World Water Day

WORLD WATER DAY

Today, March 22, is World Water Day.

[photo by Stacey Lazos]

Not to be a downer, but water statistics suck.

By 2050 we will have more plastic in the ocean than fish which is going to be pretty hard on the wildlife that live there who will be forced to find table scraps elsewhere.

Some won’t have a choice like the almost 2 billion people who don’t have access to safe drinking water or sanitation and hygiene.

The amount of fresh water will continue to decline as more and more is degraded through manufacturing effluent or given over to wasteful agricultural practices…

…reaching even the remotest of streams…

…while pesticides, herbicides and other cides, that we think we need to survive will degrade the integrity of the rest.

Before we are forced, perhaps it’s time to look for alternative, sustainable ways to grow food that aren’t so hard on the planet.

And maybe step back and say a prayer of gratitude for water in all its incarnations.

Let’s protect what we ourselves need to survive.

Want to  make a splash?

Be like water.  Be everywhere.  Give freely.  Accept all without judgment.  Stand with water, the pure, clear, clean and unadulterated version.  Let’s make water security a right for all people.  We can’t be without it.

pjlazos 3.22.19

Posted in agriculture, aquaponics, insecticides, Uncategorized, WASH, water, water conservation, water security | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Survival of the Fittest

Survival of the Fittest

Blogging friend, Jacqui Murray, has written a new prehistoric fiction novel, Survival of the FittestBook 1 in the Crossroads series, part of her Man vs. Nature saga.  

Synopsis:

Chased by a ruthless and powerful enemy, Xhosa flees with her People, leaving behind a certain life in her African homeland to search for an unknown future. She leads her People on a grueling journey through unknown and dangerous lands by an escape path laid out years before by her father as a final desperate means to survival. She is joined by other homeless tribes–from Indonesia, China, South Africa, East Africa, and the Levant—all similarly forced by timeless events to find new lives. As they struggle to overcome treachery, lies, danger, tragedy, hidden secrets, and Nature herself, Xhosa must face the reality that this enemy doesn’t want her People’s land. He wants to destroy her.

Survival of the Fittest is Available at: Kindle US Kindle UK Kindle CA Kindle AU

A litte bit about Jacqui:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Her next prehistoric fiction, Quest for Home, is due out in Summer 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

 

If you want to reach Jacqui, here are her Social Media contacts:

http://twitter.com/worddreams

http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

https://worddreams.wordpress.com

https://jacquimurray.net

Before you go, how about a taste of Survival of the Fittest.  

Chapter 1

Her foot throbbed. Blood dripped from a deep gash in her leg. At some point, Xhosa had scraped her palms raw while sliding across gravel but didn’t remember when, nor did it matter. Arms pumping, heart thundering, she flew forward. When her breath went from pants to wheezing gasps, she lunged to a stop, hands pressed against her damp legs, waiting for her chest to stop heaving. She should rest but that was nothing but a passing thought, discarded as quickly as it arrived. Her mission was greater than exhaustion or pain or personal comfort.

She started again, sprinting as though chased, aching fingers wrapped around her spear. The bellows of the imaginary enemy—Big Heads this time—filled the air like an acrid stench. She flung her spear over her shoulder, aiming from memory. A thunk and it hit the tree, a stand-in for the enemy. With a growl, she pivoted to defend her People.

Which would never happen. Females weren’t warriors.

Feet spread, mouth set in a tight line, she launched her last spear, skewering an imaginary assailant, and was off again, feet light, her abundance of ebony hair streaming behind her like smoke. A scorpion crunched beneath her hardened foot. Something moved in the corner of her vision and she hurled a throwing stone, smiling as a hare toppled over. Nightshade called her reactions those of Leopard.

But that didn’t matter. Females didn’t become hunters either.

With a lurch, she gulped in the parched air. The lush green grass had long since given way to brittle stalks and desiccated scrub. Sun’s heat drove everything alive underground, underwater, or over the horizon. The males caught her attention across the field, each with a spear and warclub. Today’s hunt would be the last until the rain—and the herds—returned.

“Why haven’t they left?”

She kicked a rock and winced as pain shot through her foot. Head down, eyes shut against the memories. Even after all this time, the chilling screams still rang in her ears…

 

The People’s warriors had been away hunting when the assault occurred. Xhosa’s mother pushed her young daughter into a reed bed and stormed toward the invaders but too late to save the life of her young son. The killer, an Other, laughed at the enraged female armed only with a cutter. When she sliced his cheek open, the gash so deep his black teeth showed, his laughter became fury. He swung his club with such force her mother crumpled instantly, her head a shattered melon.

From the safety of the pond, Xhosa memorized the killer—nose hooked awkwardly from some earlier injury, eyes dark pools of cruelty. It was then, at least in spirit, she became a warrior. Nothing like this must ever happen again.

