Taxes Done! And Other Stories of Astronomical Importance

Well, I got those pesky taxes done and out of the way with time to spare! (Let’s see, about a hundred hours to spare, I figure.) So I sort of, almost, kept my New Year’s resolution to not fall behind and do my taxes at the last minute this year. We wound up owing a bit, so it’s not like we lost out on getting an early refund.

And having finished that, I’m now back to wrestling with a far more challenging problem: making sense of Chapter 13 in Sunborn. (It didn’t come out so well in the first draft. I think I’m getting there, though.)

Astronomically speaking, I just read a couple of interesting stories. Venus, that greenhouse hothouse of a planet, has a new visitor—the European Space Agency’s probe Venus Express, which entered orbit around the planet just yesterday. Here’s to Venus Express [takes a swig of Winterhook Ale].

Out at the other extreme of the solar system, Hubble scientists have taken a look at Xena, aka 2003 UB313, considered by some to be (maybe) the long-sought 10th planet. The Hubble people put its diameter at 1490 miles, rather than the original estimate of 1860 miles. That would make it almost exactly the same size as Pluto. Says “Since 2003 UB313 is 10 billion miles away not even as wide as the United States, it showed up as just 1.5 pixels in Hubble’s view. But that’s enough to precisely make a size measurement, astronomers said.” If they can really do that, that’s…impressive.

And finally, consider RS Ophiuchi. It’s a binary star system, a white dwarf and a red giant. Like many such pairs, it’s also a source of fireworks, as matter falling from the giant onto the white dwarf periodically causes the smaller star to explode. What’s different about this star is that it blows up inside the atmosphere of its larger buddy. This is something new, never seen before.

And if you periodically worry, as I do, about what’s going to happen to the Earth a billion years from now when our own sun blows up into a red giant (incinerating us), some astrophysicist types named Fred Adams, Gregory Laughlin, and Don Korycansky have an answer: use carefully aimed asteroids to give Earth a gravitational boost and move it to a safer orbit! It’s a sort of long-term project, with each pass of the asteroid (every 6000 years) nudging the Earth a little farther from the sun. (“Captain, our orbit is decaying!” Nope—not anymore!)

Back Home, BSG Off to Tor Again, and…

What? Galactica—again? Yes, this time I had the page proofs for the mass market paperback edition to correct. (We won’t mention that the proofs were mailed by mistake to Craig Gardner, who wrote the second book, and who fortunately lives just a few blocks away.) This meant reading through the book again—actually, for the first time since I corrected the proofs for the trade edition. Why should I have to do this? you might ask. Well, partly because the typesetting has been adjusted for the smaller page size, and sometimes errors are introduced when that’s done. But mainly it’s to catch all the stupid mistakes we missed the first time around. Yes, it’s true.

I know this makes it sound like we’re careless when the first edition goes out, but that’s not true. It’s amazing how many errors can sneak by multiple proofreaders (including yours truly), who are all doing their best to catch the little buggers. And then there are the occasional infelicitous phrasings or word choices that any one of said proofreaders (including yours truly) should have caught—but didn’t. Things like the phrase “for a moment” appearing three times in a paragraph. Yeesh.

So it’s done. And you know what? I really liked reading the book. I consider this a positive sign.

Oh—the wrestling. Alexandra placed third in the Ohio state girls tournament in Mt. Vernon, Ohio. It wasn’t a huge field. But lemme tell you, some of those girls who are wrestling in Ohio are tough hombres! (You should forgive the expression.) I’ll try to snag a few stills off the video we shot and get them up soon.

With my sister Nancy as tour guide, we also visited the campus of Kenyon College, which is right down the road from where the tourney was held. We admired their fantastic new athletic Taj Mahal, and sought out advice and info from fellow SF author/biology professor Joan Slonczewski.

We arrived home, well after midnight on Sunday night, exhausted but happy—greeted by wife and other daughter, and dinner laid out on the table! Who could ask for more?

