Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's Not Easy Being Me.

I am, I have concluded, a difficult and complex individual. One who watches too much television, which any rational human being would mean that I am being dumbed down and simplified with every passingminute.
But no. Difficulter, and more complex.
For instance: I laughed like a child at a re-run of "The Big Bang Theory". It must be the funniest programme on TV, apart from the TV1 6 O'Clock News. At least TBBT is intentionally funny. Then, a quick channel change, so Jenny can watch Coronation Street... and we catch the last few minutes of the programme I actually hate more than 't Street.
Masterchef. Oh, ye gods. I would seriously take to religion if someone would tell me that praying daily would remove Masterchef from the tele, and my hurting memory.
The presenters have, at most, 12 lines that they use, re-use, abuse, then use again. And again. Cooking doesn't get any tougher / harder than this. Ladies and gentlemen, can you stand the heat? It's been a hard decision... (wait for 30 seconds of drone, then commercial break, then a repeat of the line, 30 seconds more of drone) Roger Testosterone, I'm afraid your flambeed prune-juice enhanced prawn in a Weet-a-bix bisque wasn't up to the mark, but (wait for thirty seconds of drone) we've decided you get to stay, while Wilhelmina Winklebottom leaves Masterchef! You must want this Masterchef title more than life itself. And so, and on, and fucking on.
On another note: I'm still having trouble with Skype. I forgot my password. NOTE TO SELF: write passwords down. I hit the smug little "Forgot Your Password?" thing, and it promised to send me an email. It didn't. I hit it again, It didn't respond. So far, it's ignored me seven times. I have been advised to delete Skype frommy 'pooter, and start again. I did. I downloaded it, yay, an updated version. It didn't ask me for a new sign-in or password, because, well, it already has this 'pooter registered.
I hit the smug, snide, and thoroughly evil "Forgot Your Password?" thingy. It hasn't responded. Still. Again.
At least I've figured out how to make my facebook thing work again, but that doesn't help me talk to my beautiful grand-daughter.
Reading: T. Jefferson Parker, "The Renegades". A cri8me police procedural, which I'm not normaslly big on. this, however, has captivated me.
Listening to: "Concert for George", by a buncha George Harrison friends and family. Cool.

Miracle of miracles..

There's been another shaky old day in Christchurch. fresh earthquakes, some more damage, and at least one more "miracle" claimed.
A restaurant in a shapping mall suffered some destruction - a part of the ceiling fell in, a few bricks scattered about.
"Oh," gasped the owner. (I'm paraphrasing, but only a lot.) "If this had happened when people had of been sitting there at those there tables, they would have been killed. Thank God no-one was there to killed! It was a miracle that no-one was killed!".
Well, actually, no. While Australia may have a saint - some woman deified by a bunch of frock-wearing men who were happy to take hearsay as proof of a "miracle" - we here in good old shaky EnZed don't need one. And we certainly don't want god being dragged in to quite ordinary happenings.
Yes, I'm afraid earthquakes are rather ordinary here. Ones that dmaage property aren't so common, but they happen.
And ones that damaged a restaurant that was closed for business, and that therefore couldn't have harmed anyone in said restaurant, is not a miracle.
It was most certainly not, as the headline claimed "Another miracle". For it to have been another miracle, two things need to have been true:
1: It had to have been proved to be a miracle - ie, it had to be demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that what happened was due entirely to God's divine intervention. There could be no other possible explanation. (Even the Catholic Church claims to rely on this definition, although they do play a tad loosey-goosey with their own rules).
2: For it to have been "another miracle", there had to have been a prior proven miracle. See details re God etc above.
And there hasn't been a prior miracle. Just happenstance. Happy happenstance, to be sure - but not a miracle. A surprise, perhaps, but no miracle. Amazing stories of survival, certainly. But no miracles.
Let's say these things happened: the seismologist's instruments go crazy, indicating that a Force 7+ earthquake is in progress, say on Haiti, but - while thousands of homes are sent tumbling down hills, and million-tonne mudslides sweep tens of thousands of people away - absolutely no-one is hurt. Grade "A" Miracle there. Or a tornado picks up a church filled with pious worshippers in Kansas, and shreds the building while setting everyone down completely unharmed... well, that would be a miracle. Or, let's say, every time an attempt was made to kill an inmate at Auschwitz during WWII, he or she was protected, and the tormentor suffered the death intended for the inmate... well, hell, that would have been child's play for an omnipotent, all-knowing, all-loving god. Genuine miracles.
They didn't happen, because, well, miracles need god. That's the nature of miracles. A piece of masonry falling down and not hitting a person who isn't there is not a miracle. It's just a piece of masonry obeying the laws of gravity. If anything comes close to being miraculous in that small story it's Newton's brain - and his near-contemporary, Darwin, had a few things to say about that.
Reading: T Jefferson Parker, "The Renegades".
Listening to: Ray davies, "Working Men's Cafe".

