DOWN AND DIRTY

CEE’S BLACK & WHITE PHOTO CHALLENGE: GROUND

An interesting challenge because I’ve never done “dirt” as a subject and certainly not in black and white. Luckily, deep in the files of my 100,000 plus photographs, I found a few that seem to fit the parameters … and I’ve never even processed any of them before, so they are new. Well, new to being posted, at least!

Discovered this old sawmill just down the road outside of town. Lots of dirt here!

Discovered this old sawmill just down the road outside of town. Lots of dirt here!

bw buzzmill hartford avenue

Bonnie and friend on the dirt path

SNOW MELTS FIRST OVER THE SEPTIC TANK

winter sunset

When I looked out my window this afternoon, I saw something I haven’t seen in many long weeks. Ground! I saw — clearly for the first time since January — the green steel cap of our septic system, plus a tiny bit of the earth which surrounds it. Not much on the face of it but I found it encouraging.

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You have to take it in context. In conjunction with other omens and portents — a general lowering of snow levels compared to the height of fences and switching the clocks back to Daylight Savings Time (from which they should never have been moved) — I take it to mean spring is just around the corner.

Which corner? I’m looking, seeking. I know it’s hiding somewhere nearby.

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I believe the snow will melt (faith matters). The ground and mud will appear. I will come to know that mud well. All 16 paws of Our Gang will run in and out of the doggy door a thousand time every day. Each time they come back into the house, they will bring clumps of mud with them. My mop, my patience, and my back will be strained to its limits.

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This too shall pass. Soon, there will be flowers. Weeds. Bugs. Ants. No matter. As long as the sun shines and it doesn’t snow until next winter.

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But — call this an existential question — why did the first appearance of the good earth have to be the lid of the septic tank?

DON’T LET ME RULE THE WORLD. YOU WON’T LIKE IT.

If I Ruled the World

You’ve been given the superpower to change one law of nature. How do you use it?


Let me start by saying I do not want to rule the world. Not even a tiny corner of it. I get exhausted trying to manage our dogs, convince them to go out to do their business and not steal my socks.

Superstition Mtns Arizona

So if you give me a superpower, I might use it to eliminate the human race. We were given custodianship of the earth and have failed horribly. We have poisoned the water and air, brutalized the earth itself. Slaughtered the wildlife, cut down forests, dammed rivers, polluted everything with our garbage.

We haven’t been any better to each other than we’ve been to the animals we’ve driven to extinction or near-extinction. We’ve murdered each other with as little conscience as we’ve shown to the rest of earth’s inhabitants. We’ve stolen the darkness, eliminated privacy, lost respect for each other and for life itself. As a species, I see little to recommend us.

If indeed God chose us to care for this world, we have utterly failed. We don’t deserve another chance. We have shown ourselves unqualified to care for anything or anyone. Humans cannot be trusted.

See? I told you. Don’t put me in charge. You won’t like it at all.

OH MOTHER OF INVENTION, HOW ABOUT ELIMINATING US?

It’s really a simple solution, you know.

We may already have one somewhere. It probably needs a little refinement, but I think it would solve the Earth’s problems. A bomb. A huge one.

Not neutron because  that kills animals as well as people. Too much other destruction, too. We need a special people-eliminating bomb. After all the people are gone, Earth can recover and eventually, a new species will reign supreme. Hopefully the new masters of earth will show respect for Mother Earth and other creatures who share her bounty. A species which would allow the trees to grow, water to flow without damming or poisoning every stream. A species without the compulsion to dig up every mineral, pave every inch of ground, replace forests with cities belching soot, smoke and chemical fumes.

Pogo - Earth Day 1971 poster - Walt Kelly

Pogo – Earth Day 1971 poster – Walt Kelly

Earth needs a caretaker species. Not humans. We don’t care. We think God gave us permission to ravage and destroy our home as well as every living thing on it. I don’t remember any God — ours or anyone else’s — saying anything of the sort. How did I miss such an important passage in someone’s mythology? Why do I think that isn’t what any God would want?

Short of wiping out the human race, how about our species display a little self-restraint? How about not pouring sewage and industrial poison into the rivers, filling the air with dirt? Tearing open the earth to get to fossil fuels on which we should not be depending? How about behaving like proper guests of Mother Earth? You know, not eating our own Mother? How about that?

Are we even capable of not destroying our own nest?

YEAR ZERO – ROB REID – GET IT FOR 99 CENTS (KINDLE) NOW!

What with the NSA XBox and spying thing — and now the shut down and who know what else coming to get us, Year Zero gets more and more relevant … and hilarious. And right now, you can grab a Kindle copy for 99 cents from Del Rey via Amazon! If you have not read this gem — grab it now!

Truly one of the funniest, smartest pieces of science fiction in many years. I don’t merely like this book. I really LOVE it!

