NaNoWriMo

I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year. A 50k word novel, with no quality control, written between November 1st and November 30th. It focuses mostly on getting it done, so quality is not going to be important. A rough outline of the story :

Lars is a pencil pusher pyromancer, born in the Great Southern Swamp, whose people are reviled as primitive heretics. He lives in a large, polluted city that produces fuel for a neighbouring, more powerful totalitarian state called Ortega. His fantasies of escaping the life assigned to him are realised as he joins the cultural and political revival of the Great Southern Swamp. However, he faces many dangers in both the murk of the swamp and the corridors of the city.

But that is not today’s story. Today’s rough outline of a story is about Gundam pilots, and the healing power of ice skating.


Mopeility Warfare

Story opens with an ex-Zeon pilot from Side 3, named Hugh G. Celiac, about to get into a repurposed Zaku II, in the UC 0084 Winter Olympics. The event is figure skating.

As he mounts up and the final call for his turn on the ice comes up, he holds a mission disk and remembers his time in the One Year War of 0079. He was a reservist who was not expected to see combat, and had specialised in information warfare. As Minovsky particles jam sensors, comms and disrupt sensitive electronics, information warfare officers were proficient at parsing large amounts of data for good intel. This made them ideal for a Zeon project that would automate maneuver warfare through real-time computer simulations in battle. This would allow Zeon to use rookie pilots to better effect in the high performance mobile suits being deployed towards the end of the war on Earth, and lead to success in capturing the Federation’s Jaburo headquarters. A special part of the training was focused on “skating” maneuvers in Earth’s gravity.

Most of Hugh’s time was spent guarding a Helium-3 mine, and rigorously training in asteroid and debris fields. The program predicted successful vectors of attack on enemy ships, and co-ordinated small units of three mobile suits to that goal. By November, the attack on Jaburo had failed, and Hugh’s unit was ambushed en route to A Bao Qu.

Hugh is shot down, but survives with injuries. His two squadmates are killed. He is held prisoner, interned, and then repatriated to Side 3 in 0080. On his return, he works in a warehouse as a civilian mobile suit pilot to support his remaining family. The civilian mobile suit is fitted with vernier thrusters to move in zero-G, but he has boosted its performance to let him “skate” in gravity for a short while. The Federation has grown lax in watching the remnants of Zeon, and Hugh goes unnoticed.

Some other former pilots in Side 3 joined the Zeon Revival in 0083, but Hugh has a lasting distaste for war. He knows that should he die, pensions from a Zeon group are unlikely to last, and that his loyalty must lie with his own family, not with the Zabis. After the success of Operation Stardust, the elite peacekeeping paramilitaries called the Titans lead by Jamitov Hymen and Bask Om begin to crack down on Side 3. Hugh tries to keep his head down, and jettisons most of his memories of the war, and of his comrades, into space.

When the climate control in the space colony failed, a lake near the warehouse froze over. Hugh took his mobile suit ice skating in public, causing a panic that a new war had broken out. Hugh was caught and arrested, but instead of being outed as a former Zeon pilot and purged to the prison colony Francheska, the Earth Federation Officer told him about the 0084 Mobile Suit Olympics. This was to be a new, peaceful means of competition between the colonies and Earth. Having being recruited as part of a reconciliation program between Earthnoids and Spacenoids, he went to Earth to train on the ice.

He was given a Zaku II – which he paints white, then colours with red and white sparkling paint. As the competition approaches, he is confronted by Titans spooks, who tell him that going rogue and killing Earthnoid elites will go badly for him and his family.

In the present, Hugh hops into his Zaku II, and goes to the gigantic rink. He walks past crowds who boo and jeer. Thrown paint mottles his beautiful colourscheme. But Hugh cannot be distracted. He plugs in the old mission disc from the One Year War. Hugh refuses to be intimidated by Jamitov, Bask and the Titans standing guard. His Zaku II reads the dimensions of the arena, and projects the targeting ghosts of his dead squadmates on the ice. Titans forces standing guard fly into a panic, but cannot open fire on the crowded stadium. Hugh transcends the violence that has marked Earth and the Sides, and traces out the orbits of the space colonies in one dance that brings them together. It is an amazing performance.

