Archive | Writing RSS feed for this section

Cecilia’s March

1 May

adiaryofapandemicmaster-1

May 1,  2020

Day 41

 

AAAGrocery

 

I went to town again today to pick up a prescription, mail a package and top up the larder. 154 turns on the dodgy road in a caravan behind two other cars all the way down. Whitianga is looking more active but no one knows quite what to do yet. Lots of businesses are trying to figure out how people can shop by standing at the front door and speaking to salespersons inside. Others are simply going to wait for Level 2 to come along before they can open, which is what a lady told me at the door of the stationery store where the post office is located. Package not mailed, check. Off to the the grocery store where there were more people than during Level 4 but fewer paying attention to social distancing. I was the only person with a mask and had to work very hard to get through my list without running into other customers.

I sound like a broken record, but after a month of hard work at Level 4 and good results to show for it, the way people are acting at Level 3 is breaking my heart.

 

ALEvel3

 

Upon returning home to check the figures for the day I see the behaviour I observed appears to be a nationwide trend. The news is full of stories about push-back at the excesses some feel they had to endure under Level 4. It’s as though many people think things would have turned out just the same had there been no lockdown and now they’re all rebelling at the idea of continued vigilance.

 

AIwasgoing

 

These people don’t seem to get that the quickest way to lose your laurels is to rest on them. They are shaking my confidence daily. We did not get to the numbers below for no reason.

 

AMay01NZCov

3 New cases. 11 Recovered cases. Ratio of recovered cases to active cases is holding at 84%. Two Zeroes on the board. 227 still under the gun.

 

 

 AMatch

With the advent of Level 3, lockdown’s covidiots are being reinforced by thousands of knuckle-headed Cecilia’s who just want it to be over. They march aimlessly in different directions, together in the dark in a room full of gasoline, each holding a lighted match so they’ll be able to see victory if it shows up.

 

ACElia

 

I wonder whether we’ll make it to level 2…

 

 

 

Don’t Insult the Cook

28 Apr

adiaryofapandemicmaster-1

April 28, 2020

Day 38

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

AApr28NZCov

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

 

ALighthouse

 

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.

 

AAQuestions

ASomethings bad

AReset

ATicktock

An Unknown Future

27 Apr

adiaryofapandemicmaster-1

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.

AApr27NZCov

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

20% to go…

 

ALotus

 

 

It will Fluctuate

26 Apr

ADiaryofaPandemicMaster

April 26, 2020

Day 34

 

ANewMoon

 

During the previous month members of our tight-knit community have taken it upon themselves to do the easement road maintenance while the workers normally contracted for this job are locked down. Grass is weed-whacked and gorse rooted out. Cracks in the road have been marked for future attention and safety barriers are in the process of being water blasted and re-painted. One project undertaken by the Mahakirau Forest Estate Society Incorporated (MFESI) is the construction of a research ‘hub’ near the picnic area that will serve to house visiting biologists and guest workers. This week individual volunteers, working from an online schedule so that only one person is on site at a time, began staking out and clearing the land for this facility. Life goes on and despite us all being constrained by the challenges of this contagion, our work continues.

Today I started dismantling an old, out of disused outhouse that was knocked over by a falling tree a few years back. I’m using the thin plywood from the walls to make small storage boxes that will sit on the new shelves in the workshop shipping container. Internal framing is coming from scrap wood, fasteners are being culled from a box of screws collected over time from various other building modifications. I throw very little away and am glad I have this habit because all of the hardware stores are closed. Like the whelk, I must live in my home while I build it. The storage boxes will replace the hodgepodge of cardboard ones that contain all of the things that won’t yet fit into our small (but growing) house. I will build one a week while working on other projects higher on the priority list, but eventually they’ll all be done and I can cross them off and move on down the line.

