Blog Design: Blocks

Learning about Blocks

Good grief! The number of ‘blocks types’ available already boggles my mind, and that’s before I’ve invented any because I don’t see any that I can relate to. No, wait! A masonry gallery? What can I do with a masonry gallery? I’ll have to see …

Herewith my so-called Masonry Gallery

Animals I Have Known. Some were adopted into my family, some were animals I photographed while out walking, and some of the images represent animals I’ve known.

My idea was to have captions. I haven’t working out yet how to do that.

Clockwise from top left: Jesse, at attention; Tibby, saying: “Ha ha, I’m lying on the dog’s bed, get me off if you dare”; Snowy, here as Tintin’s sidekick, dressed in his spacesuit. When I knew him he was the dog of Mr and Mrs Ballantyne, the elderly couple living on my street in Sydney; Shirley Dog, from my home town; Mingey, a fast mover, a friend from walks at the Mullumbimby Cemetery.

Tech Problems, xyz

Digital Illustration of a Cyborg Neck: A puzzle, because I am confused

Having internet problems meant no posts, again. All my best intentions went astray. Over here, on the east coast of Australia, we are in a La Nina weather pattern. Meaning that in Peru and Chile, people are suffering drought. In between the odd sunny day we had rain, wind, storms, more rain. Flash floods. River floods. Landslides. Road closures. Communication outages. Mobile phone towers down.

You get the picture.

My confusion is about the reason why I had a personal communication outage for two weeks longer than anyone else living in my patch. I’ve taken the modem off the power. Put it back on. Reset it.

I’ve read every Help page and FAQ on my provider’s website … I could do that by Hot Spotting my laptop to my mobile. I discovered that possibly the laptop is having battery problems but that shouldn’t affect my internet connection, what do you think?

I’d do the Hot Spot thing 24/7 and cancel my ISP contract if I had the same level of service. But I don’t. An ISP connection gives me the ability to write this blog and marshal imagery to my fingertips. Without it I can only read blogs.

The Hot Spot gives me wide-ranging shallow paddling. An ISP connection gives me the ability to dive deep into the virtual surf, through the wave and come out the other side where there are new things to discover.

Yeah. I missed my connection to the world.

For some inexplicable reason, when I reset the modem again this morning, the little light for the internet flashed, then steadied, and I suddenly have connection? Huh? Why didn’t it work the first or second time I did it?

Well, better not look a gift-horse in the mouth …

What I Did Yesterday …

Embroidery in progress …

A couple of days ago I read someone else’s post on this, describing how you can ‘say’ whatever you like without anyone ever really knowing you. It’s what you ‘do’ … maintains the theory … that will identify you.

I don’t know yet if it’ll work. Can but try, in the words of one of my characters. I have several typical days, and since it has been raining here for about a week, I can only describe a typical day at home.

I wake but do not roll instantly out of bed. One of my eyes will never open right away, I have to lie there and think a while, convince it of the day. On blue-sky days, my bedroom is striped with light–due to vertical blinds–after sunrise. But, all this week, the daylight stays grey.

Roll on to my side, sit up, swing legs over the side. Stump down the grey corridor to the kitchen. Oh wait, you expected me to at least wash my face? Yeah, I did that. Ablutions. In the en suite.

And I dressed. T shirt and shin-length pants. Slide my house-keys and rest of needs-musts in my right pants pocket. Mobile/cell in the left pocket. A few years ago, I fell over in my house and after lying unconscious for a time, had to crawl injured to a landline phone to raise the alarm. Since then I’ve worn a mobile on me at all times.

The kitchen is in the middle of the apartment. Dark on a sunless day. I make it friendlier by pulling out the slide-out range hood so that its automatic light shines warm above the benches. I get a bowl out, spoon in muesli, cooked brown rice, LSA and hemp seeds. Mix and pour on rice milk. Boil water. Dole out mineral supplements and anti histamine. Today, due to the dark, I eat at the round dining table.

