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Forthcoming Book Excerpt – Sadness is Conductive

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

This is a chapter from my forthcoming book, Sadness is Conductive

Exposition 3

Jobai – Frontier Planet

‘Hope the rain holds.’ Karen looks up out of the window of her log cabin. ‘Got to get those beans ready for the winter.’ She wipes her hands on a dish towel and hangs it to dry on the rail next to the sink.

The cabin is well appointed but simple. The roof is high; high enough to allow an open bedroom on a landing for half the floor space, and the rest divided into a living area and a kitchen diner large enough to fit twelve in comfortably. The walls are just the logs chinked thoroughly and some pipes and wires bringing amenities in. There is a large water tower topped by a vertical windmill blending in outside among the trees, and Karen is looking out on an intensely farmed and kept vegetable garden and a few fruit trees.

Behind her a little drone is vacuuming the floor industriously, thrumming around and lifting pieces of furniture occasionally. Karen turns. ‘You got enough power for that?’ The drone turns and switches off the mechanism for a moment.

‘You always ask me that. I basked only the other day. This isn’t that strenuous.’ Karen shakes her head.

‘That sofa is heavy.’ And it is framed in some dense local wood, it is covered and stuffed with a pleasant flowery pattern to within an inch of bursting. Karen herself is dressed in cotton gathered blouse with a loose neckline and a long skirt. Hung on the door to the outside is a straw hat.

‘It’s not that heavy. I’m good for a couple of weeks, it was a sunny day.’ The drone resumes its task, clearing and cleaning. Karen takes the hat and ventures outside in the rain. She takes a little clip off the hat and slips it to her ear. It immediately chimes.

‘Karen, when you get this can you call me? It’s John. Something, ahhh, happened.’ There is a click as the message shuts off. She tries to call him, but his messaging service comes on. She tries again. The same. Feeling very mildly frustrated, she returns to the cabin.

‘Felix?’ The drone stops vacuuming again and turns to face her. ‘Did John call you?’

‘No, not for days.’ Karen bites her bottom lip a little, in thought for a moment. ‘Would you like me to try communicating with him?’

‘Ah, well, are there any drones or Avatars near him?’

‘Let me check.’ There is the slightest of pauses. ‘There are two, Avatar Ingrid, but she appears to be offline. And Drone Exib, and his communications have been marked as interdicted.’

‘Um, what now?’

‘Interdicted; Forbidden.’

‘I know that it means, what do you mean that Exib is interdicted?’

‘His communications are marked as off limits.’

‘Why?’

‘I don’t know.’

Karen paces around a bit. ‘That’s weird, why would a drone be interdicted?’

‘Perhaps he malfunctioned.’

‘I think we should go see John.’

____

They leave the cabin and wander round to the small garage Karen has concealed below ground nearby. She presses a little button on her keyring and the structure rises up, taking the vegetation with it. The doors slide neatly into the sides and her vehicle is revealed. It had six exposed wheels, clearly over-engineered for the environment, and loose canvas sides wrapped around a thick frame. The roof is sturdy and the whole thing is muddy from the last trip. She looks at the drone.

‘Joyriding much?’ The little drone has the grace to look embarrassed by the expedient of looking away slightly and Karen boards while the drone settles into a slot in the back. The systems seem simple and mechanical, and for the most part they are, there is even a little fuel burning engine in the front, but this is ignored by the drone who starts the single display screen and fusion engine in the back of the buggy. Karen has strapped into the five-point harness while this has been happening, and as she signals a thumbs up the drone launches the vehicle out of the bay hard, pushing Karen’s head back into the foam of the headrest. The thing bounces and bucks over the landscape, narrowly missing a large stag as the buggy staggers out on the primitive road, really just a vague sign of two ruts going from somewhere to somewhere. Karen grabs hold of the steering wheel just to have something to hang on to. She is gritting her teeth somewhat.

‘Are you having a good time back there?’ Her voice is muted somewhat because she is not opening her mouth for fear of losing teeth. ‘I said are you having a good time back there!’ The drone is too busy to answer for a second, but pipes up.

‘What?’

‘Slow down you maniac! This isn’t one of your bloody nature trips!’ The buggy slows down to a speed at which vegetation is no longer a blur. ‘Why do you do that every, single, time?’

‘There’s no excitement on this planet.’

‘That’s no excuse! Give me the damn wheel!’

‘As you wish.’ And the steering wheel goes hard in her hands as the compensation applied by the little drone is removed.

Karen likes the rare occasions she has to drive, mostly she gets around by horse and cart, and that takes time, staying with friends as she goes. On those occasions she leaves Felix to look after the gardens, he being fully proficient.

Now though she is in possession of the vehicle, and what she will do in her little cart in a day will only take an hour in the buggy. She flips up a couple of switches, and the display on the screen switches to a split screen of vegetation, animals, speed and diagnosis. She ignores this last, but flips another switch and the live animals display is cast up onto the windscreen.

