End Times: Societal Collapse

Volcano, Watercolour by Rita de Heer

Yes. Pretty serious title. It’s the mood I’m in. After a twelve week euphoria about still being alive, first in hospital and then for six weeks in a respite community, learning to be a normal person again, the other day I got back to reading some of my favorite commentators on the state of the world.

Michael Mobbs, of Sustainable House fame, writing a Spinifex column in Fifth Estate, told the story of how he looked for a bolt-hole for when what’s coming arrives … this is the end time we’re talking about. The societal collapse. He’s convinced we have no more than ten years!

He couldn’t find a good bolt-hole. The whole east coast of Australia was burned in the 2019 bush fires and most of the creeks he looked at were either dry or running at about ten percent of what they once were. There’s no safety, or security in the bush. He went home, back to the city, where he’s thrown himself into food gardening, and modelling that.

Me? I was in shock. Here I am … went my thinking … going through the gnarliest treatment on Earth in the hope that I last ten more years and see my grandchildren on the way to growing up, and my society is going to fall over around my ears? Ending is such a final thing.

I’m aware of course that the average length of time for surviving cancer is five years, and I aim to step off my mortal coil with grace when the time comes. But only if I’ve given my descendants the best possible chance at surviving what’s coming.

In my mind I ran around like a Henny-Penny complaining about the sky falling in, me trying to think of solutions. Imagining how I’m going to spend the next five years.

Some time later I remembered that I’d known the 2030 deadline already. That I had accepted it already and had become nihilistic in my attitudes toward the end-time events, being a long-time environmentalist …

——

The above was all written a few weeks ago. Treatment is on-going. I feel sicker and less able to get involved in any damn thing with every turn of the cycle. Two to go. Maybe in six weeks … two more chemos, one more lumbar puncture with chemo … and when I’ve been able to address the near constant oral thrush in my mouth … I’ll be able to think again.Maybe then I can get excited again.

Too tired right now.

Cancer is the New Go …

From living here …

My life couldn’t have changed more in the two months since I posted last.

It started with a respiratory infection. In May. GP sent me for my first COVID test (negative) and then sent me home to sweat it out. Three weeks later, I was still coughing and I agreed to a tele-conference. The Doc heard me coughing and prescribed asthma medicines. He was of the opinion that my asthma had been “turned on” by the bushfires earlier in the year, and was now being exacerbated by wood smoke from cosy winter fires.

Six weeks of serious coughing ensued. The Doc asked me to count the average number of times I coughed during a minute–which was six times when the bout was particularly fierce. And how many hours per bout. Some days that would be six or seven hours. Another tele-conference and two live appointments, different medicines and different regimes of when to take them didn’t throw any light on the matter. Because, since my lungs were clear, it had to be asthma.

In the first week of September, maybe, I decided in my dull, sick state of mind I should get a second opinion. To be able to have my blood tested–I had to go for another COVID test as local clinics refused clients with any symptoms of COVID. My second-opinion doctor rang me as soon as he had the results on his computer, on a Sunday, and convinced me to come into the surgery the next day on Monday 14th September.

“Your blood doesn’t look very good,” he said. “Anemia and probably malnutrition are only two of your problems.” He organized for me to be admitted to hospital in Queensland. A friend drove me–the border crossing was a mess of detours and a long conference with the police charged with keeping the border safe.

In hospital I was required to be quarantined for a fortnight and COVID tested, again. Ten of those days were taken up with all the tests medical expertise could put me through. Plus blood transfusions to address the anemia, a platelet transfusion, oxygen (which finally stopped the coughing), lots of good food. I swear I ate red meat at every meal.

It wasn’t until the PET scan that my hematologist got a hint. An inconclusive lung biopsy was next–other than I definitely had a lymphoma. The results had to be sent to the state medical review board for confirmation.

What I’m sick with is called Intravascular diffuse large B cell lymphoma. Also known as Intravascular DLBCL. It’s rare and largely unknown how well chemo will work.

My second-opinion doctor saved my life for the present.

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.

Personal Headlines

When she was a first-time grandmother. It might take a while before she meets the new baby.

Trawling through my social media accounts during the week, I came across a little article written by a man in his late eighties. He said the thing that cheered him up most through all the troubled times that he he experienced in his life, was his daily habit of composing a positive personal headline.

I had a think about the idea for a couple of days without doing anything about it. I was negative. How could any of my personal positive news compete with COVID, political stupidities, cyber-attacks on all government departments (in Australia), and the thing not sitting just over the horizon but already in our midst, climate change and the continual ending of species diversity?

Then a new baby was born in the family.

I let all that stuff up there go. Released it from my mind. I filled my mind with thoughts of the baby’s parents. Her other grandmother, her grandfather. Her little brother. How could I not celebrate her arrival? Even in these frightening times, a new baby is a powerful sign of hope.

My headline? Two-times grandmother welcomes her grand-daughter into the world.

Of course, yes, I know the world is not a perfect place. When was it ever and for everyone at the same time? That’s Utopia we’re talking about.

