Sourdough Pete

Way out in the Gibson desert, not far from Lake MacKay, at the end of a long day crossing the desert at an average speed of 20kph, I came upon an old man sitting by a campfire . His back leaned against the tyre of an ancient troopy. He was cooking something that smelled good. It was kangaroo stew and damper.

He introduced himself as Pete, and invited me to join him for a meal, which I accepted cheerfully, bringing out some canned fruit and creamed rice from my stock as a dessert offering.

His stew was really good. His damper was unexpectedly extraordinary. It tasted like the best sourdough bread I’ve ever had. Damper is usually made from self raising flour or using baking powder. I complimented Pete on the bread, and he told me he used raisins to make a starter dough. It seems the yeasts naturally found on the dried fruit were perfect for making bread. The starter fermented all day in the hot car as he travelled and was ready to bake in the camp oven at the end of every day.

He showed me how it was done. He opened an old pack, pulled out a bag of raisins, mixed some with flour and water in an old Tupperware container, and put it on the bonnet of his Troopy ready for the next day. Then he put the raisins beside the container on the bonnet. We sat down to share dessert.

As we ate, there was a whir of wings and a large crow landed on the car. Without hesitation, it grabbed the bag of dried fruit and flew away with it.

Pete watched the bird fly away with the resigned acceptance of one who is used to the vagaries and tragedies of life. “Ah.” he said philosophically. “There goes my raisins for leavening”.

Sea Song

Sea Song

There’s water in the scuppers and the sea is cutting rough
The bilge pumps are not working and if that’s not bad enough
There’s salt water in the rum lads, there will be no getting drunk
We’ll all drown stone cold sober when the fucking ship has sunk

The skipper’s drinking brandy, for he has a private store
He says he’ll go down with his ship and what can he do more?
He ordered the abandon ship, we cut the lifeboats free
Not one of them would stay afloat. They sank into the sea

The life jackets are useless. They are soggy wet kapok
We tossed them in the ocean and they went down like a rock
The first mate said to swim for it, we’ve minutes to get clear
Before the old girl founders, and drags us down with her

The bosun said there was no point for where then would we go?
Unless there is an island near and that, he did not know
So even if we swam and swam, and then we swam some more
The bloody sharks would take us all before we reached a shore

I’ll take me chances here said he, and go down quick and clean
Just then a huge wave swamped us. The biggest we had seen
The old ship groaned and foundered, then settled on a reef
The water’s really shallow here, to everyone’s relief.
.

© 2020 ARF

SAS Deployed in Brisbane as Unrest Increases in the Suburbs.

The newly formed Special Assembly Squad of the Department of Health had only just completed its inaugural training exercises, when a sudden upsurge in grumpy elderly people congregating at supermarkets necessitated their early deployment.

The SAS is manned by elite members of the Flying Hygiene Squad, considered to be the most highly trained Environmental Health Officers on the planet. The identity of the individual squad members is known only to their close family and the boys at the pub.

We spoke to an officer of the Corps, anonymous under his blue surgical mask and impenetrable dark glasses. He told us that the squad has been training with non-lethal means of subjugating grumpy old bags and petulant old codgers, as well as a few stroppy young mothers with crappy little babies.

“Though the temptation to use lethal force can be overwhelming, especially when one sees the weeping remains of a checkout lady writhing and wailing on the floor, suffering extreme PTSD, we mostly stick to our aerosol cans of Glen-20 and clever blunted snake catcher hooks which are ideal for pulling a walking stick or walker out from under an assailant” he said.

“Mostly” he added.”Sometimes things can get a bit rough. Have you ever confronted an old lady who has been shopping here since before you were born young man? It can be pretty scary.”

He shivered at some remembered horror. Then pulled himself together.

“Apart from a few broken hips, which we consider acceptable collateral damage, there have been no casualties among the public” he told us.

Only one member of the squad has been injured, when struck by some loony old bat’s umbrella. He is recovering at a secret location.

Zombie Apocalypse

The zombie apocalypse is upon us. All over the country there are wandering hordes of not-yet-dead zombies craving, not human flesh, but toilet paper, and more groceries than they could possibly eat before climate change kills us all properly, as is fit.

This new strain of mindless zombie goes almost unnoticed until they get near a supermarket or grocery store.

That is the danger, they walk unseen among us. Then they strike.

All I wanted was a dozen eggs, a loaf of fresh bread, and some cheese. Please explain to me how COVID19 has affected the egg laying capabilities of chickens, and why anyone would want to hoard eggs.

At least I got my bread and cheese.

Spacetime Simply

Spacetime is a continuum. It is Mathematically proven beyond doubt that spacetime is a manifold, which is to say, it appears locally “flat” near each point in the same way that, at small enough scales, a globe appears flat.

Spacetime is expanding. Which means the universe is growing. Time is expanding. We can think of “the present” as being the surface of an expanding bubble of time. Everything inside the bubble is the past. A fixed and unalterable part of the spacetime continuum. Outside the bubble is nothing. It is the future. It does not yet exist. Until the present expands into it it is just a theoretical possibility.