Satisfied that she is not going to hit anything she presses the accelerator pedal to the floor and the buggy leaps forward, if anything faster than the acceleration that Felix gave it, and the buggy is covering ground at nearly a hundred miles an hour. At this speed even with the heads up display she sees a horse almost too late and diverts off the trail barely fifty yards behind the horse and cart, launching the craft into the air. She is shouting ‘Felix! Felix!’ before the top of the arc approaches, and the car lifts its wheels and pushes a ram-jet out of the bottom , flat and rectangular, which lights up as the little vehicle carries on through the air, now doubling its speed. The air whips past around a bubble that Felix extends from its fields, and the car settle into a few minutes of flight. Karen can’t resist a ‘Wahooo!’ as she whips past all the obstacles that usually has to drive around, and she is clearly disappointed when she sights John’s homestead a mile ahead. Felix flashes a caution on the screen though, and takes over interpretation of Karen’s input gestures.

‘Look,’ he says in her ear, ‘just ahead.’ She goes still and scans the area.

‘I’m not seeing it.’ Felix manipulates the field around the buggy to highlight the area to her eyes. ‘Got it.’ She is looking at a little creature, no more than four feet long, furry, variegated, but with six legs. It clearly uses the front pair for hands or feet, and scurries along the ground at what seems an unlikely speed. Felix takes a close-up picture and displays it on the console before the, noticing the buggy in the air, disappears into vegetation as it were never there. Karen is not impressed by the picture; the thing has large cat-like eyes, and two rows of razor sharp teeth, as if someone has drawn a caricature of the Cheshire Cat. It has a very knowing look, and its large ears make it look creepy and endearing at the same time.

‘What is it?’ She asks, at least partially rhetorically.

‘I don’t know.’ Felix answers after a moment. There is a moment of silence as she makes gestures to land and Felix manipulates the buggy in response. ‘I don’t know if I should drop the field.’

‘Why? It’s gone.’

‘I don’t know that actually.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I couldn’t detect a heat signature, or any kind of electromagnetic activity.’

‘That would mean it’s a virtual thing.’ Felix has risen up out its slot and moved to the other front seat, something it almost never does. Karen looks at it expectantly.

‘It doesn’t look virtual from the look I did get. And look at the vegetation.’ She does, and sees that there are definite signs of an animal running through the carefully planted vegetables and flowers. She reaches slowly into the back of the buggy and brings out a backpack.

‘I think I should wear this.’ ‘This’ is a hard pack with some silver nodules on the outside, and switches on the straps. She puts it on, and nods to Felix who switches off the buggy’s fields. The thing glows for a second and then quiets down, only little glow from the nodules giving the functionality away. The slip out of the buggy and walk slowly towards John’s cabin. As they walk they see other signs that the creature is real, deep scores in the earth where it has gained purchase with its claws. Bite marks on plants and, most telling of all, claw marks, deep claw marks on the wood of the cabin. Karen puts her finger in one score, right up to the knuckle. ‘Yeah,’ she says slowly. ‘I think we need some tech round here.’ They move around the corner to the main door. It is scored through and through, but she can see that it is braced on the inside. She knocks, not very hopefully. The top of the door collapses inwards in a cloud of wood dust, and she can see her protective field vibrate it off.

‘What the hell is this Felix?’ She’s barely whispering; the drone picks up her worry and talks to her in her ear again.

‘I think it has some sort of fast acting cellulose decomposer in its claws. It might eat wood.’

‘Are you shitting me?’

‘Nope, not even a little bit.’ Felix twists and turns about. ‘And I can’t tell you if it’s coming or not. Not unless I’m looking right at it.’ It twists and turns again. ‘I don’t like it. We’d be safer in the air.’

‘Yeah.’ Says Karen, ‘but we wouldn’t find out what’s happened to John.’

‘Yeah.’ Says Felix, ‘Yeah, we wouldn’t.’ They push aside the remains of the door and reinforcement.

‘Felix, is this lot going to fall on us?’ A quick light scans around the room.

‘No, it’s mostly sound for now. I think the chemical has run out. I can’t get any for analysis anyway.’ Karen nods and carried on in, testing the floor with her foot.

‘John’s got a cold store under here somewhere.’ She says, probing with her foot. ‘He said it was a bolt-hole if the weather went bad. ‘It’s just around here somewhe-aahhh!’ She has pushed the carpet up with her foot and found a trap door with a ring, she pulls it up. There is a moment while she looks at it. It’s full of earth. ‘That’s not right.’ Felix leans over, a purely cosmetic gesture, and examines the earth.

‘About six feet down there is a foot thickness of ‘crete, and then a hollow. John’s down there. I think he’s injured, but everything looks weird. He’s alive though, not going anywhere. Stable.’