While still drinking my three mugs of warm water, I check yesterday’s step score on my mobile and enter it in my exercise chart. Also on the mobile, I check the weather to see what temperatures and humidity I can expect. Then I check the weather in the town where I lived last year, the weather in Copecabana in NSW; Dover in Tasmania; Perth in Western Australia; Karratha in Western Australia; Cape York in North Queensland, Amsterdam and Singapore. All my places of interest for various reasons.

Still using the mobile I will have quick look at Facebook comments, trying not to get involved yet with anything needing research and or deep thought.

Today, after stacking the dishes in the sink, I started on my exercises. Eleven–I’m building up to fifteen– push-aways against the front door. It’s timber and the only place in the apartment that can take it. Eleven stand-ups from sitting on a chair not using my hands. Walking with half kilo weights, twelve stretches from front of the house to the back. I expect to graduate to 1 kg weights after my birthday in a few weeks.

Chart to record daily exercises

Make a cup of coffee and sit down with the laptop. Check my emails and answer the ones requiring it. I resist getting involved with newsletters though do read a couple of articles from the Fifth Estate Magazine. Do my Wordle.

Rain, rain, go away, many of my local acquaintances are saying. I also read a science article (on the weather website?) about research in Antarctica with ice cores. Averaged out over two thousand years, east coast Australia has had only two hundred wet years. That’s ten percent. Can’t get away from climate change. It’s going to get a lot drier is the forecast.

By about 11.00 a/m, I open the work of the day. MELD, part two of the Doomed series. I’m in the thick of a structural edit. I need to lose at least twenty thousand words, rewrite the first chapter, and re jig the first act. Finesse the middle fifty percent. The final act is good to go.

So, today, I read chapters 7 and 8 aloud to figure how I need to change them.

At about noon, a pathology assistant arrives. Courtney is her name. She is the only live person I talk with today. IE it’s Friday. No phone calls. I’m still isolating, as I have several co-morbidities and do not want to get sicker than I already am. I’m lucky because I don’t have to go out for a blood test. S & N come to the house. Takes ten minutes. My veins are recovering after the beating they received having chemo this time last year.

Afterwards I walk round the house for a while to start to build up the step count. I visit all the rooms in turn about twenty times. Lunch then. A frozen meal. Wack it into the microwave, 4.50 minutes. Dish up. Yum. Another three mugs of warm water. I read the two first chapters of MELD, printed out earlier, and start to mark up bits to keep and bits to cut.

Today, I do my lying down exercises after lunch. On my bed. Yes, the temptation is to doze off. Twelve air-grabs that warm up every muscle. Six bridges to a count of ten per bridge. Six legs raises, each leg, each raise for a count of ten. Twelve clam-shells, hold open to a count of ten. Doze, five to ten minutes.

Oh man. This is taking a long time. It doesn’t feel like I don’t do anything much.

Get up. More walking in the house. Still raining. BOM (Bureau of Meteorology) says 120mm has fallen in the last 24 hours and a huge rain cloud still hangs overhead. No going outside today. I get some walking music going. It’s God Speed You! Black Emperor today. I walk about an hour more, 5000 paces plus.

Sunset despite rain

When I rest this time, I do some embroidery while I listen to an ABC podcast. The stitching is slow but joyful. The colors sing. After the podcast I catch a few minutes of news. Nothing cheerful about that with old man Putin doing his thing.

Dinner is two rounds of toast, smashed avocado and a boiled egg. A pear for dessert. Three mugs of warm water. I start to re-read The Tailor of Panama by John Le Carre (1996) which I will talk about in the future.

After dinner, I work on this. I’m not posting it tonight. I need to mail myself some photos, from my mobile to my laptop.

State-of-Being

Back Into the Ooze,
watercolor and black marker pen by Rita de Heer,
what I thought was going to happen to me.
You’ll find me diving down into it mid-painting

Up until September 14 2020 I lived in New South Wales, in Australia. On that day, a friend drove me to the adjoining state Queensland and negotiated with the border police to get me through the Covid 19 barrier between the two states. I was sicker than anyone guessed.

