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Monday, November 28, 2011

Blue Smoke

Last summer my kids and I helped staff at Cub camp. I've been the camp director for both Catalina Council camps and Spanish Trails District camps, but this time I was just a staffer. It was out at the Pima Air and Space Museum.

After the day was over we got to go tour the facility. I've been there before, but not since they added things like my new favorite substance. My old favorite substance used to be Bucky Balls (It's still number two. I mean...those things are handy little critters).

But now they've got Blue Smoke, Frozen Smoke or Aerogel!

As I was looking at the displays, I noticed a chunk of what looked like cloud sitting there in a display case. At first I thought it was some kind of hologram. That was cool. But then I started reading about it, and BANG! New favorite.

Here's why:

By definition, an aerogel is a network of interconnected nanostructures which is at least 50% porous. It is an extremely low density solid matrix material (or foam) in which the liquid part of a gel (most often a silicone/oxygen gel) is replaced by a gas.

In other words, they dessicate the liquid out and fill the gel with air (thus the name aerogel). In fact, in a silicon-based aerogel, it's content is about 99.5% air and .5% silicon. This makes it look like a chunk of cloud Jell-o and feel like styrofoam. Its desiccating qualities can dry out the skin.

An aerogel can hold up to 2,000 to 4,000 times its weight if that weight is added carefully. Otherwise, it's extremely friable, meaning if you poke it too hard, or bend it, the gel (a misnomer as it's actually a solid) will shatter. It does, however, bounce!

They are extremely low in density--usually about 15 times heavier than air. In fact, all the lowest density substances man has yet produced have been aerogels. Some silicate aerogels, at 99.98% air, are only three times heavier than air and can even be lighter than air if the air is evacuated from the matrix.

If you stacked up 150 normal brick-sized bricks of aerogel, they would only weigh as much as a gallon of water. An aerogel statue of David would only weigh about four pounds.

Silicate aerogel is amazing stuff! It is the most commonly-manufactured of the aerogels so far. It's a fantastic thermal insulator (it can provide the same insulation value as fifteen panes of glass), absorbs infrared rays, but it can also allow light through, making it a great thing to use in windows. They used silicate aerogels in the Sojourner Mars rover in 1997 because of their insulation values.

NASA, in its Stardust Spacecraft mission (and others) used aerogels 'doped' with Gadolinium and Terbium to capture hypervelocity particles coming off of the Wild 2 comet. Particles shoot off of the comet at roughly six times the speed of a speeding bullet. As they hit the aerogel, the particles are slowed down and leave a florescent trail, making it easier to spot the tiny sand-sized particles.

Aerogels can be made out of other substances as well as silicon. Carbon aerogel makes a great supercapacitor and is now being used in solar collectors.

Alumina aerogels using aluminum oxide are being used in tandem with other metals as catalysts.

They're testing aerogels for use in insulating jackets and blankets, thermal diving suits, and as drug delivery systems. They're using it to absorb pollutants, and as flexible insulation in buildings--which won't age, mold, or mildew.

And, duh duh duh da...they've combined it with my second favorite substance (carbon nanotubes) to make carbon aerogels--a material so elastic that it might be used in chemical and pressure sensors. Carbon nanotubes can be grown in an aerogel, and they can also be used to strengthen the aerogel itself.

Samuel Stephens Kistler of the College of the Pacific in Stockton, California, created the first aerogel in 1931. He won a bet with his frhere.iend Charles Learned that he could replace the liquid in a gel with gas without making the gel shrink.

So sometime soon we'll be looking out of our aerogel-filled windows as we put on our aerogel-filled jackets. We'll walk out of our aerogel-insulated homes and then the possibilities will be wide open!

Sources:
http://www.Aerogel.org
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerogel
http://www.aerogel.com/
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHnen2nSmDY
http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov/tech/aerogel.html
http://thermablok.com/
http://www.tonyboon.co.uk/aerogel/aerogel.htm

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Death of a Dragonrider

One of my most favorite authors of all is Anne McCaffrey. I've read rearly everything she ever wrote. Many of my copies are signed editions (unfortunately not to me, but still...SIGNED).

Anne did much to inspire new writers to write. She has co-written scores of books, helping to spawn such delicious writers as Elizabeth Moon, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, and Jody-Lynn Nye. I wonder if she was a major influence of Christopher Paolini's?