With one piece of outhouse wall to work with, I set up a temporary workbench on the deck of the forest porch and hummed Joni Mitchell’s Chelsea Morning as the sun poured in like butterscotch. The days are getting shorter and colder, but there are still a few warm and pleasant hours on either side of noon. The swallows are active in this interlude, their scratchy chirps filling the sky as they swoop and wheel around the clearing below the house. A few quail come to the steps and call and are fed by their humans. After their meal they sit in the warm sun in the grass at the edge of the grove and dream of summer. Chaffinches have returned from wherever it is they go during the summer and the moreporks are calling earlier in the afternoon. In this tail end of Indian Summer two of the rose bushes are putting out buds and the climbing rata are blooming in orange brush strokes all over the valley.

AARata

For a few minutes, Valerie walked in the garden, breathing in the outside air for the first time in three weeks. A smile wreathed her face as she contemplated what must be done to return the place to order. For now that is all she can do, but it is enough.

Other jobs done included two loads of laundry in the newly painted ‘laundry room’. I figured out how to clean the antique Chinese white ceramic lamp whose close spaced decorative lattices have been collecting dust for years. Counting the holes in four square inches and multiplying by the total surface area told me that there are over a thousand tiny, irregularly shaped triangles to clean. I put the lamp base in a bucket of soapy water collected from the outflow of the washing machine where I will let it soak for a few days. Should take about a week to finish that tedious task by doing a little bit here, a little there, in between other endeavours.

Fading light and lowering temperatures told me to stop and wrap up. Shut down, tools down…lockdown. I walked to the verandah and scanned the sky above the ridge to the northwest. It took me a while, but I found the thin sliver of the new moon hiding in plain sight, chasing the sun. So beautiful. So absolutely, amazingly beautiful. I linger there for a time and marvel, then go inside to check the numbers.

AApr26NZCov

When asked by a brash young reporter what he thought the stock market would do that week, financier James Pierpont Morgan famously replied, “It will fluctuate”. I think that holds true for pandemics as well.

9 New cases, up from the day before. 24 Recovered cases. Ratio of recovered cases to active cases is 77%. Two Zeroes on the board today but again they are just place holders. 328 people are still infected.

Thus far I am not aware of anyone of note in New Zealand weighing in on the question of  whether previously infected people develop immunity or not. Can you catch Covid-19 again and again? Other questions are percolating to the surface as time goes on. Massive strokes are being reported in young patients currently hospitalised with active infections and a great deal of the at home deaths in New York City during the past month were from strokes. I will wait for further developments as April draws to a close and reflect on how fortunate I am to have been to be able to self-isolate in such a wonderful, peaceful spot.

 

AChaffinch

 

 

The Sleeper Wakes

30 Nov

100 words to greet the dawn for old time’s sake and my friends at Friday Fictioneers based on a photo below by Jan Wayne Fields.

camping

(Copyright Jan Wayne Fields)

I rise at dawn and stand by the temple bell to give thanks and greet the morning. Gold paints the forest ridges that rise to the mist shrouded summit of Totokoroa. Calls of bell birds ring across the valley. A breeze ruffles the fabric of the tent. I strike the bell softly. It’s deep, resonant note sounds, and joins the music of the day’s beginning.

I make tea and return to bed. The smoky fragrance of Lapsang Souchong causes a figure sleeping there to stir. I whisper in her ear.

“The sun is on the mountain.”

And she smiles.

 

totokoroa-dawn

South by Southwest

16 Sep

 

100 words for Friday Fictioneers based on the photo prompt below courtesy of David Stewart.

South by Southwest

(Copyright David Stewart)

 

The gate swings slowly shut. I look back a final time and see in places my handiwork, all that remains of a quarter century of love, surrendered to weeds.

What did I give? How hard did I strive? Where is my love buried?

Only I will ever know.

Call on God, it is said, but row away from the rocks.

I place a note between the gate and jamb for friends who might wish to find me. In time, it, too, will fall and fade, but such is the way of the world. Vulnerant omnes, ultima necat.

And I row.

 

 

 

Change

antipodes

map

Flying Switch

8 Jul

100 words out of the blue for my fellow travelers in Friday Fictioneers. Nice to see you all again. Don’t comment, as I’m moving fast and may not be able to answer. Just enjoy the ride. I’ll settle soon. Love to you all, D.

