Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Deborah's Excellent Solar Eclipse Adventure

Tailgate party at Lassen
I've posted earlier about my trek up to Lassen to view the annual solar eclipse in 2012. My same friend organized an expedition up to Oregon for this year's total eclipse, but for various reasons I didn't go. However, my older daughter, Sarah, and I did get a grand view of it from near home (about 72%).

Our first thought was to walk up the street to a place unimpeded by redwood trees, but Sunday morning brought such a heavy marine layer, one that didn't clear until early afternoon, that we looked for an alternate plan. I called various friends farther inland and finally connected with one, about an hour's drive away, who hadn't ordered eclipse shades in time. So Sarah and I, eclipse shades in hand, hit the road very early in case there was significant rush hour traffic. There was.

So the eclipse began with me behind the wheel and Sarah peeking out the window through
Deborah viewing the 2017 eclipse

Sarah viewing the 2017 eclipse
her shades going, "Wow." I tell you, if I had not already seen that first teensy bite out of the Sun, I would have been majorly bummed. Instead my reaction was one of joy -- my kid was thrilling to the very same thing I had loved.

It soon became apparent that we weren't going to arrive until the maximum coverage. I was talking myself into that being okay. Sarah called our friend, who said that the overcast was pretty heavy at their place. So, since we were in sun with only a few clouds, we pulled off the freeway, turned on to a side street and then the first open parking lot. It happened to belong to the Tzu Chi Foundation for Compassionate Buddhist Relief. We scrambled out of the car to see the eclipse at about 25%, with all the ooohs and aaahs and I remember how cool this is! excitement.

Then came the best part. The foundation offices looked closed, but a volunteer drove in and came over to see what we were doing. In huge excitement, I offered her my shades. "Oh, can you see it from here?" she asked. And then looked. Amazement and delight lit up her face. We talked about what was happening in the sky, she looked again and again...and then she ran inside to bring out all the workers she could find. All of them reacted in the same way. Including the special needs children who were doing a cleaning project. Later we toured the facility and talked about giving kindness and love. We didn't specifically talk about sharing wonder, but that was the high point of the eclipse for me. Not seeing it myself, but seeing the delight in someone else's experience of the heavenly wonders.

By the time we got to my friend's house, the skies and cleared. She'd tried to watch it through a colander, but the holes were the wrong shape, leaf-shaped instead of round, and it didn't work. But there was still about 25% left of the eclipse, so she and her family got to see it after all.

It's wonderful to view such a rare and glorious phenomenon. It's even more wonderful to make it possible for another person to have that same experience.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Breakfast, With Blackberries and Grapefruit

In the midst of all the political upheaval, trolls going sideways, and general upsetness, it's a good thing to take a deep breath and savor a meal. 




The grapefruit (about the size of an orange) is from our tree, which for some reason has decided to ripen the fruit several months early this year. The blackberries are from our neighborhood. Under the steel-cut oats are chopped pears from our trees, and this is the right season for them. 

The tea is Trader Joe's Mango Black tea.

Ahhh...

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tuesday Cat Blog: On the Scratching of Yoga Mats

Gayatri, the One-Eyed Pirate Wonder Queen here:

I wish to lodge a formal complaint about my owners on the subject of suitable scratching materials. Yes, I know this environment has been amply supplied with scratching posts. As a thoroughly civilized feline, I am acquainted with their appearance and use. I do use them, and my svelte figure at the august age of a decade is ample proof of my dedication to such exercise. However, they lack a certain je ne sais quoi. Such quoi was sadly lacking in my life until...

...the yoga mats appeared. O heavenly plushy stickiness, of the perfection for the sinking-in of claws and the ripping-forth with great satisfaction.

Needless to say, my monkeyswere Not Amused by the exercise of my natural rights. They rolled the mats up. I found them. They put the rolled up mats into the compartment of a cabinet. I found it, crawled in, and indulged myself.

I must admit that never once did my monkeys shriek, roll up newspaper, or throw their feces in my general direction. They are civilized monkeys.

And inventive. Recently when I searched out the cubby containing my now-favorite scratching material I found it was covered -- draped -- with a fleece blanket.

