the shifting procedure wasn’t going to make itself apparent. The shifter did nothing once it was in drive, and there was no obvious control for changing gears. I could hear the engine winding up, and had to pull over to think about this. I was having nightmare visions of driving all the way to Colville in first gear and arriving sometime near dawn.

As I poked around the dashboard, looking for the bloody shift control, my phone rang. It was my husband. I picked it up, certain the thing would turn off as soon as I touched it. When I heard his voice, I burst into tears I was so relieved.

He talked me in off the ledge, explained to me how to shift the car (paddles on the steering wheel…who knew?), and then tried to help me figure out which way to pick up the road to Colville. Because he’s spent the past forty-five years driving everywhere in North America and some places south of the border, he knew where I should go. However, he couldn’t know exactly where I was because I could see no signs. I had to hang up, plug the GPS back in, and see if I could shift the car well enough to get out of Spokane. Then I looked up dad’s house number on my phone, entered it into my familiar GPS, and proceeded on my way.

An hour and a half later I pulled up at my father’s house, where my father no longer was.

My stepmother and two of my stepbrothers were there. Over the next few days we all picked carefully through the minefield of memories, photographs, and paperwork. We pulled together the details of Dad’s life, and I helped write his obituary. It was  a surreal experience.

He was all about airplanes. He learned to fly before he learned to drive. After high school he studied aeronautical engineering and began military flight training in the Naval Reserve. He declined an appointment to Annapolis so he could continue his flight training, then was called up for active duty in the Korean War. He finished his training in Pensacola. His flight gear and log book are on display at the National Naval Aviation Museum there.Alan Bedford Sr.

During his eight years of active duty, he flew fighter jets off the U.S.S. Boxer and U.S.S. Hornet, earning seven citations and service medals. After the war, he flew as a test pilot and was assigned to the U.S. Naval Air Missile Test Center at Point Mugu, California. I was born on that base.

After his discharge from active duty, he went to work at Lockheed Missiles and Space Corp. Still with the airplanes. In his forties he took a hiatus from there, finished out college, picked up an MBA, and worked as a flight instructor, instructor trainer, and aerial photographer. He tried to teach me to fly, but I couldn’t get past the unshakable conviction that the instant I took control of the plane it would plummet from the sky. I still have the logbook that shows half an hour of flight time.

Julianne, age threeOne of my favorite pictures of myself was taken by my dad when I was about three years old, as I was running across the yard to hug him. When I was four, he came home from somewhere with a copy of Black Beauty for me. I looked inside and said, “I can’t read this; there aren’t any pictures.” He said, “Then learn to read.”

And I did.

In 2002 when my second novel was released, I was visiting my dad for a family reunion. We went into Barnes & Noble and found seven copies of Outlaw Sword on the shelf. I said, “Cool. Let’s see if they want me to sign them.” He laughed, thinking I was joking. But he stopped laughing when I took the copies to the service desk and the manager was happy to have me sign them. As I did, my dad stood there looking like he was going to pop from pride.

Honor GuardOn May 18 he was buried in a veteran’s cemetery outside of Spokane, with full military honors. Jet airplanes taking off from nearby Spokane airport added an oddly appropriate soundtrack as we mourned a former fighter pilot. In the distance the United States flag flew at half mast. Three riflemen fired three volleys. Strangers in uniform saluted him, with all military precision and respect

I knew him for sixty years, and now I can’t imagine the world without him in it.

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[personal profile] laughing_tree posting in [community profile] scans_daily


I’ll be glad when I’ve finished Karnak, because having that little bastard in my head is probably doing me damage. -- Warren Ellis

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[personal profile] icon_uk posting in [community profile] scans_daily
As you will hopefully have noticed, there's a movie opening at the end of the week, and it's something of a big deal.

It's the first big screen female led superhero movie (Important addendum: following the first couple of posts below, let me amend that to "the first big screen female led superhero movie of the modern age" as I had overlooked a couple) and the first one devoted to one of the first female superheroes. I refer of course, to Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot.

The reviews have been universally positive, and those of you following her various creators on social media will have noticed that they all LOVED it.

Scans_Daily owes a lot to Diana of Themyscira, and this, we feel should be appropriate to reflect that, but honouring her with... well, it was originally going to be a "Week of Wonder", but nah, Diana deserves more so we're having a "World of Wonder instead

We're interested in seeing ALL the Amazon's who have contributed, so Diana is a given of course, but also Donna, Cassie, Hippolyta and Artemis, heck if you have an Io, Nubia or Phillipus scene that you want to showcase, bring it on!

Mortal associates like Steve Trevor, Cyndi Meyer and Etta Candy or scenes with her villains like the Cheetah, Dr Cyber or even these delightful scamps from Villainy Incorporated



So let's see lots of posts folks, Diana deserves it and we don't want to disappoint her, do we?

sareini: A quote from the book Good Omens (Good Omens)
[personal profile] sareini
Because the Friday Five was a little late this (last?) week...

1. What is your current main mode of transportation? e.g. car, bike, subway, walking etc.
2. Are you satisfied with your current main mode of transportation (answer to question 1)? Why?
3. Do you think you'll change your means of transit soon? e.g. buy a car, get rid of your car, walk more etc.? If so why?
4. If time distance and money were not factors how do you prefer to get from point A to point B?
5. What was your worst transit experience?

1. It's a combination of walking (very short distances as I don't like to go out), buses and taxis. I'd walk more if the anxiety didn't leave me a shut-in most of the time.