In this world, there are positive things happening. The #BlackLivesMatter movement. I heard #GretaThunberg speak again yesterday. The Fifth Estate keeps plugging away for more green jobs, green buildings, green cities. People are still planting trees. I’m looking at you #Brunswick Valley Heritage Park, Maslen Arboretum in Mullumbimby.

A fifty-words-or-less competition

A couple of months ago I stumbled across a CSIROscope competition in honor of World Ocean Day and as I had just been researching ocean clean-ups and the work done on the gyres, I thought: Yeah, I’ll give that a go. The prize would be an analysis by a bunch if scientists of the feasibility of the idea and the illustration once it had been used for social media promotions.

Mmm. An illustration by Campbell Whyte? Could be useful for a story I might write one day. It seemed like a very faint hope/plan/dream/possibility.

I thought up the words, reverse engineered them down to the required number, posted my entry and then forgot about it. The Covid thing makes you forgetful on a lot of fronts. Duly got an email telling me the good news that I was one of four winners. I was amazed.

So, yes, I’ve tried embedding to show-off my prize. I’ve tried merely to link. I’ve tried to post the URL. I’ve tried … to no avail.

I don’t see the problem.

Ah ha … stopped the embedding function. Learn something new everyday. I better hurry up and post. Battery is down to 47% …

https://blog.csiro.au/powering-our-future-oceans-floating-lab/?fbclid=IwAR2XN82ZahsgFK8mVokYBUoi0Tx2IK2DSYOGIukVCV85eVIzwXar5W5HQ_Y

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.

Music: Dirty Three

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirty_Three

In the present day consensual all writing has ground to a halt. The self isolating jig is in full swing. The main street is as silent as the CBD of a ghost town, which normally is abuzz with cars, coffee places, people and outdoor life generally.

As I live only one block back from it all, and today it might as well be the depths of a public holiday, and the silence is already quite oppressive.

I’ve been filling the silence with music. I’m wearing earphones hours a day. This week I discovered the Dirty Three. An Australian alternative band, led by Warren Ellis, a violinist, they play a great variety of post rock, experimental, rhythm and drone.

Whenever I’ve built up a bit of strength, I move the next item of furniture in my big project of fitting an architect’s drafting desk into the house. Yesterday was Day 3, and I moved a chest of drawers into my bedroom that will be used to store seasonal stuff … blankets and winter clothes.

Trouble is, when that chest of drawers stood in the sun room it contained kids’ toys, photos and photo albums, and various other stuff. All those have been displaced and today is the day of decisions. Hundreds of them. Like, I have too many photos. It’s a cull.

I haven’t started yet, and I also still need to go out … the IGA for food and the chemist for advice and band-aids.

Just Thinking 1: Why Write

In the Fields embroidered by Rita de Heer

It’s useless to be thinking about the future when you are starting out, on anything. You start your working life putting up signs, you have no clue that one day you might be working on high rises installing in glass walls with the help of a robot.

People starting out as writers are the same. I started with writing poetry. I had no idea then that one day I’d take on an sf trilogy.

Nearly everybody here in the Discord’s Writing Cartel has a world/universe that they are either writing into or using as scene setting for any number of creative projects. Yesterday I watched a short film on Youtube, there are people developing games, writing novels, short stories, you name it, it’s being written.

Every one of these worlds/galaxies/universes are huge. Many of us have spent every spare moment of our boring work lives thinking up detail. There will always be areas in any of these worlds that will stay private to their creator, and other areas that will see heavy traffic of stories.

We’re all doing it for the love of it. World building is one of the most satisfying mind games we all engage in, relaxing and psychologically uplifting. Next comes the harder thing. Convincing other people to put their own worlds aside for an hour, and engage with us in ours. So we write stories, develop adventure games, produce visuals, film about our worlds.

The Discord Writing Cartel community is all about sticking our toes in the waters of our worlds, writing though the shallows, and finally committing ourselves to writing fully fledged stories to share first with each other, then with the world.

Only then, with that last word, can you start thinking about how much money you might make.
Though, of course, these are just my own thoughts. Take them well salted.

Art: #huevember2019, 2

Big fish cruising

This began as a piece of paper I used for practicing leaf shapes with a new brush, using indigo with a bit of yellow top and bottom.

Then, doing this project, I’m recycling paper as I go since everything I do is trial and error.

So, when trying phthalo blue over indigo and mopping out the centres of shapes–another thing to practice–that fish became a thing when I added its eye.

I realize that it is only through the corrugations formed by leaf shapes that I have a shaped mouth, and that I’ll probably never be able to reproduce it.

Bat out of Hell, Nov 17

This pic began with red. Bush-fires have burnt out large swathes of forest and hundreds of animals have died, four humans among them.

Red mixed with indigo and phthalo blue gave me the fire-ground. Indigo for the bat with a touch of orange for its eyes. The blue touches contrasted and made the clouds. Made it realistic, in fact.

After the Fire, Nov 19

After the fire when dead trees stand smoking and still aglow. The sun still shines, an angry ball. This little scene was to give me shades in indigo, but as usual I get carried away by the content.