Going On The Account: Say… What?!?

I got word just now that North Carolina is going to make it illegal to accurately predict sea level changes.

Yes, the same people that have a very narrow definition of marriage are going to out-crazy themselves with an act covering how the state will predict the rise in sea levels.  House Bill 819 goes on to state in Section 2.(e) the following:

The Division of Coastal Management shall be the only State agency authorized to develop rates of sea-level rise and shall do so only at the request of the Commission. These rates shall only be determined using historical data, and these data shall be limited to the time period following the year 1900.  Rates of sea-level rise may be extrapolated linearly to estimate future rates of rise but shall not include scenarios of accelerated rates of sea-level rise. Rates of sea-level rise shall not be one rate for the entire coast but, rather, the Division shall consider separately oceanfront and estuarine shorelines.

What are they, HIGH?  Not that I’d suggest the North Carolina legislature is enmeshed in the thrall of addictive plant products that get users hooked  to the point of causing a major health crisis.

Then again…

But seriously, really?  That a state would legislate a scientific process by discarding logic and game the system so as to be able to make it illegal to do anything other than putting their fingers in their ears and going Nyah Nyah Nyah Nyah  ad infinitum until the bad smart person just gives up?

What do they think this is, 1633?

I went back to some of the notes and files I put together for doing…   well, you know…  and saw how the Tarheels fared in the scenario I had.  On average between calm periods and the extended inundations during a now-extended hurricane season, Wilmington International Airport is under an inlet to the sea that rolled over Southport and Carolina Beach, Beaufort and Cape Hatteras are great places to scuba dive, and Camp Lejune is in an even better defensive position now that it’s on a peninsula.

But after reading this, I might want to see if there’s more to be done onto them to be mentioned in the back end of the book.  I’ve seen climate change deniers of all stripes, many of whom are starting to realize lately that yes, there is something going on here and it may be time to rethink the denial, but this just makes me want to get all Books of Samuel on their asses.

There’s denial that’s just plain stupid, and then there’s this, something criminal that will hurt thousands of people.  If this does not kill them, then it will certainly ruin them through economic disincentive, their properties either uninsured or under-insured thanks to poor risk assessment legislated into existence by narrow minded folks who probably live inland away from the impending disaster.  And again, those without the means will pay the most when the time comes, bearing the cost of another’s foolishness.

Part of me hopes that this becomes for the climate denial movement the high-water mark.  (Pun not intended; oh hell, maybe it was…)   Once word gets out that people need to change the law to keep their fantasies alive and spit on facts and observation,  that maybe this would wake people up and get them to see that much of the “doubt” is really a psy-op campaign by special interests to allow them to keep a very enriching status quo in place.

Mind you, I never thought a statehouse would actually go this far to deny climate change, so it might get a little wetter before it dries out…

Going On The Account: Down To The Sea In Ships

I’m the one on the right; I almost joined this crew in Brooklyn, until I saw his ship; frankly,  the accommodations aboard that boat left a lot to be desired…

Actually, he was just the first  option before me* when I went looking for a ship as I suggested I might.  As the USS Wasp was doing liberty call in Manhattan, we went to Brooklyn where we thought it’d be easier to go for a ship there.  And truth to tell, when we saw and boarded the Cuauhtemoc and the Juan Sebastian de Elcano, we thought they would have been worth hoisting the Jolly Roger atop their mainmast.

But they were both well accompanied by the JS Shirane, the FNS Pohjanmaa and the HMCS Iroquois, two destroyers and a mine layer.  And the Pohjanmaa actually took part in EU NAVFOR, which gives them recent hands-on experience that made me think twice about it.

Well, that and the fact that it’d be rude to seize a navy training vessel, cause an international incident, give Brooklyn a bad name, and that a party of five civilians against scores of naval cadets aboard either tall ship supported by the navies of three countries and the NYPD were really really bad odds…

Still, it was worth it for the tours aboard all five ships.  My thanks to all seamen who were gracious in allowing us aboard, and who are still welcoming boarders through Tuesday, May 29th according to the official schedule.