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A day of reflection..

It's been a funny old day.I've felt discombobulated, out of sorts, dislocated.
This odd feeling has come about, of course, because I should have been elsewhere. I should have been at my darling brother-in-law's funeral - but as I couldn't get away for the trip to Hawke's Bay, I didn't make it.
John Palmer was an excellent person. There was nothing about him that immediately shouted out "inside this skin there beats the heart of a truly decent human being", but a moment or two of conversation with him, and you'd know that he was someone just that little bit out-of-the-ordinary. He cared very deeply for my sister, which is always a good start. He adored his grand-children, and loved his step-grandchildren. Another sign of excellence. He was very good to my parents, and stood up to my Mother, which shows he was True of Heart, and possibly a Rash Fool - certainly a man of character and backbone.
He was, apparently, capable of anger, but I never saw that for myself, so I choose to ignore the rumours.
It is true that you can learn something of value from everyone you meet, and this is certainly true of my experience with Big John. Patience, calmness, and understanding that the world is going to happen regardless of what you might want.
I've only known John for 15 years or so. Too short a time. I would have liked the chance to sit down and enjoy a couple of coldies with him again, but the Bastard Cancer screwed those plans. It's a particularly evil way to die, and it held our John down and tortured him beyond belief. From all reports, he faced it all with quiet dignity and courage.
Big John Palmer: you were a bloody marvellous human being, and I, for one, will miss you more than I can explain.
READING: John Birmingham, "Without Warning". For the second time.
LISTENING TO: Harry Nillson, "Everybody's Talking".
No Paper Heroes today. It just wouldn't be right.

Monday, December 20, 2010

'tis the season...

Well, gosh.
At this time of the year it gets quite hot here in the Southern climes, while North of the Equator it's been known to cool down a bit.
And, with the old global warming thing starting to hit (and really, anyone who remains a denier must also be one of those whose grasp of the idea of a globular Earth is weak..) it's not unexpected that summer will mean more extremes of summery-type weather (heat, drought, humidity, storms, floods, etc) while those in the wintery areas must expect an equal and opposite outpouring of energy: cold, sleet, hail, snow, and so on.
So when it happens - as it has over Europe this year (it was America's turn last year, and every year is Russia's turn) - I get amused by people bleating.
"I can't see why they couldn't take off from Heathrow. There's only 50 centimetres of snow on the runway.."
"We've been held up here in New York by the European snows, and it's just not good enough. It's just - well, you'd think the airlines could do better."
Excuse me? When you have a weather system with a similar energy quotient as a few dozen Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs dropping a gazillion tons of snow, you also have conditions that ain't all that propitious for flying.
No use complaining. You may as well complain about the moon changing shape every day.
Heat is energy. We keep on pumping heat / energy into the atmosphere, and it's got to go somewhere. That somewhere is... the weather. People should stop bleating about the difficulties they've caused.. They need to get off their pimply white arses and do something about it. (I say "white" arses, because the damage was initiated by, and largely done by, the white, European First and New World ountries. The Third World nations are, by and large, catching up: but they're also leading the way with conservation efforts..)
And talking as though the airport management team and the airlines can actually do something to stop a multi-megaton weather system is simply asking them to play god. Can't be done.
So, either accept the shitty weather, or do something about it. Complaining won't acheive anything.
Reading: Stephen Hunter "The Master SWniper". An oldy and a goody.
Listening to: Anything but Snoopy's Fucking Christmas....
More "Paper Heroes":
It came to them that, despite not actually discussing the question, they had all made the decision to go ahead with the mission.

Five things happened on November 24th: Blunt, Crayne, and the other four Sleepers finally met with Charles, and formally told him of their decision to try and destroy the transmitter which had been causing chaos and mass death. Grey had summed it up for all of them the night before: “It’s always been the case of the politicians who foul the nest up, and it’s the soldiers who have to clean it out. These people seem to be harmless, working together in peace and harmony, and someone’s using their homes as a toilet. I cain’t say as I like ‘em much, but they do seem to be a better bet than whut’s taken over my old home.