My friend took me to hospital where I was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system. Treatment began right away. Chemo. Six cycles of R-CHOP at three weekly intervals. Then four lumbar punctures with same drugs and a rituximab (monoclonal antibody) chaser. My last treatment and PET scan in February. I’m in remission.

Long time readers will say that I’ve said all that before. I have. I wanted to feel what it felt like now, to look back on it, six months down the track.

At first, being in remission was the most frightening place on Earth. The reality of dealing with the after- and side-effects of both the chemo and the lymphoma on my own was pure anxiety. Luckily there’s a really good support group on FaceBook that we haunt, all of us in the Downunder Lymphoma boat, and I’ve only had to call the ambulance twice. So here I am, six months into the remission journey.

What with Covid lock-downs and a really low immune system … like, no B cells! … I’ve been pretty well housebound except for food shopping, doctors appointments and walks. So I thought I’d get back into writing reading knitting music pretty easily. Lots of time after all.

I’d be lying if I told you yes, really easy.

Early on I spent most of my time sorting through the stuff that came with my decision to stay in Brisbane. I had a lot of books, not all of them fit on the shelves I now have. Clothes, the same. Textile crafts, the same. And I’m still at it, every so often. Divesting myself of my old life to be able to fit into my new life.

I’ll write that sentence again and even bold it. Divesting myself of my old life to be able to fit into my new life.

It suggests my new life is smaller. I’m not talking about its length, more what I can do in my days … and so also today, this minute, I need to stop this meandering. More on this as time permits.

Felix the Fox interviews

Tardi Mack, of Mongrel is in the hot seat being interviewed. Read this introduction:

Dear readers, tonight we have a truck-driver from 22nd century Australia, who in a freak surfing accident got infected with a sentient alien substance. We caught him talking to Trucker & Jockey magazine, describing life post-infection while trying to avoid a rather persistent ex-girlfriend.


Tardi: You’re from the Trucker & Jockey magazine? Well met! I was a trucker once, with TLC, a family company. My dad and brother ran the workshop, and I drove our old Mack and jockeyed our live-mind freighter. Hope you’re recording all this? I also surfed for Virtual Surfing. Check me out on their website, they still have me in the sensor-suit surfing the actual waves and voice-overing the rides. My pay from them allowed me to rent in Watego’s Wall on Byron Cape, still a hot-shot tourist destination. Yes, formerly Byron Bay.

Me in the past? Oh, my name. My parents intended to register me as ‘Trader.’ The old man can’t spell and neither can I. Learning to write my name, I transformed it into ‘Tardi.’ They did an about-face on names when my brother Steve was born five years later. But Steve. Oh man. My brother and my burden. He drowned and I couldn’t save him. And Herm wouldn’t let him go. Don’t ask me more about Steve, mate. I’ll be tearing-up for the rest of the day. The landscape? Look outside. Boat-ways instead of streets. Major roads on stilts. Get up on one of them and in the distance you’ll see Wollumbin, a world-famous volcanic plug. Nearer at hand is the pimple called Chincogan. The Koonyum Ranges hunker at the back of the valley. And there are the trees, more than ever.

My kid-sized surfboard was absolutely my favourite thing when I was a kid. My dad taught me the basics. And there’s my cherished memory, him waist deep in the sea, pushing me off. Fishing me out when I fell. He’d plonk me back up on the board half-drowned, and push me off again. Remembering him then—like that—makes me feel warm in my heart, you know? You’re asking what I do now? Good question that I don’t know the answer to. On we go to one of my latest adventures …

Read the rest of the interview on My Books etc

Fiction: Avatar Remaindered, 14

Particularly stylish life-suit being worn, NASA copy.jpg

Relearning the Life-suit

Sard rested after his labours with the kite. All he’d discovered so far was that really flying was going to be trickier than anyone imagined. The power supply, or in other words, the wind was in no way easy to understand. Its unpredictability had him stumped. Mornings a wind that blew from the east would veer to the north by midday. And he had only a day or two to learn them? Climate control out here would be so good.