Well, yeah, part of me thinks it could have been fun if we’d made an effort…

But, then again…

Thanks again for bringing the camera, Susan

* Though in all seriousness, this gentleman was there to bring attention to PortSide New York, which turned the tanker Mary A. Whalen into a cultural institution and is looking for support.  If you get a chance, visit their site and see what you can do to help them find a better berth for her.

Going On The Account: Oh, So THAT’S What It Means…

The other day, I got late notice about National Flash Fiction Day, and in the spirit of the event provided my own entry.

For my efforts, I got a nice note from the organizers, who closed with, “Shame you didn’t know until so late, but you are perfectly placed for next year, now!”

And for a moment, I sat there and asked myself, Placed for next year…?

You see, the truth of the matter is, when I heard the term “flash fiction,” I sort of assumed that the descriptive discussed more than just the brief length of the piece.

Silly, right?

I saw the term in context of Peter Denton’s contribution to the day (a good read, BTW), and maybe it was the hour, the mishigas I was in the midst of, whatever it was, I assumed that part of the flash fiction experience involved not just the size of the story, but the speed of competition.


So here I was being asked to do a piece that didn’t allow me my usual process, which meant thinking about something, taking it apart over a few different angles, dealing with the thousands of Necessary Distractions swirling about me, getting to a place physically and emotionally after dealing with all of that (sometimes through ill grace, which I’m trying to cut down on), maybe have a few drinks before I run through a draft, take a break to socialize and play a video game, re-do the draft and apply a little more polish, repeating as necessary, starting over if after a few times it feels way too wrong.  And if you think reading that run on sentence was rough, try living it…


No, I just bolted when I thought there was this need for a piece with a small window before me to get it out there, and I just cut through and set it loose quickly.  And I did it in an expedient seventeen minutes.


So yeah, I’m kind of an idiot as far as understanding what flash fiction is all about.


But still, seventeen minutes from finding an open market to publication, now that’s got to count for something, ain’t it…?

Going On The Account: Wait, It’s What? Gimme A Sec…

So how come no one told me today was National Flash Fiction Day?

Seriously, who’s responsible for this?  Where was the press, the PR campaign? Why didn’t Hallmark release a card that I could send someone…?

I heard about it with barely enough time, and took a few seconds to put this together:


In A Flash

She got sickened when her brain processed what was under his coat.

He’d stepped out from behind two cars, a brown blur that changed color and shape before she could process putting one foot before the other.  She stood there in horror as she realized what she was seeing, then turned to run, irrational instinct taking over before she could think.

The iron gates between the buildings on the block opened and she noticed a woman poking out her head.  When she motioned with her hand to come on in, she didn’t think, she just did.

“There’s a creep out there,” the startled woman said as she took shelter.  “He could be a maniac and try something worse.”

“I could imagine,” said the other woman as she closed the iron gate, adjusting the large sunglasses on her face.  “It’s not safe in this neighborhood, you know.”

“How do you mean?”

“Had you heard about the disappearances of all those young women the last few nights?”

“No,” said the victimized woman, “I heard nothing.”

“Ah.  Well, lucky then.  Good thing, I guess.  How are you feeling?”

“Better, thank you.”

“Yes, calmer I hope.  You’re welcome to stay here a while.”

“Thank you,” she replied, starting to smile…

…just as her host removed her sunglasses at the right time.

She stood there in horror as she realized what she was seeing, but could not turn to run, her smile stuck permanently to her face faster than she could think.

She put her glasses back on her face as the flasher came in through the open gates.  “Did I pick a good one, Mistress?” he asked her.

“Oh, she’s quite nice,” she replied.  “I think she’ll go well over in that corner of the garden.”