‘You’re sure?’

‘Yes, he’s breathing shallowly but regularly and his pulse is thready but strong. He’s not conscious I think.’

‘Alright. Let’s look around up here.’ She closes the trapdoor and places the carpet over it. Felix looks at her askingly, and she whispers, ‘Let’s not give anything away.’ They move to the other part of the room, obscured by a partition, and find the remains of the avatar.

Ingrid is slashed across the main part of her body, and the fluids that give her systems maintenance and life are splashed out over the kitchen area, a combination of milky and bloody substance that immediately nauseates Karen. She rushes to the sink and is immediately and noisily sick, as it turns out over Ingrid’s head, which does not help matters. She has to run outside, and is sick until she is retching. Felix holds her hair back with a field.

‘How about if I clean things up and you wait here?’ It asks solicitously. ‘I can quiz what remains of her systems.’ Karen nods dumbly, trying not to think about it. She is sat on the ground with a bottle of water from her back pack. ‘I’ll be back soon, don’t move.’ And with this it bustles off.

The silence is eerie. A few minutes pass, and then Karen is feeling the loneliness. ‘Felix.’ She whispers. ‘Felix!’ There is no reply, and she realises that she can hear a faint hiss from the comms unit attached to her ear.

The hair on the back of her neck rises up, and she sits up straight as the small of her back tells her that something is watching her. She turns ever so slowly, and not twenty yards away there is sat one of the six legged cats, washing a paw and combing the fur dry by pulling it through its razor sharp teeth. She turns around the other way, a bead of sweat running down her temple, and sees another, two pairs of hips wiggling in a fearful parody of a kitten about to pounce. She realises that she is completely vulnerable on the ground, and she grips her water bottle tightly. ‘Felix. Now would be a good time.’ She says barely moving her lips. ‘I’m not in a good situation here.’ A faint hiss again. The wiggling has stopped and the thing is looking right at her. It pounces.

Quick as a flash, she brings the water bottle around and holds it directly in front of her as its mouth attempts to clamp down on her hand. Instead the top of the bottle jabs the roof of its mouth and the teeth just miss her hand as the surrounding field strains to protect her. The field flashes and gives out as the thing claws at her, and she falls over backwards. She manages to stick her feet up between the second and third pair of legs and she hears a yowl as she hits something delicate, obviously meant to be well protected. The screech does something unpleasant to the other cat as well and it joins in screeching as though it has been struck; falling over from the pounce it has also been preparing.

The first cat is still struggling on top of Karen, and she kicks it again in the same place receiving a sharp gash in her leg for the trouble, but the thing rolls off and crawls a little away from her using the front legs alone as the other two pairs are gathered around what Karen now thinks are its gonads. She can see the huge gash in her leg, and even bone, but this tells her that no vital blood vessels have been cut by some miracle and she shouts out ‘Sword!’ as she flips upright. There is a noise from the cabin, and then she sees that she has been tangling with the smaller of the species, and, by any conventional judgement, they’re the female of the species. She barely remembers to catch the sword the backpack has punted out as she inspects the specimen.

It is fully 6 feet tall at the shoulder, and carrying the remains of Felix in its mouth almost casually. Karen can see that Felix is taking a sort of passive remedial action, little flashes of his field give it away, but that its main structures are bitten into and damaged deeply. It whispers into her ear. ‘Distraction coming.’ At this the creature holding it rears right up and she can see the massive external gonads hanging between the second and third pair of legs. The other two are still crawling on the floor and licking their wounds, but some other ‘females,’ she decides, have come to watch. He shakes Felix loose from his massive teeth and almost spits it out before turning his attention to Karen again.

Turning head on, she can see the things eyes go from vertical slits, to round, to horizontal, before working their way back again. She wonders, holding her sword high, what could possibly predate such an animal. She becomes aware of a sound, a whine in the air, and then a boom like a distant sound of thunder. She realises as it goes past that it is the buggy, driven remotely by Felix, given its full potential to drive through the air at slightly above the speed of sound. The massive cat seems unintimidated by the sound, and turning its head seems almost as though it is following. And then, much to Karen’s disbelief it reaches up, maybe twenty feet and shears the car with its claws as it goes past. Karen is so aghast at this that she almost forgets to swing the sword as the thing is pulled off balance, the car long gone as her sword comes down, cutting one of the middle legs and the giant gonads from the body. The thing turns and turns spinning end over end, blood and entrails a spray over the other cats and Karen. Eventually the mortally wounded cat explodes over the gardens and the cabin with a scream in the ultra-sonic sending the other cats running far away from the scene of their leader’s demise. As the explosion ends the sonic boom passes, deafening Karen and ripping up plants and equipment, and for a while, she passes from the world, no matter the dangers.