Off to a USGWA Wrestling Tourney

posted in: wrestling 0

No, not the WWF, or anything remotely resembling it. It’s the U.S. Girls’ Wrestling Association, an organization that promotes folk-style (high-school style) wrestling for girls, just as much larger associations promote wrestling for guys. They have many tournaments for girls after the regular wrestling season is over, and girls who have been training in a mostly male-dominated sport all winter can come together and wrestle each other. My older daughter Lexi and I are heading to Ohio later today so that she can compete in one such tournament. We’re also going to squeeze in a visit to a college, as we’re just about to start ramping up what I’m sure is going to prove a long search.

Here’s a picture of the two of us, taken recently at one of the Massachusetts sectional tournaments—by the mother of one of the guys she came up against.

Photo © 2006 by Denise Brown. Reproduced here by permission.

Wrestling Tournament in Maine

We spent the day at the Hyde Wrestling Tournament in Bath, Maine, another girls-only tourney, this one smaller, as it was a first-time event. All three girls from the Arlington team went, plus the one girl who wrestles for Lexington High school, plus (assisting with the coaching) one of the graduating captains of the Arlington High School team. Lexi placed second in her weight class, with two pins to her credit and one loss by decision. Her first-year teammate Anjali, wrestling in her first official competition, came back from losing two matches to pin her final opponent. (Pix to come, when I have a chance to look at the video.)

It was a great group of people, and I continue to be impressed at the way wrestling is developing as a sport for girls.

This tournament was directed, by the way, by one Lisa Nowak, a young woman who paved the way for girls’ wrestling in Maine by taking her case for her right to participate in the sport to the Maine Human Rights Commission. She now is a wrestling coach at the Hyde School, coaching both boys and girls—and was a delightful person to meet.

Comments on Faith; Videos; Not Enough Sleep

posted in: religion, wrestling 0

There have been some interesting comments posted to my entry below on faith and rationality. If you don’t ordinarily look at the comments, I recommend you scroll down and take a look at those. Maybe you’ll have something to say in response. Please feel free.

Meanwhile, I’ve just come off editing a year-end video piece for the school wrestling team (a sort of wrestling music video)—which was a lot of fun to do, but involved some late-night video-editing sessions. Now, I’m back to organizing a year’s worth of receipts to do my taxes (let’s hear it for Turbotax), and still cranking away on the miniseries novelization. That’s fun, too. Oh, and I’m about to start a new round of consulting editing (I edit and do rewrite on educational web content, for teacher professional development—if you should happen to sign up for a PBS Teacherline course in high school algebra, there’s a good chance you’ll be coming across material that I worked on). So…that’s why not enough sleep.

That’s also why not enough entries in the blog. But I’m trying.

What’s Wrestling Got to Do with Writing, Anyway? (Writing Question #2)

I’m glad you asked. The answer is, more than you might think.
I wrestled all four years when I was in high school in Huron, Ohio, and during my first year of undergraduate school, at Brown University. During that time, I learned that wrestling requires enormous dedication, self-discipline, and conditioning. Also, that stepping out onto the mat as a young adult, to face an opponent one-on-one, calls on all your reserves of courage and poise. And that in the long run, the experience goes a long way toward developing self-confidence. (I was a pretty shy kid, really—kind of geeky, afraid of girls, and not terribly good at sports in general. This sport represented a major area of growth for me.) Coached properly, wrestling also develops a sense of good sportsmanship, respect for the opponent, and the ability to win and lose with equal grace.

Writing, for anyone who hopes to do it professionally, requires if anything even greater dedication and self-discipline. My wrestling experience probably did more to prepare me for the long, tough haul of making it as a writer than any other single thing I did as a student, including taking writing courses. As an aspiring writer, I put in endless hours of work with zero promise of reward, only hope and determination. Like just about all new writers, I met setback after setback, and had to choose between quitting or plugging ahead. (This process is ongoing, by the way. It doesn’t just happen to aspiring writers. There are lots of professional writers out there, including me, who are engaged in an ongoing struggle to keep their careers alive and healthy.)