I love Anne's books because she put families back in space together. Her plots were fresh, imaginative, and interesting. Her world-building was stellar. I could tell she cared deeply about people and relationships. She made me wish I had my own dragon egg on the hatching field. I can just feel the wind in my hair as my dragon's muscles bunch and expand. I can smell the rock her dragons chewed to make flame.

I found myself wishing I could visit Petaybee as well--maybe as a shape-changer, or visit Acorna's worlds. I felt how it might be to be a shell person or a planet pirate.

Anne died November 22nd in her home in Ireland. We'll miss you, Dragonrider!

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Smackeral of Psyquake

Here's a smackeral of Psyquake (my W.I.P.) (excerpts of the Declaration of Independence will be in the credits) :
Cai woke up in a close little room, which smelled of stale sweat and fear.
Sec!
Dread blossomed in his chest like a poisonous flower; the bloom died and the poisonous seeds spread throughout his body. Sec had ways of making people talk. Cai could break the whole agenda wide open with just a few words. If he'd had his hands free, he'd have found something with which to take his life. He worked at his bonds, sawing at the plastic ties, only resulting in making deep bruises in his wrists and ankles.
"I wouldn't do that," a man said as he walked in. "Those restraints are painted with a nerve toxin. If that gets into your bloodstream, you'll talk first, then die."
That wasn't a cheerful thought. Cai needed it to be the other way around. But probably Sec had some way of getting information out of a person even after they died.
"You've made a bit of a mess for us, 3CAI-M-REC."
"What does REC mean?"
"Ah. So you do talk. It means Recycling."
Cai smiled exhaustedly.
"So. Before I take you there, you're going to clue us in on your plans for the future and the whereabouts of your little friends."
"No."
The man smiled benignly. "I think you will."
Cai smiled back and launched into speech. "When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature, and of Nature's God entitled them, a decent respect of the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold..."
"Stop. What is this rot you're saying?"
"These truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator..."
The interrogator was starting to get steamed, now. "What Creator? You weren't created. No clones here. Wrong dome."
"With certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and..."
"Enough! Where are you getting this rot? And why aren't you answering any of my questions?" He held a device to Cai's head and clicked a button on it. "That should do it."
"The pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,--That whenever..."
"It didn't work! What the...why doesn't your chip at least beep on here?" the Sec agent said under his breath. Then to Cai, "Shut your mouth, prisoner. I can see why you're going straight to Recycling! No more lies!"
"No lies. This information is from a document written for my country almost four hundred years ago."
"Well there you go. That country is gone. That rot you're spouting is dead."
"You sure say 'rot' a lot. The rot is in this system...and in your head, my friend."
"I'm not your friend."
"Clearly. I thought you wanted information. Well I'm giving you information. I'm telling you why we're doing what we're doing."
"I don't need to know why. You're doing it because you've gone insane and you people are homicidal maniacs bent on wrecking our beautiful system."
"Beautiful? No."
The man came up to Cai and stuck him in the arm with a syringe full of something greenish. The creep's eye glinted with amusement as he pushed the plunger to the hilt. "Now you'll talk."
"Sure! I'll talk a lot! You'll be so happy to hear me talk. I'm talking right now, you know. Do you like me talking? I could talk faster. I could even talk in another language. Here we go. Ich spreche mit Dir jetzt. Yo hablo contigo. Lookit that! Three languages! I'm talkin' like a freak! Hey, I could tell you my ABC's. Wanna hear?"
The Sec agent rolled his eyes. "Tell me, where's your base?"
"It blew up. Gone. Bye-bye. A, B, C, D, E..."
"No ABC's."
"I don't think I can talk without using ABC's. Can you? I mean there are grunts. Okay, grunts it is." And then he launched into a series of grunts and other guttural nonsense sounds.
"Where is your base?"
"You should go to Recycle yourself. You're hearing is bad."
The agent made a sour face. "Who is your leader?"
"Leader, leader, following the leader wherever he may go. Ta-rum. Ta-ree..."
"Quiet!" He pushed a call button and when a voice asked what he needed, he told the voice that the prisoner needed transport back to Re-think for a new co-chip."
"Oh GOODY," Cai chortled. "I've been DYING for a new co-chip!"
The voice in the intercom said, "Are you sure he needs a new chip? Sounds like he should go straight to Recycle."
"Tell me about it," the agent answered.
Cai launched into another part of the Declaration of Independence, and continued until the flitter got back to Re-think. He was on his third run-through when the agent opened the doors.
"In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms..."
"Quiet! Get out." He yanked Cai out and cuffed him viciously in the head.
Cai sent him a poisonous look and continued even louder as they went in the door. "Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury...oh hi, whats-your-name! Hi! You work here now?"
The receptionist smiled and shot the Sec agent from under the desk. Cai was still spouting words from the Declaration when the others poured from the room in which they'd been hiding.
Larkin ran up to Cai and caught him in a bear hug. "Oh Cai! You're safe!"
"A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act...wait...you look like Larkin. Hi Larkin...no. You're too ugly to be Larkin...where was I? Oh. Which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people..."
Larkin gave him a suspicious look and then said over her shoulder, "Someone find me an antidote to that truth serum Sec use. There's a drug cabinet in the room across the hall." She examined her husband thoroughly. Cai was suffering from a fresh wound on his head, as well as various other cuts and bruises.
"If you were really Larkin, you'd take these things off my wrists and ankles. They're poison-y. But since you can't be her...yeah. Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren...heh...funny word, brethren. Brethren. Sister-en. Mother-en. Father-en..."
If you're at all intrigued or confused about what's going on, read this book when I finally get it out...or comment. I'm happy to explain.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Telemisery