When in 2012, Rob Reid wrote Year Zero, a science fiction novel about the music business and its impact on the universe, many people sat up and took notice. Who better to write about the Byzantine complexities of the music business than Rob Reid?

The author of Year ZeroRob Reid does not have the kind of bio one would expect of a science fiction author. In fact, he was and is an entrepreneur and multi-millionaire, the kind of self-made multi millionaire who makes many of us realize what failures we are.

Born in New York City, raised in Darien, Connecticut, got his undergraduate degree at Stanford University in Arabic and International Relations. Earned an MBA from Harvard. In 1994 he moved to Silicon Valley where he managed Silicon Graphic’s relations with Netscape. In 1999 he became a founding member of IGN Entertainment which went public in 2000. IGN was acquired by News Corp in 2005 for $650 million.

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Reid was the sole founder of Listen.com for which he served as CEO and Executive Chairman. Listen.com launched Rhapsody, a music streaming service, the first legal service of its kind. Rhapsody was bought by RealNetworks in 2003 and Reid continued to serve as one of its vice president until MTV purchased it for $230 million.

Year Zero is one of the funniest, scariest, weirdest science fiction novels I’ve ever read — up there with Jasper Fforde and the great Douglas Adams and certainly the only book of its kind that includes footnotes. They are hilarious too.

The scary part of the novel is not the story but how it mirrors the realities of the music business. The music business is scary.

It turns out that Earth is the only planet in the universe that can create music worth listening to. It is not merely the best music in the universe. For all practical purpose, it is the only music. Other worlds have made something that had been called music … until the discovery of Earth’s music. From the moment our music was heard by the highly advanced sentient cosmos, there was no turning back. The year of the discovery of Earth’s music was Year Zero, the dawn of a new era for every planet in every galaxy everywhere. It also signaled the likely end of life on Earth unless some legal loophole could be found in our insanely punitive copyright laws.

If not, the combined amount of money owed to Earth’s music corporations would be so monumental it would bankrupt the entire universe. Unable to pay the bill yet obligated by inter-galactic law to pay it, the easier choice would be to destroy Earth, eliminating the problem and de facto, canceling the debt.

Whether or not you will find the book as fascinating and funny as I did is probably a matter of what you find funny. No one knows the intricacies of law as it pertains to the music industry better than Rob Reid.

English: 42, The Answer to the Ultimate Questi...

The humans are funny and oddly heroic, each in his or her own way. People rise to the occasion. The aliens are deliciously bizarre and some of them also rise … or fall … to the occasion. The combination of law and the ridiculousness of the situation is hilarious.

Although Year Zero is every bit as weird as any of Douglas Adams’ books to which it has been compared, the strangeness of the story is based on facts of law. Douglas Adams created the Improbability Drive from his own imagination. Rob Reid only has to quote the actual laws — every bit as bizarre as anything you could imagine. That’s scary.

I loved this book. I read it, read it again. Then I bought the audio book and listened to it twice more. I’ll probably read it several more times.

There is no sequel. It’s the only novel Rob Reid has written. Otherwise, he is the author of two non-fiction books: Architects of the Web about Silicon Valley, and Year One about life as a student at Harvard Business School.

This is a great book and I bet you’ll love it too. Give it a read. If nothing else, you’ll learn everything you never wanted to know about the music business!

THE REST OF THE STORY – THE PLAGUE FORGE, Jason M. Hough

PlagueForge

The Plague Forge by Jason M. Hough

Book 3 of The Dire Earth Cycle

Random House Publishing Group

Del Rey Spectra – Del Rey

Publication Date: September 24, 2013

This story of a future dystopian earth continues where The Exodus Tower left off.

SPOILER ALERT: This review contains spoilers If you have not read the first two episodes of this series, stop now, go back and read them. 

On their first visit, the aliens  left an elevator that can lift space craft up high enough so that they need little fuel to launch out of Earth’s atmosphere. For a while, it gave the world a great economic boost … until they dropped by again and left the plague. It killed millions upon millions and left millions more as mindless, kill crazy sub-humans.

The setting for all the books is the late mid-24th (2385) century. The first “gift” from the aliens was the elevator in Darwin, Australia. The second was the plague that forced the remainder of earth’s population to gather in their remnants. The Elevator — its proximity — confers a kind of protection from plague.

Skyler Luiken is an immune. It’s a naturally occurring phenomenon affecting a tiny percentage of the population, enabling them to walk freely in the atmosphere without special breathing apparatus. Originally, with a crew of fellow immunes Skyler flew scavenging missions to collect resources to keep Darwin alive. His ship is gone and half his crew dead. Those not killed were separated when a piece of Darwin’s population broke away to build a new settlement in Belém, Brazil where the aliens dropped a second space elevator.

Now, the aliens are back again. On schedule as predicted. Why? What do they want? They’ve left artifacts, keys for the humans to patch together … to what purpose?

