Category Archives: Society

A special Fearless Lady Byrd Adventure!

Black-capped Chickadee by Shutterstock

Virtue is a white robe only women get to wear…

Everything in this bird tour has gone awry: Lady Byrd wakes up too late, because the tour guide forgot to arrange the calls. In a foul mood, she has to get to the site herself. Then, her path crosses that of a pregnant birder in the throes of an abusive relationship, and cornered into a hard choice only women have to face.
What can an expert birder can do to lift this fog of sadness?

A spirited and hopeful story with the energetic Lady Byrd !


Chicks and Chickadees
A Fearless Lady Byrd Adventure

by Michèle Laframboise

1

See meeee!

The fluted call woke me from my heavy sleep. That chant was as familiar as my living room couch, coming from the tiny throat of a black-capped chickadee. The rest of the year, that small quick bird emitted a short chip, or a gleeful nasal, ha-han-han-haan, more reminiscent of a duck quack. They were the life of the party in any forest; hanging a lump of fat in a net is a sure way to invite them to any backyard.

But, as the snow melted, the perky chickadees’ thoughts turned away from food. They started singing that soft whistle.

See meee!

The bird was enjoying the morning; I wasn’t. At all.

A budding headache reminded me how foolish I had been to accept that glass of wine yesterday evening, even the light white brand that complemented the meal served at the hotel hosting our birding group. One blond lady was endlessly raving about her 150 mm cam, but I lost most of her words.

I pushed off the big fluffy down hotel coverlet from the bed, striking with my feet like I would a nighttime aggressor.

(I am lucky to never have experienced the event, but my niece had.)

(She did OK and sent the stupid horny student to the hospital. Nevertheless, I take extra precautions.)

I balanced myself to sit on the edge of the bed, my feet hanging inches from the floor. Extra-high hotel bed. A tingling feeling of something wrong nagged at me. Not the headache.

Then my eyes fell on the digital clock on the lacquered nightstand.

Ten past six. AM.

Holy Moly!

I was supposed to get up at five-thirty, eat a small collation and board the minibus that would take me and a dozen others to a secluded spot where a famed warbler had been last observed.

That warbler was that kind of elusive brownish bird, easier to hear than see. Its off-key colors made them the opposite of the chickadees: not only difficult to see, but a challenge at identifying.

Birders woke very early to get to the field at dawn. I winced. By now, the tour bus would have left with the rest of the group.

On my precedent birding tours, the organizers usually managed the morning calls so everyone was woken around the same hour, generally 5h00 or 5h30 AM.

I hadn’t met the Sully Bird Tours manager yet, only the athletic brown-haired girl, a Lucy Something (I should have remembered her name but the flight had left me slightly zombified) who greeted me at the airport and lifted my bags without breaking stride. She had driven me to this three-star hotel, where I later met the birding party, but the Sully of Sully’s tour had been apparently busy elsewhere.

If the manager was around her age, maybe he had left a Facebook message, Twitter notification or I don’t-know-what-tech alert to the tour members, not thinking that some tour members could be old enough to be his mother. Or grand mother, if he was that young.

I felt a surge of wrath towards this Ronald Sully. A competent birding tour manager would have made sure all members were up and seated before taking off.  Especially when said members had paid north of one thousand dollars for one week-end, all-inclusive package.

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A Lady Byrd Story

An owl perching
image from Canva.com

Superb Owl Day

For the first time, fearless Amanda Byrd must mind her turbulent grand-niece while on a special birding excursion, on the day of the SuperBowl.

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Our sharp-eyed guide pointed silently towards one of the husky, snow-powdered spruce branches. There, its mottled cream and caramel-brown plumage almost invisible against the tree background, its pale heart-shaped face marked with the dark marbles of its eyes, was a discreet nocturnal bird doing its best to avoid the sharp daylight.  

You rarely got to see a Barred owl from such a close distance, in a cold February afternoon, a meager dozen feet from the trail our small gaggle of birders was following. I didn’t even need my 8×42 Bushnell binoculars to take in its 22-inch long body from head to tail. I felt I could just stretch an arm to brush the fine down on its roundish head.

