Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Astronaut dreams - TASE Day

Taking a break from NaNoWriMo and a momentary panic from a mixup with a galley and a novel that hates me and two final exams to indulge in a bit of TASE Day and some dreaming.

My first dream career (at age 3) was to be an Opera Singer. (FYI, I'm a coloratura mezzo-soprano, though I haven't had much operatunity to sing of late.)

My second dream career (and one that sustained me for the next 40+ years) was to be an author.

My third dream career (at age 8) was to be an astronaut.

Recently learned that NASA's looking for more astronauts.  Anyone can apply if they meet the criteria:

1. Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution... 

 YES! I got one of those! engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics.
 Oh, okay, ne'ermind.  (Regretting not staying in biology for five seconds. However, my Bachelor in Arts has served my career well so far.)

2. Degree must be followed by at least 3 years of related, progressively responsible, professional experience...
Ah. I assume they mean STEM experience? Got plenty of the Fine Arts experience. Give me a few more years out staring at the stars and getting papers knocked back by ApJ and this could change.

... or at least 1,000 pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft.

Don't think I've even been a passenger in a plane for a thousand hours, much less clocked that amount of flight time.

2a. An advanced degree is desirable...
...and may be substituted for experience as follows: master’s degree = 1 year of experience [etc] ....
Now, my big question is, if my master's is in a STEM field, would that make up for my lack of STEM in my bachelor's degree?

2b. Teaching experience... 

...including experience at the K - 12 levels... considered to be qualifying experience for the Astronaut Candidate position... 
...provided degree is in a Science, Engineering, or Mathematics field.
Aw man!  Throw me a friggin' bone here!

3. Ability to pass the NASA Astronaut physical, which includes the following specific requirements:
  • Blood pressure not to exceed 140/90 measured in a sitting position
 120/60  -  noice!
  • Standing height between 62 and 75 inches
  I'm 64 inches.
  • Distant and near visual acuity: Must be correctable to 20/20, each eye....
Bother!  My eyesight is bad, alas.  We're not talking a slight nearsightedness. And I've got presbyopia*. The only correctable surgery that would bring my eyesight to the correct acuity would be a reshaping of my orbit cavities. That technology is still a ways off.  Unless they let me wear these funky astronaut eyeglasses, I'm out of the running:

Do you also dream of being an astronaut? Are you better qualified than I am? If so, go apply for Astronaut School and see if you can get in.

Meanwhile, I might see if they let middle-aged women into Space Camp.

*Presbyopia: you can spot who has presbyopia because they're the middle-aged people who have to hold restaurant menus at arms length in order to be able to read them. I developed presbyopia about five years ago.  His Grace, who exceeds me in age, has yet to develop it (or he might have and doesn't want to admit it).

Her Grace's fourth dream career was to be a teacher. Then she thought about how cool it would be to be an teacher/astronaut and then come back and tell her students about how cool it was to go to outer space, and if they wanted to go themselves, they needed to study real hard.  Then she learned about what happens to schoolteachers who go to outer space.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

November - Month of Insanity

By an act of serendipity, I got the whole of November off from the Day Job.  So glad I did. It's turned out to be a month of insanity.

Originally, I took the time off work for NaNoWriMo. Thought I'd be brilliant and see if I could crank out 100K words. Hah! I dream big, don't I?

I'd forgotten that I am also studying, am a Relief Society secretary and have the end-of-year stuff for the offspring as well.

I have one exam next week and another the week after. We have a new Relief Society presidency; I'm providing necessary momentum for them to get into the swing of things. I've got galley reviews for Marry Me. A close friend has a wedding. I've got a milestone birthday in the family. Thanksgiving and a Christmas party. Support for offspring and end-of-year stuff (as the Australian school year ends in December). Also the usual cleaning, house maintenance, lawnmowing, etc and rhinoviruses that have a terrible sense of timing.

Am I getting everything done?  Yep. Am I making the minimum NaNo goal of 50K?  Maybe. Am I dropping any balls? Sure, plenty of them, but only the ones I know will bounce.

I am learning the fine art of Saying No. Am also ditching the unnecessary bits of the Internet so I can have a few more minutes for the things that Must Be Done.

If it doesn't need to be done, it ain't gettin' done.

And I don't feel a single jot of guilt for it either.

Her Grace: accomplishments mean XP.

Monday, 9 November 2015

"Marry Me" - A Candy Hearts Romance - Official Blurb

MARRY ME by Heidi Wessman Kneale
A Candy Hearts Romance

In 1905 New York City, affluent Millie Moore wants to be outspoken like the suffragettes she admires. She also wants to rid herself of an annoying and controlling suitor. For a well-brought up young lady whose mother fears her impending spinsterhood, speaking her mind is an uphill battle.

When Raymond Wilson sees Millie at a rally, it’s love at first sight. Not wanting his stutter to ruin his chances, he enchants a little candy heart to do his talking for him.

