Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Happy New Year - Astronomy Forecast for 2015

In one of my other lives, I'm an astronomer, so I'm looking forward to a year full of fun astronomy stuff. Granted, 2014 was also interesting, from eclipses and occultations to landing a little Philae on a comet.

I can't think of a single human who doesn't get a kick out of looking up into the night sky, especially when they know what's up there. You wanna hook a human on astronomy forever? Show 'em Saturn through a telescope. That'll set 'em up for life.

Universe Today has compiled the Top 101 Astronomical Events for 2015. Guaranteed there will be something in there to catch your interest.

Because a year is an astronomical measurement, I thought I'd share this list with you.

  • Comets Lovejoy and PanSTARRS may become visible to the naked eye.
  • Lots of planetary conjunctions (ie clusters of "Evening Stars" as the planets pair up for a few nights).
  • A total lunar eclipse.
  • New Horizons visits Pluto. Whether or not you accept it's Dwarf Planet status, you have to admit this is gonna be totally cool.
  • Philae may wake up. I hope so.
 So turn your eyes heavenwards for 2015. There's lots of exciting stuff happening up there.

Her Grace can't remember if she wanted to be an author before she wanted to be an astronomer, or vice-versa. It was so, so long ago.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

That interstitial time...

I've always found the week between Christmas and New Year to be an otherworldly time. There is such a lead-up to Christmas, and New Year is the beginning of another phase of life.

But that time in between? It doesn't seem to belong anywhere.

My Daye Jobbe shuts down for that week, none of the kids are in school, and His Grace is also on holidays. There is no schedule, no regular pattern, and the only marking of time is sunrise and sunset.

You'd think this would be an ideal time to write, to take all these given free hours to finish (or make significant progress on) a novel.

Yet I find myself unable to write. I feel disjointed. I can't settle in.

Some of my friends are taking this time to ponder on the upcoming year. They are exploring plans and direction and resolutions. I can't do that, because I've already done that. I've already established my yearly plan for 2015, and very little is left to be done. The five year plan is waiting until the Holiday Season is over, and the twenty year and fifty year plans are ticking along nicely.  The thousand year plan is accomplished on a day-to-day basis.

it is quiet here.

I should take this time to clean. I need to sort through all the junk that has landed on my desk and put it away, whether that be on a shelf or the round filing cabinet. I should finish that monstrous quilt taking up most of my office. And really, those two things are the only two pressing things on my list.

My usual schedule of life is on hiatus until after the New Year.

Have you ever been stuck in time?

Her Grace has even re-discovered that most disconcerting of creatures: boredom with lack of motivation.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas

Wishing you all Happy Holidays
and Merry Christmas.

I thought I'd share Rosetta's Christmas Card, as I think it's cute.

Also sharing this Carol of the Bells as it's lovely.

Now, go spend the holidays with the people you love, and remember what's important to you this Holiday season.


Her Grace.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Happy Book Birthday, For Richer For Poorer!

For Richer, For Poorer is out today!

Help celebrate by getting it from The Wild Rose Press.  Also available on Amazon.

The Deveraux line is famous... for a family curse. The rich must marry the poor or lose their prosperity. Peter Baring is the last of the Deveraux and sinking slowly into poverty. But will marriage to his icy business partner save him?

Beatrice Nottham dreams of leaving Earth for a fresh start. But only married couples are allowed to move off-world. Marrying a man she’s unsure she loves will solve that problem...but at what cost?

When Beatrice visits England to research her branch of the Deveraux family tree, she meets Peter and sparks fly. Both question everything they ever believed would fulfill their dreams. If they dare to be together, will the Curse follow them beyond the stars? The answer to breaking its power could lie in the heart of a crumbling tapestry...if they have the courage to try.

Her Grace quite enjoys this book. However, it is rather gauche to give her own book a review. If you read this book (and you know you want to) please consider giving this book an honest review on Amazon or GoodReads or other place of your choice. Thank you.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Wherein I declare my Mustachianism

Three more days until For Richer, For Poorer comes out. Go buy my books!

I'm a big fan of Mr Money Mustache. If your wallet pinches uncomfortably, if you find yourself weighed down by consumerism, if you loathe working a Day Job, you really need to check out his hardcore badass financial advice.

He recently had a case study about Joe Average wanting a better life. A few people commented about how MMM's philosophy doesn't benefit the poor; they are not his target audience.

I disagree. Anyone who wishes to improve their financial situation would benefit from reading MMM, even if they can't apply everything he recommends at the present time.

A simple raising of one's financial awareness is what he advocates.

Normally I don't comment on his awesome posts, but I had to say this:
I’m a faithful reader who didn’t know a lot of what MMM preaches before I started reading his blog. My cousin pointed him out, and I went hard-core, and now I’m happily Mustachian.

It all comes down to awareness and education.

When I was a child, my father got injured and was out of work for a while. We lived in poverty. Boy, did it sting!