Just a few words on telemarketing.

My son is a telemarketer. He sells phone/Internet service. I say that with mixed feelings, as I pretty much despise telemarketers. They ring a bell in your house and expect you to drop everything and listen to them rant about whatever it is that they're selling, despite what you wanted to do with that time. And they rarely hear the word 'no' in any of it's varied iterations. Sometimes they call multiple times and it's automated. Argh!

My son is earning money to go on a mission for our church, however, and has had a devilish time trying to find a paying job. So I shut one eye and wait for his incredible stories.

Telemarketers would be the bane of my existence if they weren't so much fun to tease. I enjoy making them cry with frustration--especially guys. Amazingly, they don't call here much anymore, which is good, since I work from home and despise distractions.

One day I got a call from the newspaper (the Tucson Citizen). This is basically how the conversation went (I'm speaking in my best imitation of a Pakistani accent):

TC: Good morning.
Me: Is it?
TC: Uh...yes.
Me: If you say so.
TC: Uh...we'd like to know if you're getting the Citizen.
Me: I am not yet a citizen.
TC: No, the Tucson Citizen.
Me: No, I am not yet a citizen.
TC: NO! We want to know if you get the newspaper the Tucson Citizen!
(By this time it's getting really hard not to fall on the floor and expire of laughter.)
Me: I will be a citizen in one year. Ask me then.
Click.

Another time the Citizen called me. I was pretty sick of them calling around dinnertime, so I told them I never get the paper.
TC: Why not?
Me: You know the fibers in those papers are traceable from the air.
TC: Um...what?
Me: You can be traced by aliens using the newspaper.
TC: Aliens. You mean illegal aliens?
Me: No. The outer space kind.
TC: So you're saying that aliens from outer space can find out where you live and watch you by using our paper?
Me: That's about it. That's why I'm not going to buy your paper. And why I wear a tin foil hat.
TC: Um (laughing his insides out) okay. Thanks for your...candor.
Me: Any time...except between the hours of 6 and 6.
TC: Am and pm?
Me: No, Am and the next am.
TC: That would be...never.
Me: Huh. And here I was thinking you were a little slow. You live and learn.

Another time a man called me up and told me his name was Dave. I could tell he wasn't from this country and couldn't possibly have any other name than...say...Rajnapurta Chowdry something or other. So I told him I wouldn't deal with him because he was lying to me.
Telemarketer: I'm not lying to you. It's true. My name is Dave.
Me: No it's not.
Tele: Yes! Yes it is. How do you know Dave is not my name?
Me: Intuition born of years of experience.
Tele: Well that is what they tell me to call myself so that you can relate to me better.
Me: HA! I knew it! By the way, isn't that a little condescending?
Tele: I do not know that word condescending.
Me: Amazing.
He finally caved and told me his real name--which I forget right now so I'll call him Raj. Then he bulldozed on into his spiel:

