Thursday, November 18, 2010

Proper Use of Knowledge

I had a very interesting weekend. I've been in Nottingham for the wonderfully fannish SF convention, Novacon. I've loved this convention since the very second time I attended. This year Sally came with us. I wasn't sure how much fun it would be for her given that, other than the next generation of fans in the approaching pubescent age and younger, the youngest person is probably in their thirties and the average age looks to be late fifties. As far as I can tell, though, there was enough amusement and book purchasing opportunities to make it a weekend well spent for her.

There were two stand out moments for me. Not Ken MacLeod interviewing Iain Banks though that was an amusing glimpse into a firm friendship and Iain's way of thinking. Not Julian's occasionally immoderate moderating of Iain Banks, Geoff Ryman and Charlie Stross's discussions about hard and mundane SF, fascinating though that was. Not even James Bacon with his endearing rendition of one of Bob Shaw's serious scientific talks although that was very wonderful. No, my moments were less comfortable though more enlightening than any of those.

The first moment came as I arrived at Tarn Thai on Friday evening, decanted from the taxi I had shared with Julia, Doug and Julian. Ian and Sally were waiting outside the restaurant although the rest of the party had gone in. 'There's a problem,' understated Ian. 

I looked at Sally who was hardly breathing in an effort not to cry. 'What's wrong?' I asked and the tight control dissolved into wild sobs. Horribly, I couldn't understand a word she said. Eventually I fathomed it. Her much loved science teacher from school, Mr Friedeberg, had died suddenly. He had been one of those teachers who hadn't lapsed into cynicism or despair but had continued to give huge amounts of time and effort to his pupils. Sally had benefitted from a great deal of extra help from him and her grade B in chemistry was a result of his enthusiasm and selfless dedication as well as her hard work and willpower. He made his subjects interesting and comprehensible, passing his enthusiasm on to the kids who responded by working hard to achieve, and by loving him. Apparently his funeral was so packed that there was no space left.

Once the first powerful torrent of grief had abated somewhat I called a taxi and the two of us went back to the hotel and sat in my room. She talked about the man and what had happened. Mr Friedeberg hasn't been the first important person in Sally's life to die. Both my father and Paul, her Dad's mother, have died but both deaths followed a long period of worsening health and increasing pain, both as a result of brain tumors. The deaths were slow and awful and ultimately a relief. There was plenty of time to say goodbye. Mr Friedeberg died unexpectedly. One of the things that bothered her when she was finally able to drink a mug of tea and reflect on the shock was that she had missed the funeral. When I spoke to her father the next day he said he had known about the death and the funeral but didn't think Sally would be interested and was reluctant to mention it. Augh!!!

OK, so that was my first stand out moment. The next evening we went out to Pappa's for a really substantial Greek meal; enough vegetarian meze for six served to Sally, June and me whilst the remaining five ate enough meat for many more people. We staggered back and Ian, Sally and I subsided on the sofas in the dimly lit back of the bar. We girls had made a bit of an effort with makeup so Ian snapped us with his new iPhone. They're interesting pictures, despite Sally's strange otherworldly silver eyes. Later in the evening Ian showed the pictures to Liam Proven who seemed more concerned than a technical problem might indicate. He suggested to Sally that she should get her eyes looked at, probably not a problem, but really. Do it! When Sally backed away he came and spoke to me. Initially he didn't want to explain but I pressed him. Apparently there had recently been a story about a toddler who, in her birthday photographs had one redeye reflection and one eye that reflected white. The white reflection was a result of cancer of the retina which displaced the capillaries that cause redeye. Very gently, after repeating that it was extremely unlikely, he told me that that type of cancer had a very good chance of cure if caught early enough, but the eyes would have to be removed. I looked across at Sally who was chatting to Julia. She was animated, happy and very beautiful. I can't begin to describe the dread and grief I felt. Liam repeated that it was very unlikely, that it usually happens to much younger children but that, really, to be on the safe side, I should make sure she got it checked. He wandered off leaving me ashen.

Five minutes later I'd explained Liam's warning to Ian and he'd immediately devised a scientific experiment. He dashed upstairs for his usual camera. Photographs of Sally with this displayed wonderful, lovely redeye. Photos of Julia with the iPhone had scary silver eyes. Somehow it must be function of how the flash works on an iPhone. My relief was almost as devastating as the fear. I didn't know what to do with myself. 