I present, therefore, my protest portrait.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Cover Reveal: Lace and Blade 4

Here's the cover for my latest anthology editing project, the fourth volume of Lace and Blade, a series of elegant, witty, romantic fantasy short fiction, with occasional swashbuckling, derring-do, and duels with words and swords.





It won't be released until next Valentine's Day. Dave Smeds did the cover design. The table of contents is here.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

An Anthology of Persistent Women

My story, "Unmasking the Ancient Light," about Jewish Renaissance pioneer and visionary Dona Gracia Nasi, appears in the newly-released anthology, Nevertheless, She Persisted, from Book View Cafe, edited by Mindy Klasky. You can also find the ebooks and print edition at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.





“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Those were the words of Mitch McConnell after he banned Senator Elizabeth Warren from speaking on the floor of the United States Senate.
In reaction to the bitter partisanship in Trump’s United States of America, nineteen Book View CafĂ© authors celebrate women who persist through tales of triumph–in the past, present, future, and other worlds.
From the halls of Ancient Greece to the vast space between stars, each story illustrates tenacity as women overcome challenges–from society, from beloved family and friends, and even from their own fears. These strong heroines explore the humor and tragedy of persistence in stories that range from romance to historical fiction, from fantasy to science fiction.
From tale to tale, every woman stands firm: a light against the darkness.
Table of Contents:
“Daughter of Necessity” by Marie Brennan
“Sisters” by Leah Cutter
“Unmasking the Ancient Light” by Deborah J. Ross
“Alea Iacta Est” by Marissa Doyle
“How Best to Serve” from A Call to Arms by P.G. Nagle
“After Eden” by Gillian Polack
“Reset” by Sara Stamey
“A Very, Wary Christmas” by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel
“Making Love” by Brenda Clough
“Den of Iniquity” by Irene Radford
“Digger Lady” by Amy Sterling Casil
“Tumbling Blocks” by Mindy Klasky
“The Purge” by Jennifer Stevenson
“If It Ain’t Broke” by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
“Chatauqua” by Nancy Jane Moore
“Bearing Shadows” by Dave Smeds
“In Search of Laria” by Doranna Durgin
“Tax Season” by Judith Tarr
“Little Faces” by Vonda N. McIntyre

Lift Your Eyes to the Clouds

While we on Earth have been agonizing over politics (from both sides), spacecraft Juno has been sending back amazing, awe-inspiring images from Jupiter. I think it's a good reminder of what human beings are capable of: our gift for technology, our ability to work together, and our insatiable curiosity about the universe. The space race of the 1960s, was spurred by anti-Communist fears of the Soviet Union launching missiles from orbit, but it had the consequence of boosting our engineering, mathematical, and scientific prowess that could then be focused on peacetime exploration.

After seeing (and loving) the movie Hidden Figures, I picked up the book on which it was based, by Margot Lee Shetterly. As usual, the book is deeper and more detailed -- and wider-ranging -- than the film, but both remind me of the fervor of the time. (I remember when the Soviets launched Sputnik -- my homemade Halloween costume that year was the satellite.) While I don't hold out much hope that the current strain of antipathy towards science will inspire everyone to cheer on the exploration of our solar system and beyond, I firmly believe that the upcoming generation will find the prospect thrilling. (And will want to grab on to all the math, science, and engineering courses they can!)  The awe and wonder of images like that transcends gender, race, national origin, and political affiliation. At lease I hope it does.







About 8,000 kilometers in diameter, the anticyclonic storm system was spotted in Jupiter's North North Temperate Zone in the 1990s. That makes it about half the size of an older and better known Jovian anticyclone, the Great Red Spot, but only a little smaller than planet Earth. At times taking on reddish hues, the enormous storm system is fondly known as a North North Temperate Zone Little Red Spot.

