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Don’t Insult the Cook

28 Apr


April 28, 2020

Day 38

First day of Alert Level 3 in New Zealand. The numbers for today are…


3 New cases. 34 Recovered cases. Ratio of recovered cases to active cases is 82%. (18% to go.) 258 infected people remaining.




Anyone reading this know how to make aspirin? A nail? Plastic? Could you build an internal combustion engine from scratch? Make antibiotics? A solid state transistor? A battery of any type? Paper? Glue? Ink? Could you build a printing press and publish a blog the old fashioned way? Do you know how to grow wheat? Harvest it? Grind the grain into flour? Build a windmill? Make candles? Dress a hog? Tan a hide? Breed horses? Break a horse? Ride a horse? Do any of you know why an airfoil generates lift and how?

One hundred years ago the era of the horse was coming to a close and the era of the automobile was just a quarter of a century old. Humans had been flying airplanes for 17 years and Robert Goddard, one of the fathers of modern rocketry, had just written a letter to the Smithsonian Institution in which he proposed photographing the moon and planets by using fly-by probes. Penicillin was 8 years from being invented and the Spanish Flu Pandemic, during which 675,000 Americans were killed, had been over for a year.

Ten years from now what will people say when they look back at everything that is happening this year? Will the Covid-19 Pandemic that led to the second Great Depression be the lead story? Or will it be the first test launches of SpaceX’s Starship rocket? Will there be a settlement on Mars? Will Taiwan exist as a nation or will it have be violently crushed and then silently absorbed in the greatest act of revisionist history ever undertaken by any nation in the world?

What does the rest of the year hold for us? A gradual return to the way we were? A readjustment of the blinders we grew used to in the previous two decades when we ceded manufacturing to China? Will the food chain of the world be broken? What conflicts will arise out of the chaos and shortages to come? Will the progressives of the world win out as the baby boomers die off? Will socialism rise to prominence until it runs out of other people’s money? Will you be speaking Chinese in a re-education camp?

In fifty years few people will remember witnessing the first landing of men on the moon. Those who do will not be able to say publicly that it wasn’t Chinese taikonauts, but American astronauts who took those first steps. Such behaviour will result in imprisonment, slave labor and ultimately, death, as transplantable organs will still be cheaper to harvest than to grow in labs. The future that I write of will be fact and the past I was part of will be erased. Right now 1,400,000,000 people on this planet are already part of that world. The rest of us are closer to it that we think. Don’t believe this? When you try to boycott China, you’re going to see the extent to which we’ve become reliant on them. They know this. Depend upon it. Their attitude at this juncture in history can best be summed up by an old saying of theirs that goes, ‘If you want your dinner, don’t insult the cook’. This is what we have to contend with now and it is what we will have to contend with should we attempt to reclaim our treasure from the Chinese dragon.

In his novel Time Enough for Love, Heinlein (Yes, Robert Anson again) says, “Human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyse a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

I contend that countries should be able to do the same. The tale of Covid-19 and surviving its aftermath without selling our souls has yet to be written, but if it was, I’m betting the moral of the story will be, for individuals as well as nations, to do their own cooking.



ASomethings bad



An Unknown Future

27 Apr


April 27, 2020

Day 35

Today is New Zealand’s last day (fingers crossed) at Alert level 4. Total lockdown has been strange, weird, scary, sobering and somehow exhilarating. As I said at the start of this blog, “Nothing concentrates the mind like a sentence of death”. Events in this country thus far have me feeling hopeful, but I am mindful of the nature of the beast and thus will continue to act as though I am still in lockdown and keep on searching the chaff for the wheat.

Robert Heinlein is one of my all time favourite authors. If you haven’t read any of his works, now would be a good time to start.  In The Notebooks of Lazarus Long he says, “What are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history”–what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future, facts are your single clue.”

Thirty-five days into the new normal and there is not much buzz about a cure or even a high percentage treatment and if there is they’re saying it will be later rather than sooner. On the status board of most of the institutions and governments working in that direction is a sign that says, “Don’t hold your breath”. As of this date, as I write, you can wear a mask or a full face respirator, shop at dawn and swim in a vat of hand sanitiser when you’re done, but, young or old, rich or poor, covidiot or pragmatic prepper, whether or not you’re going to catch it and whether or not you’re going to survive unscathed is still a numbers game.

Today’s are as follows.


Minus 1 New cases today. 38 Recovered cases. Ratio of recovered cases to active cases is 80%.

20% to go…





On On Off

28 Jan

100 words for Friday Fictioneers based on the photo prompt supplied by Ted Strutz and selected for this week’s round of stories by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.



(Copyright Ted Strutz)

The switch positions and the cord wound clockwise said the drop was compromised. The scorch mark told him to burn everything and run. The hole was new and sure to have a camera inside.


He walked by with measured steps, eyes on the ground. Another wage slave drone headed to a dead-end job. Mindless. Hopeless.

But they were wrong.

He would remove the RFID chip in his forearm and follow protocol for reintegration into the network. Different city. Change of identity. Same goal.

One man’s terrorist. Another man’s freedom fighter.

The victor writes the history books.

There is always hope.



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Shank’s Mare to Summer

7 Jan

100 words for Friday Fictioneers based on the photo prompt below (courtesy of a brilliant stained glass artist named Jean L. Hays). Every road, just like most stories, has a beginning, a middle and an end. Most of us know where ours began, many have seen the middle and a very few know where theirs will end. No matter where yours takes you, remember to enjoy the journey. Aloha, D.


Begin the Route

(Copyright Jean L. Hays)

Headed southwest through bitter cold and spindrift snow towards a distant home, he found a battered sheet of drywall near an overpass and dragged it up to where the span met sloped berm, hoping to use it as a windbreak or makeshift mattress.