For Millie, Raymond is a breath of fresh air. And maybe, just maybe, someone she could love. But for her social-climbing suitor Guy Wilson, he’s a threat to his plans. And Raymond isn’t the only one who knows something about magic. Now the ante has been upped and Millie is the prize…

Her Grace will have the book launch on Lover's Week, after Valentine's Day. More info pending.

Friday, 6 November 2015

The length of a meter is... Amazon?

As a reader, I don't use Amazon. This is because I'm in Australia. Until  v e r y  recently, Amazon hasn't been terribly Oz-friendly. (They have created, but that's a digital-only marketplace. If I want a hard copy of a 99c on-sale novel, I still have to pay $20 shipping. Ouch.)
Google Maps understands geographical isolation.

I don't buy physical stuff because shipping is too expensive. I don't buy digital stuff because their format is for the Kindle and I'm a Kobo girl. Amazon doesn't have much with which it can entice me as a customer.

But a significant part of the English-speaking world does use Amazon, and its rating system for novels tends to be the go-to standard because of sheer volume. Success often is measured by Amazon stars and sales rankings.

Want an accurate rating of a book? Go to Amazon. People post their reviews there left, right and centre center. Wanna know how well a book is selling? Check out the sales rank.

As an author I understand the value of Amazon ratings, especially when it comes to marketing. I've read several books by authors I would love to promote by Word-of-Mouth. The place I feel my opinion would have the most bang would be on Amazon. But I can't. I don't buy from Amazon. Amazon won't let me post any reviews because I haven't bought anything from them.

Oh, I'd love to buy my digital books from Amazon just so I could post an honest review. In theory, I could and read them on my laptop with a Kindle app. My only issue is the emissive nature of my laptop screen (ie it glows under its own power).

I love my Kobo ebook reader because of its e-ink display. It's reflective, not emissive. The light by which I view it is due to the ambient light of the room. I find an emissive display hard on the eyes after a few hours. When I read a book, I often find myself immersed for hours, if not days on end. I want to read books in a format that's easy on my eyes. A laptop can't do that. An ereader can.

(I did consider a Kindle once, but it was more expensive than my Kobo, didn't have quite the bells and whistles that my Kobo HD Aura has and, at the time, had poor customer support because I'm Aussie, oy, oy, oy.)

So where do I get my books? The KoboStore. Quick, easy, and new purchases are on my ereader ready to go in a matter of seconds.  The only thing I don't like about the KoboStore is that its users rarely use their star ranking system. I will, but I am only one of a very few handful. Because there are so few ratings, my opinion becomes mostly useless.

Now, I will go to GoodReads and post reviews. That has some clout.

Not as much as Amazon, which seems to have been adopted as the gold standard when it comes to overall opinions on what's good and what's bad. If I could get books in .epub format from Amazon, I'd certainly buy more books over there, especially books I intend on reviewing.

Until then, if you are interested in my opinion, I am on GoodReads from time to time.

Do an author a favour; go review someone's book.

Her Grace will give her honest, supported opinion for a book. She will say what did and didn't work for her. She wishes more reviewers were the same. "This book sucks!" doesn't do her much good, nor does, "I love this book!"  At least explain why.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

COVER REVEAL - for "Marry Me", a Candy Hearts romance

All I can say is, "How AWESOME is this?!"  I couldn't have asked for a better cover. Fits the story perfectly.

Release date: in time for Valentine's Day, 2016.
Her Grace is giddy with delight over this evocative cover.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Where's my luggage?

A friend of mine recently flew back home. She's arrived. Her luggage is still on its way.  Reminds me of a story from the last time I traveled.

Several years ago I flew international. I checked in my luggage at my local airport. The lovely ladies at check-in took our luggage, tagged it, and off it went. "You're flying a long way today."  Yes, we are.

Wasn't the first time I'd traveled international, so I knew the routine: since we had several hops, we'd fly into the next airport, collect our luggage, check it and us in for the next flight, then twiddle our thumbs for the next several hours. Hong Kong and Narita (Japan) airports are really lovely, clean, have lounge services for coach passengers and are staffed by friendly, soft-speaking multilingual folk.

Several hours/days/years later we end up in SanFran. In contrast, American airports are noisy, loud, dirty, woefully under-serviced and Customer Service is an unknown concept.

Fifth verse, same as the first, we waited at the carousel for the luggage.  His Grace's luggage came. Their Ladyship's luggage came.  Mine....  MIA.

So I went up to the service desk. "Hello." I asked the Woman With Attitude manning the desk,"I'd like to know, where is my luggage?"

Apparently, that was the wrong question to ask. She took my luggage claim check, scanned the barcode, then proceeded to give me a really vigorous lecture about how there was no way she was going to find my luggage and bring it here, and what was I doing asking for my luggage anyway? Besides, there was nothing she could do because my luggage had already been booked onto my connecting flight and she was not going to get it back for me. Sorry, but it was already on its way to the next destination.