Well, not that I would do such an impolite gesture in front of my small niece. But my sister’s first grandchild had no such qualms herself.

“Hooo, hooo!” Mona said, her bright red mittens cupped in front of her mask, her brown eyes full of glee.

The owl’s neck moved like a tank turret to investigate the disturbance, one abyssally-dark eye blinking under a fluffy cream eyelid.

Most owls had gaudy-colored irises, orange or gold, framing round pupils; Barred owls had obsidian eyes, like black glass, the irises indistinct. Owl’s eyes were not slitted like cats’ to minimize incoming light, so the nocturnal bird protected its sensitive retinas.

Its downy eyelids, lowered at half-mast, gave him a perpetual air of either wisdom or sleepy annoyance.

Some owls’ tufted feathers reached out in points, like the Great horned owl, but this owl’s tapered along the round head.

When the owl’s head moved, Mona hooted happily.

“He looks like caramel ice cream with nuts!”

Count on children in the dead of winter to talk about ice cream, I thought, shivering.

The bird’s colors rather reminded me of an ill-fitting wool pull one of my own “aunties” had knitted for me (forgetting that teenage years were also growing up years) with a pattern of creamy whites and spatter of light brown stitches, at odds with the gaudy colors the sixties era favored.

I wore it for a time, to please my aunt, and as a camouflage to observe birds, Eventually, the mites found it. My mother unraveled the pull and knitted a warm scarf with it. Now that scarf, decades later, I wore in my winter bird watching, those muted hues being less aggressive.

I breathed in the cold air through the scarf and my thin face mask. The low temperatures prevented me from getting the scents of pine and fresh snow, but the odor of old wool impregnated with my mom’s patience remained present. I wore a heavier daypack with a thermos and collation.

But at least, it was a rewarding activity to go birding on the ‘Superb-Owl’ Sunday, as birders called this day. The name had been coined by a passionate birder in the 90s, and since then, many bird-lovers found out, in cities and woods alike, how quiet that peculiar Sunday was. The usual troves of weekend hikers also dried out on that day.

At this moment, my nephew, along with half the United States population, was lounging on his living room couch watching football players as colored as birds disputing a spectacular waste of money. (I’m told the commercial spots alone cost several millions.)

Meaning that, on Superbowl day, our small group of dedicated birders had the huge park near Albany, NY – and all its birds– to ourselves.

Including our own elusive, superb owls.

“Hoo, hoo!”

That is, if one of us did not scare said birds away with her bubbling enthusiasm.

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Ho-Ho-Ho!

Hoping all of you stay well!
Image

Be well…

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And keep your distances, like those two birds sitting in the cold.

Let your thoughts travel faster than light, if your bodies can’t.

Humans are not like birds, they can’t survive picking up seeds or buds

So remember to share in the joy, and to share, whatever and whenever  possible.

***

Brave new Worlds

BraveNewWorldsboxset

Worlds on the brink of apocalypse, or already there.
Nature’s wrath and dominion over humanity, and humanity’s folly incarnate.
Dark magic, terrifying tech, greed, ravaged environments, rare courage and grim hope in lost cities and fallen worlds.

Brave new worlds or last best hopes — Dare you glimpse the future?

Here Be Brave new Worlds – 13 SF & fantasy futuristic stories, novellas and novels, collected by U.K. author A. L. Butcher. I have read some stories by J.D. Brink, Rob Jeshonek and Leah Cutter previously, and their stories are a fine level.

My contribution is the dystopian story Ice Monarch. 

montage (1)

 

Come and get it, on the main platforms!

 

 

I fell down a rabbit hole… (The joy of researching)

2020MicheleMontreTard800

I did it again!

I am researching for a SF novel in preparation (the specifics I keep to myself for now) and, one interesting site after one fascinating site, found out that time compressed itself and most of the afternoon had fled down the rabbit hole!

I do not know if my scientific formation aggravates this time-sink habit. I hold a Master degree in geography, and so many aspect of macro-ecology do hold my interests!

