State of the Union — How Are We Doing?

Barack Obama - By United States Senate [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Barack Obama – By United States Senate [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I am not a political “wonk” by any means of the imagination. But  I do feel it is important for everyone to watch, talk about, and think through our State of the Union address.  It is part of the wonderful process of democracy.  The State of the Union is one chance we have to listen in on what is essentially a huge board meeting–minus the Chief Financial Officer’s or Treasurer’s report.

President Obama and the Republican speaker, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, both did a fine job of outlining visions for the United States in the months ahead.  Did you have a chance to see it all?  Ms. McMorris Rodgers did not have any problems with water bottles or talking down to the audience, so as one pundit put it, “At least she did not give the comedians material for the next few weeks.”

The area that often draws my attention in the State of the Union is education.  Again, the president focused on early education and putting children in school at an earlier age.  This was a bit disappointing to me in that the thought was not followed up with better pay for teachers nor for a bigger issue in my mind, which is literacy.  I was talking about literacy with a sister and expert in education just a few days ago.  I asked her about a statistic I saw that has fewer and fewer people reading for pleasure, and more and more people unable to read.

“It’s not that they can’t read, Liesa,” she said.  “The problem is in comprehension.  Many people can work out words on a page, but they cannot put meaning into those words once read.” Ouch!

I knew instantly what she meant, as I have put down books like De Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, when the words start to lose meaning to me. And I have to wonder, at what level of reading do which authors run past us intellectually? Does an average IQ have the capacity to use reading to enlarge a social conversation, or are we, on average, bound to our oral histories as played out for us on television and in movies?

As an author, I’m definitely interested in literacy, and people having fun with the books and blog posts I write.  If they cannot understand what these 26 symbols are and how they combine to make words, logic, and vision happen, then where is our hope? How can we problem solve without written communication?

One of my readers here is Letizia.  She has a blog called Reading Interrupted.  Each post is an invitation to think and drink in the vision of a great reading life. If you haven’t had a chance to see this site, I’d highly recommend it.

And as for the State of the Union? Overall it seems we’re okay–perhaps average.  Excuse me.  I understand that the more you read, the more reading you’ll be able to do.  I’m off to find a good book. Have any suggestions?

 

Watch Out — It’s Coyote Season!

Have you ever been stalked? Had that feeling that no matter what you’re doing, someone is watching you, waiting for you to make a mistake, so they could pounce and hurt you? Maybe someone’s broken into your home or yard and left you feeling violated and paranoid.  This edgy feeling of something-not-quite-right may be less imagined than you think.

It’s coyote season.

Once only inhabitants of the American plains, the coyote, or American jackal, brush wolf, or prairie wolf is clever and dangerous, especially at this time of year.  I was working on a blog post for a client recently, and had the chance to talk with a Colorado’s Parks and Wildlife representative regarding coyotes. Apparently today, coyotes are just about everywhere. Literally.  I was told they live in 49 of our 50 states. Can you guess the one state where coyotes do not live?

Anyway, the coyote’s extremely adaptable nature makes living with or near humans a very real experience, and the incidents of these creatures interacting in a negative way with people is rising.  Until 2006 or 2007 Colorado experienced an average of one attack a year. Now the number has risen to 5 or 6 a year.  That may not seem like a lot in terms of the size of the human population around here, but the trend is alarming.

So what makes a coyote encounter so dangerous? I mean, the little guys are only about 35 pounds or so, right?

Friends at the dog park can list a lot of challenges.  First, because of their cleverness, coyotes form packs to lure out unsuspecting dogs and will tease them away from familiar territory, then the pack turns to kill and eat your dog.  Yes, your dog.  Not some stray or lost soul, but pets with good homes and loving families get fooled into the “chase me” game.

A few years ago at Chatfield State Park a puppy of about a year old became separated from his owner.  Although they looked long and hard for the dog, they had to leave over night. The next day the park rangers had found the dog–what was left of it–and told the owners not to bother trying to collect up its remains.

Then, these guys hunt everywhere.  That means toddlers and small children become unsafe, even in their own back yards!  If you have young ones, please do not leave them outside alone, even to go answer a phone or check on the stove. Okay, so this may seem a little extreme, but let me explain the criminal mind behind my warning.

Coyotes are like burglars.  They actually “case” neighborhoods and yards for opportunity.  If you leave out food or have the kind of environment they find “cozy,” they’ll be in your yard, whether you’re aware it or not. That bird feeder you use to attract our wonderful array of winged friends? It’s a welcome sign for coyotes. And leaving a dish of water out for Fluffy becomes finders keepers for the prairie jackal.

