Saturday, December 20, 2014

Winter Solstice 2014

December 21

  At this rolling time of the year we look forward to the beginning of winter. This year it will occur in central Michigan on December 21 at 6:11 am. This is when the Earth’s tilt of 23.5 degrees points its axis directly away from the Sun. It is this tilt that causes our seasons. The sun will appear directly overhead along the Tropic of Capricorn, at 23.5 degrees south latitude. With the Earth’s North Pole at its maximum tilt from the sun, locations north of the equator see the sun follow its lowest and shortest arc across the southern sky. For the next six months, the days again grow longer as the sun spends more time above the horizon.

  Places on or north of the Arctic Circle will be in total darkness. Those on or south of the Antarctic Circle will receive 24 hours of sunshine. The sun will appear directly overhead along the Tropic of Capricorn, at 23.5 degrees south of the equator.

  December 21 is the shortest day of the year for us with about ten hours of daylight.  The earliest sunset for us was on December 7. The perihelion (closest point to the sun in our elliptical orbit) occurs around January 4th at about 147 million km. This is a little over 88 million miles.

  Astronomers have refined the degrees into minutes, seconds, and highly accurate decimal places. Because the Earth wobbles slightly on its axis, due to problems of indigestion (that magma rumbling around is a pain), the times and degrees change from year to year.

  In the Northern Hemisphere the Winter Solstice was taken seriously by the ancients, leading to a number of festivals to coax the gods into bringing back the sun and warmth. The Saturnalia was a major event for the Romans, with lots of drinking, gift-giving, bonfires, candles, and feasts. It lasted from three to seven days depending on the whims of the Emperor and economic conditions. Saturn was the creator of man in the Golden Age, where there was no winter. He was ousted by his son, Jupiter and life went downhill from there.

  Dies Natalis Solis Invicti means “the birthday of the unconquered Sun”. In what is now Iran, the Zoroastrians worshipped Mithras, who was created by the chief god, Ahura-Mazda, to save the world. This festival was celebrated in his honor by Roman soldiers who occupied the land. In 274 CE the Roman emperor, Aurelian, made it an official cult holiday alongside the many other Roman holidays.

  Brumalia was a Greek winter holiday associated with Dionysus and wine. By the time of this winter holiday the wine was ready to be poured into jars for drinking.  Although a Greek holiday, the name Brumalia is from the Latin for Winter Solstice. (N.S. Gill, .)

  For one and all, enjoy the Winter Solstice!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Excerpts from Lands of In-KO-8 Trilogy, 3rd Edition

The book is about a dark-matter world. It involves space travel, many cultures, war and faith. Here are several of the characters:

He awoke from a terrible dream and found himself in the middle of a field covered with wheat stubble. The stubble had pierced his hands and face, and he was bleeding. A bell somewhere far away solemnly toned the hour: one, two, three. Dawn was still to the distant east, rushing toward him.

He went back to the mill and entered what he took to be an empty shed. There was straw on the floor and two animals, a feeding trough, and a basin of water. He recognized them as jackalopes, amiable creatures. They were used for pulling wagons and plows. They looked at him shrewdly.

There was early snow, and as it deepened, the pace slowed. John Narrowpath led his little group to a shelter, a wayside inn called the Flying Pig, with a good barn and as good as a bar. The sign above the door indicated that the proprietor was Fiesta Rohling-Boyle. He took his wagon into the sturdy barn, unhitched his lopes, brushed the snow from their backs, and led them to a food trough and water basin. Fiesta was a jolly ample woman.

All had been tranquil until 930 AST. Sudlandt’s King Fugal IV had died, leaving his throne to his son, Fugal V. Fugal IV had been hard and trouble enough, but his son took all of his father’s worst traits and polished them until they sparkled. Grasping, unflinching, cruel, he had a temperature so low that Celsius himself could not measure it.

Dr. Hepatica Windblown was the monastery’s herbalist and an assistant to Dr. Cronkite. Tall as bamboo and lean as a reed, her nose formed a wondrous rudder. When she walked through a still room, she left a wake in the air.

One of the chairs was occupied by a man who was a stranger to Nathan. He was lean and hunched over like a rodent. He hadn’t shaved in days, leaving a wire stubble on his sallow cheeks and weak chin. His small shiny eyes glistened in the lamplight. He wore ragged clothes, and Nathan noticed that even the patches on his sleeves and knees were worn with loose multicolored threads on every one.

Willy Limpet was a small rather withered-looking middle-aged man with thin wispy hair, one who had missed out on the meaning of life completely. A widower with no children and few friends, he shuffled through each day wearing a furrow deepening in time.