In university, I spent a few years as an impoverished student because I was not financially savvy AT ALL. (Woe, my ignorance.)

Post-uni, I got a job with a decent wage, but was frivilous in my spending.

Twenty years later, I am now educated, thanks to MMM, and I’m much better off. I’m looking at early-ish retirement BECAUSE I GOT EDUCATED.

Sure, I practiced a brand of frugality in my poverty years, but that was due to necessity and lack of choice. The moment I wasn’t so poor, I went back to foolish ways.

I believe that MMM can benefit those in poverty by educating them on ways of good, better, best.
Last year I read an articles (not related to finances, but to making choices) called “Good, Better, Best”. (Go google it, if you like. It has a religious slant on it, but the advice is sound for all walks of life.)

We all make choices. Lots of people make poor choices, which is why they struggle to make ends meet on a US$100K+ salary. Some choices we make are good. What we need is the wisdom to stand back from our choices and determine if our choices are good, better, or the best we could make.
That’s what MMM’s advocating here. I’m always pointing the impoverished to his blog.

Sometimes we can’t help finding ourselves poor (like when my dad got injured and couldn’t work). But if we have the best mindset, we do not have to remain in poverty for long.

It is the difference between me blowing $40K one year with nothing to show, and me now able to live plus invest with $30K.

So, yeah. I share this with you now, because greater awareness gives you a greater chance at happiness.  New Year is coming up. Don't you have some resolutions to make?

Her Grace's resolutions are simply to keep doing what she's been doing, as her view is long-term.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Some favourite jokes

(Yeah, For Richer, For Poorer is out in five days. Go buy it.)

I thought I'd share some of my favourite jokes. Caution: some of them may not be entirely suitable for children. Even the fart joke, but only because they simply won't get it.

My favourite fart joke:

It was Great-Grandma's 100th birthday, so all her descendants threw her a big party. They wheeled Great-Grandma into the room so everyone could wish her well and have a great time.

One of her grandsons noticed she was leaning over a bit in her wheelchair. "Here, Grandma. Let me help you." So he propped her up with a pillow.

A few minutes later a granddaughter noticed she was leaning the other way. "Let me help you," she said as she propped her up with another pillow.

Several minutes later a great-grandchild comes up to her and says, "So, how are you enjoying the party, Grandma?"

"It's terrible!" she replied. "Nobody will let me break wind."

My favourite gay joke:

A son comes home from university for the holidays with a big announcement. He finds his mother in the kitchen, working on Christmas dinner. "I have something to tell you." He hesitates. "I'm gay."

His mother, stirring a big pot of potatoes, doesn't say anything. 

"Um, Mom, did you hear me?"

She draw a deep breath. "I heard you, son." But says nothing more.


But his mom keeps stirring those potatoes. Eventually, she says, "So this means you like men?"


"So, you sleep with them, right?"

The son squirms. "Uh, yeah."

She keeps stirring those potatoes. "So you suck on their dicks then?"


"Just answer the question."

The son hangs his head. "Yes," he mutters.

His mother takes her stirring spoon out of her pot and whacks him upside the head. "I know what that tastes like. Don't you ever complain about my cooking again!"

My favourite postman joke:

It was Barry the Postman's last day on the job before he retired. As he did his final rounds, grateful folk gave him cards and gifts to celebrate his retirement.

At one home the lovely young housewife invited him inside, took him upstairs and gave him the best sex of his life. Then she brought him downstairs and fed him the most amazing breakfast--waffles with strawberries and whipped cream. 

As Barry the Postman was finishing up, he noticed a dollar under the coffee cup. "What's this for?"

"Well," replied the housewife, "when I told my husband you were retiring and I wanted to do something nice for you, he said, 'Screw him. Give him a buck.' Breakfast was my idea."

My favourite lightbulb joke:

How many humans does it take to screw in a lightbulb? 
Two, but they have to be really, really small.

My favourite chicken-crossing-road series:

Why did the chicken cross the road?
To get to the other side.

Why did the whale cross the road? 
To get to the other tide.

Why did the frog cross the road?
He was stapled to the chicken.

Her Grace loves a good joke.  What are some of your favourites?

Monday, 15 December 2014

One more week...


Only one more week until the release of:
So exciting!
Where to get it:
The Wild Rose Press (my excellent publisher!)
Amazon (pre-order available)
Kobo Books (currently rated #142 in Historical Fantasy!)
In honour of my current ranking in Kobo Books, here's a video of The Ballad of Irving (The 142nd Fastest Gun in the West):
Her Grace is more excited about this book release than Christmas. The best gift for her is if you bought a copy to give to someone else.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Curlygirls: Treat Your Hair Right

A few days ago some friends of mine were bemoaning their poor brittle frizzy hair. They were born curly girls, but had never learned how to care properly for their beautiful curly hair.  One was debating whether she should cut her hair short, so sick was she of the brittle frizz. "NO!" her children cried, followed by a handful of suggestions to straighten it (Brazilian straightening came up, as did keratin straightening.)

