A Quiet Write

Saturday, 3 January 2015 01:11
dr_phil_physics: (xmas-plot-bunny)
This last week has been pretty quiet on the great YA novel writing project. Except, not really.

As mentioned last week, I finally pushed my first little darling out into the world, providing a short story A Christmas in the Lost Kingdom (DW) -- also in a PDF.

This week I delved into the next week and delivered A New Year's in the Lost Kingdom (DW) -- also in a PDF.

Right now those are pieces of Chapters 9 and 10. I intend to read from Chapters 1 and 2 for my reading at ConFusion (DW) in mid-January. And that should be it for sneak peeks at The Lost Kingdom for a long time.

So, lots of writing, a bit of web publication -- and virtually no feedback from anyone so far. Sigh.

Also this week, I had to finish my WOTF 2015 Q1 submission and get it submitted before the new year steamrolled over us. And I just spent the last couple of days reviewing all my available Invenstory and printed out the whole list of short story markets from Ralans, as I gear up for another big assault on all the markets and work on any number of projects. Plus the YA novel -- not forgetting that. But I deliberately put almost zero time in anything else since September, since I didn't want to be distracted by space stories and other plot bunnies while I made a big effort on The Lost Kingdom. And finished my two classes. A good plan and well executed. The plot bunnies had much fodder with The Lost Kingdom and stayed in the 21st century and left the 22nd and 29th centuries alone...

Researches were scarce for this project: a lovely website with 1000 Danish surnames and the 1927 lyrics to "Skuld gammel venskab rejn forgo" (check out the New Year's story and sing along) (and Wikipedia reports "Aakjær translated the song into the Danish dialect Jysk, a dialect from the Danish peninsula Jutland, often hard to understand for other Danes." Just to get it to have the right feel.)

The other researches had to do with other stories -- and given the blind submission to WOTF, I shan't let you in on what I needed for my new story.

Since I haven't yet integrated the two holiday short stories back into the trilogy, I won't break it down by volume, but instead just give the shiny counter for the total:

The Lost Kingdom Project YA Trilogy Version 1.06


This coming week will be all about the writing, well, mainly about the writing. The week after is when Western starts back to school, so I'll start including my textbook project during part of the day.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal

500

Tuesday, 23 December 2014 17:01
dr_phil_physics: (writing-winslet-2)
But I would walk five hundred miles
And I would walk five hundred more
Just to be the man
who walked a thousand miles
To fall down at your door

-- "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)"
-- The Proclaimers

On 29 November 2014 I posted about reaching 400 pages (DW) in the Word 2010 file for my Lost Kingdom YA trilogy. Well, we've hit 501 pages today. Not that this is a milestone other than we see omens and portents in numbers everywhere.

As an author, you toil and toil and write and edit. And someday, if you think it's ready, you let some of free and let it out into the wild. This week I gave my first real sneak peek into The Lost Kingdom, even to Mrs. Dr. Phil, when on Monday I released part of the current Chapter 9 of Book 1 as my annual Christmas short story: "A Christmas in the Lost Kingdom" (DW). Published on Dreamwidth, crossposted to LiveJournal and Facebook, it's Christmas, Hanukkah, holidays, break, End of the Year -- you never know when or if people are going to read these things. Or whether you'll get any feedback. (cue-anxious-sigh) But right now I am getting tons of updates from people on Facebook, which means people are at least on Facebook. Whether they have room for a 2300-word Christmas short story, that's another tale.

But I can make things easier for people.

Today I released a PDF version of "A Christmas in the Lost Kingdom". It's in A5 page format and displays very nicely in the Adobe Reader on my Kindle Fire HD. Should work on other e-Readers as well. If you want to print it out, I'd recommend finding your printer option for printing 2-ups, two pages on a single sheet of paper.

Over the years I have created hundreds of PDFs for my classes and writings, all using the Adobe printer driver that comes with Adobe Acrobat Pro 5/7/9. But ZEPPELIN, Wendy's Windows 7 laptop, doesn't have the full version of Acrobat and I don't have any installs left of my versions. However, Microsoft Word 2010 does have a Save As... PDF option, so I tried that. It's acceptable. i worry that given how Word writes bloated HTML files that it's overwrought coding, but that can't be helped. Maybe I'll make a copy in Adobe Acrobat Pro 9 and see if there's a difference in size or appearance.

And if you forget about my story -- don't worry, I'll flog it a few more times during the holidays. Also let you know that a second story will come out on New Year's Eve. (cue-even-more-anxious-author-angst)

As for the writing, well, it's coming along amazingly well. I've been filling in and editing a great deal, while still forging ahead on three books of the trilogy. So far I am very happy with what I have, which to some extent is all that really matters. Everything else is going to be gravy on my own satisfaction. (grin)

Also with the start of Version 1.06 of the trilogy, I also started sections in the file for The Pitch and The Synopsis. Both of these are going to be tough, short and shorter, so I might as well start thinking about them now. Whenever I've had to write a synopsis after I've finished a story, it's been like pulling thorns through your body. (evil-grin)

New researches started with a problem: Trying to find Catholic high schools on the north side of Chicago. Several of the ones that I remember from my Northwestern days in Evanston/Wilmette have been closed. From there we investigated... NU Wildcat basketball player numbers for centers. The Three Crowns emblems and origins for Scandinavian countries, including Sweden, Denmark and the Trekroner Søfort (Three Crowns Sea Fortress) guarding the entrance to Copenhagen harbor. The Typ 17 and Typ 1G Volkswagen Golf. "Glade jul, dejlige jul" -- the old Danish lyrics to "Silent Night" -- versus the newer lyrics, "Stille nat, hellige nat". Also "ram tam", the same Christmas carol translated into Klingon. Prostitution in Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Workers rights and satisfaction in Denmark -- and I mean the regular workforce, not the prostitutes -- the happiest workplaces in the world. And I probably need to research something about the CIA headquarters in Foggy Bottom, which of course leads one to remind everyone never try to understand an author's browser history. (oh-my-gosh-grin)

The shiny counters now stand at:

The Lost Kingdom Project YA Trilogy Version 1.06


Book 1


Book 2


Book 3


The Lost Kingdom Fourth Novel Version 1.03


*** Note: the numbers for Books 1-3 don’t add up, because there is text which is in a section which hasn’t been assigned to a Book and Chapter yet.

And we continue...

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (seasons-best-kate)
Update: You can now view this as a PDF file, formatted for e-readers, here.

Two Christmases from now in a place you've never heard of...

