Archive for the Alternative Energy Category

Hydrostatic

Posted in Alternative Energy, Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2012 by javedbabar

The new owners of the Lucerne Valley Hotel were forward thinking. They wanted to get ahead of the regulations and the competition, so embarked on a programme of sustainable renovation focussed on recycling and energy efficiency. Grants from The Authority made the project viable.

They began with structural adjustments. They removed non-load bearing walls and replaced them with expansive windows. Their passive solar strategy would allow more sunshine to enter the building, reducing both lighting and heating bills. Appropriately angled overhangs were constructed so the sun didn’t boil guests in summer.

They added extra insulation to retain both heat and cold, according to seasonal requirements, and sunk pipes filled with refrigerant into the ground to create a geothermal field. On the roof they added solar-electric panels, solar hot water tubes, and a small wind turbine. In the basement were a methane digester and wood pellet heater, plus stations to recharge the hotel’s electric cars. They were confident of a Class One Superior Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER).

The Energy Auditor had many good things to say about the Lucerne Valley Hotel. However, he said that he could only give them a Class Two SEER. Water – more than sun, wind, methane or wood – was the hot topic these days. The province sold most of its fresh water to America. What remained was a valuable commodity that must be preserved. The Energy Auditor’s report said, “Overall, a credible performance, but evidence of much water wastage. If this can be addressed within thirty (30) days, the establishment will receive a Class One SEER.”

The new owners were keen to gain this Class One rating. They planned to make it their Unique Selling Proposition (USP) at the heart of all marketing activity.  It would boost the current message of “Lucerne Valley Hotel. Your home is our home, that’s why we treat the earth right.”

TJ was asked to look into the matter. He wondered if it was possible to create a completely sealed environment where all water was recycled and reused. He looked at the logistical methodologies of Bedouins and astronauts, who seemed far apart but shared the same respect for water. To both it meant life or death, so they conserved and reused all fluids possible.

How would this translate to the hotel? He explored the categories of water running through hotel systems: blue (drinking), grey (washing), brown (soiled), green (nutrient-rich), light (ionized), and heavy (irradiated) waters. How best to combine them into a hydrostatic system?

The staff and guests added complexity. Each had different human/android proportions with particular humidity and hydration needs. Sealing water into a hotel super system may seem strange. People would feel rusty inside, which was a common psychological/technological condition. And too much focus on water wasn’t right. Humans were evolving into robots. Why make them devolve into fish?

Soul Capture

Posted in Alternative Energy, Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2012 by javedbabar

Bobby’s mind was being expanded by the presentations at the Devils’ Den. It was definitely the best event at the New Ideas Show in Lucerne’s glassy community centre, commonly called the Transparent Temple.

He’d sat among the audience hoping to get some inspiration for starting his own business, but instead he was becoming a little scared. Floating cities, underwater container houses, head plug-ins, and programmable matter – the ideas seemed impossible, or at least unbelievable. Was that why it was called Devil’s Den? Had they made pacts with the devil?

A guy he recognized walked towards the stage; he managed the recycling facility on the edge of the village. Surely his idea would be reasonable. He was a down to earth guy.

The host Collette held her nose as he approached. She said, “Didn’t you bathe this week, my friend?”

He smiled to himself, and then at everyone. “Sorry about that. I just came from work at the transfer station. It’s an occupational hazard.”

Panel member and social media activist Juno Osh drew back in distaste. The audience laughed. Low-tech pioneer Amisha Jordan however was pleased, and said, “It’s good to see a real working man in here. Not just a load of pencil heads.”

“Enough flirting, trash junkies,” said Collette. “I know business sometimes gets dirty, but there’s no need for business people to be dirty.”

The audience booed and the transfer station manager dropped his smile. “Only joking,” she said. She couldn’t afford to lose public goodwill for she had no talents; she was only famous for being famous. “Please introduce yourself and tell us about your idea.”