'Raj': I'd like to discuss your mortgage.
Me: My marriage? Isn't that a little personal? I mean we only just now learned each other's real names. I really don't feel comfortable discussing my marriage with strangers.
Raj: No, your mortgage.
Me: Well if you really have to know, my marriage is fine. We're quite happy, thanks.
Raj: No, your home mortgage.
Me: I wasn't married at home. I was married in a temple. But, hey, that's really none of your stinkin' business.
Raj: NO, your MORTgage!
Me: You're really fixated on this, aren't you. Or maybe a little bit hard of hearing?
Raj: Alright! Then let's discuss your home loan.
Me: Sorry. I'm not home alone. What are you...a stalker?
Raj: No, your home loan.
Me: You don't hear all that racket in the background? I have 5 of my 6 kids here. It's never quiet. Maybe you are a little deaf.
Raj: NO! I WANT TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT YOUR HOME LOAN!
Me: No wonder you can't hear well if you keep yelling like that. Anyway, why do you want to know if I'm home alone so much? Are you trying to figure out the best time to come rob the place? 'Cause if you are, you should know that there's almost always someone here. And I can personally chop the legs right out from under you if you try it when I'm here. Oh wait...you aren't even in this country, are you?
Raj: Here. Please talk to my supervisor. (I could hear the hair tearing out of his head at this point and he was making little whimpering noises. I wonder if he's bald now?)
Me: Alright. But it won't help much.
Muffled conversation.
Supervisor: Hello. We'd like to discuss your mortgage.
Me: You TOO? What is it with you people?
(Open season on telemarketers.)

It's just possible that I will need to repent of the way I treat telemarketers. But I'm thinking it'll be a deathbed repentance. And, son, if you ever call me from work, keep the laughter to a dull roar or our secret will be out...;o)

Gratitude Giveaways


I'm hoping to get in on this blog hop. I'd like to offer a book from my collection (which is extensive). For one point, please follow this blog. For another, visit my facebook page (Small Deceptions). For five points, do a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads for Small Deceptions.
Thank YOU!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chocolatey Yumminess

I enjoyed Chocolate Roses by Joan Sowards to the hilt. Having loved Jane Eyre since I read it in fourth grade, I was skeptical that Chocolate Roses could hold a candle to it, but I was happily mistaken. Even though I knew the fire scene was coming, I was still engaged. The story was enjoyable, believable, and timely.

I found the characters engaging and believable. I felt for Roger and his poor daughter and wanted to hook them up with all my single friends...except that Janie was perfect for him.

At first I was a little put off by the first person treatment. There were a couple of places where it was a tiny bit invasive, but those instances were short-lived. The book kept a great pace and I took the book everywhere I went, until it was finished.

I've added Chocolate Roses to my library and fully intend to add the rest of Joan Sowards' books as soon as possible. They're on my stack of 'to be read soonest' books.

And now I need to hunt down a chocolate rose of my own.

Loving Loyalty's Web

A while back Joyce DiPastena asked me to edit a book for her. I was expecting to have a great deal to do since I know a thing or two about that time period. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Joyce KNOWS her stuff. I bow to her superior intelligence on the subject!

So when I found her book, Loyalty's Web, I had to buy it. I was not disappointed! I loved the way Joyce took me back to a time of chivalry and adventure. Her research was spot-on and extensive. Her characters were believable and well-rounded. I felt like I knew these people and came to love them. I almost felt like I lived in the next castle over.

I know a fair bit about court intrigue and Joyce has reproduced the intricacies and mantraps deliciously! She puts you right into the dungeons and castle halls of France. Sometimes these things can get confusing, but Joyce handled the twists with great aplomb.

I enjoyed the plot and its twists. I rooted for Helene in her quest to expose the assassins plaguing the King's representative, even though it was possible the assassins were of her own family. Hurray for her when she uncovered the truth. And hurray for Gunthar's honor.

I've already added the next book in the series and hope soon to add the third. I greatly enjoy Joyce DiPastena's offerings! Read Loyalty's Web!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lune Music

Wow. I would LOVE to have this guy (Josh Wright) play the piano in my ward at church! He has such a wonderful gift! The music floats off his fingers like a magical flood of brilliant color.

I think it would totally keep the ancient ones (and my son who always insists that he ISN'T asleep) from falling off their chairs.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Misty Morning

I went running this morning. For once it was lusciously cool. It was too cold and dark for most of the little old ladies who walk there. Finally it seemed as if autumn had arrived. I was all covered up and looked quite unlike the other runners I saw...but I was warm. By the time I was halfway through my run, I realized why they were wearing shorts. I started pulling off layers but had nothing to do with the extras.

As I was running around the park, the fog rose up from the dew-jeweled grass. It felt as if I were running through a cloud. I was glad I'd dug myself out of bed to go.

On the way to drop my load of seminary students off at school, I mentioned how pretty the mist was as it lifted up from the city. Then suddenly I remembered that in German, mist means manure. I think my passengers thought I had finally lost it, since I giggled maniacally clear to school.

