Loneliness won’t be a problem

Day 4 started out quietly.  The batteries had more charge in them than they did yesterday, which is a good sign that I don’t need to worry about power generation right now.  The food situation is good in the short term but little things like “cooking” and “sustainability” will become serious topics pretty quickly, I think.  Sin hasn’t shot me yet, so that’s good.  On the other hand, he hasn’t done anything useful yet, either, which is increasing he odds that he’ll have the honor of becoming the source of meat for my first barbecue.

I moved more berries into cold storage (three cheers for cold storage, YAY!) and did a bit more exploring.  The cave is in the southwest corner of a medium sized field that opens up to the north.  That also happens to be the direction that I last saw the bears shuffling off toward so I think I’ll leave the north unexplored for a bit.  There is another valley heading off to the southeast from the field and I discovered a vein of compacted machinery there and even managed to mine a bit of it for components.  That valley appears to curve around to the southwest, suggesting that the high ground at the south end of the main field might be some sort of mesa that is open all the way around.  I’d like that, because it means I couldn’t be cornered in the area that I’ve chosen to set up camp.  Of course, that assumes that I can run faster than whatever is chasing me, which is not a good assumption.   Maybe some defenses are in order.

The big news of the day occurred while I was hauling more berries back to camp.  A man appeared from the south, approaching slowly and with his hands clearly visible.  I don’t know if this planet supports any kind of magic (if it does then the whole “I’m not a threat because I’m empty handed” pose would be meaningless) but I decided to take a chance and not shoot him on sight.  He stopped at a safe distance but within not-quite-shouting range, slowly showed me a pistol in a latched holster, and started talking.  Communication was surprisingly easy; his dialect was very similar to my own.  (An indicator of the attention to detail of the travel agency?  Possible, but doubtful.  I’m still pissed about getting a monkey so I’m not inclined to cut them any slack.)  He says his name is “Shank” (not a great sign) and he used to be a sailor on an interstellar cargo ship.  Lately he’s been hanging out with a neighboring colony somewhere south of me but he’s looking for a change of scenery and wonders if he can hang out with me for a while, help me get things started, that sort of thing.

This is a tough decision.  I know absolutely nothing about the guy except that he’s armed.  I have no way of verifying his story.  I have no idea what skills he has.  I have no idea who I might be pissing off by taking him in.  It really comes down to whether I think he’ll contribute more to the colony than he’ll consume and he’s looking at me waiting for an answer.  It doesn’t look like he’s interested in a lengthy interview process.

In the end, it’s the pistol that decides it for me.  Sooner or later (probably sooner) I’m going to have to start hunting… something.  Probably not the turtles I’ve seen around, and certainly not the bears; something in between would be nice.  Regardless, two people shooting at the same animal increase the chances that we’ll kill it before it kills us, and I like keeping those odds as high as possible.  I accept his offer and get started building him a bed, wondering all the while if I’ve made the right decision.

I finish the bed and head out to do more hauling when I notice Shank and Sin standing facing each other. Shank has some of the berries in his hand and in a matter of minutes as I watch he’s got Sin following him around like a tame puppy.   Whatever other skills the guy possesses he’s got a real knack for animal training.  I’m looking forward to seeing if he can get “Sin shank steak” off the menu and turn him into something useful.

Four days on the planet and I haven’t been killed yet.  There are some bookies back home who won’t like this, but I’m pretty okay with it.

Day 2 and beyond

Day 2

Day 2 was a disaster.  No, that’s overstatement.  The disasters will inevitably come later, day 2 was just a complete waste of time.  This means that, so far, 50% of my time on this planet has been useless.  Here’s how my best intentions for efficiency went off the rails.

It seemed to me that the next logical step wass to secure some food.  I’ve got a gun, ammo’s not an issue, and there’s plenty of game from squirrels to bears to … stuff I have NO idea what it is.  If you’ve got a name for an animal that looks like an antelope but has what looks like large fatty deposits all over it, you let me know and that’s what we’ll use.  Meanwhile, I’m going to give them as much room to themselves as the bear. But there’s no use hunting if I don’t have any way to store the food so the real logical next step is to build a cold storage facility.  This isn’t as hard as it sounds because the Complimentary Survival Guide contains instructions for how to create all kinds of helpful things, some of which I’ll need right away like solar panels, power cables, batteries, and cooling units and some that I won’t need for a little while yet, like plans for a spacecraft to get me home.

It seemed that the most efficient way to build a cold storage area would be to expand the cave and take advantage of the surrounding rock as insulation.  Looking around the back of the area I’d settled in I discovered that one wall was <fanfare> a wall of compact steel that I could mine.  Yay!  I can kill two birds with one stone, carving out a cold storage area and amassing some steel at the same time.  What could go wrong?