 

flying switch

(C0pyright Stephen Baum)

See that light up ahead? Early on in life and for years thereafter I’d have said it was an oncoming train. You get a feel for what your mistakes look like rushing toward you through the gloom.

Once I passed the half century mark I figured out that though I was on the tracks, I was also in charge of the trains. I learned to change their schedules or shunt them onto sidings and in time became a good stationmaster.

Now I know the light is my future.

It’s bright.

It’s the beginning of anything I want.

And it’s about time.

 

 

Ouroborous

 

The Windlass of Time

4 Jun

A hundred words for those who are still left and for those who have gone before, based on the photo prompt below. We walk in the shadows of giants. D-Day. June 6th, 1944.

 

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 1.14.59 AM

(Copyright C. Hase)

 

 

A stooped and wizened man stands behind a bench at the end of a pier, supporting himself with both hands as he watches liberty boats ferry passengers to the beach from a cruise ship anchored offshore. Long years have extinguished everything in his life except the fire in his eyes. Through them he sees soldiers in a maelstrom struggling in crimson surf beneath a dull gray sky.

A car backfires and he flinches, then squares his shoulders and turns to walk resolutely inshore, sure that today will be his last. Another day, another turn of the wheel. Maybe tomorrow.

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 1.29.07 AM

 

Qui Tacet Consentiere

27 May

 

100 words for Friday Fictioneers.

Unlike the many creatures we’ve sent, as W.S. Merwin said in For a Coming Extinction, “…to The End.”, I have returned, if only for this week, because the photograph is mine and speaks to me of teeming seas from a time long past…. No need to comment. I love you all. Aloha, D.

 

Silence implies Consent

(Copyright Douglas MacIlroy)

“And they lived in the oceans?” At three years of age, my daughter was just beginning to get an inkling of the world that had gone before her.

“They filled the seas, Pearl. We were once just a distant rumor to them.”

“If there were so many, where did they all go?”

“To feed us, darling.”

“Every one?”

“Some say a few still live in deep canyons where nets can’t reach, but none have been seen for many years.”

“Will they ever come back, Daddy?”

“In time perhaps.”

“When we’re gone?”

 

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 12.36.25 AM

Darkness Falls

25 Apr

Some of you may have seen that Mauna Kea is in the news lately because of an ongoing attempt by protesters to stop the construction of the Thirty-Meter-Telescope. The issues in question can be found by searching the web carefully, but be careful to research thoroughly as there are many conflicting viewpoints out there. As an employee of one of the existing observatories on the summit, I have been counseled by admin to keep an open mind and be professional in the expression of my opinions. And so I have. This weeks story for Friday Fictioneers is based on my own photo prompt and speaks my mind quite clearly.

It is longer than normal by 58 words and for these I make no apology. I have been spot on for months and will be absent from the mix for some time to come so I hope you will tolerate my overage. If you do not want to read more than 100 words, you’d better stop 68 words ago.

Thanks to all who read on. See you down the road a bit. Aloha, D.

 

Darkness Falls

(Copyright Douglas MacIlroy)

A mob is coming to destroy what might have been their salvation. They listen to reply, not to understand. They want to watch the world burn.

Mauna Kea is sacred. But not for the reasons they claim. The Universe unfolds, light dances eternally and the majesty of Nature gives not a tinker’s damn about man’s gods. The mountain was here long before they arrived, guided, ironically, by their elder’s knowledge of the stars. It will endure long after they are dust.

Mauna Kea is sacred. Unlike the mob, I have learned this through direct experience over five years of glorious sunsets, cold, clear nights and solitary dawns. Cloaked in false pride and righteousness, ignorance is on the march against the inexorable tide of knowledge.

I lock the doors and wait. Someplace has to be the backwater of science and education in the world. It might as well be Hawaii. This will be their legacy.

If you listen carefully you can hear the stars laughing.

 

 

aaaaaaaafondly

To all my followers