The man lifted the new statue to move it to its new spot as the secret gorgon admired some of her other recent petrified prizes…


Sure, it’s obvious, but I heard “flash fiction” and this was the first thing that came to mind.

OK, maybe not the first, but I didn’t want to tangle with either King Features Syndicate or DC Comics, so…

Going On the Account: Your Mother Should Know

There was an obit just published for Mike McGrady, the ringleader behind the writing of Naked Came the Stranger, which was the Fifty Shades of Grey of its day in that it was a racy book that people couldn’t stop talking about, even if they had a hard time trying to get themselves to read it.

The thing about McGrady’s work was, in addition to being bluer than an army of Blue Meanies, it was also a literary hoax.  He gathered together some of his co-workers, fellow journalists who wrote for Newsday, and cobbled together a Harold Robbins rip-off to make a point about how people’s tastes have developed as of late.  The plan included passing off his sister-in-law as the writer of a deliberately trashy work and holding off revealing its origin and intent until a minimum number of sales were made.

And in the end, it was a relatively harmless hoax.  It wasn’t as embarrassing and angst-laden as James Frey’s breakout mess, and McGrady didn’t turn this into a means to build a literary sweatshop, going back to his typewriter the way Cincinnatus returned to the farm when his adventures were over.

And looking back on that time and comparing it to today, I want to know:  Where’s our Naked Came the Stranger?  Why hasn’t someone come forth and done a deliberately bad Twilight clone, passing off their aunt as the writer of the fun-house mirror held up to us to remind people that sometimes we go for bad choices like a kid at a buffet that only hits the desserts?  Have we all lost our sense of fun, and maybe our nerve in the face of big media companies wanting to build franchises out of books like that who are willing to sue us silly to protect their properties?  Are we that willing to let stuff just sit there that we can’t creatively say no to like that?


Sometimes, I do miss the good ol’ days…

Going On The Account: Getting Out Of The Water

Word came today that the European Union forces fighting piracy off Somalia struck ashore at Harardhere.

It was inevitable, of course, that they took the fight ashore.  And more pirates ended their travels and trials ashore than at sea; we note this every time we sing about “the shores of Tripoli.”

That said, five vessels blown up on the beach is hardly an effective campaign.  And had there not been signs of an emerging renewed centralized government in Somalia, this would not have made much of a difference.  It still may not, and just storming the beach is no guarantor of success.  Sometimes that leads to success, and sometimes it doesn’t in the long run, but the truth is that showing up in arms doesn’t resolve the issue, stability ashore does.  And shooting up the beach is not reason enough to keep raids from going out, only having an alternative to piracy is, which you don’t provide people through threats alone.


There’s some real fear that some of the hostages in pirate hands may pay for this attack and other shore incursions should they come. The bigger fear is that there’s escalation without engagement, and that a solution will be lost by more power flowing clumsily from the barrel of a gun…

Going On The Account: Writ Larger

The above came from a review of Lives of the Novelists that appeared in today’s NY TIMES, as did this piece about the “writer in the family” (guilty) and, of more important and interest here on deck, this piece on a writer’s output in the era of e-readers.

Yes, even on Mother’s Day, I still got in a lot of reading.  Not that I neglected anyone; I enjoyed spending time with you this morning, Mom, and both Susan and her mother said they had a blast over dinner.

Please excuse the personal notes, they were required.

But anyway,when they go on in the piece about needing to come out with more content, how doing one novel a year is now considered slacking, there’s only one word for that:


That said, there was this line from Julie Bosman’s article:

“I almost feel sorry for authors these days with how much publishers are asking of them,” [Jennifer Enderlin, associate publisher of St. Martin’s Paperbacks] said. “We always say, ‘How about a little novella that we can sell for 99 cents?’ ”

Now that sounds interesting.  Trying to have new writers do what James Patterson does is a bit unfair, as the man is an industry unto himself, after all, but a novella every few months, that sounds doable.  Consider such works like Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener or Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which can tax readers on many levels save for their length; an industrious writer wanting to take “publish or perish” to a harmful conclusion might well be able to meet both the demands of the muse and the sleep cycle by doing one a quarter.