The only flying he’d done so far was with the wing less than two metres above the ground and therefore dragging him along practically on his knees. Thanks you, Gammy, for the strength of the life-suit’s fabric, he thought numerous times as he picked thorns and sticks from his knees. Lucky they hadn’t scraped through.

The speed of the drag scared him witless. What if he’d been near the cliffs and had been tipped into the water below? All the sea-faring entertainments he’d ever researched flipped through his mind. There were fearsome predators down there. How was it that the mermen stayed alive?

How he’d finally stopped himself—and that at the brink—was also a mystery. He’d pulled the handles aka brakes every which way possible before he’d collected his thoughts, so had no idea which particular action cause the wing to deflate, and drop itself and him limp as rags to the ground.

He was so busy in his thoughts that he didn’t at first hear the voices of the Seapeople helping one another up the rocks to the top of the ridge. Then, by the time he realised, they had gained the plateau and were about to begin their trek south. Ahni wasn’t with them. Sard counted them, divided them, studied them by size but she wasn’t there.

A pair of older women walked fore and aft of just two mermen shading them with matting carried aloft. The reason probably that the men’s skins were bleeding, pale in patches and therefore liable to get sun-burned. And get this—Sard thought at his two informants—why would the poor saps themselves be bleeding now at this minute, if they’d been sewn into someone else’s skin sometime in their past? He dismissed Youk and Greg as a pair of ignorant know-it-alls.

Next came a pair of young women carrying babies, followed by a clutch of children. Harrying them all from the rear was a tattooed Amazonian who had Ahni’s bag bouncing on her back. Ahni definitely not among them. But, wait. The senior merman was also missing.

Though as leader, that merman was probably the one picked for the romance with Zoya. So what could Gammy possibly want with Ahni? Sard wished he’d asked more about the whole deal. If he’d been more aware he surely would’ve been able to camouflage his interest in Ahni. But when he had only Greg and Youk to ask?

< What do you want to know? >

Huh? That’s the life-suit talking? Almost normal phraseology.

< Thank you. I’ve had time now to study your turn of phrase. Time is precious and I don’t like repeating myself >

Sard crawled back into the hole where he had his camp, dragging the kite after him.

I was getting out of the scene to study the new you, he thought at the life-suit. You used to know exactly what was happening when it happened.

< The you + me amalgam only have a measured amount of energy to work with. I decided to put on hold some of our functions in preference for superior communication. >

Could a life-suit do that? There was so much he didn’t know that Greg might’ve told him if only they’d been friendlier.

< I am waiting >

Sard caught himself just in time not to say, for what? He threaded back through the dialogue. The suit asked him what was happening, the suit told him it didn’t like repeating itself, and it asked him what he wanted to know. That, probably. “What can Gammy possibly want with Ahni as well as the senior merman?”

The life-suit chuckled! The only word Sard had for the sound emanating from the chest plate. Remember that, he thought at himself. When I speak out loud, the life-suit can reply out loud courtesy of I suspect a miniature speaker on the chest plate. I’ll need to test its capabilities ahead of needing to use it. And I need to discover whether the new life-suit can read all this thinking. “Did you get all that?” he said.

< CAVE’s entity has been superseded by the implant brought by the Seapeople. >

Oh. Okay. My former life-suit—ignorant of anything not directly to do with itself—has just replied to my question as to why Gammy wants Ahni, with the fact that Gammy has been superseded. Gammy being the local name often used in relation to CAVE’s AI entity. I get it, frightening though the idea is and what if it is real?

Sard’s thoughts spooled nineteen to a dozen minutes. He’d stopped doing anything in his little cave—frozen in disbelief probably a good description—but now started to tidy. No fire-place meant he could lay the kite out and fold it. Stuff it in its pack.

