Monday, March 1, 2021

 Why Go to Space?    

   We recently witnessed the culmination of a stupendous scientific achievement when NASA landed the car-sized rover Perseverance on a rugged area of cold and distant Mars. Now the exciting exploration phase begins. We may even find proof that life once existed there.

   Such missions always bring out the Space Scoffers who argue that we shouldn’t be spending so much to explore space when we have so many dire problems right here on Earth. Why, they ask, are we doing such worthless stuff?

   Why do these scoffers never mention the trillions squandered on our massive military complex that benefits mankind not at all? The staggering 2021 defense budget is $705 billion, yet few question that. The 2021 NASA budget is $23.3 billion, only three percent of what defense is costing us.

   When we first went to the Moon one of the astronauts took a picture of Earth with the desolate alien horizon in the foreground. That photo changed mankind’s collective thinking. It was striking and deeply moving. A small sphere impossibly floating in the blackness of space, and so incredibly beautiful. There were no color-coded nations, no artificial boundaries, only verdant continents and vast cobalt blue oceans and pristine cloud veils. We saw our planet for what it is—a precious home in the hostile cold and the stellar violence and the lonely vastness.

   That astonishing photo had a profound effect. What followed were the beginnings of efforts to preserve and protect our home. The EPA, the NOAA, and annual Earth Day were founded. We banned leaded gas. Congress passed the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. The fledgling environmental movement suddenly grew up and became serious. Many nations joined in. The whole Moon program was worth it for these initiatives alone.

   Of course, we still have major problems with pollution and climate change and explosive population growth and poverty and inequality. And we do need to fix all that, which good people are trying their best to do.

   But only the space program will ultimately save us a few hundred or a thousand years from now. And it will do that with what we're just beginning to learn.

   The Moon was a steppingstone. Mars will be another "giant leap" for mankind. Right now, our species is confined to this vulnerable planet. An asteroid strike, a nuclear exchange, or a virus far more deadly than Covid all have the potential to decimate us. Outposts on the Moon and Mars could be our lifeboats, preserving enough of us so that one day, after the effects of some such catastrophe dissipate, we could re-seed Earth with our kind. No more reasons for taking these steps are necessary, yet as with the Moon program, we are sure to reap an additional incidental bounty of scientific knowledge along the way to Mars. (More about that next week.)

   One unarguable fact looms over all of this. Our star, the sun, cannot last forever. This is true because it only has a finite amount of fuel and it is already middle aged. It does not have to die in order to make our planet uninhabitable. It only needs to shift a fraction either way in its output over time to kill us off.

   The space effort is in its infancy. One day we’ll have to migrate over several generations to some young habitable planet orbiting a young healthy star, or our species will vanish from the Universe. We cannot hope to do that without first learning how. We’re taking the first tentative steps toward that goal.

   The Moon and Mars are teaching us.

   We might compare the space effort to the history of flight. It was just over a century ago that the Wright Brothers took to the sky in their fragile homemade biplane and look what has happened in aviation since. Nobody could have foreseen just how important air travel would become. The current Mars missions, wondrous as they are, only represent the beginnings of what will become an even grander adventure—our migration out among the stars.

Phil

www.philbowie.com

Check out the North Carolina suspense novel series Guns, Diamondback, Kllrs, and Deathsman in print or Kindle on Amazon for some distracting pandemic reading. Judging from reviews and e-mails, people seem to really like the yarns.

Monday, February 22, 2021

A Staggering Statistic 

   We’re more than a year into this terrible pandemic with half a million American deaths from it.

   That’s a sobering, staggering statistic. It's more than the American combat deaths in World War One, World War Two, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan combined. Difficult to comprehend.

   STILL far too many people are not masking or distancing and are thus putting themselves and others at grave risk.

   But an even more troubling fact is the refusal of so many among us to accept the free vaccines. Sorry, but I just don’t understand this. We’re told by those who certainly ought to know, like respected Dr. Fauci, that the vaccines are safe and highly effective. They represent some of the most successful scientific achievements ever.