Sylva Sylvaram was the one hundredth master of the Inchoate Polytechnic Institute (the Polytek) in Dolphene, capital of Nordlandt. He was tall, at least forty centimeters, stately, and immensely powerful. His was a presence such that when he entered a room, all conversation stopped and all eyes swept toward him. He had held his office for over fifty years, yet his face did not reflect the passage of time. His features were serene. His large forehead indicated his great intelligence. There was no friction in the machinery of his mind. When he moved his eyes to those of another, it was as if he could read the other’s thoughts. It would be unimaginable to lie to such a being; he would simply extract the correct answer if he willed to do so. His was a memory that never forgot; he could recall every detail of anything he had read and could quote whole passages of a conversation held years before.

For more go to

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Some holiday spirit.

Crumbs for Christmas

He tickled pickles on his plate
He made burritos wet— he
Bent the lentils that he ate
And rolled in his spaghetti.

I cannot tell you why
Lord Nelson, with his singing
Made laughing gulls cry
With tales of his upbringing.

Hickory dickory dock
Three mice ran up the clock
The clock struck one
The other two ejected safely.


A Solstice Gift

  It was December 20. The chipmunks beneath the family room had three dimes to spend for Winter Solstice presents. Filbert, Hickory, and Wally (for walnut) wanted to get everyone something special. “Let’s get a barrel of pistachios,” suggested Filbert eagerly. The other two doubted that three dimes would be enough. “How about a case of peanut butter?” wondered Hickory. Wally was more practical, “Maybe we should go to Ric’s Market and price things".

  The boys didn’t realize how far away Ric’s was. They had heard Those-Who-Live-Above talk about it only taking five minutes. They started out in great spirits, each with a dime in a cheek pouch. The morning was pleasant; the air was brisk but there was a hint of snow somewhere out and about. Hickory had a fairly good sense of direction and they headed east. Morning past and so did the afternoon. “Are we there yet” was asked every couple of minutes and Hickory just gritted his teeth. Filbert became distraught when evening came, “Mom usually wants me in bed by now,” he fretted.

  They got to the market near closing time. They slipped in as a customer was leaving with a shopping cart. My, it was big in there! They scurried down each aisle, Wally looking at prices. “Way too much,” he said again and again. Finally he spotted something. Something wonderful. “There it is! PEANUTS!! By the pound. He did some figuring and concluded that each could take two cheekfulls. He left the dimes where the clerk would find them, and out they slipped.

  They were tired but determined. They headed west. On and on. It started to snow. A bit at first, but it increased as they continued. Crossing the street was dangerous, they knew, so were extra careful. A passing car flung slush on Hickory’s tail. Many of the homes had holiday lights to cheer the passers-by.

  The family room was close now. Somewhere a great clock struck the hour: TEN, ELEVEN, TWELVE! Cold and wet they found the tiny entrance and squeezed in. Everyone was there. When they divided the peanuts each had two. They sang chipmunk songs, wished each other good cheer and settled in for a long winter’s nap.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My new book

KIRKUS REVIEW A sci-fi saga of an alien world, recounting its wars, its near-destruction and its risky restoration. Fans of such whimsical fantasy settings as Piers Anthony’s Xanth or Terry Pratchett’s Discworld may be equally impressed by Fisher’s audacious creation. Inchoate is a planet made of dark matter that occupies a point in space inside the Earth but that’s slightly out of phase in time. As a result, the two independent, evolving environments don’t (normally) interact. Inhabitants of Inchoate are one-sixth the size of Homo sapiens, with a quasi-feudal social structure, advanced technology, and a penchant for befriending talking animals such as jackalopes, rats, dogs and spiders. Successive, advanced alien races have visited Inchoate and used it as a key station in their intergalactic teleportation network. This inspires an act of wartime sabotage that causes Inchoate to be accidentally transmitted several light years away; its people awaken from long-term suspended animation to find themselves in a double-star system in Sirius, where they rebuild over the next thousand years. Fisher further stirs the pot by telling his three-part tale out of chronological order, starting in the middle, proceeding to the prologue and then reaching the finale. The major connecting thread between them is the resourceful troubleshooter Naksarben, aka John Narrowpath, aka Brother Nathan, who weaves his way through palace intrigues and virtuous secret operations against tyrants who rely on religious fundamentalism and militarism to gain power. A final, twist ending about the character’s true origin is a head-scratcher, but by then, readers will have bought into the novel’s blend of quantum mechanics and fairy tale. The author, who also contributes scattered maps, diagrams and illustrations, is a master punster, offering character names such as Hans Pholde, Shellson Carapace, a philosophy professor named Eponymous Muser, a scientist and professor named Prudence DeCysseve, a librarian called Reed Tomes, an order called the Monastery of the Inevitable Whens and a capital city dubbed Distopia. A fetching, seriocomic fantasy of faith, politics, science and death that never succumbs to cuteness.

3rd Edition: November 2014
ISBN: 978-1453519615
Page count: 514pp
Publisher: Xlibris
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online: Oct. 31st, 2014