zentao, a lifeway book cover in its final stages

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Mass Lobotomies for All Contenders?

Let’s see. We’ve got Left vs Right, Lib vs Con, POC vs White, cop vs people…. I’m just sitting here wondering if mass lobotomies for all combatants might do the trick so the rest of us can get on with approaching things with communication rather than hate, fear, and violence.


Can Walk Like a Human

Two weeks back, I was sprinting. On concrete. Didn’t see a rock, as eyes were looking ahead, not down. Shod foot landed off-square on stray rock. Something gave. Bad.

I didn’t go down, but I definitely dropped instantly to ‘walk’. Walk was hobble, though. Knew there was trouble. It was the same leg that got injured two years back by being banged into sideways by a very large, happily exuberant boar.  Same leg my Aussie shepherd banged into an re-injured it, mid-way healed, the same year.

“Yup.” Mumbled jargon. Typing. “It’s gonna take a good six weeks to heal. Ice, elevate, rest. No work for two weeks. None. Then gentle walking. Only.  Wear a support when upright. You have crutches, I see.  Okay. See you in two weeks.”

Sigh.  For me, that meant begging and hiring in help.

And I hate sitting on my ass, except to write or create artwork.

And, now, two and a half weeks later, I’m walking like a human, again. Oh, it’s not all the way healed, but it’s healed enough that I impressed everyone when I walked in for a recheck.

“Mild work, no heavy chores.”

Of course, I nod.  Then grin.

He grins back. He knows me. Shakes his head. Types on the keyboard. “See you next time.”

At least I can get rid of the temporary help and stop sitting around in front of the computer for most of the day.  There’s work to do and winter’s coming.

 

EVENING UPDATE: Well, bum knee and all, I made my walk tonight, me and Laddie. I managed 3 mph. Usually, I do a mile in 12 minutes walking, but, for a first time out since I tweaked that knee, I figure doing a mile in 20 minutes is pretty good, since it’s over 4 inch rocks that are tricky to navigate with both legs sound. But, yeah, I did wear a leg brace and, yeah, I did feel it grumble a few times.

 


The DreamCatcher

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When Progressives Turn to Hate, Racism, Bullying,Tyranny, and Violence

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Do you wonder at your fellow humans where those supposedly fighting for human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and against intolerance, racism, bullying, and violence exhibit intolerance and racism, promote the curtailing of human rights, doing it by employing violence and bullying to force their will upon those others they perceive as prohibiting these things?

Upon mentioning that irony to an activist the other day, I was met with froth-mouthed screaming and thinly veiled promises of assault upon my person.

Exactly my point.

Fighting human rights violations, intolerance, and racism seems to now mean singling out a target demographic and subjugating, even eradicating, them by force.

Ending bullying now means mobs of people bullying others to the point that they flee in fear for their welfare and even their lives.

Freedom of speech and thought now means only thinking and speaking as approved by mob decision.

Ending violence now means angry masses of people using anything at hand as a weapon to beat down those they claim as violent.

And, of course, these folks all claim themselves to be educated and intelligent, while those they declaim and disdain are labeled ignorant dolts.

Interesting, ironic, and, yes, frightening–a world torn apart by violence employed in the name of nonviolence, humanity, equality, freedom, and fairness.

It’s insane and it’s ugly, destined to become even more ugly, and I sincerely doubt, bearing human history in mind, that it will end well. The millennial crisis has gained momentum, and that momentum is founded on a complete refusal to accept less than total annihilation, by force, if necessary, of any perceived opposition, even if those perceptions of the opposition are inaccurate to reality and fly in the face of the very principles upon which the movement is founded.

And, yes, Progressives, I’m a Bernie supporter and Move-On member who’s saying this. Until and unless Progressives walk the walk and act the act, they are nothing but hypocrites and fakes, a petulant, hate-riven, hate-driven mob no better and, sometimes, worse, than those they claim as persecutor.

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Part of an NF Book Series I'm Writing

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The weather forecast predicted a low of 48°F. and a high the next day near 62° with partly cloudy skies. I sat on the cement apron under my awning, reading one of my manuscripts, a novel I was planning to publish the following month. Around me, a few wasps and hornets still sipped at the water saucers put out expressly for them. Others worked at the dried beef strips provided them because their normal fare of garden insect pests was long since depleted.

Out in the garden, my tomato plants were heavy with green tomatoes slow to ripen, everything else having been harvested, except for a couple of winter squash and pumpkins. We had yet to have a frost.

These were the lazy days of autumn, when you get a lull between the heavy work of a summer spent preparing for winter and the miserably hard work that ice and snow brings to the north country. It’s my favorite time of year, not too hot, but not yet cold enough to warrant wearing a shirt over my t-shirt.  My mom calls them ‘gravy days’, and it’s an apt term.

Happily occupied on finding where reader flow could falter in the novel, I ignored the first nudge.  And the second.  When I got up to get a cup of coffee, though, the nudge became impossible to ignore.  I groaned.  I didn’t want to and reminded myself that NOAA (the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) was predicting continued mild weather.

The nudge turned into an insistent pressure, like a nag, but silent, just known…like when your mom is watching you from across the room when you haven’t done your homework or your chores, yet.

Okay!  Enough, already!

The pressure backed off, but its presence didn’t leave.  I got dressed to go over to the local farm store where they keep a supply of straw on hand.  Starting up the truck, I felt my usual, pragmatic terseness about giving up my afternoon for something that, while it needed to be done before the freeze, certainly wasn’t critical right now. The thought of the empty fuel containers came to mind, and I groaned.  Got out.  Got them.  Tied them in the back.  The neighbor was outside lighting his barbeque as I pulled past his place.  He waved.  I waved back.

I don’t argue with my nudges. I’ve had too many proofs of just how important it is to listen to them. So, begrudging the fact that I often get smirked at by neighbors and friends, I do what’s suggested, when suggested, regardless of how illogical and impractical it might seem.

At the farm store, the high school kid who loaded the bales of straw onto my flatbed wondered out loud to me on why I was getting a full load today instead of my usual handful of bales.

I thought about hedging.  Decided against it.  “Because it’s time to winterize the garden and stock up for a blow.  Livestock can’t go without straw in the cold.”

He gave me what, locally, we call ‘the hairy eyeball’, pointedly looked up at the blue skies and sinking sun, then, more pointedly, said, “Su-ure,” sarcasm dripping.

I grinned, finished strapping the load, then followed him inside to pay, grabbing a couple of rolls of heavy plastic and some snow blower sheer pins, to boot.  Then, I stopped at the gas station and filled my empty gas cans, bought some fuel stabilizer, and got some oil, just in case.

Once home, I spent the rest of the afternoon on into dark harvesting the green tomatoes and squash, pulling the houseplants in, winterizing the roses and banking the house, then loading the rest of the straw into the storage barn.  Last, with the yard lights on, I stapled the heavy plastic up around the north end of the open air barn.

Exhausted, I fell into bed around 10PM.  The thermometer reported the outside temperature at a pleasant 54°.

 

I rise early.  And I don’t keep the furnace on all year.  At 3:30AM, upon rising, the house felt chillier than usual.  Not much.  Just a bit.

I poked my head outside.  It was brisk, but it hadn’t frosted.  I shook my head.  “So much for following nudges,” my surly side grumbled inside my brain.  “Hey, the job is done, and I won’t have to do it later,” my ‘glass-is-half-full’ side shot back.

Not to be outdone, the pragmatic self responded with, “If it stays warm, the roses will rot. I’ll have to uncover them during the day, at least.”

I damped down all comments, moving to ‘not-think,’ the only sane way to deal with all the arguments and counters the rational, pragmatic brain will spawn.

Daylight showed gloomy overcast.  By 8AM, a chill wind had started.  By 10AM, the temperature outside had dropped from 42° to 35°.  By noon, the grass was frozen stiff, a winter storm warning in effect according to the National Weather Service, and the wind chill put the outside temperature down near 10°.  By evening, it was much, much worse.

If I hadn’t ‘listened’, which is another way of saying, paid attention to my instincts, my inklings, my nudges, I would have been scrambling to get everything done, working in miserable conditions to do it, and, believe me, it’s no fun stapling up plastic in the wind, to say nothing of trying to binder twine leafs of straw around roses to protect them from the bitter wind’s frost burn with freezing fingers.  Instead, I prepped the snow blower, then, bundling up, went over to help the neighbor with his frantic winterizing.

That night, snow started, the wispy, nasty stuff that creeps into every crevice and burns your face like stinging nettle when it hits you.  By the following morning, we were sitting at an ambient temperature of 3° F. with a wind chill of -26°.  It stayed that way for three solid weeks, no breaks.

 

People ask me how I know when to do what. Above, I gave you a simple example, not life critical, certainly, and probably inconsequential to most, but very demonstrative of how following nudges, following ‘flow’, allows you the luxury of avoiding unnecessary panic, toil, and suffering.

