Friday, August 26, 2022

the Word (10 lines)


1) Boss, there is a wee problem with one of those hobby experiments of yours inside the main Creation project.

2) It is those clowns over in the Critical History Intelligence Management Program Section, again.

3) (Sigh) I needed to do something with the junior staff, particularly the ‘imaginative’ ones, what is it this time….

4) Well, you know the time differential between here at Control and those ’Intelligent Beings’ side experiments, especially for Sol 3 - Homo Sapiens?

5) They have been inserting wildly conflicting story to ‘evidence’ elements, mainly to see what kind of effect those will have on the intellectual development of the new primary species.

6) Ah, as I recall that was the one where the growth medium got too rich, resulting in the exponential development of the original Sauropod type for size rather than intelligence, which we had to wipe clean and restart along Mammalian lines?

7) Well everything was going fine with the evolving Hominids, into the start of them developing various regional deities, agriculture and their first writing methods.

8) Then the CHIMPS picked one obscure tribal group, gave them a series of often conflicting text instructions for moral conduct, presented and re-enforced as being of ‘divine’ origin.

9) Which of course have been badly copied, heavy edited, and deliberately miss interpreted over time, each version held up as the ’True Word of God’.

10) Those Bozos, why do they think I had implemented the Critical Thought side routine for anyway?

With (very minor) apologies to ‘Becka’, where I stole the image used - noting that she did not credit the original artist either.


This started with a slightly larger and different mechanism inside the same concept. Humans as a petri dish side experiment inside the main construction (the universe) being undertaken by some Power. And a group of younger trouble makers inside the project inserting some kind of 'lets see what this does' random elements. Originally I was thinking of some standard biblical stories (the Flood = where did the water come from / Joshaua and Earth stopping rotation = no inertia effects) plus some 'joker' effects like dinosaur bones, sedimentary rock layers, all being fakes. 

But - 10 Lines

Remember the Golden Era of Clarke and Asimov, masters at the short story. Before the excesses of word processors, and when Editors actually *edited* material? When it was about the underlying concept, often a punch line?

Fredric Brown's "Knock"

' The last man on earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door... '

Note - published in 1948. Modern people, substitute 'human' for 'man' please.

Text-to-speech function is limited to 200 characters

Sunday, August 21, 2022

On Writing - One


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about writing.

Not just about stories, although those too, but about what sits behind the stories.

How to write. Or at the very least, how to write something that at least I (and hopefully others) would like to read.

Of late I have also had more time, or just plain taken more time, to think about how the things I like to read are structured.

One : Memories are slippery things…

Our household had never been a big book owning one (1) As a child, we were encouraged into reading with weekly visits to the Peterborough Public Library. This was an imposing building originally constructed and filled under funds from Andrew Carnegie Foundation in 1911. (2) I had already made serious reading inroads through the the mythical and historical, the fairy tales and fantasy sections available in the second floor Children’s section by the time I was ten. (3)

There was a short interlude that put our family into Toronto for two short years (later 1965 to early 1968). Now divorced (believe me, punishing in Suburban Ontario in the late 1960's), my mum moved us back to Peterborough, so I grew up on the economic short end, attempting to hold to Canadian White-bead English Protestant Middle Class. (4) We had a black & white television from the early 60’s that was broken as often as not (until I learned to change tubes bought from my paper route money). This limited pretty much to the local Peterborough CBC and fuzzy distant Toronto stations. Occasional American (Rochester) broadcasts, even fuzzier and howling static.

The library was free, and believe me, we made excessive use of that, pushing our weekly borrowing limit. ‘A book a day’ was typical. By the time I was 14 I had consumed all the historical, fantasy, and science fiction juveniles available. Back then access to the Adult collection was greatly controlled, as I remember you had to be 16 to (or have an adult) check out a book from that floor. My father on his departure had left behind a half dozen ‘Book of the Month Club’ science fiction. Which of course, sometimes only dimly understanding, I had all read, sometimes more than once. (5)

The first science fiction book I can remember owning to myself was Tom Swift and His Jetmarine, by Victor Appleton. (6) Which was a series novel like the Hardy Boys (read most all those too), echoing the considerably more complex ‘Juveniles’ by Robert A. Heinlein - which of course I also had all borrowed and read. (I have long lost my original copy, but have managed to find a replacement!) Finally into High School at grade nine, a lot of that paper route money was going into used paperbacks. I was running out of any more possible space in my small shared room for my collection of Clarke, Asimov, and the rest of the 1940 - 60’s authors, my favourite (still) being Robert Heinlein. (7)

How did I learn ‘how to write’?

Monkey See - Monkey Do.

That first year at Adam Scott CVI, I became part of the Science Fiction Library tucked in the rear cabinets of one of the Science Labs. One of the teachers had initiating this by donating his roughly 250 volume paper back book collection. In turn each of the disciples brought in their own smaller collections. When I got involved late 1970, there were about 500 all told. It was a fairly informal lending library, pretty much dependant on the honour system. With faint echoes of Miller’s ‘A Canticle for Leibowitz’ we considered ourselves Keepers of the Faith, socially isolated, and yes, geeks - but geeks with a calling. (8) And hey, it was the Cold War, and it was known that Peterborough was at least technically a secondary target. We had all gone through ‘Duck and Cover’ drills in elementary school.

So - Monkey See?

