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Method Of Loci

17 February 2019 06:06PM life

You know that thing where you use a familiar place to help you remember things? Moving house is like that in reverse. You don't realise how much of your memory is tied up in a place until you have to pull it apart.

And when you lose access to the place, what happens to the memories it encodes?

I don't know. I've never had my own place before, and I've never left one. This was the first, and this is what it was like to be there.

There's this faint musty smell, a bit like the inside of a vacuum cleaner. You stop noticing it after a while, but when you walk through the door after a long-haul flight, it smells like home.

There's the sound of hollow creaks and empty footsetps on a deck you and your housemate built in an evening so you'd stop sliding towards those huge, dangerous windows.

and a flyscreen you built yourself too.

There's water you mysteriously never had to pay for. A hot water heater that runs instantly and forever. Showers that last longer than they should, and power bills that cost more than they should too.

It's cramped and stuffy if you have more than about six people in the room, but you try about once a year anyway and you're still not quite sure what to do when they get here - or how to make them leave.

clouds at sunset

There are sunsets over pine trees and palm trees and tiled rooftops, punctuated by the flash of the red light camera up the street. You once got asked "Do you ever just stand here and... look?" You joked about it later, but the truth is, you do.

There's the itch on your stomach and chest as you crawl under your bed to find something you ill-advisedly stored there. Probably the fan, because it's getting towards summer and until you can open the windows and let the sea breeze clean the place out it traps heat like you wouldn't believe.

detritus

A string of fairy lights runs back and forth along an enclosed balcony which started out empty and has slowly filled with the detritus of pastimes and past times.

Laminex "floorboards" which aren't real wood, but they're better than the awful carpet and they were close enough to make it feel like home. There's a box of spares in the laundry that came with the place, and you never really figured out what to do with them.

it was nice when it was wintry too.

You remember how things used to be. Posters became frames, astroturf became a deck, the verge-salvaged chair and stool became a proper classy corner just in time for you to leave. It was never finished, and it's already time to disassemble it.

You wonder how it will look in the future, nothing left of this time but scuff marks.

a sunset so red it looks like the end of the world

Birds. Cars. Trains. Wind. And if you listen hard, the sound of the ocean.

A box of light and warmth against a dark sky.

This is what it was like to be here.

a box of light and colour in the darkness

Seeing Red

08 February 2019 11:15PM fiction

The first colonies on the red planet failed. Some quickly, some quietly, some violently. Something out there was fundamentally hostile - not to our biology, but to our psychology.

Then, out of the blue, one group succeeded. Not just marginally, but wildly. Researchers ran correlation after correlation - until they stumbled on the answer by chance.

The secret to living on Mars had been hidden in our DNA all along - written off as a quirk, not seen for the gold it was:

You don't miss green if you've never seen it.

Island Gothic

06 January 2019 07:30PM travel

You leave The Settlement, through gates designed to keep the wildlife out. Past the turbine hill and the brine lakes, past the bore fields and the fire trails, there are only hills and scrub, punctuated by occasional glades of gnarled, parched trees.

You go on foot, or on a bike. You take only what you can carry, including water for the day. There is no fresh water outside The Settlement. Only the Rangers, working for the Authority, have access to motor vehicles.

You pause to take a break, sweating inside your helmet and protective clothing. You reach into your pack, past the mask and breathing tube you carry just in case you need them, and take a swig from your precious water supply. You take a look around, reflecting on what brought you to this place.

Once, the island was a prison, and then a military base. Now, the centre of the island is a Research Area - although if you ask the folks around you, they'd be hard pressed to tell you what that research actually is. Other than that, The Island is occupied only by transient visitors - travellers, like you - living off desalinated water and food shipped from elsewhere at great cost, bunking in basic accommodations repurposed from another era, searching for... something that escapes definition, but that might just bring you peace.

Because despite decades of habitation - or perhaps thanks to it - they say there's things to discover at the heart of the Island. That, after all, is what dragged you away from the Settlement.

Sometimes, the Guides - not part of the Authority, but with its permission - lead expeditions into the research area at the centre of the island. Or out through the tunnels, part of the disused military installation, under the island. You, though, prefer to strike out on their own, seeking parts of the Island none have yet found.

Youths, in particular, will find an isolated beach somewhere to drink and party - but if the Rangers find them, the full wrath of the Authority will be brought down on them - and the may find themselves kicked off the Island for good. You were one of them, once, but now you find yourself looking for something different.

Something screeches in the distance, something winged and hungry, breaking your reverie. You should keep moving. Staying in one place too long was a good way to have your provisions stolen by scavengers.

You'd taken shelter under an ancient rust-coloured structure, seeking shade, seeking any respite from the scorching temperatures. You step back out on to the road as others come to claim your place. Heat waves rise off the tarmac as the sun scours the landscape - and yet you are thankful to be here. After all, they say things are even worse back on the Mainland...

definitely a hellscape

An Untitled Fanfic

09 December 2018 01:03PM fiction

by Rockwell McGellin, age six.