“I don’t like the way we was brung here, but here I am, there don’t seem to be no way of going back, so we’re stuck here. And there may be some way I can help. So, I’m voting yes, we help ‘em. I don’t know as how I could sleep nights if I didn’t, anyways.”

To which John Prester and Rambo, his Calico kitten, had said “Amen.”
The second thing that happened that day was another target was hit by the transmitter: this time, it was New Zealand’s turn. A sleepy University town in the heartland was obliterated: more than 15,000 died, and some 4,500 were left gibbering wrecks.
The third thing: The train that The Equus and the Black Brigade were travelling on got to the foot of the Rockies. In just six days’ time they would reach ‘Francisco.
The fourth was the unveiling of the plan for getting the Sleepers on land: they would arrive in four days’ time, at night, near Francisco.
The fifth was a surprise. Cienwyn and Adam stated that they wanted to join the expedition to ‘Merika. Naturally, they were insane. Their embot deprogramming had given them emotions and thoughts they had not experienced before. They were out-of-control children, and they revelled in it. That evening, the only disappointed voice had been Thomas Crayne’s. “I’d just wanted to be able to say ‘Into the Valley of Death strode the six.’ Still, if they come, they stay in the rear.”

And it was agreed. Crayne left the room with Winter, his cat, to give his equipment a final check.

The next day, they were on their way.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sunday Scribbles LVI

Listening to the radio should be an interesting and entertaining business. We're blessed, here in our green little country, to have the publicly-funded Radio New Zealand. It's a superb service, run by excellent broadcasters.
If you're one of my overseas readers, you can find Radio New Zealand International on the short-wave band.. or here, on the 'Net.
But early this morning I wasn't listening to Radio New Zealand. I was listening to a "Christian" station. I put the descriptor in quotes, because I generally find that the intolerance spouted by Christians would surely disqualify them from that status if the person whose name they have adopted were to hear their rantings.
Today, for instance, some American chappy was blithering on about the US military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which is how that establishment has uncomfortably accommodate gay personnel.
The "Christian's" POV was such that the Bible says that all "Hommerseckshills" are abominations in the sigt of the lord, and should be, at best, put to death.
He made passing swipes at witches, midgets, commernists, and socialists... but his main thrust was agin' the hoe-moes.
He's entitled to his opinion, and it's terrific that he lives in a country that gives him the freedom to publicly utter his blasphemies. It's terrific that he'd be able to broadcast his filth if he lived in New Zealand.
But he seems to be a trifle confused. because he was also ranting on about the loving, omnipotence, and infallibility of his god, who, he said, made us all. Including, presumably, hommerseckshills, commernists, witches, short people, people born with a hare-lip, or no sight or hearing.
If his god made these people, then surely - if this god is perfect, omnipotent, and loving - then there wouldn't be any gay people? Or very short, one-limbed, blind and deaf gay people who choose to follow Wicca or a dead German instead of an African desert-inspired war-god philosophy?
But apparently the birth and creation of these people sneaks past the all-seeing, all-loving, all-powerful god. My opinion? God fell asleep on the job a few hundred millennia ago, and became totally irrelevant to the world.
Reading: Still on Christian Cameron's "Tyrant".
Listening to: Well, the Radio.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tiny Little Bits of Water Are Falling From The Sky....

110% humidity in Auckland today. 98% hasn’t been so unusual lately. Every day has been Muggy (even Tuegey, Weggy, and Thurgy have all been Muggy) but today the air got a little too saturated, and condensed into a gazillion tiny pieces of heavier-than-air water.
Rain, in other words. Heavy, constant, rattling on the window-panes, splattering Mrs Collins’ pink sequined slippers. I’ve ventured out twice, and would offer up a prayer of thanks-giving to the ghost of the chappy who invented the umbrella. That is, I would if I believed in prayer. Or ghosts.
I must Wiki the umbrella. These little portable roofs (rooves?) are superb on overly-muggy days like today. They keep my carefully coiffed tonsure dry, and stop large droplets forming on my spectacles. This, in turn, means I can clearly see the idiotically large Jeep Cherokee whose driver thinks would make a great tool for killing that pedestrian with the black and white portable roof.
So. Rain. I haven’t heard the old steam wireless today, but I hope that Waikato and Northland are also getting the rain: they’re both on the verge of drought. Of course, it wouldn’t be a grassy verge: more like a dusty one. It would be good to think their bacon’s been saved by the weather – unless, of course, they’re the sorts of humanity-free farmers who use sow crates. In that case, I think it would be preferable if their bacon were to be rescued by someone, rather than something.
Reading: Tyrant: Funeral Games, Christian Cameron. Good blood.
Listening to: Ian Anderson, "The Secret Language of Birds".
More “Paper Heroes” :
At the word “dogs”, Grey’s Puma gave a low growl, which was picked up on by the other cats.