On the concrete abutment above the ashes of an old campfire someone had written in charcoal, “Not all those who wander are lost.”

He stared at the words for a long time, thinking of her, then shivered and returned to the highway to search the windblown verge for something to wrap himself in besides Tolkien and memories.



Down on your luck

End of the Trail

Five after Whatever

15 Oct

100 words for Friday Fictioneers based on the photo prompt below.

Five after Whaever

(copyright Douglas MacIlroy)


I was building a cuboctahedron when a packet of hot peppers fell from an opening and onto the workbench. I peered inside and found myself seated in a restaurant opposite a beautiful woman with sparkling eyes and a sunny smile. Across the street sea met sky beyond a pristine white sand beach.

“I was strolling on the boardwalk when a craving for Calimari alla Griglia came over me.” she said.

“And I was….Oh, never mind.”

“This is going to be an unusual relationship, isn’t it?”

We meet at Scalini’s in St. Heliers every Thursday at five after.


Critical Excursion

24 Sep

100 words For Friday Fictioneers based on the photo prompt below. Those of you familiar with my weekly stories will know that I try to refrain from overlong introductions. Today is no different, but for those interested in the subject, I have added a short afterward. I highly recommend that you don’t read it (useless you’re curious and have the time). The story is accurate and stands alone.



Copyright Marie Gail Stratford

The soft glow flared to a brilliant, beautiful blue. Then darkness fell.

Above the turmoil of boiling water the phone at the end of the catwalk rings. My fingers never lose contact with the handrails as I find my way there.

“Rick, we’ve got a high radiation alarm in pond twenty-one,” my supervisor says. “What’s happening?”

“Criticality incident. Center section fuel rods.”

“You certain?”

“Cherenkov flare. Heat pulse. And I’m blind.”

“Can you self-evacuate?”


“Probably, but I can’t outrun what’s coming. Don’t send anyone. I’ll just rest here.”









Fuel rod cooling pool




Nuclear power is an esoteric field, full of jargon and unwieldy terms usually mangled by newscasters, but to those in the industry it is a pure science, stark yet somehow elegant. It is also a slippery beast that every now and then escapes from the mechanical prisons we try to confine it to. When this happens, it happens fast. Invisible high-energy sub-atomic particles rip through fragile DNA and other cellular structures and do irreparable damage in the blink of an eye. The human machine can keep running for a while, depending on the full body radiation dose it has received, but all the myriad chemical reactions required to sustain life are adversely affected and eventually the body grinds to a halt in an ugly and painful death. All nuclear industry workers know the risks and work hard to minimize them, but for the unlucky few down through history, being near a critical excursion is like winning the lottery in reverse.

And since you’re still here, I think it germane to note that our sun is a fusion reactor in the sky and that we are being irradiated every day by it. Radiation from the decay of Carbon-14 in the long bones of your legs is a significant part of your lifetime dose. If you linger in Grand Central Terminal for a day, radiation from the granite used in its construction will add to your lifetime dose. Fly much? Airline pilots have much higher lifetime doses of radiation than those of us who work on the ground. In my three years aboard the USS-Sargo, a fast attack submarine, I received exactly 1.625 rem of whole body radiation.

Radiation is electromagnetic energy. We are awash in it day and night, so much so that our eyes evolved to detect radiation in the visible spectrum. Nuclear power is a tool of man. If there is a danger associated with it, it stems wholly from our failure to maintain adequate safeguards. Educate yourself, know your physics and above all, don’t listen to the talking heads on the TV screen. Go figure it out for yourself.


Still here?


25 Sep

100 words for Friday Fictioneers and an answer to a few of the comments I received on last week’s story.  (Thanks for all of those.)

Thanks to Mrs. Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for continuing her cat herding duties, to Mr. Katzenjammer Voza for the photo prompt (below) for the stories this week, and to me for coming back and talking to me in 1967.  (It hasn’t happened yet, but the intent is there so you never know.)



The old man scared me until I realized that only I could have known the things he told me. When he finished, I believed.

“You’re fourteen now. Work your ass off and save every cent. When Microsoft and Apple go public, buy and keep buying.”

“Is there anything else I should do?”

“The Morrisey twins,” he replied, without hesitation.

“Did you?”

“Never asked. Faint heart and all that. Don’t want you still wondering when you’re seventy.”

“Which is when you first went through the portals?”

“Exactly. Blue door first.”

He handed me an envelope.

“It’s all in here. Have fun.”



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One Today is Worth Two Tomorrows

18 Sep

Here is this week’s 100 word story for Friday Fictioneers. It is based on a true story that is happening now and on the photo prompt shown below courtesy of John Nixon. Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for winding the ship’s chronometer, to Ben Franklin for my title and to R. A. Heinlein for everything he ever wrote. The stories of all contributors can be found here. Take some time to check them out. Never know what you’ll find.

(For those of you new to Friday Fictioneers, the founder, Ms. Madison Woods, is getting married this weekend. Talk about your ripples in a pond. She has changed many people’s lives for the better, even if she doesn’t know it yet, or modestly denies it.)

Madison, thank you for all that you’ve done. May you find the magic and love you have deserved for so very long. Aloha, D.

One Tomorrow

Life was a holding action in which I could see no future. Seventy years of bad decisions found me worn out and headed straight to hell on a bad road paved with good intentions.

Which is why I paid attention when my doppelganger walked into the store and placed a satchel full of hundred dollar bills on the counter.

He handed me an envelope and one-thousand dollars.

“Tomorrow’s Kentucky Derby. Bet the trifecta, 19-6-5. After you collect, open the letter and follow the instructions. Don’t screw this up. Don’t think. You’ll only hurt yourself. We’ll talk again twice. It’s time.”

Click this link.

Or not.