Taxes, Edits and a Wedding

Unfortunately I managed to miss my weekly update that would have been posted on April 18. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the events of the past two weeks and a look ahead at an upcoming book signing in Las Cruces.

Wedding

I first met Gwynne Williams when she started babysitting for my daughter, Myranda. Since that time, Gwynne graduated from high school, went to New Mexico State University and ultimately started working with my wife Kumie at Better Life Pet Foods in Las Cruces. During that time, she met Daniel Cox and the two decided to get married. On Monday, April 13 Kumie and I were delighted to open our home to Gwynne and Daniel for a reception in Las Cruces before their wedding in Colorado. Because I was just returning home from Kitt Peak that night, I was somewhat late to the party, but was glad to spend time with them before the happy event.

Taxes

The weeks leading up to April 15 are an especially busy time at our house. My wife is a bookkeeper, so she was in the throes of not only our personal taxes but helping her clients finish their taxes. I spent much of April 14 and 15 doing the cooking and spending time with the kids so she could get her work done.

Editing

I’ve been spending a lot of the last two weeks working on various editorial projects. I’ve already mentioned the work I’ve been doing on B.T. Robertson’s final Chronicles of the Planeswalkers novel. I turned in my edits to LBF’s Editor-in-Chief tonight. I look forward to seeing the novel in print. Meanwhile, over at Kitt Peak, I’ve been continuing revisions of the 4-meter operations manual. Though it’s not fun in the same say as editing a fantasy novel, I have been enjoying the work.

Tales of the Talisman Update

According to UPS tracking, the spring issue of Tales of the Talisman will be arriving from the printer this week. I have everything ready to pack them up and ship them out this coming week. I will also be forging ahead with edits of the stories that have been accepted for the summer and autumn issues.

Listen to Me at Podioracket.com

I talk about networking in Episode 5 of the Podioracket Podcast at Podioracket.com. Drop by the site, listen in, and learn about some of the exciting things happening in the world of Podiobooks.

School Book Fair

My novel, The Solar Sea, will be available at Central Elementary School’s annual book fair in Las Cruces, New Mexico this week. I will be on hand to sign copies of the book during the school’s Family Night on Thursday, April 30 starting at 6pm.

The Week in Review – 4/11/2009

Galaxies Near and Far

This past week found me back at Kitt Peak. I spent Tuesday through Thursday supporting observing programs at the Mayall 4-meter telescope. Astronomers were using the observatory’s newest instrument, the wide-field infrared imager called NEWFIRM, to look for the most distant galaxies in the universe. On Friday, I moved over to the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope to support a program collecting infrared images of dark matter galaxies that are close to our galaxy.

I find the concept of dark matter galaxies to be especially interesting. Basically these are galaxies that only have a few stars. Most of their matter is composed of stuff that doesn’t glow. Why didn’t these galaxies form many stars? What is most of the matter that makes up a dark matter galaxy?

Now, lets look at this from a slightly different perspective. There’s actually evidence that there is more dark matter in the universe than luminous matter. This represents a big paradigm shift from how the universe was viewed only 20 years ago. When I was in college, the thought was that stars and the galaxies we could see easily composed most of the matter in the universe. However, there’s not enough matter there to account for how the universe is observed to behave. This may mean that there are actually more dark matter galaxies than galaxies with stars. wow

Think about that for a moment. Why did our galaxy form lots of stars? Life as we know it probably needs starlight to develop and thrive. Could there be life around the few stars in those dark matter galaxies? Could there be very alien life in the dark reaches of those galaxies?

A lot of big questions there. Lots for scientists to explore and more than a few story ideas start coming to my mind when I think about all of this.

Wind and Snow

Interesting as these things are to think about, there’s more to my “day” job than pondering the mysteries of the universe. Much of my job involves telescope operation, instrument maintenance, and troubleshooting problems when they occur (and the problem with troubleshooting is that trouble often shoots back!). Large and impressive as the telescopes are at Kitt Peak, they are still precise scientific instruments and must be treated as such. Weather conditions such as high winds, blowing dust, or even high humidity can damage the optics and mechanical parts of telescopes. So, part of my job is to watch for such conditions and close down if the weather threatens the instruments.

