March 20, 2018


Vance Joy’s new album, Nation of Two, has been burning a hole through my phone and the various bluetooth speakers I attach it to. That’s because it’s a joy of an album, one that surprisingly manages to be as good as his first; not an easy feat.

This one is called Lay It On Me and is today’s blog song.


Words written for the year: 48,785


I’ve been feeling sickness creep in at the edges of my periphery for the last few days. Nothing debilitating, just a general weariness and pressure that I’m currently carrying around like a backpack. It’s a bummer more than anything, because it makes even the usual stuff that little bit harder and that little bit less enjoyable. I’m reasonably sure it’s been brought on by overdoing it. It being life.

I started this year with a unspoken resolution to try and be more idle. Not in that I’d do less, per se, more that the things I’d do would require less energy. Read more, do a few puzzles, drink an inordinate amount of tea. On that level I’ve been successful, I’ve done all those things (although my tea quotas could probably still increase), but I’ve also still been filling my weeks with all the usual things; commitments, socialising, writing, podcasting, and work buried in somewhere amongst all that as well.

And so I’ve gotten sick. That’s usually the way it goes. Keep pushing yourself until your body cries out no more, or illness shuts you down. It’s not really a very healthy cycle.

However I know the cycle will soon be broken. That’s because my routine will soon evaporate completely. It will be replaced with airports and planes, hire cars and airBnB’s, sightseeing and exploration. In other words, I’m going on a holiday. The holiday is still around four months away, but, considering four months is also almost the length of the holiday, preparations are already well under way. Those preparations are probably adding to the feeling of being busy. Mostly mentally, because the Lady Holly is actually the one doing most of the preparations. She’s amazing. Which is why I’m going to marry her, which we’re also preparing for, as the happy day will come only six weeks after we get back from the holiday.

As you can see lots of cool things to look forward to, and that’s without even mentioning that while overseas I’ll be seeing my twin brother/best friend get married off to the love of his life (once I proposed he had to too, twin rules).

The weird thing is that I know all this wonderful craziness is coming, but life feels so normal now, complete with a background sickness and a feeling of being overworked. It can be all to easy for me to focus on the latter facts, to not be able to see out of the bramble of everyday problems to the bigger scope of it all; which only really serves to make me a simmering crock pot of grump.

On days like that it’s helpful for me to stick my head out of the brambles and look to the horizon, where the current everyday problems are long forgotten; and to remind myself that good things are coming.

And they are. They really are.

Talk soon



The Stars Were There


The stars were there the night she was born.
          They shined above the highway as her Dad searched frantically in the trunk of the car for a picnic blanket he was sure had been floating around back there since the summer before, and her Mum laughed from the backseat of the car with just a tinge of hysteria in her voice as she repeatedly said, ‘she must be a keen one, just can’t wait to meet us.’
          The stars watched as in the field beside the highway she entered the world, red and wrinkly and perfect, on the old tartan picnic blanket. They heard as she let out her first cries, which were loud and high pitched, and her Dad whispered to her Mum what a great job she’d done, how proud he was, and how they’d be telling this story for years to come, and her Mum just laughed and sobbed, relieved and happy.
          On that night, the stars were there.

The stars were there when the thought first formed itself.
          They looked down at her, as she looked back at them and thought about what she wanted to do with her life — a young age to be making that kind of a decision, but then she had already proven herself not to be a usual six year old. It was the presence of the stars that sparked the thought, the one that would change the world.  As she looked at their bright burning bodies, it came upon her that if she stared at a single star for long enough it would disappear, only to then reappear if she turned her gaze ever so slightly to the side. Nothing other than an optical illusion, caused by the microscopic mechanisms of the eye, as she would later learn, but at six she couldn’t help but wonder where those stars went when they disappeared.

The stars were there when her parents took her out to celebrate.
          It was a clear summer night, the family took a table outdoors, ordered food, and raised a glass to toast her many achievements. Doctorate degrees in theoretical physics and astronomy, the publishing of her first scientific paper; The existence and breaching of alternate universes, and the multitude of grants she had received off the back of that paper.
           They clinked their glasses, and sipped. The wine ran down her throat, making her feel giddy and warm. She may have been only fifteen but her Mum had said she was allowed the drink because it was such a special occasion. Because they had so much to celebrate.
           Her father made a toast and they clinked glasses again, the crystalline sound waves traveled out and away from them.
           Out towards the stars.

The stars were there the day she first breached the divide.
          They hung in space, unseen behind the light of the sun and the walls of the building, as she stood, surrounded by grad students, most older than her, all dressed in gowns of white. They burned, light years away, as she turned on the machine. A mouse, dressed in its own coat of white, looked at her with eyes as black as space and gave a twitch of its whiskers. She smiled at it, hopeful, and pressed the space bar.
          The machine, known colloquially throughout the lab as the WHB (or wormhole box), hummed gently as it drew in power. A lot of power. So much power that the humming turned to a drumming vibration. The mouse and his cage shook, and the little animal ran to hide, but it had nowhere to go. The machine sounded a DING, like a microwave announcing the popcorn was ready, and the mouse was gone. The machine’s humming slowed, then stopped, until a charged silence filled the room; then the scientists began to cheer.
          She didn’t. She knew the job was only half done.

The stars were there the day it all went wrong.
          In the years since that first breach more mice had been sent through the WHB, which was now into its twelfth model. Hundreds of mice had heard the hum, then the shake. Each time she had been the one to press the space bar, and each time they’d ran to hide, and each time it had done little to keep them in this universe.
Now she knew how to bring them back.
          The stars, once more hidden behind a blanket of sunlight and atmosphere, were nevertheless where they had always been as she approached the lectern. She looked out at the crowded theater, at the representatives of the government agencies and independent research organisations, all the people who had provided her with money and equipment and support over the years. She looked to the cameras, where she knew people from all over the globe watched her on their laptops and tablets and phones. She looked to her parents, smiling in the front row.
         She introduced herself, although there were few who didn’t know her name, and told them what they were there to see.
          The chimp was brought out. It climbed into her arms, and she laughed as it kissed her on the cheek. With gentle hands she placed the humanoid animal into the exterior chamber of the WHB, stoked its head, and wished it luck.
           She pressed the space bar, and the machine began to hum.
           It continued to hum until it met an error in the machines programming. A section of code that should have contained a decimal instead contained a comma. A simple mistake, and one which caused the machine to draw in energy like a black hole drawing in gravity.
          The machine was well made and did what it was commanded to do.
          The stars were there when the world disappeared.

The stars were there when the earth came back.
          One moment their rays of light passed effortlessly through the dark of the universe, the next they were rebounding back off of the face of the world.
For twenty one days the stars had been alone. Twenty one days for her to rework the math, rewrite the code, and use the WHB to bring them all back.
          At first, people hadn’t believed.
          Then they saw that the stars were wrong.
          Then there had been panic.
          Days were shorter, nights longer, and without a moon the seas were eerily still.                  Energy remained, but with the satellites left behind, communication had been lost. Twenty one days of fear and quiet and waiting.
          Now, they were back, and the rebuilding was already well under way. Soon they would be reminiscing about the time the earth had become the largest transport vessel in existence. The three weeks they spent in an alternate universe. A story to tell the grand kids.
          She looked at the stars, all in their usual places, and breathed a sigh of relief; ignorant to the fact that something had come back with them.

The stars were there when the entity was first discovered.
          The spore, native to that other universe, had adhered itself to the ground in the middle of some rarely visited bush land in Western Australia. There it had grown, it’s tendrils rushing through the rich soil like a swarm of eels through water, spreading further and further. Then it sprouted. Giant strings of fungus burst from the ground for miles in every direction from where the spore had first landed. Heavy fruit quickly grew from the strings, then burst, letting out an a sea of spores to be taken by the wind.
          The owner of the land saw the white and spindly stalks on the horizon just as the first stars were appearing in the sky. News vans rushed to the site to be the first to capture the alien entity.
          They needn’t have bothered. By the morning, the spores had spread and sprouted across most of the state.

The stars were there when the fight began.
          Under their light she watched the footage on her phone. The alien flora tearing through the country had already started appearing in other parts of the globe. She didn’t need to guess where it had come from.
          She put out a call to the best and brightest from every field, and they’d come, through satellite beams and fiber optic cables, to help her form the plan of attack.
She’d talked with them through the night, as the stars twinkled above. They spoke of plant physiology and structure, ecology and genetics, life cycles and distribution models. They talked and she listened, collating it all.
          Then she spoke. She told each party what she wanted them to do. Where to marshal their attack. How to lay the specific type of defensive groundwork. What types of new bio-weaponry to create.
          For herself, she got on a plane and headed to where it all started. She wanted to meet the enemy head on.

The stars were there when she lost all hope.
           She wept under their distant light with no idea what to do next for the first time in her life.
          It had taken only weeks for the fungus to cripple the planet. It’s feather light spores had ridden slipstreams across oceans, finding their way to every part of the globe. At each point the fungus had spread and sucked the land dry. It’s growth rate was unheard of. It was growing still.
          As it grew it destroyed. It absorbed every drop of water, every mineral, every scrap of unwary life. The native flora either shriveled away to nothing or were simply smothered under the weight of the fungal growth. Herds of animals dropped dead due to starvation or dehydration. Now there were reports of the fungus making its way down to the ocean floor.
          She’d done everything she could think of. Attacked it with every form of chemical weaponry known to man. Invented new ones. Tore kilometers of the hungry infestation from the ground. Then, when nothing else had worked, set the country ablaze in an effort to eradicate it.
          Still it grew.
          It’s level of indestructibility would mean their destruction, she knew this now. It was only a matter of time.
          So, she wept. Alone, in a field, with the fungal stalks around her, and the stars overhead.

The stars were there when the new earth was born.
          She looked up at them as she stood beside the WHB, the device drawing in life from one of the few remaining power sources. She hadn’t slept for days. She’d been coding non stop since the answer had come to her; rewriting the settings so the WHB would only transport matter from within a very specific set of parameters.
          The stars watched as the humming turned to shaking, and the few remaining artificial lights went out. She looked at the stars, taking them in for the very last time.
The machine dinged and a new earth was born; green, and lush, and perfect.
          Technically, it wasn’t a new earth at all, simply an alternate one, but it was new to her, and to the rest of the previous earth’s inhabitants that had unknowingly made the journey with her. Through the new starlight she saw a flock of birds cross the sky. An insect buzzed by her ear. Good signs. They would have to rebuild everything. Start again from nothing.
But that was tomorrow’s problem. For now she fell to the ground, laughed and sobbed, relieved and happy.
          On that night, the stars were there.


Thanks for reading,


March 2, 2018


Music today comes from Mumford and Sons via my dad, who shared it with me. The song is called The Enemy, which is paired here with rain sounds from an app known as Rainy Mood. A quality combination.


Words written for the year: 40,203


A while ago, let’s say a year because I can’t remember exactly, I began a routine where, as I lay in bed ready for sleep, I would recognise four things I had liked about the day just passed. It’s a type of prayer, I suppose, although I’m not a religious person. What I see it as, is gratitude. Who I’m directing that gratitude towards is unsure, but it doesn’t really matter, it’s the act of gratitude that’s important.

I started this practice when, after a shitty day at work, the Lady Holly needed some cheering up. She was in the mood where she was unhappy, but also unhappy about being unhappy, ready to come out of it if I was able to throw out the appropriate stimulus.

‘Tell me four things you liked about your day.’ I requested. Four, because it’s my favourite number, D being the fourth letter of the alphabet.

We were cooking dinner, I was stirring something in a frypan over the stove and she was beside me, a drink in hand. She let out a huff that said, ‘four? From this day? Not going to be easy,’ and then raised her eyes skyward as she thought about the question. I think the first one was the hardest for her, since she had to look past the overwhelming negativity of the day to try and find the small gems of positivity underneath. After some thought, she told me about a small interaction with one of her students, usually a pain but who that day had been mildly pleasant due to Holly overwhelming her with determined niceness over the school year. The next one came quicker after that, although my brain fails me in remembering what it was, and then not long after came a third thing, and then a fourth.

The practice didn’t alleviate the horribleness of her day, the shitty things that had happened still existed as did their ramifications, but it did help change her mindset enough that their power over her diminished, and she seemed happier afterwards. I then ran through four things I had liked about my day, and our night went on from there.

That night as I lay in bed I decided I liked the practice, not only had it helped Holly, but saying my own four things had lifted my spirits as well, and gave me a general sense of, ‘yeah, the world’s an alright place and I’m a pretty lucky guy.’ And, so, I continued it.

There are days, of course, where I don’t feel like the world’s an alright place. It can seem full of craziness, and selfishness, and ignorance, and bigotry – ‘the world’ being a stand in here for the human race. But, again, ratting off four things I liked, finding things I am grateful for, however small and inconsequential in the big scheme of things, helps. It helps me remember that while there is horribleness out there, there is also good, even if I have to force myself to look for it.


Not long after, I saw this video. It confirms a lot of what I thought and shows that there are actually physiological benefits to be grateful:


Also, on the topic of gratitude, this comic is one of the four things I’m grateful for today:


Talk soon,