            “A Christmas in the Lost Kingdom”
               by Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon

Saturday 24 December 2016
13:42 CET (GMT+1)
Sommerhus, Eisbergen

     The two princesses were tall and slender in the way of most 
Eisbergers and their Viking ancestors.  For this Christmas Eve, 
they both would wear their waist long blond hair up and have matching 
long red and green plaid skirts with white silk blouses.
     But sixteen-year-old Crown Princess Daniska Elsinor was worried 
about many things.  Dressing in candlelight had not been part of 
the plan -- and it would ruin her surprise to the children.  The 
power had been out nearly an hour already, which was never a good 
sign in the tiny kingdom of Eisbergen.  Ordinarily she might have 
been out helping troubleshoot the power failure, but the princess 
had obligations to the Crown.  At least she’d already checked her 
iPhone several times and still had bars, so she wouldn’t have to 
restart the cell service.  It was already on its backup power.
     And then there were her shoes.
     Actually there was nothing wrong with the shoes on her own 
feet.  Elegant and extravagant looking -- but bought on sale in 
Copenhagen -- it was only a little outrageous for the 6’4” Daniska 
to wear five-inch heels.  But as heir, it would bring her close 
to eye-to-eye with her father, King Henrik VII.
     She watched as her thirteen-year-old sister Princess Anaulka 
Katje tried to get into another pair of Daniska’s very high heels.  
After a struggle, she got them on and managed to stand, arms 
cautiously stretched out as she wavered.  She straightened up to 
her full height of 6’¾”, plus the four-inch heels.  Then beaming, 
Anaulka triumphantly took an awkward step... and promptly lost 
her balance and fell back against the bed.
     Daniska could only smile.
     Anaulka looked up, mortified.  “Do.  Not.  Laugh.  I’ll 
get this.”
     “Someday, I’m sure, Ani.  But not today.”
     “It’s Christmas!”
     “Yes and you know very well that on Christmas we never get 
all that we want.”
     “That’s true enough.”  Anaulka sighed and held her legs 
straight out off the bed.  “They look good.”
     “They’re darling.  Now take off my shoes before you ruin 
them and hurt yourself.  You really don’t want to be hobbling 
around the rest of the holidays on crutches.”
     “You really do have an annoying habit of spoiling everything 
by pointing out the reality of the situation, dear sister.  Not 
everything is equations and technical specifications.”
     “I love you, too.”
     Anaulka carelessly kicked off the shoes and headed back to 
the closet to find a pair of her own dress shoes.  “Your nose 
is bleeding,” she said quietly as she walked past in her stockinged 
feet.
     “Oh, thanks,” Daniska said, grabbing a handkerchief -- it 
wasn’t that bad this time.  Just a drop.  But she hated this one 
reminder of her royal ancestry.  At least her sister didn’t suffer 
from it as well.  “I think I’ll wear the dark red sweater, though, 
and not the gold.”
     “Just in case?”
     “Just in case.”
     Anaulka came back with the red sweater and her own gold sweater.  
They wouldn’t be identical, but they would look good together.
     Daniska heard a rumble outside as someone had finally broken 
down and put on the generator for Royal House.  It was the Christmas 
Eve party, after all, and if the village of Summer Home was coming 
to call, the royal family should really put on the lights for them.
     She took a deep breath and stood up.  “It’s show time.”
                                ***
     The Royal House smelled of evergreens, spices and all manner 
of baking and cooking.  Small dishes of nuts and sweets were 
strategically scattered around the public areas -- Princess Anaulka 
had secreted one large bowl for their own room, as if no one would 
notice the young teenaged princess’s sweet tooth.
     There was no real daylight this time of year, but that didn’t 
stop Eisbergen from preparing for Christmas.  And during the dark 
afternoon, families from Summer Home and Nunuuvit brought their 
children to the Royal House for games and stories and hot chocolate 
and many kinds of cookies and small spiced meat pies, while the 
adults feasted on pickled herring, salted cod, rye bread and lots 
of the local bitter thin beer.
     Large enough to entertain all forty residents of Summer Home 
and a good measure of the subjects who lived in Nunuuvit, Royal 
House stood two full stories tall, but the parlor and great hall 
in the front half had a vaulted ceiling with exposed timbers 
overhead.  Sixteen feet high at the peak, the ceiling was ten foot 
high where the nine foot Christmas tree stood just past the piano 
in the front of the parlor.  The tree glittered with hundreds of 
colored LED lights, glass ornaments, old toys, tinsel two generations 
old and topped with a glass gipfel spire which almost touched the 
ceiling.
     As far as the children of Eisbergen were concerned, their 
9th century Saint Nicholi was the real Santa Claus -- no matter 
what the mass media from the world would try to convince them of -- 
and his arrival meant blessings for the celebrations and feasts 
surrounding Christ’s Mass.  Besides, the world didn’t even know 
Saint Nicholi or even Eisbergen existed.
     But the little ones always wanted to hear stories of the great 
tree which was set up in the Citadel during Christmas back in the 
old days, from before their near destruction in World War II, when 
the Citadel, the island and Winter Home were sacked.  No one alive 
in Royal House today had been there in those days, but Princess 
Daniska had picked up the habit of reading the Christmas preparation 
notes in the Book of Days from various years.  This time she had 
selected 1911, having always held a fascination for the Edwardians.
     As the six-foot-four princess walked into the parlor, the 
kingdom’s eight smaller children were already dancing around her 
and clamoring for Her Highness to tell them a story.  Smiling, 
Daniska sat on a delicate wooden chair with her iPad on her lap 
and had them sit on the polished wood floor around her.
     “During the fourth year of the reign of Alvin III,” she began, 
speaking in the old Ur-Danish tongue, “the annual call was sent 
out throughout our little kingdom to find the right tree for the 
great entrance hall in the Citadel, the castle-in-the-Rock where 
the Royal Family of Eisbergen once lived.  While most homes had 
their own Christmas trees throughout Winter Home and Nunuuvit, 
the great tree was special, for it belonged to all of us.
     “Oh, the Old Man Pine next to the Allhall on the island still 
stood and was decorated every year, but the decorations were old 
and they’d not taken to even hanging electric lights on it.  The 
great tree in the Citadel, though, had been lit by candles for 
generations.  It wouldn’t be until 1914, three years later, that 
strings of electric lights would be used.”
     “Wasn’t it dangerous to use candles?”
     “Perhaps.  But the people were used to working with candles.  
And over the years, they had gone from melting the candles directly 
to the branches, to small candle holders just like you use today 
when the power fails, and then to tiny metal lanterns and glass 
balls with the candles inside.” Daniska paused in her tale to pull 
up some sketches on her iPad.  “See?  These are the types of lights 
they used back in 1911.”
     She touched the screen with her finger and the background 
dimmed and the candles glowed in the animation she’d made.
     “Ooo-ooh,” the children sang and the princess smiled.
     Her sister Anaulka had come out of the kitchen and was leaning 
on the staircase railing to the upstairs watching the performance.  
Daniska saw her and gave a nod of the head.  The younger princess 
carefully stepped around the children and, folding her skirts around, 
settled down on the floor next to the Crown Princess.
     “Master Tomas Blylevin was the Builder for the Crown in those 
days -- he was the greatfather of our own Builder -- and he constructed 
a special frame that sat within the lower boughs of the tree so 
that early clockwork Märklin toy trains could run around the tree.”
     “I wish we had a train running around our tree.”
     “It’s Christmas -- sometimes our wishes come true.”  Daniska 
tapped on her iPad and dimmed the lights in the parlor.  The Christmas 
tree behind the children glowed with the strings of little colored 
LED lights that crisscrossed over the branches.  When she tapped 
again, a different short string of lights appeared deep inside 
the tree -- and moved.  The children shrieked in delight, which 
caused the parents in the kitchen and those sitting at the great 
table drinking to see what was causing the commotion.  But they 
relaxed when they saw they were jumping up and down in excitement 
and pointing at something the princess had shown them.
     Even her sister looked dumbfounded as if to say, How did you 
do this?
     The tiny train, with passenger cars just two inches long and 
rails only 3 mm apart, rose on its thin tracks around and around 
the tree at a fairly steep angle, then came around a platform circling 
near the top that no one had noticed before amidst the lights and 
tinsel, and spiraled back down to repeat the process.  It took the 
train about a minute to make the full circuit.
     The older children, who’d been playing board games in the library 
and cracking nuts, came out to see what the fuss was -- and were 
amazed at Daniska’s latest technical wizardry.  They stayed and 
watched the train go up and down and up the tree again and again 
with their little brothers and sisters and cousins.  After all, 
they were all cousins by some degree to everyone else in the kingdom.
     Anaulka stared at her sister.  “Where on Earth did you find this?”
     “eBay Japan,” Daniska said quietly.  “T-scale is the smallest 
production model trains -- 1:450 ratio -- and they use magnets to 
keep a grip on the rails, so they’re perfect.  Eishindo makes various 
Japanese trains -- their commuter trains look cute snaking up and 
down the tree, don’t you think?”
     “It’s adorable, no matter the ratio gibberish,” Anaulka admitted, 
then whispered, “But how did you find out about them?”
     “Wikipedia.”
     “That’s not true,” Anaulka insisted.  “You can’t just open 
Wikipedia and it gives you answers -- you have to search for something.”
     “True.  I knew about our 1911 tree trains and wanted to do something 
similar.  Except I wanted something subtler.  A surprise, hidden in 
the branches.  Lionel and HO were far too big.  But even N-scale seemed 
large.”
     “N-scale being...?”
     “A very small train size.  But at a model shop in Copenhagen I’d 
seen some Märklin Z-scale -- even smaller.  And when I looked that up 
in Google, I found about ZZ and then T-scale.  It was the magnetic 
track that made up my mind.”
     “So... what did it cost?” Anaulka reluctantly asked.  The kingdom 
was poor and everything, eventually, came down to a matter of money.
     “It should have cost a lot,” Daniska admitted.  “But if you’re 
careful you can find eBay sellers who aren’t very clever -- they have 
the items listed wrong and they don’t set minimum prices.  Sad to say 
this person lost a great deal of money, but that’s the rules.  In the 
great Internet commerce world, it was all fair.”
     “So you’re saying you legally stole these.”
     “I suppose.  It wouldn’t have done much good to send a raiding 
party to acquire them by our usual ultralegal means -- I doubt that 
very many people have ever seen these anywhere in Europe.  There’s 
an online shop in the U.K., though.”
     “Yes, but you haven’t answered my question -- how cheap is 
cheap?”
     “35 000 yen, including shipping, which works out to about 1750 
Danish kroner.  That includes all the track, which wasn’t cheap.  
I worked up the digital controls myself.”
     “Three hundred American -- for all this?” Anaulka scrunched 
up her forehead in surprise.  “Is that all?  I take back all the 
mean things I said about equations and technical specifications.”
     “Like I said, buying them and shipping them to Copenhagen should 
have been much more dear.  In which case I wouldn’t have bought them.”
     “You brought these with you from school?”
     “Of course.  They hardly take up any space, after all.”
     “And you didn’t tell me?” Anaulka punched her sister in the arm.
     “It was worth every krone,” Daniska grinned, while she rubbed 
her sore arm.  “Merry Christmas.”
     “Merry Christmas to you, too.”
     “Now, let’s see what Saint Nicholi has brought the children.”
     “I hope there’re Snickers bars.”
     “I said for the children.”
     “You forget -- I’m still just thirteen.  I am still a child.”
     “Only when you want candy.  The rest of the time you insist 
you’re an adult.”
     “You, my dear sister, are a wretch.”
     Daniska got up, setting her iPad down on the chair.  But as 
she walked over to where there were wrapped presents and a small 
sack of candy from Saint Nicholi to give to the eager children, she 
reached into a pocket of her long skirt and palmed a Snickers bar 
into her sister’s hand -- her favorite.
     “Ooh, it’s the right size and color and everything!” Anaulka 
leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.  “Merry Christmas, Dani,” 
she said, happily smelling the chocolate and the faint odor of peanuts 
through the wrapper.  
     And then the generator stalled and the lights all went out.
     “Merry Christmas, Ani,” Daniska sighed and joined the teenagers 
in lighting the candles in the parlor, the library, the great room 
and the kitchen.  The king added two new logs to the fireplace in 
the parlor and someone found a bag of chestnuts for the children 
to roast.
     When she could relax, Daniska sat down next to her sister and 
they gazed out the front windows, watching the new snow coming down 
and burying their little village.
     It was Christmas in Eisbergen...