I’m reasonably bright. I was reading roughly on average one book a night. Sure not only by the early Masters of Science Fiction, but also a considerable amount of bad examples. As Sturgeon’s Law states : “Ninety-percent of everything is crud”. (9) If you are going to learn, learn from the best what to repeat, learn from the rest what to avoid. By the time I got into later high school (to grade 13 in Ontario) I had already read thousands of books. Yes, mostly science fiction and fantasy. If you were going to ‘narrow’ your selection choices, certainly ‘speculative fiction’ presented the widest possible pallet. By the time I was in my mid thirties, my own personal SF / F collection was easy over a thousand volumes mainly purchased second hand (sorry), and yes I had read all of those.

Look, as might be obvious by now, I never got any technical *understanding* of where a comma is supposed to really go, or when it morphs to a semi-colon to a full colon. No clue what past participle really is. (Mind you that often repeated quote from Quigley Down Under comes to mind : "I said I never had much use for one; never said I didn't know how to use it." ) (10) Does it sound right to me when I put it down to paper? Fine, must be ok. I had almost been kicked out of the required grade 12 english course, over an essay I submitted. The teacher determined the essay must have been completely plagiarized, simply because “It was written too well to have been the work of a student who did not undertake grammar deconstruction exercises at a similar level’.

So, clearly all this stuff aways sounds like me. I’ve had considerable practice in speaking before the public, over dozens of formal presentations, hundreds of courses and lectures, and actually to thousands (more like tens of thousands, all told) of people. No, I do not especially sound like I have a PhD (a surprise, considering I certainly don’t), but I can certainly explain effectively, as well as actually physically do. Over the last two decades particularly, I have been working closely with major museums and exhibit projects. I have written a number of at least semi-academic papers, and had a number formally published as book chapters and journal articles (‘I may not be able to sing it, but I can certainly hum the tune’.) (11)


Readers will find a lot of use of Wikipedia as references. I counter this by asking them to remember that is is a commentary / explanation, so NOT an academic article.

1) When I undertook the task of organizing my mothers effects after her death, I was honestly shocked at the almost complete absence of books. Bibles and hymnals, a few Reader’s Digest collections (given as gifts). We were always encouraged to read, but books were from the library, money was needed for the essential basics.


3) One of the huge ironies here is at about that same point, I had been placed into a ‘remedial reading’ classification in Elementary School, due to my (continuing) absolutely abysmal spelling. I had quickly realized that words could also be ‘image symbols’ for a concept. There was no need to remember how to sound out a spell a word - if I could so much faster recognize the meaning implied by the patterning. I had read and understood the characters in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings a full decade before I learned the pronunciations from the lips of others.

4) What for years was termed ‘WASP’ = White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant. A term I doubt anyone uses any more, common in Ontario in the 1960’s & 70’s. Based primarily on *religious* separation from (commonly French) Catholic - plus ‘English Heritage’ over ‘anyplace other’.

5) I do remember reading others in this series as well :

6) I still have four of these :

Twilight World - Poul Anderson

Fantastic Voyage - Isaac Asimov

Journey to the Centre of the Earth - Jules Verne

the World of (null) A / Voyage of the Space Beagle / Slan - A.E. van Vogt

(and believe me, that last collection was heavier going for a 14 year old me)

7) Although (perhaps) a different discourse on small city Ontario in the 1960’s and lack of role models, the work of Heinlein has had (and continues) to have a major impact on my character and world view :

8) A Canticle for Leibowitz spins a tale of a Catholic monastery that preserves knowledge through a Nuclear War Dark Age, into a new technical society that yet again lets the bombs fall : 'Those Who Watch’ was how we actually styled ourselves (sorry - my influence). An important consideration is that this was a direct reaction to the ‘Campus Crusade for Christ’ - which was an aggressive US based, largely right wing and evangelist movement itself attempting to contrast the Counter Culture of the later 1960’s. CCC was allowed to operate openly at my high school. I had skirted the edges of the movement, but soon rejected their clear ’Saved or Not = Us versus anyone else / Faith over science’ discrimination :

9) Actually widely held (and supported) as ‘Sturgeon’s Revelation’, first published by author and critic Theodore Sturgeon in 1956 :

10) A film worth seeing in my opinion. Yea, Tom Selleck (as Quigley) is being, well, Tom Selleck. A post Civil War America expert sniper arrives in Australia, to find he has been hired to exterminate the Aborigines. He refuses, starting a chain of conflict that will lead him forced into a final ‘Ok Corral’ style quick draw handgun duel.

11) Sorry - another film quote (or more likely a distortion thereof). Could not narrow down the source via 10 minutes of Mr. Google.


This was started intended as a ‘short’ introduction towards a commentary about prediction, COVID 19 – and John Ringo’s the Last Centurion. Clearly what is developing is a whole series on my perception of ‘why I write’.

Number Two is (tentatively) ‘What I don’t like reading...’

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Breakin' the Blooms


A report of a day of work with Neil Peterson

On Friday, August 5, 2022, Neil and I spent the day taking four of the larger blooms (6 - 8 kg) and undertaking a first stage compaction and cutting into more easily worked pieces.

Surveying the larger blooms on hand (total 10).

Three of the four blooms chosen for working.

Neil using the hydraulic press, three burner propane forge to right.

Objective - mechanical compression and cut to 1 - 2 kg sized pieces.


February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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