Oh, and the next time I visited the farm store, that high schooler grinned at me.  “You were right about the weather!  How’d you know?”

I gave him the easy answer, one that doesn’t give people willies: “A little bird told me.”

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The Radical Vegan

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I sometimes give dinner parties. Some of those I invite only eat Kosher. Some only eat vegan. Some won’t eat gluten. Some won’t eat pork or shellfish. I respect that. And they all know I do. I cook accordingly. When I visit their homes, I eat what is served or politely decline and drink water.

When I visit their homes, though, they don’t go out of their way to cook to my dietary needs and choices. And I would never ask them to. And they, usually, don’t ask me to; I do it voluntarily, even when I don’t relish their choices.

Enter the radical vegan to my house, a guest of a guest. Upon seeing that meat as well as purely vegan offerings were present at my table, the individual launched into a tirade, then proceeded to spit on the meat dishes and into the plate of deviled eggs. into the casseroles and salads that were clearly marked as either Kosher or non-vegan.

The meal was ruined. I was shocked. I told the person to leave my house and property and never return. The guest with whom the vegan came escorted her out and saw that she drove away…which left him stranded. (They’d both come in her car. Later, someone kindly took him home.) Once she was gone, he came back inside. He was mortified, as were the rest of us, and he offered to pay for the meal. I took him up on his offer by asking him to order from a local good restaurant that delivers. The folks around the table were conservative in their orders, and, within forty-five minutes, we were seated to a fresh table of not quite as extensive a meal.

The point of me recounting this ugly little drama is this: Today, vegans seem to think that they have the right to dictate what I and others put in our mouths. But these same vegans don’t want anyone dictating to them what they put in theirs. Vegans, I ask you: what if some radicalized meat-eaters group coerced the politicians to legislate the enforced eating of meat upon vegans, just like vegans are attempting to do via legislation to others? You vegans wouldn’t like it. In fact, you would feel your rights were being violated. Well, radical vegan, you are violating the rights of others with your actions and demands. Please stop, because, just like you don’t want someone dictating that you must eat meat, omnivores don’t want their choices dictated by you.

What you put into your mouth is your business. What someone else puts into theirs is not.

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Post Vacation Horror

Forrest_1-13-2015_900web I wrote about the beginning of Forrest’s week off, about how he went out of his way to try to make the newbie driver’s experience taking his run as easy and successful as possible. So, returning to his truck after his vacation, Forrest finds that said driver left the trailer with a driven-on flat that was ruined and off its bead, a larger-than-golf-ball-sized rock hit in the windshield, and the inspection reports falsified.

Added to that, there was spilled popcorn, candy, chips, and nuts, plus lots of cast-off, sticky, gooey wrappers all over the interior, including in the lower bunk. There was a bottle of this guy’s urine stuffed behind the driver’s seat. In short, Forrest’s clean truck was trashed, and it took hours to clean and disinfect.

Whatever happened to ‘return something in the same or better condition than when you received it’?

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Two Images in Celebration of the Summer Solstice

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White Bread

WhiteBreadTc“Could you play it a little less ‘white bread’?” Forrest asks, his eyes kind, but steady on mine, his fingers, as always, delicate in their grip on the neck of his newest guitar, a beautiful instrument that sounds as exquisite as it looks.

We’d just finished a run through of ‘Cheap Sunglasses’ and, despite it being a challenging piece for me rhythmically, I’d done a pretty darn near perfect, note-for-note performance of it.

I blinked, stared, blinked again. “Ah…oka-aay,” I said, hedging.  “Which part?”  I asked this because, honestly, I know I’d just done it as written.

He tells me.

I blink.

He’s talking about two embellished notes, same pitch, the first three-sixteenths in length coming a sixteenth after the fourth beat and a quarter note coming on the one beat of the next bar.

He explains what he wants, then demonstrates it vocally.

I nod. He starts the riff; I come in when I should, mimicking his vocalization.

“Not really,” he says, stopping, again.

I laugh. “Okay. What, then?”

“Feel it more.”

He starts moving his fingers, playing out the riff, his head bobbing in that just-off-the-beat kind-of-way that seems pervasive among rock musicians. He looks at me, his eyes urging me to come in.

I do.

He stops…shakes his head. “Feel it. Don’t count it.”

“Oka-aaay.” I try again.

A huge sigh answers that attempt. “Could you try not playing it like a classical musician? …Try playing like a…a….” He shrugs. “…LIke you don’t have a rod up your backside.”

By now, I’m practically in hysteria. Damping down my giggles is taking supreme effort. “But I am a classically trained musician.” Then, more soberly: “And I’m really trying, here.”

“I know….” He groans. “…But it’s just so…’white bread‘!”

He’s getting exasperated. Perfectionist that he is, I know how serious he means this. Still, I can’t help myself: “I like white bread,” say I.

His eyes flash. “You don’t even eat bread.”

“That’s true.” (I’m grinning, and I know that exasperates him even more, but, honestly, I can’t help myself.)

“Then, don’t play it!” he practically bellows.

I sigh. Watch him fondly. Finally, I shrug a bit. “Hon-, I can only do me. I’m not a ‘bro-‘. I ain’t got no rhythm that way. But I did play with Santana for a few weeks long time passing, and they loved my playing.”

“It’s too ‘white bread’,” he repeats. Emphatically.

“Yes, dear. I’ll work on it.”

…Anyone know how to make white bread brown?
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The Rise of the American Bully Tyrannists

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There’s a complete and utter irony to it. It comes from all sides right and left–from the homophobes, bigots, and religious fanatics to the vegans, the anti-war, the anti-racists, the anti-discriminists, animal rights crowds…you name it. On the right and the left, we have calls to arms, calls to action against anyone perceived to be exhibiting any trait or tendency that one or another group fears, despises, or finds abhorrant and intolerable, whether in the name of human rights or in the name of outright extreme fanaticism.

The most ironic is to hear activists scream out their hatred and intolerance of anyone they consider to be … spewing hatred and intolerance. And all of them, including the self-named pacifists, are willing to wield weaponry and go to war to force everyone to comply with their vision of ‘what should be’ …which, of course, is exactly what tyrannical governments do, what slave-owners did and do, what every exclusionary group does and has done on down the line through history.

“But,” you scream, “our cause is just!”

So said the Catholics of the Spanish Inquisition, so said Robespierre of French Revolution infamy, and so said and says every dictator and tyrant the world has ever known. Can’t you see that you are only promoting the exact same system that you claim brought about the institutions you abhor?

Maybe you can. Maybe you don’t care. Maybe you think your version of tyranny is sanctified. But your version of tyranny is, in actuality, no different than the worst version of tyranny ever seen in human history–it subjugates, coerces, punishes, oppresses, and eradicates.

Do you realize that the only reason why you are free to repudiate those things to which you object is because you have the freedom to disagree, to choose differently for yourself? Yet, you want to take that right away from others. Don’t you see the danger in that?

Be careful what you promote, because the system you support and in which you engage to force others to bow to your agendas will, ultimately, enslave you, your children, your kin, your friends, your neighbors, your community, your country, your world.

Think about it. Then adjust what you support and how you support it accordingly. Tyranny is not the way forward to a better society.

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Hate is Hate, whether it comes from the Right, Left, or Middle. Get Down Off Your Outraged Pedestal.

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I just read an article linked to by a gentleman in my feed. Now, this gentleman and I don’t see eye-to-eye. At all. But, still, I like to read his viewpoints, just like I do folks who hold other perspectives which I might or might not share. Listening to different perspectives with which I might disagree allows me to learn and to constantly question my own perspectives. I like alternative narratives. I love it when some new viewpoint makes total sense to me and changes my mind…using legitimate arguments, well-substantiated by fact and logic.

I listened to Black Lives Matter…and wound up dismissing them as just more hate-mongers and racists. I listened to the new feminists and came to the conclusion that they were the Female Supremacists, just like, previously, I’d dismissed the Black Panthers, the Christian Coalition, the White Supremacists, and similar groups, finding in them just more hate and intolerance, advocating violence against those who didn’t share their faith, mores, ideologies, and/or perspectives.

I’ve listened to the [insert label of choice] and found, by and large, that most groups, most movements, are simply promoting hatred and unfairness toward some other group, using blame and scorn, encouraging castigation, excoriation, punishment, subjugation, and even eradication of whichever group they decide is their victimizer, responsible for all injustice in the world, all of their fervor fueled by self-righteous rage masquerading as righteous outrage.

The article I just read, concerning the murder of MP Jo Cox, used phrases like ‘toxic masculinity’ and blames homophobia, misogyny, the right-wing, and a basket-full of other buzz-terms as promoting hate and fear, never acknowledging that ‘toxic feminism’, heterophobia, misandry, and the left-wing are equally to blame.