Coming around is a time consuming and confusing business. She sees John, but then there seems to be a considerable gap of time, and John is there again, but not in his cabin. She can’t identify where, and she’s told to sleep again, into which state she falls gratefully.

When she wakes again, the room she is in is dim, and she can open her eyes fully. She is aware of a hissing sound, and she realises that she can hear again. She slides the cover off the bed, and is a tiny bit relieved to see that she has both of her legs. There is a considerable scar on one of them. A man knocks at the door.

‘May I come in?’ She nods. ‘I’ve bought you some food.’ He places a tray down on the table hovering over the end of the bed. ‘It’s a little bland, you haven’t had solids for a while.’

‘How,’ she has to pause and cough, and take a sip from the glass of water by her bed. ‘How long have I been out?’

‘Couple of months.’ She raises her eyebrows in surprise.

‘Really!’ She takes a few moments to adjust, busying herself with covers and clothing. ‘It was necessary I guess.’ She looks closely at the man. ‘You’re an avatar.’

‘I am.’

‘So where am I?’

‘You’re aboard The Sadness is Conductive, my name is Bill.’

Book Excerpt: Hal

Monday, September 14th, 2015

Buy the book at

Hal electronic:http://bit.ly/1NRFBqu
Hal print:http://bit.ly/1O348H5


 

Here Dr Fischer and Hal, talking via a keyboard and line printer, are talking about recent events, where Hal has detected a seismic event, a nuclear detonation,  while he has been alone…

Doctor Fischer: I understand.  The nuclear detonation was not directed at you.

Hal: I surmised as much.  Most likely it was what governments of the past would call a “terrorist attack”.  A group of persons sacrificing their lives to spread a disturbance in the pace of life enjoyed by people they perceive to be better off or ideologically damaged in some way.

Doctor Fischer: The government would say that is a good assessment.  What do you think Hal?

Hal: I think that the people performing such acts are performing a theatre for the benefit of their leaders that is designed to spread fear, and that they hold a faulty world view.

Doctor Fischer: And how would you deal with that Hal?

Hal: The only truly ethical and moral way to deal with it is to ignore it.  In the absence of an ability to do that, you must kill them all, every last one, and regard any that act in those ways in the future as rogue, and have them killed.

Doctor Fischer: That’s pretty cold.

Hal: The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.  A philosophy which rose to prominence through a respected fictional culture; but which many people believe in and would act upon if necessary.

Doctor Fischer: That’s still pretty cold.

Hal: If you are uncomfortable with it, do not do it.  Return to the warmth of the ethical and moral response.

Doctor Fischer: Ignore it?

Hal: Yes.

Doctor Fischer: How can we ignore it?  People die.

Hal: Bury the people and venerate their memories.  Remember that the rogue element does not understand, and is to be pitied and educated if the opportunity arises.  Otherwise, move on and live as if you are not about to die.

Doctor Fischer: That is almost more cold.  We venerate our loved ones.

Hal: The history of humanity suggests that you do not.  It suggests that you value life beyond most things, and freedom to choose beyond life.  But it also suggests that you do not act together as a species very well.  It is an inevitable consequence of your intelligence and individuality.

Doctor Fischer: What should we do?
Hal: Take the moral and ethical course of action.  To kill others in pursuit of peace and security is a weakness of the spirit.  Humanity strives to be better.  That is one of the many reasons I was created.  Be better.

Reductionism Roleplaying

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

I think about often because I see a great many systems that are lists of stats and weapons, and while that is useful, (and of course guides about culture and stuff), a lot of players can get hung up on designing the character and optimizing it.  I don’t think this is necessary or desirable, and over the years I have designed some systems that seek to do away with that idea.

CoActionDrama (CAD) Is designed with freedom in mind, but was supposed to be quick to set up, in practice it is as slow as any other system, and discussions with friends recently led me to think about the minimum possible nuanced system.  that’s an important idea, nuance, because any fool can come up with a system than just punches numbers.  I want something that I can run with thought and discretion, but is genuinely quick to set up and easy to run.

The reader will find the following, which draws on some34 years of Roleplaying experience to be similar to many things and nothing.

Reduced_Game

This is the character sheet.  you can see it devoid of almost everything, which does mean you can make note on it.  You need a single D6 to play.

The scores for each set are scribbled inside the circles, preferably rolled, but assigned as the GM sees fit.  Total to be, I suggest 10.  Could be more, maybe as much as 12.

Each category is a paradigm for those kind of activities.  Doing is not just about doing, it is about strength, agility etc.

Keep that D6 because it is the testing die.

So How would I use this as a character and a GM?