Courage and poise? Well, for a lot of people, putting a manuscript in an envelope and sending it off, unsolicited, to a publisher takes about as much courage as stepping out onto a mat. And you have to learn to lose with grace if you’re going to make it in the writing business. The poise and the self-confidence come with time. And come in mighty handy the first time you step up to a podium to speak to an audience as a “guest author.”

(Momentary digression: if you’re unfamiliar with the sport of wrestling and think I’m talking about anything even remotely related to the stuff they show on TV under the name “professional wrestling,” no. Don’t. No resemblance. Don’t even talk to me about it.)

A surprising number of wrestlers turn out to be good students, as well. Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising; the same self-discipline comes into play. Some pretty well-known writers were also wrestlers. And also some less-well-known writers.*

Here’s a short SF story I wrote about wrestling, originally published in the anthology Warriors of Blood and Dream, edited by Roger Zelazny. It’s called Shapeshifter Finals.

Here are some books by wrestlers-turned-writer:

*It pains me to acknowledge it, but a well-known thug who is also our current Secretary of Defense was also a wrestler and coach. Oh well, no sport’s perfect.

Second Place at All-Girls Wrestling Tourney!

Got home late last night from a weekend in New Jersey, attending our first all-girls wrestling tournament, the USGWA New Jersey Girls Wrestling State Championships Open. Lexi placed second in her weight grouping, winning three matches (one with a pin and one in double overtime) and losing one. More importantly, she had a great time, and made some new wrestling friends from other states. One of the organizers commented on his past experience with girls’ tournaments, noting that the girls are much more likely than the boys to get together after competing and hug and make friends with each other.

Most of the girls we talked to were in the same position as Lexi–participating on boys’ wrestling teams, often as the only girl, and attending events like this after the season. A recent USA Today article on girls’ wrestling noted that the number of high school girls wrestling nationwide is currently about 4000, up from about 100 in 1990.

If you’re interested in all-girls wrestling, here’s the go-to group: the US Girls Wrestling Association, or USGWA.

And here are some pix from the tourney.

Wrestling in an Earlier Generation

You just never know what the mail (or email) is going to bring. As a result of my posting Lexi’s wrestling photos earlier on this blog, I recently heard from an old college teammate of mine. He sent along a photo of the Brown University freshman wrestlers from…well, a number of years ago. I studied the photo, and studied it, and finally recognized one of the guys. (Is that me?)

Yeah, I guess it is. (Neither of my daughters were able to pick me out of the picture, nor could my brother. My wife did, though.)

Here it is, from days long ago, at a university not so far away.

Return of the Wrestler

She did it again! Today in a quad meet, she won a match, lost a match (and won another by forfeit). This time she won with a pin, in the second period. And had she not done so, the Arlington wrestling team would not have won the meet against Milford as they did. (Of course, the same can be said of everyone who won their individual meets. But I’ll bet this one was a surprise to the opposition.)


Yow! You go, girl!

My daughter Lexi broke the gender gap yesterday evening by defeating her (male) opponent 13-9 in a hard-fought six-minute wrestling match, in a dual meet with Reading, Mass. She’s been part of the Arlington High School wrestling team for two years now, and it’s been a tough uphill battle, competing with boys who are both stronger and heavier (she’s underweight for her 112 pound class). This was her first varsity victory of the season, and her whole team had her (literally) up in arms afterward. She also helped turn the tide for the team, which had been trailing in the meet, but came back to win a decisive victory.

Her dad was more than a little excited, and very proud.

Throughout her wrestling experience, she’s received great support from her coaches and teammates, who from the beginning welcomed her to the mat as one of the team. (Last year, she was the lone girl on the team; this year, two more girls joined her.)

Here are some action pix!