Hush your mouth!

Despite what your fifteen-dollar junior hairdresser and your hair-ignorant high school BFF told you, straight hair is NOT "so cute" if you weren't born with it.

Naturally straight hair is shiny, silky and soft. First Ladyship has naturally straight hair that shines like gold.

Curly hair that's straightened is brittle, dull, dry and ugly. Square peg, round hole. Just, no.

Go read this book: Curly Girl: The Handbook. Knowledge is power. This knowledge will free you from frizz forever. It's at my local library and probably at yours.

But as you're reading this entry Right Now, here's some thing you Need To Know.

1. Shampoo is your enemy.  The purpose of shampoo is to clean dirty oil from your hair. Curly girls are not greasy girls (unlike our unfortunate straight-haired counterparts).  Sodium Laurel Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate will strip your lovely curly hair of its vital oils, leaving your hair dry and nasty. This is why we frizz and develop split ends.  Ditch the shampoo. You don't need it.

2. You can have clean hair every day, if you use the right product.  No, I'm not going to advertise some SLS-free shampoo product, though they are available, even in my local supermarket. Do not be deceived in thinking you must use "shampoo" to keep your hair clean.  Remember how your grandmother used cold cream to remove makeup from her face? A cheap conditioner will do the same thing for your hair. Use it in place of shampoo. It will attract and remove day-to-day dirt from your hair without compromising your natural oils. Then use your expensive conditioner, if you really need it (and you won't, eventually), to condition your hair.

3. Brushing your dry hair every day is a no-no.  You'll hear from "experts" telling you never to brush/comb your hair while wet because it'll stretch and break. This is a bit deceptive, as brushing one's hair, wet or dry, will cause it to stretch. Breaking comes when you pull too hard.  Curly hair does not slide easily through a brush/comb when dry, thus making it more prone to breaking. However. combing your curly hair while wet and lubricated with conditioner will reduce the chances of your hair stretching and breaking.

I wish more hairdressers knew more about curly hair and its proper care. Too many of them are trained for straight hair. That's a shame, for a crown of beautiful curls is a lovely thing indeed.

Her Grace has been shampoo-free for nearly ten years thanks to Curly Girl and, as you can see, her curls are beautiful. Also, she hates the term "so cute". 

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

The Best Method to Untarnish Silver

Some of my fabulous silver (and some gold).
Like me, I'll bet you've got some beautifully romantic pieces of Sterling silver jewelry. Or maybe you inherited a lovely set of silverware from your grandmother. Or maybe you're on a Quest, and when you finally find the Silver Sword of MacGuffin, you discover it terribly tarnished.

Alas, silver tends to tarnish with age.

Here is one of The Best Methods for untarnishing your silver. (I'll explain why later).
  1. Fill a saucepan with 1.5 litres1 (half a gallon) of water. Add 1/4 cup of baking soda and 1/4 cup salt (NaCl). Bring to a boil.
  2. Line a second saucepan or a large glass bowl with a sheet of aluminium foil. 
  3. Place your tarnished Sterling silver jewelry (or magical sword) on the foil. It must have contact with the foil, the more, the better.
  4. Pour the boiling baking soda water over your jewelry and let it sit for a few minutes. The tarnish will disappear. If a piece of jewelry is severely tarnished, you may need to reheat the water or let the solution sit longer. 
  5. Once silver is untarnished, remove from pan (with tongs or a spoon, as it may be very hot).
This is how I keep my silver bright and shiny, especially as I have a bad habit of taking magical silver swords into brimstone-ridden hellmouths or wearing my silver rings into sulfer-ridden swimming pools.

Here's How It Works

Tarnish is silver sulfide (Ag2S). Tarnish happens when sulfer from the atmosphere, from a swimming pool, from food, etc reacts with the silver of your jewelry (or your silver teaspoons).

Many other methods of silver polishing removes that layer of silver sulfide. This is less than ideal. Yes, it's removing that tarnish, but it also removes a layer of silver as well. We don't want that.

My method above only removes the sulfer. It leaves the silver behind.

Essentially, what's happening is an electrochemical reaction. What we are doing is pulling the sulfer from the silver sulfide and making aluminium sulfide (Al2S3). Sulfer wants to be aluminium sulfide more than it wants to be silver sulfide. Therefore, when presented in an ideal environment (the hot water & soda/salt), it moves to the aluminium foil.

Want to know more about the science behind this? Learn how oxidation and reduction make it work.

Has Her Grace mentioned just how much she loves science?

1If you are untarnishing magical enchanted silver swords, you may wish to increase this recipe at least four-fold to ensure complete coverage of the sword by salt/soda solution. Also increase the amount of aluminium foil to maximise surface contact. And you'll need a larger pan. Maybe a bathtub.