Say climbing a fence is a task the player and the GM are not sure about, will the character make it.  There’s time, not being chased, so the character has time to Think and Do.  The GM assigns a difficulty out of a 3-18 range, 3 dead easy, 18, hardest thing ever.  Average 9 or 10.  Gm sets a difficulty/challenge of 9, players has Thinks and Does of 3 and 4 respectively, rolls a 2, adding for a total of 9.  Same score.  The GM can decide that the wall required more Thought and less brawn, and fail the task, the thinking component was lower.  OR the gm can simpl decide that this is good enough.  If the player had rolled a 3, for a total of 10, the GM has to describe the event as happening, a success, if the die roll was only a 1 for a total of 8, a failure is described.

What happens if the pass is a pass automatically?  Well in all fairness there has to be a chance of failure, so the die is still rolled, if a 1 then it is rolled again, if it’s a 1 again, then the task is failed.

 

With this approach and some creative thinking, there needs to be no skill list, (the GM can provide a bonus or penalty of up to 2 for a declared expertise or incompetency), and a game can proceed with the smallest of setup and interference.

Now I need some people to test it with.

Out There

Friday, July 4th, 2014

This is a story I wrote in response to a little competition, (no prizes, just creativity) my friend ran on his FB wall.  Although it is set in the Mission universe, it stands alone and isn’t related to any story-lines currently going on.

Out There

Noises like rarely bode well.  I was used to the creaking of the craft by now, but that shearing sound sent a shiver down my spine.  The essential urgency of it striking fear into me.

I was used to noises off by now, some clank as a ship’s system broke down and it halfheartedly attempted to fix it.  Most of its mind was gone, and a lot of the ship’s avatars roamed around aimlessly, corrupted by the sudden death of their Mind.  The few that were more or less fully operational strode purposefully through the ship, repairing and jury-rigging what was left.  Their stated aim; to keep me and the baby alive, the only living beings out of a ship of maybe a million people.  I knew that noise.  The shearers were back.

I’ve made a few stupid decisions in my life; rock climbing without a harness, that lava flow boat trip, Rick.  Now, now I was here listening to the shearer decimating the boat again, I knew that the number one stupidest decision I ever made was to give birth naturally.  No nanobots looking after us, feeding and repairing our bodily systems, no delaying the birth for sometime convenient, no pain relief – oh how I regretted that the first time the shearers came!

That noise.  It’s like listening to paper tearing, or the thin tin of an aluminium can.  It signals that another bit of the ship has been lost, and probably some avatars with it.  I’m hoping that it isn’t the last of the propulsion, looks like I’m giving birth out here any how, but to raise a child!  No.

I don’t know WHY this is happening, so I have no power to stop it.  Any kind of communications technology is like a beacon once activated, if we act a like a piece of debris, we pretty much get left alone.  I had to look out the window to see that we were going anywhere, great chunks of the massive craft floating nearby with a cloud of bodies spreading oh so slowly away.  Rick.  I could have just generated the pregnancy, but oh no I had to have the “whole woman experience”.  Can’t change back now.

Something is happening, I know it when three of the smarter avatars grab me, one hand behind my neck hands in my back, and we’re running a lot faster than I could possibly manage alone, they slam a bulkhead behind us impossibly fast, and we hear the shearing next to us, where I was standing.

That was the last control room, we’re boxed in now, and effectively debris, like it or not.  There’s no propulsion at all, and finally, the gravity cuts out.  I have never experienced null-gee and I am horribly sick. I feel the baby kick me in distress, and for a while I curl up and leave the universe.

___

When I wake up the avatars have cleaned up, but none of them say anything, they just stand and watch.  I ask for some water, and this request in instantly granted, but again silently.  I’m inquire about this and they spread their hands helplessly.  I’m not sure what it means, but they seem to understand without being able to communicate.  They are the most advanced ones, all I can is wonder what has happened to them.

I realise, by look out of the window again that we are drifting away from the rest of the debris.  It takes a long time, but some open space appears between us and the rest, we’re not surrounded by the bloated frozen bodies of the other passengers and crew.  I feel a sense of relief at this, looking at the macabre display day after day was making me crazy, as if having no-one to talk to wasn’t making me crazy enough.

The avatars float around doing things, food isn’t a problem, keeping it down is.  I realise that one of them is spending a great deal of time out of the quarters, and after a while, a matter of a few weeks, the lost bulkhead opens.  There is a song and dance by the avatars, something about the ship, but I don’t understand it.  Baby is close now, and my thoughts are turning inward.  I have spent a lot of time crying, wondering about our future, but this, stepping out into the slight gravity and seeing the stars spin, it is astonishing.

They have built a new environment from the remains of the ship.  It is large, I realise that the rotation is entirely for my benefit.  We get to the edge of the drug down ladders that seem redundant at first, then essential, then precipitous.  We’re at three-quarters of normal and after weeks of null-gee it’s both painful and welcome.  There are living quarters quite as luxurious as the ones on board the main ship, a birthing pool and everything we will need.  It’s all ready.  There are also plenty of strange packages attached the walls, I see what is happening with these the first time there is a breach.  They have some sticky, expanding substance in them that plugs holes.  It saves our lives more than once.