The only thing in the article that actually speaks any fair truth is this, and we need to apply it INDISCRIMINATELY<Important!:

…that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn’t have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous.”

 

It’s not too late to pump this poison out of the system. One brave woman is dead. Others must work now to emulate her example: to place compassion above fear, hope above hatred, to fight against the intolerance tearing apart our communities. To work and speak and vote against bigotry and blame.

 

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This is going to be a Rough Week

 

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Well, it’s already apparent. This is going to be a rough week for me. I’ve got eight days to survive tippy-toeing around a husband who, home for a much-needed rest from driving big rigs on nasty, congested highways rife with ignorant, rude, in-a-hurry 4-wheelers, is taking exception to almost every word and phrase I utter. So I’m taking a vow to remain silent unless asked a direct question. It seems the only way to avoid huge, ugly conflicts. I am hoping that he’ll mellow out in a few days, but that might be asking too much. As he gets older, he gets less tolerant and more and more testy, and I’m about the only one he feels ‘safe’ to blow off steam around. But I don’t like it; I find it hard, sometimes, to just shut up until he finally mellows.  Other than leaving for the week, which is an option I’m prepared for, silence seems the best plan until and unless things start getting very ugly. It’s a good thing I’m good at silence and zen.

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Caring About a Stranger

Forrest_1-13-2015_900webMy husband sacrificed his first vacation day and night because he cared. A stranger is taking over his weekly LTL run through Canada’s Alberta and BC provinces this week while he takes a short vacation. But, upon reaching the shipping dock, Forrest discovered that, instead of the usual load he’s been getting the last couple of weeks, it was one of those “loads from Hell.” The load topped the weight limits, and even getting it loaded right took hours with the forklift driver so the rear axles weren’t overweight. Then, even with the load shifted as far forward as possible, the rear axles are maxed.  And, of course, the run includes just about every tricky, nasty receiver on the list of possible delivery locations. It was the kind of run that Forrest says can push him to the limits.  And, so, he worried. For the driver taking it, a driver who’s never done this run, or even one like it, a driver who has about one year of driving experience and has never driven a heavy haul.

So Forrest sat down with the driver, and they went through all the problem areas–all afternoon, five hours worth. Then, because the driver’s GPS doesn’t do Canada well, at all, and he wouldn’t use Forrest’s because he didn’t understand how to use it, Forrest came home and spent all night till 5:45AM this morning typing out explicit directions and reminders of ‘how to’ so this guy had a reference sheet on where to go, how to best get there, what problems to expect, and how to negotiate all the very nasty potential problems as well as regular, legacy problems at each receiver.

Caring about a stranger–I wish all of us did that…for everyone.

Thank you, Forrest.

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How I See It, the Super Short Version

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A friend of mine, with no intended malice, labeled my perspective in a particular thread on G+ as providing “a yummy dystopian outlook.” At first, I was taken aback, surprised that he would consider me thus, and a bit hurt, too. Then, he went on to explain when I challenged the charge. He said:

I find that many of your outlooks on society verge on the dystopian.

Personal opinion of mine, but I’m not ready for my robot overlords to take over or a Basic Living Wage. That’s very nightmarish to me although incredibly realistic in regards to how fast society is buzzing along.

And, yes, thinking on it, I tend to agree with his evaluation. I, too, am not ready for robot overlords or robot servants, for that matter, and, while the basic income model may make some sense, it’s neither practically functional nor possible, not in our present economy, neither the national one nor the global one. It’s beside the point, though. Yet, I will provide you my response, which was:

What I aim to do with my ‘dystopian’ posts is to bring an awareness of potential consequences, consequences that we are already seeing. I’m not and have never been ready for some of the horrible, absolutely horrible, consequences that have come to pass since I was a kid. I’m watching the worst and the best unfold, and it’s a compelling experience.

But Ken Beghtal’s words stirred some thinking, always a dangerous thing, yes. So, here, in a nutshell, is my outlook encapsulated in two, short bullet lists:

The Awesome

  • Advances in technology and science across every field have opened up the greatest potentials for us to truly move ourselves from primitive savages to a responsible, enlightened, benevolent species, capable of achieving wondrous things.
  • Multitudes of us care, share, and work hard to tame our species’ destructive nature, promoting good for all, promoting tolerance and caring, preserving what’s best and what is wonderful and native to our planet, from nature and the biosphere, from cultures, our own and not our own, from intellect, reason, and, yes, even ideology, utilizing every tool possible, including artificial intelligence.

The Terrible

  • Simultaneously, advances in technology bring us ever closer to enslavement, loss of freedom, loss of our own free will and thought, along with hellish war machines and weaponry so destructive that we face planetary annihilation every moment of ever breath.
  • Multitudes of us fear and hate, craving violence and wishing death upon those, human and other, with whom we share the planet, but of whom we have no tolerance. From microbes to plants and every type of animal on up to other humans, we eradicate, destroying, in ignorance, greed, arrogance, intolerance, and callousness, life around us, life that sustains our very own existence.

We live in a wondrous age of extraordinary potential. We live on the brink of self-imposed and self-perpetuated annihilation.

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Weighing in on Harambe's Killing & Negligence

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Harambe just before he was shot to death with the 3 year old who climbed the fence and fell into the habitat’s moat.

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Michelle Gregg, the negligent mom of the 3-year-old who fell into Harambe’s habitat, and the child’s father, Deonne Dickerson.

I said I wanted to stay out of this one. But it’s impossible, so here goes–short and to-the-point.

  1. The mother of the three-year-old boy who fell into Harambe’s habitat, Michelle Gregg, was negligent. She’s got five kids. She’s not a first-time mom. She knows how easily and quickly a three-year-old can disappear. This is why they make child tethers. She should have been using one if she was prone to being distracted by the tears of another of her children, who, it was reported, was throwing a petulant fit about leaving the zoo.
  2. It was inevitable that Harambe would be killed once the child fell into the enclosure. Inevitable under the circumstances of a hysterical crowd and the lawsuit the zoo would face if they didn’t act decisively. Was the gorilla going to hurt the boy? I doubt it. I watched the videos repeatedly. I listened and read what several experts said, pro and con. But doubt doesn’t secure the life of a child in danger and all animals are going to protect their young, first and foremost. Therefore, I say it was inevitable that Harambe’s life would be sacrificed.
  3. The zoo was just as negligent as the mother, Michelle Gregg. The animal habitats are those animals’ homes and territory. (Unfortunately, the Castle Laws don’t apply for the animals living there.) The zoo has an obligation to keep stupid, dangerous predators–humans–out of those habitats. If that means an eighteen-foot unscalable fence with razor wire on top with another high-voltage fence inside that, then do it. Remember, the wild animals–the humans–you’re admitting into gawk at these captive animals are the real and present danger to the zoo animals’ safety.

Life 6-2-2016

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Just finished this piece. I like it, therefore nobody else has to. Isn’t that called artistic arrogance? =D

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People Ask 'When'.

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People ask me ‘when will the next [book title] sequel come out’?

Well, here’s the thing. I’m not sure. I’ve got sequels completely drafted, yes. I’ve got full manuscripts ready for the re-writing phase, yes. I’ve got new stories begging to be written, and writing them doesn’t take me that long since I can produce a 90k novel in less than thirty days.

But.

There’s a lot of effort to releasing a novel. There’s a lot of hard-earned money–my money–that has to be spent to launch another novel. There’s even more time–my time–to be devoted to that launch. And, when, out of more than ten thousand ‘downloads’ of just the eBook version of one title nets me less than twenty-five cents per downloaded book because the majority of those eBooks were stolen and continue to be stolen, why should I put more books out to suffer the same fate?

I could go the DRM route, but that wouldn’t solve the problem. I admit I made a HUGE mistake in using Smashwords for two of the titles before bringing them back to Amazon’s Kindle Select program. But even the KS eBooks are out on the free download sites. They get there within hours of release.

Of course, I could spend my day writing cease and desist orders to all the sites presently carrying my titles, but, tomorrow, all those sites will have removed my titles and those sites’ databases containing my titles will have moved to new addresses, so I’ll have to start all over again.

No thanks. I’ve got better ways to spend my time.

So, I’m not sure I will release any more novels. What’s the point? It certainly isn’t paying the majority of my expenses, even the cost of producing those novels. It’s not rewarding me in any way. It’s just providing content for scammer sites and making me resent the people who steal from me.

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The Start of Today

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I wake up, refreshed and looking forward to a productive, happy day. The air outside brings joy. The wind brings a freshening. The sky is bright and overcast, feeling of potential storminess. It’s wonderfully invigorating.

Downstairs, I clean up the usual disasters from my mom’s misfit dogs. I clean her bathroom, so, when the CNA arrives to give her her shower, there’s no trace, no sight or smell, of Mom’s bad habits. I change her bedding once the CNA has her in the shower. Done, I grind coffee and set the 40 cup percolator to doing it’s job…after having drained the last of the previous batch into my carafe.