“My name is Toby, and my business is recycling. These days we try to minimize waste. The best thing of course is to not make it in the first place – you can reduce your product packaging by wise buying choices, and even eliminate it by going to bulk stores. But there’s still plenty of trash. That’s the nature of a modern capitalist economy. I noticed a while ago that at our transfer station, we reuse every resource – card, paper, plastic, metal, wood, glass – except one.”

The audience was curious. Someone called out, “What’s that, pal?”

Toby said magisterially, “Ourselves. Our bodies are cremated, buried, thrown into the sea, and in some cultures chopped up and left as a final act of compassion and generosity for wild beasts to devour.”

Collette said, “Urrggh!”

“Valuable minerals are wasted. And more importantly, valuable experiences that are encoded in our cells. I have developed technology that can compare original and final DNA in terms of quality and quantity, and measure the relative effects of nature and nurture.”

“Can you actually do that?” said Juno, suddenly interested.

“Well not fully, only fifty percent of it.”

“Well I could get the other fifty percent from my social networks. I think we can do business.”

He wasn’t the first amateur entrepreneur led astray by Juno Osh. She’d captivated many with dreams of social media glory but her rewards were rarely tangible. Her promises were made but not kept. They were as vaporous as souls.

Plug-Ins

Posted in Alternative Energy, Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2012 by javedbabar

Bobby had joined the Devils’ Den audience to escape the chattering salesmen at the New Ideas Show, but now he was really enjoying it. The ideas so far had been pretty wacky, but the amateur entrepreneurs presenting them had been passionate and unapologetic about their proposals. Maybe that’s what makes a good business person, thought Bobby.

The third person presenting wore a strange wig. At least it appeared to be a wig. It could be a really bad hairdo, or a case of double bluff where a baldy wears a hairpiece so bad that people say, “that could never be a wig!” Anyway, it was brown and spiky, like a seventies rock star.

It was amazing that host Collette Vapinski, who was famous for being famous, didn’t make fun of the wig. This was probably because of its unknown status. You could see that she was tempted, but resisted and instead said, “Please introduce yourself and explain your idea.”

“Hello panel! Hello audience! My name is Desmond. I’m here to talk about plugs. I know what you’re thinking – plugs, what’s there to talk about? How mundane.”

Low-tech pioneer Amisha Jordan rolled her eyes, expecting another electrical gadget. Digital activist Juno Osh leaned forward. Arch-capitalist Arthur Choo kept a straight face.

Desmond continued, “Plugs let you connect any object to any power source. Isn’t it amazing that a tiny power point lets you connect to infinite universal energy?” The audience didn’t think so. “And now we have SCARTs for audio-visual devices, USBs in computers, and Ethernet for networking, a different kind of power, plus all manner of alternative energies – solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, tidal, just to name a few. You know…”

“So what?” said Amisha. “What’s your point?”

He wasn’t daunted, and continued. “Aren’t electric cars amazing? They’re better in every way. They run quietly, with no emissions, and recharge for pennies. They are the greenest transport available.”

“Don’t push your greenwash, pal. We’ve had bicycles since the…”

Juno Osh interrupted her. “I suppose you came here on a bike from the City, did you? All one hundred and sixty kilometres this morning?” Amisha was embarrassed and stopped talking.

These interruptions made Desmond forget his script. He stood there for a while, looking stupid, then removed his wig and turned around. There was a metal socket in the back of his head, into which he plugged a cable leading to a projector.

A slideshow began on screen, showing his ideas for the next stage of Artificial Intelligence – full hardware-software-meatware integration. It was pretty technical. The audience and panel watched open-mouthed. Bobby thought, now that’s a real innovation.

After a few slides, however, something went wrong. The screen flashed goofy pictures, images of depression drugs, interracial pornography, and End Time prophecies. People gasped and laughed. Desmond became upset and unplugged immediately.

“I think it needs a bit more work,” said Amisha, and sat back, smiling.

Container Houses

Posted in Alternative Energy, Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , on July 3, 2012 by javedbabar

After the nerd had presented his idea for a floating city – floating in air, not water – came a girl with a more sensible idea – container houses. Bobby was enjoying the Devils’ Den event at the New Ideas Show. He was looking for ideas to start his own business in job-poor Lucerne.

