Red City Review for Tragic Wonders

Tragic Wonders by Ninja and Adolphus Writer

RCR 4 Stars

Tragic Wonders 1 by 1_6 quarter scaleTragic Wonders, edited by Ninja and Adolphus Writer is a collection of short stories, essays and poems that ponders over the difficult notions that life so often delivers to us. The words written on the page deal with situations which put the characters in distressing circumstances, often forcing them to face their deepest fears in order to overcome the problems at hand. This book causes the reader to evaluate how they view themselves and the world around them through these collected narratives. The title is fitting for the elements that make up this book, as most of the stories combine both components of wonder and tragedy. Through twenty-one stories, two poems, and eighteen essays, the voices of all of the contributors collide in one massive heap, resulting in a delectable conversation about how things are, and if there is any real way to change how things are meant to be.

This is not your average book, as the stories and essays contained within vary a great deal in tone and theme. Nevertheless, the overall messages of trying to search for meaning, and going out into the unknown to find something more than what has already been discovered here on Earth, permeate the words that are constructed delicately on every page. The two poems that are sandwiched between the beginning section of fiction, and the ending portion of writers’ opinions are reflective points, which balance the collection nicely. This isn’t an easy read, but it is a rewarding one, as the stories are crafted with great care. All in all, if you are the kind of reader who likes to have their own assumptions on how reality truly exists questioned by the written word, then this is sure to be an enjoyable book for you.

This title has not yet been released, check for it soon!

(Reviewed November 23, 2013 by Red City Review, used by permission.)


If you google (yes, to google is a verb) you’ll get:

re·as·sur·ance /ˌrēəˈSHo͝orəns/


noun: reassurance

  1. the action of removing someone’s doubts or fears.

“children need reassurance and praise”

  • a statement or comment that removes someone’s doubts or fears.

plural noun: reassurances

“we have been given reassurances that the water is safe to drink”

This is interesting, because we all need some reassurance lately. Whether it’s because our health insurance has been cancelled, the insurance company hasn’t offered an alternative, and we’re forced to try the exchanges. Or, we’re a newly minted graduate with unproven skills that we’d use for mutual benefit like gangbusters, if only someone would give us a chance. Or, we’re a displaced older worker that still wants to contribute their skills to society and can’t seem to find anyone who will hire us for anything near (even half) what we’re worth to the employer.

Well, I don’t see it. If left to our own resources (just check the heavily commented websites) we almost squeal with glee at the displacement of humans by technology. Overpopulation, some say with the obvious solutions in mind. A mark of progress others say as they cite previous technology revolutions (market, first industrial, second industrial, digital, etc.).

All of these ‘revolutions’ recast how human labor was employed. Each caused worker dislocations. Some caused worker revolts. None were deterred (only derailed to the average worker’s detriment). They’ll tell you it will all work out. But we’re being inhuman of we go on like that. It won’t all work out. People are suffering needlessly. But we can’t return to the past.

The pundits on one side say if you get more of the pie I get less. So I should take your pie (oh, wait, they call it ‘re·dis·tri·bu·tion’). Some see nothing wrong with this. Others call it theft. The pundits on the other side say business should grow the pie. But business men just take more of the pie that’s left (I’m talking to you, Wall Street). We’ve been told to go shopping and buy from government exchanges, as if all will be better then. But that doesn’t grow the pie, either. It’s plain old manipulation. However, someone has to start growing the pie. It’s not going to grow itself, you know.

a work of the National Institutes of Health, part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.

Pie slice, NCI at NIH, public domain

At lunch one day, I was discussing this problem with a friend whose politics differ from mine. We discussed the pie. However, neither of us had any since we’re both trying to lose weight after our job losses. I said we need savvy folks to start enterprises online and in bricks & mortar that use our displaced workforce and apprentice our new grads. Businesses are so refined now that training and loyalty has gone by the wayside. How will young workers grow into positions of responsibility? Why aren’t older workers tapped for their knowledge and expertise?