When her father, the People’s Leader, arrived that night with his warriors, he was greeted by the devastating scene of blood-soaked ground covered by mangled bodies, already chewed by scavengers. A dry-eyed Xhosa told him how marauders had massacred every subadult, female, and child they could find, including her father’s pairmate. Xhosa communicated this with the usual grunts, guttural sounds, hand signals, facial expressions, hisses, and chirps. The only vocalizations were call signs to identify the group members.

“If I knew how to fight, Father, Mother would be alive.” Her voice held no anger, just determination.

The tribe she described had arrived a Moon ago, drawn by the area’s rich fruit trees, large ponds, lush grazing, and bluffs with a view as far as could be traveled in a day. No other area offered such a wealth of resources. The People’s scouts had seen these Others but allowed them to forage, not knowing their goal was to destroy the People.

Her father’s body raged but his hands, when they moved, were calm.  “We will avenge our losses, daughter.”

The next morning, Xhosa’s father ordered the hunters to stay behind, protect the People. He and the warriors snuck into the enemy camp before Sun awoke and slaughtered the females and children before anyone could launch a defense. The males were pinned to the ground with stakes driven through their thighs and hands. The People cut deep wounds into their bodies and left, the blood scent calling all scavengers.

When Xhosa asked if the one with the slashed cheek had died, her father motioned, “He escaped, alone. He will not survive.”

Word spread of the savagery and no one ever again attacked the People, not their camp, their warriors, or their hunters.

While peace prevailed, Xhosa grew into a powerful but odd-looking female. Her hair was too shiny, hips too round, waist too narrow beneath breasts bigger than necessary to feed babies. Her legs were slender rather than sturdy and so long, they made her taller than every male. The fact that she could outrun even the hunters while heaving her spear and hitting whatever she aimed for didn’t matter. Females weren’t required to run that fast. Nightshade, though, didn’t care about any of that. He claimed they would pairmate, as her father wished, when he became the People’s Leader.

Until then, all of her time was spent practicing the warrior skills no one would allow her to use.

One day, she confronted her father. “I can wield a warclub one-handed and throw a spear hard enough to kill. If I were male, you would make me a warrior.”

He smiled. “You are like a son to me, Daughter. I see your confidence and boldness. If I don’t teach you, I fear I will lose you.”

He looked away, the smile long gone from his lips. “Either you or Nightshade must lead when I can’t.”

Under her father’s tutelage, she and Nightshade learned the nuances of sparring, battling, chasing, defending, and assaulting with the shared goal that never would the People succumb to an enemy. Every one of Xhosa’s spear throws destroyed the one who killed her mother. Every swing of her warclub smashed his head as he had her mother’s. Never again would she stand by, impotent, while her world collapsed. She perfected the skills of knapping cutters and sharpening spears, and became expert at finding animal trace in bent twigs, crushed grass, and by listening to their subtle calls. She could walk without leaving tracks and match nature’s sounds well enough to be invisible.

A Moon ago, as Xhosa practiced her scouting, she came upon a lone warrior kneeling by a waterhole. His back was to her, skeletal and gaunt, his warclub chipped, but menace oozed from him like stench from dung. She melted into the redolent sedge grasses, feet sinking into the squishy mud, and observed.

His head hair was sprinkled with grey. A hooked nose canted precariously, poorly healed from a fracas he won but his nose lost. His curled lips revealed cracked and missing teeth. A cut on his upper arm festered with pus and maggots. Fever dimpled his forehead with sweat. He crouched to drink but no amount of water would appease that thirst.

What gave him away was the wide ragged scar left from the slash of her mother’s cutter.

Xhosa trembled with rage, fearing he would see the reeds shake, biting her lip until it bled to stop from howling. It hardly seemed fair to slay a dying male but fairness was not part of her plan today.

Only revenge.

A check of her surroundings indicated he traveled alone. Not that it mattered. If she must trade her life for his, so be it.

But she didn’t intend to die.

The exhausted warrior splashed muddy water on his grimy head, hands slow, shoulders round with fatigue, oblivious to his impending death. After a quiet breath, she stepped from the sedge, spear in one hand and a large rock in the other. Exposed, arms ready but hanging, she approached. If he turned, he would see her. She tested for dry twigs and brittle grass before committing each foot. It surprised her he ignored the silence of the insects. His wounds must distract him. By the time hair raised on his neck, it was too late. He pivoted as she swung, powered by fury over her mother’s death, her father’s agony, and her own loss. Her warclub smashed into his temple with a soggy thud. Recognition flared moments before life left.

“You die too quickly!” she screamed and hit him over and over, collapsing his skull and spewing gore over her body. “I wanted you to suffer as I did!”

Her body was numb as she kicked him into the pond, feeling not joy for his death, relief that her mother was avenged, or upset at the execution of an unarmed Other. She cleaned the gore from her warclub and left. No one would know she had been blooded but the truth filled her with power.