I would like to note here that Ian's reaction is one of the reasons why I love him so much. In a crisis he is calm, clear thinking and wonderfully practical. Laura Wheatly and Julia Daly, also practical and terrifically sensible, helped me calm down from my adrenaline high. 

So. It was a false alarm. I was utterly terrified for, as it turns out, no reason. Should Liam have kept quiet because the information would upset me? Good God no! I never want to have another trauma like that but half an hour of deep terror is trifling compared to losing my child. 
My final point is that information can often cause pain but without it we may make false choices with results that might range from mildly embarrassing to disastrous. Failing to pass information either shows a lack of respect for a person or cowardice. I never think it is better not to know. We can't be in control of our own destinies if we have no conception of reality. We can only gauge that by obtaining all the information and testing it. And then maybe seeking the support of understanding friends.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Finding a balance

Over a year ago now I took a two-week permaculture design course. It was fascinating, traumatising (who knew I had so many issues around the word ‘home’?) and, I thought at the time, life changing. And then I came home and fell immediately into default mode. Sigh…

I have a few issues with permaculture, and with Transition that grew out of it. It’s nothing to do with the ideas, which I think are useful and fundamentally sound. It is the monetising of it and the branding. Some of this may also be because I am not a belonger. In my life I have been involved in a lot of organisations, in some cases giving a lot of my time and energy to them, but I’ve never felt any real sense of belonging and the associated obligation that comes with belonging. The closest I come to it, outside of my family, is to fandom but, for me, fandom is Not a way of life. I regard it with wonder sometimes, amazed at the generosity of its component parts, the occasional infighting, the passion and the energy (in some cases) but perhaps because it feels like a huge extended family, I can take or leave the obligations. Recently I have thought that maybe I’ve wandered too far away from fandom because of the huge amount of time and energy work is consuming. Time to reconsider.

So, yes. Where was I? Changing my life. I have continued to do stuff but it’s not to a plan, to a design, and as a consequence, it tends to drift into triviality and pointlessness. Given that I spend most of my time in systems management I am a big fan of the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle but, despite my best intentions, I’ve never even got to the ‘plan’ stage. I’m not even sure that I’m having much of a positive effect at all due to my lack of organisation (how can I save the world if I can’t define what that would mean (or find my keys))? I’ve got a list of objectives. I’ve had them for two years. I’ve made no progress.

So, with a small amount of enthusiasm, I am looking at being part of Sharon Astyk’s Whole Life Redesign Project! Sharon identified seven areas she aspired to change. There are clear matches with my long ignored objectives.

Sharon’s suggestion - Domestic Economy
‘This is the territory of home life. Here's where we start thinking about what we want our home life to actually be like. For me, the critical requirements are less cluttered, less disorganized, a home that functions better in relationship to what I actually do and intend to do at home. I'd like to set up the house in order to be able to bring people here for some of my teaching projects, and also to use some of the space for farm projects.’

My version of this was ‘Comfortable Home’. Well, if I’m going to be totally honest it was ‘Home for Gracious Living’ but anyone who has been to my mildly squalid terrace house in Sheffield will know that it is unlikely that I could actually aspire to gracious living there. I’m a lazy housekeeper and I’ve not got huge quantities of cash available to transform it. I could, however, work towards the less lofty objective of a comfortable home.
As Sharon notes, clutter and disorganization make for both a less comfortable and a less thrifty home. I occasionally buy things knowing that, somewhere in the house, there is a perfectly adequate resource of the type I’m looking for, I just can’t put my hand on it. I’ve been in my house since June 2007. I still haven’t unpacked my last boxes. Part of the problem is that I accumulated a lot of stuff in the large marital home. I’ve moved to a much more modest house but not divested myself of all the trash I’d accumulated.
I mentioned this to Claire Brialey some time ago and said I was going to get rid of some books. She looked at me aghast. Once started on that road where would one stop? The Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare? And yet I have many books that I will never read again and would not recommend to anyone else. Why keep them? Ah yes, but the last time I got rid of a dreadful book, The Tides of Lust by Samuel R Delany I found a couple of months later that I wanted to quote from it in order to demonstrate how awful it was – beautifully written but really rather nasty. Similarly, Vivia by Tanith Lee. Tides was replaced – a friend sent me a copy. Vivia never left. I think perhaps what I should do is get rid of the mediocre books and keep the well-written trash. And yet, and yet…
I am truly a packrat in the traditional fannish way but I could really do with simplifying. I’m thinking of starting to actually use the library again rather than keep so many books. It also helps keep books in libraries relevant.
I made a start last weekend when Ian was in Washington. I assembled some more bookcases and got most of my books finally out of boxes. Once they’re all out I’ll start winnowing. James Bacon and John Dowd have a fostering service set up to place unloved books. I may well make use of it. This is a very big project but one that I would like to start on.

