Monthly Archives: February 2014

Time Warps and Other Voyages of the Mind

Courtesy of WANA Commons: Grufnik

Courtesy of WANA Commons: Grufnik

Perhaps those of you who follow me on some fairly regular basis have noticed that postings are a bit erratic of late.  There is a reason for that.  I am what is known as an accountant.

Sounds boring, I know.  However of all the professions in the world we may have the most immediate experience of time warp.  We travel in time every day.  Let me explain.

During the last portion of any year, say from around July or August to around November (or December-January if things aren’t going exactly right) we are working on things called budgets.  That is where we look in a crystal ball, tally up some history, and attempt to predict with reasonable accuracy what should be expected of the next operational year.  We often have a lot of help.  Sometimes this exercise is for a business; sometimes it is for a piece of real estate.  It is always an exercise that requires a little science, a little logic, some number artistry, and a hope and a prayer.  Keep in mind the whole time this is going on our mind is in the next year; not the days and months the rest of the world is living in.

Once we manage to navigate that exercise we get to start the “look back” part of our lives.  Suddenly instead of looking ahead a year, we must turn about and look at the year just past (without suffering whiplash).  This means we have to review the prior year, tally up all of the relevant information, prepare financial statements for all those people who wanted them on January 1 of the current year, and still try to function in something resembling “current time.”  I have been known to date my checks not just a year behind but two (such as 2012 rather than 2014) because my head is still in reverse.  Or is that reverse of reverse? This exercise generally takes until April or May (perhaps a bit longer) of each year.

Ah, you say, so there is a month or two when you live in the present!  Actually, no.  While all of this “What year is it anyway?” is going on we are completely afloat regarding what month it is.  You see, during the first part of any month we are working on financial stuff for the past month and during the end of the month we are working on stuff for the next month and I’m not at all certain that there is anything relevant to the current month except, perhaps, money in the immediate process of coming and going.  A process that demands you actually look at a calendar so that you date such coming and going appropriately.  Deep breath.

In any case, pardon me if I am a bit lax in my musings just now.  I will try to communicate with the world as-it-is from time to time.  Meanwhile, 2013 is calling.

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Filed under Personal Journeys

Caregiving Backstage – Rose Petals

Rose petals
Falling
Resting
Blowing
Wilting

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Courtesy Photobucket

“Thus, the first light: the world in his eyes would never be the same and would change with every day. If I wanted to keep him, I would have to move through those worlds with him and not try to keep him in mine.”  (Who I Am Yesterday by the author)

 

I keep forgetting this.  Even nearly three years later. I keep trying to “set things straight” knowing all the while that “straight” no longer exists.  So now I think of rose petals and try to learn that the only way to save myself is to lose myself.

In this life we lead, I am no longer certain of who I am each day, or each moment. From his perspective I can be the bitch that couldn’t find the right wine, or the angel that helps him in the morning.  Sometimes he tears up, afraid that I might leave him. Sometimes I’m the intruder certain to get into trouble for using “her” computer.  Sometimes I have no clue what part it is I am supposed to play.

So, now I think of rose petals…
Falling softly on the ground
Resting
Giving beauty even as they die
In their death I keep the core of me alive

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Filed under Authored Works, Caregiving Backstage

What sparks the flame of human ingenuity ~ how do we create?

A history lesson, courtesy of James Burke, a British science historian.  War and the art of destruction is, sadly, one of the largest and most effective generators of innovation.  The art of war in Europe had waddled through a number of changes over the centuries and by the time of Napoleon, inventions in armory and developments in strategy had created armies that were quite large.  While solving some problems, size created others. Napoleon was nearly stopped in his plans to conquer Europe before he got started.  In 1800 he was faced with a large and well trained army of Austrians and was close to losing the battle when one of his divisions came galloping over the hill to save the day.  The reason they were not in camp?  They were foraging for food. The French were not able to purchase from the locals because French money was worthless; so they had to find it for themselves.  Also, a lot of time goes into foraging for large armies that are on the move.  Enter the Champagne bottle.