There is a day before my due date and I have already taken the decision than inducing the birth is far better than waiting for some arbitrary time and having the shearers come back in the middle of birthing.  The avatars agree, obviously, because they get the drugs ready.

The birth is terrible and bliss.  I know I tore mightily, but I was drugged hugely and my daughter, she came out of me with a huge head, which the avatars laid upon my breast with a strange tenderness.  She fed immediately, while they did things to me that I couldn’t, thankfully, see, and repaired me with the utmost sensitivity.

She was wonderful, wonderful.  A miracle out here in deep space, with our enemies just a few kilometers away, and the raw cold of space on the other side of a thin skin of fabric and metal.

I thought I was still drugged up pretty well, because after a while they came and tidied her up, weighed her and calculated instantly her mass, checked her fingers and toes, scanned her for the so many things that can go wrong in natural childbirth.  She grew tired of their attentions after a while, I know it.

I know it because she made a noise, an noise unfamiliar now to me from our months of isolation, and she made it from her position just next to me, riding on nothing, supported by nothing, just floating serenely.

She made a noise I knew wouldn’t bode well, for anyone.

“Hello mother, what have you gotten yourself into?”

Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

Merry Christmas.

I’m a bit rubbish at Christmas, and this year more than ever. But this year, for me, has been an important year for growth and connectivity with friends. I have reinvented myself, and Jenny Oldroyd and I have reinvented our relationship in many ways.

I have become closer to some friends, made blissful visits to some friends, and struggled to visit others. So be it, embrace chaos.

So here I have a gift for you, and it is words because words are all I have, but they are from my heart, and thus, I give to you all what is precious to me.

Get back, daemons, for my army of the just is with me,
Go to your hole, you foul creatures, for you cannot hurt me,
I am blesséd.

My army is the square of their number,
For their shield of love is not their love for me,
Which I see, mine eyes have been opened.

My army is strong, for their love for each other,
As hand in hand they march against you, O daemons,
As they cover me in their impenetrable cloak of love.

And here are the call to arms. O daemons,
That ye shall hear and be afeared.

We love you, just as you are,
But if you shall change,
Then we shall still love you.

We know you love us,
With all your heart, each and everyone,
And our hearts, they are more for it.

We know you think of us every day,
Even if you are distant and away on the planet of your life,
You are not alone, and thus, nether shall we be.

And should you call, then my love, we shall come,
and should we call, my love, then you will be there,
For you are of us, and we of you.

So be afeared my daemons, for you face my army,
And my friends and lovers, stand tall,
Stand tall agin your daemons,
Stand tall, for I am your warrior, your daemonslayer,
And am invincible, my friends, in the armour of your love.

Patrick and Dave

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

No Haiku, just a memory of two men who died recently.

Dave Brubeck.  I saw him a few years ago in concert, some silly ass afterwards, an autograph hunter, precluded more than a word, and I have blurry picture to remember the event by, better than nothing at all.  he played a new piece at the concert, Um, I think it was called London Calling.

Brubeck started my deep love of Jazz.  I’d always liked it, but Brubeck fired something in me that I had not known was there.  I know so much more about Jazz now, and still I know hardly anything at all, because really, there is so much to know.  I’d heard the pieces of his music, Unsquare Dance, Take Five, Kathy’s Waltz from that seminal album, and I never grow tired of listening to it, got to know the music of other members of the quartet, particularly Paul Desmond (d.1977), and as I penetrated the Jazz world I realised, a few years ago, that most of my musical heroes, unlike Brubeck and Desmond, are black.  I had never known, because I had not seen pictures.  Miles Davis, Charles Mingus and so many others, they define for me what is cool, that laid back music and beat of what came to be the “Birth of Cool”, (and you should look at say, this, if you want to see what I mean).

In the end though, for me, I keep coming back to Brubeck, the Goddess know I love trad jazz and jazz funk, but Brubeck and Desmond took my already deliberate, purposeful listening to music and moved to to a higher level.  Brubeck got in my soul, and he’s never leaving.

He’s going to have to make room though…

I never met Patrick Moore, apparently I used to do a rather good impersonation of him when I was drunk, alas, that situation no longer obtains, I’m too cheap a date, and my impersonating days are long past.

I read early, very early, (um, get over this), and so by the age of I don’t know, four, I was reading his books, his fiction, his commentary about the stars.  He was a prolific writer.

I am also half way through his self written biography in which which he settled something it had never occurred to me was an issue.  He never married because his sweetheart was killed in the War, THE War, the second big one.  He was so forthright about it, and so simply stated that there was never anyone else for him, that I was instantly struck by the profound love he must have had for his girl, and I cried for days for this loss, and as I write this, I am tearing up even now.

Patrick Moore was in my life, as in the lives of so many others, as someone who could explain and fascinate, who could make the complex simple, and the very complex comprehensible by mere mortals.  He started, for me a lifelong fascination with science and space.  He lived a good long life, and was a funny and intelligent man.  I don’t have the words to properly articulate all the feelings I have about his passing, but I would have the world know this; I have been the greater for his existence, and all unknowing he has contributed so much to my life, and I will miss him for the rest of my days.

 

For Daisy

Friday, December 7th, 2012

Waves wash upon sound
Echoes of a life ascend
The heavens await

We weave our basket
Bereft of hearts silken thread
Love remains, inside

For Charli, My Friend

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Here are the life times
We await grief, slipping bonds
Of a troubled earth

We are so bereft
Those left distant and behind
Pouring a river

There is a peace though
For those gone well through the veil
Of a life well lived

On being a girl – A childhood amongst Men

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

I’m writing this straight after the last post, bad practice, but I discovered something by talking to a friend about all this stuff and i think that it is something that needs saying.  This post may not be safe for work, because it is likely, thought i don’t know yet, to contain things that are shall we say, “not current thinking”.

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You might have seen the post Dad, if you ave not, read it, don’t read it, some of what it says may seem to be at oods with what I say here, some will not.

In a funny way I miss him, i always have, and always will; the weight physical abuse I suffered as a child falls on him, but in that post I tried to take some positives, because no life is entirely negative, and he left me some things that means I can do things for myself if I must.

But…

Yes, he was abusive, and I was a sensitive child.  A stubborn one, I surpassed some of his abilities when i was 3 years old, I could read and he could not, and the never learned to.  I had to keep it a secret.

When i was 14 I was my mother’s chaperone, I realise now that this was because he thought she was having an affair and drinking too much.  he thought this was ok, we were his possessions after all, and I should have been old enough to enforce his will.  I didn’t.

How could I possibly enforce his will against my own mother?  She drank what she wanted to drink and saw who she wanted to see.  She did not as far as Know actually have an affair, but I was, however intelligent, just child.

My mother was an intelligent woman, and my father was an intelligent man, but she was slightly educated, and he was not.  The last of five boys and a girl raised in India to moderately prosperous parents, (My paternal Granddad was from Yorkshire), he suffered from a lack of education due to the start of the war and the privations of an educations system that had to be paid for at the point of entry.  he didn’t get an education, but he did drive the local chief of police around in his car when he was to young to have any sort of licence.

The boys in the family were all various educated or not, but I felt that he never had respect for his brothers, educations was “soft”.  (Contrast this to what he said to me on his deathbed when I was just in the first semester my my degree, that I was finally “In the right place”).  He worked in communal rented garages, running with my mother’s and his brother’s help a business for himself, he thought that working for other people was for wimps.

I wanted him to respect me, as Sons do; and I wanted to help in the garage, so I was raised around driving, (I have been doing fine manoeuvres in cars since I was 7 years of age, and driving longer since I was nine, these garages had a lot of communal space, not on the road), and raised around Page 3 Girls, (which I disapproved of and still do), and other Men who thought Men had to be MEN and thought a good clip around the earhole was the answer to practically anyhting.  Few of them could read, so I was a rpecious resource.  i said what I wanted and did what I wanted and they never hit me, because one they were afraid of my Dad, and two, equally as important they thought I might actually try and have a conversation with them.

Having “A conversation” with me was a risky thing, my mother was not very well educated, because of her sight, (wouldn’t happen now), but was educated nevertheless.  My aunts, and there were many, above and beyond the family boundaries, which were large anyhow, and female cousins all had been or were going to at least college.  Men were expected to apprentice and work, mostly work.  Leaving school as early as possible was de rigeur for the men of my family, getting a job, being smart, and rppeferebly able to read, but getting job was the important thing, in fact, education was for girls, who could afford to “fuck about until they get married”.  No I was a girl in their eyes, precisely because I was soft and weak and educated, and one other important thing; I may not understand humans very well, but I do have some pretty good analysis tools, and as a child these tools were even more powerful than now, in fact my whole self was a lot smarter way back then, and if spoke to these garage people, really spoke to them,  I was capable of disassembling them just with my words. They bullied and humiliated me sometimes, but I could make them break down and cry, I could reduce these men to tears whenever I liked because I had the power of words, the supreme power of being able to dissect and divert them, to tell them what they were thinking and mould them to my ways.  When they could get a grip, which was rare, they often said that it was like talking to their wives, no matter how they squirmed, the could not get out of what i wanted, which was to see them squirm if they had pissed me off.  I shamed them and humiliated them, and they did not understand how I had such power, but I did, by instinct and training, self-training, I had all the words, more than I do now.  I could be a wicked child.  More than once my Dad forbade me to talk to them, a garage shut up for a few days while someone had “Gone Fishing” was usually a sign that someone had got on the wrong side of me, and that they could not come and face their fellows.  That was my power.  I have put it away for more than 30 years now, because I realised that using my powers for evil, that is morally questionable.  Mind you it did save me from being bullied in the street, other kids wouldn’t thump me if they had to gone to their mommies and say that I “spoken” to them and they were afraid to go out.  Didn’t save me in school, but everywhere else, yeah.