Now, you could say, these unemployed are the dregs of the workforce. They deserve what they got. And you’d be dead wrong in many cases. Good workers are being let go and not hired to boost stock performance. If you’re so concerned about quality employees, test them as a prequalification step. Give objective, targeted proficiency and psychological tests online as a gate of entry to the interviews. Grow and use trained interviewers with subject matter and social interaction expertise. You’ll be surprised what treasures you find.

Now what would you have them do? Well, figure out what we really need as a society and as a world and have them either make it for or serve it to us. We don’t need more pet rocks. But the world does need more energy, more clean and fresh water, safer roads and neighborhoods, better education independent of economic background, life mentoring, better preventative health care access, etc. You get the idea. Find a need and fill it.

Our technology can be leveraged to support these new enterprises in ways we don’t even bother using. Virtual offices will work if they’re managed well. The usual computer snooping software is unnecessary when folks are measured on productivity and results. When continued employment hinges on good cooperation and quality outputs, a factory, virtual service, or distributed design house (as examples) can flourish.

Meetings can be held online (many outplacement services work that way). Folks can gather centrally on a quarterly or less frequent basis once they’ve been vetted and oriented to the enterprise. Better minds than mine have worked all this out. Look for it and get cracking.

Funding can be raised via loans or investors. While loans may be hard to come by, more investment crowdsourcing is becoming acceptable and available. Check with your accountants and lawyers. I can’t figure it all out for you. You have to pitch in.

Think of it, how many billions of dollars are being left on the table in the interest of the bottom line because social responsibility and innovation are seen as what the other guy does? Granted it won’t be as profitable in the short run as the status quo of squeezing the life out of remaining workers. But in the long run it will pay dividends in work satisfaction, increased tax base, and societal growth and prosperity.

Responsible folks need to give this country (and this blogger) some reassurance and get ‘er done.

I Don’t Know Clouds At All

A while back, I was asked if I could write something light and fluffy; something buoyant and uplifted. So I got to thinking. I always wondered how clouds, those 500 ton shape shifting behemoths that patrol our skies, float in the air. Or do they hover? I guess I really don’t know clouds at all…

Clouds – taken from a plane flying over China by Axel Rouvin

That led me to remember the Joni Mitchell song off the album Clouds called “Both Sides, Now.” As recounted in Rolling Stone magazine, when Joni Mitchell read Saul Bellow‘s Henderson the Rain King, Henderson, like Mitchell, was looking at clouds from a plane. Her lyric: “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now,” was a symbol of the ambiguities and mysteries of life.

In a 1967 radio interview, she related a quote from the book: “I dreamed down at the clouds, and thought that when I was a kid I had dreamed up at them, and having dreamed at the clouds from both sides as no other generation of men has done, one should be able to accept his death very easily.”

We disagree vehemently with Bellow’s sentiment. Death was never meant to be accepted so blithely. But I digress. There is more than enough on this blog to explain our position. That insight into her intended meaning proved to be a disappointment. I like the song otherwise. I guess you have to pay attention to the lyrics. Where were we? Light and fluffy…

Getting back to our premise for this entry, do clouds float or hover? By float, I mean like a rubber duck in a bath tub. By hover, I mean something like what a helicopter does (but possibly in reverse like an umbrella blowing away). Turns out it’s a little of both. Wikipedia has very detailed articles on water vapor and clouds that I hope to summarize below.

It turns out that water vapor is less dense than dry air. At the same temperature, water vapor floats in dry air like a rubber duck in water. The article on water vapor crunches the numbers. But it’s even better. Since both are gases, a volume of moisture laden air will rise or be buoyant if placed in a larger volume of dry air.

As the temperature rises, the proportion of water vapor in the air increases and its buoyancy will increase along with the added vapor. In air without particulates, water vapor density can reach 300% before condensation occurs under normal conditions (a principle used in cloud chambers).