“The essential problem is not lack of housing,” said the presenter, who had neglected to mention her name. “It has to do with distribution. Just like with food – where some become obese, whilst others starve – people have too much or too little shelter. For example why does a childless couple have a ten thousand square foot house in Strattus that they use one month a year, while someone in Mumbai has a hundred square foot room housing three generations?”

“Isn’t that their reward, and their choice?” said Arthur Choo, ex-chief economist of the Bank of Canadia. “They are wealth creators, and every dollar they spend is multiplied within the economy.”

“That may be true,” said the presenter. “But I believe they should be encouraged to make better choices. Shipping containers provide an equitable, flexible solution. They are easy to load, unload, stack, transfer and transport. Everyone should get one. Isn’t that a basic right of democracy, fair housing? A house is the basis…”

She was interrupted by Amisha Jordan, promoter of traditional and low-tech solutions. “I like the idea, but it’s been done already. There are offices and hotels made of containers in port cities.”

“Not underwater,” said the presenter. People gasped.

“What? You are hoping to build underwater housing?”

“Yes, in international waters. They belong to everyone so people can live where they like. There’s no need to be oppressed by the outmoded paradigms of nation states. We can…”

Arthur Choo said, “I’m afraid it’s not that simple. International waters have regulations too. You can’t just live where you like; in the same way you can’t just fish where you like. There are guidelines.”

“I will look into the legal framework later. Right now I’m concerned with mastering physical, chemical and biological environments; looking at things like pressure, temperature, humidity and light; water, food, waste and toxins; sea creatures, microorganisms and fungi. Once those are managed, everything is possible.”

“Okay,” said Arthur Choo. “I’m willing to look at this at a conceptual level. Go on.”

“I’ve also located undersea methane vents, and begun work on dolphin communications and plankton farms…”

Uh-oh, thought Bobby. This girl is all out to sea. Why are young entrepreneurs obsessed by the sea? He’d heard ideas for boats made of recycled bottles, floating cities and marine farms. He didn’t realize they were in tune with the soul of the planet, the global unconscious, and being drawn towards the creative source.

Floating City

Posted in Alternative Energy, Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , on July 2, 2012 by javedbabar

Bobby was at the New Ideas Show in Lucerne. It was a great opportunity to do some research for his new business. He’d grown tired of salesmen chattering though and slipped into the audience for Devils’ Den. The first amateur entrepreneur brave enough to face the panel of expert investors was a tall nerdish looking boy.

“Come on up!” said the host, Collette Vapinski, a lady famous for being famous. The boy began walking swiftly but slowed down as he approached the stage. “Come on! Let’s speed it up! We’re in the age of global business. There’s no time to hang about!” The audience laughed. “Woo! There goes an Indian company spicing up your code! Choo! There goes a Chinese company copying your product and shipping it before you do!” Arthur Choo, ex-chief economist of the Bank of Canadia, looked up at her, annoyed. She mouthed, “Sorry.”

The boy had reached the stage. “Please introduce yourself and tell us about your idea.”

“Hello everybody,” said the boy. “My name is Cedric and I’d like to tell you about my idea for a floating city. It is one kilometre wide and houses up to a million citizens in high-density housing. There is large-scale vertical gardening, and a one hundred percent recycling facility that…”

“Wait a minute!” called Amisha Jordan, a promoter of traditional and low-tech technologies. “A floating city? You mean in the sea? No? In the air! How will you do that? It sounds ridiculous!”

The boy was scared by her interruption, but recovered and continued. “It will be built of a mixture of carbon alloys and holograms. All heating will be solar, cooling will be by winds, and it will levitate by means of electromagnetism. It will be useful for inhospitable regions of earth. One kilometre above the earth’s surface there are fewer noxious gases, and cleaner air to breathe…”

“Excuse me,” said Arthur Choo. “Are we speaking of the near future or several centuries yet? What’s your timeline?” It was not a hostile question.

“I’m thinking two hundred years in the future, the same time frame as Sony’s futurists.”

Someone in the audience called out “Two hundred years!” and Cedric hesitated, but Arthur Choo nodded and said, “Go on.”

Cedric was encouraged by this and spoke rapidly. “It will be an entirely independent entity, and can move with the seasons to optimise energy production and resident comfort. It will have fully secure access and good immigration controls. Of course tourism will be a major…”

Social media pioneer June Osh interrupted. “What about using these cities on other planets. Have you thought of that?”

“Yes, it is certainly a possibility for…”

“How much do you need?” she said.

Cedric answered immediately, “I’m looking for five hundred billion dollars for half of the company.”

“I’m in!” said June Osh. There was a gasp from the crowd. “But I don’t have the funds available yet so will only act as an advisor. My website Farmbook is not yet profitable, but it does have one billion members. We could try crowd funding…”

Good luck to you both, thought Bobby. Maybe he didn’t have the right frame of mind to be an entrepreneur.

Bright Jackets

Posted in Alternative Energy, Lucerne Village, Unknown with tags , , , , , , on April 29, 2012 by javedbabar

Katie stood in the middle of the field. It was a beautiful field, with oat grass swaying around her in the breeze, and rippling and swirling further out. It felt as if she was the centre of this motion. Two helicopters hovered above like slim dark dragonflies. Police cars stretched along the side of the field bordering the road, with people and cows scattered along the other three sides. The bright green forests clothing the lower slopes of the Valley set off the orange jackets of the hundred men closing in around her.

Katie felt groggy. Her mind was confused and senses dazed. What had happened to her? Why was she here? The police cars, people, and cows weren’t getting any closer; they remained behind the wooden rail fence running around the field. The helicopters were wavering but mostly holding still. The men in orange jackets drew closer, pacing slowly forward, approaching her individually and together, tightening their bind. This wasn’t their first time, thought Katie. Their speed and spacing was so steady that she felt like giving them marks. If there were a prize for synchronized stalking they would be sure to win it.

Katie’s stomach cramped, and she felt like curling up and falling down. However her survival instinct made this impossible. How could she make herself more vulnerable than she already was? She had to stay up, facing the situation, whatever it was. These words seemed familiar, why?

The men in orange jackets were a hundred metres away. If only she could use a tape measure to check their distance. Maybe they would agree that anyone five metres over or under the norm was not performing up to standard and should be removed, and as they got closer these tolerances should be reduced, so by the time they were within ten metres, those remaining must be within fifty centimetres of their radial norm. If they were careless, many, maybe even all, would be eliminated before they reached her. But theoretically when it was down to the last orange jacketed man, he was the norm. What would she do then? She could always run.

Katie realized that these thoughts weren’t helpful. She was in the middle of a field of swaying oat grass with a hundred men in orange jackets closing in around her. Focus, Katie, she said to herself, focus.

She remembered being awarded a medal, not so long ago. During a ceremony in Lucerne Village a golden disc was pinned to her chest by the mayor, the provincial flag was raised, and everybody clapped and cheered. That was where those words had come from. The mayor said that she had, “stayed up, facing the situation, whatever it was.” Yes, she had, but what was the situation?

She remembered a long tunnel. She was stuck inside it. But she had entered of her own accord. Was it a cave, a subway, a conduit? Yes, it was a big pipe of some kind. All of a sudden she needed to go to the washroom. She needed to pee. Was there something in that? Need to pee? To pee? Pee – to pee? That’s it. It was P2P. The multi-resource pipeline being constructed from Canadia through America to Mexica. Lucerne was slated to be the province’s first multi-resource hub.

Katie felt the helicopters draw closer as the orange circle constricted. They were blowing her hair about. How annoying, she thought – how would she look on TV?

Why did she remember the P2P? Had she tried to save this tunnel? Yes she had. Not out of loyalty to The Authority, simply the desire to be a good citizen. Somebody was trying to destroy it and she had stopped them. But the blame had been pinned on her. It was a case of mistaken identity – or was it? Did a hundred men chase misidentified women – you know, usually? She’d been framed for sure.

Katie was a government agent with an enviable record. She had served with honour abroad and was now stationed at home. But her local investigations had found the tail of something sinister. She remembered explaining to people that she was trying to save the pipeline, not destroy it, but she had become the prime suspect. She had seen something that day. Something they had tried to make her forget. What was it?

The memory returned. She had seen plans for a pump house to power this stretch of pipeline.

It was only then she realized that she had a gun in her hand. How did that get there? It must have been there the whole time. She raised the gun without thinking, felt a sting, and then nothing.

The shot by a helicopter sniper was made to look as if it came from a farmhouse in the next field. The old farmer there was refusing to leave his fifth-generation Old Family home, whose site was needed for the pump house. If he’d shot Katie that proved he was dangerous and needed to be taken out. So he in turn was shot by the sniper in the second helicopter.

A hundred men in bright jackets met in the centre, around a corpse.

Bus Pass

Posted in Alternative Energy, Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience, Sacred Geometry, Unknown with tags , , , , , , on March 22, 2012 by javedbabar

Oh great, thought Kelly, I can pop into the shop, I’ve got 6 minutes. That LED sign is really handy. Before you had to stand around and wait for the bus, with no idea when it was coming, and according to the season: freeze your balls off, get soaking wet, burn to a cinder, or get your clothes blown off, with people driving by feeling sorry for you, laughing.

Then they erected this new bus shelter and the LED sign. The shelter’s a bit strange though – a grey metal box with diamond cut-outs. It looks more like a bear trap than a bus stop; less a convenience, more a cage. I could have designed something better in art class, and made it in shop class.

“Wass up?” said Tavish.

“Just going to the shop. Want something?”

“Nah, I’ll be here.” He was standing away from the bus stop, despite the rain.

A guy driving by in a Frontier scowled at them. Kelly had noticed this reaction since the new shelter was installed. Sure it was nice to have your own car, but it was stressful and expensive to drive it daily to Strattus, or the City. And you couldn’t read or text or talk. Much better to take the bus.

Kelly hadn’t moved yet. Tavish said, “Look at all those power lines, man.” Kelly looked up and around. He hadn’t paid them much attention before. They were just power lines. “Look how many there are, all up there. That can’t be good for our brains.”

“What do you mean? It’s the other end you’ve got to be careful at – the sockets.”

“You don’t know, man. Those power lines are bad for you. They send out radiation. They should be buried, not going through the centre of town. But the Authority is too cheap, or they want us to die. Keep away from them.”

“You can’t keep away from them,” said Kelly. They criss-crossed above the street, over-connected, heading everywhere. “Unless you live out in the bush.”

“You’re right brother. You can’t keep away here. But be aware. They can drive you crazy.”

Other people at the bus stop didn’t talk to each other, busy using their mobile devices. A boy listening to phat pumping tunes on his iPod, pushed out his lips and nodded quickly. A girl chatted on her Googlephone without breathing. Another chick furiously used Blackberry Messenger. A woman read Dan Brown’s latest marvel on her Kindle. A man Facebooked on his netbook.

The LED sign said “5 minutes”. There are two kinds of time in the world, thought Kelly – real time, and public transit time. One minute of real time takes one minute to pass. One minute of public transit time takes anywhere from minus one minute – when the bus or train has already gone, ahead of schedule – to infinite minutes – when it never comes at all. Who knew how long these 5 minutes would take.

Kelly changed his mind about the shop. It was raining and he may as well make the most of the new shelter. He nodded at Tavish – who stayed out in the rain – and took cover. The other five people – iPod boy, Googlephone girl, Blackberry chick, Kindle woman, and Facebook man – crowded in to make room for the new arrival, but did not acknowledge each other.

