Welcome to Green Comet

These free novels, Creative Commons licensed Green Comet, and its sequels Parasite Puppeteers and The Francesians, tell an expansive story of love and adventure on an inhabited comet. To learn more about the trilogy, and for samples, visit the Welcome Page. To download the books, visit the downloads page.  The novel The Plainsrunner is available for purchase at these outlets.

Meanwhile … Enjoy Your Daily Crossword Puzzle

crossword puzzle
. One moment please.

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Irrigation for Tree Fruit

Credit Ben FrantzDale – CC-BY-SA

Guest Post

From time to time I will be publishing posts from guest authors whose writings I think will interest people. Of course, all opinions and assertions in these posts belong solely to the authors and do not necessarily agree with mine. Please direct your praise and criticism to the author. — rjb

Today’s guest author is Laird Smith

Laird Smith

Irrigation for Tree Fruit

This week I shall write about Wally Smith and his orchard irrigation.

Wally described the land he chose to buy, and I quote from his column dated December 22 1977: “…I had acquired 11 acres of what was classified as raw marginal land…” That meant wild rose bushes and poison ivy. The date of the purchase was sometime in 1934.

Wally had the good sense of purchasing land where the entire east side of the property had a creek, now named Park Rill, as its boundary. By this time “The Ditch” — a government financed concrete irrigation ditch which carried water from the Okanagan River through the central fruit growing areas in the Oliver BC district — had been built so that anyone wanting to use the river water could.

For Wally, his land was too far away from The “Ditch” and in 1934, Wally did not have the financial means to run pipe from The “Ditch” hookup to his land anyway, so he had to rely on Park Rill to provide irrigation for anything he planned to grow.

Wally built a water wheel which ran fine until the beavers objected to him interfering with their activities and plugged it up with mud and sticks. That was a constant battle ground until electricity came along and Wally installed a pump.

The actual watering of the trees involved making shallow, narrow, ditches in the ground along the tree rows. A flume carried the water from the water wheel to the earthen ditches and as the water flowed it soaked into the ground at each tree. The last tree in the row would get flooded while the others each got some. Sometimes the ditches plugged up so they had to be monitored. This was an inefficient way to equally water all the trees.

At some point Wally hooked up to buried pipes and brought the “Ditch” water to his property. I remember the metal flume running along the ridge, which was the highest part of the land. The end of the flume was blocked off forcing the water to back up to be released out of the flow holes. The flow holes spilled the water into the earthen ditches and down along the trees.

I know Wally was not happy with the job the earthen ditches did because as soon as he could he installed pump houses and sprinkler pipes. We had one pump house utilizing The “Ditch” water and two pump houses utilizing the water from Park Rill.

Using sprinkler pipes meant he could run five lines at the same time on twelve hour cycles and get the whole planting of eleven acres watered once a week.

During the late sixties or early seventies, he sold all but three acres. It was on those remaining acres that he decided to install a solid set irrigation system, all underground with just the sprinkler heads on short stems of pipe showing.

That was the best he could do as far as efficiency goes, turn on a valve, turn off a valve. There was a huge reduction in labor and waste was virtually eliminated, as long as you didn’t damage the sprinkler heads.

Incidentally, when I worked in the USA during the 1990’s, some tree fruit growers in north eastern Oregon were still using ditches to water their trees. I was appalled at the time, and remember thinking that Wally had abandoned that inefficient method by the early 1950’s.

Wally spent a lot of money on improving the land, but over the years of successive owners, most of the planting has returned to raw marginal land.

Laird Smith

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How Science is Reshaping the Race Debate

I’ve written about racism before. I think I’ve made it clear that I don’t think science can justify dividing us into “races.” The similarities among us are too great, and the differences within the “races” are also too great. As I have said, if you see races, you’re racist. Here’s a link to an article that covers the subject more thoroughly, including the admission that racists are not idiots. Not all of them, anyway. They know about the science too, and they know how to bend it to support their bias.

via How Science and Genetics are Reshaping the Race Debate of the 21st Century – The Seattle Star

Over the last decade, there have been hopes that the US has become a post-racial society, free of racial prejudice and discrimination. However, the most recent months indicate the contrary: race remains an incendiary issue. Race and racism are not new issues, but in today’s 21st century Trump-era, discussions about race are distinct from those of the past in that they possess an entirely new dimension: that of genetics and DNA.

Ancestry test kits are the new “it” item—and with their success is the tacit admission of our belief that our DNA can sort us into categories like the “five races:” African, European, Asian, Oceania, and Native American.