Sharon’s suggestion - Household Economy
This is the territory of making ends meet and meeting financial goals. My goals here are to up the portion of our personal economy that comes from barter and personal exchanges, to drop our expenses by 20% and transfer the money to savings and to infrastructure like insulation that will cut expenses in the longer term. I want to have a plan for dealing with money and benefits cuts that we expect on Eric's end.’

Strangely I didn’t have anything like this in my objectives despite the fact that this is one of the areas I have been working on quite hard in the last couple of years. It makes sense to add it in and I’ve called it ‘Economic Viability’.
Attaining economic viability has been a long hard struggle. I took ten years out with my children and when I finally went back to work it was for the same salary I had started on as a graduate many years before. It took a lot of hard work, hard nosed pushing and a master’s degree to get me back into the salary level that I could survive as a single parent again. When David and I separated and I moved to Sheffield I was quite comfortably off as long as I cut out all the luxuries I’d used to enjoy. I cut. Things were fine.
Then the Crash and the struggle. In order to keep the company viable we all took a 20% pay cut. I cut out half of my charity donations, I stopped using contact lenses, I stopped impulse buying, I stopped buying lunches, and I started using Zen Budgeting. This turned out to work very well, to the extent that I found I could live quite comfortably within these limits. Given that I have enough money but hardly any time I have decided, now I’m back to full pay, to work a four-day week. Should everything go horribly wrong again I would be hard pushed to live on a 40% cut though. That’d mean getting rid of the TV, Demon, the rest of my charities etc. This is definitely an area that I need to monitor.
(I should also mention, in this section, that we benefit from the Ian subsidy – for which I am very grateful, and which means I drink much nicer wine more often than I would otherwise.)

Sharon’s suggestion - Resource Consumption
This is the territory of what we use. Our lives are enhanced when we use less, and so are the lives of others and our environment - it is as simple as that. We've seen some creep in our energy usage, and we need to get it back down. Right now our family of six is using less than 1/5 the US average (and most of those are based on household numbers with the average US household being 2.6), but I want to get back closer to 1/10th which, while not a fair share, is a lot closer. We need to get back in the habit of accurate bookkeeping on our energy usage as well.’

My version of this was called ‘Living Lightly’ and I’ve been very poor at achieving anything. Last year I started on the Riot for Austerity but didn’t get very far with it. I found trying to convert everything a pain and I never took the time to set up a proper spreadsheet. This year I joined Sheffield’s CRAG, the Carbon Action Rationing Group. I have found this simply fascinating. As my friends would attest, I keep my house on the chilly side, use public transport all the time (except when I go somewhere in Ian’s car) and don’t fly and yet my carbon production to date this year is 1293kg. The UK per capita average is 4500kg so you’d think I was doing quite well but this was set up by financial year and there has only been temperate months so far. Also it doesn’t include carbon impacts generated by my business travel. Admittedly my house is old and draughty but there must be lots of people out there who never have the heating on and go nowhere in order to generate an average of 4500kg. Another one to make more effort over. I’m replacing my old leaky front door and hope that will help. I’ve got plans to insulate the floor. We’ll see.

Sharon’s suggestion - Farm and Subsistence
‘This category may be more relevant to us than some people, but everyone does some subsistence work. For us, we want the farm to be the center of our lives, and to integrate ourselves more into the farm - that is, we want as much as possible my work and our lives and the farm to be one thing. For a long time we've used Eric's work to subsidize the farm, but now it needs to be self-supporting, and that's part of that equation, while we also expose what we're doing in low input agriculture to other people. We'd also like to up the degree to which our subsistence activities teach and help others. Most of all, I want to do a full evaluation of all our projects, both so that others can begin to understand them, and also to make sure that we are doing everything we do as well as possible.’