   Naomi and I have had both shots and are deeply thankful for them. Side effects were minimal for both of us. We’ll continue to take all precautions for several reasons, including the troubling recent news about virus variants.

   Please consider accepting this life-saving measure when it’s your turn.

Phil

www.philbowie.com

 

 

Monday, February 15, 2021

A Skirmish in the Covid Battle

   Early on, as the Covid menace loomed ever larger and began killing thousands around the globe and all across America, the North Carolina Piedmont Authors Network saw the dire need for financial relief in many areas of society and decided to do something about it.

    The result became an independently published anthology with all proceeds channeling through the Book Industry Charitable Foundation to people in urgent need. Thirty-seven authors, including award winners and New York Times bestsellers, donated quality essays, letters, and fictional tales in fascinating variety to the effort, which is now available in print or Kindle as Writers Crushing Covid-19.  Some of the pieces have to do with the pandemic and personal loss. Many other pieces serve as excellent distracting reading that will amuse, enlighten, and satisfy any reader. I’m proud to have a modest tale of my own included, which earlier took second place in a UK short story contest against some stiff competition.

    As neighbor helps neighbor in the ongoing battle against this common invisible enemy that has sickened and killed so many of us, you can play a part in the fight if you’ll buy your own anthology copy. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed, and you’ll be contributing in a fine grass roots effort to help our fellow Americans.

    Here's a link to make ordering easy: https://www.amazon.com/Writers-Crushing-COVID-19-Anthology-Relief-ebook/dp/B088C3NVDV

    Please spread the word.

Phil

www.philbowie.com

Virus numbers are declining, but please keep masking and distancing. The fight is far from over.

 

Monday, February 8, 2021

A dozen Tips from the Top      

Just write your story, the one you know that you would like to read.  Michael Connelly

“I write exclusively for the reader. I’m not interested in winning prizes or critical acclaim. I just want to give readers a few good days of entertainment.”  Lee Child

 “Writers should be read, but neither seen nor heard.”  Daphne Du Maurier

“In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.”   Stephen King

“I don’t get writer’s block because I don’t believe in it. I believe you sit in front of the computer and force your fingers to get something on the screen.  Janet Evanovich

“The most important thing in writing is to have written. I can always fix a bad page. I can’t fix a blank one.  Nora Roberts

 “Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.”   Anne Sexton

 

 “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”  G. K. Chesterton

 “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”    George Orwell


 “Nothing but deadly determination enables me to ever write—it is rowing against wind and tide.

       —Harriet Beecher Stowe

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”  —Jack London

 “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”Robert Frost

Phil

www.philbowie.com Check out the NC suspense series.

Please mask up and distance until we get out of the dark Pandemic Woods.

 

Monday, February 1, 2021

Vanishing Species

   In the past decade alone ten species around our planet have gone extinct, including the Caribbean Monk Seal, the Madagascar Hippo, the Yangtze River Dolphin, the Formosan Clouded Leopard, the Japanese River Otter, and the West African Black Rhino, which at the start of the twentieth century numbered a million; now poached to extinction. In 2018, the last male Northern White Rhino, named Sudan, died, probably dooming that species as well, although there are valiant last-ditch efforts to bring them back using invitro fertilization. There are more Siberian tigers in captivity now than exist in the wild. 

   Once, millions of elephants roamed throughout Africa. Now the herds have declined to thousands, and they’re being driven ever closer to the bottomless extinction cliff.

   I wrote the novel Killing Ground to raise awareness of ongoing African elephant poaching across that vast and troubled continent, where more than 600 million people have no electricity, much less electric toothbrushes, where clean drinking water is scarce, basic sanitation is rare, and health care is minimal. With so many dire problems, the fates of wild creatures tend to warrant only relatively low priority.

   Please check out the story on my website: www.philbowie.com

   And please spread the word. A portion of proceeds goes to help those noble beasts.    

Phil

www.philbowie.com

Please mask up and distance; they're the best weapons we have to fight the killer virus until vaccines can push it back into its cave.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Do We Want to Win the Covid Battle?

