Thursday, September 30, 2010

Astronomers discover nearby habitable planet? Hello!?

In the news at the moment (September/October 2010) is this item about the discovery of an Earth-like habitable planet only 20 light years away.

Apparently, its climate is livable, if chilly, it could support liquid water and life not unlike Earth's, and it has gravity similar to ours and an atmosphere.

Twenty light years is right next door, in our galaxy of billions of stars, one of billions of galaxies. It makes astronomers think that the number of similar friendly planets in the galaxy has to be very large, as does the probability that some of them would harbor life.

Dr. Steven Vogt of the University of California, Santa Cruz, told a reporter "The number of systems with potentially habitable planets is probably on the order of 10 or 20 per cent, and when you multiply that by the hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way, that's a large number. There could be tens of billions of these systems in our galaxy." He adds: "Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say that the chances for life on this planet are 100 percent. I have almost no doubt about it."

You may be sure Ana Darcy Méndez is not surprised. She suggests that scientists look more closely at star systems say, twenty-five light years from Earth. She will tell you there is no "almost" about the chances of a habitable planet at that distance. There is, in fact, a lovely planet at that distance. She knows from personal experience!

(See Stephen Hawking's comment about extraterrestrials here.)

(Asked about Area 51, Ana replies here.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Now, A UN Ambassador for Alien Contact?

Torn from today's headlines (September 28, 2010) comes this item: the United Nations is going to elect an ambassador for when aliens eventually come to Earth!

If the post is approved, it will be filled by 58-year-old astrophysicist Mazlan Othman, now the head of the UN's Office for Outer Space Affairs.

Dr. Othman is quoted as saying ""The continued search for extraterrestrial communication, by several entities, sustains the hope that some day human kind will receive signals from extraterrestrials. When we do, we should have in place a coordinated response that takes into account all the sensitivities related to the subject. The UN is a ready-made mechanism for such coordination."

Indeed it is. However unlikely such contact may be, we feel sure that Dr. Othman may wish to call upon Ana Darcy Méndez as a consultant! After all, which alien would YOU rather consult with?

(See Stephen Hawking's comment about extraterrestrials here.)

(Asked about Area 51, Ana replies here.)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Did Aliens Mess With Our Nuclear Missiles?

A recent news item caught our attention: former Air Force officers and men are apparently about to break their years-long silence about UFOs fooling around American nuclear weapons sites.

A number of such supposed incidents are to be detailed, it is said. In one case, the alleged UFO, a glowing red object, hovered around a site with ten Minute Man missiles inside, scaring the blazes out of the guards, setting off alarms, and rendering all ten missiles unusable. The missiles were sixty feet underground at the time, protected with steel and concrete. (They were later restored to operability.)

The Air Force investigated and claimed there was no credible evidence for the event.

Ana Darcy Méndez is as puzzled by these conflicting claims as the rest of us, but with one big difference: she knows there are other intelligent beings out there. She IS one! The beings who transplanted her ancestors to Thomo are another set of known aliens. As far as Thoman history records, those beings were benign. So were the apparent visitors to the missile site, it seems. Some among us might even credit them with commendable intentions.

Ana, for one, does not automatically dread the possibility of contact with extraterrestrial aliens. As a human extraterrestrial alien, she holds her judgment and remains optimistic.

(See Stephen Hawking's comment about extraterrestrials here.)

(Asked about Area 51, Ana replies here.)

Was Ana's space pod sighted near Area 51?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Uh-oh! Readers Write!

Here are a few reader comments over the last two months. We've included a representative sample on the most recent volume, Distant Cousin: Regeneration.
First, some comments on the entire series to date (DC1-DC4):
"Thank you so very much for such wonderful well written books. The books flow so easily you feel like you are a part of the family. You want to be a part of the family. However I am so sad that I have read the last one. My mom loved them and has read them all 3 times already. So they are a big hit with her as well as me.... I will be taking them on my vacation with me so I can read them all again."
"I finished the DC books. I liked them very much. I can’t wait until the next book!!!! I need to know what happens to [character]!"

