Archive for February, 2011

Feb 18 2011

Y a vowel? Why not?

Published by under Astronomy,Writing

Sorry about the delay between posts — I was wiped out for most of a week with the flu. Fortunately the only symptoms were high fever and extreme fatigue (to the point of sleeping 20+ hours a day), but it pretty much precluded me from doing anything else. Except perhaps dreaming a few weird fever-dreams, which may be where the rest of this post came from…

In elementary school, at least in the three English-speaking countries I’ve lived in, we’re taught that the vowels are “A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y”. That’s drummed into us. Y has only second-, maybe even third-class status as a vowel. It’s not a real vowel. But, why the frack not?

Recently I used the word “syzygy” — it’s an astronomy term meaning that three or more bodies are in a line, like the Sun, Earth and Moon when the latter is new or full — in a discussion about the effect of multiple moons on tides. There aren’t many other places to use a word like that – even Scrabble doesn’t have enough Y tiles, you’d have to use a wild card. But look at the word: S Y Z Y G Y. By the strange classification of the letter Y as only “sometimes” a vowel, that word only sometimes has vowels in it.

Technically that’s not correct, of course, all the Y’s in syzygy are all vowel all the time. The vowel-ness of the letter is like the alive/dead-ness of Schroedinger’s cat; in the abstract it is neither a live vowel nor a dead consonant, it is only until it is observed in a word that the wave function collapses and it resolves to one or the other.

Or such, it would seem, is the thinking of whoever came up with the “and sometimes Y” in the list of vowels, and all those who believe and teach this particular dogma.

But, just at the moment, with probably neither enough sleep or caffeine in the wake of my Schroedinger’s-cat-like flu-induced zombie state, I’m having difficulty thinking of a word in which Y is ever unarguably not a vowel. So why the second- (or third-) class status?

(And don’t get me started on W. It should be twice the vowel that U is. But perhaps there’s some Welsh in me.)

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Feb 05 2011

Miscellaneous musings

Published by under Astronomy,Physics,Writing

I spent a bit of time last night getting three e-books up on Pubit, the Barnes & Noble Nook equivalent to Amazon’s Kindle store. This went pretty quickly, since I’d already prepped the files for Smashwords. Basically I just needed to change the line “Smashwords edition” to “Nook edition” on the title page. A reminder, you can get versions for Kindle (.mobi) and Nook (.epub) from Smashwords too, if you want to take advantage of the coupon offer in the update below.

Small Penalties
My story in the current (April) issue of Analog seems to have struck a chord, with a 4.5 (of 5) star review on cxPulp, and a strong recommendation from a commenter in the Usenet group The latter says I write like I’ve been lurking in that group for years. 😉 (No need. I’ve dealt with more than enough spam on the job and on my home systems.)

Fun astrophysics
Last week a paper on arXiv suggested that black holes may not be affected by dark matter. Since spiral galaxies are now believed to all have massive black holes at their center, and since dark matter was “invented” to explain the otherwise anomalous rotation of such galaxies (they rotate too fast for their apparent mass to hold them together), this is a puzzlement … or an argument for Modified Newtonian Dynamics.
This week, an analysis by cosmologists suggests that the universe may be 250 times bigger than the mere 14 billion light-year distance we can see. So much more room to play in! (If we could only get there in something less than the age of the universe.)

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Feb 01 2011

Simply smashing

Published by under T-Space,Writing

I have finally started to make some of my stories available through Smashwords, for those with non-Kindle e-readers or who just don’t like Amazon. Smashwords also makes the files available through other outlets; I’m still sorting through the details on that. The process for uploading the books was fairly painless, and I like how fast Smashwords makes the work available on its site.

Three titles up so far. My first ever sale, Snowball, and two Jason Curtis stories, Into the Fire and Renee (aka Renee and the Space Raiders. Click any of the cover images below to get to the Smashwords page. Smashwords also makes possible discount coupons. Stay tuned for details, I’ll be putting something together a (time-limited) opportunity to download a complete book for free. You can already download samples (the first 20%) of each, to whet your appetite.
Snowball cover  Into the Fire cover  Renee cover

For those interesting in the publishing side, I’ll be posting stats when enough have accumulated to be interesting. One data point, I sold a copy of Snowball within a couple of hours of making it available, without any publicity on my part! (Smashwords links new books on their home page. I’m guessing somebody saw it and liked it.) If you want to prep your own books (or stories), Smashwords Book Marketing Guide is a free book that tells you how.

UDATE – Limited time free offer: I’m offering a coupon good for 100%-off the retail price of Into the Fire (which, for any of you doing math on an old Pentium with the floating point bug, makes it free 😉 ). Click on the red cover above (the middle one), and use the coupon code TM58S at checkout to get the deduction. The coupon expires on February 11 (2/11/11), so act soon. If you enjoy the story, you might consider leaving a review to that effect on Smashwords or Amazon.

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