A long time ago in another galaxy there was a planet just like earth. It was called planet aAtrid.

It had three moons, two had air and the bad guys had them cosbecause they were lazy. but the good buys had it the third because they were not lazy and thy could make air.

On this particular day, Luke SkywalkerSam Skyrider was getting in his rocket when he heard a strange sound. "Beeeeeeeep beeeeeeeep," it went, "Beeeeeeep."

He went back inside. It was his robot teling him that the planet was blowing up. LukeSam said to his mum, "Don't wory, I will help you." "Ok" said his mum, "I do not want to be blown up."

"Ok, hop in to my roket then," said LukeSam. "It will be safe."

"10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Blast off!" said his robot. The rocket soared away to planet Way.

The rocket landed.

Sam's alien friends came to meet him and his mother.

The aliens' names were Venus and Jupiter and Pluto. They gave same and his mother some alien money. They stayed in an alien hotel.

The next day, the rocketed off to fight the bad guys. Sam and the good guys won.

paragraph three, on the original page.

This is the earliest thing I remember writing, and certainly the earliest piece of my writing I still have.

I remember it being much longer at the time. And much more original.

It's fascinating to see what made the cut. The destruction of Alderaan stayed, but Luke - sorry, Sam - saves his parental figures. We address some unanswered practical questions, like where does Luke sleep? and how does Luke afford to eat? And we get some fascinating bits and pieces from our own galaxy as well, including the Way half of the Milky Way, and a planet that's no longer a planet.

And there's a couple of things in there that are actually quite cool ideas - the idea that the atmospheric status of moons defines the kind of society that develops there, for example, wouldn't look at all out of place in The Expanse.

Even if you file all the names off though - as some officious teacher seemed intent on doing - it's still recognisably Star Wars. You can tell. The shape of the story is the same.

And I guess that means I just need to admit to myself that the first thing I ever wrote... was fanfiction.

No matter what, there will be the simple, inescapable truth for many of us: that the original film not only has great meaning to us, it was what actually defined "meaning" in the first place.

The solution to a very specific problem.

02 December 2018 08:27AM sg-2018travel

Grace had waved me off from her spot by the pool with the same air as a parent depositing their spawn at the arcade for the afternoon, and that was probably for the best.

"Alright, well, have fun."

While I would have loved to share this experience with her, I have a feeling she'd have found it frustrating after much less time than I needed.

I was going to Sim Lim Square.

Sim Lim Square is bewildering warren of tightly packed electronics merchants, selling everything you can imagine, and quite a few things you can't. It's not a place you necessarily go for the price, or the quantity, or the quality. Or even, really, for the experience. It's a place you go for specificity. It's six floors of solutions to problems you never even knew you could have - but obviously someone does, or this very specific item wouldn't be for sale.

There's this thing, which seems to be a strip of LEDs, inside a transparent case, powered by a USB port. Who needs this? And why?

Or these things - fans that draw power from the charging port on your phone. Who could possibly want this? What is their story?

Or this! It's a lanyard, and a measuring tape, and a phone charging cable, all in one. Which may just be the most useful useless item I've ever seen.

It's this fascinating look at supply and demand. Obviously there's some kind of demand for these products, or they wouldn't exist. I can see the supply, the end product in front of me. The demand must be out there somewhere - I just cannot possibly imagine what it is.

The truth is, we may never know.

What I can do is share the problems I took to this smorgasbord of specificity, and perhaps alleviate the bewilderment of some future traveller.

A cable, another cable, and a box containing two plastic widgets

I'd only taken carry-on, so I had to limit myself to what I could stuff between clothes. Which meant that, no matter how much I wanted one, I wasn't going to be buying the five-metre-long HDMI cable I needed. These are solutions to much smaller problems. So, from left to right, we have:

  1. A headphone extension cable, to fit any smartphone. What makes this one different is that it extends not just the output lines, but the input line as well - which means it'll work with my microphones. I could have found this on eBay... maybe. But there was no guarantee that the one I ordered online would have the extra microphone line. In fact, most of the ones I tested didn't - but this one did.
  2. A micro-USB 3.0 Y-cable. I have a Raspberry Pi under my desk, which is basically a tiny computer powered by a phone charger. I have it connected to a hard disk, which is where my files live, and the Pi makes them available over the network. Unfortunately, the Pi can't supply enough power to run my new hard disk on its own. This cable lets me connect the power line of that disk to another source, while still having the data lines connected to the Pi.
  3. Capacitative shoulder buttons. I gotta admit, I bought these on a whim, but they work surprisingly well. They basically let you put buttons on the top of your device that touch a specific point of the screen when you click them. I've been experimenting a bit with streaming games to my phone, and these might make that experience a little bit more ergonomically friendly.

For 99% of problems, you'll have to prise my eBay account from my cold, dead hands. But if you need to test a thing, or find a thing, or discover a thing, then a terrifying neon rabbit warren is hard to beat.

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