I'm trying my hand at another short story. It's based on the introduction to a much larger work that I scoped out, but hadn't got around to developing further. I took the opening scene and tried to make it into a satisfying story in itself.


Today I can view my screen with both eyes. My vision doesn't have a bloodshot tinge despite external appearances. I still don't know what caused my eye irritation. It started yesterday morning and got worse through the day. Last night I played the infamous pirate Bloodeye Virge and put an eye patch over my eye because it hurt too much to try using it.
Today it's still swollen and sore, but I can use it. We'll see what the doctor has to say about it.

A picture of Captain Bloodeye the Gross (if you can stomach it).

Ay ay Cap'n Bloodeye, your eye
has made your whole face look awry.
It's not that we're scared.
We were just unprepared
for such grossness, ya know, 'cause we're shy.

The doctor says it's conjunctivitis. He's prescribed some eye drops to cure me of my piracy. It's feeling better already.


It's just as well I spoke to my senior engineers before my 10am R&D managers' meeting. I could present a positive encouraging Monday morning face to each of them before getting the enthusiasm beaten out of me with a large corporate stick. The corporation wants its profits. The corporation can't get its profits from the market place (where, not surprisingly, our competitors are similarly struggling). We must cut costs.
The unionised employees have taken their slice of the pie with a guaranteed set of pay increases to keep them comfortably ahead of inflation. The non-management professional staff had their taste of the pie, although not as generous a serve as for the unions. The managers got 0% unless certain R&D milestones are met by certain dates. The first of those targets was definitely a stretch goal, in the same way that giving birth to a fully grown adult would be a stretch goal -- something has to break. We are now within 1 month of the deadline and all the king's horses and all the king's men have been working overtime for too long. The second milestone (on the same project) might have been achievable had we been able to make the first. The third milestone is on a different project. Meeting this would seem almost achievable if we hadn't chewed up all our resources on the first project. It still looked vaguely possible until we started on the cost cutting e.g. reducing head-count by not replacing personnel losses.
Now at this morning's meeting I hear that all professional staff will be required to take 1 week of annual leave on either the last week of August or the first week of September. Does this save money? Yes (but since we still get paid while on annual leave, it is only shifting figures from one column to another). Do these dates correspond with school holidays? No. Does the plan include people who have already used up their four weeks leave? Yes. Does it lower the chances of meeting milestones? Guess.
Do I feel a bit jaded about my work? Do I feel like a valued employee?
It's a secure job. I work with great people (until they get pissed off and leave). Even with the zero percent pay increase I still get paid enough to live comfortably. It's a job I can do without really having to care.


Did anyone miss seeing the weekend journal entries? Erm... would you believe... they are there but your browser version is not up to date so you can't see them? Would you believe that Gandalf walked over the keyboard and held down the delete key while I wasn't watching? Would you believe my weekend blogs contained anti-Australian sentiments and were censored by government intelligence agents? Actually I spent most of the weekend enjoying a book by Stephen Erikson and just didn't get around to updating my journal.


It works for software problems. Why not for writing?
I just had another of those brain-processing-in-background moments. I was working through a problem with an engineer to make sure he completely understood it before letting him continue debugging. The numerical results were correct up to one point in the analysis, then wrong on the report window. I left him to crawl through the details and find exactly where the problem arose. I grabbed a coffee and started thinking about something else. Ten minutes later... Bing! I found myself distracted by a possible solution to part of the problem. It fitted too well. I checked the erroneous results against my idea. No surprises -- my explanation pointed directly to the coding defect.
After so many years in software development it's not surprising that my subconscious brain has learned how to explore problem spaces and identify useful solutions. If you do anything for long enough (as long as it isn't completely random) your brain remembers and re-uses successful patterns, even though you may not recognise your own improvement.
Now I want to do different tasks with my brain. I want creative ideas from it. I want stories, plots, themes, allusions, humour, pathos, grandeur, warmth and complexity. I want it constantly processing in the background and feeding me with a stream of logically-interconnected entertaining ideas. I want it to tell me how to describe scenes in ways that will soak through into a reader's mind and crystallise into perfectly formed replicas of my imaginings.
Am I asking too much?