Plus, even the very day-to-day concerns penetrates my Serious Writer mode.  From the over-usage of single-used plastics that keep turning up in the remotest places or the oceans, to the waste of my own pens and stylus, to the upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count, and my own, heart-warming geek love Valentine day short-story…

So, all those tiny bits cluttered like a planet aggregation process, dissolving my focus. Already 16h00?

As I mentioned previously, most of what I ‘m noting right now won’t ever make it to the novel you’ll read somewhere in the next year. Some of those, if I can’t place it in the novel, will turn up, greatly compressed, in one or two exploratory short-stories, set in the same universe.

What I will NOT do is integrating all that painstaking-ly gathered tidbits into the novel itself, under the form of some extra-large infodump, (or a rather lengthy explanation by a secondary character that will get killed in the next chapter).

Research as an iceberg

See research as the hidden part of the iceberg. What floats if what the reader experiences. If you tried to pull more of the iceberg over the water level, like I did in my first books (fortunately Daniel Sernine, my editor of the time, detected it) you would end up with an indigestible lump of details that weights down the storytelling.

Yes, I was one of those very interested in sharing all those cute details!

Yes it is soooo tempting to have your characters stop on a ridge and describe the wondrous landscape in excruciating details, over two or four pages! It is more palatable if the description is shorter, and punchy, like this one from a WIP:

The dunes went on and on, a pale sandbox barely contained by a row of angry mountains, each chipped and corroded summit vying for predominance.

Most of the research iceberg must stay invisible!

Solution is not dilution!

To keep our focus, it’s good to set limits, to avoid diluting our attention.

One solution in time management is to do the research after you complete writing a certain set number of words for the day. This is Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s method to limit the time spent in research. She also manage to get her research done before writing the novel, while she’s finishing the previous book.

Not the way of Dean Wesley Smith, who does his research as he writes, because some cool factoids will influence the story telling. I know it happened to a short-story I was researching for.

One obvious solution is to restrain the time passed on the social platforms. Or retire completely from social media in a period of rush. Julie E. Czerneda mentions it.

My own is setting a timer. Sometimes the amount of time is not enough and I prolong the time. Still work to do.

Or I use this experience to write a blog entry.

 


TL;DR : I lost time surfing the web for my research. Some remedies may apply


Flash news:

I had the joy of discovering that my last published SF story in Galaxies 60 (in French!)  is on the selection for the Grand Prix  de l’Imaginaire 2020.

A Delectable Issue of OnSpec

I’m late! I know…

Magazine Data File

Although I regularly miss the submission deadlines at On Spec, I do recommend this Canadian magazine published in Alberta.
I appreciate the work of Diane Walton and Barb Galler-Smith, whom I have had the pleasure of meeting at Canadian conventions, but many others writers, artists, editors are dedicated to making this magazine a success!

I read from one cover to another this number 109.

Sinkhole by Al Onia, takes place in Australia on desert background, where a meteor absorbs all the matter around, creating a hole. The story waves its way between the points of view of the scientists summoned there and Allan, an aborigine working at the cultural center built near Uluru Rock, who trusts in his spiritual traditions to ward off the threat.

Konstantine Kaoukakis’ non-fiction article To boldly go where no teacher has gone, gives a perspective from an English teacher who integrates fantasy and SF reading in his classes, genres that fascinates students who would otherwise be bored. And what efforts to get this new course accepted!

My favorite story, Joyhound, by Calder Hutchison, is a jewel of SF and black humor in a mafia setting, fedora hats included.  Imagine a werewolf who emits pheromones that make him so irresistible, that his prey, bathed in an ineffable happiness, strives to be eaten… In addition, the predator’s saliva is a painkiller. What a sublime treatment, what a heroine in shades of gray! And what link with the murky underworld of mafiosos? Read on and be happy!

Another story, “Two from the Field, Two from the Mill“, by Geoffrey Cole, who loves hockey a lot! Imagine that one night, all the dogs ascend to the sky and disappear, in a “rapture” way. Dogs, these devoted beings, left a big hole behind them, which even Christians seek to fill. A professional female hockey player (we have a visionary author there!) who also lost her dog, must manage the situation in her small town before it turns sour. I had read two stories from Cole, and I appreciate his humor and sport settings. The title hails from a biblical quote (Matthew 24, 36-42).