“Colonel Blunt, we must emphasise that a lot of this is best-guess. While the ‘Merikans are not as technologically advanced as we are, they have developed a holographic cloaking system, which our satellites cannot penetrate. It changes appearance every few days: it may not look anything like this representation.”

Blunt nodded. For non-military people they seemed to have achieved a classic military cock-up. However, he accepted that at least they’d made the effort.

Weapons training went well. The longer weapons – Blunt and Whistler’s rifles, and Preston’s M16, were deadly accurate out to a thousand metres at least. When fired, the weapons sighed: the buckyball barrels were made of an extremely dense yet lightweight and rigid foam which served, in essence, as a silencer. At its loudest, it made a sound like an old man coughing. At its quietest – on a target no more than fifty metres away, it sighed; a sensuous sound, inaudible to anyone more than two paces away.

Crayne’s Crusader weapons included small smoke and flash-bang grenades, and a variety of thrown weapons: tiny edged boomerangs, various knives, even a razor-edged discus. His armour was a marvel, even to him. Several centuries before, his costume would have been seen as a technologically futuristic: lightweight, bullet-proof, flexible, and smart. It had had a built-in medical system that could take emergency measures in the event of a traumatic injury, and the communications system within the cowl was capable of talking to his various vehicles, computer network, and – of course – his butler. But his new outfit made it seem as primitive as Hanno’s swords.

The Sleepers spent four days on the range, testing their weapons to the limit, and discussing tactics and strategies. It came to them that, despite not actually discussing the question, they had all made the decision to go ahead with the mission.

Monday, December 13, 2010

New Jobs

Started the New Job today.
New Job means meeting New People. Meeting New People means remembering New Names. And I am terrible at it. Today, I sat at a table with a half-dozen strangers to discuss a Big Thing. There was also a Pseudo-Person - one on a tele screen. He was in Australia, and was video conferring. As I'd met him once before, he was therefore also a Pseudo Stranger.
I drew a little map of the table, with the New People's names written clearly where they sat. So the conversation included such lines as "Thanks, uh, um, did I write down Ed or Bruce? Oh, no: you're Ed or is it Ned... so that makes you Phil. So thanks,Ph-... what? Bill? Bill. OK. Bill. Yes. Um. What was I saying?"
Never mind. Good day, much New Stuff, new ways to find the loo, new ways to get stuck in elevators, new ideas to be had / found / bluffed at. And no time at all to put in any thought of my Blog.
I also have a new phone, but am sending it back. It is even more horribler than the bloody awful Nokia I had at the Library. It's a Ssony Ericssson Walkman, and I think it was designed by a strange Cornish demon. In a couple of days I expect to exchange it for a iPhone: will this be an improvement?
Listening To: Schubert. Good for the heart.
Reading: Same as last time.
More Paper Heroes.
This design feature was to have disastrous consequences later.

The men were taken to a remote area some thirty klicks south of Auckland, and received instructions from their I-See connections on the use of their weapons. Blunt and Whistler were delighted to be relieved of the need to reload after each shot fired: all they needed do now was slam the butt of the weapon into the appropriate socket in their pack, and it would be reloaded with twenty rounds and LoP within half a second.

The firing range they were to use had been made especially for their use: for the first time in hundreds of years a warning flag was flown to indicate that a live-firing exercise was under way.

Cienwyn and Paulus drove the men to the range early on a warm spring morning. A great deal of work had gone into the development if the site: there was a regular thousand-metre range, with pop-up targets scattered along the length. A city-scape had been built, to enable the Sleepers to rehearse fighting in an urban environment: the block-sized area looked as much like San Francisco’s dilapidated mean streets as possible. A third area consisted of a series of long, low barracks-type buildings, a four-storey high building, and a complex of office and administration buildings. A peculiar looking arrangement stood inside a triple-fenced perimeter.