Implant. Sounds like a thing implanted into someone. Brought by the Seapeople. I have to surmise that because Ahni is missing that she is the one with the implant in her?

He caught himself hesitating when an important thought rushed to the fore.

Brought by the Seapeople also sounds as though they brought Ahni specifically to bring the implant. Or they brought Ahni to do a deal and she is now a prisoner? Would they be prepared to give CAVE their implant in return for, for example, their men? But… if the implant now is in charge, what would that mean for Ahni?

< The girl will die if you don’t fetch her out. >

Did he want the girl? Yes. The life-suit is pushing me, he recognized. What’s an implant other than a kind of bot? The implant is hardly likely to kill its host.

He started worrying about the life-suit. This one doesn’t now behave the way life-suits are programmed. Could Youk have over-written the old program? I so don’t see him behind all this. Yet he’s the only one I can think of.

He shrugged. Flung his hands up and out. All of it a mystery he couldn’t solve. Go back to the last thing the suit said. Ahni will die. He concentrated on the content of this impossible output. How can I save her?

< We will need a plan. >

I thought I should take a look inside, Sard thought. Plan while I’m in the scene. What I do best. When you + I are alive-to-background its an an easy matter to stay out of sight.

There. All that was completely do-able with the old programming. This is me discovering the extent of the changes in the life-suit’s programming.

< Lie still. >

“What? What the fuck?” His arms and legs wouldn’t move. The life-suit did that? “You’re refusing me to move?” His voice petered out. Not a thing he could do about it. He concentrated on his breathing. What if the damned program took that as well?

< I can’t have you rampaging around while I’m still discovering my new capacities. >

Formatting Problem

Digital Illustration of a Cyborg, a cut from an iStock image

I haven’t forgotten my usual Fiction post.

WordPress is in a mode where it continually rephrases and in some cases just wipes whole sentences off the map.

So far, I’ve discovered that it’s because I’m using certain letters and signs to denote computer-speak, that are normally used in coding. WordPress thinks I’m coding? Cue, me laughing.

I’m merely off-setting computer-speak with < and > and when that didn’t work, << and >> and everything between the thingies disappears?

Interesting to see what happens when I ‘publish’ this …

It worked. So now I need to go over it all again to see what I did different.

1. New/Old Life

My fungi library … couple missing I see …

This is the (1) before the previous (1). I thought I wouldn’t need reading in my new life?

The idea that I could slough off my old life and take up a completely new one isn’t happening and was probably doomed from the start. It’s true that while I was in treatment, I put everything normally ‘me’ out of my mind to keep my attention on the main event, to learn the disease, what was required every day, learn the people involved, how the meds affected me, keep my oxygen line straight. [I was on oxygen for ten days]

But after a while it became necessary to take up reading again. In between engaging with staff, which was mostly in the mornings, hung swags of time. Watching TV while in hospital is difficult. Volume is restricted. You can’t turn the TV off, attend the x, y, z person/procedure needing your attention, and turn it back on expect to hit the same place where you left off. The remote is fiddly, usually on the same gadget as the nurse’s call button.

While I was on the Oncology Ward at John Flynn Hospital, out in the corridors practicing my walking, I discovered nooks with bookshelves filled with books. Life-savers, in effect. Not that I read every book. But every walk I took, I’d change a book, like at at a library. I’ve read both fiction and non-fiction voraciously for most of my life.

I’m now officially in remission with a totally clear PET scan. My last chemo session was at the end of January, followed by two Rituximab (monoclonal antibodies) chasers taking me into the beginning of March. A ‘stupendous recovery’ my hematologist calls it, given where I began. My hair started growing again the week of the first chaser. My toenails apparently need more time.

Since I moved into the unit where I’m living now, I’ve been sorting through books … nineteen boxes of them. Some books don’t need a decision. Anything to do with fungi make it onto the shelves beside my work station. Fiction using fungi as plot devices, bad or good, also onto the shelves.