This doesn’t have a real equivalent for me. I have no farm and no real interest in having one. I could make this ‘Productive Garden’ and try to do a better job of dealing with the slugs. This has been my intention anyway, and may be a good use of my extra day a week.

Sharon’s suggestion - Family and Community
‘This is a big one for us - the reason we considered moving earlier this year was the desire for a closer knit community - we had that but have seen some changes over the years. But the reality is that we've been allowing those changes to frustrate us, but haven't necessarily worked as hard as we could to compensate. So our goal is to spend more time working on our community building, and bringing our far-flung communities and our local ones into a state of connection. It is sometimes hard to be so far from our family, from close friends, but if we can build better on what's near us, we can reach out through a chain of links, rather than across a wide distance.’

This is a worry for me and I had it down, rather ridiculously, as ‘Maintaining Joyful Relationships’. I’m rubbish at this. Over the years I have lost contact with many lovely friends because I don’t find time to keep in touch. The exception to this is Sally, who I live with, my lovely colleagues at work and Ian. Luckily I have some great friends who I can pick up with easily. Again, I’m hoping that my extra day will give me some time to catch up with friends.
On the same subject, many of the important people in my life refuse to live next door to me or even in the same town. I am very disappointed in them! Jack is in Oxford, my family is in Leeds and Ian is in Motherwell, at least a four-hour train journey away. I worry about how the slow erosion of wealth and energy I expect will impact on these long distance relationships. I have no answer to this predicament but think that this is also an objective that I should concentrate on.

Sharon’s suggestion - Outside Work
‘If my children were hungry, I would and could do any work necessary - there is no doubt about that. But while my family lives on comparatively little money (we qualify for food stamps in our state, although we don't use them), we also have enjoyed the fact that we have the luxury of choosing our work. In many ways, we've had an enormous luxury - my writing and teaching and farming didn't have to pay much, because Eric was subsidizing them. Now my work may have to support us, but I still want, to the extent that's possible, to make what I do the right thing to do. I am enormously fortunate, in that I can earn money doing what I care about, and that I have had the luxury of giving things - my writing, my farm products, etc... away for free. Indeed, often the return of giving things away has been greater than those I use for money - but I don't live entirely outside the cash economy, unfortunately. So I need to balance my work - find the ways to make some money doing what I care about, while reducing expenses, so that I have the luxury of keeping giving things away.’

This one I called ‘Meaningful Work’. I’m very happy that I have work that is environmentally based and makes something of a difference. I say ‘something’ because I am working with the business community and some things are not up for discussion. I spend a lot of time talking about sustainability but what the government and business mean by sustainability is predicated on an economics based on growth, a concept that is not in any way consistent with sustainability. Still, it’s more meaningful than stacking supermarket shelves and better paid. My objective is, I suppose, to support businesses in moving towards sustainability, even if it is a watered down version.

Sharon’s suggestion - Time and Happiness

In the end, these balance sheets have to be even for me to begin to go forward. The good thing about this is that I know how easy it is to even up this part of the equation. My husband and children and the farm and gardens, friends and family give me a deep, inner core of happiness. Whether we stay or go, whatever changes we make, whatever we do without or give up, if I have some simple things - a little dirt (and I don't have to own it) and the loves of my lives in place, I am not afraid of the future, and I am happy. The thing that buys me the most happiness is time - but it doesn't have to be free time. Indeed, the thing that gives me the most comfort in the world is knowing that Eric and I can spend an entire day working in arm's reach of one another, with the boys helping and playing around our work, and know that at the end of the day, all of us, exhausted, will have found the time well spent. Finding time and finding happiness, are not, for us, a matter of more vacation time or things we want to try - they are simply the by products of trying to bring the pieces of our lives together.’

This is a part of what I have included under ‘Healthy Lifestyle’. I find getting a balance in time use very difficult. I’m not a fast worker and I have a personal requirement to produce work that satisfies my own standards, especially when I am training. It’s self-defense really. I don’t want to be embarrassed by not doing a good job. The problem is that this eats into my own time. That and the fact that wherever possible I travel by public transport for work. It gives me more productive time (I can work rather than just drive) but it takes longer and extends my working day. I’m tired all the time. My feet hurt, I’m overweight, I’m unfit and I haven’t the time to do anything more than try to catch up on my sleep and cook proper meals from scratch. Even that I’m not doing very well. Julia Daly has cooked a couple of splendid meals for us recently, the leftovers from which have been the basis of our meals for the rest of the week.

