John T. Anderson
4A2 Ridgeview Terrace, Apt 5B
Barlamon, (Hapdorn Province) 5B003
16 Secondmonth 4599
I am sorry that I haven’t written to you more often, but what with the daily grind of work and play, it’s easy to forget to keep up on your correspondence with distant friends. (I do think of you as a friend of sorts even though we’ve only met by mail.) So, my apologies.
As you can see, it is near the end of Secondmonth, and that means that winter is finally dwindling away. Although I must say that winter was not nearly as fierce as I had expected; just a three degree difference in the axial tilt of a planet can have a marvellous effect on the weather! On Earth, it’s twenty-three degrees, if I recall; here it’s only twenty. Seasons are mild here.
From an astronomer’s standpoint, all planets with an axial tilt of any significance have four seasons: summer and winter are the hot and cold extremes; and spring and autumn are the windy transitional ones. Homeland is no different from Earth, except that we call autumn “red” because of the foliage, and we call early spring “blue.” More on that later. As you know from Bobo, Thorgelfayne is located on a giant super-continent in the southern hemisphere of Homeland. Right now it is winter in Thorgelfayne at the same time as it is winter in North America and Europe. Of course that is just a coincidence that will change over time. The slight difference in the length of the Earth and Homeland years will care of that!.
Now here’s some math you can check me on. (All these numbers are decimal). You have a year of 365.25 days; we have a year of 336 days (14 months times 24 days each). The reason for the fraction is that you have a leap year to keep the calendar in line with the seasons, but with us the difference between the calendar and the seasons is too small to make a “leap year” worth the bother. To compare the length of the year on both planets, we must bring them to a common denominator, and for that purpose I shall use the Homelander hour for convenience. There are thirty-two Homelander hours in a Homelander day, or 336 days times thirty-two hours; so the year is ten thousand, seven hundred fifty-two hours long. The Earth day is twenty-eight point fourty-four Homelander hours long, so the Earth year is accordingly ten thousand, three hundred eighty-seven and some odd hours long. That means that Earth’s seasons lag behind ours by about 364 hours per year. After thirty years, our summer will be during your winter; and after sixty years, we will be back in synch again! (That is, from the standpoint of Thorgelfayne and North America.)
If you haven’t fallen asleep yet, I will reward you with something interesting!
The reason I am so keenly aware of seasons and such is because of the approaching
season of Blue. From an astronomer’s standpoint, Blue is just the first part of
spring; but most people consider it to be a totally separate season. The name derives from
the universal blue color of the early buds and flowers. The landscape is dominated by blue
for almost a month, before the foliage and flowers mature and take on the more familiar
riot of spring colors. So you can imagine how eager I am to spot the first sign of Blue!
Every morning when I leave for work, I drive down the long driveway from the parking
garage of my building to the street, passing a lovely stand of Umbrella trees. Lately,
they’ve begun to bud, so I’ve kept a sharp eye on them every morning and every
evening for the first sign of a blue tint!
Then one morning I saw something that brought me to a complete halt! (My neighbor, who had followed me out of the parking garage, nearly rear-ended me!)
The trees are covered with yellow ribbons!
“John!” the other driver called, getting out of his car. “What’s going on? I could have hit your car!”
“Apologies, my friend,” I replied, embarrassed, and explained.
“Oh, that just means that the trees are going to be removed for some reason,” my neighbor explained and got back into his car. He stretched his head out, “There’s nothing to be concerned about!”
Nothing to be concerned about indeed! That is quite a large stand of umbrella trees! I drove out the exit and back in the entrance and marched myself directly to the reception desk. I demanded (politely, of course) what was going on with the trees! I had visions of parking lots and building additions filling my head. The desk clerk referred me to a special office that had been set up near the lobby to handle “our” problem. It was a small room with three very helpful people in it.
Thorgelfayne, as you know, is a Duchy and not a democracy, and we regard that as a great advance. The original form of government was a tribe or clan led by one person. This changed to kingdoms and dictatorships, which developed bureaucracies, but they were still essentially led by one person. Sometimes power was shared by a group. The only difference in these modes of government is the method by which a minority runs roughshod over the general population. Then democracies were invented in reaction to these older forms. In democracies, the majority was supposed to rule, but most often they simply constructed another bureaucracy which, as a minority, ran roughshod over the majority. (Back to square one, you could say). In all of these forms of government, a dissenting individual must subordinate himself to the leader, the dictator, the bureaucracy or the majority. So, you see, from a Thorgelfaynese standpoint, a democracy is much nicer than a dictatorship, but equally distasteful. (I learned this from a book on the theoretical aspects of historical political development, written for young children.)
Thorgelfayne invented its own form of government: the technocracy. Knowledge rules, and that is supposed to rid the people of the tyranny of people.
So I opened the door very slowly, and peered around it very cautiously.
“Come in, come in!” came a cheery greeting. I hesitatingly described my concern for the Umbrella trees. Also my amazement that a special government office would be set up!
So I found out why the trees are being removed. The gardener had not detected a fatal blight before it had become untreatable, so the trees had to come out. If they were not removed, they would eventually die and fall in high winds. The gardener was suffering professional discipline for this lapse. However, the matter would not end there! Various groups conferred to consider the following points:
- A two-lane exit driveway is needed by the apartment dwellers.
- The trees are aesthetically pleasing, and that is desired by the Aesthetics Board, the City Planning Board, and nearby residents.
- The impact on the Thorgelfaynese tree census has to be assessed, so that the Duchy will not fall behind on its treaty obligations. This treaty exists to guarantee air quality and oxygen production for the atmosphere.
- There must be study of the wind patterns caused by the removal of the trees and their effect on neighboring buildings, plants, pedestrians and traffic. Several alternatives are being studied: various types of trees, bushes, retaining walls, and (of course) no replacement at all.
- The botanical and microecological effects of all alternatives have to be studied by botanists.
They flooded me with information until I screamed for them to stop! (Well, it was almost that dramatic.) They offered me an in-depth interview to assess my views and contributions. I declined; I am no expert. I just liked the trees. They wrote that down anyway.
This government office, by the way, is temporary. It will be disbanded when the job is done. I was a bit skeptical about that, so I joked about it to the desk clerk.
“No worry,” he laughed waving off my fears, “they only rented the room for a month!”
And they’ve already been here a week!
So after all this, I am reassured that the best will happen. The last freeze is nearly behind us, so I can expect to see final results in two weeks. Imagine, only sixteen days! I’ll let you know what happens.
I was late to work that day, but on that particular day it did not affect my schedule.