Most other books get the will-I-want-to-read-this-again question. If not, straight into the remaindered pile. If maybe, I open the book anywhere and read a few pages. If boredom sets in after only a few paragraphs, into a remaindered pile it goes. The books that will be sent on their way so far number about eight boxes.

Other things I’m reading at the moment are an article titled Proposal for a subdivision of the family Psathyrellaceae, which I keep for breakfast reading since it is a .pdf and must be read on the laptop. ‘Sideshow’ by Sheri S Tepper. This follows on from ‘Raising the Stones’ which is one of fungi-related novels in my collection. Tin Tin in Adventures on the Moon by Herge for light relief. And I’m thinking of soon reading ‘Meld’ the second part of my trilogy Doomed

We’ll see.

Transport

This one, yes, this one I would really like … it’s an EV of course … built in 1918 by I think it was Millard

My car is yet again incapacitated. I didn’t drive it enough through my illness and the battery is flat once more. The poor NRMA guys have been to my place at least three times already this year and I’m wondering why I still have a car with an internal combustion engine.

If I had an electric car I could just plug in the power cord and charge it up. Problem solved. It isn’t as though I don’t have enough electricity.

I started to research that today. New EV cars cost an arm and a leg. I’ve never spent more than 20k on a car even when I was still working. Second hand EV cars are as scarce as hens’ teeth in Australia. New Zealand has enough sense to import them from Japan, but Australia is a Johnny-come-lately, still wanting to run the world on coal, oil and gas fracking.

Then I plugged ‘lightweight EV vehicles’ into Google. It came up with the goods, of a sort, but I can’t imagine riding 10 kilometers along a narrow secondary road–two lanes only with a shoulder meant for single file bicycle riders–up a steep hill and down it again on the other side to Brunswick Heads, for example, on something that looks like an electric wheel chair.

I’m not old enough. I’m not a daredevil. I’m not stupid, we get rain here sometimes. and the new bike path is still a long time off. Maybe another ten years, when I have gone into my feisty years.

Tropes: Time Travel

Watercolour: we spent summers travelling to the beach.

My interest in time travel began when my birth-family arrived in Australia as immigrants from the Netherlands. The first place where we lived was a migrant hostel outside Sydney. We children mostly noticed differences. The English language of course. The food. What the hell is this orange stuff? Pumpkin? But that’s cattle food. And what is vegemite? it’s horrible. Nothing like apple butter.

And the bush. Walking along the dirt road to our house block at midday, there was no shade. The thin vegetation let the sunlight burnish right through it. The only living creature we saw that day was a snake sunning itself on a sandstone slab protruding above the road’s surface. A venomous brown, in suburbia. My father said to stamp on the ground to scare it away. The landscape seemed very alien.

Adults noticed the seeming backwardness of the new country. There was not a decent cup of coffee to be had, for instance. Schooling was 30 years behind European education, many parents thought when they took their kids to the migrant hostel’s school. Most of the breadwinners, having their European qualifications downgraded, could only get laboring work.

A common complaint was that we had traveled back in time.

But the primitive building code enabled a lot of families to live on a house block and build their own accommodation. Many children saved shoe leather by going to school on bare feet. And if you lived in the outer suburbs, it was cheaper to buy a week’s supply of fruit and vegetables at Paddy’s Produce Markets in central Sydney and carry them home in a hessian sack, than getting stuff piecemeal at the local shops.

The existence of tropes as a category of themes tells you there’s nothing new in fiction. But I’m cruisy about using a conventional theme, if I can do something new with it, time travel as an immigrant having prepped me.

Though I’ll tell you right now that I won’t be sitting through the 700+ movies that apparently use time travel as their theme. Wikipedia has a nice page on Time Travel in Fiction listing the main sub-tropes of time travel generating a manageable list of things to read/watch.

From all the above, and without having to watch anything, I gather that what I’ve been writing into is the time-slip sub-trope.