Paulus explained. “Gentlemen? That establishment there is as close as we can come to your target. We have broken a large number of our conventions and laws to actively spy on ’Merika. And this is, we believe, the weapon that the ‘Merikans are using to damage our cities, and citizens. There are barracks capable, we believe, of housing at least two hundred people each. Whether they are soldiers, like yourself, or the people who run the establishment, we don’t know. We do know that there are guard towers – seven, as you can see – and they will possibly be armed by sophisticated automatic weapons. Although how sophisticated we don't know. The taller building houses the laboratories, and there are four admin-type buildings. Inside this triple ring of fencing, of which the middle one is almost certainly electrified, is the weapon itself. It is guarded by soldiers and dogs.”

At the word “dogs”, Grey’s Puma gave a low growl, which was picked up on by the other cats.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sunday Scribbles LV

I am unemployed again. Fortunately, only until Tuesday. I lEft the Library on Friday, after an excessively difficult and busy final week. It was nice to be able to catch up with (and farell) all my customers, but I have to admit I was not expecting the tears. I was very touched by everyone's affection.

I start the new job on Tuesday. I have to say I am very excited by the prospect. I am just as excited by the Plan To Buy A Bicycle. Cycling and swimming are perfect exercise regimes for people with arthritis: there's not the impact on the joints. I have shopped around (Bloody hell, I hate hate hate shopping.) and found the perfect bike. It's a solid, sturdy machine, with 9 in-hub gears, a carrier, a basket, and a big-ass seat. I particularly wanted the in-hub gears. I get confused the the De Railleur (spelling?) gears - all those cogs and wibbly-wobbly bits. Makes changing or repairing a tyre really difficult - for me, anyway. I also especially like the big-ass seat. The last bike I rode had a little sliver of a seat that vanished up my butt-crack and conducted a prostate examination while I hummed along. I apparently had a permanently surprised expression on my face...

I remain in favour of the Wikileaks, if not the man. He does seem to be a self-righteous hippy-dippy power-mad Aussy freakazoid wholooks upon the rest of the world (including his Wikileaks co-leakers) with contempt. However, we mustn't confuse the messenger with the message. And the Swedish sex / rape charges do seem a little too convenient, if not totally contrived. Hard to see how they can be genuine.

Off to the first read-through of "Pride and Prejudice" this afternoon. It does look as though it'll be fun. I've made a thin start on the mutton-chop whiskers - it's nice that there's something about me that's thin....

Listening to: Kate Bush, "Aerial". Typical Kate, which is to say ecstatically beautiful.

More "Paper Heroes" :
The designers' embots made that kind of sophistry necessary: Design for lethality, and you would be breaking the code.

Blunt and Whistler’s rifles were now capable of firing twenty rounds without a reload, and would change the type of shot by verbal command. It could fire anti-armour, high-explosive, or anti-personnel bullets on command, re-fabricating the rounds as they were fed to the firing chamber. Grey’s Colts could each fire twelve rounds, anti-armour or personnel, before reloading, and his Model of ‘79 Winchester rifle could carry forty rounds.

Whistler’s massive seven-barrelled gun – the original of which had been designed to clear an enemy ship's rigging of musket-armed crewmen - now had thirty barrels, which would fire simultaneously, singly, or in bursts of three. And so it went: Preston’s M16 rifle doubled as grenade launcher, laser, machine-gun, and mortar. For Hanno, however, a sword remained a sword. Except his could also deliver a 24,000-volt shock, sufficient to knock a healthy man to the ground.

In fact, all firearms carried a non-lethal option. A Taser, a Tasp, a foam-shot, an anaesthetic round..

Of course, thought Crayne. After all, we don’t really want to hurt anyone, do we?

Each man was given a back-pack, an 8 kilogram shoulder-carried pack which was, in effect, a mini-factory. A tiny fusion reactor within the pack ran the converter. The only raw materials it needed were a couple of kilograms of soil, and the pack would fabricate ammunition and LoP, the liquid propellant all firearms used. The propellant-injector takes information from the weapon’s sights, and provides exactly the right amount of oomph to get the projectile lethally to target, and on target. The packs would also convert any vegetable matter into a nutritious and tasty meal, and would churn out medi-packs as needed.

Each pack and weapon is voice activated: something it takes the Sleepers some time to accustom themselves to. Each weapon was slaved to its owner – Blunt could not fire Whistler’s rifle, and Whistler could not fire anything other than his own weapons. This design feature was to have disastrous consequences later.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The last days...