If separate racial or ethnic groups actually existed, we would expect to find “trademark” alleles and other genetic features that are characteristic of a single group but not present in any others. However, the 2002 Stanford study found that only 7.4% of over 4000 alleles were specific to one geographical region. Furthermore, even when region-specific alleles did appear, they only occurred in about 1% of the people from that region—hardly enough to be any kind of trademark.

In the biological and social sciences, the consensus is clear: race is a social construct, not a biological attribute.

… the broader public is not convinced of this. After all, if an Asian person looks so different from a European, how could they not be from distinct groups? Even if most scientists reject the concept of “race” as a biological concept, race exists, undeniably, as a social and political concept.

Despite the scientific consensus that humanity is more alike than unlike, the long history of racism is a somber reminder that throughout human history, a mere 0.1% of variation has been sufficient justification for committing all manner of discriminations and atrocities.

Mounting scientific evidence has shown that humans are fundamentally more similar than different from each other. Nonetheless, racism has persisted. Scientific findings are often ignored, or otherwise actively misinterpreted and misused to further racist agendas of extreme political groups.

If you’re interested in a synopsis of the current state of “race” and the science around it, follow the link to the original article.

via How Science and Genetics are Reshaping the Race Debate of the 21st Century – The Seattle Star


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Credit Ben FrantzDale – CC-BY-SA

Guest Post

From time to time I will be publishing posts from guest authors whose writings I think will interest people. Of course, all opinions and assertions in these posts belong solely to the authors and do not necessarily agree with mine. Please direct your praise and criticism to the author. — rjb

Today’s guest author is Laird Smith.

Laird Smith


Wally and Auntie Kay Smith appreciated hummingbirds. Wally pointed out a hummingbird nest in one of the apple trees with two tiny eggs in it. I was a child then and it was such a thrill to see them! We put up feeders where we could observe hummingbirds from the comfort of our house. Wally even put up a white backstop so he could photograph them at the feeder. Who doesn’t like hummingbirds? I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t like the remarkable little creatures.These birds however, are in jeopardy, even though they are protected under the Migratory Bird Act.

Recently, CBC radio interviewed a man named Pepper Trail, a criminal forensic ornithologist with the US Government, who spoke of the current problems besetting our beloved humming birds. But that is part of the problem, they are too beloved! Apparently the Mayan culture once looked at the hummingbird as a love charm and that frame of mind has been resurrected with the Mexican people as well as the Spanish speaking communities throughout the United States and Canada.

People in countries south of the U.S., are paid to harvest hummingbirds by the hundreds. Border Security has intercepted packages destined for the United States of America with at least 300 dead hummingbirds in each, all neatly and individually confined, complete with a verse or poem for each hopeful lover who buys the dead hummingbird.

Yes, these dead birds are being marketed as good luck charms, just as the lucky rabbit foot has been marketed here. The companies involved in this practice are very well organized according to Mr. Trail. The question is, how do you stop a cultural practice such as this love charm operation?

There are only so many hummingbirds to go around before they become extinct along with the many different species of wild flowers that are pollinated solely by hummingbirds. Then what are the people going to do for a love charm? They will use a fake one, but by then the irreparable damage will be done.

A solution then is to flood the current market with fake, cheaper hummingbirds. When you look around at what is available for fake birds, there are many that look incredibly realistic! There are other solutions too that I don’t know of. Perhaps make another bird a popular love charm such as the Starling, and when they become extinct, there will be no tragedy abounding!

How much time is there before our hummingbirds are all gone ? Two years, five years, certainly no more than ten years. When you really think about, it is inconceivable that our hummingbirds could all die as love charms by an uneducated humanity!

My hope is that the powers that be, financial powers in particular, will take notice of a potential love charm market available in fake hummingbirds for the Spanish speaking communities throughout North America; thereby preserving the lives of hundreds of real, live hummingbirds.

Just a note of clarification. There are readers who will take this article all wrong by thinking I’m blaming this problem on the people of North and South America who speak Spanish. The Spanish speaking communities just happen to be the ones I know about; there may be others who are involved in this ignorant decimation of our hummingbird populations. No matter who is partaking in this, it must stop as soon as possible, to avert the inconceivable.

Laird Smith

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Just a Friendly Debate

I have a collection of comics that I visit regularly and once in a while I like to share them here. For instance, here’s one about Jesus and Mo celebrating International Women’s day in their singular fashion. One source for comics is the Seattle Star, which runs a collection of them every Sunday. That’s where I learned about Ampersand, written by Barry Deutsch, and where I encountered today’s gem.