She was now a warrior.

When she returned to home base, Nightshade waited. Something flashed through his eyes as though for the first time, he saw her as a warrior. His chiseled face, outlined by dense blue-black hair, lit up. The corners of his full lips twitched under the broad flat nose. The finger-thick white scar emblazoned against his smooth forehead, a symbol of his courage surviving Sabertooth’s claws, pulsed. Female eyes watched him, wishing he would look at them as he did Xhosa but he barely noticed.

The next day, odd Others with long legs, skinny chests, and oversized heads arrived. The People’s scouts confronted them but they simply watched the scouts, spears down, and then trotted away, backs to the scouts. That night, for the first time, Xhosa’s father taught her and Nightshade the lessons of leading.

“Managing the lives of the People is more than winning battles. You must match individual skills to the People’s requirements be it as a warrior, hunter, scout, forager, child minder, Primary Female, or another.  All can do all jobs but one best suits each. The Leader must decide,” her father motioned.

As they finished, she asked the question she’d been thinking about all night. “Father, where do they come from?”

“They are called Big Heads,” which didn’t answer Xhosa’s question.

Nightshade motioned, “Do they want to trade females? Or children?”

Her father stared into the distance as though lost in some memory. His teeth ground together and his hands shook until he clamped them together.

He finally took a breath and motioned, “No, they don’t want mates. They want conflict.” He tilted his head forward. “Soon, we will be forced to stop them.”

Nightshade clenched his spear and his eyes glittered at the prospect of battle. It had been a long time since the People fought.

But the Big Heads vanished. Many of the People were relieved but Xhosa couldn’t shake the feeling that danger lurked only a long spear throw away. She found herself staring at the same spot her father had, thoughts blank, senses burning. At times, there was a movement or the glint of Sun off eyes, but mostly there was only the unnerving feeling of being watched. Each day felt one day closer to when the People’s time would end.

“When it does, I will confess to killing the Other. Anyone blooded must be allowed to be a warrior.”

 

Still here?  That’s great.  Jacqui invites you to answer the following question.  I don’t know that you’ll win a prize, but you’ll have to think a bit on our prehistoric ancestors for the answer.

How did Xhosa count?

 Xhosa and her People also had no need for counting. This is true even today with primitive people. Many count only to two (which is the method I’ve adopted for Xhosa). Beyond that, numbers may be described as handfuls or how much room they occupy in relation to something else. Counting people was unnecessary because all Xhosa had to do was sniff, find everyone’s scent, or notice whose she couldn’t find.

pjlazos 3.13.18

Posted in blog, book excerpt, book promotion, book release, fiction, Uncategorized, writers, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

A New Year, A New Earth and Hamilton

A New Year,  A New Earth,  and Hamilton

I read Eckhart Tolle’s,  A New Earth,  Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, way back in January,  meandering through it slowly as if I were on vacation, reading the same paragraphs over and over until the import of them sunk in:  live in the here and now; dispel negativity; take care of yourself; jettison the ego; and when you do all that, watch your world take flight.  I dog-eared so many pages that the depth of the book expanded half an inch.  I wrote thoughts and ideas down in my journal, tearing them down and reconstructing them, hoping to synthesize some of Tolle’s wisdom into my marrow.  

By February, I couldn’t recall a thing I’d read.  Did I absorb any of it?  Or despite my re-readings, never understood it? Could there be another theory, one that involves a message being so intrinsic to my own way of thinking that I can no longer distinguish it as something new?  I’m going with latter because I feel like less of a slacker, plus it gives me hope for humanity in general.  The truth is, we all feel this way, think this way, know this way, and want to be this way; we’ve just forgotten how.

Another month, and a series of late winter snows holds March in the crosshairs.  I’m swirling in long-range ideas, trying on decisions like cocktail dresses, ones that I hope will carry me through the next decade of my life.  I’m at a crossroads now, the daily demands of parenting all on long-term hold with the kids off to college, and me, eager to try a more creative approach to making a living, something that uses more of the skills I’ve acquired over the last several decades.  

This means leaving the security of the known to venture out into the unknown, a scary prospect for those who think we should have everything pinned down, managed, tidy, and socked away in neat little bundles that we can point to when someone asks an innocuous question like,  “so what is it you do?”  Altering course can be tough for us as adults since every new experience puts you on the bottom rung of the learning ladder, not a comfortable place for those who’ve earned the upper rungs with years of experience.  But eventually, even the most exciting job can become the same old thing and we grow tired, our hands work reduced to repetitive stress syndrome, leaving reinvention as the only option.  

For me, it’s not a question of should I choose a new path, but which one?  A little divine intervention would be dreamy right now because:  a) I have a lot of interests and it’s hard to choose, and b) who doesn’t love a good Deus ex Machina, although I doubt resolutions are still being delivered this way in the 21st century.  So I keep working, writing, thinking and feeling my way toward the next plot point that is my life, hoping for a thunderbolt of clarity to strike where all will be revealed for the next decade or so.