From Book One of the Lost Kingdom Chronicles
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon -- All Rights Reserved


This is the first outing of my Lost Kingdom princesses story.
PLEASE send me feedback.

And Merry Christmas!

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (xmas-kate)
For Your Holiday Enjoyment -- Part III

As promised, here's the third and final installment of three Christmas flash stories, here on Epiphany or Twelfth Night or...

                      "Silent Strike"
                by Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon

     "Got a suspicious package."
     "Describe, Henry-381."
     "No one shepherding package."  Henry Foster looked down 
the row of block houses, but nobody was heading towards him -- 
or running away.  "Package is roughly 40 by 60 by 80 centimeters.  
Brown paper wrap.  No address.  Clear tape."
     "Which house, Henry-381?"
     "5423A Butler.  Coordinates transferred."
     "5423A comes back as Ulrike Stefanos."
     "Confirmed, Control," Henry said.
     "Any postal codes?"
     "Negative, Control.  No markings of any kind."
     "Move in for closer inspection."
     "Roger that, Control.  Waiting for your clearance."
     "Proceed."
     Henry took a deep breath, then amped up the active 
protection on his suit.  Stepping forward, he held a mirror 
behind the package.  Nothing.  Then he flashed the package.
     "Any data, Henry-381?"
     "Looks like a box for a Sears toaster under the wrapping."
     As soon as he spoke, Henry drew back.
     "The last nail bomb on Sixth Street was built into a 
toaster."
     "I know, Control," Henry snapped, then collected himself.  
"Radar shows a rectangular shape."
     "Blow it, Henry-381."
     "Acknowledged, Control."  He stepped back, bringing his 
water shot to bear.  "Range clear.  Impact pulse in five..."
     The blast of water tore through the layers of wrapping and 
exploded through the contents.  Splayed out... the remains of a 
toaster.  Just a toaster.
     "What the hell?"  Henry looked up to see Ulrike Stefanos, 
carrying an armful of soaked plain wrapped packages.  "You've 
ruined Greek Christmas!"
     It was early January, Henry realized.  All he could say was, 
"Merry Christmas?"
     She threw a small wet package at him.