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Courtesy Jean-Paul Barbier
Wikimedia Commons

When Napoleon returned to France he set up the Society for the Encouragement of National Industry, which offered prizes for the development of anything that could be commercially exploited.  One of these inventions was the use of Champagne bottles to preserve food.  A nifty little trick invented by Nicolas Appert.  Problem solved.  By the time the idea made it to London, Bryan Donkin and John Hall (1810) developed a way of manufacturing tin cans for the new process. Tin cans went everywhere in war and exploration, but, eventually, the inevitable happened.  A soldier in the Crimean war opened a can to eat a bit of meat only to find it spoiled.  The current canning process included heating the container, but things were a bit foggy on the how hot and how long. In this case the spoilage was blamed on “Bad Air” or swamp air. Off we go on medical explorations of “Bad Air” and its impact on disease.

John Gorrie was a doctor in Florida who dealt with malaria (or yellow fever).  He decided the best way to cure his patients was to clear the room of the hot humid air – the swamp air.  How does one cool air?  There were many starts and stops in this direction.  Refrigeration was actually achieved as early as 1748; however it wasn’t until 1844 when Gorrie, using another American’s design (Jacob Perkins) tried very hard to freeze his patients. Sadly, he was not terribly successful in marketing his invention, nor his cure.

Meanwhile, off to Bavaria where Germans were not permitted (by law) to make beer during the summer months.  This was because the yeast curing on the bottom of the vat would not cure unless near freezing.  What is one to do?  Make bigger cooling machines. By using compressed ammonia, the vats could be cooled sufficiently to brew beer all year long.  You see, as the container expands, the liquid ammonia grabs energy (heat) from the surrounding air/water and cools it.

This led to work on liquid gases and the discovery that when certain gases are released from a secure container, and given spark, they go boom. But where does one find such a container?  In a lunch box.  In 1892 Sir James Dewar came up with the ubiquitous thermos bottle.  This was basically two flasks, one inside of the other sealed together after evacuating most of the air between the layers.  This prevents heat transfer by conduction or convection and preserves, for some period of time, the temperature of the contents.  Now, scientists and inventors could experiment with all sorts of forms of liquid gas.

Back to booms.  The two most effective gases which, when released in their compressed, liquid form, and mixed during the process of evaporation, are hydrogen and oxygen.  Hermann Oberth, a German working for Hitler during World War II, built successfully on the work of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1903) and Robert Goddard (1882-1945) and created the V-2 rocket that terrorized the Allies and plagued London with the blitz. But the technology did not stop there.

Oberth continued to develop the use of liquid gas, the process which fueled the rockets when the United States began its race to the moon.  It was his technology that sent the Saturn V rockets clawing through the air against the gravity of earth.

ap11-KSC-69PC-393HR

Apollo 11 lift off
Courtesy Apollo Archive

From looking for effective ways to feed the armies of the early 1800s to the missiles and moon missions of the 1900s, invention and creativity took one turn after another.  Wandering through blind alleys, using incredible breakthroughs as parlor entertainment, misconceptions and a desire for cold beer, creativity landed in the Sea of Tranquility on July 20, 1969.

Creativity, inspiration, the “buzz” of the times, the unbridled exploration of new ideas and processes, no one man (or woman) creates alone.  We tend to simplify our history and focus on one figure or moment as a watershed; the precise time when something happened.  The more you read the more you begin to realize that the brilliant minds among us are the most adapt at finding patterns in all that went before them and combining that work into the inspiration of the moment. It’s a process I’ll never tire of watching.