What can a person do while waiting for their revelation? I recommend a good soundtrack.  I’ve been listening to Hamilton pretty much non-stop since the new year began.  Other than a summer-long stint with the soundtrack to Hairspray some years back — my daughter and I in the car, belting out the tunes as I drove her to school — I don’t remember ever listening to a musical on full repeat.  Hamilton, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is a hip-hop odyssey unlike any other, historically accurate says my college history professor friend, an inspired and inspiring work of genius.  

Alexander Hamilton was the first Secretary of the Treasury, an immigrant and polymath who created a stunning career through force of will and left an indelible mark on our country with his financial policies, a visionary and self-starter who ingratiated himself at the highest levels of government, a man determined to leave his mark on history, an inspiration for anyone embarking on a journey into the unknown with a secret desire to make the world a better place.  Miranda spent a year rewriting the song My Shot, until he got it just right.  That kind of tenacity breeds amazing results and Hamilton the musical is the proof.  

Hamilton encourages action in the face of adversity.  Is it any wonder that in these precarious times Miranda’s show is such a success?  The world is balanced on the head of a pin:  climate change, mass extinctions, a global water crisis, a restructuring of the world order, governments in disarray and more bad news than any of us can take in anymore without imploding.  Can we ever return to simpler times?  I suspect not, but while we’re sifting through the morass, at least we’ll have good music.

I counsel my college-aged kids to be patient, follow the things that have heart and meaning, breathe into the stress, write down your hopes and concerns, don’t worry about long-term outcomes because the bigger pieces always seem to fall into place when you stay in the moment and pay close attention to the minutiae because it’s the little things that form the bedrock of any new endeavor.   After a time of slow growth and introspection, the road forward will suddenly open to you, paved, well-lit and ready for travel, your own new earth, waiting to be discovered.  

Time to go ahead and take a shot.

pjlazos 3.7.19

 

Posted in clean water, climate change, Hamilton, mass extinction, musical, water, writers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

WATWB – SDG’s

It’s that time again for the #WATWB, the last Friday of the month where you post a good news story (yes, I know I’m late and yes I have a good excuse — a house full of company for the weekend).  This month’s story is about SDGs.  For those of you who don’t know what SDGs are, they are the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, a list of 17 categories of ways to make the world a friendlier, more sustainable, more egalitarian place.

The Trump administration doesn’t think much of them, but in a shout out to city sovereignty, “a growing number of American cities are showing that small can be big — and effective — in using the U.N’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) as a framework to monitor their own progress and shield themselves from the adverse effects of a fraying relationship between the U.S. and the U.N.”

From cleaning up the Bronx River to measuring food waste, kids are stepping up.  It’s really not that surprising since our kids are our the future.

 

 

 

Again, the rules:

1. Keep your post to Below 500 words, as much as possible.

2. Link to a human news story on your blog, one that shows love, humanity, and brotherhood. Paste in an excerpt and tell us why it touched you. The Link is important, because it actually makes us look through news to find the positive ones to post.

3. 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 or banner on your Post and your Sidebar. Some of you have already done so, this is just a gentle reminder for the others.

5. Help us spread the word on social media. Feel free to tweet, share using the #WATWB hastag to help us trend!

Tweets, Facebook shares, Pins, Instagram, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. We’ll try and follow and share all those who post on the #WATWB hashtag, and we encourage you to do the same.

Have your followers click here to enter their link and join us! Bigger the #WATWB group each month, more the joy!

Happy February!

pjlazos 2.24.19

Posted in good news, SDGs, sustainable development goals, Uncategorized, WATWB, writers, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Life in a Conversation

Life in a Conversation

I’m on a once-a-month author interview series, having kicked off the New Year with the divine Ms. Shey and her Mr. (and just lovely they were).

Today, I’m talking to Geoff Le Pard — a man of many words — who started writing in 2006 and still hasn’t left his keyboard.  As Geoff says, “when he’s not churning out novels he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry.” He also writes short fiction and has his own blog.  The U.K. resident and former lawyer turned full-time writer has four novels, two anthologies and a memoir which he’s published independently. He describes himself as “married but always on probation.”  The dog, cat and tortoise owner also has a couple of kids and a serious addiction to baking, spinning, gardening, traveling, skiing, drinking coffee, visiting family and art galleries, exploring his home city of London, and volunteering at a homeless center and a youth club (how does this guy find time to write?!), but his fav thing is chatting up his wife over morning tea.

What else does Geoff do?  Well, he walks the dog — where his best ideas originate — and cooks, “if not with precision, than passion.”  Funny guy, right?

His new book, Life in a Conversation is currently available for pre-order on Amazon and will be released on February 28, 2019.

