Next Eagle Peak Quarterly Coming August 1, 2015

Coming Saturday, August 1st is the next Eagle Peak Quarterly. Great stuff in this edition:

  • A short story by John Maberry, The Fountain. You might find this piece about the Southwest reminiscent of the Twilight Zone TV series. Look The Fountain to be part of a short story collection that will come out later this year.
  • Part 3 of our series on being a writer. We will have more on actually publishing your work this time, where, how, how to use a blog or social media to attract a following and the raw truth that you will need to market your stuff yourself.
  • A 5-minute video from Wayne Shorter, famed jazz musician and member of the International Committee of Artists for Peace. The video has some music but focuses on encouragement to youth—overcoming obstacles.
  • A brief item on the famous quote by Daisaku Ikeda that a “A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of humankind.” What does this mean and how could this really happen.
  • A small sample of book reviews posted by author/publisher John Maberry on Goodreads.
  • Something new: Worthy of Note—a look at what’s on the web that we think you might find interesting. This time a synopsis and link to an item on Maria Popova’s site, Brain Pickings, one of our favorites.
  • The fourth in a series of introductions to web links on the Eagle Peak Press site, this time featuring Human Rights Watch.
  • Check out the Quarterly on Saturday or anytime in the next three months to find more stuff in the newly expanded edition.
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The Class Reunion–Another Granfalloon but Go Anyway?

Yes, I am that old; my 50th high school class reunion is coming up. With all the social media and web presence I have, they found me. It’s a small class, only 125, and 13 have already passed on. I spent only one year there–the senior year. So my recollections and connections are not so strong as those who spent four years there. The 1965 class, in fact, is the first one where students could have spent the entire four years there.  None of the three high schools I attended (due to moves beyond my control) offer fond memories. Vonnegut’s right, this is almost certainly a granfalloon. Doubtful there could be any cosmic significance to make it a karass. So why even think of going? Is showing those who might remember me, that I transcended the limitations and shortcomings that they could see back then enough? Seems kind of lame–see, I became somebody! Something makes me think there might be a reason to go. But I need to find it before I sign up.

Not that there is any reason for you to know, but if you have any notions of why I should go (or not) feel free to make a comment on that.

 

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Are You a Good Hacker or a Bad Hacker

With apologies to Frank Baum and the Wizard of Oz, it seems like an apt question today. It seems that one of the major evil ones in the cyber-warfare biz was recently hacked themselves and apparently put out of business. According to Matt Mullenweg (a founding developer of WordPress) “The Hacking Team,”

an Italian company that sold hacking tools, often to questionable governments, had all of their internal company data including emails, source code, everything released. . .which was apparently done by a hacker vigilante.

How bad is the Hacking Team? Apparently they sold tools to despotic (and some not so despotic , including the US) countries around the world to spy on or intercept communications of their citizens. It’s biggest customer was Mexico and the US was 9th. Sudan ranked 12th and Saudi Arabia 4th. The US DEA apparently made use of Hacking Team tools to conduct mass surveillance in Columbia, among other things.  But to get a more complete picture of what kind of assistance they offered to abuse human rights around the globe, see this link that Mullenweg posted on his brief synopsis to the Intercept site detailing the exploits of the Italian firm (Italy was its second largest customer).

What the vigilante hacker did to the Hacking Team apparently dismantled tools that governments have been using to do very bad things. For the despotic countries, those things are not surprising and universally condemned. For the others, it’s more that people don’t want to know about and if they find out, they may want the governments to stop. Arms dealers don’t discriminate in who they sell weapons too. Neither, apparently, do those who write the software tools to help regimes do the dirty work that one expects them too. What’s troubling is those not so obviously evil countries buying tools from the same supplier to the despots.

So are the vigilantes good or bad? What do you think? Start with Mullenweg’s item and check out additional links on the topic–how the Hacking Team got hacked and what this portends for the future.

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Great Links for Today

Trying something different, for me at least. Maybe others do this; I don’t know. Anyway, this is a melange of things that I noted today, that are  from the last couple days.

A little humor from Chris the Story Reading Ape’s Blog, which starts out like this (click the hyperlink to get the rest of this funny piece):

The Lone Ranger and Tonto were camping in the wilderness.

After they got their tent set up, both men fell sound asleep.

Some hours later, Tonto wakes the Lone Ranger and says,”‘Kemo Sabe, look towards sky, what you see?”

The Lone Ranger replies, “I see millions of stars.”

“What that tell you?” asked Tonto.

