Lie of the Land album

The Lie of the Land is an album I recorded back around 2007 in response to the general plan update battle in Monterey County (that’s my county). Things got heated. I figured music might be a good way to get people thinking. It didn’t work, as far as I could tell. Anyway, feel free to download the music files and pass them around.

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Poor Louie’s Bull

Some friends and I recently played a couple of my songs at the Cowboy Poetry fundraiser last Sunday. The Salinas Rodeo big week always kicks off with this poetry event. Great blues band after us, followed by Chris Pine, an old cowboy poet from Arizona. The spoken word is powerful stuff.

Anyway, here are the two songs we played. I recorded these about ten or eleven years ago.

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Strawberries

 

We grow a lot of things on our farm. Celery, lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower. Those are the bigger crops, but we also grow strawberries. The sad thing about strawberries is that most people don’t really know what a real strawberry should taste like. The berries you get in the store are never picked at the proper sugar level (that’s due to transportation issues), so they’re never the real sweet-sunlight taste you get from a berry picked at peak ripeness. We don’t pick our berries for transport, so the ones in this photo are the real thing. They have to be eaten right away, or turned into jam, pie, crisp, or frozen for smoothies. No shelf-life, due to all the sugar in them. I’m not trying to make any profound literary point here. All I’m saying is that, if you can, you should grow your own strawberries. If the deer and the rabbits and the birds will let you.Strawberries

Dark Matter Holds Everything Together

Interesting news story out today about how astrophysicists have discovered a galaxy relatively close to our own that is comprised almost entirely of dark matter. Our Milky Way has about 100 times more stars than the galaxy in question, yet they’re both about the same size. Fascinating.

They (the proverbial they–though, in this case it refers to more of those astrophysicists) calculate that the universe is about 85% dark matter, with the balance being made up of visible matter: us, stars, planets, etc. Dark matter earns its name by not absorbing or reflecting light. Its invisible. You can only detect it by observing its gravitational effects on other things.

Which means if you see someone staggering oddly down the street, they’re either inebriated or under the influence of dark matter.

And dark matter, even more interestingly enough, holds the universe together. Some might say the word holds the universe together. The first spoken word. Rather, the word that came before the first spoken word. Dark matter or first words. They’re bother difficult to see, yet we see their effects everywhere.

I wanted to be an astrophysicist when I was a kid. I never wanted to be a fireman or a policeman or a mutual fund manager. It was always an astrophysicist for the longest time. Funny how we end up in other places. I’ll chalk it down to the unseen influences of dark matter. The gravitational pull of that which cannot be seen.

Friends in Masks

city of masksA friend of mine from the land of Oz, and fellow-fantasy writer, Ashley Capes, has an epic fantasy series called The Bone Mask Trilogy out on Amazon and the various other ebook sites. His books feature a young thief as one of the main characters, just like Jute in my Tormay trilogy. Anyway, the first book in the series, City of Masks, is going to be free on April 4, so check it out if you get a chance.

In other news, I’ve decided to lay claim to Mars as my ancestral home. Just need to find a good lawyer who specializes in that sort of thing. Mars sounds pretty peaceful these days in comparison to all the nonsense going on in these parts!

Aeronaut’s Windlass

By Jim Butcher. Aeronaut’s Windlass. Great book. This is the first new fantasy book I’ve read in a long time that I genuinely enjoyed from page one to the finish. He created an imaginative, accessible world for this story. Solid, interesting characters that don’t feel like a fantasy geek’s typical stereotypes. Thoughtful, fascinating plot. Polished dialogue. I was further intrigued by the overall worldview he used as a foundation for the story: clear right and wrong, but still allowing for internal moral conflicts generated by decent characters operating in bad situations. No whiff of nihilism; refreshing, that, as so much epic fantasy these days is drowning in nihilism.

While I’ve read Butcher’s other books, such as the Dresden Files, I can’t recommend them for various reasons (despite how well they’re written). Aeronaut’s Windlass, however, I recommend.

Under the Cushions

When was the last time you cleaned underneath your couch cushions? I did that today with our living room couch and what I found was pretty surprising. One of the items looked radioactive. I think I also found the missing link (that should make Richard Dawkins happy), as well as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from last year.

Let me know what you find inside your couch. Don’t be shocked if you find things like pirate treasure, a long-lost relative, mice, etc.

The Beginner’s Guide to Escaping Dangerous Dates

BeginnersGuideCoverFinalAmznI have not worked much on stories for quite some time now. Various reasons. Anyway, I recently wrote a humorous non-fiction book called The Beginner’s Guide to Escaping Dangerous Dates. Mostly to check if I could still write. Jury remains out on that question.

You can find self-help books on pretty much any topic under the sun. Escaping dangerous dates, however, has been neglected. Until now.

If you do use the methods described in this book, you do so at your own risk. Please consult a lawyer first. By reading the book, you agree to not sue me if one of the methods has adverse results.

Birthday party bash

Old age has introduced new forms of despair in my life. Yes, I’m talking about birthday parties for kids. The kid birthday party concept needs reformation. The current model results in escalation a la the Cold War arms race.

From my experience, this is how it goes. Kid gets invited to the first birthday party of the season. You’re obligated to buy a present for Kid to bring along, so you shell out money for a Lego set or a nerf gun or whatever. That’s a problem right there, as there isn’t a socially approved option of being thrifty and making a present instead (such as a painted rock, a toilet paper roll action figure or a box of garden snails).

Anyway, presents aside, the real problem is the scope of the party. You and Kid arrive and the party has a piñata, a small riding pony, and face-painting. Your uncontrollable mental calculator adds up the costs. You think, hmm… not too bad.

But, as the year progresses, the parties escalate according to the Keeping-Up-With-the-Joneses principle. This is not a new principle. In fact, Plato wrote about it back in the 400s, only he called it Keeping-Up-With-Pythagoras.

Anyway, the next birthday party has a juggling clown and a ventriloquist. The one after that has a Russian trapeze act. The next party has the Lipizzaner horses flown over from Austria. The party after that, Kim Jong-un parachutes in and does magic tricks, followed by the chorus line of Cats performing a medley of Broadway hits.

If all that isn’t bad enough, there’s the food. It’s a minefield of dietary restrictions, social justicism, and cultural twirpiness. No meat. Only organics. Only hotdogs made from textured soy protein. No dairy. No hydrogenated oils. No MSG. This is a pity because kids love that stuff. If you made milkshakes out of hydrogenated oil and MSG, the kids would slurp them down like anteaters slurping ants. Standing around with other parents discussing food at parties is worse than getting a tax audit.

Parent A: My Ronnie is vegetarian. Eggs make him weep for the lives of chickens that will never be. He’s such a sensitive boy. I think he’ll be an artist.

Parent B: Well, my little LaFonda is a sustainable fruitarian. She cares about the earth.

Parent D: My Brianna only eats food imported from Iceland.

This is why my policy is no birthday parties. We will send you a polite letter of declination, written in crayon, along with a tastefully wrapped present (a beet from our garden, a spare sock, etc).