Meanwhile, it sounds like it’s time for Geoff to answer a few questions:

How long have you been writing and were you formally trained?  

Since July 2006 – I started at a summer school in Marlborough in middle England and haven’t looked back.  I took several courses culminating in a Creative Writing Masters at Sheffield Hallam University 2011-2013.

Do you have a writing routine?

I write best in the evening and often write from seven to ten and then maybe eleven to one. Otherwise I fit it in when I can. 

Do you write on the computer, longhand, dictate, papyrus, or something else?  

Oh goodness, computer. I can’t read my own writing so long hand is impossible.

I can’t read my own writing either!  Do you work out while writing, take breaks, or simply gut it out?

When I started I still worked full-time as a commercial lawyer in the City of London. My hours were often crippling and I had to find time to squirrel in the writing. So I’ve always written in fragmented segments and I find it impossible to write for more than an hour without some kind of proper break. Anyway, writing, for me, is emotional and I’m drained after that hour. I soon refill but it sometimes feels like the ideas are a liquid and they are sploshing around my head. I need to let the liquid thoughts settle or they’ll pour out of my ears.

Wonderful metaphor.  I like the idea of your thoughts and words spilling onto the pages.  So what’s your favorite book? 

Difficult there are so many. Currently The Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch 

Favorite author? 

Another sod of a question. Aaronovitch at the moment. Plus Chris Brookmyre, Stuart MacBride, Neil Gaiman, Samuel Trollope.

What is your favorite genre of book to write?  

Humour.  

To read?

Crime and thriller.

What’s your favorite writing prompt?

For flash fiction, pictures. Sue Vincent’s #writephoto probably. For novels, some life event.

 

 

Have you had any brushes with writing greatness, e.g., a writer that you’d love to meet and then suddenly, there they are, standing in front of you in the checkout line?

Nope. The writing world has steadfastly ignored me so far.

Do you think writing is a form of therapy and, if so, has it helped you work through anything in particular?  

Not in the sense of a personal issue that I needed to deal with. But I find it just so overwhelming, this need to write and, hopefully be read (though the writing bit is the bit that really grabs me). I have so many ideas and I love finding them and giving them form. I think a lot of it is ego. When I write: a blog post, a poem, any sort of fiction, it is all mine. My idea, my words, my twists, my humour. Up until I wrote fiction, all my work, any creativity had been a team effort. This is mine.

I agree.  Work, especially working as a lawyer in a large organization can be such a collaborative effort while writing is such a personal experience.  It provides a nice balance.  Sounds like a learning experience.  So what has been your greatest writing lesson?

So many. Do not give a bugger for what anyone else thinks but always listen to your critics. If their intentions are honorable and they want to help then they’ve probably found something that might be improved. However, if they suggest a solution be extremely wary of adopting it. You will have read your work countless times; they might have read it once. Who knows it best?

Good writing advice.  What’s your greatest life lesson?

Smile and the world smiles with you.

Have you reduced that lesson to writing?

Nope. I can be a curmudgeon on the page if the story requires it.

I know you are a lawyer so maybe you’d like to tell us something about that. 

It paid the bills; it allowed me to retire from the legal coal face at 60 and write. I enjoyed the intellectual challenge of working out the solution to a knotty legal problem. I made some good friends. I learnt the art of negotiation.  I have no interest whatsoever in being a lawyer ever again. People around me either don’t believe me or don’t think I should because they still ask my views on the law and legal issues. Every Jan 1st I say I will not answer them. I fail miserably. One gift I realise being a commercial lawyer has given me as a writer and that is in connection with the plotter/pantser debate. I don’t plot, at least in the sense of storyboards and posits and chapter summaries. But I’ve had to be able to hold a myriad of ideas in my head in order to be able to negotiate complicated 200 plus page contract. Same with a novel; I hold the strands in my head and only when I’m 75% through might I write stuff down so as to reinforce it. It’s not all good news though. Legal writing is the epitome of boring; I had to break that habit quickly.

I know from reading your work that at one point you were working with the Olympic Committee. 

That was a brilliant end to my legal career (give or take). I loved it and there’s a book in there that is three-quarters written… but I have at least five novels written either part or complete that I still have to work on. Here’s something about me and the Olympics.

Does or did your work outside of your writing inform your writing in any way? 

Oh yes. A lot. All my novels stem from personal experience.  They say write about what you know, but the best fiction I think amalgamates some seeds, maybe grains, from one’s real life and mixes them with a lot of imagination.

That’s true for me as well, but when you had your high-powered law job, how did you find time to write?

Nowadays it should be easier but back in the day I wrote (1) after work at home between 9 and midnight (2) weekends when not with family or at work (3) on planes and trains and automobiles – my work, latterly took me aboard a fair bit – it is fair to say I didn’t always prepare for the meeting as maybe I should have!! (4) I’ve been known to write under the desk in meetings, on the toilet, in shop queues, sketching out ideas, noting down plot twists, characters, dialogue.