I could just imagine Stephen King releasing Different Seasons if he were writing it today for an electronic market over the course of the year on equinox and solstice as they came up…

Beyond stunt release dates, and yes, I might do something involving folks going on the account to be released every September 19th myself,  there’s the idea of doing shorter works for the price of a good five-and-dime paperback from back in the day.  [Yeah, I’m showing my age…]  It sounds like it might be the way to go, for some projects I’m percolating here; a chance to take things to another level by offering ongoing tales for a nominal fee that’s less than the financial commitment a novel requires.  Sort of meeting in the middle, as it were.

Meanwhile, as for the above graphic:  Let me put a bean on this square, and here, and this one and that one and…


Oh come on, the writers looking at this all thought the same thing, I bet…

Going On The Account: Sightings and Soundings

I be just getting me hull righted after a great swell, which is a Talk Like a Pirate Day-appropriate statement that means, “Oy!  The tsurus I’ve had, you don’t want to know.”  I’ve been out of it for a bit and need to share a few bits of interest, to prove I’m alive and not willing to have me booty pried from me dead hands just yet, which means- well, that’s actually pretty straightforward, so…

A semi-viral video is going around the Web after getting flagged via Bloomberg of an action taken last year aboard the bulk carrier Avocet by her security detail, provided by the Trident Group.  The headcam for a member of the security detail shows the hired guards first attempting to repel the pirates approaching the vessel, which was 120 miles off the Somali coast.  When the launch collides into the Avocet’s hull, the guards kept firing on her, and still fired as the launch slid down the ship’s hull.

Brutal?  Sure.  Expected?  Certainly.  Justified?  That’s the question people looking at the situation are pondering.  The fact that this was an act of piracy and that the ship had a right to defend itself, versus the wonton application of force which as displayed by the headcam can feel excessive; that’s not an easy choice one has to make.

Just keep in mind that whatever else you may conclude as you watch the video and more news comes out about it (provided it’s not buried under a host of other stories, some of them of legitimate import), the last thing you should be is surprised.  People should have seen this coming, after all…

Considering that as this video and incident get attention, word comes of the seizure of the M/T Smyrni while in transit in the Arabian Sea.  This of course complicates things as you do a gut check; the only quick comfort to come is that if you do have to deliberate this, then there’s still something in you that approaches emotion…

And if rather than debate yourself about this, you would rather try and be as practical about the situation as possible, there’s a handy piece over at The Atlantic about how to negotiate your way out of being seized by pirates.  It’s a little tongue in cheek, which may be in poor taste to those who know some of the people currently guests of the Somalis, so sensitivity warnings ahoy…

Speaking of those recognizable, the Royal Navy is no longer actively engaged in piracy interdiction missions off Somalis.  The main reason behind the pullback appears to be lack of funds, which is rionic as it was Somali poverty that got this mess started in the first place.  What’s interesting is that the British fight may well be taken up by the Germans, who just approved an expanded mission in the theater.  Which means the Somalis had better know what they should do if an unfamiliar ship trains her guns on them and over the loudspeaker comes, “Bereiten Sie sich Beobachter an Bord, Piraten sein!

Speaking of warnings, a piece by James Hansen that appeared at the New York Times discusses the threat to the global climate posed by Canada exploiting its tar sands oil.  With some reports out there indicating that even if not a single drop is pressed out of the ground in Alberta, we may already be seeing some of the Midwest dustbowl Hansen predicts anyway.  The big takeaway from the piece is that there’s discussion of tar sands coming that doesn’t place this strictly as a US policy issue; finally, some recognition down on this side of the 49th that not every decision on this issue comes from the power centers in Houston Washington, that Ottawa has a say too.

Which, of course, is something our children will know better…