And that's all for this season, so Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

Dr. Phil

Silent Light

Wednesday, 25 December 2013 15:26
dr_phil_physics: (xmas-kate)
For Your Holiday Enjoyment -- Part II

As promised, here's the second of three Christmas flash stories -- you'll have to wait til Twelfth Night for the third...

                  "Silent Light"
             by Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon

     Shepherds watched the star brighten with every night.  
In the East, three kings began a pilgrimage to follow the 
new star.  At the little town of Bethlehem, the blazing 
star lit the way for a young couple trying to find a room 
for the night.
     In orbit above, the Mendarn exploration ship observed 
the collision course between the comet and the planet with 
growing alarm.
     "It is an extinction level event, Grand Commander.  
All surface life will be extinguished."
     "Nothing can be done, Sub-Lieutenant.  The Accords 
forbid interference."
     "Except for cultural or technological reprieves, sir."
     The Grand Commander looked askance at his junior officer.  
"And you find these creatures redeeming?  They do nothing 
but fight or torture each other."
     "But their works of art -- the poetry.  Those the Chief 
Artisan has translated, some are quite beautiful, especially 
those set to music."
     "You would save these creatures for a few poems and 
songs?"
     "It fits the Accords, sir.  What else is there?"
     The Grand Commander countered, "They cannot fail to 
notice our interference."
     "Their astrophysics is nearly nonexistent, their religions 
are all old.  There is no indication they would change based 
on one celestial event."
     "Very well.  Save your creatures.  Divert the comet."  
Inwardly the Grand Commander was pleased.  It would be a shame 
to lose any piece of beauty in the universe.
     The Sub-Lieutenant was right.  A thousand orbits or two 
hence no one would remember the tales of one close cometary 
call, even amongst the Mendarn.
     No one.

Merry Christmas,

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (massive-stars-carina-nebula)
For Your Holiday Enjoyment -- Part I

Two weeks ago, I mentioned the A Merry Little Apex Christmas Flash Fiction Contest (DW). Alas, I didn't win, but you can see the winning stories at the Apex Magazine site. But wait, there's more.

As I wrote back on the 10th, "any stories which don't get picked, will grace these pages instead". So here's the first. Merry...

             "The Long Night That Never Was"
               by Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon

     Jorge stepped out of the stasis tube -- and into confusion.
     "Is that clock right?" he asked the nearest assistant.
     The woman looked at him like he was crazy. "It's linked to 
the ship's atomic clock. It damn well better be right."
     "I meant the date."
     "What's wrong with the date?"
     "We left Earth in October.  It takes about two weeks to get 
up to jump speed and two weeks to decel.  It should be November.  
It should be Thanksgiving."
     "Is that all?"  The crewman laughed.  "You forgot this was 
a two jump run.  That's two months in space, not one.  You 
missed Thanksgiving."
     Jorge pointed at the display.  "It's the twenty-sixth -- 
I missed Christmas, too!"
     "I wouldn't worry about that too much."
     "I was supposed to be with my daughter for Christmas. I was 
supposed to already BE on Laeyk IV!"
     "ALL HANDS, ALL HANDS, PREPARE FOR PLANETARY SYNCHRONIZATION.  
IN THREE... TWO... ONE... SYNCHRONIZE."
     The calendar display rippled.  DEC 26 changed to DEC 24.
     "Merry Christmas," the crewman said.  "Thanks to the 
vagaries of time synchro during jump.  You'll be on time for your 
daughter, after all."
     She clapped a hand on Jorge's shoulder.  "Now get out of 
here and catch your shuttle."
     Stunned and relieved, Jorge finally ran toward the hatch.  
He stopped and looked back. "Merry Christmas to you."
     "G'wan.  Get outta here."
     And Jorge was gone.


Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (seasons-best-kate)
It's My Fault

This Christmas several people have emailed us -- including FB messages, etc. -- to say that things sent to our street address have been returned. We haven't moved. Rather getting a new and larger Post Office in Allendale meant that they could unify the like seven different jurisdictions for the township under one address. The big conversion date was Saturday 19 June 2010. (DW)

The bottom line is that it was our Post Office that has changed and after two years, they're no longer acting like they know how to forward. (grin)

We should have updated in Christmas letters in 2010, but with complications, including the deaths of my father in September 2010 and my sister in November 2011, we just haven't done any letters. (sigh)

The street address hasn't changed, but the town and ZIP:
West Olive MI 49460

Is now:
Allendale MI 49401

If you have my P.O. Box address, it was always Allendale and didn't change.

Sorry for the confusion. We're still here! We will write someday! Hell-oooo! Is anybody out there?

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (xmas-kate)
Here In Allendale MI

Detroit got a white Christmas, something that I guess has been rare the last few years, but the snowstorm that rolled through on Monday missed us completely. It was cold enough, with temps in the 20s, but no flakeage.

Winter Storm Euclid, which hits Michigan on Wednesday, will just graze West Michigan -- out here on the edge of the track we're expecting only about an inch. East and south of us will have much more snow on Wednesday and Thursday. Cousins in Arkansas report that Euclid produced a blizzard warning there -- they've never remembered having a blizzard warning in the thirty-odd years they've been there. And Little Rock hasn't seen a white Christmas since like 1926.

While it's been good not to have to go skating around the roads here, we're going to pay for all this lack of snow come springtime, when there is no moisture reserve, though last week's heavy rains may have helped a little. To say nothing of it being pretty and white on Christmas if it'd snowed.

Of course to put some perspective on it, a friend in Perth, Australia, says that they were the hottest place on the planet yesterday, running up to 40°C (104°F), and expecting 41°C highs on Thursday. Beach weather and living in "the aircon" is what they're reporting. Needless to say they don't get the whole bundled up for Christmas imagery. (grin)

Gas prices, which had gotten down to the $3.07.9/gal range in what I joked was a pre-Mayan Apocalypse Sale, went back up to $3.26.9 once everyone realized we were still here, and dropped down to $3.18.9 on Monday in a showing of Christmas generosity. Or not. Gas prices are capricious and even harder to guess than the weather.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (xmas-kate)
Christmas Eve

We have a long tradition of sometimes having big holiday meals on days other than their holidays. This year we chose to have our Christmas dinner a day early, so we could run off to the movies on Christmas afternoon. (grin) By choosing little Cornish hens, we got two great meals on the 24th and 25th.