Two earthnoid judges refuse to grade the performance, and two spacenoids raise their cards, giving him 0 0 8 7. The stadium erupts into chaos at the decision, precipitating a riot that is brutally put down by the Titans. Hugh doesn’t resist arrest, but later refuses to fight for anti-Titan and EFF groups Karaba and the AEUG on principal. He is exiled to Siberia, and whenever possible, he tries to get on the ice to train his body to do what his mecha could do by design.

Advertisements

Writing cheques your body can’t cash

Last day today. Got to balance the books and sign off now. This is the second time I’m leaving Big 4.

Most of my predictions did come true – I did have to stay another month. I did hurt my neck again. I did fall behind in the software engineering course. But it’s a matter of degrees: I managed in work by taking 2 weeks off; I managed the increased pain from the neck with difene daily; I managed to attend most lectures, and complete assignments/exams on time. But these “balance sheet adjustments” I reported to the world kept me going on credit. Those debts have been called in now.

I met with management Wednesday to discuss my exam results, but said that I didn’t want to continue in either case. I passed 3/5. We had met about 6 weeks ago to say I wanted a career break of a year, or to resign, as my neck and back had become chronic injuries, which were preventing me from fulfilling the terms of my training contract. They said wait until October, and that they would try to get me out as quickly as possible in the event I failed some exams.

They asked me what I had done differently for the repeats in September, compared to the original sitting in May. I said that the pain from my low back had gone down, and I had mobility back in my neck, but I was still in pain everyday, and limited in my capacity for study and work. I had asked for stronger drugs to get through the repeats, and that they had helped.  Notwithstanding that, I focused on theory for two hours in the morning, and worked on exam papers for 2-3 hours in the evening, as much as I was able to. We did find that my results went up another 15%, but the initial neck injury in March had made the next 6 months very difficult. I said I wanted to continue, but I didn’t see how it was feasible for me to work and study at the moment.

I was shaky throughout the conversation – I had to disclose a lot of “feelings” I’d only shared with people I was close to (and this shitty fucking blog), or required to disclose to for work supports. We know I’ve buttressed myself with medication, physio and stubbornness, but that was no longer sustainable, and my creditors in work, in life, and even my own body were calling in their debts. So here is the windup order to liquidate this venture, and take these expensive lessons into the future. Life has to be based on solid fundamentals – and no amount of meds or tricks can hide the pain that’s accruing.

Following the meeting, I sensed that they were keen to keep me, because I didn’t get marching orders right there and then like one of my colleagues.  They said to take a long lunch, and consider it carefully, and to meet with them again in the afternoon. So I hit the church on lunch for a long prayer session – mostly asking forgiveness for the pride that put me in this position. I believed my own hype, and my keenness in work and weightlifting to make something of myself made me easy to exploit in 2013.

Then I hit the gym for rehab work.

Side, front and reverse planks – 90 seconds pain free

  •  DB press up to 4kg * 10.
  • Sidelying ex rotation 4kg *15
  • External rotation 6kg *20
  • Other bullshit

Right hip has been feeling pretty janky  – think I irritated it in pilates last week doing some rotation that stressed the hip flexors. Downstream from that, the knee has tightened up. Got the TENS machine at the hip. It seem to help a bit.

Difene has been making me pretty sick this week – got diarrhoea last Sunday, bad gas, nausea and dizzness. Had to add a brown note to the pain diary for any days I nearly shit myself because of gastric distress. Credit the pain, debit the pile of rancid shit. The books have to balance. The problem with taking painkillers everyday is you lose your reference point for “normal”. Is normal pain free, or is it a 2/10? Is this 4 really a 6/10, as the morning medication wears off? You only really notice it when your back locks up in spasms, and the pain ratchets past your pills. You can’t fool your body with accounting tricks.

I’m defaulting on the misery. I’m realising the gains that were previously on paper. The true value of this year is something I can’t check on a Bloomberg terminal; the future is a “great moderation”.

America

In the 00s, anti-American feeling was high in Europe.  Even kids between 2002-2007 were cynical about American foreign policy in the Middle East. We were sold the story that European and American values were fundamentally different.  I got brainwashed as a young one by socially and politically liberal parents and aunts, and read anti-capitalist, anti-American books that were heavy on economics and critical theory a decade too early at 13 and 14.

America became a vast alien wasteland, a Great Satan filled with strip malls, “freedom” and concentrated corporate evil. GW Bush Jr. was a grotesque puppet in our news: forever putting his foot in it while he ordered people to their deaths. All this put young people off America, and the Celtic Tiger economy made us think we’d be the first generation that wouldn’t need to emigrate.

I hit college wanting to become a corporate lawyer or businessman, which was a bit of a break with family tradition and the liberalness of my teens. I guess all that economics helped.  The Bowie album we listened to most was Young Americans. There,  I came into contact with Americans for the first time – and realised America is a vast heterogenous continent, with too much going for it in every state to write it off.

Then the 2008 US elections came. I first became aware of the candidates through furry porn posted on the asshole of the internet in 2007, so I was cynical from the off.  We Irish people really believed in the “Hope” and “Change” messages Obama put out, like America was going to emerge from some glorious chrysalis into the rightful leader of the free world. But when that didn’t happen over the next few years, some of us reconsidered America as being more complex than just presidents.

When we met Americans professionally, or socially in college, they were always chill as fuck: polite, friendly, great workers with a lot of cop on. When I went to Florida to the conference, I will admit I stuck with the Canadians and Texans, so I can’t speak for every state. Minnesotans I’ve met have been cool. And I’d love to go to America to see the countryside, and taste your amazing regional food. Shooting sports seem easy to get into too.  I treasure the Leatherman I picked up in the US, and picked up a Nalgene because it was a quality product.

Like most families, I inherited my parent’s beliefs. But I also inherited their prejudices against America without really thinking about it. I wonder if they even thought about it. Celiaxx might wish he was Russian, but living on the cheap (with health insurance) in America would be swell.

Input Output

When you don’t have much control in your life, you get obsessed with eating and shitting. Like a baby. When your life is planned for you by your firm, your focus on the inputs and outputs of your body grows – in direct proportion to how scheduled the rest of your life is.

In busy season, every day becomes about lunch, dinner and breakfast. The most important question in the morning in my office is where to go for lunch. Dudes and chicks cycle through their fad diets; I rotate the same 4 dishes with small variations. When I was trying to hit 90kg or 200lb in 2013, and made it to 86kg, I’d eat three big meals a day, topped off with ice cream, a pound of cottage cheese and plenty of milk. Once a week I’d go with my training buddies to an all-you-can eat until the manager kicked us out. We had jack shit else to do because we were poor, and had zero free time outside of work and the gym.

The outputs were this: extremely regular and incredibly large shits that happened within a 30 window every day. This was always 12 hours after dinner. If dinner was delayed an hour, the window was pushed back an hour. So much oats, rice and vegetables gave me unbroken stools that routinely exceeded 8-10″. In the same vein, adding linseed to food means your shit slides out encased in mucilage.

The most satisfying shits I did were in China on squat toilets. Given that I was squatting daily and had no mobility trouble, getting down in the hole put an afterburner on the defecation process. You could drop bombs in seconds. One time, I had the runs, but the first 6″ was solid shit, which became more liquid as the monster revealed itself. Its true form was revealed only when it shed this solid plug, and the watery shit splashed my shoes. The entire development of the turd was revealed, from the dry rectum section, to the liquid that had just been secreted from the small intestine, but was cruelly ejected before its time by my gastric distress. A tour de force of defecation.

And some people in this place don’t even wipe their ass in this place. They just shit, piss and walk away. Absolutely disgusting.

Breadkeepers and Homewinners

This is a post about bread, and unit costing.

63bc16027fdd11e1b9f1123138140926_7

You enjoy mass produced bread less once you see it being made on TV. It’s more like a piped wheat foam that is baked, then sliced. You’ll never compete with an industrial process on price or volume. But when you make your own bread, you are competing with more expensive, labour intensive “artisan” loaves, typically made by hand.

For example – buying rye sourdough in a bakers is $5. Buying the ingredients costs $1 per loaf, and the electricity costs me 5c. It takes me about 15 minutes to make and cleanup. The loaf isn’t as good, but it’s about 50% bigger than the bakers. So that’s a decrease in the price, and an increase in size, which seems to be the opposite of every other trend in food and drink.

Making your own is surprisingly easy and cheap, but requires you to lock down a few variables in your kitchen, that won’t be in recipes. Hopefully the notes cover it. If you make mistakes, eat them, and learn for the next time.

Probably couldn’t go too far wrong with the Irish food board recipe to start, Celia.
http://www.bordbia.ie/consumer/recipes/desserts/pages/traditionalbrownsodabread.aspx

Notes:

Weigh the ingredients, don’t go by volume.

Sieve both flours a bit above the mixing bowl to get more air in. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3 in fag notation) – the raising action comes from the acid-base reaction with the buttermilk. It’s not “baking powder”, if that’s on your American shelf. Don’t go overboard on the bread soda, it can give a metallic taste.

Make sure your oven temperature is reliable, use a thermometer if necessary.

It will be moist on the inside when it’s done. Stick a skewer in, and if it comes out clean, the bread is cooked.

Wrap it in a clean cotton dishcloth/teatowel once it’s cooked, and let the moisture steam through the crust on a wire tray.

Buy Irish for your butter, or whatever grassfed butter you can get your hands on.

_

This is a different one, but worth looking at for American brands it lists:

http://farmette.ie/2012/04/06/irish-brown-bread/

I’d never say there’s a fixed recipe, it’s a very robust bread that can take anything. Once you’ve made it a few times successfully, it’d be great to hear what you come up with.

Leave and cleave

College course is proceeding.  Still in work, but off on holidays for 10 days. I’m going to wait for the exam results, and see if they’ll fire me post October 17th, and then pay me a month’s severance in lieu of notice.  I’m really glad I jumped ship before I was ready, otherwise, I’d have been sitting around with my thumb up my ass post October 17th.

Got mixed reactions from family about starting the software engineering HDip.

Met my grandmother for a barrage of complaints about how I never see her, and the way my mother treats her. Being old means you don’t give a shit any more. She was bombed in WWII in Northern Ireland, then emigrated down South when Catholics weren’t getting their fair share of the good times of the 1950s, and before the fighting started. She said I was stupid for starting a serious relationship so early, and going straight from college to a professional job. She said I should have taken a year out before I got too committed to the woman or a career. She’s 86, and worked herself until she was in so much pain she couldn’t bend down to pick up her children. I respect that. I wouldn’t be here otherwise. But Jesus fuck, suffering olympics gold medalist.

Different story with the woman’s ancestors.

Went with the woman to her grandparents, as her grandmother is recovering from knee surgery. They seemed delighted to have us, and we were talking away for hours about the bastards that wrecked the country. But then when we went home, the woman’s father had gotten a call from his father that we had inconsiderately imposed on them! And she got given out to, despite turning up with flowers. Her father said not to take it seriously, as by all accounts, the grandfather is a bastard himself: a cute hoor, a bollix and a gombeen. But he was as nice as anything to our faces.

At least I know where I stand with my mother’s family: they’re all cunts, and any sprinkle of pleasantness is to be savored. But we got no indication of the grandfather’s displeasure, and the grandmother was having a grand aul time talking with us.

I don’t think you ever get treated as a separate person from your parents in Ireland. You inherit their status in the family, and any problems with you aren’t brought up directly, but go to your parents instead. It was like the time I was homeless, and had to stay with an aunt. But when I got back from holidays, she had turfed me out, and I was totally unaware that was her plan. Even if we get married, we’ll never be a separate “unit” from her side and my side. We’ll still be in the hierarchy that was destined for us since we were born, and almost nothing we can do in life will change that.

If you’re the first born son, great things are expected of you, and you’ll always be treated well in public. But expect to get a bollicking in private over everything because expectations are so high. That goes double if you’re “bright”. If you’re a woman, and the first born, it seems similar, but there is more pressure to do well in school and college. Men always had farming or trades in the past to fall back on.

“15 acres doesn’t marry 30” is a country phrase that describes the interfamily bargaining that went into marriages in the past – it was a business union. But I think, as people moved off that land, it was brains and social capital that were judged. And funnily enough, it seems men marry “up”, as more women had better education and more upper class employment according to our national statistics bureau. She definitely has more brains than I do.

Fuck it. There’s always the civil service to work for.