     On Saturday, 2/23, I was among 856 people who received our first Pfizer shots at a clinic that day in New Bern. It was a commendable and highly efficient operation with the help of cordial volunteers. I’ve had no side effects and have full confidence in the experts who’ve told us this is one of the most safe and effective vaccines ever developed, with a near 100% protection record. The research and test results are online for all to see. I encourage everyone to take a vaccine as soon as one is available to them.

     Meanwhile, according to a recent study by the University of Southern California, only 50% of people across America are masking up and distancing, even after being advised repeatedly by experts such as Dr. Fauci for a year now that masks are the best weapon we have to fight this common enemy that is killing so many thousands of us. We also know that masking has worked very well in other countries.

     One American is now dying every 22 seconds. A drive around my hometown of New Bern revealed that people are certainly doing no better than average at mask wearing, and by all appearances are doing much worse. It seems such a simple thing to do to save our own lives and the lives of other Americans, an easy commonsense preventive measure. No more political than mandated restaurant sanitation inspections or washing one’s hands after handling some harmful substance or taking prescribed preventive medicines on a doctor's orders or wearing glasses to avoid bumping into things.

     A nurse friend at our local hospital told me, “I’ve seen so much tragedy over the past year. I wish the news channels would show several patients, with their identities concealed, fighting for their lives in the hospital, so people could see how badly they suffer. Maybe that would change some minds.”

     Mask wearing is a bold statement that you care about your family, your friends, and your neighbors. It can help save your life and the lives of others. It can help us win the battle against this common enemy.

Phil Bowie, author

www.philbowie.com See the popular NC suspense series on Amazon or my website.

Monday, January 18, 2021

One Bizarre Year

    We all well know that 2020 was tragic and bizarre beyond any prior imagining of it, and for numerous reasons it will be recorded in history along with other infamously deadly, divisive, and disruptive periods.

 But this year has not only been utterly crazy worldwide, I swear it's been hard to believe even on a           personal level.

Things that have gone south during 2020 in my own small world:

The computer hard drive cooling fan began screaming at random times. Replaced it myself.
A floor lamp in my sun room suddenly broke for no reason. Repaired it.
The car battery failed, luckily in the driveway. Replaced it.
A neighbor backed over my mailbox by mistake. Replaced the post and box.
The toilet quit flushing. Replaced the inner mechanism.
Hurricane Isaias littered the yard with debris and downed tree limbs. A two-day laborious
   cleanup ensued.
The microwave failed. Replaced it myself.
The TV speaker began sounding like it had a cold. Replaced the whole TV.
I was mowing a sick neighbor's yard and hit a newly installed natural gas meter box which was
    two inches above grade and wasn’t visible because of tall grass. Replaced the two mower
    blades and the drive belt.
My utility trailer lights stopped working. Replaced the plywood bed and rewired the lights.
My electric hedge trimmer quit. Took it apart and fixed the wiring.
My string trimmer joined the revolt and quit. Replaced the whole damn thing.
The brake lights on my Spyder motorcycle failed. Replaced the switch.
The car wiper blades unraveled like spaghetti. Replaced them.
My wristwatch stopped as though it didn’t like keeping 2020 time. I had one in reserve.
The skylight above my office started leaking. Replaced it, not without some difficulty.
My credit card company failed to send me a bill and I had to placate all my autopay accounts
    when the card company, without notice, declined payments. I was a bit put out.

    I’m beginning to wonder if there was something in the air besides Covid. Considering the larger world, however, my problems were minor inconveniences, all fixable.

    The dire issues leftover from 2020 will take all of us working together to resolve. First, let’s kill the killer virus by masking up, distancing, and practicing good hygiene.

    We can do this, people.

Phil

www.philbowie.com

Check out my NC suspense novel series through the website or on Amazon. People seem to like the yarns.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Writing Advice From a Grand Old Pro    

     Only a very few writers and their works endure for decades—even centuries—beyond their deaths. Shakespeare, Willa Cather, Virginia Woolf, and poets like Keats and Thoreau and Emily Dickinson can still move us with their words written long ago.