On a more serious note, for those of you who are authors, you may have heard about Amazon’s new Kindle Unlimited royalties based on pages read. As many have railed against this, there are some who have taken the time to debunk the misinformation that lead to great author angst. Most importantly, it applies only to Kindle books in KDP Select–participating in Kindle Unlimited’s borrow program. The borrow program enables readers to borrow, rather than buy, Kindle books. Subscribers pay a monthly fee for this privilege. From a pool that fee generates, Amazon provides a royalty to authors. The new policy will determine the amount paid to an author based on the number of pages actually read from books borrowed. Setting aside any privacy concerns that readers may have (they agree to the terms of service) this rewards authors whose books hold a reader’s interest. The policy has nothing to do with royalties for books sold, not borrowed. Whatever royalty the author gets is set at the outset as a percentage of the book’s price per the agreement with Amazon. To read more about this, see Chris McMullin’s detailed piece:  Myths about the new Kindle Unlimited Pages Read Policy.

Finally, no remarkable revelations, but some useful reminder tips on what to do when you can’t think of blog topics (happens to me frequently on this site; not so much on my writing site) from A. Piper Burgi can be found here. Here’s a sample; for the rest, try the link.

“- Who has influenced your writing? You could turn this into a collection of quotes from a particular author. You could also contact the author, and ask for an interview.

– What is happening in the publishing industry that interests you?

– Do you have any ideas for promoting books?

– Tell your readers about some of the places you have been. Have you been somewhere interesting recently? Don’t forget to include some photos. I still have to work on one of those posts myself.  =)

– How do you create the characters in your book? Perhaps you could write about where your ideas come from. Are your characters based on people you have met?”

 

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Cutting Off the Chain of Hate–Martin Luther King’s Words, Timely as Ever

The shootings at Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina by a young man intent on fomenting a race war. Other churches burned across the South. Homophobes incensed at the notion of same sex marriage vow resistance to the Supreme Court decision. Donald Trump calls Mexicans rapists and drug dealers. Yes hate is abundant still in America. Pronouncements by all the courts in the land, all the legislation passed to prohibit hate-based actions will not alter the hearts and minds of people.  In a recent piece on Brain Pickings, the blog site of Maria Popova, can be found this quote from MLK:

“Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethic of love to the center of our lives.”

bookcover of "A Testament of Hope"
Cover of “A Testament of Hope”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cut off the chain of hate–a simple enough concept, yet seemingly so difficult. It begins with an identification, a categorization, of others as different. It proceeds with the notion that the other has less value, deserves less respect–may even be less than human. Finally, responsibility for one’s own problems are the result of them. They have taken the jobs. Got the school slots you or your kids should have. Taken the money you should have received from your employer or from the government in the form of assistance. They have introduced drugs, depravity and other awful things into the community. They despoil  neighborhoods, disrupt institutions like marriage and generally ruin America as we know it.

Popova notes that:

“Although Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used Christian social ethics and the New Testament concept of “love” heavily in his writings and speeches, he was as influenced by Eastern spiritual traditions, Gandhi’s political writings, Buddhism’s notion of the interconnectedness of all beings, and Ancient Greek philosophy. His enduring ethos, at its core, is nonreligious — rather, it champions a set of moral, spiritual, and civic responsibilities that fortify our humanity, individually and collectively.”

As a Buddhist myself, I can attest to the principle of the interconnectedness, the interdependence of all. We live in a physical, as well as a social environment. That social environment in fact is a reflection of our inner selves. View others with disdain or worse yet, hatred, and the consequences are entirely predictable. Buddhism at it’s core is a humanistic religion–not one based on commandments not far removed from the court decisions and the legislation modeled on them which fail to alter human misbehavior. Bodhisattva Never Disparaging is an allegorical character whose humanistic behavior centered on bowing to all he met while praising them as Buddhas, needing only to awaken and assuring them that he could never despise them.

As a consequence, people hit him with sticks or threw stones at him. Compare what happened to Gandhi, King and countless others. Popova goes on to describe at some length, the six pillars of nonviolent resistance set forth in King’s essay, before addressing the ancient Greek principle of Agape. I mention it here to connect it to the perspective of the Bodhisattva noted above. Here is the quote  from King that Popova includes in her piece:

“Agape means understanding, redeeming good will for all men. It is an overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless, and creative. It is not set in motion by any quality or function of its object… Agape is disinterested love. It is a love in which the individual seeks not his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people, or any qualities people possess. It begins by loving others for their sakes. It is an entirely “neighbor-regarding concern for others,” which discovers the neighbor in every man it meets. Therefore, agape makes no distinction between friends and enemy; it is directed toward both. If one loves an individual merely on account of his friendliness, he loves him for the sake of the benefits to be gained from the friendship, rather than for the friend’s own sake. Consequently, the best way to assure oneself that love is disinterested is to have love for the enemy-neighbor from whom you can expect no good in return, but only hostility and persecution.”

Whether the love of agape, the humanism of Buddhism or some other perspective, the essential task is to stop blaming others–stop making others them, and stop hating them.

 

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Rest Required After the Vacation

Do you find you are extra tired, in need of rest after a vacation? Although we tried to be sensible about our daily activities, we still ended up that way. Hence this post is a day late. But we enjoyed the trip nonetheless–to southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. Here’s some tips and some highlights.

Ride the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad. It’s a short (64 miles) but slow trip on restored cars pulled by an old steam locomotive. Traveling on narrow gauge rails along canyons between Chama, New Mexico and Antonito, Colorado the trip offers views that taking the highway can’t match.

The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad enroute to Chama

Visit the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park near Montrose, Colorado. It has wonderful and sometimes scary views for those with acrophobia.

Canyon wall with color striations as if it were painted, with view of river far below
Painted Wall Black Canyon of the Gunnison

It’s easy to get to yet is not packed with people like Mesa Verde National Park near Cortez, Colorado

cliff dwelling structure at Mesa Verde
One of the rooms at Mesa Verde

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

or worse still, the very popular (for good reason) Arches National Park in Utah. You can see other interesting, although not as spectacular, sights in Canyonlands National Park nearby Arches with far fewer people to compete with for views or parking spaces.

Two arches, one behind the other
Double arch at Arches National Park

Don’t go to the Utah attractions from mid-May through August if you don’t like crowds or hot weather. It’s mid-90s to 100 degrees at Arches during those months. You also need to get a very early start to get a parking space at the more popular sites.

A more out of the way place to visit is Natural Bridges National Monument. It’s worth a look if you have time and less busy, like Canyonlands.

A naturally formed bridge--opening in rock formed by water
One of the natural bridges at the national monument
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Bring the Buddha to Work–Forget the Donuts

No donut

 

Ah, the birthdays, the retirements and other farewells. An office can be a fattening place if one is not careful. Strange then, how difficult it is to take off the pounds now–sensibly or otherwise. It’s over a decade since I last spent my days in a cubicle farm. Maybe it’s just the metabolism slowing down, yes that must be it. Nature’s way of telling one that “this is your body, get used to it!” So what then of the donuts? I used to have them more, but have cut back on them, like the other treats. Greg Martin, a friend of many years, often encouraged workers with this aphorism, “bring the Buddha to work, let others bring the donuts.” The point being this, all have the innate potential for enlightenment–for Buddhahood. The Buddha is not some transcendent being or a balding fat-bellied character who welcomes one into a Chinese restaurant. Oh, no; he or she is a person of wisdom and compassion to share. A much better treat–and with no added calories, to share with coworkers. Much more likely to enhance morale and increase productivity than the occasional donut. Of course one can bring broccoli and hummus, but that only goes over well with a small segment of the office and most likely leaves the others feeling morose or annoyed. So I pass along the suggestion to others with office issues, at least the ones who may be practicing Buddhism or feel so inclined.

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Excessive Force and Shooting Unarmed People–What to Do?

There is a process in the news media that is similar to the herd effect. Once moving in a direction, like cattle or bison, the news media all starts on the same path. Currently, and for some time now, an oft recurring focus has been on police behavior. Shooting unarmed people. People who may or may not actually have committed any offense other than not promptly complying with a command by an officer to stop, raise their hands or fall to the ground. Some of those people are under the influence of drugs. Some are mentally ill and behaving in a fashion that to an officer may look violent or dangerous to them. A majority, at least of the ones reported on, are black males.

In many other cases individuals are not shot. Instead, they are beaten with batons, fists or other handy objects. They are pressed to the ground with officer’s knees to their backs. After being shackled at least by the wrists and often by the ankles as well, the beatings often continue.

It’s difficult to understand how a person bound hand and foot can pose a threat to an armed police officer, sheriff or other member of law enforcement. It’s even more difficult to comprehend why it might be necessary to shoot and kill an unarmed individual. It’s difficult to understand why people are suffocated by being pressed face down into the ground.

I’ve blogged about this before. Does anything I have to say make any difference? I can’t say, but it seems I must, in good conscience, keep doing so. Shortly, I will offer some thoughts on changes that should be made. In the meantime, a little balance. Being in law enforcement is a dangerous and difficult thing. Most who are face death or serious injury on a regular basis. They often must deal with violent, hardened criminals who may want nothing more than to continue their criminal behavior and see officers as obstacles to that pursuit. So it is understandable that some of the officers themselves become hardened. Like anyone else, they bring to their job the biases that they have acquired at home, in their neighborhood and on the job.

It’s clear that some police departments have problems. When the U.S. Justice Department investigates them and finds a pattern and practice of unlawful behavior–excessive force, too frequent unjustified use of deadly force, this is obvious. Consent decrees are entered into. Do they help? The officers  may laugh at or resent cultural diversity training. Some, who are too resistant to retraining and reformation may have to go, as must the leadership that has tolerated the bad behavior.  But how about these options:

  • A return to community policing–with officers in neighborhoods, sponsoring activities, partnering with local organizations in community events
  • Recognition and rewards (such as pay increases, promotions and the like) not just for closing cases but for reductions in crime concomitant reductions in complaints of excessive force or shooting of unarmed people
  • Outfitting departments with more non-lethal alternatives for subduing suspects–tasers have been around for some time, but other products have been available as well, especially for crowd control, that may be adaptable to use on individuals–foam, nets, auditory devices that induce nausea, pepper spray (currently often a part of excessive force complaints when sprayed on innocent bystanders), rubber bullets, etc. Technology has been available for decades to make deadly force unnecessary.
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John Maberry’s Reblog of TSRA Guest Post

This appeared in the May 29, 2015 Chris the Story Reading Ape Blog

I always wanted to be a writer, from the time in second grade when my teacher sent a short story I wrote to Scholastic. My first rejection letter. I read a lot—sometimes, but not as much as writers are supposed to do. The summer of my 16th year, after my mother passed away, I read 75 science fiction books. An escape, a healing time. I joined the creative writing club in school, writing things that as I look back at them now, were written reasonably well, with short declarative sentences and few complex or compound paragraphs with multiple dependent clauses that legal writing brought about. It took some time after law school to be able to write normally again. Working in local government didn’t help either, with the need to write analytical reports with recommendations to the local governing body. I did, however, also write readable consumer education guides and brochures for a time.

A full time job, a house, a family and outside activities left no time for the childhood dream of writing fiction. That came in retirement, entering the “Third Age,” gave me the time to spend. Before getting to the fiction I had to write the memoir. Originally it would be an antiwar screed, coming from a year spent in what former U.S. Senator and Vice President Hubert Humphrey called “our great adventure”—the Vietnam War. An adventure it was not. A loss of innocence and a shattering of illusions it was. By the time the book began, a few decades after the experience, the antiwar elements were still there but it had now become something much more. It’s a story about refreshing the ideals, finding new hope and a purpose to replace the innocence that could never return and the illusions that were misplaced anyway.

WfWAgents were not falling at my feet to sell my book to publishers. So I went my own way, grabbing the domain name Eagle Peak Press (Eagle Peak is a reference to the Buddhist place of enlightenment—too much to explain here), and the same name for my publishing company to put on the cover and printed it via a POD publisher, Lulu.com. Waiting for Westmoreland came out in print in September, 2007. The eBooks came later—there were not a lot of them out there then anyway.

We relocated from the hot, humid and very crowded DC Megalopolis (Northern Virginia, actually) to the dry and more temperate clime of southwestern New Mexico in 2011. From a six million population metropolitan area to a 12,000 population small town—a wonderful change. No traffic, peace and quiet and all the ambience a writer could ask for. It’s not really all brown; cactus flowers, agave blooms and flowering shrubs and weeds that don’t exist back east. We even have a dog again. Everybody has dogs here. They bring them into stores with them (on a leash). We all have pickup trucks. It’s a cultural imperative; everyone residing in the Southwest must have at least one pickup per household.

John Maberry 03

 

That’s me then, on R & R in Hawaii, 1967 and now, relaxing with my friend Larry and me at the daughter’s wedding in 2013. I never wear ties anymore, except for weddings and funerals.

John Maberry 02

Writing is fun. I love writing. Blogging, social media. Short stories, essays, humor, satire. But it’s novels I want to write. Sci-fi, mysteries/crime fiction and maybe more. Some say a writer should focus on one genre. I can’t do it. My tastes are too eclectic. In my blog, Views from Eagle Peak, I do:

  • Political satire
  • Humor
  • Financial advice or commentary
  • Legal tips
  • Writing tips
  • Miscellaneous essays and more

Maybe I’ll write a humorous financial advice book. Maybe a satire of reality TV, if that is even possible to satirize. If I hurry, before the vampire craze is entirely gone, maybe a semi-funny story (not likely enough there to carry a novel) about a vampire unable to digest blood—in order to survive he must take a pill called something like heme-aid.

So, where can you get Waiting for Westmoreland? Here’s some of the place. Almost any other online bookseller will have it and most brick and mortar stores will order it for store pickup. The lowest prices in America are at Lulu.

Want to see more of what I am writing now? Or see what I am reading or recommend? What I am up to on social media? Go to these other sites:

Seeing things as they really are, without the illusions or delusions

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