That is the easy part. Now consider time travel. We are already travelling into the future at the fastest rate possible. The rate of expansion of the continuum. We cannot get there any sooner than anyone else, because there is nothing there until everyone arrives. Literally nothing. So travelling to a distant future is not possible. There is no such thing. Yet.

The math of travel to the past is entirely different. It is possible, but only if it already happened. Therefore travel to the past involves always having done so, and allows no possibility of changing events historically. The attempt to assassinate Hitler always failed, we know exactly who was involved and what happened to them. What we don’t know is precisely which of the conspirators came from the future, when they came from how they got there, and how they insinuated themselves into German Military Intelligence without being discovered. That hasn’t happened yet. Or perhaps it has, and we don’t know. In reality, there seems to be no point in undertaking the attempt, because it failed, and always will. We know the coup will not work, but we also know they did try. So they always shall. There is no way that the attempt can be prevented because it already happened. At some point in the near future therefore, it shall probably be initiated.

That is putting it simply.

There is no need to police the laws of spacetime. They police themselves.

Heinlein was wrong. Vonnegut was right.

Book Pile

My previous post led me to consider which books, or perhaps it would be better to say which works, I would put in my heavenly pile. I mentioned two already. To them I would add, in no order of merit, the following non-exhaustive list, all of which left an impression on me.

  • Metamorphoses
  • The Iliad
  • The Odyssey
  • Jason, by Henry Treece
  • Candide
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh
  • Beowulf
  • The Green Man (Tolkien translation)
  • The Arthurian novels of T H White, Mary Stewart, Rosemary Sutcliffe, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Nikolai Tolstoy
  • The Mabinogion and the novelisations by Evangeline Walton
  • The Chronicles of Prydain
  • Moby Dick
  • A Tale of Two Cities
  • Slaughterhouse Five
  • Catch 22
  • The Forever War
  • The Day of the Triffids
  • Tiger, Tiger! (The Stars My Destination)
  • The Demolished Man
  • Macroscope – and sequels
  • Ringworld
  • The Einstein Intersection
  • The Left Hand of Darkness
  • Starship Troopers
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
  • The Ryme of the Ancient Mariner
  • Collected Works of W B Yeats
  • Collected Works of Oscar Wilde
  • Collected Works of William Shakespeare
  • Collected Works of Robert Burns
  • Green Eggs and Ham

Bliss

I was right. Freed of gravity in the pool, every bone and joint, every muscle, even my arthritic little finger, stopped hurting. To my mind, if heaven existed it would have to be nothing more than a surcease from pain. And perhaps a pile of good books. The pile would not have to be all that big. My memory is so poor I can’t remember all the details of the best literature I’ve read, and I love rereading and rediscovering.

It’s like returning to a forgotten favourite place, finding it completely unchanged, yet observing things about it you know were there, but you never really noticed before.

I have just received in the mail the latest posthumously published complete volume of Ursula K Le Guin’s Earthsea collection. The novel that became a trilogy then five, then six novels plus more short stories. I have written before that this work, along with Tolkien’s Hobbit tales, contains, in my opinion, all one needs to know about being a decent human being, without the crappy trappings and hypocrisy of religion.

This is the third time I’ve bought the Earthsea volumes, but the first time I finally collected them all in one.

But I digress. I spent a full three hours in the pool today, despite the rain, and despite the water being the coolest I have experienced since I started swimming there. I was not swimming the whole time. Over an hour was spent leaning on a lane marker in conversation with two delightful people on a wide range of subjects from travel to racism and fish and chips and depression and exercise. I hope I meet them both again.

Returning to gravity was as unpleasant as always. I could hardly climb into the car. A quick trip to Aldi turned into an exhausting trek, and I’m buggered. In fact, it is now mid afternoon and I think I may have a late lunch of slow cooked vegetable soup and spend the rest of the day in bed with Ursula.

Thesis Proposal

They are strange creatures. I have studied them for some time, and still find their behaviour inexplicable. Despite almost constantly killing each other in various Skirmishes, battles and wars, anywhere, and at any time, around their planet, they rarely eat each other, even after mating. They don’t even eat their own young, although they can catch them easily.

Their genetic code differs greatly from ours. I have been unable to learn anything from those I have eaten. Thus I must learn from studying their behaviour, a task that seems dauntingly difficult.

They have no claws or ovipositors, but have developed an astonishing array of synthetic weapons with which to attack each other.   So far I have not determined the criteria on which they base their decision to attack, nor on their choice of weapon, which ranges from sharpened objects of various types and hand held projectile throwers, to extremely large mobile devices, having cooperative crews of many individuals and capable of throwing  projectiles and explosive devices over a great distance.

This interesting social construct of cooperative communities is a most alien concept, difficult to grasp. It consists of numbers of individuals, from small groups to large area-wide populations, and of any gender working together to construct habitats and also to craft these various devices with which to attack each other. In some areas, these attacks are ritual in nature, and death rarely results. In other areas whole communities attack and slaughter other communities, with devices designed to make holes in vital organs, or to disintegrate them entirely.

How they learn the skills required without eating each other I have yet to discover.

How individuals decide to cooperate with some, yet attack and destroy other groups, I have been unable to determine. It may involve territoriality. There appears to be some form of genetically coded ritual involved. They may not be able to consciously choose, despite the appearance of rational behaviour on occasion.

A difficult ritual to understand, from my perspective, takes place on designated pathways where individuals or small cooperative groups enter various forms of mobile device and ritually pass each other at high speed, apparently seeking suitable prey. These pathways cover most of the land mass where terrain permits and cross territorial boundaries.

At seemingly random intervals, somewhere along these paths one device will crash into another, or into some feature of the environment. This may result in injury or death of some or all participants. For some reason, survivors rarely attempt to finish off and eat any others still alive. In fact they cooperate to ensure any injured or damaged individuals are taken away to places where they can be repaired.

It is this custom of repairing themselves that I find the most inexplicable of all. After doing their best to kill and maim each other, they then go to great lengths to to repair damaged individual survivors, rather than eat them. Without that, how do they learn from each other?

How the individuals who carry out the repairs are able to restrain themselves from eating those damaged ones needs to be studied further. Perhaps they use some form of inhibitor to suppress the natural cannibal instinct. They may be a separate sub-species genetically primed to repair rather than attack. If their genes have somehow combined with those of the general population, it may explain the strange dichotomy of behaviour planetwide. How it helps with the continuation of the species will take considerable further study. I may be witnessing some new evolution of the Survival Directive.

I shall not return to mate and be eaten until I have incorporated a satisfactory explanation of the above phenomena into my matrix.

Seer

He sits in the dark cave of his cabin, with curtained windows. He is surround by artefacts and nick-nacks collected over eighty nine years.

The only light in the room comes through the doorway where I am standing. It is late afternoon and the sky outside is heavily overcast. I can barely see him, seated in an ancient Lazyboy chair behind a coffee table piled with the detritus of a man who does not move about much.

I knocked twice on his open door. “How are doing mate?” I asked.

He has suffered several strokes. His speech is slow and slurred from myotonic dystrophy. But I could understand him clearly.

He looked at me with clouded eyes, as if he did not recognise me.

“I know why you have come” he said. “You are seeking something you can never regain”.

I sat down on a rickety chair. It creaked under my weight.

“You cannot put the smoke back into the cigarette” he said. As if to accentuate his point, he drew a long drag on a thin, hand rolled cigarette and blew a cloud of smoke into the air. He coughed for a few moments then continued.

“Every experience is a new one. Even if you are doing the same thing again. The Laws of Entropy and Enthalpy will ensure that nothing will ever be the same. If you go back, you will be disappointed until you accept that you must go forward. If you buy a boat, you may enjoy the pleasant experiences it will provide you, but you must understand these are not the experiences of your youthful memory. Those have been guilded by time and fondness until in your mind they are no longer anything like what you really experienced. Go forward. Enjoy new sensations.

The molecules of air the breeze blows to touch your face are all new to you, and you will probably never encounter any one of them again. They will go on to touch other faces, to combust in a cigarette or a bushfire, or perhaps to combine with metal as rust, or be inhaled by someone and incorporated in their body, to be released as something new in the crematorium. They carry no memory of you. You, however, can carry a memory of them. That is your task. To experience, enjoy, and remember.”

He took another drag on his fag and had another coughing fit.

His eyes cleared. He looked at me with surprise as I proffered him my offering.

“G’day! How’re ya doin’?”

“G’day to you, O wise one. I thought you might like some of this spaghetti Bolognese I made. It’s low salt. You may want to add some. ”.

I handed him a fork. He started to eat.

“But I’ve been thinking, I live on an island and I should buy a boat”.

“Nah, he said, a strand of spaghetti suspended from the corner of his mouth. “Don’t like boats, rocking and splashing. Don’t even like fishing. Can’t stand the smell. Until they are cooked, with chips”.

He sucked on his cigarette while still chewing Bolognese. When he coughed, a bit shot on to the coffee table. He wiped it up with his handkerchief.

The Seer had retired. The old man was dining.

The old man turned on his television with the remote, and leaned back to watch the football. He had forgotten I was there. He burped contentedly, drew on his smoke and coughed.

I left quietly. As I did, “Buy the boat” he said.

I don’t know which of him said that.

Experiment

I have decided to go for my PhD.

After exhaustive search of the literature, I have noted there is not a single case of a shark of any species ever having attacked a compass binnacle.

I shall therefore base my thesis on on the proposal that sharks are repelled by magnets. I hypothesise that the field of a reasonably strong magnet will disrupt the sensitive navigational function of their lateral lines.

I shall test this hypothesis by putting a couple of fridge magnets in the pockets of my swim shorts, and going swimming in heavily shark infested waters, which is what Australians call the sea.

This is an exciting project with serious implications for bather safety worldwide. I am eager to get started.

I have “I crossed the Nullarbor” and “buzzy bee” fridge magnets in my pockets,. I’m off for my first field test. In the words of Captain Oates, “I may be some time”.