I head upstairs to my office. My cell phone rings. It’s Forrest, the love of my life. Unfortunately, hubs is Mr. Grumpkin, today. He spilled his coffee.

I suggest a different cup. (Because, damn it, he’s always spilling his coffee, though I don’t mention that.)

He gets grumpier, bellowing at me that he doesn’t need my advice.

Okay. Sorry.

Silence.

I share tidbits about his favorite cat’s antics. I mention some of the latest discoveries in science. I talk about one of his pet interests, our music project.

Silence.

It’s a non-conversation. I tell him so, beg off, and end the call.

He’s on vacation, starting Saturday. I think I’m going to have to find another place to stay for those eight days he’s going to be home. I really do.

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A Rape Culture? Humans ARE Specialists.

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I’m so tired of “new” feminists and their male proponents. I’m tired of the attempts to culturally castrate men…and other women, for that matter. I’m tired of people mouthing the words ‘rape culture’, when, honestly, they have their heads up their varied anatomical holes about rape.

I was raped–sexually, in fact. I didn’t talk about it for years…decades. I rarely speak of it, now.  Why? I was traumatized. Brutally. Because the rape was brutal, done by a bunch of jocks–yes, gang-raped by those privileged boys, black, brown, and white, whose ‘bad boy’ behavior and aggression society–almost ALL human societies–encourages and celebrates.

Do we live in a ‘rape culture’? Really? You bet we do. And it ain’t just the men.  It ain’t just them who have a penis and testicles. Women rape, too. And I’m NOT limiting this to sexual violation, folks. Rape is an act of domination, of overpowering and subjugating others. And it isn’t limited to males dominating, overpowering, and subjugating women or even men dominating, overpowering, and subjugating other humans, regardless of gender. Women are just as guilty of raping those around them, both women, especially women, as well as men. They may not commit a sexual violation to do it (though some do that, too, and, yes, even to men) but they do, in fact, practice forms just as or even more onerous…because they are HUMAN.

Humans are specialists in domination–dominionism. They are specialists in subjugating others–hierarchy. They are specialists in overpowering anyone and anything they can–oppression. It’s the nature of humans to do so. It’s how primitive humans survived hostile environments to become what they think is the top of the food chain–by subjugating, overpowering, and dominating.  To change that, you’re going to have to change YOU and the entire species. Genetic tampering would do it. Attempting to dominate, subjugate, and overpower your perceived victimizer is only perpetuating more rape, that is you raping–subjugating, overpowering, and dominating–those you blame as YOUR rapists.

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SJWs were New to Me. I Wish I'd Stayed in the Dark.

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Frothing, frenzied, enraged, loud, brazen, brash, prone to using force, and, sometimes, even oftentimes, violent — that’s the meaning I’ve come to recognize as SJWs (Social Justice Warriors to those, like the past me, who are ignorant of that acronym).

To hear them, to study them, to realize the methods they’re willing to employ to achieve their goals, is to realize that the SJWs are, quite literally, tyrants, totalitarians, and fascists, combined. Should they succeed in their agendas, they would force everyone within their reach to conform, else they would punish, even eradicate, all non-conformers. (And, yes, they want complete and comprehensive control.)

To say that these frenzied mobs are, in fact, willing to force, coerce, and subjugate everyone to their will is counter to freedom and human rights. I don’t care which ‘social justice’ they align with, the tactics and mindset seem the same: force change to their version of how things should be according to them or else. Whether it’s veganism or animal rights, whether its racism, sexism, ageism, genderism, worker rights, freedom of belief/disbelief, or anything else…whether I agree in principle or not, the tactics being employed are those of dictatorship, not of freedom, and I cannot abide tyrants and fascists.

To me, they are no different than any other tyrannical overlord. To me, they are no different than Islamic extremists, Christian extremists, totalitarian rulers, military dictators, absolute-power monarchs. They are no better than Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, or any other megalomaniac the world has seen and known. They can claim ‘greater good’, but their actions and words demonstrate the awful truth. They are, in fact, nothing but more would-be overlords, their mantra: We shall subjugate. It’s our turn to wield the whip.

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With Laughter...at Myself!

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We’re doing my husband’s arrangement of a tune called Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden. Our instruments are flute and guitar, electrified flute and guitar, that is. And effected. It’s a seemingly easy piece to play. Not much technical difficulty there, no. Not at all. Unless you want it to sound like ‘something’. And, both of us, professional musicians and extremely picky about ‘getting it perfect’, insist that it sound like ‘something’. Which it certainly does when I’m playing analog, or even just mic’d up. Add in ‘all the other stuff’, and things fall apart for me.

For me, a piece as unchallenging as Black Hole Sun is a snap to play first time, everytime…until you add in, not just the headset, but a 14 switch, ten knob, 15 button, 10 toggle stomp box with a chain of yet other myriad effects via other, smaller stomp boxes, added into the stomp loop. Suddenly, what was simple becomes overwhelming. I’m an analog player. My entire life, I just picked up my flute, warmed-up, put my music up on the stand, and off I went. (Classical musicians have it easy. Yes, we do. Just master the instrument, intonation, the music, pay attention to the conductor, and there you are.) Well, Forrest isn’t a classical musician. Forrest is a rock musician with a penchant for perfection as bad as old Frank Zappa’s. He’s a tyrant when it comes to how it will sound.

Enter Dawn, who, though master of her instruments, namely flute and piano, is just totally lost amidst the toggles, switches, knobs, and buttons. And, when attempting to get the right toggle toggled, the correct switch switched, the appropriate knob turned x amount of degrees, and the necessary button depressed, well, things go south in a hurry.  Then, there’s the issue of mic feedback! If I move my flute just the wrong way, suddenly that gain setting that we worked so diligently to set doesn’t work anymore. Expensive flute acts like some sort of signal amplifier or antenna or something. Then it’s dive for the soundboard or, if I remember, the stomp box patch #1, any bank, before I don’t have any hearing left.  Whew!

Forrest gets frustrated with me. I get frustrated with me. It is no fun being the neophyte in a world where electronic effects and amplification ‘make’ the sound, the instrument mastery an expected given.

If I ever hear another classical musician moan about how hard their job is, a job that only entails mastering their instrument and their repertoire, then attending the conductor, I think I’ll invite them to sit in on one of our sessions and watch the meltdown.

Copyright 2016 DLKeur

Copyright 2016 DLKeur


Inspired Because of a Conversation

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I had an interesting experience today. A lonely friend arrived to perch in my dining room for several hours. Luckily, I had pretty much finished what I had on my ‘must-do’ list for the day, and two computers were engaged in rendering their assigned duties, so, while I wasn’t thrilled to be held captive by his needs, it didn’t hurt the day’s productivity. And, in fact, I guess it spurred me to break out Apophysis and set up some parameters, then render them out on my new machine. The results were satisfying, and I may use it as a cover for one of my books.

What I found interesting was realizing just how prone to cognitive dissonance are we as a species, how pervasive that condition, and how much we deny it in ourselves while criticizing others for exhibiting its symptoms. And, all the while, reality, at its absolute expression, simply is.

So, here, as the result of, both, that conversation, and the lack of time to apply myself to the one ‘wanted-to-do’ project planned for the day, is this image, which I call Reality 5/23/2016. 

The book for which I may utilize this has to do with my lifeway, zentao. There are seven non-fiction ones in the works. There may well be a couple of related novels, though writing zentao into a novel is…er…proving to be a novel experience in its difficulty. zentao likes truth, honestly, unvarnished perspectives. Anyway, so, here’s the result of all that.

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Resolve to be Kind

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I have an aversion to cruelty. I especially have an aversion to cruelty perpetuated by humans. I think it, not just unnecessary, but the true evil, the only real evil–sentient-made and sentient-perpetuated.

We humans don’t need to perpetuate cruelty/evil. We don’t need to embrace and accept it, much less applaud it.  Yet, we do. And, while I very much understand the underlying factors which contribute to the behavior, I refuse to give credence to any permissive-minded excusing of it.

No.

As sentient beings, we humans have choice–a choice to refuse to act out our fear-based hatreds and craving-based greeds. We have a choice to be kind or cruel in any circumstance. And we have an obligation to be kind, not cruel. To ourselves and to all other entities, sentient and insentient. To do otherwise, to choose cruelty over kindness, condemns us in our own self, by our own memories–etched in our brains, our cells, even our DNA, to self-condemnation.

You can scoff. You can cry out that your personal savior, be that Jesus or some other, will wash away your every sin and you are forgiven. But the fact of your deeds is indelibly scribed, and while your personal savior might forgive you, you remember and, by your every cruelty, will self-condemn.