Now that coyotes are literally everywhere, wildlife-loving friends are not shooing them away, or putting the fear of humans into coyotes.  They’re taking pictures, and quietly enjoying a close encounter of the wildlife kind.  This emboldens brush wolves to stay and make your yard their home, your neighborhood their territory.

Like humans, coyotes are very territorial.  If man kills for the right to call some piece of land his, do you think coyotes are going to act differently?  And right now, in January and February, coyotes are partnering up and claiming territories for their own. The coyotes will see your dog as a threat to what’s theirs, and that means if your dog is playing by him or herself in what you think is your yard, the coyotes may see Fido as an invader to their territory.

Humans make this situation worse by not frightening off coyotes.  They reach for cameras instead of noise makers or even small stones. Coyotes learn human routines–because let’s face it, we tend to be creatures of habit–then use their knowledge of our behavioral patterns against us.  The result is a bite, a stolen piece of meat waiting to be barbecued, or a missing pet.

Here are some things you should do if you encounter a coyote:

  • Make noise–be scary. Horns, rocks in echo-making cans, shouting, whistling; all these things say you’re a dangerous and unfamiliar creature to the coyote
  • Do not run.  Slowly back off from your encounter.  The coyotes will watch you but you will not evoke their chase mechanism if you remain calm and confident in their presence
  • Keep your yard free of food, and water, two of the main elements coyotes look for in settling into your yard
  • Change your routine and claim your yard for your own.  Is it any wonder a coyote will come to call if your yard remains empty of human activity most of the time?  Think “use it or lose it” where your back yard is concerned.

You can learn more about coyotes at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website. It’s worth a look, before coyotes become the source of a new Stephen King novel. Ooh, so creepy!

Oh.  And the state that doesn’t have coyotes? Hawaii. But with the stealth and cleverness of the creature, there’s no reason Hawaii will stay coyote-less for long.  Watch out!

NOTE: Sorry my reading friend.  Pics today were blocked from loading.  Will try to add them later.

Daisy Update — Fingers Crossed

Hello my reading friend,

Here are a few updates regarding Daisy books, and my work as an author:

Yipee!

Five Star Publishing on FacebookAt last, I have sent off Sliced Vegetarian to the publisher.  Now all I have to do is wait for several weeks to see if this second Daisy Arthur Mystery meets Five Star’s needs for publishable work.  I don’t understand much about the review process, but I do know that if the senior editor likes this book, she will make a pitch to someone else in acquisitions and then the book “goes to the top.”  At any stage the work can be sent back with “rejection” on it, but only after it’s made the complete rounds favorably will I see an email that might start with the words, “I am pleased to contact you with an offer for publication . . .” Please keep your fingers crossed for Sliced Veggie.

NEW ROLE WITH MYSTERY WRITERS OF AMERICA

Mystery Writers of America logoI’m also excited to let you know that I was recently elected to “Membership Chair” for the Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America association.  This terrific organization is part of Mystery Writers of America, which has been in existence for more than 66 years.  You do not have to be a published mystery writer to join, but just someone interested in the crime, mystery and detection aspects of our fiction life.  Each month I go to the Denver Press Club and meet others interested in mystery and crime, and we listen to speakers on all sorts of interesting topics. If you’d like to become a member of either RMMWA or MWA, please let me know and I’ll send you information.

WRITING CONTESTS

Part of building an “author platform” is getting your name out there in the publishing world. To do this, you need to attend conferences, join organizations, and enter contests.  With that in mind, a few weeks ago I submitted Faith on the Rocks for consideration in the Colorado Book Awards, sponsored by ColoradoHumanities.org.  I’m also thinking about nominating Faith for Left Coast Crime’s Lefty award, which recognizes humorous mystery novels. While I will hope, hope, hope, I’m not truly expecting to win anything. It’s great to be in the game though.  Have you suggestions for contests I might enter?

CHARGING INTO THE NEXT DAISY

Okay, so I’m not even to outline mode yet, but wanted to let you know I’ve thought of a next topic for Daisy to play with.  On January first of this year, Colorado officially authorized people to posses small amounts of marijuana for recreational use. In my local paper, I see a debate over whether or not to allow a pot shop to open in our fair city. This is also a cash-based business, as the FDIC is involved with all banks, and marijuana is not legal on a national basis.  There is just too much good stuff here (and motivation to kill) for a mystery writer to leave the topic alone.

BUT I’M INTERESTED IN YOUR OPINION

Would you like me to open a new category and occasionally post my research about marijuana? Do you think Daisy may have an interesting time in a story called Pot Shots?  Please let me know, as I’d like to get started as soon as possible on the next Daisy Arthur Mystery.

For now, I’m off and running, before the whole day goes up in smoke!

Have a great week.