Comments on DC1, Distant Cousin:
"...a unique take on the sci-fi genre, with a dash of romance. Well written and conceptually well thought out. Definitely a keeper!"
"This is a great book. I found it very engaging, not too heavy with a surprising sensitivity and humor blended in with the sci-fi excitement. I especially liked the positive out look on all the variety Earth has to offer, as a whole we get too comfortable with our own cultures and fail to explore other tastes, smells, textures and customs."
"I loved this book from the minute I picked it up. I usually don't go for Science Fiction books...they seem to be too outlandish or the authors try to make them too "alien" making up so many words and phrases that you lose your spot in the story. This book was nothing like that. It was a wonderfully written story with engaging characters, and I can't wait to read the rest of the series!"
"I like the books. I like the intimacy of reading the story and seeing it in my mind. I have so often been disappointed in what ends up on the screen. It isn't how I see it while reading or thinking about the story and it confuses it all. On the other hand, [a movie] would reach so many more people. Love the books- I can see the movie in my mind and doubt anyone else is seeing the same thing. AND- the Hollywood version might not allow Darcy to be the sweet innocent person she is."

Distant Cousin: Regeneration (DC4)
"This is definitely the best Ana Darcy book yet!"
"I stayed up and read the last half of DC4, really enjoyed it. I love her kids! and that cat. I want that cat but no way I could sneak it in past my neighbors LOL.... My sister wanted me to let you know that she has read DC1-DC4 in less than a week. She really enjoyed them and said if you weren't already writing DC5 she'd hunt you down....Guess she really enjoyed the series. We both were getting a kick out of Darcy and Matt."
"Over all I give [Distant Cousin: Regeneration] 5 1/2 stars out of five. It was my favorite so far! I like stories that focus on the characters, and not around a central plot. It makes the characters seem more real and it's easy to become emotionally invested in their well being. How can you not like a story when you are actually worried about the characters?"
"You have a great way of balancing the action of the story with the personal experiences of the characters which sets the action in motion. Great ending too."
"Awesome!!! I am 3/4 through this book and am literally dragging my heels about finishing it. I ration myself. The story and characters are just so captivating."
"I love the ending--very cool! So thank you so much for the entertaining, beautifully-crafted read, which also made for lots of south-western nostalgia on my part."

Friday, September 17, 2010

Edible Roses?

This is not one of Ana's original recipe ideas, though it sounds like it could be.  It turns out that rose petals are edible, something your humble editor did not know. There are recipes for them easily available online, which is how Ana came up with the two dishes pictured here. Because they are readily available, there's no need to duplicate the recipes here. A search engine will turn them up quickly. If you are curious, I believe Ana used Epicurious.
Being from another planet, Ana is perhaps more receptive to unusual recipe ideas than the rest of us.

One of these is a rose petal salad and the other is a rose petal candy. We can't speak for the taste, but both dishes certainly brighten up a table!

(See more recipes in the Table of Contents in the right column.)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The World Begins at a Kitchen Table? (Poem)

The Méndez family does not have a dining room as such. Their front door opens on the long side of a generous-sized room whose opposite long side is the living area. In between is the dining table, which also serves as the kitchen table. The kitchen area is along the wall to the left of the front door, with windows through which approaching visitors may be seen. Someone working in the kitchen can easily talk with another person anywhere in the room, and vice versa. It's a communal space.

Ana loves the room. Her own people are highly family oriented, and so is her husband. Unlike many families today, the Méndez family almost always sits down together for meals. Cooking and cleaning up afterwards are also generally a family affair.

Thus it will not be a surprise to learn that Ana loved the poem that begins "The world begins at the kitchen table." If the line had said "The world begins with the family," it would have meant the same thing to her. She needed Matt to explain to her that the poem refers to an older home which has housed many generations in turn, since no one lays out the dead on the kitchen table any more, nor are babies born on it.