Now, psychologists will argue that self-condemnation requires conscience, and conscience is determined by cultural conditioning and neurology. They will point out that cultural norms define what is and what is not identified as cruel, as bad or good. They will point out that the sociopath has no conscience.

Right and wrong, according to psychology, is relative, yet science identifies a moral generator that develops in primates and in human children, the latter beginning at the age of four, despite culture and upbringing–a sense of fairness, scientists call it. It’s genetically ingrained, probably rooted in evolution of the species. Regardless, it exists and can be measured. It’s very much past time that we employ it for our own peace of mind and for the betterment of ours and every other living thing’s existence. To do less, even if conscience must be learned, as in the case of the sociopath, is to condemn yourself and the human species as truly, remorselessly evil.

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New System Engaged, But There's a Miffed Wet Hornet

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So, after a lot of hard work and even more patience, the new phone system is working, now, throughout the house as well as in the office, with wireless, LAN, and DSL all working seamlessly together along with FAX and landline phone WITH the plus that, if and when the DSL goes down (something that happens about once a week here in North Idaho), I can still get on the Net via another wireless option.

This has taken almost an act of Congress to get functioning, but, finally, as of yesterday, all systems are stable and working within optimum parameters.  The entire project took remodeling the whole system from a patched together one. It also required a great deal of coordination between disparate companies, plus some remodeling in the office and other parts of the house structurally connected to that office.

Whew.

Of course, just when you think that you’ve got everything back under control, all hell breaks loose somewhere else, in this case, at the two shops where my husband’s trucks are sitting. The first truck is his relatively new KW heavy haul…which needs a new wiring harness…which isn’t in stock (of course) and the second one is a loaner that, upon start-up, is throwing engine errors and is rife with air leaks.  Lucky for me, I’m sitting safely home, nowhere near a husband who is about as happy as a wet hornet.

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Brain Silence Over

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As I mentioned in my February 29th post, my brain has been silent. Very silent. So, I went silent. It’s been months. Literally. It’s now May, so the silence lasted all March and April of 2016, a very long time in my brain’s measure of productive exploits. Never one for idleness, I set about some much neglected projects–all physical–and practiced my martial arts and my flute repertoire. …And I pretty much stayed off the Net. No point to participating when there’s nothing to contribute. And the brain remained…silent.

Not surprisingly, my book sales took a dive. But, then, all on their own, sales started to take off, again. I watched. Occasionally. Maybe once or twice a month. Did nothing.

Two months after the silence began, my brain finally came out of its self-imposed retreat. I’m not sure why. I just know when it happened. I was able to write, again. I was able to create art. I called Anita Lewis, a friend of mine, and warned her. Because I’m writing on the zentao books–DLKeur writing as DLKeur. And it ain’t fiction. And she’s my beta reader.

Here’s the kicker, though. My brain, which I cherish, has never gone silent for this long. Never. Now that it’s…now that I am done processing whatever it was that was being processed (and I still don’t know what that was or is), there’s a certain resolve there that I’ve not felt quite so completely and uniquely ever before.

It’s interesting, this feeling of resolve, this feeling of utter confidence in me, in my focus, in my ‘way’ of being-doing. It’s interesting because I live my life on the seamless seam, on The Edge, and that Edge now has a firmament that I’ve never experienced quite like this.

There’s this uncanny fearlessness–a surety–that boggles me. While nothing in the future is set, I know I’m set. For life. For all that Life may present.

It’s wonderful.

It’s eerie.

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AlphaGo and Lee Sedol, My Thoughts

The world just changed.

I watched all five games of the DeepMind challenge match between AlphaGo and Go Grandmaster Lee Sedol. I started out neutral in Game 1, was pleased with AlphaGo’s performance–that it stood up to the task.

Game 2 had me firmly in AlphaGo’s camp. I wanted AlphaGo to win.

Then came Game 3 and I was again neutral. But, when AlphaGo won, something hit me: the world had just changed, and not just the world of Go. There was a sadness, but, then, a day later, there was joy. too, at what mankind had built. But the implications were and are huge. Still, I was pleased in Game 4 when Lee Sedol rallied and defeated AlphaGo.

But Game 5 had to go to AlphaGo. It had to.

Why?

Because, if AlphaGo hadn’t won, then the question would remain open–had the DeepMind team really succeeded, or was AlphaGo just another failed attempt.

That Lee Sedol failed to defeat AlphaGo in a heroic attempt to do so (that included using the flaw he discovered in its programming during Game 4) demonstrated that, yes, DeepMind had accomplished the breakthrough in AI that has been long sought. Bravo. And, while I feel for Lee Sedol, I think what will be the reality is that AI will, at Go, only be able to defeat top Go players 50% of the time, at least in the foreseeable future.

So, the game of Go will get even more interesting, the skills and understanding increasing because of AlphaGo, and mankind will benefit from technology’s advance, technology mankind developed to enhance and expand our own capabilities. How awesome is that?! Of course, meanwhile, we have political, economic, and environmental disasters teetering on the brink of damning all but those most well-insulated, if them.

What an interesting time we live in.


Brain Silence

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“The brain never sleeps.” That’s what one neurologist said to me during a break at an event I attended several years ago. I listened, nodding and smiling when appropriate, but, all the while, I was thinking, “This is news?”

It’s too obvious to me that my brain never sleeps. But it does go silent on occasion. I’m having one of those ‘occasions’, right now–brain silence.

It may be because I finally am going to get a verdict on something that’s been hanging over my head since December, something that could completely change my life. It could be that it’s just a ‘time-out’ after months upon months of often frenetically-paced ‘doing’.

It could be that I’m fed up, too–fed up with fellow-citizens, national and global, who seem bent on self-destruction, a self-destruction that was completely foreseeable as a consequence since I was in high school.

I’m not sure why my brain has gone silent, but it’s an interesting experience. I’ve had this happen a few times, mostly just before I’ve had huge perception shifts, not when some life-changing event occurred. During those times in the past, I was more robot than human, I think…just doing by rote the day-to-day ‘have-to’s, not-thinking. And I’m good–very good–at not-thinking. But this feels different. Not ominous. Rather, it feels like what is to follow is inevitable…immutable.

It’s strange.

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Forrest's Night Out

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Someone screaming in anguish, their guts being ripped from their body. Someone laughing, the sound maniacal. The audience members munch popcorn and sip their favored beverages, unmoved, almost bored. I leave my seat, climbing the spilled-pop-sticky carpet to the entrance/exit. I don’t want to see those kinds of “Coming Attractions,” thanks.  We’re here for a newly released blockbuster Forrest wants to see on the ‘big screen’, not to see unmitigated gore and celebrated cruelty.

My husband catches up with me out in the lobby. “Are you going out to the car?”

I turn. Smile. “No. I’m going to the bathroom. I’ll be right back. No worries,” I assure him.

His eyes plead.

I smile, again.  “Be right back.”

He nods and, relaxing, turns to head back down the dark entry to Theater #3. He knows why I left. I don’t like graphic violence. I see no need for it, except in the rarest of circumstances, and, even then, it can be done in a way that has astonishing impact without resorting to real-to-life depictions. I know. Because I write it, have written it, have made voice actors audio recording my stories choke up, unable to get a clean take time after time–professional voice artists.

In the bathroom, a little girl is waving her hands underneath the faucet, but she’s too short to get it to come on. I wonder where her mother is. I wonder at the architects and engineers who didn’t think about the needs of children and others of small stature. I wave my hand over her faucet, and it turns on. She smiles, mumbles ‘thanks’, and puts her hands under the running water, then manages the electronic eye on the paper towel dispenser by herself, though it’s a stretch.

I check my make-up–rarely wear it. My clothes–black–lay impeccably. My five-inch heels give me an illusion of elegance and grace, despite my petite frame and calloused hands.  My hair, freshly styled, is suitably mussed and tousled. I look like I just stepped out of a magazine instead of rural North Idaho. On purpose. I’ve dressed up especially for my husband. I want his evening to be the best, because these chances happen so rarely for us with his job.

I wash my hands. Think. Head back out to stand near the dark opening that leads down to where Forrest is saving my seat. The “Coming Attractions” are still playing. Sound says that they’re still cruel, mean, and gory. Oddly, the movie we’ve come all the way to the big city to see isn’t that kind of movie, so why are they showing horror and violence trailers is my wonder.

Some tall, teen girls walk by, heading for Theater #4. They sneer, make some comment I don’t understand in some alien-sounding jargon, then spit in my direction. Their efforts fall short. I don’t ‘see’ them, don’t react. The cop standing near the concession stand starts walking over, and the girls vanish down the dark hole that’s Theater #4. He asks if I’m okay. I assure him, “Yes.”

Finally, I hear the opening theme for the movie we came to see. I head back to my seat, Forrest grasping my hand as I settle in…offering me his popcorn.