Not only are they back, but they are heading for the exact spot where the plague started. Are they coming to finish off what they began and kill the rest of the human population? Or are they coming to save earth and end the plague? How about both?

In this third volume of the Dire Earth trilogy, the intrepid Skyler Luiken is back in touch with Samantha, who is living undercover in the Jacobite-dominated city of Darwin … and his original group captain has reappeared.

It’s time for a reckoning. Skyler and Tania — now the unwilling “head” of the Belém colony — have to figure out how to put the puzzle together. Their problem? They have little to go on except hints, speculation, and fear. The urgent question remains: what do the aliens want? The secondary question is … well … who is going to wind up with who when it’s all sorted out. Skyler and … Tania? Ana? That is if anyone survives.

This final volume is where you will get the answers you’ve been waiting for. It’s a fast, taut thriller-type trip into a badly broken future as the good guys have to figure out who the bad guys are, if the bad guys are the bad guys or maybe they are good guys, sort of. Then, there are the Jacobites and Grillo who have taken over Darwin … bad enough without the potential doom coming with the aliens. Ultimate destruction or salvation await — in the air and on the ground. Talk about caught between a rock and a hard place …

Of the new science fiction I’ve read in the past couple of years, this is one of the most interesting. It is classic sci fi, the kind of story that hooked me on the genre more than 40 years ago.A tight, taut thriller, it raises plenty of questions, an endless number of questions. The final book holds the answers and I can hardly wait!

The Plague Forge is a great read. If anything, it’s faster moving and more like a thriller than the first two books. It is exactly what you have been hoping for if you’ve been following the series. Now available!

Gift of doom? The aliens return with The Exodus Tower, by Jason M. Hough

The Exodus Tower by Jason M. Hough

Book 2 of The Dire Earth Cycle

Random House Publishing Group — Del Rey Spectra – Del Rey

Publication Date: August 27, 2013

This unique story of a future dystopian earth continues where The Darwin Tower left off.

Dystopian futures for our planet have become a genre. This story manages to combine elements of the Zombie apocalypse (not real Zombies, but  similar behavior), alien visitors with a strange, secret and maybe lethal agenda … and of course … the post plague survival.

On their first visit, the aliens  left an elevator that can lift space craft up high enough so that they need little fuel to launch out of Earth’s atmosphere. For a while, it gave the world a great economic boost … until they dropped by again and left the plague. It killed millions upon millions and left millions more as mindless, kill crazy sub-humans.

The setting for all the books is the late mid-24th (2385) century. The first “gift” from the aliens was the elevator in Darwin, Australia. The second was the plague that forced the remainder of earth’s population to gather in their remnants. The Elevator — its proximity — confers a kind of protection from plague.

Skyler Luiken is an immune. It’s a naturally occurring phenomenon affecting a tiny percentage of the population, enabling them to walk freely in the atmosphere without special breathing apparatus. Originally, with a crew of fellow immunes Skyler flew scavenging missions to collect resources needed to keep Darwin’s population alive. His ship is gone and half his crew dead. Those not killed were separated when a piece of Darwin’s population broke away to build a new settlement in Belém, Brazil. Because the aliens have been back and that is where they have dropped a second space elevator.

Structural diagram of a space elevator. The ea...

Structural diagram of a space elevator. The earth is shown in a “top-down” perspective looking at the north pole, with the space elevator in equatorial orbit.  Space elevator structural diagram.

Confusion and fear deepen as the human population starts to tear itself apart. Skyler Luiken and scientist Dr. Tania Sharma have formed a colony around the new Elevator’s base, utilizing mobile towers to protect humans from the Builders’ plague. After fending off an attack from a roving band of plague-immune mercenaries bent on world domination (do humans ever learn?) a frightening suspicion is growing day by day.

The aliens are coming back. There’s a schedule. What will they do this time. But more important? What do they want? Why have the come, what’s the real purpose of the elevators and the towers? Deepening unease and ever wider rifts between colonists makes the future dark indeed..

In this second volume of the Dire Earth trilogy, the intrepid Skyler Luiken in Belém, and Samantha, his co-explorer from his first crew each begin to uncover and to some degree, unravel a lot of truth … disturbing and frightening truths with dark implications.

It’s a great read, as good as the first book. I’m just taking a short break before I dive into the final volume.

Of the new science fiction I’ve read in the past couple of years, this is one of the most interesting. It is classic sci fi, the kind of story that hooked me on the genre more than 40 years ago.A tight, taut thriller, it raises plenty of questions, an endless number of questions. The final book holds the answers and I can hardly wait!

I enjoyed these books from the first page of the first book. Taut and tense, full of thought-provoking concepts, there is nary a dull moment..

The Exodus Tower is scheduled for release on Kindle and paperback on August 27th.

The third and final volume of the trilogy — Plague Force — scheduled for release September 24th.

Keep watching the skies … and this site for the review of the final book in September.