The other stories are Lee Chamney’s When they burned my bones, in which ghosts experiments such a difficult after-life, but it’s better than nothing! Fear and zen, then.

Spirits’ Price, by Van Aaron Hughes, a fantasy story, where you can get your desire with a well-told tale that appeals to spirits, but there’s a price tag to this. And what is the price of passing on the gift to your descendance?

Death is a Blindfold, by Rati Methrota, a story of encounter of the second type that leaves the witnesses a lasting impression. But if no one believes them and the ET never come back, why stick to it? This author, interviewed in this issue, has been inspired by reports of UFO sightings.

Two interviews complete the issue: Toronto-born Rati Methrota, a resident of Toronto, and René Martinez, the Cuban-born, Toronto-based cover artist who produces colorful and generous illustrations worth of Gaudi.

The prologue by Brent Jans, the organizer of Pure Speculation is worth the detour: “Everyone deserves to be Conned. Brent realizes that his event, which rolls very well, lacks diversity. He will fix it, even if it means skipping a year. The best sentence:

“I struggled with the idea that I was somehow to blame in an SF culture that could somehow accept aliens and elves, but passively and actively made it unsafe for women, people of color. LGBTQ2S, our Indigenous population -basically, anyone who was not me.”

We do not often get the point of view of an organizer, and his efforts to make his event accessible (like what I witnessed at the Utopiales in Nantes, who have sign language interpreters, and the first two rows of seats reserved for deaf people.)

By moving the premises and cutting the entrance fee, Brent made the Pure Speculation Festival accessible to wheelchairs, and for many low-income fans. And no, he did not regret it nor di he get bankrupted. Those are very encouraging words to read these days.

 

I’m Rich, so let me Out! (In Defence of the Peel Region)

Some times, the outer world impacts a lonely writer.  And the writer must leave her desk and gives her view on the debate. The Ontario Con governement is reviewing the Regions to slash some money. (I missed two meetings, but better late than never.)

Each governance level responds to specific needs that neither individuals themselves, or lower-tier municipalities can assume.

Thirsty?

A coda to the yesterday entry... and a new solution to a old riddle?

“Hey, I took the water from a pond and filtered it myself!  Would you drink it? “

I love my City: the cultural life is vibrant, the library services are stellar, the parks fabulous. There’s been a fantastic development of public transit system, and one express bus can get me to the Toronto subway in fifty-five minutes! Nothing to argue about my City’s work: at the moment, public transportation and affordable housing are very important priorities of the City of Mississauga.

I love my region for the incredible, and accessible services: the drinkable water filtration, the wastewater treatment, the recycling and composting and garbage pick up, the police, and other services you generally can’t do for yourself.

For instance; water treatment and waste water management services incur high cost that cannot be assumed by a lone municipality.

Then, this cry arises from Mississauga, the third most populated city of Ontario :

I’m rich! Let me outta here!

In every country on Earth, you will find this claim from richer provinces or states, declaring that they “pay more than their fair share” and “why should the others benefit from our labor?

It has been the case for Québec province in 1980 and 1995, it has been the case for Alberta, for the Penjab province in India, for the Congo it was the Katanga province (for a while in the 60s). But fortunes change with time.

I read the Mississauga City Q&A PDF documents about the independance, and it is clear they don’t have a clue about the real financial upheaval they will reap. They can’t even make previsions, and count on the Provincial, or the Federal level for help!

I’m richer than they are, so why shouda pay for’em?

Which is a bit of an arrogant stance.

Mississauga’s crusade to leave the Peel region aims to save a measly 85 million “lost” to the Regional budget. I wonder where is the real percentage of the Peel Region budget this 85 million represents. The fact that nowhere on the City website I can find this number is telling.

So I had to get to the Peel Region website to find their budget. Here it is for 2018: a whopping 3.1 BILLION! 

So 85 million divided by 3.1 billion (3100 millions) makes… a meager 0,027 – 2,7% !