Lucky for you no one ever caught on!  From where do you pull inspiration and how do you keep that creative spark going?  

Everywhere, and no idea but I’m over full with ideas. Give me a setting, or a character or something and I’ll sketch out a novel.  I love subverting prompts.  A picture of a lake and I might imagine someone rolling it up and taking it away because it’s needed else where. Or a gun and I’ll imagine the life of the bullet and it’s tragic existence. I love dialogue so to allow my mind to roam far and wide, imagining some off the wall conversation between a decorator and his paste brush say, pleases me to no end.

Sounds like a fabulous view one the world.  So what’s your perfect writing day look like?

Early start. Porridge. Write for an hour. Walk dog; coffee; rattle off a piece of flash – 800 words – in the café for a prompt. Home and two hours writing. Chat to wife; One hour doing something really useful. Another hour. Cook, maybe listen to a podcast. Write until 7. Dinner. Write. Watch TV show on record with wife and chat. 10.30 write. Bed at 12.30.

How about just a perfect day?

Probably above but include seeing children and doing exercise.

Ah, a true writer.  If you could be a character in any novel, what character would you be and why?

My first novel was based on me, as a 19-year old. Mind you his adventures were made up. I’m nearly ready to publish the sequel and that, too, follows my career as a trainee lawyer. The third part has also been written but now needs the ferocious editing to knock it into shape. It’s a book of humour with a cleverly plotted twisting tone set in 1981 (book one was in 1976 and book three will be 1987). I’m already there.

What was your most exotic travel destination, and do you have a place you go back to again and again? 

Gosh. I’ve been lucky to travel a lot. Australia and, separately, New Zealand were brilliant. Various parts of the US – San Francisco. I’ve been to a lot and it’s amazing every time. Canada too. But actually I adore Scotland so probably the west coast. Peru, 1987 is the most exotic and Oban – or actually an island just off it where we go with the family and stay and decompress is the favorite. It is delightful. The Isle of Eriska.

How about a writing space; do you have a favorite?

My desk in my cubbyhole. This post has a picture of it.

What was the worst job you ever had?

Carnation picker

Sounds like there should be a story around that one.  I know you are a memoirist, so this may not be applicable — how much research do you do before you begin a writing project?

Little if I can avoid it. But when I’m underway however much I think I need. I’m not that concerned with factual accuracy, in truth – rebelling against the lawyer in me – but if I was ever famous that might have to change!!

And the final question, assuming you could have one, what’s your superpower?

Always make sure my cakes rise just the right amount.

Thanks so much, Geoff. Any last parting words of wisdom?

I’m a great believer in the Kipling couplet from his poem If.  ‘If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run,’ I intend to sprint and cram it to the brim while I’m able. I will consciously, and will steadfastly remain an optimist, a meliorist and smile at whatever and whoever I can for as long as I can. 

Amen to that, and Godspeed. May your writing and your life flourish under your optimistic and energetic gaze and good humor. 

Geoff’s books are all available on Amazon.  Here is a listing with a short synopsis of each:

Want a few other ways to catch up with Geoff?  Well, have at it:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/geoff.lepard

Twitter: @geofflepard

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Geoff-Le-Pard/e/B00OSI7XA0/

blog: https://geofflepard.com

The following is a listing of our prodigious and prolific hero’s work.  Go ahead and treat yourself.

My Father and Other Liars is a thriller set in the near future and takes its heroes, Maurice and Lori-Ann on a helter-skelter chase across continents.

Smashwords

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle is a coming of age story. Set in 1976 the hero Harry Spittle is  home from university for the holidays. He has three goals: to keep away from his family, earn money and hopefully have sex. Inevitably his summer turns out to be very different to that anticipated.

Smashwords

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Life in a Grain of Sand is a 30 story anthology covering many genres: fantasy, romance, humour, thriller, espionage, conspiracy theories, MG and indeed something for everyone. All the stories were written during Nano 2015. 

Smashwords

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Salisbury Square is a dark thriller set in present day London where a homeless woman and a Polish man, escaping the police at home, form an unlikely alliance to save themselves. 

Smashwords

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Buster & Moo is about about two couples and the dog whose ownership passes from one to the other. When the couples meet, via the dog, the previously hidden cracks in their relationships surface and events begin to spiral out of control. If the relationships are to survive there is room for only one hero but who will that be?

Smashwords

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Life in a Flash is a set of super short fiction, flash and micro fiction that should keep you engaged and amused for ages. 

Amazon.co.uk 

Amazon.com 

Smashwords

Apprenticed To My Mother describes the period after my father died when I thought I was to play the role of dutiful son, while Mum wanted a new, improved version of her husband – a sort of Desmond 2.0. We both had a lot to learn in those five years, with a lot of laughs and a few tears as we went.

