WATWB – Your Monthly Shot Of News That Doesn’t Suck

The country is slowly reopening. It’s like coming out of a short-term, fucked-up relationship followed by a nasty breakup. Walking around in one of Albuquerque’s many indoor flea markets – albeit with masks and social distancing – felt almost like being alive again. Sights! Sounds! Things that weren’t my house or the odd trip to my abandoned cubicle at work. Stuff other than food. I found an original copy of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Welcome To The Pleasuredome on vinyl and it brought back all those wondrous moments of misbegotten youth when I didn’t have to worry about pandemics or riots or a renegade president threatening to change the rules because Twitter applied the rules to him.

Normally, these posts are supposed to be about a recent news article that was uplifting. Dog finds its way home. A tiny bit of justice happens somewhere. Stuff like that. It’s kinda hard right now to find positive news articles that don’t include cops getting arrested for murder or Twitter slapping warning labels on tweets. Those are good things, don’t get me wrong, but they’re band-aids over wounds that have been hemorrhaging and festering for years. A step in the right direction, but nothing more. So, I’m not going to link to any positive news articles. Let the WATWB police come after me.

So, to quote Moshav, the whole world’s on fire.

It’s times like these that you have to look for the small things. The last broken Oreo in the package, that single shot of bourbon you forgot you had, the half-smoked cigarette when you wake up in the middle of night and can’t get the dream out of your head. Follow the smoke up into the æther and find some peace.

Or it could just be that old record (in mint condition! Frankie says Relax!) or the free concert from Le Chat Lunatique that those amazing Albuquerque mainstays put on tonight over the web or even just eating frozen custard at a roadside shop and enjoying the weather.

There have been more people eating in parks than I’ve ever seen. People in my neighborhood have little get-togethers on their front lawns. The little roadside trail I ride is filled with people. It’s like America suddenly discovered there’s more than just reality TV and trying to get laid in bars. That there’s a life outside of the life we thought we had.

To quote Colonel Kilgore, “Someday this war’s gonna end.” So, here’s your uplifting bit of news. Yes, the Cronizzle is still out there. No, it probably won’t go away any time soon. But everything comes to an end. And what’ll be important isn’t what happened. It’s what you carry with you out the other side. The riots will end, the incompetent oaf running the country into the ground will end. Or, as Charlie Chaplin said in The Great Dictator:

“To those who can hear me, I say – do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed – the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish. …..”

Lines like that keep me warm at night.

Keep what you’ve learned. Hold it tight. Never let it go.

If you’d like to connect your blog and help spread a little joy (or snark, like I do), it’s easy to sign up. Just ask and ye shall receive. Or go check it out here: here.

Our lovely and talented hosts this month are: Susan Scott, Lizbeth Hertz, Shilpa Garg, Mary Giese, and Damyanti Biswas

~~~GUIDELINES~~~

1. Keep your post to below 500 words, as much as possible. (Wow, I totally missed that mark this time around).

2. All we ask is you link to a human news story on your blog on the last Friday of each month, one that shows love, humanity and brotherhood.

3. Join us on the last Friday of each month in sharing news that warms the cockles of our heart. No story is too big or small, as long as it goes beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.

4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD Badge on your sidebar, and help us spread the word on social media. Tweets, Facebook shares, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. More Blogfest signups mean more friends, love and light for all of us.

5. We’ll read and comment on each others’ posts, get to know each other better, and hopefully, make or renew some friendships with everyone who signs on as participants in the coming months.

6. To sign up, add your link in WE ARE THE WORLD Linky List below.

This is a Blog Hop!

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Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

And now your moment of Zen.

Book Review – An Audience of Corpses by John Maygrove

It’s not often you get to read a first novel and think, “Ah, this author’s gonna go somewhere”. First novels are oftentimes clunky, kludgy affairs. A labor of love, to be sure. And for that reason alone there’s usually something good lurking in the text. But to come across first novel well-written enough and complicated enough to feel like it came from someone seasoned is a rare thing.

Which is exactly how I felt about John Maygrove’s An Audience of Corpses. It’s a brilliantly conceived story arc that manages to incorporate serial killers, a murder where the victim is caught on tape wandering around an hour after his death, and an apprentice private eye unsure of his own skills, and not only wrap it up nicely, but put a black silk bow with skulls on the package.

I have a particular love affair with crime noir. You know, the stories where the criminals didn’t do something pedestrian like knock off a jewelry store or file their taxes late. Stories with some meaty sections. Human trafficking, cavorting with evil, selling tainted drugs because reasons, stuff like that is what gets me hooked and keeps me interested. Because, let’s face it, a string of convenience store robberies was probably perpetrated by some poor schmuck who just wanted to feed his family. But the guy who figured out how to weaponize religion and use it to gain wealth and power probably has some interesting psychological ticks.

The hard-boiled private eye story has been done. It’s a classic thing and there’s certainly nothing wrong with doing it again, so long as there aren’t any black birds driving the plot forward. What separates Maygrove’s work from the classics of the genre is not what it does, it’s where it starts. Classic private eyes tell their tales from a place of long experience. They get to draw on experiences and reference histories. Maygrove’s P.I. has just buried his teacher and is starting on his own on his very first day. Some experience, sure, but it all came from working with a mentor. Now, in the midst of losing a friend he’s dropped into the middle of a case with nothing to draw on but the musings of a dead man.

That adds something special to the genre. It’s an origin story. And, one would hope, won’t be the last mystery Jack Hornby has to unravel.

Apprentice P.I. Jack Hornby had only just buried his friend and mentor, stricken with grief and contemplating his future. Sitting alone in the office they once shared, he is accosted by an eccentric woman in desperate need of help. Reluctantly, he agrees. But a case of suspected infidelity turns out to be so much more when his target winds up dead in the middle of a grisly scene.

Jack finds himself pitted against his old nemesis- now a highly decorated police investigator- in a bid to uncover the truth behind what really happened in that seedy hotel room, and just how the victim was sighted walking down the street shortly after his death. In a case where nothing makes sense and no one is what the seem, Jack’s only ally is his old mentor’s peculiar yet alluring niece, the former secretary from the now-defunct detective agency.

Get your copy on Amazon

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Check out his website

WATWB – Your Monthly Shot of News That Doesn’t Suck

I’m not going to lie, it’s getting difficult to find good news these days. After all, it’s an election year in the United States and already the bullshit is piling up so quickly you needs wings to stay above it. Add to that the fact that Captain Tripps has lurched out of China and across the planet. All we need now is some Martians shrieking, “Ack, ack, ack ack ack” while they disintegrate everything in sight and you’ve got a recipe for every bad political thriller that’s ever been written.

Anyway, I did manage to stumble across a bit of decent news. At least news that doesn’t suck. Unless you’re an oil company exec, that is.

It seems Singapore has hopped on the EV bandwagon and is looking to phase out diesel and gas vehicles by 2040. Britain is looking to do the same, but by 2035.

Now, before you label me as some tea-sipping, kale-eating, granola-crunching, car-hating hippie know this: I’m not a fan of tea, I only eat kale when it’s been baked long enough to get crispy, I’m on the fence about granola, and I freakin’ love cars. Thing is, I also like little things like breathing and national security.

Internal combustion engines are cool. There’s nothing like the sound of a rumbling V8 or the whine of a supercharger as it kicks in. The sheer thrill of hitting that peak RPM and feeling the world fall away is unmistakably awesome. It’s like sex and bourbon and monkey knife-fighting all rolled into one delicious package. But, let’s be realistic, internal combustion engines create pollution. Especially that asshole in the big, black pickup with a lift kit and a bunch of 2A stickers that just rolled coal all over your Hyundai because reasons. And think about this: A good sports or muscle car hits peak horsepower at between 6000 and 9000 RPMs. That’s a long way to go to get to speed. Electric vehicles don’t have that problem; they’ve got peak horsepower at 0 RPM. And, you don’t have to worry about fluctuations in gas prices. And we don’t have to worry about doing business in far-flung places that we’ve spent decades trying to destabilize and who have no great love for us.

Sure, EVs aren’t without their problems. Range is still an issue. It takes longer to recharge a battery than it does to fill up a gas tank. Finding charging stations can still be problematic. Plus all that extra electricity to power the EVs has to come from somewhere. Thing is, none of these are forever issues. Fifteen to twenty years doesn’t seem that long, but it’s an eternity in technological terms. Look at what we’ve accomplished in that past twenty years. Faster, cheaper Internet. Your phone is now a computer powerful enough to launch the Space Shuttle. And we got Motley Crue back out on tour.

Technological gains are driven by market forces. The earliest cars were cantankerous things, prone to running out of fuel and breaking down at the worst possible time. They’ve become more reliable, comfortable, and efficient over the years. There’s no reason to think the same won’t happen with EVs. Plus, imagine how awesome it will be to punch the pedal on your jacked-up 4×4 and have it take off like someone shoved a jalapeno up its tailpipe. It may be quiet, but it’ll be fast.

EVs may not take off immediately and I doubt we’ll see similar laws enacted in the United States for a long time. Simply put, we have too many vehicles – 800 per 1000 people – too much existing infrastructure, and too much of a love affair with loud cars. But it’ll happen. And as alternate ways to generate electricity without making a mess – think wind and solar – get better and cheaper, it’s not too much of a stretch to think you could be rocking a 1000hp vehicle for far less than you’d have to pay today.

Anyway, it’s something to strive for.

Check out the original story here. And sleep tonight dreaming of never going to a gas station again.

If you’d like to connect your blog and help spread a little joy (or snark, like I do), it’s easy to sign up. Just ask and ye shall receive. Or go check it out here: here.

Our lovely and talented hosts this month are: Sylvia McGrath, Peter Nina, Shilpa Garg, Belinda Witzenhausen, and yours truly.

~~~GUIDELINES~~~

1. Keep your post to below 500 words, as much as possible. (Wow, I totally missed that mark this time around).

2. All we ask is you link to a human news story on your blog on the last Friday of each month, one that shows love, humanity and brotherhood.

3. Join us on the last Friday of each month in sharing news that warms the cockles of our heart. No story is too big or small, as long as it goes beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.

4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD Badge on your sidebar, and help us spread the word on social media. Tweets, Facebook shares, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. More Blogfest signups mean more friends, love and light for all of us.

5. We’ll read and comment on each others’ posts, get to know each other better, and hopefully, make or renew some friendships with everyone who signs on as participants in the coming months.

6. To sign up, add your link in WE ARE THE WORLD Linky List below.

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And now your moment of Zen.

WATWB – Your Monthly Shot of News That Doesn’t Suck

It’s Thanksgiving day here in the States. Or, as I like to call it, the Feast of a Thousand Turkeys. So, Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Go eat a shitload of food and get ready to spend a bunch of money tomorrow.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s on to the meat of the story.

I think we can all agree that there’s been a rise of white nationalism in the United States. You can shake your head and cluck your tongue and call me a dumbass libtard all you want, but when jackasses in polo shirts are chanting things like “Blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us”, the evidence is right there in your face. A lot of people fought and died to wipe that scourge out decades ago, but hatred and pathetic losers have a way of lurking in the shadows like cockroaches.

Since punching Nazis in the face – a longtime American tradition – seems to fallen by the wayside, new ways of sticking it to them had to be invented. Oddly enough, this time by a Lebanese guy who bought up all the Hitler memorabilia at an auction in Germany just to keep it out of the hands of neo-Nazis.

You have to appreciate not only the will to do that, but also the sheer spite of it all. Abdallah Chatila spent €600,000 on ten items that he didn’t want, just to make sure that a bunch of jackasses who did want them couldn’t have them. That, in my opinion, is a good use of money. With a bit of luck, Mr. Chatila will film himself tossing Hitler’s hat in a fire and pissing on that silver-covered copy of Mein Kampf.

With an even bigger bit of luck, it won’t be long before the whole sick cult of Nazism is tossed into the ash heap of history.

Read the whole story here.

If you’d like to connect your blog and help spread a little joy (or snark, like I do), it’s easy to sign up. Just ask and ye shall receive. Or go check it out here: here.

Our lovely and talented hosts of the month are: Damyanti Biswas , Lizbeth Hartz, Shilpa Garg, Peter Nena, Simon Falk

~~~GUIDELINES~~~

1. Keep your post to below 500 words, as much as possible. (Wow, I totally missed that mark this time around).

2. All we ask is you link to a human news story on your blog on the last Friday of each month, one that shows love, humanity and brotherhood.

3. Join us on the last Friday of each month in sharing news that warms the cockles of our heart. No story is too big or small, as long as it goes beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.

4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD Badge on your sidebar, and help us spread the word on social media. Tweets, Facebook shares, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. More Blogfest signups mean more friends, love and light for all of us.

5. We’ll read and comment on each others’ posts, get to know each other better, and hopefully, make or renew some friendships with everyone who signs on as participants in the coming months.

6. To sign up, add your link in WE ARE THE WORLD Linky List below.

This is a Blog Hop!

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

And now your moment of Zen.

Cycling Made Easy

It’s springtime, that magical time of the year where the birds chatter, it’s windy as hell, and everybody is throwing up their lists of favorite “affordable” bicycles for the year. A few that have popped up in my newsfeed define affordable as under $2000. I don’t know about you, but $2000 is still a chunk of change even if it is affordable in a sport where a new frameset alone can set you back $7000 for carbon fiber or titanium.

So, it’s spring and you’ve got that itch to go for a ride. Unfortunately, that tax money you expected to get back turned in a huge liability, so you’re strapped. You’ve got a few options:

  • Go to bike store and get a bike loan. Yes, they’re a thing
  • Go to WalMart and get a bike that may or may not kill you
  • Do a little digging and find a decent used bike that will suit your needs

Another option is to build your own. I’ll cover that in a little while.

I was at one of the local bike stores here in Albuquerque a couple of years ago looking for bar tape and QR skewers for a bike I was building and there was a couple in there buying a pair of mid-range bikes (at $3500 each), shoes ($100-$200 a pair), helmets ($100 or so and up), car rack ($200+), and clothes (ungodly expensive). So, I’m wating for the salesman to acknowledge my presence and wondering who in the hell walks into a bike store and drops nearly 8K. It turns out you can get bicycle loans. They’re just like car loans, or any other kind of loan, only they’re for buying bicycles.

Okay, car loans I get. I hate them, but they’re a necessary evil and since I tend to keep my cars until the wheels fall off and the transmission falls out, there’s usually a significant amount of time where I’m driving but own the car outright. In a place like Albuquerque where the city’s so spread out and the mass transit sucks, cars are good things to have.

But the fact that bicycle loans are a thing boggles my mind. Especially when it’s a multi-thousand dollar loan for someone who just wants to get into the sport. You know, get their feet wet and see if it’s something they’ll enjoy. From the sheer amount of used bicycles out there, I’m betting most people get the loan, ride for a few weeks, find out it’s hard, and give up. That’s a lot of money to try out something you might not get into.

Of course, not every bicycle in the bike store is a multi-thousand-dollar beast. And, contrary to what the nice salesman is telling you, you don’t need a top of the line bike to get started. Find something affordable and functional and see if you’re even really interested in riding. If you are, great. Upgrade at some point. If not, well, a $500 investment is a lot less than a $3500 investment.

You can also go to the local big box store and pull a bike off the rack for under a few hundred dollars. WalMart and Target both have bike sections filled with flashy rides with colorful paint jobs and fact sheets that advertise things like SiS! Disc Brakes! Super-light aluminum frame! Shimano! SRAM! Nearly 30 speeds!

What those fact sheets don’t tell you is the brakes suck, the components will break, and most people will never use that many speeds. Big box bikes are okay for toodling around the neighborhood. Just give yourself plenty of time to stop and don’t be surprised when the plastic brake levers bend and flex. But, let’s face it; that’s good enough for most people. If all you’re doing is casual rides around the neighborhood or along a trail, that $300 Schwinn is going to be perfectly servicable.

The only worrisome thing about big box store bikes is the components can be less than stellar. If you’re taking slow rides, no worries. If you’re planning on going faster or riding off road, or putting any kind of stress on that bike at all, bad components can be dangerous. Brakes that fail because the metal flexes too much or the pads are insufficient can kill you. Having to re-true wheels after every ride gets old fast. A frame that came apart at the seams because the welding was crap can end a ride quickly.

On the other hand, I had a buddy back in high school who broke a Specialized frame by hitting a rock on a trail. When he contacted the company about a warranty, they said, “You were riding off-road? That wasn’t what he had in mind. No warranty.”

It was a mountain bike.

Perhaps teh best way to find the new ride of your dreams is to do some digging. Those people that dropped all that money on brand new bikes so they could try out the sport? They probably dropped out and are selling those bikes at a fraction of the cost of new bikes. People who get really into cycling also love to upgrade constantly (guilty) and sell off the old stuff. You can find used bikes all over the place that, with a little elbow grease, can ride just as well as they did when they were new. Check your local Craigslist, sporting supply stores, eBay, Pinkbike, the classified. I can almost guarantee you, someone is selling a bike that would be great for you for far less than you’d pay new. Plus, it’s a kind of recycling (pun intended), so that’s pretty cool, too.

A final option that most people probably won’t go for is to build up your own bike from scratch. The upside is you can get exactly what you want and if you dig around Craigslist and eBay, you can build it for a lot less than buying a complete bike. It’s also a fun project, great experience, and teaches you how to maintain your own ride. The downside is you need some specialized tools like crank pullers, bottom bracket tools, headset presses, and things like that. Fortunately, those show up on Craigslist and eBay all the time, too. It’s not for everyone, but I’ve built three bikes now and I love the process of building and tinkering almost as much as riding.

For those wondering, here’s my latest creation. I found the frame on eBay for $250, components from Craigslist, eBay, and Nashbar before they went all weird. It rides like a dream and even though it’s got mid to high end parts and a carbon fiber frame, cost about $800 spread out over a couple of years. Still pricey, I know, but buying a bit a time over months made it easier. With cheaper parts and frameset and a little digging, a good bike can be built up for about $500 or so. Plus, when something breaks, you’ll know how to fix it because you put it on there in the first place.

ridley

I know people love their bikes. If you’ve got a pic or a story, put it in the comments. I’d love to see your ride or hear your story.

Book Review – Kiss Me When I’m Dead by Dominic Piper

kissmewhenimdead

I love gritty, noir stories where the bad guys are really bad and the good guys aren’t that much better. They serve as a reminder that it ain’t what you do that defines you, it’s why you do it. Such nebulous morality is on full-display in Dominic Piper’s debut novel Kiss Me When I’m Dead, a book about finding a missing girl that leads us into the dark heart of the sex trade in London with a heaping helping of twisted relationships thrown in just in case the sex trade didn’t leave enough of a bad taste in your mouth.

Back in the day, detective noir was a thing. It was a genre unto itself that spawned classics like The Maltese Falcon, Kiss Me Deadly, L.A. Confidential, and the Big Sleep. Literary greats like Spillane, Chandler, and Elroy stood at the top of the morass of human darkness and grinned like loons as they looked down and told us their depraved stories. They weren’t always for the faint of heart, nor should they be. After all, no one hires a private detective to find out the good things in life. Detectives are hired to dig through the detritus of the world and look for the stuff so odious no one in their right mind would leave it sitting out in the open like some black bird statue on a bookshelf.

These are supposed to be stories about hard people doing hard things, and Piper succeeds admirably at giving us a mysterious detective with a mysterious past, a flair for violence, and a host of willing ladies who fall for his charms. Kiss Me When I’m Dead is the full effect of wanton humanity laid bare and exposed with battery cables clamped to its balls and salt rubbed in its wounds.

Yes. It’s that good.

