Friday, August 25, 2006

The red-headed step-child...

Okay, I don't really have a dog in this fight, but there are those who do: Apparently the head of the New Horizons Pluto mission thinks the IAU's new definition of "planet" -- the one that drops Pluto from the list -- isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

Here's the new IAU definition:

The IAU therefore resolves that "planets" and other bodies in our Solar System be defined into three distinct categories in the following way:

(1) A "planet" is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.

(2) A "dwarf planet" is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, (c) has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit, and (d) is not a satellite.

(3) All other objects except satellites orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as "Small Solar-System Bodies".

My thoughts: It's all very arbitrary, especially considering that just a week ago the IAU was considering a definition of "planet" that would have kept Pluto and added three more pluto-like objects.
(The (c) criterion was a last minute addition). What's wrong with just saying that the nine planets are planets and anything else is not a planet? Or, that anything above an arbitrary size that orbits the earth is a planet?

Also, do we really even need an "authorized scientific" definition? I mean, honestly. We don't have a "scientific" definition of "continent," yet geologists, geographers, and the laity all generally refer to Europe as a separate continent even though it really makes no sense to do so. (And why isn't Australia just a big island?). What would happen if we all just ignored the IAU definition?

I suppose that a definition becomes useful when referring to objects orbiting other stars, but with those, you also get into the brown dwarf problem...

Also, thanks, everyone, for the birthday wishes.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The middle third...

Yesterday, Cyn and I went to lunch with Brian Anderson, author of Zack Proton. We commiserated over the middle of novels (actually, he mentioned it in terms of screenplays): You'll get this great idea, and the beginning and the middle come along easily, but the middle is more difficult. Often in manuscripts, you see it merely being filler that comes between the first and last acts. This, sadly, is where I am now with RM. Plotting is
a problem...


Speaking of plots, I've been seeing on some list servs a reluctance to put characters in danger (children shouldn't be put in harm's way, you see) or make them, well, mean (also bad) or have any kind of CONFLICT whatsoever.

While I can respect the sentiment, here's a good illustration of why conflict is necessary in literature (From the second season of Frasier in which Niles is haunted by seeing his old middle school bully arrive at Chez Crane as the plumber; in the scene, Frasier is trying to talk Niles out of giving said plumber a swirlee):

Frasier: You know the expression, "Living well is the best revenge"?

Niles: It's a wonderful expression. Just don't know how true it is. Don't see it turning up in a lot of opera plots. “Ludwig, maddened by the poisoning of his entire family, wreaks vengeance on Gunther in the third act by living well.”

Frasier: All right, Niles. [walking away]

Niles: [following] “Whereupon Wotan, upon discovering his deception, wreaks vengeance on Gunther in the third act again by living even better than the Duke.”

Frasier: Oh, all right!

Anyone ever actually sat down and read the plots to major operas? They usually make no sense whatsoever...(e.g., It's amazing how many sopranos can really belt out an aria when dying of consumption). But anyone who has masochistic tendencies should read A Night at the Opera: An Irreverent Guide to The Plots, The Singers, The Composers, The Recordings, by Denis Forman.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Out of the frying pan...

One of the things that Texans enjoy doing in July and August is leaving the state for parts more northerly, where it will, in theory, be much cooler. Alas, this didn't work this year...We flew back Tuesday (just in time - I understand NYC was hotter yesterday than Austin).

Didn't blog at all for the second half of July due to a severe stomach virus that struck the day Cyn left for Vermont and lingered as a severe headache for about ten days. Then I flew up to Vermont and parts north so Cyn and I could have a quiet mini-vacation. Anyway, Cynthia blogs about our trip here.

Random notes:

There's going to be a Japanese language version of NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO, probably by the end of next year! Poplar Sha just bought the rights...

Austinite Anne Bustard, author of Buddy: The Story of Buddy holly, has begun a new blog, called Anneographies, which features picture book biographies on the subjects' birthdays.

There's been some great blog-o-sphere buzzing about Cynthia's gothic fantasy TANTALIZE:

Author Gail Giles posts about it here; author Cecil Castellucci here; Gwenda Bond of the Shaken & Stirred blog here; and Liz B at A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy blogs about it here.

Finally, there's something very peculiar about the fact that the Blogger spell-check does not recognize the word "blog."
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