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Filed under Humanties for the Unbound Mind, Natural Sciences from the Observation Deck

An Interview ~ With Etta Jean on Chronicles of Summer

summerFrequently in the Alcove, we take the time to wander off into the world of fiction to see what the process of telling a tale does to enlighten the many facets of learning, thinking, exploring the universe.  Both the one we find within and the one we find without. A fundamental question in the quest relates to creativity.  Who does, what is it, how does it contribute to the history and future of the universe and to us as human beings.  From our most ancient legends and faiths, we hear that we were created in the image of one of more gods. That what sets us apart from all other life on this planet is the ability, the skill, the imagination to create.

One of my new friends from the world of writing and publishing is Etta Jean. Other than being a just plan delightful person to know, I find her artistic eye fascinating.  She will be releasing Chronicle of Summer, the second volume in her series this month.  I wanted to know how the heart and eye of the artist impacted her writing, her characters, and special kind of storytelling.  Here is Etta Jean on Chronicle of Summer, due out on Amazon on February 14, 2014.  (Such symmetry in that date; that should mean something very special)!

Etta Jean:

The ability to create is something that is deeply treasured by me. I’m the person who has to be careful trying new outlets because I’m sure to love it enough to want to keep doing it, and I have too much on my plate already. (There are only so many hours in a day.) That longing to create, I think, is something that often sloughs over into most any character I write. In SUMMER alone, there are three master artisans and there are others who are mentioned to love art as well.

Kelsey. Well, what can I say about Kelsey? She is a Master Weaponsmith who creates weapons so beautiful that they are works of art. She’ll stand over a forge for hours upon hours until she is satisfied, and like her surrogate brothers, she often forgets about time entirely. To me, the creation of weapons—despite their eventual use for bloody acts—is still an art. If you research old-school smithing techniques online, you will see people who have dedicated their entire lives to learning what machines cannot do—and that is an art.

C.J. is a weaver, and unlike his brethren in SUMMER, his power is only of the arts. Where Kelsey can use her fire to forge or fight, C.J. at best can create quakes to disrupt balance. Where he truly shines is when he takes sand into his hands and weaves clothworks of color and light. Blankets that keep a family warm. Tapestries so stunning they hang in a palace. His art is how he shares his heart with others when he simply can’t bear a city comfortably in person.

Roman is the most like me, I think. His art is not his career; he is a farmer who runs a windmill. Instead, he uses his art as an escape from the mundane. He etches glass with lightning to bring the tiniest details to brilliant life. He wakes in the morning and goes to his mill and then he returns to craft. It is his sanctuary.

That isn’t to say their artistic side has their downfalls. Poor C.J. is left without defenses short of throwing cloth at people, and Roman’s temperamental nature means he isn’t a happy Air Chronicle when one of his works gets smashed. Kelsey gets herself into the stickiest mess of all when her skills have her working for the Militia right as everything is going to hell. Their ability to create makes them, I think, more real, and it has a way to reach out universally so that a human on Earth can look at these Chronicles on another world and think ‘I get you. I know how you feel.’

Art is the great communicator in the end.

Bio:

Etta Jean was born in Sacramento, California and destined from birth to be a bard. She told tall tales while devouring the creative worlds of others until she finally had to create her own. She has seen both good and evil in her life, and her stories, like life, have no half measures. Her happy endings never come without cost, though, for she truly believes we can’t appreciate the good and the joy without the bad and the pain along the way. Her current haunt is a comfy house in her beloved hometown where she wrangles three feline fur-kids while constantly overbooking her calendar. If she’s not chained to her desk, she’s stomping through the scenery in search of equally fantastical photographs.

Info:

CHRONICLE OF SUMMER will be available from Amazon on February 14, 2014. Etta’s Summer Fest blog tour continues through February, and there are prizes to be won by commenting on the stops along the way.

CHRONICLE OF DESTINY, the original Chronicle tale, can be purchased from Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Chronicle-Destiny-Book/dp/1940938104/

Stop by and check out her fascinating website. www.ettajeanfantasy.com

 

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Filed under Humanties for the Unbound Mind, My Bookshelf ~ Fiction