Before I get to what went wrong, let me stop those of you who are about to tell me that you don’t mine steel, you mine iron and coke and other stuff and you forge steel from that.  You’d be mostly right, but you’d also give away the fact that you live on a pretty young planet where there’s only been time for two or three technologically advanced civilizations to have risen and collapsed on themselves.  Out here on the rim, the worlds are really really old, and civilization has had a chance to rise and fall dozens of times.  Depending on how well they sorted stuff on their way down, you can mine just about anything out here on the rim, steel included.  The last civilization to collapse on this rock were a pretty anal bunch and sorted damn near everything, which works to my advantage because I can mine steel.  I’d thank them but they’re not around.

So the mining started.  And continued.  And continued.  And continued well beyond the point where I realized that I really suck at mining.  I’m slow, I’m inefficient, and frankly I really don’t like it all that much.  No real surprise then to find that I’d only cleared a 6×12 foot area.  At this rate it would take another 3 days just to clear a large enough space, so I called it a bust, hit the rack, and hoped for a better run on Day 3.

Day 3

Result!  What a great day.  Everything went as well today as it went crappy yesterday.

The cave idea was a bust but I still needed cold storage, and the next best starting point was the shed, which was full of stuff.  So I built 4 wooden pillars to hold up a roof, roofed it over to stop the rain, and moved everything (yes, again) except the food out of the shed and into the covered storage.  The next step was to build doors into two of the 3 holes in the shed wall, and fill the 3rd one up with a chiller unit.  The chiller runs on electricity so I built a solar panel to generate some juice.  I built some cables to carry the juice from the panels to the chiller, then I built two large battery units to power the chiller at night and on cloudy days.  The solar panel creates a bit more juice than the chiller needs on full tilt and the extra is slowly charging the batteries.  The food is cold and won’t spoil and I’m good to go.  All in one day.

The end result is that I’m exhausted, I’m very pleased with myself, and I’ve got food in the fridge.  Not sure what I’ll do tomorrow but today was pretty darn good.

The only fly in the ointment is that Sin was totally useless through all this and I’m going to have to find some time to start training him.  I knew that I would be arriving with a random pet but beyond that I had no input in the selection and no clue as to what had been selected.  It could have been as relatively useless as a cat, or something helpful for defense like a dog, or something that produces something like a cow or a sheep or a goat or a chicken.  Did I get any of those?  No, I did not.  I’d heard stories of travellers who’d been given useless animals like a turtle or an iguana.  Did I get one of those?  No, I did not, but I’m jealous of those who did.  Because, y’see…

I got a goddamn monkey.

Sin is a friggin’ MONKEY.  Completely untrained, yet with an opposable thumb and the brain of a child to go with it.  I got the one animal most likely to shoot me in the ass with my own gun. I’m sure this will end well, but that’s a problem for another day.

 

Blog reboot #… 2?

Okay, time to try to reboot this blog again.  I’ve pretty much lost track of how many times I’ve tried this.  People tell me that I’m a good writer and I should write more but I keep telling them that I’m no good at making things up, I’m just a smart-ass full of witty comebacks.  Those sort of things don’t build themselves into anything worth reading very well, but I think I’ve got the solution… well, that’s a bit optimistic.  Let’s just say that I’ve got another cunning plan that I think will be worth trying.  I’m going to use a magical device that generates some random events and I’m going to immerse myself in it and see if anything entertaining comes of it, blog-wise.  I’ll let you be the judge of whether this works or not but hopefully I’ll come up with some characters that are worth following.  Without further explanation, let the experiment begin…

Before The Beginning

As the re-entry process started I couldn’t help but wonder what I was in for this time.  I’d done some strange things and seen many that were stranger but this was a bit on the fringe even for me.  A rocket.  To a random world on the rim.  Alone.  And unless I’m very lucky, one way.  At this point you’re probably expecting to hear about the crimes I was falsely convicted of prior to being exiled, or perhaps you have a better opinion of humanity and how the world treats it and are eagerly waiting to find out just how obscenely I’m being paid for this mission.  Either way, you’re going to be disappointed.  I paid a quarter of my fortune for this privilege.

I tell people that I was a childhood spy.  It’s almost certainly a lie, but after 2146 years any possible record of my early years are long gone and after wandering through life for 44 years my own memories of my childhood have faded so that they are indistinguishable from dreams.  The spy thing makes for a good icebreaker and I can spin it any number of ways so that it explains my wealth without further questions being asked.  I can also spin it to explain the extreme fatigue I felt about the various worlds I’d lived on and the lives I’d led on them.  It was time for change, and I expect I’ll get my money’s worth.