Check out this hop

Here's a honkin' list of blogs to rifle through. I only wish I'd gotten in on the bandwagon. Ranee has a fantastic blog, though. Check it out.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

15 Lovely Blogs



Wow! Marsha Ward of Writer in the Pines blog awarded Murphy's Law the 'One Lovely Blog Award'! Thanks, Marsha! That's so fantastic!


In order to accept the award, I have to share seven random facts about myself. Here they are:
1. I am a Unit Commissioner for the Boy Scouts.
2. I am a sword-fighting squire. (My first date with my husband was to a sword- fighting tournament.)
3. I love eating mint chip ice cream and watching Jane Austen movies with my sister, Lisa.
4. I have sung tenor in choirs all over Arizona, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado.
5. I have touched a Rembrandt.
6. I love riding trains all over Europe.
7. I learned to gut 5 salmon a minute in Alaska.

Now, here's my list of fifteen lovely blogs. I hope you will visit them and say hello to the lovely bloggers who write them:

Bonnie Gets a Say
The Blessings of Family Life
Jewel's World
Laurie LC Lewis: A View from the Other Side of the Hill
The Lyon's Tale
S. Jean Montgomerie
Betsy Love LDS Author
Nicole M. White
LDS Writer Mom
Kaylee Baldwin
Haunts Haven
A Writer's Ramblings

Of Writerly Things
Mother's Daze
Donna Hatch

Ladies, to claim the award, you must:

1. Thank the giver and link back to his or her site.
2. Provide seven random facts about yourself.
3. Pass the award to fifteen other blogs, then let them know, and link to their sites.
4. Copy the award logo and paste it on your site.

The Birth of Psyquake

It's sprint time. I'm going to try BIAM (Book in a Month)--which involves writing a novel in a month. I am at least going to try writing 1000 words per day, not counting Sundays.
Day one: 552 (lost my outline on an old computer death and had to start over)
Day two: 2425
Day three: 1526
Day four:551
Day five: 0
Day six: 0
Day seven: 2368
Day eight: 2130
Day nine: 1433
Day ten: 2599
Day eleven: 2466.
Day twelve: 1289
Day thirteen: 0
fourteen: 2300
fifteen: 2457
sixteen: 2315
seventeen: 1435
eighteen: 2416
nineteen: 2416
twenty: 0
twenty one: 3129
twenty two: 3386
twenty three: 2438
twenty four: 0
twenty five: 2189
twenty six: 1157
twenty seven: 0
twenty eight: 2077
twenty nine: 4563
Thirty: 2204
Grand total: 51,565! I made my goal!

The work I'm working on?
Duh ta da duh...
Psyquake
This is the 4th book in my Watchers series (Science Fiction). It takes our rag-tag band of freedom fighters on their final push to knock the Powers out of...well...power. Major plans are hatching, now. The de facto (despite their grousing) leaders are asking the difficult questions like: "What are we going to do with all these slaves after we get them free?" and "What if I don't want to go die horribly in your suicide mission?"

I think Orb is going to go a little nuts. And all Larkin wants is to have a quiet day to relax and hang out with her husband. Good luck with that!

So we'll see if Orb and his crew can get this band of ex chip slaves whipped into shape enough to go back and face their jailers.

The other three books are:
Watcher at the Gates of Day
Dawn Undaunted
Dark Moon Rising
All of these now are in the editing stage. I have been a busy juggler!
I hope you come on this journey with me!

I finished this book in January 2012! Now I add it to the pile of polishing books. I hope you get to read this series in print soon!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Zombie Prints




Every year I make these ghoulish severed hands and feet out of meatloaf. I put pumpkin seeds in for the finger and toenails, cheese for the bits of flaking skin, boiled egg slices for the bones, and lots of ketchup blood.

I was worried the first year that the family would find them too disgusting to eat. I must have a warped family, though, because they loved it.
I could hear them in there arguing over who got the big toes. Other visitors think we've completely lost our minds, I'm sure.

So this morning I was doing the kids' dishes for them. (There are times I just snap and do them because I'm tired of hearing the teens whine and of having a kitchen full of rotting food-encrusted dishes) So this morning I found the two cookie sheets I'd baked the meatloaf on. Each tray bore meaty foot and hand prints. In the dark, the gobbets would have scared someone half to death, because they looked and felt like chunks of skin and muscle.

It's a good thing I already had breakfast...;o)