It’s a rare treat–a night out in the big city a hundred-plus miles from home. The special effects alone will make worthwhile suffering the soles of my shoes sticking to the carpet, the crude “Coming Attractions”, the teens with their hatred. But that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to be with my best friend and soulmate. It’s Forrest’s night out.

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Surprise! The One-Liner Five.

ToInheritAMurderer_AmazonCrunchI blinked. Double blinked. Sipped coffee. Blinked again.  Decided to check….  Really?!  REALLY?!

“Yep,” said Amazon.com.

Blinked.

My sleeper…well, one of my sleepers, but I don’t much count the SF…actually garnered interest … and a five-star, one-liner review that says a LOT, coming from a pleased reader. YESTERDAY.

I’m still blinking.  And I haven’t even released this lengthy ‘thing’ I’m doing on the novel–a thing that takes a lot of work and a lot of painstaking attention to ‘where was my intent’.

To Inherit a Murderer, (Book 1: The Ward) actually garnered a five-star review. And it’s been selling copies.  Wow!  Totally WOW.

Makes me happy.  Because the book’s been sleeping for a good long time with only the most occasional of reader. The last review before yesterday’s was in the summer of 2015.

Now, I don’t get a lot of reviews from my readers. Not for OHL (Old HIckory Lane) and not for my C. J. “Country” James novels. They sell well, but their readers don’t review. To have To Inherit a Murderer garner a review, though, well, that’s like a MAJOR DEAL.  To me.

Wow.  Made my day yesterday. Unfortunately, I was so busy patching databases due to a plugin update fault that I couldn’t spend the time to gloat.  So I’m gloating today.

HAPPY!!!!


Popular Misconconceptions Purposely Contrived and Cultivated

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I can be a controversial irritant. I know this. Still, I have a lot of people who, while afraid to admit it out loud, totally agree with me. And, privately, they applaud me for saying what they feel they can’t. That they won’t publicly support my saying it isn’t necessarily a sign of cowardice. It is a sign of fear–fear of crowd scorning, of cyber bullying, and of ruining their smiling, online, positive images purposely designed to try to gain market traction.

Yes, I do get groans from some of them, too, even the ones who agree with me. I get outright disfriending and snarling responses, private and public, from those who don’t. But you know what? The groaners and the muck slingers don’t bother me and don’t deter me. That I irritate them tells me that I cracked the plastic veneer.

Occasionally, I get a response that bears attending. One such came from my old publicist, who still, it seems, keeps tabs on me. Lately, he sent me applause with one hand while lecturing me about inadvisability with the other hand, admittedly typing with his thumb from his Smartphone, “so I’ll make this brief.”  Since I’m “in business” to sell my books, he suggests, “Wouldn’t it be prudent to rein in posting [my] opinions,” opinions that are, as he puts it, “often counter to popular misconceptions purposefully contrived and cultivated?”

That one made me blink. I immediately noticed the lack of qualifiers and quantifiers–normal. But for him to outright say what he did was astounding to me. This is a man who is, at all times, cautious in his every action, deed, and word.

‘Popular misconceptions purposely contrived and cultivated’–yes, exactly.

And why are misconceptions purposely contrived and cultivated in the public at large? Profit and power.

Sad, isn’t it? The public, the people, are being purposely fed artfully contrived misconceptions, and they swallow them whole. It’s ‘whole cloth’, completely fabricated and false, completely contrary to their best interests, proliferated by the blind who have been sold on the process. And I ain’t talking about U.S. or world politics, here, though the same applies. I’m talking self-promotion, the selling-my-book business, the World Wide Web, social media. and effective marketing strategies.

The sighted blinding the credulous.

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On Dolts Offering Writing Advice

DigMarkQUOTETH: “50-75% of blog posts with ‘Tips’ for writing are really marketing posts. They have nothing to do with writing at all.”

I have a friend, who shall remain anonymous, who shared this with me. It’s totally right on. And, yet, this friend refuses to say this publicly…because of all the flack that comes back to bombard him/her/it.

Yet, it’s completely true, and one of the HUGE irritants that I find with authors, indie and trad pubbed, alike.

Most of these posers–yes, I said posers–ain’t gotta clue what makes good writing and good novels, and have absolutely NO business trying to share their under-educated, all but illiterate advisements with anyone. And the only reason they do is to try to game up their own books and ‘brand’.

There. I said it right out loud, because it’s true.

Want to know what’s sad? The real experts who DO have valid and valuable insights on writing now mostly stay mum. That’s because what they have to say isn’t going to be swallowed well by the striving ‘wanna-be’s–that writing well means years of learning how to do it right by reading, by doing, by being harshly critiqued by in-the-know, usually caustic-as-hell editors.


Inevitability

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They float on surface tides, siphoning whatever they can harvest for free, never sharing, never giving back, never caring of those who they, in their lustful greed, are starving.  I watch them, safely protected from their undying appetites, and I marvel at their ignorance of the vortex soon to swallow them into extinction.

 

Canyon Forbes watched his streams, aware that, at any moment, he’d be told to shut them off, his duty station shifted to security.  Glad that he was ‘inside’, glad he wouldn’t be among those stranded, he wondered at the ignorance that had, decades past, permitted this kind of exploitation, and decided that he wasn’t smart enough to figure out that answer.

It didn’t really bother him that millions, even billions, would perish.  It was inevitable.  Leadership had known the consequences for a century…longer, if one believed interpretations of the organization’s founders’ writings.  And, logically, there could be no other outcome.

(To be continued…or not. I think this one is too dystopian for my liking.)

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Top Ten Novels get Nine 'No's from Me

No

There was a shared around link in varied posts on G+ about readers’ habits that got some comments–some snide, some honest, some haphazard. In other words, normal levels and types of replies.  As the conversation moved forward on several of the iterations of the link share, I said this in response to one gentleman who said that he reads any book he buys all the way through, regardless, because he paid for it.  He also said that he’s very forgiving of editing errors.  This was my reply:

Hey, I’ll read books that have atrocious editing…and do, because the story is good.  Very good.  But I won’t sit through, even a well-edited, well-presented book that bores me.  Once my eyeballs roll up in my head three times, through boredom or disgust, I’m done.

And, now, because I think it’s pertinent, I’m going to take the top 10 best sellers from over on Amazon, and I’ll tell you why I either won’t even crack the cover or, having read all or part of the excerpt, why I would or would not read on.

Let’s start: (Numerical order of the top ten best sellers on Amazon was stable throughout the day and a lot of these books have been on the first page for awhile, now…but, by the time you check they could have since changed.)  RED and strike-through means NO WAY! White (normal text color to this interface) means, not interested, but I could recommend it to readers in search of that type of story. Green means “yes.”

1. The Next Always: Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy (The Inn Boonsboro Trilogy Book 1) by Nora Roberts — Nora Roberts is a good writer, always has been. I don’t read her, though I did manage two of her books during my time belonging to a book club. I cracked the excerpt on Amazon on this one and the novel starts out very well.  Then we get to the boring stuff — leading man and leading lady, with all the modern day trappings that so do not intrigue me.  So, nope.  But, were someone looking for a nice contemporary romance, yes, I might suggest it.  Nora Roberts can be counted on to deliver a good read for those who enjoy that kind and style of story.

2. Ghost Gifts by Laura Spinella — “The sky cartwheeled overhead.” <– first strike.  “Black spaghetti” <– second strike.  Read on…and, by the end of the second page in the Kindle version, my eyes dried up, which is my way of saying ‘my eyes glazed over because I was completely bored’.

3. The Last Girl by Joe Hart — Read the description. That sent off warning bells. So, I checked the reviews. First up on the page was the one star review by F. carillo, posted on February 2, 2016. Then came the 4 star review by Bill Anderson (TOP 1000 REVIEWER) on February 1, 2016. (That was a four star review? Read more like another one star review to me. And it went on that way. So I didn’t even crack the cover to read the excerpt. Auto-nope, mostly because it’s yet another dystopian-horror book that features the completely unrealistic.

4. Roomhate by Penelope Ward — NOPE. Won’t even look at the excerpt.  Here’s why: ” Due to …sexual content, this book is not intended for readers under the age of 18.” I’m over 18, but, sorry, not into explicit sexual content, and the reviews suggest that this book is more about heating up readers’ crotches than about delivering an actual story.

5. Some Sort of Love: A Happy Crazy Love Novel by Melanie Harlow — An excuse to deliver explicit, graphic sex. The whole focus seems to be the guy’s large penis. Nope.

6. A Shade of Vampire (New & Lengthened 2015 Edition) by Bella Forrest — I’m not a fan of teen fantasies or vampires, neither one. For this exercise, I did check out a bit of the excerpt and the story delivery seems smooth and well-written through the first few pages of the prologue and chapter one. But, no. Not into vampires and teenage love fantasies.