Too small to stuff, the stuffing had to be done outside the birds in a casserole. The Cornish hens didn't come with giblets, so no broth. The gravy started with bouillon and beer -- very yummy. Mrs. Dr. Phil has done mixed root vegetables in a covered foil roasting pan for a number of years. But she found a recipe that actually roasts carrots and parsnips, instead of covering and letting them steam in the oven -- very successful and tasty. Salad, cranberry relish and sweet potato casserole rounded out the dinner. Pumpkin pie, which we'd started on the night before, for dessert.

©2012 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)
Our Christmas Eve dinner. (Click on photo for larger.)


©2012 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)
And Our Christmas Eve chef. (Click on photo for larger.)

Christmas

We had a 3pm movie date in Holland, a reprise of our fabulous holiday dinner at home, and a surprise evening of The West Wing on Netflix. Saving Mrs. Dr. Phil's stollen for later, we'd gotten another Dresden Christstollen from her friend in Germany, which we paired with some clementines, bananas and... excellent kielbasa from the Allendale Meat Market along with some fresh ground horseradish that Mrs. Dr. Phil had made the other week for a late breakfast. The Christmas morning chocolate fix was provided by a small packet of Godiva milk chocolate covered cashews. (grin)

©2012 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)
The meat market's kielbasa doesn't has as much garlic as my father's, but it otherwise tastes right. (Click on photo for larger.)

I remember the original Yule Log TV program from WPIX, both the Gracie Mansion film and the improved one. At one point we had a VHS tape of the latter. I found two one-hour videos on Netflix streaming and the second one includes instrumental Christmas music. We ran through the fire twice.

©2012 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)
Nothing like the warm glow of a crackling good fire -- from a cold LCD HDTV screen. (grin) (Click on photo for larger.)

Pat decided that Mrs. Dr. Phil needed a new tea kettle. When Mrs. Dr. Phil went off to Library School, she bought a number of housewares items at the World's Largest Garage Sale in the downtown parking structure in Evanston IL, including an avocado green singing tea kettle. Some time in Laurium MI, the whistling cap broke off and we acquired a Revereware Tea Kettle to match our other Revereware pots and pans. Over twenty-plus years it has gotten a little cruddy on the outside -- and cleaning hasn't helped. The new one is not only nice and shiny, but turns out to be a larger size, too.

©2012 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)
The new versus old Revereware Tea Kettles. (Click on photo for larger.)

Boxing Day

Having pretty much managed to avoid all the shopping malls and stores during the run up to Christmas, we'll pass on the day-after-Christmas madness of bargain seekers and gift returns.

Hope you had a wonderful holiday of whatever persuasion. Merry Christmas and Good Night!

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (potus)
The West Wing just showed up on Netflix streaming.

Yay!

Of course, between everybody being at home on Christmas and everyone using Netflix, no doubt, we've run into buffering issues halfway through Series 1 Episode 1: Pilot.

... and we're back on. 'Bye!

Dr. Phil

Oh, Duh!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012 13:18
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-and-daddy-xmas09)
Things Remembered In The Middle Of The Night

In yesterday's post on two old scanned Christmas pictures (DW), I was so busy playing forensic detective that I forgot about some of the obvious things. (grin)

1995 would've been my parents' 50th wedding anniversary and Wendy's 40th birthday, so we had everyone up here for Thanksgiving. So we surely stayed home here in Allendale for Christmas and definitely weren't in Atlanta for that Christmas.

As for 1990, I had been trying to figure out who took the picture -- and forgot that the Polaroid Spectra SE had a self-timer and a tripod mount. So while the 'rents might have been up for Christmas, it is more likely, given that the Christmas tree hadn't been decorated yet, that we shot the Polaroid ourselves and put it in the Christmas card to Atlanta. And probably did another one to Greensboro. Maybe.

Funny how you remember things in drips and drabs sometimes. And one of the reasons I like having blogs to work with...

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-and-daddy-xmas09)
And They Kept Christmas Very Well

No secret that my family likes Christmas. When I was boxing up Wendy's things in Atlanta, I pulled two photographs out. One is of my father from a few years ago and the other is Mrs. Dr. Phil and I from even further back. Finally got around to scanning them today.

At first blush I figured only that the one of my father was taken at Wendy's place, based on the furniture. But Daddy is wearing an Official Jurassic Park Tour Guide button. Now Jurassic Park came out in 1993, so at first I thought it was 1993. But then I realized that Daddy is holding one of many books on Harry S. Truman he collected. A quick search -- ain't computers amazing -- told me that Robert H. Ferrell's Harry S. Truman: A Life was officially released on 1 January 1996. Which means this is Christmas 1995. And quite possibly we didn't travel south, so we weren't there when this was taken. Can't read the gift tag on the book...


The scanner picked up a lot of white noise, which the Ulead PhotoImpact Despeckle routine only partially removed. Original photo was probably shot with a Nikon N2020 and a 35-70mm f3.3-4.5 AF Nikkor on color negative stock. (Click on photo for larger)


Robert H. Ferrell's Harry S. Truman: A Life would've be available for Christmas 1995.

The picture of the two of us is on a Polaroid SX70-type instant print. And it looks like this is in the living room of the house in Laurium MI in the U.P. Now I'd bought a Polaroid in the spring of 1990 when I went on a job interview -- it might have been a Polaroid Spectra SE -- which means that this might be Christmas 1990. The 'rents might have come up for Christmas (or maybe Thanksgiving) that year, in which case my father probably took the photo. Otherwise, I don't know who shot the picture.


We bought those Santa hats at K-Mart in Houghton, I think, and we still wear them, 21 years later.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (seasons-best-kate)
A Night Out Before The Mayhem

For the most part, Mrs. Dr. Phil and I don't go out on New Year's Eve. I don't trust other drivers on the road when the roads are dry and the sun is out, I'm not much for challenging drunks after midnight on January the First. But New Year's Eve Eve? Well, that's a different matter. Especially as the other day some friends posted on Facebook that their kids were all away and did anyone want to come over and play. We do! We do! And so plans were made afoot.

My mother used to make stuffed dates at Christmastime and while we were in Greensboro, Mrs. Dr. Phil went into a new Middle Eastern grocery store and found some lovely pitted dried dates. She found a fondant stuffed date recipe on the Internet -- not quite the same as I remember, but with the almond and orange flavoring, pretty damned good. Sweet, though. You're not going to pop these like bonbons. (grin)

Mrs. Dr. Phil's stuffed dates. (Click on photo for larger.)

Sam got to come upstairs during the day, which he promptly used to find a suitably comfy spot.

That's one relaxed cat, seeing as Mrs. Dr. Phil was in the kitchen and not using her chair... (Click on photo for larger.)