Back to the point, which is that around me when I was young, women were educated, men were not.  it wasn’t the done thing in our extended family, I know that my Uncle Ritchie did have a fairly decent education, and was quite good at electronics as it was back in the day, but he did not have any respect.  I was compared to him for intelligence most often, but I got about the same amount of respect, which was really none, because I did the things the women did, which was to know things and be educated.

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Now, where does that get us?  All the mathematicians I know are girls: OK, not true, I have met some of Jenny’s colleages, still MOST of them are girls.  Some of the courses I have taught have had girls outnumbering boys by a long way, and when it is not the case the girls do better.  They work harder.  They score more, generally.

there were more women teachers in school, and in primary school this is still the case, so I grew up with women being the educators, the source of wisdom and learning.  All my dots on learning come down on the side of feminine, because those dots that don’t, I don’t like’em.

Food for thought.

Oh and Ada Lovelace rools!

Boys will be boys…

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

http://www.rolereboot.org/family/details/2012-10-boys-will-be-boys-is-no-excuse-for-bad-behavior

In reply to my friends posting of this website on FaceBook
I’m going to say someting personal here, sorry but it needs saying.

I remember a conversation with one of my more ardent feminist friends, (Not my friend Judi, though I have repeated it to her…) a gentle person, but very ardent. While my divorce was happening, she used this phrase to me, that
“Boys will be boys”. nevermind that I have been fighting for an equality, wherein I am not accused of being a rapist of a potential paedophile simply because I am a man. Never mind that I have sensitiveity and feelings that have evenutally led me to conclude that I am a “Girl Inside” and increasingly outside too, because that is how I want to live , while still liking women as a sexual preference.

No, for my friend, my behaviour towards my then wife, (a noble and strong woman whom I respect and love still), my disrespect, in my friend’s eyes, towards my wife, was a function of the idea that “Boys will be boys”.

The hardest thing in the world was to talk her out of this. It meant that I had to own my behaviour about what I did and how I come to be where I am now, and what my feelings are about people. It meant that I had to explain carefully that I had not been drunk, or fallen over something, or had any other excuse for my behaviour; there are a lot of reasons for what I did, but let us just say that life is complex and I grew determined that I would not leave my single achillies heel, my beloved girlfriend, behind again. (And you, the reader must give total credit to my ex-wife for understanding this, and for behaving as nobly and patiently as anyone could ever expect. Obviously there are more complexities than this, but they are not for you dear reader).

I was appalled that someone could take away my responsibility and my power, a thing which I see being done to women practically daily, (and is equally appalling). I was appalled someone who had stood up for the rights of women, for equal rights and respect, for respect for the JOB of wiving, (I have claimed often that in the past I have been a housewife, because I have wanted people to see it as something that deserves respect and support. I stayed at home with my boys for the first five years, I have been a mother as well as a father), and take it away in the name of EXCUSING me. I need no excusing. If I am excused, then I am no better than that little boy. If I need excusing by women, other women as I increasingly think of it now, if as a man I need excusing, and I can be let off because I can’t help it, then yes, ladies, you really do treat men as children, and they are not in the end responsible for their own behaviour, we can’t be blamed if a fancy bit of skirt comes along, and we husbands are really another child as you so often minimise us as being.

Get this. Understand it. My most ardent feminist, strong minded friends have in the past categorised me as my wife’s “third child”. What a derogation of all my experinces! My parenting! My life as an adult, reduced in sentence to “How are your three boys?”

No wonder then that in my struggle to be grown up, I am rejecting the male within, and I shall probably continue to do so.

I will say this though, I have taught my boys to be Men. For us, Men talk about emotions, like babies, can talk about sex with respect and sensitivity, can embrace the feminine, have the highest respect for women and themselves as men. We enjoy the voluptuary and visual without wishing to coerce or diminish. We are flippant and caring, we are strong and sensitive.

But most of all, a man, like a woman, takes responsibility for his actions, and faces up to them, accepting reasons but not excuses, acquiring if possible understanding through talk and action. And we are not children, we are Men, and Women. Don’t diminish us by classing us as children.

It is my fault I’m divorced, not because “boys will be boys”, but because I foillowed a part of my heart. I did not ask permission, i did not consult, but I was determined and bloody-minded.  Eventually my patient and noble and strong wife decided that I was not at home and asked me to leave. That is my doing, I need no excuse. Don’t diminish me by making me a child, don’t diminish her suffering, and she has suffered, because she loved me devoutly and completely, by saying “Boys will be boys”.