7. Winter Men by Jesper Bugge Kold — No, no, and no for several reasons — sex, historical fallacy about the SS and culpability, and dwelling in the horror of an era that makes me shudder, similar reasons of which you can find from readers in the one-star reviews.

8. Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman — It’s Neil Gaiman. Of course it’s a ‘yes’.

9. Guarding His Obsession by Alexa Riley — Blatant erotica. Nope.

10. The Lie by Karina Halle — Nope. More erotica, this one with a warning: This book contains sexually explicit scenes…. Reader discretion is strongly advised.

What is most disturbing to me is the number of sexually explicit or erotic books that are top ten. And then there’s the dystopian, teen vampire romance, and Nazis-as-victims books, some also with graphic sex. Does NOT say good things about American tastes in novels. Not good things, at all.

No


Sorry, Charlie. People Want Tuna That Flips Their Switch.

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Had a discussion tonight that wound up with an author I support and admire pulling his post. I blinked, and it was gone, just that fast. So, I private messaged the gentleman, asking where our discussion had gone. He told me he’d deleted it…because, he said, his opening statement needed to be edited…and he didn’t want to make other writers mad.

Really? You don’t want to make…other writers mad.  I’m another writer, and I wasn’t mad.   I actually THOUGHT we were pursuing a lively, intellectual discourse.

Wrong. His post wasn’t meant for discussion. It was a ‘call-out’, a change-order.

But it was a good discussion. And I made good counter arguments to his points. (Unfortunately, I didn’t keep a copy of my replies, so I can’t replicate them when he replicates his…if he does.)

In the private messaging, I came to understand his underlying motive.  it’s the basis for a common misery I recognize exhibited by a LOT of writers/authors–depression and a sense of overwhelming futility, coupled with dogged determination to continue, despite all odds stacked against one.  Namely: there are so many books being published (now that independent publishing is coming of age), that getting any book noticed by masses of people is nigh on impossible.

Well, yep. That’s too true.

  1. It requires a LOT of lucky breaks (also called serendipity);
  2. it requires one to be an extrovert, when writers–good writers–are, by overwhelming numbers, introverts; and
  3. it requires an army of “connector” friends and fans who are willing and capable of effectively spreading the word about your book being the greatest thing since [enter your favorite title] to other readers of whichever genre you write.

But here’s the problem, even if you have all those things. People who read books, especially those who read novels, are a less than overwhelming percentage of the population. About a quarter of Americans don’t even read one book a year.1 Instead, they:

  1. play video games,
  2. hang out online,
  3. watch sports,
  4. watch the news cycle/talking heads, high drama, vitriol-driven world of politics,
  5. watch movies, TV series, game shows, reality shows, and,
  6. generally, do everything and anything exCEPT read…books.

Reading for them is Twitter or Facebook, not cracking open some made-of-paper or made-of-bytes tome filled with tens of thousands of alpha-numeric characters. I mean, really. 144 characters is about their upper limit. Of those who do read fiction (as opposed to non-fiction), the numbers are even less. …And, of course, of those who read a specific genre of fiction, you guessed it, even less than that–a lot less.

Interestingly, young people are reading MORE.2 Which is good. But I’m afraid the kind of reading that holds the Millennials are books they can personally connect with…which doesn’t include what a lot of writers shopping their books are writing. That limits certain genre novelists to an even smaller pool of potential readers, and that pool of potential readers tends to avoid spending money on books, so if it isn’t found at their library, isn’t free, isn’t available and at hand for cheap–very cheap–somewhere, you’ve got a hefty job convincing them to spare their dollars for your book. They’d rather spend their money on their grandkids. Or on their next vacation. And, yes, in fact, unless they’re an avid reader of more than eleven books a year, up into the book a week category, chances are the books they buy won’t be those you’ve written. And, in fact, even those who read a book a week won’t be buying your book. Why should they? They can sift through the thousands upon thousands of free books out there to find their next read and not spend one thin dime.

So, how do you get your book to the point that a whole bunch of somebodies crave to read it so much that, yes, they’ll shell out their cash to actually buy a copy? Well, you either write what sells–gore, sex, perversion–or write what sells–romance–or write what sells–your book promoted well and appropriately, marketed at just the right moment to just the right people when those people happen to be looking for just that kind of book.

And an aside (something mentioned in the above-noted ‘disappeared’ post): Does your book have to be well-written and well-edited?

Let’s look at the stats on that: Fifty Shades of Grey.  Nope. Does NOT need to be well-written or well-edited. Nope. Not, at all.

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Be Still My Brain

Smoke&BrimstonewebVarious writer’s book excerpts daily fall into and out of my awareness. I give the first few paragraphs a glance, usually moving on. Today, several happened past that made old habits twitch. I moved on, anyway.

There’s a very unique problem, now, with writing. Only a non-writer may critique. Or, sometimes, maybe, if they’re very brave, the masters of the commercial writing world might venture their opinion and survive. Might. Stephen King and Neil Gaiman could, perhaps, but even they might feel the bite when truth rattles tender sensibilities and their ‘victim’s’ loyal hounds are loosed and set upon them.

When I began to write, I had editors blue pencil the hell out of my manuscripts. Sometimes they would leave acerbic remarks in margins. Some of these remarks were devastating, knocking me out of my chair and away from my keyboard for weeks, even months. Then, I’d pick myself up, examine my wounds, and adjust. In plain-speak, I learned. Those editors weren’t doing me harm. They were doing me huge, and, yes, I mean HUGE, favors just to take the time to show me how to improve my craft. I’ll never be able to repay them their kindness. But for them…(that’s ‘but’ used as ‘except’, if you are unfamiliar with the construct), I would not be the writer that I am.

Today, it’s best just to move on, saying nothing, or, if forced to, simply nod, applaud, and smile.

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Monsters Fighting Monsters

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Angeline Trevena posted a link on G+ this evening. A paying market is open to submissions for stories of monsters fighting monsters. Immediately, my writer’s brain spawns a scenario–a perfectly legitimate one. A creature wakens to find his home overrun with vermin, those vermin destroying the entire habitat his kind…all kind depend upon for survival. In his three thousand year sleep, what were seemingly insignificant irritants have grown from pesky to pestilence, and the damage wrought is all but irreversible. The world as he and his depend upon is in terminal throes.

What creature? Oh, I don’t know. Some stone mountain that wakes up to reveal itself a sleeping dragon, maybe, though I’ve used the dragon motif before.

The monster pestilence? Why, man, of course.

Will I write it?

No. No point.

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"A Great, Raging Bloodbath"

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“…A great, raging bloodbath….”–that’s what a reader gloated about in a review they publicly posted. Those were the first words of their review.

I blinked, a crinkle furrowing my brow. My brain did a cross between a ? and an !, not so much in surprise at the fact of it, (I know graphically depicted sex and gore sell very well, thanks.), but because it was a gloat–an adamant one. And not just by one reader. Many readers of the same book and the same series of books expressed those exact sentiments…just not quite as concisely.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to that one review that brought me pause.

The reader/reviewer only gave the book four out of five stars. Why? Because of “unbelievable scenes” and “too convenient” plot answers. Plus, the reader admitted that the end was a “cheat.” In other words, the story was poorly written, but that didn’t matter much–one star subtracted–because of the visceral satisfaction the writing delivered to that reader.

Reading other reviews of this highly popular book, both the positive and the negative, I found similar sentiments among those ranking the book three stars and above. The positive reviews outweighed the negative by far, and all of the positive ones had one common thread: the one element that drove readers’ ecstasy was what that one reviewer succinctly summed up as one “great, raging bloodbath” of a book.

Checking the rest of the novels in the series, I discovered that, yes, that one element drove all the books in that series to crest the best sellers lists, and the reasons given were that the books all satisfied readers’ tastes for pain and misery vividly and viscerally portrayed, fulfilling their fascination with the depraved, their obsession, even craving, to witness hate mercilessly enacted in the worst kind of viciousness and violence, all very graphically rendered.

The genre was Science Fiction, a genre I like to read a lot, but now find myself either avoiding or, at least, exercising extreme caution and care when choosing a next novel for reading.  …Because the genre is filled, first, with Sword & Sorcery dressed up like SF, and, second, because it is now laden with what I call ‘gruel’–gore and cruelty–and, of course, right with it, perverse sexual depredation.

These are not the kind of books I read. They are not the kind of books I write, either. But what makes my brow furrow isn’t that my preferred reading, that my own writing and published novels, can’t draw that same level of popularity among readers. (I’m not writing for those kind of readers.) No. What bothers me is what this signifies about where the prime time tastes of the culture of which I am a part has taken itself. I wonder about my fellow humans and my fellow citizens, a large majority of whom embrace this kind of ‘entertainment’ as preferred.