Mary and Ed made a grilled chicken and pasta with alfredo sauce pizza, which was quite swell. We'd also brought some cheesy salsa dip and grabbed some Fritos at the Shell station at 68th Avenue and I-96 on the way over. They didn't have the Fritos Scoops -- we've been ruined by having large Fritos with a decent dip scooping area. The regular ones, which were fine for half my life, just aren't the same anymore. (grin) And in spite of their quirky TV ads, the delicious pistachios are fun to shell and, well, delicious. Taking time to work on your snacks is definitely a plus. Maybe next year we'll buy some mixed nuts-in-shells and break out a nutcracker or two during the holidays. I remember when I was little there was always a bowl of nuts and a nutcracker to while away part of Christmas vacation.

But going out did not mean we were bereft of having kitty entertainment. Mrs. Dr. Phil got a decent orange boy kitty fix with Tasselhoff, who came and went as he pleased.

Mary wondered if she looked like a Bond villain with a cat in her lap -- why yes. "Do you expect me to talk?" "No, Mister Bond, I expect you to die."

Sit on Mary's lap? Sure. What about Ed? Not quite the same...

Who are you? Well, if you're giving out scratches, I could acknowledge you, minion.

More "seriously", we spent a number of hours playing a German board game called Ticket to Ride (Europe). We just don't go out to friends all that much, but it is so great that some of our friends are looking for people to play really well made and inventive board games. Anyway, after doing a practice round, we ended up playing two games. 30-60 minutes a game? Pshaw! We spent hours, though of course I suppose professional board game players don't have complicated stories and conversations and refills of Vernors or other drinks of choice. (party grin)


Despite my completing my longer route tasks, I (BLACK) had drawn some new routes, two of which I couldn't complete. Ed (BLUE) had the longest route and ended up skunking us.


In the second game, I stormed across Europe and later added some side trips which I completed. This time Dr. Phil, train nut, won. Yay!

We'd also brought over one of our Christmas presents, a gorgeous Periodic Table of the Elements 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle (Thanks, Dave!), but while it was admired, we didn't play jigsaw over at Mary & Ed's. Now we're going to have to find a 34"×16" or larger clear horizontal space -- which in our house is just impossible. (sigh)

Anyway, thanks everyone, it was a wonderful evening. We should get together next year.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (xmas-kate)
Ah, Christmas Dinner

As we got home from our road trip early on Thursday -- 6:58pm -- there was plenty of time to relax and think about a grocery list. And Mrs. Dr. Phil decided that she would be willing to do a small turkey. Now the old Joy of Cooking makes you calculate times, based on the size of the bird. Our small 10 lb. bird didn't quite need all that time. In fact, it was so lovely and tender and moist that the prized thighs and drumsticks came off without a fight. And the stuffing? Totally divine.


Roast turkey, sage stuffing with multi-grain breads, roasted root vegetables (including rutabaga, leaks, potatoes, carrots, celery root, garlic cloves, sweet potatoes and green beans), beer gravy from the drippings, two kinds of cranberries.


The remaining turkey practically deboned itself.


Of course one has to have pie -- pumpkin pie.


Hail to the Chef, Mrs. Dr. Phil! Who was very pleased with her results.

It wasn't so much as we used to do, once upon a time, but it was pleasant and sufficient and I don't feel like a complete comatose beached baby whale. But we'll have this meal again several times this week... (happy grin)

We made some phone calls to family. We watched the newest Iron Chef Jeffrey Zacharian win his first contest, Battle Trout, with a perfect score. And the Packers have just about beaten the Bears with two minutes to go.

Best Wishes

We hope that your Christmas, if you Christmas, was also full of food and family and fun and fond memories.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (xmas-kate)
Merry Christmas

Christmas Eve dawned with a new blanket of snow -- it's been clear here since we got back -- about an inch on the deck and a nice covering of the ground. But it's not below freezing and we had a high clear blue sky yesterday, so by this morning it was all gone save for in some shadows. And by afternoon it was definitely far from a Currier & Ives snowy Christmas scene. (grin)

Mrs. Dr. Phil took a picture of me and my Mother on Wednesday, so here's proof we were in Greensboro.

Dr. Phil and Dr. Phil's Mother just before we drove off.

Mrs. Dr. Phil got a package from a friend who is in Germany right now, with a Dresden Christstollen -- which immediately set up a Christmas morning face-off with Mrs. Dr. Phil's own wonderful stollen.

Mrs. Dr. Phil's stollen (R) and a German stollen (L) -- Let the tasting battles begin!


The whole breakfast including two kinds of stollen, Allendale Meat Market kielbasa, clementines & bananas, and the traditional Before Noon Hit Of Christmas Chocolate (Godiva).

The Christmas Cat

Sam... Sam... Sam... Will you turn towards the camera?


Okay fine, cat, look at something else. Ignore me. I'll still put your picture on the Internet.

Well, Sam, we love you anyway so he just got fed. And we got a small 10 lb. turkey for free using our grocery store "points", which is in the oven Right Now. We've been watching Mythbusters marathon all day. But tonight we get Bears and Packers. No losers for us!

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (dr-mrs-phil-xmas09)
We're Home

That might not seem to be much of a surprise, but we'd spent nine days on the road in order to visit with my mother in Greensboro NC. Though we had a bunch of rain, it wasn't nearly as bad as the torrents in Ohio last month, and we actually had decent weather in Greensboro.

Once I was able the do the drive on one fell swoop each way -- these days it's a two-day run. So we were driving on Wednesday and Thursday the last two weeks. Traffic, for the most part, was relatively light, at least in our direction. Part of out plan to avoid the heaviest travel days. Wednesday we scored two personal sized pizzas at a Pizzeria Uno's kiosk on the West Virginia Turnpike -- they keep them cold and toast them usually, but we knew the motel in Georgetown KY had a microwave, so we put them cold in the cooler bag and had an acceptable dinner without going out.

Ohio made itself known as a state trooper pulled us over, ostensibly as we were (1) driving close to the speed limit and (2) drifting close to the "white fog line". Neither of which is a violation, I might add, especially as most of the traffic was going fast and a number of cars and trucks were driving on or over the white line. I'll admit to cheating a bit on the right side of the lane from time to time, as the Bravada was loaded enough to block the rearview mirror and so I was depending on the side mirrors, while watching out for the morons. There were a lot of troopers on I-75 -- I think they were pulling over out-of-state plates. There was no ticket involved, since no crime occurred. We were polite.

Eventually we made our traditional stop at the Shell in Wayland 45 minutes from home and got some Jimmy John's for Thursday's supper. Home at 6:58pm and soon we were unloaded, fed and getting schmoozed by Sam.

Christmas Eve

It was time for the annual DVD of Love Actually earlier tonight, and now we have TBS' A Christmas Story on, marking the seasonal run up as complete.

Merry Christmas to all either participating or happy to receive good wishes.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (seasons-best-kate)
In The Beginning...

Back in the spring, retired Navy Chief Warrant Officer, talented woodworker and good UCF friend Jim Wright taunted the world by extolling the marvelous wood he'd acquired.
For the woodworkers: gloat gloat gloat.