A short blog, today. My ancient Mother rang me just as I was about to start, and kept me umming and erring and yes Mum-ming for 20 minutes. Soh.
I'm into the last few days of my work with the Library... and, if you were thinking of buying me something expensive for Christmas, forget it. I have already been given the most fabulous Christmas gift.
Yes, the two thoughts are connected.
I visited the lovely Mrs Wood and Mrs price today. they're neighbours at a small... well, retirement village is a nice name for it. It's a place where old people end up when they have no money, but plenty of faculties.
These two old things, with barely a razoo (of the brassy variety) between them, still managed to buy a gift for their friendly departing Library guy. Mrs W put it together: a basket, filled with fresh fruit, carefully wrapped in cellophane.
When they gave it to me, a tear slipped down my cheek. I doubt that I've ever received anything half as precious.
Listening to: Elton John & Leon Russell, "Union". I'll need to listen to it a few times, I think: the sum may not be greater than the parts...
Reading: Just finished the Billy Bull book. So - where's the movie?
No Paper Heroes today: I'm on the wrong 'pooter...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sunday Scribbles LIV

Well, this is the last week of my work with the library. The last week's been hard, saying goodbye to fifty or so of my Little old People, and I don't expect this week to be any easier. In fact, I think it'll be harder: I'm going to be going around all of the rest, some 160 odd people, and making sure they're well-stocked up with books to see them right over the Christmas period.
This has meant that I've been (and am) picking enough books: at an average of around 20 books per person, I'll be picking and selecting over 3,000 books.
It has occurred to me that teaching people to read has lead directly to this problem.
Mind you, if people were illiterate, then I wouldn't have my shiny new job as writer for a new website. So I guess I'll just endure.
Today is also the day I audition for the role of Mister Bennett, in the upcoming production of “Pride and Prejudice”. Wish me luck.
Reading: Guillermoe del Toro (or Billy Bull, as I call him) “The Fall”. The second part of his horror trilogy. This is the way vampires should be: bloody monstrous. None of this namby-pamby Twilight bullshit. These guys are evil. Almost as good as Dan Simmon's mental vampires, in his “Carrion Comfort”, which is the best horror yarn I've read.
Listening to: Doris Day, “16 Most requested Songs”. What a brilliant voice. What fucking dreadful, sexist, misogynistic lyrics. Yet they were seen as love songs. And they are fun...
More "Paper Heroes":
He glanced back at Whistler, and saw that he was being shaken his own bloody memories.

One by one, they woke, and felt at their emotions, like a tongue inspecting a broken tooth. One, however, sat up, stared wildly, shrieked, and fell back, quiet. When Cienwyn got to Paulus’s side, she found he was dead.
A part of her was horrified at the fact, while another part of her exulted in the fact that she had survived, while he had died.
Wormbait, she thought. Loser.
Right and wrong. That’s all there was, in that room on that afternoon. Right and wrong. With no room for anything in between.
Now, days later, Charles was also as unprotected as his charges, and for the first few days he was afraid that he would truly go mad. He had never before experienced an untrammelled emotion. When he accidentally slammed his finger in a drawer the heat of anger that flushed through his body terrified him. He was not alone, however. Cienwyn and Adam were also excited and wondering at then changes. The woman had accepted her new liberties much more easily than the men. Her hair now slashed and spiralled in a maddening exhibition of joy, and her skin-patterns flared and subsided with a feral intensity.

The edged weapons had all been made for the Sleepers from patterns found in restricted history books. The materials were different: instead of iron and steel, mono-molecular buckyball carbon fibre had been utilised. The blades were lighter, sharper, and almost unbreakable. The firearms had also all been taken from old patterns, although some radical changes had been made: Blunt’s old pistol and rifle had been muzzle-loading single-shot weapons, Grey’s Colt .44s had fired six bullets before needing a reload.
Now, with the power of the I-See tapped, all the projectile weapons retained their look and feel, but they had become immeasurably more versatile and accurate. That this made them more lethal was best not dwelt on: the theory was that an accurate weapon could be better used to disable, rather than kill. The designers' embots made that kind of sophistry necessary: Design for lethality, and you would be breaking the code

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Yay for the Wikileaker!