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Geoff Le Pard’s Amazon Author Page

pjlazos 2.17.19

Posted in author interview, blog, book excerpt, book promotion, book reviews, cooking, memoir, thriller, Uncategorized, world building, writers, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 59 Comments

QOTD

QOTD

John Dingell, the longest-serving member of Congress and a real upstanding politician — a rare breed — died on February 7, 2019.

My friend and colleague, Bill Smith has for years been creating an e-column called Qotd which is, in his words:

qotd (quote of the day) is a two-decade-old, more-or-less daily email listserv of usually illustrated quotes, and backtalk from qotd subscribers.  If you would like to subscribe, you can sign up at http://eepurl.com/ggQOtf  (If it gets too spammy, each qotd has an unsubscribe link at the bottom).

Qotd posts run the gamut of witty, sarcastic, profound, explicit, provocative, inquiring, spiritual, savvy, and downright fun.  It’s timely, and a great source of daily news.  If you want a nice daily lift in your inbox, join qotd.

I was inspired by this particular post and wanted to share it.

[I apologize for the formatting snafu, below, but I couldn’t get the two programs to make nice with each other.  You’ll be fine.  Trust me (I’m from the government.)]


“One of the advantages to knowing that your demise is imminent, and that reports of it will not be greatly exaggerated, is that you have a few moments to compose some parting thoughts.

In our modern political age, the presidential bully pulpit seems dedicated to sowing division and denigrating, often in the most irrelevant and infantile personal terms, the political opposition.

…My personal and political character was formed in a different era that was kinder, if not necessarily gentler. We observed modicums of respect even as we fought, often bitterly and savagely, over issues that were literally life and death to a degree that — fortunately – we see much less of today.


Think about it:

Impoverishment of the elderly because of medical expenses was a common and often accepted occurrence. Opponents of the Medicare program that saved the elderly from that cruel fate called it “socialized medicine.” Remember that slander if there’s a sustained revival of silly red-baiting today.


Not five decades ago, much of the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth — our own Great Lakes — were closed to swimming and fishing and other recreational pursuits because of chemical and bacteriological contamination from untreated industrial and wastewater disposal. Today, the Great Lakes are so hospitable to marine life that one of our biggest challenges is controlling the invasive species that have made them their new home.


We regularly used and consumed foods, drugs, chemicals and other things (cigarettes) that were legal, promoted and actively harmful. Hazardous wastes were dumped on empty plots in the dead of night. There were few if any restrictions on industrial emissions. We had only the barest scientific knowledge of the long-term consequences of any of this.


And there was a great stain on America, in the form of our legacy of racial discrimination. There were good people of all colors who banded together, risking and even losing their lives to erase the legal and other barriers that held Americans down. In their time, they were often demonized and targeted, much like other vulnerable men and women today.

Please note: All of these challenges were addressed by Congress. Maybe not as fast as we wanted, or as perfectly as hoped. The work is certainly not finished. But we’ve made progress — and in every case, from the passage of Medicare through the passage of civil rights, we did it with the support of Democrats and Republicans who considered themselves first and foremost to be Americans.

I’m immensely proud, and eternally grateful, for having had the opportunity to play a part in all of these efforts during my service in Congress.


…In my life and career, I have often heard it said that so-and-so has real power — as in, “the powerful Wile E. Coyote, chairman of the Capture the Road Runner Committee.”

It’s an expression that has always grated on me. In democratic government, elected officials do not have power. They hold power — in trust for the people who elected them. If they misuse or abuse that public trust, it is quite properly revoked (the quicker the better).

I never forgot the people who gave me the privilege of representing them. It was a lesson learned at home from my father and mother, and one I have tried to impart to the people I’ve served with and employed over the years.


As I prepare to leave this all behind, I now leave you in control of the greatest nation of mankind and pray God gives you the wisdom to understand the responsibility you hold in your hands.

May God bless you all, and may God bless America.

  ~John D. Dingell, My Last Words for America, Washington Post, Feb. 8, 2019.

Dingell, a Michigan Democrat who served in the U.S. House from 1955 to 2015, was the longest-serving member of Congress in American history. He dictated these reflections to his wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), at their home in Dearborn, on Feb. 7, the day he died.

Posted in civil rights act, Democrat, politicians, racial discrimination, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

When Fish Poop Feeds the World

When Fish Poop Feeds the World

If you or your kids have ever won a goldfish at a carnival, chances are you took it home and stuck it in a glass bowl where it swam happily for years.  We had one live for six years until the little rascal finally called it quits.  Soon after we brought the fish home, I noticed that the once clear water was becoming cloudy, then murky, and because goldfish are champion poopers, the water eventually looked like a bayou.  The water got so cloudy that guests to our home  suggested a GoFundMe page to “Save the Fishes.”  The obvious remedy to our cloudy fish water was to clean the tank once a month or so, although the goldfish never really seemed to mind, a testimony to their hardiness and an important fact to squirrel away for later.