All the same, though their house has been occupied by the Méndez family only in recent years, the basic structure is over 120 years old. Ana likes that.

"Perhaps the World Ends Here," by Joy Harjo

Oops! The link above has been closed (in 2017), as have many links to Ana's other favorite poems. For the workaround to find them another way, please see this link! Thank you!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Distant Cousin Volume 5: Sneak Peek!

There have been many questions as to when the next Distant Cousin book will be out. Answer: early next year.

Here's a sample. Ana's twins, Julio and Clio Méndez, are enjoying challenging summer programs away from home.

* * * * *

Julio Méndez had arranged to meet his sister outside the College of Pharmacy building at the University of New Mexico Medical Center, but he hadn't anticipated how extensive the medical area was. He had to study two "You Are Here" pedestrian maps before he located it—a modern, severe, white, slab-sided building in the block ahead. It was a pleasant walk, though. His home town, Las Cruces, didn't feature the invigorating odor of fir trees like Albuquerque did. Both cities lay against mountain ranges, but Albuquerque's mountains actually had forests.
Only a few people were out in the morning heat, but they represented a wide age range. Some wore lab coats while others tended toward ragged jeans or shorts, and t-shirts. Most carried books. Although he was only 15, he didn't feel out of place. He was as tall as a man—a short man—and he was better dressed than many he saw, in a sharp blue polo shirt and new jeans, the unrealized influence of his mother.
He didn't see his sister until he rounded the corner of the building. She was sitting cross-legged with a book in her lap, in a grassy area at the end of a row of trees, facing away from him. He recognized her khaki book bag between her back and the tree.
He stepped off the sidewalk onto the grass so he could walk silently, with the row of trees hiding his approach. Zeroing in on the exposed edge of her book bag, he took a bold step around the tree to find only the bag and the book on the ground. She had skunked him. In a resigned voice, he said, "Tister."
From behind him, a voice answered, "J-Man."
"How did you know it was me?"
"Don't know. Just felt it."
He turned. She was wearing her favorite denim cargo shorts, a loose green t-shirt that set off her chestnut hair, and white tennies. There was a gleam of amusement in her eyes.
"You're weird, Tister."
"Well, we're twins. How come you can't do that?"
"I'm the normal twin."
"You wish."
"So how you doin'?"
"Not bad. How are you?"
"OK. You hungry? How about some lunch?"
"Sure. What do you feel like?"
"Is there a sandwich shop nearby?"
"Yeah. There's a bunch of places two blocks from here."
"Great. Let's go."
She picked up the book she'd been reading and started to slide it into her bag.
"What's that?"
"That book." He peered at the spine. "'Pharmacognosy?' What is that?"
"Oh," she replied. "Pharmacognosy is the study of medicines from natural sources."
"I never heard of that."
"Dr. Peebles said it used to be common when he was in pharmacy school a long time ago, but it isn't any more. Now, the big companies make the medicines. He said pharmacists today mostly just sell manufactured medicines. They don't make their own like they used to. He gave me this book when he saw I was interested in it. It's really cool. I'm learning about all the properties of drugs: biochemical, physical, biological, stuff like that."
They stayed to the shade as much as they could. Two bicyclists passed them and a jogger trotted diagonally across the sidewalk ahead, wires dangling from her ears.
"I thought you were studying with that guy you hated, Dr. Philpot."
"I was. He's a pretty good doctor, really. I didn't like the way he treated Abuelita after her operation, but he was trying the best he could. He found Dr. Peebles for me when he realized I was more interested in drugs than in being a doctor."
"Pharmacognosy. Sheesh."
"So how about you? How are you doing at Mountain Physics or whatever it is?"
"'Rocky Mountain Tech Labs.' Pretty good. They mostly let me go wherever I want. I mean, I'm an 'intern,' but I'm allowed in most of the labs. Some of them are real interesting and fun."
"Dr. Dave got you in, right? Do you ever see him?"