Yeah, I know.  I’ve seen them too.  The disaster vids.  Fatal sunburn.  Muffalo herd tramplings.  Colonies destroyed by raiders.  Ravaged by disease.  A thousand different ways to die, none of them even close to “quietly in my sleep with a supermodel by my side”.  I’ve seen the vids and I’ve seen a few in real life, too, but I think I can beat the odds.  I think I can make it back.

The planet looked pretty good from orbit; lots of temperate forest, no more than the usual amount of desert, swamp, and other less-hospitable areas.  A number of larger villages could be seen distributed at country-neighbor distances (relatively speaking) from each other.  The travel company, true to their word, had not sent me to a gas giant or a ball of molten lead so things were off to a good start, right?  Right.  Time to pick a landing spot.

The agency, to add to the mystery, had stripped the ship of all hi-res imaging leaving me with a pixelated view of the planet that was little better than looking through frosted glass.  Aiming for green, avoiding blue and brown, I picked my landing spot, started the landing sequence, and relaxed into the cryptosleep chamber to avoid the bumps, jolts, and possible no-charge funeral / cremation combo that re-entry offered.

The Actual Beginning

Landed.  The ship held together and got me here.  First, a quick look around.

The immediate area is littered with supplies.  Included in that is the steel slag that was once the lander I arrived in.  The travel agency sure won’t get sued for false advertising over that “experience the thrill of a one-way voyage” line in the brochure.  There’s nothing but strips of scrap metal.  The engine must have consumed itself or buried itself in the ground or something because there is nothing even remotely engine-like anywhere to be seen.  I can see wood, steel, food rations, gold, silver, some medical supplies and, blissfully, a charge rifle.  And Sin, running around exploring things on his own.

Beyond the “landing site” (indistinguishable in appearance from an impact crater) the first things that I see are a raccoon and a geyser.  An odd combination, but each reassuring in its own way. The raccoon means that creatures can live here, and by extension, maybe I can too.  The geyser holds the promise of unlimited power from a thermal generator once the minor hurdles of gathering materials and learning how to build one are overcome.  A problem for another day.

The goals for Day 1 are simple.  So simple, in fact that the Complimentary Survival Guide doesn’t even mention them.  The sections for Day 2 and beyond are full of helpful tips about foraging, hunting, building, researching, fighting, trading, mining, cooking, and (inevitably) doctoring and all the other skills I’ll need to have to survive in the long term on this rock.  Day 1?  Here’s the full text of the entry for day 1:

Day 1?  Day 1?  Seriously?!?  If you have to ask what you need to do on day 1, you are not qualified for this adventure.  You have already filled out Form 12, “Next of Kin”, please also fill out the “Last Will and Testament” form found in Appendix C.  Fortunately, you still qualify for our strict no-refund policy.

Day 1 will consist of immediately arming myself with the charge rifle, finding shelter, building a bed to sleep in, and if there’s spare time, starting to haul supplies from the landing si… hell, who’s kidding who here?  From the crater to someplace closer to wherever home ends up being.

I grab the rifle and begin to assess the bigger picture with an eye toward shelter.  I’m in a narrow valley running mostly south to north with a bit of a clockwise tilt to it.  I can’t really see an end in either direction; I’d be happy to know that I wasn’t in a box canyon but won’t have time to answer that question for a couple of days.  To the northwest there is what appears to be a lone wall, which isn’t too helpful but to the northeast is a small structure that is still mostly intact.  It doesn’t look fresh enough to have a living owner and it doesn’t look ancient enough to be ready to fall down, so I guess it’s JUUUUST right.  I head that way to check it out.

I’m pleased to find some ripe raspberry bushes ready for harvest; any food that I don’t have to cultivate or kill is free eats.  The valley narrows as I approach the structure, which almost seals the gap despite being fairly small.  Too small, really.  Once I get a bed inside there wouldn’t be much room for anything else.  I keep walking.  A squirrel chitters away as I pass; another good sign.  As meals go squirrels aren’t quite as effortless as berries on a bush and they don’t have much meat on them, but they’re not likely to trample you to death if you miss with the first shot, either.

I continue on past the shed heading northeast.  The valley begins to spread out again and a cave appears in the west wall, just past a stand of trees, right near where the grizzly bear is wandering.  A grizzly bear I do NOT need right now.  I could just shoot him (probably about  dozen times to get the job done, I’d say) but then it might charge and Bad Things would probably happen.  Even if I managed to kill it, I don’t have any way yet of keeping the meat fresh and I’d end up eating spoiled bear meat and different Bad Things would happen.  I decide to give the bear some room and head into the cave.