(Projected costs of the options for Peel region from the Deloitte report, 2019)

As Mississauga is the largest population of the region with 721 000 residents, followed by Brampton, it is only a normal fluctuation.

The dissolution of the Region of Peel would have long-term consequences, and  I can guarantee that the cost will rise high over the meager 85 millions our city is rambling about.

Here is another rambling, for the road maintenance.

Oh, but Caledon has so many more roads than we do!

2004 Water Quality Summaries - Location Map

Have you looked at a map recently?

Caledon is a greater and less densely populated territory, with more kilometers of roads per resident. Those roads do require maintenance.

The consequences of leaving the road repairs costs to a smaller city will be a dramatic hike of the taxes on the farmers and remote residents of Caledon. Some farmers, hit with this hefty tax hike, might not be able to pursue their work, and sell their lands for developers, (more urban spread, loss of food autonomy).

Not two cities are exactly the same, in population or size, or economic activities. The region can moderate the needs.

Water, water !

(Image credits: Peel region)

I studied and consider myself knowledgeable in the field of water treatment and waste water management. The treatment processing facilities entail a cost that cannot be assumed by a lone municipality. Drinking water is among the essential services no one can skimp. Waste water treatment is a staple to preserve the fresh water bodies around.

Just building, and updating those utilities carry on a great financial charge. If Mississauga, being closer of the lake, takes full charge of its facility, at what price will it sell the service to the two other cities?

(A water treatment plant tour is organized on Saturday May 11th, between 10h and 18h.)

For those reasons, I would think twice before breaking something that is in working order.

Many services

The region of Peel is quite efficient to communicate the informations on new programs. Especially in the environmental protection of green areas, and for our sustainable gardens. They maintain a constant presence in farmers markets. The environmental services are stellar and I am counting on them.

Besides the clean water, the solid waste management is improving. The Peel police is a constant presence. Emergency srvices, shelters, waste collection, recycling centers…  Below is an overview of the areas of service.

(From, Region of Peel, 2018 budget)

In case of dissolution, many  services will be disturbed, or scattered. Just building, re-building, updating those utilities carry on a great financial charge. The solid waste treatment processing facility is located in Brampton… who will have to enter a service delivery agreement with Mississauga and Caledon.

As for the environmental protection, a region can be more difficult to subvert than a small, underfunded city. I fear the smaller cities alone won’t stand a chance against well-funded promoters and their bulldozers.

Decision making should be improved by more consultations with the Region and the public.

The Region functions can be recalibrated to satisfy its composing Cities, improving adequacy and eliminating redundancies, so that no city is left in the water.

Take the Regional government review survey

The Survey: Regional government review, closes on May 21, 2019.

Share your thoughts on governance, decision-making and service delivery functions in these regions.

Most questions are over-worded. Like this one:  Be prepared to elaborate on a simple yes, or no.

Are decisions in the upper-tier municipality made in a timely and efficient manner? Please explain.

“Please explain” : seriously?  Do you think that the average citizen has the free time to explain in details this “timely and efficient manner” ?

How exactly am I supposed to convey my satisfaction with my region (upper tier municipality) services without writing a PHD thesis?

 

 

Wonders of Vegas (2)

One hidden treasure of Las Vegas I discovered in March is a fine vegan restaurant, recommanded by my SF writer colleague Kris Rusch. Vegenation is an small, quiet space with a very convivial ambiance. !

The visitor is greeted by a profusion of green plants and quiet music.


Flowers (real ones) adorn each table, adding to the joy of eating. I ordered that specific, jar-contained meal at least three times!

Of course, the fact that the cutlery is metal and the glasses are reused Mason jars holds its charm! (Like the Panthère Verte restaurants in Montréal.)

It had been a looong time since I ate so well in a restaurant. Usually, my vegetarian choices are dim.

And do NOT start me on the plastic utensils and cups most budget-savvy places offer…

So I came back to the Vegenation not one, but four times, for a more excellent, fruit-filled breakfast. Here… everything was good! The meals were filling, generous and respectful of both animals and my budget!

And the meals were so satisfying, even the “meat” and “cheese” ingredients were 100% plant-based.