Today I scored a piece of Michigan (eastern) white pine. Nothing special, right? Wrong. This is a piece of the primal old growth forest, a forest made long extinct by the double-headed felling axe and the two-man cross-cut saw. This piece of wood was cut from a log salvaged from the frigid waters of Lake Superior, where it lay suberged for more than a century.
Now I remember when they salvaged that wood. Never occurred to me that I might ever get my hands on some. And he'd mentioned turning some pens. Though it was April, I asked if he could set aside some material to make pens for Christmas presents. Jim thought that could be arranged.
The salvaged pine is expensive. But the pens come out beautiful, at least the one I've turned so far. Apparently, people make flooring out of it, though you'd have to be a millionaire to have your kitchen done in it. Amazingly, since pine oil is not water soluble, the heartwood is still oily and pungent even after all these years (the frigid waters of Lake Superior help too), the whole huge shop smells like Pine-Sol when you cut into the wood.
In November I reminded Jim about the order and he said I had the last three billets. Well, they came the other week and were distributed today. Everyone loved them and they are quite beautiful. Look at that color after a century in the icy depths of Lake Superior!


Thank you, Jim! (Click on photo for larger.)

In case you're wondering, the pen guts use Cross refills and write beautifully.

Want your own fine Jim Wright wood creations? Check out some of the woodworking entries at Stonekettle Station.*** Or check out Jim's new Stonekettle store on Etsy. He put up 18 pens today for a start -- none of them with the old growth wood. mind you -- and 13 of them have sold.

Dr. Phil

*** - You're put on notice that reading Stonekettle Station is likely to cause explosive laughter, awe or fits of apoplectic rage. As my friends have learned, Do NOT Read Stonekettle Station while eating or drinking.
dr_phil_physics: (rodney)
Look! It's Rodney!

Mrs. Dr. Phil and her mother Momcat were looking through one of the suitcases of things brought back from Atlanta. So when I got up after a nap, I found at the feet of our black bear footrest between our chairs, Wendy's collection of Rodney and Friends.


Of course, Big Rodney is still high atop the CD bookshelf.


Oh, and Wendy had a Wendy Braxton signature Louisville Slugger made at a conference once, and we've put that next to our Wrigley Field brick. (grin)


Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (dr-mrs-phil-xmas09)
Boxing Day

Christmas is over. Except of course it isn't really over. We have Christmas until Epiphany, as well as Greek and Russian Christmas. Then there's the Christmas-is-a-state-of-mind or Christmas-spirit-lasts-the-whole-year-long set.

No matter.

We had a very pleasant quiet little Christmas here in West Michigan:

Other places got whomped with a White Christmas. Ours was white by virtue of previous snows, but even that wasn't very much.

Mrs. Dr. Phil did get the bows put up this year.

And the dancing Turtle seems to lord over the Christmas team -- is The Turtle Santa's pimp?

Me.

Mrs. Dr. Phil and the kitties.

A wee bit of loot.

Sam bravely investigates a Christmas hat.

While Blue settles into the packaging.

A fine dinner of little Cornish hens and trimmings -- Paula Deen's Pumpkin-Pecan pie for dessert. Very much yum.

Hope you and yours are having a pleasant holidays, as we wish the remainder of 2010 "Good riddance!" and hope for a healthy and happy new year.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (massive-stars-carina-nebula)
              "Star of Bethlehem"
          by Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon

Aboard Unified Star Fleet Survey ship Pole Star (YSR-18)
Arcadian Stellar Nursery -- 863 LY from Earth
Sunday 24 November 2875 ERT (Earth Relative Time)

     Yvonne came into the cramped bridge just as Johann was 
reading out lists of mass objects detected by their drop tank 
from jump space.  "Number 101 is probable brown dwarf.  
Number 102 is a probable sub-brown dwarf.  Number 103 is 
potential red dwarf.  Number 104 is..."
     "What’s going on, Sanj?" she asked.  "Are we still in the 
stellar nursery?"
     "Yes," Captain Sanji Peterson replied.
     "You said we were going to get me home for Christmas.  You 
promised."
     "It is the twenty-fourth of November, Earth Relative Time," 
Sanj said.  "There is plenty of time to get you back to Earth in 
time for Christmas."
     "But you’re about to drop here."
     "Yes.  We are going to drop in the next few minutes -- if 
you will let Johann finish setting our drop point for us."
     "We aren’t going to stop," Johann said, trying to be 
helpful.  "We’ll get out data in about three minutes.  Then we’ll 
jump again."
     "What does that have to do with anything?"
     "It will still be the twenty-fourth of November when we 
jump -- and when we drop at the next star," the captain said 
as patiently as he could.
     "I don’t understand."
     "I know you don’t.  Most civilians don’t understand anti-
relativistic jump."
     "Don’t patronize me," Yvonne said coldly.
     "I’m not," he said.  "I’m merely trying to point out that 
you didn’t understand the last seven jumps we made -- and so I 
don’t expect you to this time either.  Please let us do our job 
and we will get you home by Christmas."
     Yvonne stood coolly silent, arms folded.  But everyone 
on the bridge could feel how much she really wanted to tap her 
foot or something to signal her impatience.  If she hadn’t been 
a high school friend of the captain’s, they were sure she’d have 
been asked to leave long ago.
     "One minute."
     "Is the field still clear?"
     "As much as we can tell at this resolution."
     "Main engines?"
     "Waiting on standby -- fusor cores preheated to fifteen 
million Kelvin."
     "Then drop when you’re ready, Johann."
     "In three... two... one..."
     Though totally an artifact of the collapsing jump space 
bubble, all of them felt the drop in the pit of their stomachs. 
The illusion of free fall was powerful, even though their actual 
trajectory was laser straight and level.
     For a moment the drop tank brightened as smaller masses were 
visualized -- and the sudden cloud surrounding them was not 
exactly what was expected.  But even as the image faded, Captain 
Sanji Peterson knew they were in serious trouble.
     "Engines -- full decel!" he bellowed, sluing the Pole Star 
about 180° as a hailstorm of rattling crackles beset the ship.  A 
few bright streaks shrieked through the air -- even buried in the 
center of the ship as they were -- amazingly hitting no one.  
Warning lights appeared scattering across many of the command screens.
     "Fusors online -- coming up to ninety-three percent -- full 
decel."
     In twenty seconds the disturbing noises vanished and the 
Pole Star seemed to regain a measure of control.  The bridge 
quieted for a moment, as everyone took a deep breath and checked 
to make sure there was no more substantial damage.
     "I’m sorry, Yvonne.  I may have to amend my promise to you," 
the captain said sadly.  "Meanwhile, I suggest you leave the 
bridge while we attend to our wounds."