So, a whole host of things to think about, objectives in place and targets to set. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Assorted catastrophes

I’ve been a bit busy recently. That’s what I always say, of course, but I’ve been doing a lot of training so instead of having spare time to read and write about my deep personal passions I’ve spent every evening and all train journeys going though slides trying to remember what I’m supposed to talk about. Yesterday I had a horribly frantic scramble (on the train from Marylebone and later in the NiteNite in Birmingham) to get up to speed with the May 09 version of the Code for Sustainable Homes so that I could inform a select group of builders, local authority staff and the guy who manages training for the National Construction College all about how it works just two days before the 2010 version is released. I think I managed with the presentation but the exercises were a bit chaotic. The feedback forms were good though, even from the NCC guy. Usually I have a little furtive check of feedback, egoscanning for the tutor questions (knowledgeable? approachable?), on the train back but the train before mine had been delayed for over an hour and all the stranded passengers had jumped onto mine. There was no room in the seats and I ended up sitting on the floor in the wheelchair space between two grey suited guys standing primly and, of course, properly. Reading a Darkover book. Yes, I know, but I really rather like them. (I have always wondered why women SFF writers seem to love feudal societies.) The train was crowded enough that the trolley was stuck at the very back of the train, minimising my risk of severed feet. Yes, of course I go everywhere on public transport. It’s so relaxing! Masochist? Apparently.

So today I’m going over the Pennines to deliver a Waste Awareness Course, which I could probably do in my sleep, and I’m taking the chance to write a little something. Daybreak over Manchester looks truly apocalyptic and that’s where my thoughts have been recently. Not over Manchester. In the Apocalypse. I’ve been reading a number of The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWK) books. Darkover Landfall (yes, I know!) and Alas! Babylon! being the most recent. We talked about them over dinner at Julia & Doug’s on Friday. Sally wanted to know what we meant by Cosy Catastrophe (CC).

Some of my favourite comfort books are cosy catastrophes. The quintessential cosy catastrophe is The Day of the Triffids (though the Kraken Wakes is more catastrophe and less cosy). Triffids is a lovely SF novel by John Wyndham, short but effective. The first part, where the hero wakes up on the morning after TEOTWAWKI, blind from an earlier accident, in a London obviously not right, is one of the creepiest pieces of writing I’ve come across. I never read this book alone in the house at night. The terror is contagious.

If this were only going into my fanzine I would leave Triffids at that, assuming that everyone would have read this seminal work of British SF, but some of my colleagues, non-fans, read the blog and, strange though it seems, need a quick explanation.

The Day of the Triffids was written during the cold war era, a time of fear and paranoia, a time when mass unforeseen death seemed quite possible. Was quite possible. Alas! Babylon! looked at this fear in a quite straightforward, nuclear war sort of way. Triffids was somewhat more oblique and the more frightening because of it. When, in my day job, I look at potential incidents and accidents they usually have more than one cause. It is the combination of a number of errors that result in massive spills, explosions etc. One error alone usually results in a ‘near miss’ rather than a full blown incident. Triffids is based on two such accidents and is the more believable because of it.

The first mistake was the development of triffids and their accidental dissemination across the world by industrial espionage gone wrong. Mobile and dangerous plants; plants with some level of intelligence and malevolence. These were my first introduction to GMOs and perhaps why I have always had reservations about them. The triffids were developed, nurtured and spread throughout the world because of the high-grade edible oil they produced. In Wyndham’s world, where it is critical that population and food production balance, it seems fine to ‘domesticate’ this dangerous creature, a plant that can and does kill and feeds off the nutrients from the rotting corpse. Yum.

The second mistake provides the ‘meteor showers’ that everyone watched the night before TEOTWAWKI. Perhaps a satellite weapon, watching the magnificent display resulted in blindness. The hero has been temporarily blinded by a triffid sting across the eyes and on the morning that the book starts, in the anxious and increasingly terrifying darkness behind the his bandages, he is waiting to find out if the damage is permanent.

So, two mistakes herald the end of the old comfortable and cosy world. Millions of people die, either through suicide and accidents due to their sudden blindness or by triffid sting as they stumble outside, unaware of their danger.

