The past two weeks have been somewhat traumatic, and I’ve hardly written a word, what with dashing back and forth across the Atlantic. Too many errands and too much jet lag. Today, for the first time in just over two weeks I feel back in control of my life. I actually only awoke at 5:30 this morning. For the previous three nights I was waking up, despite sleeping tablets, at around two and three thirty in the morning feeling tired but unable to slip into the arms of Morpheus until four or five AM.
Everything over the past two weeks, despite best efforts, has gone sideways. It’s been a harsh emotional lesson about planning for the worst family case scenario. Some unpleasant thoughts have to be faced, but these are best examined when the immediate pressures are off. Conversations must be had with family and arrangements made. Just in case.
On the bright side, I’ve been preparing for the two courses I start in mid and late April by raiding second hand bookstores and downloading public domain material online. Now I am the proud possessor of Diana Hackers ‘A Canadian Writer’s Reference, Strunk and White’s ‘The Elements of Style‘, Prentice Hall’s ‘Handbook for Writers‘, and Harold H Kolb’s ‘A Writer’s Guide‘. Not to mention applying for Student Membership of the Society of Technical Communication. I’ve done Technical Writing for real before, for a couple of multinationals no less, but without a Degree found it nigh on impossible to convince anyone to hire me in that role, especially on this side of the Atlantic. Hopefully I will have redressed this shortfall by October or November this year with a Canadian recognised qualification from Simon Fraser University.
The down side is that I won’t be getting as much writing time in on ‘Darkness’ or ‘A falling of Angels’ as I’d like but at least I’ll have a piece of paper saying that I’m a Canadian qualified Technical Writer.
I’ve been playing around with a dark little idea that fills in some backstory detail for the final volume of the Stars Trilogy, which is still far short of its proposed total. The following excerpt is an attempt to throw the light of discourse onto why otherwise cultured and civilised peoples can allow, even rejoice in, terrible things done for their cause. This is a topic which has always fascinated me. See what you think.
“Why did the Gaians insist on using human grown neural cells for their Assault Cyborgs, not artificial neural nets? Why did they have to core out all those millions? Kill all those poor people?”
“Cost. Autonomous neural net manufacturing technology used to be amazingly expensive and glitchy, even as recently as ten years ago. I guess they found it cheaper to just harvest pre grown material for cores. Do the math. A thousand assault units at a hundredth of the cost of a full Biotech AI means you can afford a hundred times as many. Simple. It doesn’t matter that there’s only a twelve percent success rate. To the Gaians that was perfectly acceptable because there were plenty more dissidents where they came from.” Suresh Khan raised a philosophical jet black eyebrow at the newcomer.
“That’s sick. The mere thought makes me want to throw up.”
“Congratulations. That at least proves you’re still human.”
“Considering it was humans that thought it up, that’s not much of a compliment.”
“Not all humans, just a few.”
“That few is too many.”
“You know, it’s amazing how many think that everyone else should think as they do, and given the opportunity would murder millions to make them do so.”
“That’s just cynical rubbish!”
“Look in the mirror and ask yourself the question.”
“Really? Aren’t you being a little dishonest now?”
“The question is this. Given the opportunity to make what you think is the perfect society. Everything exactly what you want it to be, world peace, everyone living in harmony, who would you be willing to kill or have killed?”
“That’s an unfair question! People don’t have to die for a society to become perfect!”
“No it isn’t unfair. It’s actually just about the fairest question there is. There will always be those with a contrary view, and as putative leader, it is your responsibility to manage societies response. Who and how many are you willing to send to your executioners?”
“Even if they pose a physical threat to your perfect society? Even if they murder and terrorise at will? I’ll ask you again. How will you kill them, and how many are you willing to kill?”
“Well there’s the people who created the Gaian murder machine. Most of them are dead anyway. There’s also the people who gave the orders for Ahmed to be blown out of the sky.”
“The people who did the killing and everyone who approved of it.”
“Good answers. Now where would you stop?”
“I don’t know.”
“Now you know why I disapprove of killing.”
“But, but, you’ve killed more Gaian Borg and soldiers than anyone else I know.”
“Did I say I enjoyed it?”
“No, but you’re the one lecturing me on the morality of killing.”
“Have I ever even suggested killing one of our own people?”
“That’s not the same and you know it! What about him? He’s killed more people than anyone in the history of the world.” A quivering finger pointed at Richard, who briefly glanced at the accusing digit before returning to his studying.
“Now you know that this isn’t what this discussion is about. It’s about how many people are you willing to have killed to get what you want?” Suresh sighed and leaned back for a moment, arms folded. “ One death? Ten? A thousand? Ten million?”
“Now you’re being ridiculous.”
“No. It’s a perfectly valid question. How many, and where do you stop?”
Now if only I could find a way to shoehorn it into the current story. Without sounding contrived, that is.