The increase in buoyancy gives rise to strong, moisture rich, upward air currents when the air and sea temperatures reach 25 °C or above. This is the driving force behind tornadoes and hurricanes. In fact, under the right conditions, water vapor can lift a “steam balloon” with approximately 60% the lift of helium and twice that of hot air.

Clouds form when one or more sources of vertical lift causes air containing invisible water vapor to rise and cool to the temperature at which water vapor starts condensing. Atmospheric pressure decreases with altitude, so the rising air expands in a process that expends energy without heat loss to the surrounding air and causes the rising air to cool. If the air is cooled enough, the vapor condenses into a cloud.

Water vapor in saturated air is attracted to condensation nuclei such as salt particles, dust, or even bacteria that are small enough to be held aloft by air circulation alone. If condensation occurs below the freezing level, the average size of a newly formed droplet is around 0.02 mm (0.0008 in). Clouds that form just above the freezing level are composed of supercooled liquid droplets, while those that condense out at higher altitudes where the air is much colder generally form of ice crystals.

There are three main sources of vertical lift. The first is a combination of frontal and cyclonic lift. It occurs when stable or slightly unstable air, exposed to little or no surface heating, is forced aloft at weather fronts and around centers of low pressure. Cloud droplets form when the air is lifted beyond the condensation level where water vapor condenses on nuclei and droplets grow to a size of typically 0.025 mm (.001 in). In a cloud the droplets collide to form larger droplets. These larger droplets remain aloft as long as the atmospheric drag force of the air below them is larger than the gravitational force on them.

If the cloud droplets continue to grow past this size, they become too heavy to be held aloft and fall as rain. When this process takes place just above the freezing level, with additional lifting and growth in size, droplets can turn into freezing rain. At temperatures well below freezing, the vapor turns into ice crystals that average about 0.25 mm in length. With continuing lift, ice crystals combine with the vapor and each other until they are too heavy to be supported by the vertical air currents and fall out as snow.

The second source of vertical lifting, buoyant convection, is caused by daytime solar heating at surface level, or by relatively high absolute humidity. Air warmed in this way becomes increasingly unstable and it rises and cools until its temperature equals that of the surrounding air aloft. If air near the surface becomes extremely warm and unstable, it can result in rapidly rising clouds that cause severe weather. Strong convection updrafts enable droplets to grow to nearly .075 mm (.003 in) before precipitating as heavy rain from active thunderclouds. Occasionally, very warm unstable air is present around fronts and low-pressure centers. As with non-frontal convective lift, increasing instability promotes upward vertical cloud growth and raises the potential for severe weather.

A third source of lift is wind circulation forcing air over a physical barrier such as a mountain. This is called orographic lift. If the air is generally stable, nothing more than lenticular cap clouds will form. However, if the air becomes sufficiently moisture laden and unstable, orographic showers or thunderstorms may appear.

Storm – Rolling thunderstorm (Cumulonimbus Arcus) by John Kerstholt (Creative Commons license)

Additionally, there are three other mechanisms for lowering the air temperature to the point where water vapor condenses. All of these occur near surface level and do not require lifting of the air. Cooling by conduction, radiation, and evaporation can cause condensation at surface level resulting in the formation of fog.

Conduction cooling takes place when air from a relatively mild source area comes into contact with a colder surface, such as when mild marine air moves across a colder land area. Radiation cooling occurs due to the emission of infrared radiation, either by the air or by the surface underneath. This type of cooling commonly occurs at night when the sky is clear. Evaporative cooling happens when moisture is added to the air through evaporation, which forces the air temperature to cool to its wet-bulb temperature, or sometimes to the point of saturation.

So clouds float and hover. Who would have guessed? Aren’t they pretty?

Sunrise – The Twilight Sky just before Sunrise by Jessie Eastland (Creative Commons license)

There, But for God’s Grace and Mercy Through His Providence, Go I

John Calvin

John Calvin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why are we shocked when things like this, this, or this happen?