But it’s not really a cave after all.  It’s a nice room, partly covered with a stone overhang, sandstone floor, and no occupants living or dead.  This should make a nicer place to call home, so I do.  Over the next few hours  I manage to get a roof over the rest of the cave (which probably isn’t a cave if it needs a roof, but there’s no one here to quibble with so I can call it whatever I want to), use some of the wood to build a bed and some doors for the cave entrance, and get almost all of the rest of the supplies into the shed.  I even have time to build a torch to light up the house before turning in for the night.  The bear watched for a while then moseyed off.  At that, the bear was more help than Sin was.  Some serious training is going to be required before he’s of any value.

Hey!  I think I managed to survive day 1.

 

Weekend Almanac #12

We have some reader contributions this week.  Without further ado, the links…

  • The growing belief that all terrorists are Muslim is simply not true as this article points out.  (h/t TBH)
  • I’m getting tired of documenting the ways that intelligence agencies are blatantly exceeding their mandate and are clearly going to keep doing so.  Therefore, this link to a report by an NSA-led panel that determines that there is no viable alternative to mass data collection on everyone will be the last link of this type for a while.  It’s pretty clear that the gorilla is gonna win this one.  As a parting shot, I’ll point out that all of my links on this subject have been from foreign sources, especially The Guardian.  Pretty much sums it up.
  • On a lighter note, here is a fascinating link to some research on how to raise smart kids.  I really wish I’d seen this 15 years ago.  Or that my parents had read it 45 years ago, for that matter.  (h/t to Mrs. Feingarden)
  • And to finish with a chuckle, this is without question the best underwater video ever taken by a radio-controlled airplane.  Yes, I said underwater and airplane.

 

Legislating Corporate Morality

I’ve always been a big believer that you can’t legislate morality, and I’m more than willing to expand that to say you can’t legislate business ethics, either.  I ran across an article that in part fully supports my newly expanded belief.  The rest of this post is very US-centric but I’m pretty sure it applies to just about anywhere in the world.

To make a long story short, the Affordable Care Act in the US says that companies must provide health care for full time employees and defines “full time” as 30 hours or more per week.  This seems a bit low to me, but it was clearly put there by the liberal side of the nation in the hope of enrolling as many people in health care as possible.  They also put the barrier so low because they were concerned that companies might be tempted to cut employee hours from 40 to, say, 35 or 37 to put them below the definition of full-time so they wouldn’t have to pay for their health care.

The new Republican-led Congress has introduced legislation to redefine full-time as 40 hours.  Liberal critics are saying that this will tempt employers to reduce 40 hour employees to 39 or less just as they had feared when the original plan was designed.  The Republican response to this claim?  They say they’re doing it to HELP the employees.  They say that by raising the bar to 40 hours, employers will be less likely to cut their full-time workers to the 29 hours or less per week that they would need in order to avoid paying for their health care under the existing plan and will only cut them to, say, 35 or so.

Essentially, both parties are assuming that companies are going to do everything they can to avoid providing health care for their workers.  The only difference is that the liberals are optimistic that businesses wouldn’t cut a worker’s hours by 25% or more and the conservatives are pretty sure that they would.  I continue to be amazed at our desire to screw over our fellow man.

Original story is here, relevant portion is “The 40-hour work week”, about halfway through the article.

Weekend Almanac #11

It seems like the theme this week is “good news from the world of health” which is very ironic because I’m laid up with a bad back.  Life’s sense of humor works that way sometimes.  On to the links…

  • I’ve heard about the islands that China is building to expand their territorial claims in the South China Sea before, but this article focuses on a Philippine crew who are blockaded and cannot go home any more.
  • The discovery of an amazing new batch of antibiotics was announced, the first such discovery in about 40 years and a real game-changer for some doomsayers.
  • Researchers at Stanford announced the discovery of a likely cause of Alzheimer’s though they’re not really on the path of a treatment just yet.
  • At least one member of a small clinical trial group in Seattle reports amazing success in his battle with MS thanks to a combination of chemotherapy drugs and stem cell therapy.
  • For those non-gamers in the crowd, Minecraft is a game that lets you make anything you want out of blocks of raw materials.  It’s just like Lego was back before it was shipped with exactly the parts you needed and instructions to follow, it is one of the best games currently available to foster creativity in kids, and it’s probably deserving of its own post.  Until I get around to that you’ll just have to content yourself with a story about a person who took their vegetarian views into the game with them.