Is there a better alternative to Google and Facebook? I ask because I travel periodically, and every time I do, I have to reverify my Facebook and Google accounts, which not only shifts my immediate focus away from the task in hand, but is one of those nagging ‘man from Porlock’ irritations. I’m using the same machine through various secure and insecure Wi-Fi network points, the same fairly strong passwords and access protocols, yet still having my email and access to Facebook arbitrarily cut off is less than funny. I know they’re ‘free at point of use’ services, but they do make their advertising revenue from clickthrough traffic and various other means. Yet my Facebook account and two of my Gmail accounts are now ‘locked’. They may remain that way as I can’t be bothered with the fuss of reopening them. Those who need to know will be notified of changes.
We’re currently in a bereavement crisis on the UK front, scooting between relatives and care homes, and these pernickety and unnecessary interventions to both work and essential on the fly problem solving are less than welcome. My LinkedIn account is globally accessible, as is WordPress and several others, no problem, so why not Google or Facebook? We have an alternative paid for domain with available mail aliases and server, and I’m inclined to build a web site there and activate the email accounts. It means the small expense of changing business stationery, but we can handle that.
Over dinner last night, my eldest stepdaughter was talking about building a service similar to LinkedIn for younger professionals. I’m inclined to buy a new domain name and some extra web space for her to play with. Give her the wheel and see what she can do. It’s just a question of time and effort. Facebook and Gmail are all very well, but I’m thinking that they’ve had their day.
What with everything going a little sideways in the last seventy two hours, I’ve compounded my various felonies by signing up for Simon Fraser University’s Certificate in Technical Communication course. Three modules, the first of which is now bought and paid for. Most of the ground I’ve covered as paid work before, but as the saying goes in BC “If you haven’t got the right piece of paper”. My XML and HTML are a bit rusty, I need to get totally au courant with the Canadian style guide, and I’m fine with editing PDF’s, but now with WordPerfect I have the best tool for any writing job. Might even be worth my while buying Corel’s PDF editor, although I’ve already got an old Adobe 5.0 licence and software buried somewhere in my collection.
Now Angie’s on the home stretch of her biology teaching course, which the Education Ministry have insisted upon, the educational burden will shift onto my shoulders and she can relax and enjoy the Summer. However, my April and May will be spent head firmly wedged in English textbooks and burnishing my CV until it gleams. I have DreamWeaver if need be as a web site builder, and a spare domain name to experiment with, so away I’ll go. I also need to put in some serious work on my professional online presence, which is a bit sketchy at present.
Of course this will mean delays on the creative writing front, but as that doesn’t pay many bills, it will be done during ‘leisure’ time only. ‘Darkness’ has just undergone a major narrative restructure, and between now and Tuesday when we head off to the UK for a week, ‘A Falling of Angels’ will be getting similar treatment. If I’m really lucky, I may even get some writing time in while we’re on the move or hanging around in England. If not c’est la vie.
Finally installed my copy of WordPerfect yesterday, and was promptly reminded what an utterly superb word processing and formatting toolbox it provides. Proof reading is an absolute breeze using Reveal Codes. Editing likewise. Going through a current work in progress, it highlighted several errors I’d repeatedly missed using Word and OpenOffice, including a massive tranche of unwanted tab settings and assorted code. I’d long ago forgotten what a superb piece of word processing software it is. In the words of the advert ‘It does exactly what it says on the can’. Admittedly WordPerfect is for the advanced user, but once you’ve learned the basics, it’s not that hard.
On the home front, I’ve just celebrated my fifty seventh birthday, am signing up for a Techcomm course, and Angie and I are flying to the UK on Tuesday to undertake one of life’s sad duties. This interferes with main project writing and the prospect of being crammed into an alloy tube for ten hours like so much toothpaste is hardly enticing. Then the infernal hanging around in airports waiting for boarding and security. It’s not so much the travel I hate, I love watching the world skim by. Sitting in a passenger seat, or better still the drivers. That’s not the issue. It’s more the sheer fuss surrounding getting from A to Z and all stations in between. Still, we’ll do what we always do; grit our teeth at the indignities, then try to smile and forget the annoying impedimenta as best we can.
The one consolation is that we’ll be seeing more or less our entire diverse little clan over the next few days, so that can’t be all bad.
Today is my birthday. 12th March. I had no idea that Tim Berners-Lee first submitted his proposal for the World Wide Web today, twenty five years. A quarter of a century ago. Although the technology itself didn’t go public until 1993.
So short a time. Back in 1995 I recall penning a thousand word piece called ‘Cybermarket – the future of retailing’. Just a speculative PR article for the trade press. I believe I managed to place it in one of the trade technology journals of the time, although have no idea where it was printed. In the article there were predictions about Supermarket chains like Tesco’s getting into Financial Services and having online stores. Reference was made to the amount of bandwidth necessary to create an interactive online 3-D model of a Superstore, and how it might come about. Now Supermarkets provide online banking and financial services, the world and its wife provide on line shopping, and I think the fully interactive 3-D catalogue is not that far away. Certainly Internet driven home deliveries have been popular for some time now, and the graphics of certain game engines might be adapted to provide a better interface. Maybe the next iteration of online shopping will be a sort of World of Warcraft meets Second Life meets the retail sector.
Didn’t foresee the rise of eBay or Amazon, but those were then outside the scope of the article.
Anyway. Happy birthday World Wide Web. Well I never. So far so fast.