If there's a lesson to be learned from the Wikileaks "scandal" of the past few weeks, it's a lesson we old buggers learned a long time ago:
You are under a moral imperitive to not trust your government.
It's nice to find that the diplomats actually forgo diplomatic language when they're talking to their own people back in Head Office. It's nice that, behind the scenes of political niceties, the powers-that-be in such gloriously democratic states as Saudi Arabia enjoy using language like "Cut their heads off - they are vipers" and so on, when referring to other great examples of the democratic process - the Iranians.
It's nice to know that the USA, a country I hold in great admiration, actually does call a spade a spade when it needs to be referred to as such.
But it's also wise to keep in mind that the powerful don't want us - the power-less-  to know they can and do speak openly and honestly between themselves.
Mrs Clinton may have overstepped the mark when she said that these leaked cables (in reality, almost-secure emails) have put peoples' lives at stake. Actually, not being open and honest with the voters is certainly putting lives at risk: the lives of the people at the bottom of the ladders. But she - and all those who deal with the USA - may just have to wake up to the fact that open and honest government does mean just that. They need to trust their voters. The fact that they don't (in fact, they hold us in contempt) is a reflection on us: we haven't demanded their respect.
What I'd like to see is a Wikileak of papers from, say, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and China, and Iran, and Russia, and Liberia and Zimbabwe - all the shining examples of repressive government.

Schoolboy larf of the day: Irene van Dyke, the sumptuously beautiful New Zealand netball goalshoot was talking on the radio today, about emigration from South Africa, training, aging, keeping fit, etc. When asked how she keeps on top of her game, considering her age, she blithley said "My husband nails me every night..."
Snigger. She was innocently meaning that he pushed her hard when she trained in the evening. But when she followed up by talking about getting a knob in her throat... well, I brayed like a schoolboy. And my eyeballs sweated, as well. I mean - she is hot. She meant, by the way, a lump in her throat. Near tears, etc. God, I can't wait 'til I grow up....

Reading: Christopher S Wren, "The Cat Who Covered the Wold".
Listening to: Tori Amos, "From the Choir-Girl Hotel"
Finally - more "Paper Heroes": the problem with the 'pooter has gone away....

He recalled the code he lived by: rigid, unquestioning, black and white, with no room for doubt.

He was snapped to the present by the yawning and stretching of the vast barbarian, the one who claimed to be a king. Grey didn’t trust him: the giant was undisciplined, a ravening animal, even with the embots. The Texan wondered what the Cimmerian would be like without the restraints of the strange machines in his bloodstream. He doubted that anyone could control him.

Hanno stretched, and grinned. He felt whole for the first time in centuries. His mind was filled with blood and flame, images that sustained him, made him strong. His hand itched for the feel of his sword, and his great brass lungs heaved with the desire to do something. Now. No doubts, no room for questions about right and wrong. Whatever Hanno decided was right. That was the way he had lived before, and this was the way he was going to live now. He jumped to his feet, and shouted “Ha!”

And, in so doing, woke Crayne. The Crusader lay still, and interrogated himself. He could hear the whispers again, the constant voice that told him of his weaknesses and faults. His old friend. He shunted the voice aside. He rose, smiling. He was back in charge. The Crusader was here, and he scanned the room, sharp eyes noticing everything: the slow breathing of Blunt and Whistler, and disturbed sleep of John Prester, the twitching of the faces of the woman, Cienwyn, and her brother, Charles. Adam and Paulus lay still. Crayne sub-vocalised “P-See?” and heard its whispering response. His grin was shark-like. Now, he felt alive. Able to decide. And the decisions to be made were simple: right, or wrong. There is nothing in between. But his old whispering friend reminded him that a mistake can be fatal; remember the death of Sparrow? He shunted the thought aside: with time and inclination, he could rule this world.

Two sets of eyes snapped open: Blunt, and Whistler. Instinctively, they turned to each other, looking over each other’s shoulder, checking for danger behind. Blunt smiled, a wolf’s grin, and held out his hand. “I think we’re back in action, Sean.”

“Aye, Andy. God and St. Patrick preserve us, but you’re right.”

Blunt looked over at Crayne, his mind filled with images of battles fought long ago. Whistler and he clawing and slashing their way through a French column, snatching their Eagle; clambering over the shattered bodies of the Lost Cause at the breach of Badajoz; plucking a king’s ransom in jewels from the body of the Sultan Tippoo; losing it all to the vagaries of love and chance. He glanced back at Whistler, and saw that he was being shaken his own bloody memories.