What makes it cosy? The way the story is told makes it rather cosy. The hero doesn’t lose anyone dear to him. He goes from being a lonely person in a dead end job to being far more important and far happier in the long term. The human race survives and does not sink into barbarism and chaos. The world is rather saved by this disaster – population is drastically reduced and those survivors have a whole world to repopulate. Nice. Alas! Babylon does the same for nuclear war. Earth Abides does the same for ‘plague’. These seem to be fantasies of stepping back from the edge of ultimate destruction and getting away from the dull and ordinary lives so many of us live.

I’ve always rather liked Cosy Catastrophes, even though I know that these are unlikely scenarios. In Earth Abides the water treatment plant delivering clean water continues working effectively for decades. In Triffids a lovely farmhouse overlooking the Downs is available for moving into without a dull job and a mortgage to support it. In Alas! Babylon! the hero has access to artesian water and enough warning to stock up. We have lived comfortable lives for so long, dependant on our cheap energy and complex systems, that we’ve forgotten what damn hard graft it is to deal with all our needs without such sophisticated assistance. In reality systems break down remarkably quickly when not fed with power or money. We saw that with the oil refinery blockades – a couple of days with no deliveries and we are short of energy for transport and even if we can get to the shops, the shelves are bare. The CCs I’ve mentioned have side-stepped this issue by having lots of people die off very quickly leaving lots of unprotected goods in unprotected shops. Any of us who have been too honest to shoplift might see the thrill of taking free goods without guilt. Even in these books the free cans don’t last forever and we regress to hard labour.

It’s a bit of a joke that fans think we are so clever that we would be the survivors in this sort of scenario when, more likely, we would be surplus to requirements. An ability to build a Civilisation in cyberspace is not the same as scraping a living and keeping the light alive in TEOTWAWKI scenarios. There are other TEOTWAWKI books that are not in any way cosy. Gudrun Pausewang’s book, Fall Out, is a short brutal book about nuclear disaster which has no sign of comfort; a step into horror. And this a kids book. The ultimate of the non-cosy catastrophes for me, is On The Beach, really the end of the human world, a slow and agonising process of waiting for death by radiation poisoning. I only read it once.

Ian frequently accuses me of being a survivalist and wanting to see TEOTWAWKI. Nope. I really don’t. I do a fair amount of research for my job and what I see is a looming disaster, a slow reduction of comfort and possibilities with none of the thrill of the cosy catastrophes. John Michael Greer calls if the long descent. I might call it The End Of The Glorious Future (TEOTGF). We are not the first civilisation to outrun our resources but we are the first global civilisation to do so. In the past, whilst one empire fell another endured for a while. Some ways of life were sustainable, some cultures survived. China was one of those. No longer, I feel, as they purchase resource all around the world and foul their own country to produce junk for us. How did that go so wrong?

We’ve worried about resource issues before. The Limits to Growth, Small is Beautiful, the ‘Good Life’ back to the land movement were all part of a concern about resource. Had we actually taken action then we might not be facing these issues now. We are probably past peak oil, a point where there is still plenty left but it will never be so cheap and easy to obtain again. Why drill in high risk deep water areas, ruin aquifers by fracking difficult gas fields, pollute huge areas extracting tar sands, plant and subsidise the production of biofuel on fertile food producing land if not because the easy stuff has all been used? Much of the material we use in our ubiquitous electronic equipment has limited availability. We’re pumping our aquifers dry all over the World. There’s too many of us and we’re too greedy. Oh for a cosy catastrophe to leave me and my friends in proud possession of what’s left, but we’ve seen that that would not work. We only live in luxury now because someone somewhere is being exploited to make it possible. I wouldn’t be able to extract, refine and manufacture dysprodium magnets to make my personal wind turbine work. I never grow enough food to be able to rely on it. I’m unlikely to achieve more even if my life depended on it. My cosy catastrophe would decay very quickly into starvation, cold and darkness. I’ve got a dozen candles in the house. How long will they last?

I’d like to finish this piece with a solution, a call to action, but this is not a problem, it is a predicament. There are no solutions only things that we do that minimise the misfortune. A bit. Curse you darkness!

We’ve got iPhones. Surely that is future enough for any of us. But I’d hoped for something more in my lifetime. I was hoping for the stars.