Apparently, "where is my luggage" is Merican for "Why is my luggage not immediately right in front of me? Gimme my #@&# luggage NOW!!!" Whereas in Strayan is means, "I'd like to know the location of my luggage, ta."

Well. Time for some Aussie mind games with someone who needs to go back to Customer Service school.  "So, is all luggage automatically transferred to the next flight?" By now His Grace and Their Ladyships had joined me.

Woman With Attitude assured me it was.

"You missed a few," I told her, handing the rest of our luggage over to her.

Then she threw a fit and tried to blame us for taking our luggage when we shouldn't have, et cetera. I was starting to regret having laid eyes on her.

By this time, her manager had noticed and came over. "What's the problem?"

She lays into him with the same attitude and level of voice she used on us, explaining to him how we'd taken (she might have used the word 'stolen') our luggage when we should have just let it go through, and so on...

Meanwhile, us Aussies are rolling our eyes. The manager saw this, shut her up, and asked us for the story.

I told him. Or rather, I started telling him when she interrupted and told me that's not what happened. Apparently, and this was news to me, I'd come over demanding where my luggage was, being real rude and a whole lotta other untruths.

To my delight, he shut her up again and told her to take a break. She stormed off.  May I never see her again.

The manager asked if I had demanded my luggage. I told him no, I simply wanted to know the location of mine. After all we had everyone else's.

He leans over the desk, peers at our destination tags and got a funny frown on his face. "All luggage intended for other destinations should have been checked through." Turns out in the US if luggage isn't at its final destination, it doesn't leave the loading dock, but is loaded directly onto the plane. This saves US Customs unnecessary inspection times in their major incoming ports like SanFran.

He takes our luggage, and gives us an apology for many, many things.

Eventually we fly out of that place and end up at our final destination. I was grateful we got to go through Customs there. I dread to think of what might have happened had we to suffer through yet another example of SanFran's hospitality.

Her Grace still loves travel. Just not to the US.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Finding the Strong Place

I'm religious. I make no secret of it, and I openly practice my faith. My faith and the beliefs I learn keep me strong in a drifting world. I'm glad I have this pillar of strength to cling to when the current fights against me.

This week I was saddened to hear about some (more) bad things happening to women (women-I-know and women-who-know-women-I-know).  One of the things that has saddened me is hearing about how prevalent sexual harassment is in Academia. Yes, it is prevalent. I've been a victim of harassment in academia during my undergrad studies. In fact, now that I think about it, I can't name a woman of my acquaintance who has ever said she's never been harassed. That's a sad symptom of a degenerate world.

One issue from Berkeley came to light this week about a supervising professor getting his widdle wrist slapped after four courageous women came forth about his ill treatment of them. Berkeley's response was not sufficient, according to the scientific community at large. However, before you go off and tar Berkeley with the yellow paintbrush of cowardice, please give them some credit for doing something, even if they are woefully out of practice in dealing with such things.

Much discussion online ensued.

In Academia, this sort of behaviour, for the most part, is ignored or even flipped against the victims. I hope it leads to more universities having the courage to call their harassers on their bad behaviour. The more they practice these actions, the better at them they will become.

I believe that leaving these harassers unchecked does more harm than good to our science communities. They chase away dozens if not hundreds of potentially strong talent. Those few who remain are hampered because they spend too much energy fighting harassment--energy that could be put to better use doing science.

If the universities think they are doing the better thing by not alienating their champion researchers, they are not. The scientific value of one sexual harasser, no matter how talented, will never outweigh the collective scientific value of all the victims he hampers or chases away. Never.

Part of the perpetual discussions on these and other issues, which always comes out when something like this happens, is how poorly women are still treated, even after two hundred years of feminism.

Yet women still stand up and say something, even when they are threatened with rape, violence and death.

A friend shared a scripture with me for ponderizing this week. It seemed very apt for those who dare to stand for righteousness in a world that would tear them down: Job 27: 5 - God forbid that I should justify you; til I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.

A few days ago I spent the weekend enjoying General Conference at church. One of the speakers, Russell M Nelson, gave a beautiful talk entitled, "A Plea to my Sisters"--"We need your strength, your conversion, your conviction, your ability to lead, your wisdom, and your voices."

How rare it is in today's world to hear such a powerful message from good men to women. Elder Nelson also quoted other men who share this same message: "President Packer declared, 'We need women who are organized and women who can organize. We need women with executive ability who can plan and direct and administer; women who can teach, women who can speak out. …

“We need women with the gift of discernment who can view the trends in the world and detect those that, however popular, are shallow or dangerous.'”

It is good to hear men, powerful men--leaders in their communities, utter these words in places where millions can hear them.

I wish more men would say such things more often. Men listen to other men. Until men, on the whole, learn to value and listen to women, perhaps they will listen to men like these.

The world can only be better for it.

Her Grace is glad stuff like this gets preached openly in her faith.