So what if you didn’t want to clean the tank so often, or better still, what if you wanted to put all that poop to good use?  Well, lucky for you there is now an option.  It’s called an aquaponics tank.  What is aquaponics, you ask?  Here’s the definition from the online dictionary:

aquaponics | ˌäkwəˈpäniks, ˌak- |plural noun [treated as singular]

a system of aquaculture in which the waste produced by farmed fish or other aquatic animals supplies nutrients for plants grown hydroponically, which in turn purify the water: thanks to its automatic recirculating system, aquaponics does not require much monitoring or measuring.

In the case of our little goldfish, while the fish waste sat at the bottom of the tank, breaking down into ammonia which converted to nitrites and then nitrates, it basically formed a cesspool in our fish tank.  Instead of creating a cesspool, however, how would you feel about creating your own wastewater treatment plant?  By using the fish poop to fertilize the plants growing in a tray above the tank you eliminate the need for outside water or fertilizers.  Ingenious, really, since the fish need clean water, the plants need waste water, and no part of the system is dependent on rain water or pesticides to grow.  Hallelujah! Totally organic food grown inside in a controlled environment that doesn’t put a strain on the soils or watershed with the overuse of fertilizers and toxic chemicals to control pests.  

This solves two problems that have been growing steadily on mankind’s horizon:  overfishing of the earth’s oceans and growing enough food to feed the approximately 7.7 billion people alive today (not to mention what to do with all the poop that 7.7 billion people generate).

Luckily, due to an increase in aquaculture, farmed fish production is on the rise and is a necessary part of our planning to feed the approximately 9 billion people who will be living on earth in the middle of this century, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations 2018 report on world fisheries and aquaculture.  FAO. 2018. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2018 – Meeting the sustainable development goals. Rome. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.

According to the FAO, approximately “59.9 percent of the major commercial fish species that FAO monitors are now being fished at biologically sustainable levels, while 33.1 percent are being fished at biologically unsustainable levels — a situation that SOFIA 2018  describes as “worrying.” (The other 7 percent are underfished).” The sustainable levels are directly a result of aquaponics where total global fish production in 2016 was 171 million tonnes and 80 million tonnes was from aquaponics.

 

As part of my volunteer work with the Jr. League of Lancaster, our Girls in STEM committee is spearheading a pilot project to get aquaponics tanks into as many classrooms as possible in Lancaster County.  Over the last couple weeks, we’ve installed five aquaponics tanks at two different schools in Lancaster County, one at the Stone Independent School, a hands-on learning high school in the City of Lancaster, and the other four at Fritz Elementary School in the Conestoga Valley School District where we put a tank in each of the school’s four second grade classrooms.  A sixth tank is slated to be installed at the Lancaster Science Factory in February in conjunction with their post-construction expansion of the museum.   

The high schoolers at Stone are creating a video about their experiences with their aquaponics tank that will then be used as part of the exhibit at the Science Factory, resulting in lots of exciting collaboration going on throughout this pilot project.  If successful, we hope to roll it out to all the second grade classrooms in Lancaster County, an ambitious project that will require lots of grant money, but imagine the impact:  a whole county of second graders with firsthand exposure to the importance of ecosystems, water conservation, plant systems and nutrition all with one in-classroom device.  Plus, as an added bonus, the presence of fish in the classroom helps relieves kids’ stress.    

The aquaponics system works on a timer so for fifteen minutes of every hour the pump circulates the waste up into the clay-filled tray where the plant material grows, depositing its bounty of fish poop and returning clean water to the tank.  A light suspended from a bar that rises above the tank provides the UVs for the plants to photosynthesize the chlorophyll and the fish provide the fertilizer.  We’ve stocked the tanks with some baby goldfish that will grow to be 3”-4” long because, as we’ve determined already, goldfish are a hearty bunch and prolific poopers.  A couple of months of this process and voilá, organic herbs and vegetables grown right in the classroom.

Now, before you think that you can feed the world on what you’ll be growing, this is just a little ten gallon tank.  The tray discussed above can support a few different kinds of herbs, some baby tomatoes and little peppers or other lightweight veggies, but don’t go looking to grow pumpkins or watermelons.  Still, it’s a first step before we think about a bigger project like the one they have going on at Commonwealth Charter Academy where they are doing a lot more than growing a few tomatoes.  

Want to grow fresh, organic vegetables that are easy on the planet?  Go ahead and get yourself an aquaponics tank.  You don’t need anything else but a few seeds and your little fishies!

pjlazos 2.4.19

 

Posted in aquaponics, ecosystems, farmed fish, fertilizers, fish, organic vegetables, overpopulation, science, Sustainability, Sustainable Living, water, water conservation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments