Being nearly ancient, this whole social media thing seems to me to be entirely confusing, impenetrable, and confusing, so while tomorrow a giveaway of the ebook version of Strong Heart starts, for five days, your humble scribe will be on the road in his ancient chariot over in the high desert – eastern Washington, Oregon, western Idaho – stopping at indie bookstores and encouraging them to carry his tale. One store and one store owner at a time, towns apart, miles apart, serving their own local markets, their own readers.
From next Tuesday May 30 through Saturday June 1 IronTwine Press is offering a FREE ebook download of Strong Heart to anyone who wants. Anyone. That means YOU. Download this ebook for free and then read it whenever you have the time. And, if you do download the tale, post a review, ok? Thanks. So make a note or whatever it is we do these days to remind ourselves.
Saturday June 3 at Neverendingbooks in Bothell, Washington, at 2pm, there will be a Strong Heart reading and discussion.
Saturday June 10 at noontime at the Edmonds Bookshop in Edmonds Washington there will be a Strong Heart reading and discussion.
Here’s more shots from my coastal and high desert bookstore road trip last week. It’s back to the high desert next week as well….car’s hanging in there….
The bear is, in many cultures, a totem animal, a being of power and wisdom. The largest bears today are either Polar Bears or the Alaskan Brown Bear. They can weigh up to 1700 pounds. Bears are omnivorous – they can eat anything, and usually do – berries, small mammals, certain plants, and of course fish, salmon. I have seen bears in the wild a few times, usually black bears, which if not with cubs are relatively harmless and safe. Once I was hiking alone on the Skyline Trail in Olympic National Park, miles form anyone else and up high, and a magnificent black bear, so black its coat shone purple, rose thirty years down the slope from me, facing me, watching. We stared at each other for a long time. Then the bear shrugged and turned back downhill.
A bear once roamed North America that was the largest land mammal predator that ever lived, anywhere on earth. This was the short face bear. This bear weighed over a ton, stood 12 feet high, could reach as high as 15 feet, could run 40 miles an hour, and only ate meat. This great bear went extinct 12,000 years ago, when the ice age ended, when all the other great animals – the dire wolf, the American lion, the mammoth, the mastodon – disappeared as well. There was a period when we humans lived alongside short face bears – a short time if current theories of human migration to North America over the land bridge are believed, 12,000 to 15,000 years ago – or a long time, maybe thousands of years, if you believe humans have been in North America for 60,000, 80,000 even 150,000 years. And this means that humans had to survive, clothe ourselves, capture food, and find shelter, while these carnivorous bears roamed the land.
Imagine running into one of these. This is an accurate reproduction of a short face bear, with me standing before it to show scale, that was displayed in the Victoria Canada Royal Museum last fall. Just think about it. This is what leapt into the tale I was writing. I had to deal with it. It wasn’t easy.
Almost had a huge hiccup on my bookstore visit road trip. Close call, perhaps you could say. My last day I had planned on heading back to Seattle from Leavenworth, but then at the last minute decided to go out to Chelan first, stop at a store there, then return to Seattle. Fifty four miles, Route 97 north, east side of the Columbia. It’s beautiful along that river.
Anyway I am driving north and see ahead over some cliffs and rocks a plume of smoke or dust. I think, mining, maybe they are blasting, it looked like the cloud from rock blasting. But then as I got closer I saw it was smoke, not dust, and then I got closer still and saw this:
A big semi was on fire. It had just happened. I was, like, the fourth car in line, and we crept by, somehow, even before real fire equipment had showed up, flaggers, any of that. So I crept by, instead of being stopped, as surely traffic then was, for hours. Took a shot as I passed:
Later at a gas station met a guy who had also been by the fire, he was trucker, told me the brakes had done something and caught fire. I went to Chelan, had a terrific visit with the owner of the bookstore there, Riverwalk Books, then drove back 97 Alt along the west side of the river. I could still see smoke rising where the truck had been, now almost two hours later.
I just finished a 5-day road trip visiting 30 bookstores in Washington and Oregon, a fantastic learning experience. Writers may be crazy, telling stories, but independent bookstore owners and workers are heroes, because it is THEY who display tales, and, in the perfect world, might even recommend yours! My trusty chariot, now at 150,000 miles and 17 years, took me 1400 miles, through Olympia, Chehalis, Ilwaco, Astoria, Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Lincoln City, Newport, Corvallis, Junction City, Eugene, Sun River, Bend, Sisters, Redmond, the Dalles, Hood River, Yakima, Ellensburg, Wenatchee, Chelan, Leavenworth, Enumclaw, Sumner, Mercer Island and back to Seattle. The bookstore folks were fantastic, just great, at every single place, making my seemingly hopeless task a lot less hopeless (hopefully). I drove through rain, wind, snow, sun, and hail, came upon a truck fire, and got lost twice. My favorite section was the drive north from Bend to the Dalles, the high eastern Oregon desert, a land of high sky, endless perspective, empty roads, and, when you stop and get out to stretch, standing by the side of the road, all you hear is the wind, birds, and then, after long minutes, the distant whine of a solitary approaching truck, still far from sight. Mount Hood to the left, Rainier to the right…..
OK. Book has been published. These days I am not sure what that means. There are somewhere in the range of 100,000 brand new novels produced each year in the U.S. alone. That’s 333 a DAY. For those few lucky enough to have a well funded publisher, or endless deep pockets, or previous best sellers, their new books are almost automatically picked up by bookstores everywhere. But for the rest of us, and boy am I in that group, the struggle is, I am learning, being noticed. How do you get noticed among the blizzard of alternatives?
One thing to increase visibility is a giveaway. My publisher is doing that for Strong Heart May 30 through June 3, any Kindle download will be FREE, with hopes enough people grab it to bump its sales figures enough to appear on everyone’s searches in the hope it then starts selling at its list price of $ 4.99. Maybe this will work, start something viral. That’s the great hope – something, somewhere, takes your book viral, a function of luck and timing and grace – because we authors cannot do much one person at a time face to face.
Yet….that’s what I am doing, now. Driving to bookstores, introducing myself, saying, here’s a copy, read it, or have someone on your staff read it, and if you like it order some for sale. Or take a few more on consignment. And here’s a couple fliers about the book, me, and some reviews, which are all terrific, by the way. I am going to Indie stores, one at a time. They are kind with me, at times very supportive, at other times the key person isn’t there and I need to come back, and I have already learned that while those of us who try to write are mostly crazy and in a hopeless chase, it is the bookstore owner who is the true hero, the real person of courage, because if a writer’s task seems hopeless, the bookseller’s seems twice as hard. Which book will sell? That’s a function of reputation, name recognition (I have zero of both), the cover and whether it draws people, the words on the back, and the general…feel. If the book is placed on a shelf, spine out, there is not much to see, but it’s a struggle to get the space to display the whole cover, even have something about the author or reviews. That’s my challenge – to get noticed then to get someone to decide this puppy will move. And it’s done one person and store at a time.
I am encouraged, though. The local Mailbox place in Ballard, where we do our mail, a small shop which also sells cards and knick-knacks, and occasional books, saw me mailing all these books out to reviewers and offered to place my book for sale. So I did, on consignment, this is a place that is not a bookstore, the customers are there for mail, not for books, and furthermore other books they had tried had not sold at all, and so the book was placed there on the counter, just the cover and behind it a sheet with some of my reviews, and the damn thing has been selling, about one copy a week. Something must be right, but still, the challenge, is, get the book in places where people will see it. And that means, bookstores.
The Pacific Northwest is pretty big. My car has 146,000 miles on it, a 17 year old Toyota I plan to drive until it has become a precious antique, and what I am doing these days is driving hither and yon and stopping at independent stores and making my pitch. I have the sense there is a stream of authors like me doing this, every day, but perhaps not. I do know from one store that they get 20 to 30 asks a week for readings and displays. I think most of those are via email.
I am in the mind of many now old. How the hell did I reach 70? Old school, me, a computer dinosaur, an old car, raised on the rules of personal contact and reaching people one person at a time, and having something worthwhile to offer if I am taking their time. That is hard, for something I saw appear beneath my hands, this book, but I carry my publisher’s faith and enjoyment of the tale, and the reactions of my readers, for the courage to walk in and say, “Hi, I’m an author and I’d like to convince you to sell my book here.”
This odyssey, the bookstore tour, started a couple weeks ago and continues. Maybe you’ll see me rattling down a northwest road somewhere, this now-retired guy, spending his time as a peddler, flogging his tale. Lotta driving, and to some surely a nightmare, but bookstore owners and workers are great people, fun to talk to, and their stores tend to be in pretty interesting communities. In between these road trips there are some local readings, and a library convention in Idaho in August for Pacific Northwest libraries I plan to attend, and then there the Pacific Northwest Bookseller’s Association event this fall. Plus, there are a few planned hikes, including one to take in the total eclipse of the sun August 21 deep in the Olympics, so maybe all this isn’t such a nightmare after all….
Everything relies on my humble chariot here….
24 Key Issues That Neither the Washington Elite Nor the Media Consider Worth Their Bother
By Andrew J. Bacevich
…let me cite some examples of national security issues that presently receive short shrift or are ignored altogether by those parts of the Fourth Estate said to help set the nation’s political agenda. To put it another way: Hey, Big Media, here are two dozen matters to which you’re not giving faintly adequate thought and attention.
1. Accomplishing the “mission”: Since the immediate aftermath of World War II, the United States has been committed to defending key allies in Europe and East Asia. Not long thereafter, U.S. security guarantees were extended to the Middle East as well. Under what circumstances can Americans expect nations in these regions to assume responsibility for managing their own affairs? To put it another way, when (if ever) might U.S. forces actually come home? And if it is incumbent upon the United States to police vast swaths of the planet in perpetuity, how should momentous changes in the international order — the rise of China, for example, or accelerating climate change — affect the U.S. approach to doing so?
2. American military supremacy: The United States military is undoubtedly the world’s finest. It’s also far and away the most generously funded, with policymakers offering U.S. troops no shortage of opportunities to practice their craft. So why doesn’t this great military ever win anything? Or put another way, why in recent decades have those forces been unable to accomplish Washington’s stated wartime objectives? Why has the now 15-year-old war on terror failed to result in even a single real success anywhere in the Greater Middle East? Could it be that we’ve taken the wrong approach? What should we be doing differently?
3. America’s empire of bases: The U.S. military today garrisons the planet in a fashion without historical precedent. Successive administrations, regardless of party, justify and perpetuate this policy by insisting that positioning U.S. forces in distant lands fosters peace, stability, and security. In the present century, however, perpetuating this practice has visibly had the opposite effect. In the eyes of many of those called upon to “host” American bases, the permanent presence of such forces smacks of occupation. They resist. Why should U.S. policymakers expect otherwise?
4. Supporting the troops: In present-day America, expressing reverence for those who serve in uniform is something akin to a religious obligation. Everyone professes to cherish America’s “warriors.” Yet such bountiful, if superficial, expressions of regard camouflage a growing gap between those who serve and those who applaud from the sidelines. Our present-day military system, based on the misnamed All-Volunteer Force, is neither democratic nor effective. Why has discussion and debate about its deficiencies not found a place among the nation’s political priorities?
5. Prerogatives of the commander-in-chief: Are there any military actions that the president of the United States may not order on his own authority? If so, what are they? Bit by bit, decade by decade, Congress has abdicated its assigned role in authorizing war. Today, it merely rubberstamps what presidents decide to do (or simply stays mum). Who does this deference to an imperial presidency benefit? Have U.S. policies thereby become more prudent, enlightened, and successful?
6. Assassin-in-chief: A policy of assassination, secretly implemented under the aegis of the CIA during the early Cold War, yielded few substantive successes. When the secrets were revealed, however, the U.S. government suffered considerable embarrassment, so much so that presidents foreswore politically motivated murder. After 9/11, however, Washington returned to the assassination business in a big way and on a global scale, using drones. Today, the only secret is the sequence of names on the current presidential hit list, euphemistically known as the White House “disposition matrix.” But does assassination actually advance U.S. interests (or does it merely recruit replacements for the terrorists it liquidates)? How can we measure its costs, whether direct or indirect? What dangers and vulnerabilities does this practice invite?
7. The war formerly known as the “Global War on Terrorism”: What precisely is Washington’s present strategy for defeating violent jihadism? What sequence of planned actions or steps is expected to yield success? If no such strategy exists, why is that the case? How is it that the absence of strategy — not to mention an agreed upon definition of “success” — doesn’t even qualify for discussion here?
8. The campaign formerly known as Operation Enduring Freedom: The conflict commonly referred to as the Afghanistan War is now the longest in U.S. history — having lasted longer than the Civil War, World War I, and World War II combined. What is the Pentagon’s plan for concluding that conflict? When might Americans expect it to end? On what terms?
9. The Gulf: Americans once believed that their prosperity and way of life depended on having assured access to Persian Gulf oil. Today, that is no longer the case. The United States is once more an oil exporter. Available and accessible reserves of oil and natural gas in North America are far greater than was once believed. Yet the assumption that the Persian Gulf still qualifies as crucial to American national security persists in Washington. Why?
10. Hyping terrorism: Each year terrorist attacks kill far fewer Americans than do auto accidents, drug overdoses, or even lightning strikes. Yet in the allocation of government resources, preventing terrorist attacks takes precedence over preventing all three of the others combined. Why is that?
11. Deaths that matter and deaths that don’t: Why do terrorist attacks that kill a handful of Europeans command infinitely more American attention than do terrorist attacks that kill far larger numbers of Arabs? A terrorist attack that kills citizens of France or Belgium elicits from the United States heartfelt expressions of sympathy and solidarity. A terrorist attack that kills Egyptians or Iraqis elicits shrugs. Why the difference? To what extent does race provide the answer to that question?
12. Israeli nukes: What purpose is served by indulging the pretense that Israel does not have nuclear weapons?
13. Peace in the Holy Land: What purpose is served by indulging illusions that a “two-state solution” offers a plausible resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? As remorselessly as white settlers once encroached upon territory inhabited by Native American tribes, Israeli settlers expand their presence in the occupied territories year by year. As they do, the likelihood of creating a viable Palestinian state becomes ever more improbable. To pretend otherwise is the equivalent of thinking that one day President Trump might prefer the rusticity of Camp David to the glitz of Mar-a-Lago.
14. Merchandizing death: When it comes to arms sales, there is no need to Make America Great Again. The U.S. ranks number one by a comfortable margin, with long-time allies Saudi Arabia and Israel leading recipients of those arms. Each year, the Saudis (per capita gross domestic product $20,000) purchase hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. weapons. Israel (per capita gross domestic product $38,000) gets several billion dollars worth of such weaponry annually courtesy of the American taxpayer. If the Saudis pay for U.S. arms, why shouldn’t the Israelis? They can certainly afford to do so.
15. Our friends the Saudis (I): Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on September 11, 2001, were Saudis. What does that fact signify?
16. Our friends the Saudis (II): If indeed Saudi Arabia and Iran are competing to determine which nation will enjoy the upper hand in the Persian Gulf, why should the United States favor Saudi Arabia? In what sense do Saudi values align more closely with American values than do Iranian ones?
17. Our friends the Pakistanis: Pakistan behaves like a rogue state. It is a nuclear weapons proliferator. It supports the Taliban. For years, it provided sanctuary to Osama bin Laden. Yet U.S. policymakers treat Pakistan as if it were an ally. Why? In what ways do U.S. and Pakistani interests or values coincide? If there are none, why not say so?
18. Free-loading Europeans: Why can’t Europe, “whole and free,” its population and economy considerably larger than Russia’s, defend itself? It’s altogether commendable that U.S. policymakers should express support for Polish independence and root for the Baltic republics. But how does it make sense for the United States to care more about the wellbeing of people living in Eastern Europe than do people living in Western Europe?
19. The mother of all “special relationships”: The United States and the United Kingdom have a “special relationship” dating from the days of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Apart from keeping the Public Broadcasting Service supplied with costume dramas and stories featuring eccentric detectives, what is the rationale for that partnership today? Why should U.S. relations with Great Britain, a fading power, be any more “special” than its relations with a rising power like India? Why should the bonds connecting Americans and Britons be any more intimate than those connecting Americans and Mexicans? Why does a republic now approaching the 241st anniversary of its independence still need a “mother country”?
20. The old nuclear disarmament razzmatazz: American presidents routinely cite their hope for the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons. Yet the U.S. maintains nuclear strike forces on full alert, has embarked on a costly and comprehensive trillion-dollar modernization of its nuclear arsenal, and even refuses to adopt a no-first-use posture when it comes to nuclear war. The truth is that the United States will consider surrendering its nukes only after every other nation on the planet has done so first. How does American nuclear hypocrisy affect the prospects for global nuclear disarmament or even simply for the non-proliferation of such weaponry?
21. Double standards (I): American policymakers take it for granted that their country’s sphere of influence is global, which, in turn, provides the rationale for the deployment of U.S. military forces to scores of countries. Yet when it comes to nations like China, Russia, or Iran, Washington takes the position that spheres of influence are obsolete and a concept that should no longer be applicable to the practice of statecraft. So Chinese, Russian, and Iranian forces should remain where they belong — in China, Russia, and Iran. To stray beyond that constitutes a provocation, as well as a threat to global peace and order. Why should these other nations play by American rules? Why shouldn’t similar rules apply to the United States?
22. Double standards (II): Washington claims that it supports and upholds international law. Yet when international law gets in the way of what American policymakers want to do, they disregard it. They start wars, violate the sovereignty of other nations, and authorize agents of the United States to kidnap, imprison, torture, and kill. They do these things with impunity, only forced to reverse their actions on the rare occasions when U.S. courts find them illegal. Why should other powers treat international norms as sacrosanct since the United States does so only when convenient?
23. Double standards (III): The United States condemns the indiscriminate killing of civilians in wartime. Yet over the last three-quarters of a century, it killed civilians regularly and often on a massive scale. By what logic, since the 1940s, has the killing of Germans, Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Laotians, Cambodians, Afghans, and others by U.S. air power been any less reprehensible than the Syrian government’s use of “barrel bombs” to kill Syrians today? On what basis should Americans accept Pentagon claims that, when civilians are killed these days by U.S. forces, the acts are invariably accidental, whereas Syrian forces kill civilians intentionally and out of malice? Why exclude incompetence or the fog of war as explanations? And why, for instance, does the United States regularly gloss over or ignore altogether the noncombatants that Saudi forces (with U.S. assistance) are routinely killing in Yemen?
24. Moral obligations: When confronted with some egregious violation of human rights, members of the chattering classes frequently express an urge for the United States to “do something.” Holocaust analogies sprout like dandelions. Newspaper columnists recycle copy first used when Cambodians were slaughtering other Cambodians en masse or whenever Hutus and Tutsis went at it. Proponents of action — typically advocating military intervention — argue that the United States has a moral obligation to aid those victimized by injustice or cruelty anywhere on Earth. But what determines the pecking order of such moral obligations? Which comes first, a responsibility to redress the crimes of others or a responsibility to redress crimes committed by Americans? Who has a greater claim to U.S. assistance, Syrians suffering today under the boot of Bashar al-Assad or Iraqis, their country shattered by the U.S. invasion of 2003? Where do the Vietnamese fit into the queue? How about the Filipinos, brutally denied independence and forcibly incorporated into an American empire as the nineteenth century ended? Or African-Americans, whose ancestors were imported as slaves? Or, for that matter, dispossessed and disinherited Native Americans? Is there a statute of limitations that applies to moral obligations? And if not, shouldn’t those who have waited longest for justice or reparations receive priority attention?
A new article published in Science Magazine, and discussed on the Blog Ancient Origins, reveals that it may now be possible to extract ancient hominid DNA from the dirt in caves, and hence determine which humans may have used the cave, without needing skeletal evidence. Check out this article. I think the field is about to really bury us with new information, from all over the world, which will totally upend long held theories….for example, what if they now find Neanderthal and Erectus DNA in caves in Oregon or British Columbia? Just saying….
DNA Can Now be Extracted from Dirt! New Tech May Solve Many Mysteries of Human Origins
An amazing technological innovation in the study of DNA has been called a ‘game changer’ in the research into ancient humans and hominids. It may solve many of the mysteries that exist in relation to the origins of humans and could completely rewrite our family tree.
A new study published in the journal Science has revealed a technique that can extract human and hominid DNA from dirt – no bones needed! This means that by simply taking half a teaspoon of soil from a cave and running it through the new analysis, scientists will know if species of ancient hominids lived in that cave and who or what they were.
“This is pretty damn incredible,” said Rob Scott, an evolutionary anthropologist at Rutgers. Tom Higham, an Oxford professor who specializes in dating bones, called the discovery a “new era in Paleolithic archaeology.”
Paul Kozowyk, a PhD student working under the supervision of Marie Soressi, collecting sediment for genetic analyses at the archaeological site of Les Cottés, France. Credit: Marie Soressi.
Scientists have known for over a decade that DNA, which may have come from urine, feces, sweat, blood, semen or a decomposed body, can survive in ancient sediments, even for hundreds of thousands of years, but they had no way to analyze it. Just a teaspoon of dirt can contain trillions of fragments of DNA from dozens of different species.
However, research from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, discovered that they could cut through the clutter with a molecular ‘hook’ made from the mitochondrial DNA of modern humans. This means that essentially, they were able to pull out the fragments of DNA that specifically belonged to a human or hominid species.
The scientific team collected 85 sediment samples from seven archeological sites in Belgium, Croatia, France, Russia and Spain, covering a span of time from 550,000 to 14,000 years ago. With the new method, they were able to capture DNA fragments from Neanderthals and Denisovans, an enigmatic human ancestor that so far has only been found in single cave in Russia. They even identified Neanderthal DNA in a cave in Belgium where no bones had ever been found.
Denisova Cave in Russia, where the only trace of Denisovan DNA has been found (CC by SA 4.0)
“By isolating DNA directly from sediments, we can dramatically expand what we know about where people were, when they got there, and how long they stayed,” Beth Shapiro, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, told ScienceMag.
It is expected that the new technique will now become a standard method of analysis in the field of archaeology, much like radiocarbon dating. The next step will be to examine archaeological sites that have stone tools but no evidence of who made them. Many mysteries can now be solved.
“It could also reveal even more hominid species that we have not found bones for,” reports SmithsonianMag, “creating an even more complete human family tree.”
Top image: Vindija Cave in Croatia where Neanderthal DNA was found in cave sediment (CC by SA 2.0)
I think the howling, posturing, and great ruffling of academic feathers is about to seriously begin. It was one thing for a spear point in a Mastadon bone found in Sequim, Washington to be dated to 13,800 years ago, well before the supposed “Clovis” first human arrivals theory of 12,000 years ago. Then there’s a site up in the Yukon which recently verified findings over 24,000 years old, contested, of course. But NOW here is an article about Mastadon bones found in California, broken apart by humans for use and food, dated to 130,000 years ago. That was back during the Eemian warm period between glaciations 120,000 – 130,000 years ago, when sea levels were 20 feet higher than today, the weather 2 degrees C warmer…If this is true, if these dates hold, human evolutionary theory and paradigms will totally shift.
I’m just waiting for that totally verified 80,000 year old site emerging somewhere on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state with a modern human skeleton….whenever I’m out there, hiking, I’m looking for it, and some day it will appear. I know this.
Check out this article about worldwide trends over the last 200 years as regards human health, life expectancy, extreme poverty, and disease. In this current moment of “the sky is falling, we are doomed, everything is going to hell, the word is about to END” (sadly, this last might be true if military posturing results in miscalculation) it might be useful to see what the arc of several aspects of human health and life shows…..I know, I know, the next comments will be, “yeah, but…what about all the refugees, and wars, and resource constraints, and climate change?” Life is complex. But now and then maybe it’s a good thing to look at some real data over time, just to get perspective. Lord knows, we need a little of that, it seems…