These sensational stories are tragic, no doubt. Scary, even. But we seem to think we’d never do or even be capable of such heinous acts. Then we bolt our door against our neighbor (rightly or wrongly, I can’t say; that’s up to you). Some believe we’re naturally moral. Still others say: red in tooth and claw.

The scriptures conclude we all fall short of God’s glory. But isn’t this an overstatement of our condition? Aren’t we really good, but just misguided, unmotivated, or low informational?

Paul, in the letter to the Romans, elaborates on what he concludes in case we were unsure:

11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16   in their paths are ruin and misery,
17    and the way of peace they have not known.”
18   “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

So, we have no excuse to be shocked at these sensational stories. This is the condition of man. However, if this is so, why then do we not claw and bite until we are no more?

John Calvin, a theologian not often cited now–a–days, suggests in the Institutes of the Christian Religion, book 1, chapter 17, and paragraph 11:

…How comes it, I ask, that their confidence never fails, but just that while the world apparently revolves at random, they know that God is everywhere at work, and feel assured that his work will be their safety? When assailed by the devil and wicked men, were they not confirmed by remembering and meditating on Providence, they should, of necessity, forthwith despond. But when they call to mind that the devil, and the whole train of the ungodly, are, in all directions, held in by the hand of God as with a bridle, so that they can neither conceive any mischief, nor plan what they have conceived, nor how much so ever they may have planned, move a single finger to perpetrate, unless in so far as he permits, nay, unless in so far as he commands; that they are not only bound by his fetters, but are even forced to do him service,—when the godly think of all these things they have ample sources of consolation. For, as it belongs to the lord to arm the fury of such foes and turn and destine it at pleasure, so it is his also to determine the measure and the end, so as to prevent them from breaking loose and wantoning as they list…

So God not only constrains the evildoer but commands him to do His bidding, yet without complicity or taint thrown back upon Him. But why, if we’re this way, are we guilty at all?

Calvin says in the Institutes of the Christian Religion, book 1, chapter 17, and paragraph 5:

… As all contingencies whatsoever depend on it, therefore, neither thefts nor adulteries, nor murders, are perpetrated without an interposition of the divine will. Why, then, they ask, should the thief be punished for robbing him whom the Lord chose to chastise with poverty? Why should the murderer be punished for slaying him whose life the Lord had terminated? If all such persons serve the will of God, why should they be punished?

I deny that they serve the will of God. For we cannot say that he who is carried away by a wicked mind performs service on the order of God, when he is only following his own malignant desires. He obeys God, who, being instructed in his will, hastens in the direction in which God calls him.

But how are we so instructed unless by his word? The will declared by his word is, therefore, that which we must keep in view in acting, God requires of us nothing but what he enjoins. If we design anything contrary to his precept, it is not obedience, but contumacy and transgression. But if he did not will it, we could not do it. I admit this.

But do we act wickedly for the purpose of yielding obedience to him? This, assuredly, he does not command. Nay, rather we rush on, not thinking of what he wishes, but so inflamed by our own passionate lust, that, with destined purpose, we strive against him. And in this way, while acting wickedly, we serve his righteous ordination, since in his boundless wisdom he well knows how to use bad instruments for good purposes.

And see how absurd this mode of arguing is. They will have it that crimes ought not to be punished in their authors, because they are not committed without the dispensation of God. I concede more—that thieves and murderers, and other evil-doers, are instruments of Divine Providence, being employed by the Lord himself to execute the Judgments which he has resolved to inflict.

But I deny that this forms any excuse for their misdeeds. For how? Will they implicate God in the same iniquity with themselves, or will they cloak their depravity by his righteousness? They cannot exculpate themselves, for their own conscience condemns them: they cannot charge God, since they perceive the whole wickedness in themselves, and nothing in Him save the legitimate use of their wickedness

So, it is apparent that Romans 3 is true and we are not only held back from what we could do but others are employed to execute God’s judgments and, yet, are solely guilty of their transgression.

I see the tendency to do wrong in myself all the time. Do you? The only remedy is falling at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ in surrender because he says: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.