2. Taxis are expensive, but they're the only way to get to some places (like the vets, or home from grocery shopping at Tesco's). Buses are cheaper but often crowded and I occasionally get the paranoid belief that people on the bus are watching me or reading my thoughts. I like walking but it takes the longest and that doesn't fare well for the anxiety. So in conclusion, all my modes of transport have their problems, but they're not things I can easily fix so I'm stuck with them.

3. I'd like to walk more, but see above. The longer I'm out of the house, the more I panic; plus I get paranoid that people are going to randomly shout abuse at me from passing cars. So unless I win the lottery and hire a chauffeur or wake up tomorrow completely cured of all my mental illnesses, I can't see anything changing.

4. Trains. Trains are nice. Yes, they can get crowded too, but you can wedge yourself into a window seat and just stare out the window at the pretty countryside and play cow/sheep/horse spotting for the entire journey.

5. Oh, this one might be a long one. Way, way back in 2001 Nick and I went on holiday to Disneyland Paris (the holiday itself was great). On leaving day, we went to get on the coach to take us to the airport... only to be denied by the driver who believed we were scamming a ride (he thought our tickets were invalid). Eventually we got proof from the travel agent that the tickets were fine, but we had to get a different coach and so missed our plane. Then we spent eight hours in Charles De Gaulle airport trying to get another flight, being told we needed about £600 to even get put on a list for tickets and discovering that the airport actually closed at midnight, before our travel agent finally stepped in and saved us before we had to go native or find an underground poker game in the hopes that Nick could win us the money to get home without having to use me as collateral. Did I mention that Nick spoke all of two words of French and so I had to translate/negotiate everything?

(from here.

"Living in a bubble"

May. 29th, 2017 05:36 am
rosefox: Me looking out a window, pensive. (thoughtful)
[personal profile] rosefox
[personal profile] siderea linked to this post:

I know you want to, and you are constantly being told that you must, excel at and be committed to, for example:

1. earning a living wage
2. healing from and/or dealing with injury, illness, emotional trauma, disability
3. basic self-care and adulting (laundry, financial management, etc.)
4. family relationships (finding/maintaining romance, caring for kids and/or elders, dealing with family drama)
5. a social life beyond that
6. a fulfilling and fulfilled creative life
7. service to the community
8. social and political activism
9. self-improvement and continuing education
10. physical fitness (maintaining and building)
11. fun hobbies
12. spiritual growth

...plus enough downtime to keep you functional.

But excelling at each of those is equivalent to a full-time job and you cannot physically do them all. In fact, our society considers basic competence at
two of them to be a passing grade. ONLY TWO.

The idea is that you're supposed to look at this list and agree that it's impossible to do it all and then feel relief from the pressure. But I'm really pleased to realize that I'm doing very well in almost all of those categories. My social life isn't as busy as it used to be, but that's fine, it'll come back as Kit gets older. Creativity and hobbies are one category for me and I've always got something going; since I'm doing historical research for Valour Advances right now, that brings in continuing education as well. If I expand #12 as "spiritual and psychological growth" I've got that covered. Tomorrow I'm going to get a new prescription for occupational therapy and add physical fitness back onto the list in a formal way, but I've informally been doing fairly well at it (picking up a 25-pound toddler is great for building upper body strength). About all I'm missing is activism as distinct from service to the community; my Twitter and DW PSAs, and my Story Hospital posts, fall into the latter category rather than the former. I do wish I could do more direct political activism but I'm coming to accept that I can't right now, not with everything else I have on my plate.

[personal profile] siderea proposed a 13th category of "recovering from catastrophe". I'd add a 14th of "coping with oppression, marginalization, danger, and/or abuse". I feel like the secret to doing everything I do is that I don't have to manage assholes in pretty much any part of my life. My spouses are great, my friends are great, my family drama is minimal, my boss and colleagues are great, I'm not being targeted by trolls, etc. I'm a queer trans polyamorous weirdo, but I'm in a place where it's pretty safe to be that way. I don't have to worry about my home being unsafe for me, or about being kicked out of it. I have health insurance and a savings account. Safety is what lets me get a ton of shit done. I'm not having to manage my safety. If I were—I know from experience—it would be the other 13 categories' worth of work all in one.

So I suppose this list represents my political philosophy too: the job of society is to take on category 14 for everyone. Reduce oppression, marginalization, danger, and abuse in order to enable people to lead fulfilling and satisfying lives in every possible dimension. I live in a tiny magical bubble where I've made that possible for myself and my family, and it's great. I want it for everyone.

The Blood is the Life for 29-05-2017

May. 29th, 2017 11:00 am
miss_s_b: (Default)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
miss_s_b: (Mood: Miserable Brian :()
[personal profile] miss_s_b
I am dangerously low on spoons, I have a bunch of things I'm committed to doing before the end of the month, electoral stuff is particularly pressing (I may be beginning to regret being on regional exec, and chair of Plus, and involved in national stuff too) and daughter is on half term holiday so I have less time to do everything.

I may be a bit absent for the next few days, is my point. And if I do turn up I may be irascible. Just so you all know.

good morning, it's 30 may 2017

May. 29th, 2017 12:51 am
solarbird: (korra-on-the-air)
[personal profile] solarbird
I have been rather overwhelmed lately. I apologise for that.

This is a catch-up round of news. I'm not attempting to make it complete, but I think it's a reasonable overview of some of the worst, at least, before this weekend.

It's May 30th, 2017; let's get caught up on the news )

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