I was so happy of this discovery (and I am NOT a food/restauration reviewer) that I talked to a fine young man working there and asked a few questions.

Travis Schwantes, at the Vegenation. Travis was busy directing some redecorating of the restaurant, but he took the time to answer my questions.

Where did you grow-up, come from?

I grew up in Southern California and I lived in New Jersey for 15 years. My wife and I moved to Las Vegas 9 years ago.

What is your specific education ?  I have a bachelor in arts and Spanish literature.

Since how long does the Vegenation exist?
Since 2015.

How did you discover your vision, how did you came into the picture?

I met the owner, chef Donald Lemperle, who told me of his vision and I wanted to be a part of it. This was seven years ago. I have taken the tasks of manager since 1 year and a half.

What event did propel you towards the vegan lifestyle?

15 years ago I started at thinking about being a vegetarian. At the time  I got food poisoning from meat. At the time I was 22. Since then, I started meeting vegan people, and came to work here, and became inspired by all the people here. I started to watch documentaries, after watching a few, one day one day, my wife and I look at each other and decided let’s go vegan!

Any projects or  expansion in the foreable future?

I want to help lead this food revolution. To do that I am helping chef Donald achieve his vision of creating the first successful chain of plant-based restaurants. So that we can bring more positive changes to the communities.

Charming detail: non-binary bathrooms!

All in all, if you ever come to Las Vegas, step out of the Fremont Experience and turn your feet south. This nice little restaurant is on Carson av

To know more about this restaurant: Vegenation in Las Vegas.
WHERE? 616 e Carson ave, suite 120, Las Vegas, nv 89101

WHEN: opens everyday at 8am — closes at 8PM (Sunday-Thursday 8am) and 9 PM (Friday and Saturday)

HOW MUCH? reasonable: 8-15$ for a meal.

MY FAVORITE: the organic, fair-trade coffee… served in the pot, so it makes *four* good cups!

 

Wonders of Vegas (1)

Las Vegas has a Mayor, Carolyn Goodman, since 2011! She has succeeded her husband Oscar (deceased) and pursues progressive policies. Public transit is well developed, among other things.

Une vue iconique de Las vegas! Face à la Fremont Experience

An iconic view of Las Vegas, facing the Fremont Experience

I went there for a writer’s workshop. However, I discovered other less known and very positive aspects.

Murals

This week, I open with murals. In every city I visit, I try to capture the mural art. And Las Vegas has some amazing art.

This is behind the restaurant Vegenation, which I will talk about soon.Une murale qui anime un triste stationnement!

A mural that animates a sad parking lot! Near 6th Avenue

2019-03-04 11.32.11muraleAllongee

Another colorful mural, surrounding the same parking lot.

2019-03-04 12.26.53muraleAstronaute

The Astronaut and Unicorn hidden mural, visible from a back alley!

2019-03-04 17.42.48muraleGeante

Here, a very well sponsorised giant mural

2019-02-28 14.50.23trompeloeil

A well-thought illusion featuring a place long gone.

2019-02-28 14.52.49

A museum mural. Wheter the red splurt was designed or not to symbolize the fragility of wild life  reminds to be seen.

Rebellious murals

Corporate Welfare? Not a taker!

Some very unconventional murals surprizes the visitors!

2019-03-04 12.30.17muraleFemmeRose

This young pinkish girl seems to mock us!

2019-03-04 12.26.29murale

Another rebel graffiti. The woman’s face extends below on the asphalt, a mark of the artist’s craft. The other graffiti artists have (for the most part) respected this image!

2019-02-28 14.49.46muraleHommeChapeau

You can guess the hope and apprehension in this man’s eyes. (My other angle without the post was too sun-drenched to show.)

2019-03-04 11.27.40muraleFearNoFate

This dignified face may be a publicity stunt, but the Fear no Fate text looks like Fear no Hate, all in all a good message for me.

2019-03-04 11.31.33murale

As a science fiction writer I can’t ignore that one.

La plus belle murale de Las Vegas, selon moi

That dreamy mermaid closes this review.