"He comes up every week or so. I've seen him twice."
"Here's a good sandwich shop."
They entered, supervised the construction of their sandwiches, and found a quiet corner in which to devour them. Julio had eaten a quarter of his before Clio had squeezed lemon into her ice tea and sliced the jalapeño to add to her sandwich (which made Julio frown). She stirred her tea and pulled the toothpick out of her sandwich.
"So why did you want to come today, anyway?"
"To see you before you left, that's why."
"But I'm not leaving for two days."
"Well, there's a guy coming to give a series of lectures. He's some great physicist who's supposed to have good ideas about the unified field theory. I don't wanna miss those."
"The unified what?"
"Never mind. It's complicated. It's just some physicists trying to find one explanation for the four basic forces in the universe. One of them is gravity. It's the gnarliest one. That's why I'm going."
"You would. OK, forget I asked."
"About your vacation—I still can't believe Mom went for that."
"I can't either. I got Dad to OK it first. He helped with Mom. They both signed the permission form."
"I mean, going off to Mexico with doctor Philpot and his family? People we don't even know?"
"Dad has met him, at the hospital and when they set up this summer thing for me. I think he met his wife, too."
"Did he meet his son and daughter? I hope not."
"No, he didn't. Mom hasn't either. Fortunately."
"I still don't understand why you're going on a vacation with people you can barely stand."
Clio set down her sandwich and wiped a dot of mustard off the corner of her mouth. Glancing at the nearby tables, she leaned toward her brother.
"This is just between you and me, OK? Twin stuff…."
"You've fallen in love with his frat boy son?"
"No, doofus! You know where we're going?"
"To Mata Ortiz, in northern Chihuahua. It's famous for its fancy pottery. Mrs. Philpot will probably spend $5000 on ceramics, and maybe sit in with the potters in their workshops. Dr. Philpot will go a bar and drink, unless they have a golf course. I don't know what their kids will do."
"Yeah? So what will you do?"
"Do you remember Doña Dolores?" she asked in a low voice.
"Sure—the curandera you studied with back home. What about her?"
"She says there's a famous hierbero, a Tarahumara Indian, who lives not far from there. He knows everything about medicinal plants. He knows stuff no one else does. She met him once and learned a ton of things. I'm gonna find him. I'm gonna get him to teach me!"
"You're WHAT?" He looked at the nearby tables. No one paid them any attention. He shook his head. Clio leaned forward again.
"This is twin stuff, J-Man. Just you and me, OK?"
"That's nuts, Tister! I mean, there are bandits and smugglers all over northern Mexico, and coyotes smuggling illegals over the border, and…."
"He's somewhere in the Barranca del Cobre, Copper Canyon. High mountains, lots of valleys, few roads. Hardly any strangers go in there. I'll have my satellite phone. I'll be fine."
"OK, forget the bandits. Worry about Mom. Do you know how mad she'll be if she finds out you sneaked off on your own, in Mexico?"
"She won't find out. She and Dad'll be busy with that launch at Cape Kennedy. And anyway, if she calls, she still won't know where I am. You'll be my main contact. You'll cover for me."
"That's crazy, Tister! A phone won't protect you. You have no idea what might happen! It's too risky! Don't do it, please!"
"I have to go, J-Man. I have to! I've wanted to for years. This may be my only chance!"
"You can't just take off by yourself, in another country. It's dangerous over there. Mom would freak out, big time!"
"She's done plenty things like that herself—jumping into that river to get away, sneaking into a country to blow things up…she can do stuff like that, but she gave me grief over Harry Saenz, and he wasn't even a boy friend. Mom doesn't own me."
"Oh, man." He looked at the crumbs on the crumpled paper that had wrapped his sandwich. He shook his head again.
"But…you don't really know anything about this guy. How are you going to even find him?"
"I haven't figured that out yet. I'll do that once I'm down there."
They stared at each other. It was one of the rare times their twin meta-communication didn't work. Clio was as stubborn as her mother. Julio felt his sandwich ball up in his stomach like a wad of clay.

(Also at Barnes and Noble)