     Samuel Langhorne Clemens died in 1910, yet his works and his pen name Mark Twain live on. His book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has often been classed among the greatest American novels. He presented the following fiction writing commandments in his inimitable wry style. They are unarguably salient for all of us who write fiction but much of the advice applies equally well to other kinds of writing:

1. A tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.

2. The episodes of a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale and shall help develop it.

3. The personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and the reader shall always be able to tell the corpses from the others.

4. The personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there.

5. When the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and shall be such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject in hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say.

6. When the author describes the character of a personage in his tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description.

7. When a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, hand-tooled, seven-dollar Friendship's Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a Kentucky hillbilly at the end of it.

8. Crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader by either the author or the people in the tale.

9. The personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable.

10. The author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and their fate; and the author shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones.

11. The characters in a tale shall be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency.

The author should:

Say what he or she is proposing to say, not merely come near it.

Use the right word, not its second cousin.

Eschew surplusage.

Not omit necessary details.

Avoid slovenliness of form.

Use good grammar.

Phil

www.philbowie.com

Please mask up and distance. We have a ways to go before we're out of the dark woods.

For some distracting high adventure reading, try the John Hardin suspense series set in North Carolina. Easy ordering in print or Kindle through the website or on Amazon.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Things we have but never use

    These days, with ubiquitous cell phones and wide service coverage, a landline phone in most areas is about as necessary as a third sneaker, but many of us still cling to them. Likewise, with sharp and versatile smartphone photography and videography readily available in a pocket, only serious pros need digital cameras, but how many of us have one in a custom accessory bag getting dusty on a shelf?  I have two, one of them in an expensive bag full of 35 mm film equipment. Those digital photo frames are a great idea, but of the billions of photos we take every year, how many get preserved in them? Mine is empty while my phone is nearing capacity. Everybody has a few USB flash drives around with enough collective storage space for the entire estimated four million words (true) of the IRS code. I have one shaped like Snoopy that sits decoratively by my computer desk lamp with not a single byte in him. And how many unused apps and games are living on your electronic devices?

    I suspect a high percentage of gym memberships get contracted shortly after New Year’s Day as righteous resolutions. People attend faithfully for a while, then less and less often. Some buy their own exercise machines and devices that eventually get shunted aside in a garage or attic as expensive abodes for web-building spiders. Many bicycles share the same fate.

    Nothing is quite so inviting as spending a day out on a lake or river or offshore in your own boat, a pricey adult toy, but the friendly sales folk don’t tell you about the endless necessary accessories or the lengthy voyage preparation checklists or the post-voyage cleaning chore. Or the frequent high-dollar maintenance. Or the insurance. Or the gallons of fuel burned per mile. Or the sunburns and the pop-up thunderstorms. So, after the initial christening cruise and a few following jaunts, many boats spend most of their days tied up in marinas or sitting forlornly on their trailers in back yards.

     Unused children’s toys have a way of accumulating faster than senior citizen birthdays. Likewise, many musical instruments purchased for offspring and the rest of the family have not been plucked, tooted, fingered, or percussed for years. And how about all those pet toys our dogs and cats now disdain?

    Remember that slicer/dicer/chopper/juicer you saw at the state fair and simply had to have because it could cut tomatoes thin enough to see through and would help you lose ten pounds? Where is it now? You’ll find it stored away with all the pizza tools and the whole-banana-in-one-stroke slicer, and the cocktail shaker and the fondue set and the bread maker and the flower vases in various sizes.

     Most of us have monthly magazines we don’t read, cookbooks we rarely consult, extended warranties we didn’t need, yard and board games we don’t set up, and fancy clothing we never wear.

    All those things we once thought we needed fill our sheds and attics and garages and closets and drawers and computer files. But I’m betting you won’t stop buying even more such bright and shiny and seductive things.

    I confess right now that I probably won’t.

    This is America, after all, and I’m only human.

Phil   

www.philbowie.com

Start the New Year off with some exciting reading. Try the thriller novel series Guns, Diamondback, Kllrs, and Deathsman, set in the misty folds of the Great Smokies and endorsed by top gun bestselling authors Lee Child, Ridley Pearson, and Stephen Coonts. Available in print or Kindle from Amazon.