If you like your stories with a hefty dose of mystery that takes your hand and leads you through a world you didn’t know existed – and probably didn’t want to know existed – before kicking you in the head, this is a good book to read. It’s well-written, researched, and stands easily with some of the greats of the genre. If that’s not your bag, read it anyway, it’s a great tale and it goes to show you don’t have to write horror to come up with something terrifyingly fun.

The stunning debut thriller by bestselling author Dominic Piper, Kiss Me When I’m Dead introduces the enigmatic, London-based private investigator Daniel Beckett.

When Beckett is offered double his usual fee to track down Viola Raleigh, the missing daughter of a billionaire arms dealer, he has no reason to believe the assignment is not as it seems.

But his investigation is hindered as he discovers he’s being stalked by a professional surveillance team. As he learns more about Viola’s life as a drug addict and high-class call girl, he starts to realise that his wealthy client has been economical with the truth.

It isn’t long before Beckett himself is in danger, but his adversaries quickly discover that they are dealing with a formidable opponent with a far more sinister background than they might ever have imagined.

Get your copy on Amazon

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Book Review – The Apex Book of World SF: Volume 5

I love short stories, especially clever sci-fi short stories. There’s something about the genre that lends itself to looking through at the world through the lens of what could happen and that makes for some amazing story-telling.

A number of years ago, I got interested in Japanese horror, primarily Koji Suzuki. I wanted to see what The Ring was like in its original incarnation. Awesome, if I may say so myself. I found Suzuki’s work to have a more subtle feel than a lot of traditional American horror. It was a breath of fresh air after blood, gore, and violence of our native horror stories.

None of the works in The Apex Book of World SF: Volume 5 would be classified as horror, but that doesn’t mean that subtlety and sense of another culture was lacking. Maybe it’s just me, but that adds a lot to a story, especially a science fiction story where it should feel like there’s another culture at play. That’s where the magic happens.

As a collection of stories, some resonated with me more than others, but that doesn’t mean they were lacking anything, it just means they didn’t have the same impact as others because reasons.

All in all, if you’re looking for a good collection of sci-fi stories written by international authors and you’re willing to stretch your wings a bit, you might find some absolute gems in here. There are authors representing, among other countries, Japan, Singapore, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Bolivia, and the US and each brings their own culture and ideas with them when they write.

The landmark anthology series of international speculative fiction returns with volume 5 of The Apex Book of World SF. Cris Jurado joins series editor Lavie Tidhar to highlight the best speculative fiction from around the world.

Cyberpunk from Spain, Singapore and Japan; mythology from Venezuela, Korea and First Nations; stories of the dead from Zimbabwe and Egypt, and space wonders from India, Germany and Bolivia. And much more. The fifth volume of the ground-breaking World SF anthology series reveals once more the uniquely international dimension of speculative fiction.

Featuring:
Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Singapore) — “A Series of Steaks”
Daína Chaviano (Cuba, translated by Matthew D. Goodwin) — “Accursed Lineage”
Darcie Little Badger (USA/Lipan Apache) — “Nkásht íí”
T.L. Huchu (Zimbabwe) — “Ghostalker”
Taiyo Fujii (Japan, translated by Jim Hubbert) — “Violation of the TrueNet Security Act”
Vandana Singh (India) — “Ambiguity Machines: An Examination”
Basma Abdel Aziz (Egypt, translated by Elisabeth Jaquette) — “Scenes from the Life of an Autocrat”
Liliana Colanzi (Bolivia, translated by Jessica Sequeira) — “Our Dead World”
Bo-young Kim (South Korea, translated by Jihyun Park & Gord Sellar) — “An Evolutionary Myth”
Israel Alonso (Spain, translated by Steve Redwood) — “You Will See the Moon rRse”
Sara Saab (Lebanon) — “The Barrette Girls”
Chi Hui (China, translated by John Chu) — “The Calculations of Artificials”
Ana Hurtado (Venezuela) — “El Cóndor del Machángara”
Karla Schmidt (Germany, translated by Lara M. Harmon) — “Alone, on the Wind”
Eliza Victoria (Philippines) — “The Seventh”
Tochi Onyebuchi (Nigeria/USA) — “Screamers”
R.S.A. Garcia (Trinidad and Tobago) — “The Bois”
Giovanni De Feo (Italy) — “Ugo”

I love this cover.

Get your copy on Amazon