Monday, August 7, 2017

[political rant] Trump Adviser Spews Stalinist Antisemitic Insults

A few days ago, the news featured an exchange between Trump adviser Stephen Miller* and CNN White House reporter James Acosta, in which Miller dismissed Acosta's questions as evidence of "cosmopolitan bias." (Cosmopolitan, by the way, means "familiar with and at ease in many different countries and cultures," as opposed to provincial or nationalist.) For much of America, the story came and went. Neo-Nazis and the alt-right erupted with glee. Those of us with somewhat longer memories, especially those whose families perished or narrowly escaped either the Holocaust or the pogroms of the early 20th Century, or Stalin's persecution of Jews (among others), we were horrified.

"Cosmopolitan" is a coded insult, aimed at Jews (and others), in much the same way veiled references to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (a document now proven to be forged, used to drum up animosity against Jews in pre-Revolutionary Russia and then Nazi Germany and still circulated in alt-right circles today) or white hoods and burning crosses are.

Jeff Greenfield of Politico provides some historical background:
One reason why “cosmopolitan” is an unnerving term is that it was the key to an attempt by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin to purge the culture of dissident voices. In a 1946 speech, he deplored works in which “the positive Soviet hero is derided and inferior before all things foreign and cosmopolitanism that we all fought against from the time of Lenin, characteristic of the political leftovers, is many times applauded.” It was part of a yearslong campaigned aimed at writers, theater critics, scientists and others who were connected with “bourgeois Western influences.” Not so incidentally, many of these “cosmopolitans” were Jewish, and official Soviet propaganda for a time devoted significant energy into “unmasking” the Jewish identities of writers who published under pseudonyms.

Greenfield focuses on the way the term has been used to target anyone suspected of not putting nationalistic loyalty above all. The word "cosmopolitan" implies citizenship and loyalty not to any one nation but to a global community. In Trump's highly divisive world-view, anything that detracts from lock-step patriotism (and personal loyalty to him, has he has demanded of his nominees) amounts to treason. But let us not forget that this was yet another tactic in the underlying persecution of Jews. The "canary in the mine" warning of impending crackdown on anyone who dares to think, speak, or belief in ways that threaten the tyranny of the administration may be Jews this time. Or blacks or transgender people. Or immigrants or Muslims. Make no mistake, an attack against one is an attack against us all.

Terms like "cosmopolitan" serve as a surrogate identity test, separating "us" from "them," the "us-we-can-count-on" who are "just-like-us" versus the "them-who-don't-conform." In the way Miller used the term, it was also an ad hominem argument. That's the "you're only saying this because you are/believe x" method of invalidating another's opinion. It doesn't address the issue itself, it discredits the speaker instead. Even without the history of the term "cosmopolitan," such a response from a government official would be outrageous. It is a mark of the breakdown of civil discourse that a reporter's question be negated by such tactics.

This administration has become notorious for its scorn and animosity for the press. It is by far not the first to be the object of scathing editorials and even more devastating investigative journalism. But always before there has been a recognition of the essential role of journalism in a thriving democracy. In 1954, President  Dwight D. Eisenhower declared that "no institution is more necessary to our way of life than a free press." Trump, through his surrogate, has placed his own vanity above the health of the nation's political life. Now journalists' questions are not only an affront to his self-image, they are at risk of becoming the brands of treason. Not to the United States or its people, but to a petty child aspiring to be Stalin's pale echo.

In summation -- Do we really want the representative of the President of the United States using the same hate speech that Stalin did?

*Stephen Miller is now also under consideration for White House communications director.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Short Book Reviews: A Life in Four Parts

The Argus Deceit, by Chuck Grossart (47 North) reads like a long, repetitive episode of The Twilight Zone. In four different time periods, four differently-aged versions of the same character, Brody Quail. In one version, he is an embittered and suicidal middle-aged widower; in another, a teenager in the throes of his first serious crush; in yet another, a disabled and possibly alcoholic veteran; and finally a happy 10-year old with friends and an adoring younger brother. Each of these vignettes leads to tragedy that Brody attempts to avoid as the scene re-plays itself, and as these replays lead to even more complications, the time lines merge. It’s a nifty Twilight Zone-ish conceit that is unfortunately marred by excessive repetition (I skimmed long passages that remained the same from one go-round to the next) and an overly late rabbit-out-of-the-hat denouement. Too slight for its current length, the story would have made a more successful novella.