This week was a challenging week as far as the weather was concerned. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the wind was quite high. However, the anemometer at the 4-meter hasn’t been working very well, so when it gets close to our closure limit, I have to go outside with a hand-held anemometer to check the speed. So on Tuesday, I got to go outside periodically on a near-freezing night in what ultimately became 60 mile-per-hour winds with a hand held anemometer. Really, that wasn’t so bad (except for the part about trying to stand in one place in 60 mile-per-hour winds). The real problem is that it’s spring and those 60 mile-per-hour winds carried a LOT of pollen. My sinuses were not happy.

I got to spend the next two nights coughing and sneezing while pondering the mysteries of the universe.

Then, on Friday night, when I moved over to WIYN, the skies started out clear, but the humidity started rising rapidly and the temperature started dropping. By midnight, it was snowing on Kitt Peak. At 1am, the phones went out and fire alarm panels around the mountain started going nuts because they rely on the phone system. By 2am the internet connection went out.

Now, those of us who support telescope operation at night are also responsible for responding to emergencies. We had no phone and no internet. Because there are two radio telescopes at Kitt Peak, there are no cell phone towers near the mountain and most cell phones don’t get a signal. You’re actually not supposed to use cell phones at Kitt Peak because of the radio telescopes. However, we were in a situation where we had no communication off the mountain unless we used a cell phone. So, one of my fellow staffers and I spent part of Friday night driving around the mountain in a raging blizzard trying to find a place where we could get cell phone service on one of our personal phones to no avail. Fortunately as we were driving down the mountain road, we found one of the fellows who works in electronics who was on his way up, but hadn’t expected the storm. We followed him up the mountain and he ultimately got the phones fixed.

The best part of the storm, though… it froze all the pollens out of the air and I could breathe again!

Planeswalkers and Talismans

In between the wind, snow, and actual observing at telescopes, I continued work editing B.T. Robertson’s third Chronicles of the Planeswalkers novel. We’re now most of the way through. I’m hoping to wrap that project up in the next couple of weeks.

The Tales of the Talisman print vendor contacted me this week and informed me that there was a problem with the cover. It turns out they had made some slight changes to the way covers need to be formatted for printing and I had missed that. So, I had to reformat the cover file and send it back to the printer. Checking the site today, it sounds like things are fine and prepress should be complete this coming week. Usually the actual printing takes about another week, then copies should be on their way out to people soon after.

The week in review – 4/4/2009

Happy Birthday, Kumie

This week started out with Kumie’s birthday. I returned home from Kitt Peak and we went out to dinner to celebrate. Though I had given Kumie her first present a week before, I knew she still needed a new Handheld PDA, since the old one was wearing out. This led to an adventure in shopping on eBay.

I haven’t shopped on eBay for years. The last time was in my early days at New Mexico State University and I was shopping for a computer for my office. I remembered I had the account, but realized I’d never transferred it to my personal email when I left the astronomy department. When I tried to transfer my account I discovered that someone else has been assigned my old email address. Fortunately, the person who now has my old NMSU address was quite helpful and I was able to transfer my account with no problem. I found a nice, used replacement for Kumie’s PDA and it arrived this week. Kumie is now using it and much happier with it than the old version.

Tales of the Talisman

Most of my week was spent laying out the spring issue of Tales of the Talisman magazine. I was a bit behind with the issue because this past winter proved to be extremely busy, but I’m quite pleased with how this issue has turned out. The issue went to the printer on Friday and, if all goes well, I hope to have issues to ship in about two weeks. I have made the issue available for preorder at: http://www.talesofthetalisman.com/bookstore-v4.html

Here’s the table of contents for the issue:

3 Spring Is in the Air
Introduction by David Lee Summers

4 Dragon Offerings
Story by Janni Lee Simner
Illustration by Liz Danforth

7 Dragon Dreaming
Poem by K.S. Hardy

8 Unicorn Chase
Story by Douglas Empringham
Illustration by Teresa Tunaley

17 Elusive Legend
Poem by Carol Hightshoe

18 Frost
Story by Andi Newton
Illustration by Lonnie Allen

21 Alchemy of Souls
Poem by Jennifer Crow

22 Dreams and Nightmares
Story by Bradley H. Sinor
Illustration by Tom Kelly

27 No Butterflies Allowed
Poem by Neal Wilgus

28 Tranquility
Story by J Alan Erwine
Illustration by Laura Givens

32 Galaxy Time Shares
Poem by L.B. Sedlacek

34 Red House, Blue House, My House, Your House
Story by Mark Anthony Brennan
Illustration by Noah Van Sciver

37 Haiku
Poems by William Landis

38 Ain’t Technology Wonderful
Story by Jim Chandler
Illustration by Paul Niemiec

42 Collar and Chain
Story by K.S. Hardy
Illustration by April Martinez

49 Red Rain
Poem by Michael S. Wilson

49 Mercury Rising
Poem by Christina Sng

50 Dutchman Rescue
Story by Michael D. Turner
Illustration by Laura Givens

59 Change
Poem by Lawrence Barker

60 Pond Scum
Story by Jim Lee
Illustration by Russell Morgan

63 Near the End
Poem by Maril Crabtree

64 Witch’s Skin
Story by Rik Hunik
Illustration by Neil T. Foster

68 Cereus
Poem by William Corner Clarke

68 Owner’s Manual
Poem by Marcy Lynn Tentchoff

69 Secret Lives of the Undead
Story by Glynn Barrass
Illustration by Paul Niemiec

70 When Time Slips
Story by Lee Clark Zumpe
Illustration by Erika McGinnis

75 When Wizards Dream at Night
Poem by Richard H. Fay

76 A Fury’s Fortune
Story by Robert T. Knight
Illustration by Jim Collins

79 888 Elysian Fields
Poem by CEE

80 The Blessed Days
Story by Mike Allen
Illustration by Jag Lall

88 Malthus overlooked a cure for the planet of the apes
Poem by Roibeárd Uí-neíll

89 Book Reviews

The issue also features fun front and back cover illustrations by Laura Givens. Now that the issue is off to press, it’s back to work on the edits of B.T. Robertson’s Chronicles of the Planeswalkers: Alignment. Once that’s complete, I hope to start work immediately on both the summer and autumn issues of Tales of the Talisman so we can get back on schedule.

Spring Concert

This past week, my daughter Myranda performed in the Spring Concert performed by the string ensembles of Picacho Middle School and Vista Middle School. There were over 100 kids playing such pieces as “Wexford Circle” by Elliot A. Del Borgo and the “Hornpipe” of G.F. Handel. Throughout the concert, there were violin and cello solos as part of the pieces played. However, one kid out of the 100 plus kids there had a solo all to herself. Myranda played Dvorak’s “Largo” on the bass with all eyes on her and did a splendid job. I was very proud of my daughter.

Battle of the Books

If that weren’t enough, Myranda also did very well at the regional Battle of the Books tournament today. For those not familiar with Battle of the Books, it’s like a spelling bee, except that instead of spelling words, kids answer questions about books they’ve read over the course of the school year. Myranda’s team came in second place.

At the Battle of the Books tournament, Kumie discovered that the librarian at Picacho Middle School had accidentally checked her personal copy of The Solar Sea into the school library. There’s now a waiting list for the book from the kids at Myranda’s school. Ms. Miranda, Myranda’s school librarian, would like to order more copies. We’re working on making that happen!

May Schedule

This week the first draft of my May schedule at Kitt Peak National Observatory came out. Looks like I have one particularly long shift that month — nine days on the mountain. The shift itself looks like it will have some good challenges and I look forward to it. However, it does mean that I’ll miss the opening day of Star Trek, which I have been looking forward to seeing. In itself, that’s not a big deal. I’ll see the movie during my next week off. However, I do ask that fiends who do get to see the movie during its first weekend of release not send me any spoilers!