This comic is about how bigots try to disguise their bigotry by dressing it up as “debate.” This allows them to say all the hateful things they need to say while feeling as if they’re simply involved in an exchange of intellectual ideas. It reminds me a bit of the “debate” that someone who insulted and demeaned atheists wanted to have with me when I pointed out their bigotry. Later they objected to the use of the word “nonsense” to describe creationist thought, then directed me to an anti-evolution manual that was full of much worse. You can check out that “debate” here.

Barry Deutsch kindly makes a transcript of his cartoons. Here’s the one for the first panel of the cartoon in question today:

This cartoon has four panels, each of which takes place in a different setting, and with a different set of characters.


A man wearing a polo shirt and jeans follows a woman down the street. The woman is wearing a hoodie and is walking a small dog. The man is talking cheerfully, doing the “explaining with my hands” palms up gesture; the woman is looking back at him out of the corner of her eye and has raised her voice testily.

POLO SHIRT: So you see, when you “transgenders” insist you’re women, that’s you forcing society to along with your delusions. Let’s discuss this.


DOG (in thought balloon): Jerk!

Here’s a little more information about Barry Deutsch:

My name is Barry Deutsch, and I write and draw Ampersand, a political comic with a generally progressive sensibility. A new Ampersand comic appears in every issue of Dollars and Sense Magazine.

I’ve attended Oberlin College in Ohio in the late 1980s, the School of Visual Arts in New York City in the 1990s (where I was lucky enough to take classes from comics legend Will Eisner), and I finally graduated from Portland State University several years ago. While I was at PSU, my political cartoons won the Charles M. Schulz Award.

Aside from my political cartooning, my current comics project is my comic book Hereville, a fantasy adventure comic about an 11-year-old Jewish girl. You can also read some of my older comics here. And like everyone else in the world (alas), I have a blog.

I currently live in Portland, Oregon, in a bright blue house with bubble-gum-pink trim.

I strongly advise going to the Ampersand website to see the rest of this cartoon.

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On Volunteerism

Credit Ben FrantzDale – CC-BY-SA

Guest Post

From time to time I will be publishing posts from guest authors whose writings I think will interest people. Of course, all opinions and assertions in these posts belong solely to the authors and do not necessarily agree with mine. Please direct your praise and criticism to the author. This post makes reference to a specific community, but the overall message is more universal. — rjb

Today’s guest author is Laird Smith.

Laird Smith

On Volunteerism

Wally and Auntie Kay Smith moved to Oliver during the Dirty 30’s, built a house and stayed in it for thirty plus years before building another house 100 meters away and moving again.

There are many good things to say about staying in one place. Many residents live in Oliver who were born there, schooled there, married there, and chose to stay there and live out their lives in the same community.

Some chose to operate their parents farm or business or started a business themselves, all serving the community as best as they could. Their choice spared them the disruption of moving to a new community and starting over again. Moving is expensive, mentally, physically, emotionally, and materially. By experience I know this to be true for I have moved many times, always by choice.

There is one segment of our society that has very bad judgement, and continuously puts themselves in harms way as they go in and out of jail, which means starting over every time, everywhere they go. Of course some learn and stay out of jail, but that story is for another day.

I have written the odd time or two about my move and life in Walla Walla Washington during the 1990’s. I have also mentioned, I believe, about my involvement in the City Crime Watch organisation there. It was formed to integrate civilians with the police department to cooperatively protect the City from the criminal element which is always at large.

I would have continued my active involvement with the City Crime Watch but chose to return to Canada where we settled in Red Deer, Alberta. There I became active in a civilian advisory group working with the RCMP. After ten years I moved again, this time to Edmonton.

Now I’m connected with the Edmonton Community League Block Connectors. The Community Leagues all have Block Connectors which are a link between the local neighborhoods and the Community Leagues. These groups work together to administer the City strategies for the well being of everyone.

I have been reading in ODN about the need for volunteers in Oliver to assist the RCMP in community policing. One might say, ” hire more police, I don’t want to be involved in policing! ” Well folks, police are not being trained fast enough. Alberta alone requires 230 more RCMP just to maintain standard policing numbers.

With Alberta having that need, where does that put the rest of Canada let alone li’l old Oliver? The answer for Oliver is community policing. Citizens MUST be actively involved in volunteering with the RCMP. A recent article in ODN said, ” one 4 hour shift per month is all that is required. ” That doesn’t seem to be an expectation that is impossible to meet, is it?

Think of the goal, making the community safer by putting more eyes on the street in coordination with the federally hired officials ( RCMP ) who know the law to protect you while you volunteer. Your accompaniment will give the officials comfort in numbers.

Isn’t it time to take back the streets, the pathways, and the alleys of Oliver?

With the population of Oliver at 5000, if just 1% volunteer, that number is 50 men and women. If half a % volunteer, that number is 25 men and women which is perhaps more realistic. Surely 25 people out of 5000 can step forward and commit to 4 hours a month to help protect the community of Oliver from the criminal element which seek to undermine the vulnerable. We are all vulnerable at one time or another.

During the 1970’s, Auntie Kay Smith was active in motivating the citizens of Oliver to build an arena because of the need. Look at how the citizens responded, you have an arena meeting the needs of the people. Once again, the call is going out to the citizens of Oliver to respond to a need. Will you be willing to respond before the need reaches a crisis point?

Laird Smith

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In Defense of Disbelief

“Vierge Marie”by leo.jeje is licensed under CC BY 2.0

How appropriate that right after Laird’s post, On Spiritual Matters, I should come across this Scientific American article discussing belief and disbelief. The author explains how he was initially indoctrinated to believe in a particular theology, found it wanting, explored other avenues and eventually concluded that, rather than finding something he could believe in, he should accept that disbelief is just as valid. Interestingly, at least for me, he included science in the avenues he explored in his search for the answers to his existential questions.

So where does this leave me, in terms of my search for answers? I’ve given up hope that science can give us a single, objectively true solution to the mind-body problem, one true for everyone. Disbelief, I’ve decided, is the only rational stance to take toward alleged solutions, whether religious or scientific.

He understands how this can be unsettling for some people.

Those who yearn for certainty about who we really are might find disbelief unsatisfying, even frightening. You have no ground on which to stand, no assurance that God or science will take care of us, that everything is going to be okay.

But it’s right for him and he thinks it could be right for others as well. It’s a good article. I recommend reading it if these questions have ever occurred to you.

via In Defense of Disbelief: An Anti-Creed – Scientific American Blog Network


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On Spiritual Matters

Credit Ben FrantzDale – CC-BY-SA

Guest Post

From time to time I will be publishing posts from guest authors whose writings I think will interest people. Of course, all opinions and assertions in these posts belong solely to the authors and do not necessarily agree with mine. Please direct your praise and criticism to the author. — rjb

Today’s guest author is Laird Smith.

Laird Smith

On Spiritual Matters

Auntie Kay and Wally Smith attended the Oliver United Church the whole time they lived in the Oliver district. They and a number of fruit grower families as well as the odd teacher and town businessmen and their families also faithfully attended and supported the Church. It was that same Church where we children heard about Jesus Christ and God.

My understanding of God was limited to a great peace I sensed when I was in our dew or rain laden garden one morning at the age of four. How “church” related to that peace, I did not know. Even as a teenager I was unable to understand how God related to where I was at. For me it was all very confusing, but I was always a seeker of that elusive peace.

A little over a year ago, I wrote a series in ODN (a news aggregation site – rjb) about my experience with a Christian control church which influenced me for 27 years. My summary of that 27 years, 5 of which were spent reprogramming myself so I could live apart from the control church, was that I have not been able to define who God is. I just know there is something greater than myself. There is a goodness in the world which we can either fight or do our best to live with ( for lack of a better word ) the entity.

Leaving the control church was the best move for me at that time. I was reintroduced to the real world through driving taxi at night. Dealing with intoxicated people awakened me very fast to reality. In fact, I would say that the intoxicated are on the same level as the religious radicals, in that you are unable to reason with either of them. They both have their minds set and that is the way it has to be. As a taxi driver, trying to get everyone home safely, those opinions cannot be discussed even if they are so prejudiced and so wrong and so damaging, I just had to ignore them and get on with the job.

When I belonged to Toastmasters International, we were taught that constructive criticism is the foundation of change. The formula was in two parts; first point out a problem and second provide a solution. If only the problem is pointed out then we are just complainers. If no solution is provided then don’t bring up the problem. In the three control churches I attended ( in three different cities ), none of them taught their members how to provide constructive criticism. When criticism was leveled at the leadership, and it had spread, they blamed it on disgruntled, sinful members, and charged the whole congregation as being guilty so all had to pay. That came in the form of repentance as a group. For the incident I’m thinking of, the senior Pastor commanded seven hundred people to rise from their chairs during the morning service, and stand side by side ringing the sanctuary. The Pastor told everyone to kneel, I could not, being a critically minded Toastmaster. I remained standing trying to melt into the wall because I was the only member left standing. The Pastor commanded all to repent, I could not, again because the whole event was faulty. When all was said and done, I was never reproached for not participating.

One Biblical concept that I try to live by is to “be my brothers’ keeper.” We can also extend that to being a keeper of this good Earth. Help when you can, let someone drive in before you, open a door, pick up paper off the street, help paint a fence, walk a dog, etc, etc.

Several years ago I had two TIAs (Transient Ischemic Attacks,) known as mini strokes. After the first one, I experienced life in a way I’d not seen before. Every day was a delight! Being alive was wonderful! I had moments when a stream of euphoria would rise up from somewhere within me, absolutely delighting me, then something would interrupt me and the euphoria would be gone. I sensed a closeness to a divine presence unlike anything I’d ever had. The peace was there constantly, no longer elusive. I could think clearly when tackling a problem and then I knew the solution. That lasted twenty nine days then the second TIA took it all away, not that I’m unhappy with being alive, just that being alive is more difficult than it was, and the peace is back to being elusive.

I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to spend time in a different frame of mind. I’ve always known there is something greater than us humans. To actually experience it in such an unusual way through a brain altering stroke is a miracle. I count myself fortunate to have come out of the event in one piece.

Laird Smith

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Cumulus Flammagenitus

Credit Jeremy A Greene – CC-BY-SA

Cloud of the Day – Cumulus Flammagenitus

The International Cloud Atlas fifth edition, published in 2017, has included cloud types that were not recognized before, including types that are caused by humans and other unexpected sources. I’ve already posted on cirrus homogenitus, upper etage clouds forming from the condensation trails of aircraft. Today’s post is about cumulus flammagenitus, cumulus clouds formed by convection caused by a heat source. The heat source could be a wildfire or a volcano, for example, but the cloud can’t be just smoke or ash. It must include water droplets to qualify as a cloud. This type of cloud is also known by the name “pyrocumulus,” or “fire cloud,” which combines fire and the basic cloud type.

Wikipedia has a more in-depth article on flammagenitus than does the Cloud Atlas. As with other cumulus clouds, the convective clouds of the lower etage, flammagenitus can vary in vertical development, with bigger clouds being named accordingly. So we can have cumulus congestus flammagenitus, also known as towering cumulus flammagenitus, and cumulonimbus flammagenitus, complete with the lightning, wind and precipitation associated with thunder clouds.

Credit Jan Knight – World Meteorological Organization

I have seen flammagenitus rising above forest fires, and it is impressive. The heat is so intense that the smoke, combined with the water driven out of the burning trees, can be driven rapidly high into the atmosphere. These clouds easily rival regular towering cumulus and cumulonimbus in their size and appearance.


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The Prime – Halftime Report

Credit David Vignoni – GNU Lesser General Public License

I still haven’t come up with an image to use with this book.

I have been writing my current novel — tentatively titled The Prime — for three months now, and I’m halfway through. That means it’s time for a halftime report, just like during a sports game, or any project where the participants want to assess their work so far. It’s good to see if we’re meeting our goals, and to plan the strategy for the second half.

Unlike my last book — The Plainsrunner — this one isn’t being shared in a serialization as I write it. At least not yet. That serialization was good in many ways, and I mostly enjoyed it. On the negative side, it was a lot of work, and that effort didn’t result in much return. Not only did it not result in many sales, it also didn’t even result in any reviews, and that has left me feeling that there wouldn’t be much point in doing another one.

I would like to say that I’m enjoying writing this book, but it feels strange to not be sharing it as we go. In addition to the serialization of the last one, I have shared portions of other uncompleted novels too. The first one, Green Comet, was released whole and complete. The second one, Parasite Puppeteers, was released as eight extensions, and The Francesians as four. I discovered as I went that there’s a lot of work involved in proofing and formatting and releasing and announcing several different versions of a story, and four is easier than eight. Now, with The Prime, it looks as if I’ve brought it down to zero. Right back to the first one.

So, what am I enjoying about writing The Prime? What I always enjoy about writing. Thinking every day about the growing story. Seeing it develop as I write it, seeing what happens next. Learning more about my characters as I get to know them better. Showing them where we’re going, and following along as they take us there. And sometimes reining them in as they head off in directions of their own.

It’s a bit lonelier this time, writing the whole thing without sharing it as we go, but a writer’s life is supposed to be a lonely one, isn’t it?

So there’s the halftime report on my novel, The Prime. So far, so good. Now it’s another three months of writing, then there’s the proofing, preparing it for publication and recording it. Oh yeah, and finding an image for it. Pen up, head down and back to work.


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Green Comet Available in Stores

Green Comet is showing up in stores. I’ll update this post as it appears in more outlets. Even though I have released Green Comet with a Creative Commons license, I’ve been encouraged to give people the opportunity to reward me with a little money if they want to. Choice is good, right?-) So, here are the stores:

Apple Books

Even though I set a price, it seems to only be a guideline with some stores. You might be able to shop around. Drop a review while you’re there.


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