                              ***

     In the small galley, the ship’s cook Chico Garcea had put 
down his unneeded rescue and repair backpack, and resumed 
kneading dough for the afternoon baking.
     "I was thrown off the bridge," Yvonne said.
     "I’m not surprised," Chico said.  "You were probably in the 
way."
     "I was off to the side!" she protested.
     "No -- you’re not part of the crew and you’re not trained to 
deal with disasters and emergencies.  You were in the way."
     She might have argued further, but the fact was -- the cook 
was right.  She had no role to play on the ship, especially on 
the bridge during an emergency.
     "I don’t know what’s going on."
     "Obviously."
     "You don’t have to be so cheerful about it."
     Chico shrugged.  "Just stating facts.  You’ve been aboard 
for three calendar months and you don’t know any more about star 
travel today than when you came aboard."
     "I’m an artist."
     "And I’m a cook."
     "I am not a scientist."
     "Neither am I, but I know the fundamentals of calendars and 
times in jump and during acceleration/deceleration.  You not only 
don’t understand, you haven’t really made an attempt to 
understand."
     "I know I’m not going to make it back to Earth for 
Christmas."
     "What’s so important about Christmas?  Besides the obvious, 
of course."
     "I have an art show -- The Star of Bethlehem Reconceived – 
in New York.  There’s a special event on Christmas Eve I’m 
supposed to hostess."
     "Ah.  Then you were supposed to be back to Earth for 
Christmas Eve, not Christmas."
     "You spacemen are always so damned literal."
     "It matters."
     "Well it matters that I’m stuck out here and I haven’t a 
clue as to why."
     Chico shrugged.  "Why don’t you ask the captain?  He’s 
standing behind you."
     Yvonne whirled around to see Captain Peterson pouring hot 
water over a disk of tea leaves.
     "What the hell just happened?" she demanded.
     "The miracle of star birth," Sanj noted quietly.  "Star 101-
083 has just lit up and its solar wind is now sweeping its system 
of excess gas and debris.  We were caught in its spray.  It’s 
brilliant, actually.  Exactly what we came here hoping, but not 
expecting, to see."
     "What did you mean about your promise?" Yvonne asked.
     "Our particle deflection system cannot deal with this amount 
of material.  In order to survive, I’ve had to fire up our main 
engines.  Their exhaust deflects any part of the solar clearing 
wind from hitting us.  So we are no longer taking damage.  On the 
other hand, we are now decelerating towards Star 101-083.  We 
will be in stellar orbit in... what’s the latest calculation?"
     Johann had just come in and was pouring himself a mug of 
coffee.  "At ninety-three percent decel -- fifteen days."
     "In fifteen days we will be able to begin our boost -- and 
in another fifteen days we shall be able to jump."
     "We’ll be here a whole month."
     "Yes, Yvonne.  And so I won’t have you home on Christmas, 
I’m sorry to say.  On the other hand, we are alive -- and given 
what has happened, this is not so very insignificant."

                              ***

     Late on the ninth of December, the Fleet Survey ship Pole 
Star passed by star 101-083.
     "So we’re going out the way we came in?" Yvonne asked.
     "No," Sanj said.  "Why do you think so?"
     "You said the engines had to keep pointing to the star."
     "To the solar clearing wind.  Essentially the same thing.  
But we were able to add some lateral thrust vectors..."
     "English please," Yvonne said with a slight smile.
     "If we’d kept going straight in, we’d have impacted on the 
star.  So we went around it."
     "Oh.  Another thing I didn’t know."
     "There’s a whole universe out here."
     "Chico said that I haven’t learned anything out here.  But 
that isn’t true."
     "And what have you learned, Yvonne?" Sanj asked.
     "Stars don’t twinkle out in vacuum.  But they do in these 
gas fields.  And for another thing, I’ve discovered that those 
bright crosses on stars are artifacts of the technical equipment.  
I had to put them back in for my images -- your computers took 
them out."
     "True."
     "Your new star.  It’s quite remarkable."
     "It’s still settling down.  Very interesting."
     "You want to stay."
     Sanj shook his head.  "We can’t.  This ship isn’t built for 
it.  We were tasked to this mission because the odds of having 
the star light up were so low.  It takes a very long time for 
light to reach the surface of a star from its core.  A very long 
time."
     "So we’re going."
     "Indeed."

                              ***

     Yvonne frowned at the displays she saw on the bridge.  After 
fifteen days of boost and two jumps, she was stunned to realize 
that the star they were dropping near was 101-083.
     "But why?"
     "We had to turn around anyway.  We cannot jump to Earth in 
one jump from this far out."
     "But it’s been another month."
     "Another month in jump space -- not real space.  The actual 
jumps take place in zero time."
     "So...?"
     "It’s still the twenty-fourth of December on Earth."
     "And you’re dropping back at 101-083."
     "Only for three minutes."
     "That’s what you said the last time."
     "This time we know what to look for."
     Johann came over.  "We’re ready, captain.  I can compensate 
for relativity on the main screen."
     "Whenever you hit the mark then."
     As they dropped, Yvonne watched the featureless gray of jump 
space darken to purest black on the main screen -- and then the 
stars faded in.  But it was the magnified dark red mottled disk 
in the center which attracted her attention.
     "Thirty seconds in -- event in twenty seconds."
     Patches of orange and then yellow appeared across the star’s 
surface.  In less than a minute the whole star became aglow and 
brightened.  The computers worked hard to keep the image in the 
tolerable range.
     "Thirty seconds to the wave front."
     "Do we have all the data?" Sanj asked.
     "Yes, captain."
     "Then jump."
     "Jumping... in three... two... one..."
     The newly born sun faded to gray.
     "Thank... thank you, Sanj," Yvonne managed to say.  "That 
was beautiful."
     "You’re quite welcome."
     "It makes up for missing my New York event."
     "I didn’t want to get your hopes up, but we may still get 
you there."
     "I don’t understand.  Even if we drop into the solar system 
and it’s still December twenty-fourth, won’t we be traveling at 
nearly the speed of light?  Then it’s fifteen days to slow down."
     "True.  But I’m bringing us in a track which will require 
Fleet to meet us with a courier ship.  I’ll spare you the 
details, but you’ll make Earth orbit about three in the afternoon 
New York time."
     "Oh, Sanj!"  Yvonne threw her arms around her old friend and 
embraced him.  "Thank you!  And I have a couple of weeks in jump 
space to paint this new star and add it to the exhibit.  It’s 
exactly why I came out here.  I still don’t understand, but this 
is the best Christmas present ever."
     "It’s not the only one," Sanj said, gently freeing himself.  
"As the senior scientist, I have the right to give Star 101-083 a 
colloquial name.  I’m thinking of naming it Bethlehem.  A new 
bright star in the heavens on the eve of Christ’s birth.  Seems 
appropriate, doesn’t it?"
     "You’ll probably tell me later that it’s all some quirk of 
relativity..."
     "It is."
     "But I’ll take it.  Thank you, Sanj."
     "You’re quite welcome.  And Merry Christmas."

Dr. Phil

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