Proof By Example

Some may have noticed that I am afflicted with a mathematical leaning. I've met a lot of people who can stand straight and tall, knowing what is obviously true based on what they have seen with their own eyes and heard from very reliable friends and mass media. I am crippled with cynicism and an obviously irrational fear of rash generalisation.
Last night I suffered the indignity of not knowing what causes the bulk of the world's infant behaviour problems. A current affairs program was showing the metamorphosis from Brattus Rugrattus to Angelus Rugrattus due only to the application of positive parenting principles. My maternal biological ancestor was sneering at that example and reading a printed-out email about fail-safe diets (from some "mom" who frequents a diet control group that my biological sibling joined) and their remarkably efficacious transformations of child health and behaviour (subjectively evaluated success rate: 100%, sample size: 2).
My depth of ignorance was all too clear. I was only just recently coming to grips with the fact that nearly all of the drugs prescribed to modify behaviour were completely unnecessary and usually made the behaviour problems much worse. I still hadn't even managed to believe that the bananas we had been eating had been enhanced with food dyes to enrich their colour. Here I was, my body almost overflowing with toxins, my children mentally deficient from a lack of Mozart during gestation, my philosophy distorted by a misguided but sinister Darwinistic scientific conspiracy, and I still couldn't accept the truth about child behaviour that was staring me in the face. I remained attentive but silent. My affliction is so debilitating.
Don't let your children be infected by this mathematical leaning. Teach them the truth early in life and save them the trauma.

Ranting? Who's ranting?
Oh yeah... I suppose I was. The sarcasm gives it away.
Terribly sorry. We can't have silly things like imbecilic giants and temporal blowflies every day.


There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.
Genesis 6:4

These sons of the Nephilim were still giants by Genesis standards, but hardly remarkable when compared with today's athletes. In the eyes of the nomadic farmers of the time, these men would have seemed 12 foot tall. Extraordinary specimens though they were, their life expectancy was short. They were born with "hero" indelibly stamped on their foreheads, and let's be honest, nobody ever claimed they were mental giants.
It is a little-known fact that the offspring of these giants did not age like their contemporaries. They had no supernatural powers nor superhuman strength -- they were still mortal. Most of them perished in the flood. Some survived for hundreds of years. There are even a few still alive today, but more by sheer luck than any uncanny survival instincts.
The activities of these few remaining ageless ones have been wisely ignored by mainstream human history. After living for five thousand years without making a significant difference to anything or anyone, any reasonably intelligent being should have succumbed to suicidal ennui. Draw your own conclusions.

I can feel a short story coming together. It's about two brothers, Neville and Ralph (or Neffi and Raffi) and their long term feud.


I thought I was getting a cold last night. I started sneezing at about 6:30 for no readily apparent reason. Later last night my nose was starting to get a bit dribbly. As I climbed into bed, blowing my nose as quietly as possible, I resigned myself to waking in the morning with a congested head.
It didn't happen. I'm feeling normal. Maybe I had a touch of hay fever last night.


(from various unknown sources)

I've heard it said that your worst day when you're alive is better than your best day when you're dead. Personally, I think that's just a bunch of crap that dead people say.

I've been a teacher for many years, and some of my non-teacher friends used to say I see the world through rose-colored glasses. I correct them and tell them that I see it through a rose-colored rifle scope. Now they don't seem to bug me about it anymore.

Maybe someone can explain to me why anyone would ever hold a poetry festival somewhere other than Nantucket.

You know your girlfriend's upset with you when you wake up in the morning and watch traffic whiz by on either side of the bed.


What shape is time? (an enigmatic and ultimately unanswerable question from EK's dining room)

Time is the contortion traversed by a dying blowfly
whose wings buzz the rhythm of my days,
whose eyes chase a kaleidoscope of floor-tiles --
endless tessellations spiraling tighter until
Time is never enough.

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