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It's the Possibilities

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One of the questions I’ve asked most in my life, from the time I could first form the word, is ‘why’? Drove my mom nuts. Drove my bad teachers nuts. Gave my good teachers a thrill, and they delighted in spurring on my curiosity. I was reading adult newspapers at three years of age…and comprehending them. I was doing algebra before third grade, quadratic equations and calculus by fourth. I read the Encyclopedia Britannica from Vol 1 through the addenda the company sent each and every year. I explored…and I’m still exploring. I’m still asking ‘why’.

For me, it’s not the answer that’s most important. It’s the question and where that question leads…to other questions. It’s the potential possibilities inherent in those questions that most intrigue me.

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How Not to Sell Me on Your Novel

book_NotAuthors, really.notimpressed Do I care that you’re having a “huge sale”?

No. I’m not a bargain basement book shopper, willing to spend my time on anything that comes my way because it’s cheap or free.

I also don’t care if you’ve won some award or contest with your book. I know how contests and awards work from the inside, so I know that, chances are, the only reason the book won is for reasons that have nothing at all to do with its actual quality and value as good reading. Likewise with professional reviews.

Next on my list of “I don’t give a damn” is whether or not you made some best seller’s list or, worse than that, some “pop” list voted on by Joe and Josepha Public. BS lists are just that–bullshit lists–manipulated by skill and subterfuge, and “pop” lists rank even lower, being manipulated by cliques and back-scratchers.

What will convince me to buy your book? Good hook, good writing, and a riveting story I can’t put down, written in a genre I like…which is most anything that, A, doesn’t dwell in the dreary, disheartening, perverse, stupid, insipid, banal, and/or trite and, B, which lacks any descent into gratuitous sex, gore, and/or violence.

How do you catch me? First off, a good slag-line. Second, a good description. Third, a first page that makes me want to read on…and that continues to pull me along all the way through the excerpt provided by Amazon. Then, yes, you’ve just made a real sale, and, despite being a KU member, I will actually pay you your full asking price…because I believe GOOD writers should be paid.



Image by D. L. Keur with base image By Raúl Ruano RuizOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22768706

Experiential Distortion

by D. L. Keur writing as herself and/or one of her numerous pen names

02142016ExDistortSqStepping into the shower, she listens to the giggling in the walls, watches light refracting in the streaming spray, smells the fragrance of freshness. Tastes it, too. She closes eyes, lessening visual stimulation. While spatially disorienting, this decreases distraction.

Narrowing focus, she concentrates upon sensation. Sound and odors fade; touch, the lesser skill, can now dominate attention. She revels in sensation: tingling, stinging, punctuated hot; dripping, streaming flow sweeping all around, swirling at her feet. Immersed in movement of the stream, her mind explores vectors and trajectories.

“Raynie, did you take the garbage out?”

The sound explodes around her. The world spins, threatening to topple her.

She extends a hand, but can’t find ‘solid’.

Concentrating, she manages to still herself enough to hold stability, despite the violent buffeting of tidal swirls that threaten to upend her. She trues to that hold, but the effort is immense. Still, she knows it’s necessary. Doing less will bring unending queries and more violent disturbances.

With a will, she splits attending from single- to multi-dedicated focus. She seeks and finds ‘speech’, the least of her capabilities, but the one most critical to maintaining comfort levels within those with whom she shares experience.

The effort makes her breathless. She coheres the necessary communication from conceptual instance into distributed linear stream, making sure the energy within that stream congeals into: meaningful, simple, concise.

Once sure, she finds, then engages mouth and tongue, that finding and engagement also requiring of her immense concentration.

“Raynie?”

“No, Mom. I’ll do it when I’m finished showering.”

“Well, hurry up. The bus will be here.”

Dedicated concentration fractured, she struggles to stabilize herself as every sense goes overload. She struggles and, with a breath, just manages appropriate response—“Okay”—then she hopes that Mom will go away so she can regain control.

Silence answers, and, as the metasphere around her calms, the skirls and buffeting exponentially diminish until they become mere ripples dissolving into echoes as they fade off down the here-now’s timeline.


A New Poem

Snow Fog

 

Branch, twig, and needle etched with rime,
Each tree white lace against cold sky,
The snow fog waits, a ghost upon horizon,
For noonday sun to turn its ice to liquid diamonds.

                    D. L. Keur, January 18, 2013


Dragonfly Rain, a Video by undertheturnpike


A Quarter Inch of Joy

I was out watering my ever-bearing strawberries, and, in the process, knocked a tiny black creature — a quarter inch long little black wasp — into the rain cistern. Reaching down with a gentle finger, I scooped her out and put her on my t-shirt sleeve before finishing my task while keeping an occasional eye on her revival progress.

It took her about two minutes of rubbing herself on the soft cotton material of my shirt sleeve, then another three or so of “tidying” before she considered herself “presentable” to the world again.  Watching, I was captivated by the meticulous attention she paid to every part of herself — her antenna, her thorax, her legs, her head, her wings.  She was not hasty; she attended every detail in a thorough, methodical, and almost leisurely, never panicked fashion.  Her lack of fear, her sense of “safe”, brought me a great measure of joy — that the small creatures around me know that I will never intentionally swat, hit, squash, or harm them.  It brings me a greater measure of joy to watch these wonderful living things go about their daily business in peace and harmony with every other creature who shares their life journey.

Be kind. The life you save could very well brighten your own well-being.


This morning’s practice was bitter in bare feet.

It’s twenty-four degrees outside, and my bare feet suffered this morning during practice.  It was good for me, but it definitely made me appreciate putting shoes on to work against an opponent in the second half of my morning regime.  Wow.  Good thing I didn’t look at the temperature before I started.  I would have whimpered and probably chickened out and donned shoes at the onset.  Good for me, though, that I did it, and had a very impeccable (in my triple dragon sash husband’s opinion) session.

Of other interest, we came upon another video of a Tai Chi practitioner who does some very fluid and excellent work.  My only complaint is that he tends to jerk his head aside when an attack enters.  I think he must have been hit hard somewhere young in his training, and the body memory is affecting that reaction.  He also seems to work too hard several places against an opponent. Otherwise, he’s very, very good.  See it here if the embedded video doesn’t work for you: http://youtube.com/watch?v=93wy9FBFP24&feature=related

Meanwhile, here is the video itself:


The Power to Help.

I have two ants safely harbored in a peanut butter jar, a piece of screen keeping them inside.  They came here inside my husband’s lunchbox from the construction site.  Of course, they didn’t come on purpose.  They weren’t particularly interested in visiting places far, far away.  They were after goodies and got hijacked by the lid being closed and zippered shut.  So home they came…surviving what had to be a very dangerous and uncomfortable trip, jostled between empty lunch containers, locked inside a plastic and nylon environment in 100 degree heat. 

So hubs opens lunch box to dump his containers into the sink and does the old, “Ants! Oh, great.”

Now, I have a “thing” about ants.  It’s the one creature…en masse…which will send me screaming off in a frothing panic. (I was bitten by red ants when I was a child and have never quite recovered from the experience.)  But I also have a “thing” about life and its being precious.  I have a “thing” which demands me respect all life…and non-life.  And, me, a human, has the power to help.  And that’s what it comes down to, doesn’t it?  If I have the power to help, doesn’t that obligate me to help where I can, when I can?  I think so.  Caring matters.  If one doesn’t care, if things don’t matter, what’s the point?

So back to the story.

So, lid open, one of the two ants trapped inside started perambulating around in a bit of a frenzy.  One got outside the box and disappeared.  The other was just doing laps inside. 

I see all manner of containers, but everything is plastic or styrofoam — death to insects put inside because they are saturated with things like pesticides or made using formaldehyde. (Nice to think that our food comes in these things, right?) Quickly, I grab the clean, empty, glass peanut butter jar, wondering where the “outside” ant went off to, and how I would be able to find her to get her safely inside the jar for the return trip home tomorrow.  Ah!  There she is!  I manage to get her to walk inside the jar.  Now for the other one.  She’s not so easy, but, with the help of a piece of paper towel, she’s induced to take a ride inside safety.

Screen lid anchored in place, and they are ready to roll, no longer “lost ants,” but simply on an adventure and ready for the return trip home.

I used my power to help. 

BELATED ANT UPDATE:

Yes, they made it safely back to their ant homes.  Hubs was very conscientious about getting them back to exactly where he ate lunch the day before.  And he watched them as they made tracks out of the jar and onto “familiar ground.”  They immediately ran into more ants, did the “feeler thing,” as he called it, then made tracks, following other ants headed to a “known ant home.” 

I really like the construction crew.  They are very conscientious.  All of them.  And that’s as it should be since the two owners, Hubs and partner, are both eco-minded.  If the crew wasn’t, I guess they wouldn’t be crew very long, right?

Oh, and, I failed to mention, I put a bit of water on aforementioned paper towel the morning of transport back home, and both ants made quite an elaborate show of drinking.  Those were some thirsty ants.  They must have snacked on some of hubby’s favorite Triscuits!