There was a flash of lightning, wasn’t there? Was that a small earthshake? Had something shifted? He saw the five people in the shelter in a different light. He saw their needs. iPod boy was in survival mode; he didn’t have enough to eat, and didn’t get enough sex; yet despite this latter lack, he didn’t get enough sleep either. Googlephone girl’s concern was safety; she worried about her health, her family’s stability, paying her rent, and her body image. Blackberry chick’s focus was society; she wanted to deepen friendships, find intimacy with a man, and be useful for her community. Kindle woman sought status; she lacked self-esteem and wanted the respect that comes from achievement. Facebook man wished for Self-Actualization; he had been accepted by his peers as an equal, and now sought to express his spontaneous creativity.

The LED sign changed to “4 minutes”. Something else shifted.

Kelly saw iPod boy’s life before him. He was a Child now, playing and carefree, running and laughing, celebrating all the joys of the world. He would soon be a man though, a Householder, with mortgage, and bills, and taxes, and wife, and children, and work; needing to pay for things, fix things, deal with things, accept his pathetic limitations, and live with them. He would fade into an Elder, an observer rather than actor, watching the confusing, and misguided, ways of the world, and withdrawing in stages. Then one day he would have no place in the world. He would become a Beggar – reliant on a modest pension, topped up by welfare, his family’s sense of obligation, stranger’s goodwill, charity do-gooders, and Lucerne’s health services to keep him alive.

The LED sign changed to “3 minutes”. The shelter was rattling.

He saw into Kindle woman’s subconscious mind. There was darkness within – deep forests and tight caves with unseen monsters. Then her conscious mind – a busy day in Strattus ahead of her, filled with meetings and an ongoing schedule of networking. He saw her superconscious mind, which held the brightness of love for herself and others.

The LED sign said “2 minutes”. The shelter shook slightly.

Kelly saw Googlephone girl’s dual persona – her animus and anima; male and female; girl and woman; goddess and whore; and yearning both to love and to die.

The LED sign said “1 minute”. The shelter seemed to glow.

He felt overwhelmed, and united, with everything in the world.

The LED sign said “Now”. The shelter was the shelter. That was all. An ugly grey metal box; a cage. The bus arrived, filled with more people. Kelly couldn’t handle any more connection. How much was too much before you were no longer yourself? He let the bus pass, and went to the shop, as he had originally intended to.

Starsailor

Posted in Alternative Energy, Global Travel, Unknown, World Myths with tags , , , , , on March 12, 2012 by javedbabar

It was unusual to see one on an inland lake. Sapphire thought that large sailing ships only ploughed the high seas. There it was though – what looked like a floating mansion with a fabulous clothes line of gleaming whites, gliding along the emerald waters, with mountains and forests behind. How did it get here, she wondered? Was it possible to sail all the way from the ocean, along the Glaser River, through Morrison Lake, then via smaller rivers, all the way to Lucerne?

Her grandma had first shown her the lakes. When life at home became unbearable – her parents fighting non-stop, and Sapphire crying non-stop – her grandma said, “Let me take you to a beautiful place where everything will be better.”

Sapphire said, “Where are we going, grandma? Are we going to India?” She’d heard her mother talking about living there. That was the main thing her parents argued about.

“No child. We’re going to the Magic Lakes. I discovered them when I was your age. I’d swim and fish there. You’ll like them.”

After her parents parted company, Sapphire travelled with her mother and saw many beautiful places – the temples of Varanasi, the churches of Jerusalem, the Oracle of Delphi, Angkor Wat, Borobudur, and Giza – but none of them were home. They were others people’s homes. Her grandma died the year after they visited the Magic Lakes, and Sapphire hadn’t returned there for ten years now. But this year she felt lost in life – stuck in a dead end job, with a fractured relationship, a poor body image, and negative mindset. She felt drawn to the Lakes.

There were so many lakes there – some round, some long; some green, some black; some transparent, and some thick with muddy clouds, seeming thunderous skies upturned. She traversed them endlessly in her kayak.

There was a bustle of activity around the large sailing ship. Teams of swarthy sailors – were they Goan? Maybe Filipino? – unloaded cloth-covered boxes manually. The operation seemed antique. Sapphire paddled across the lake towards the sailing ship.

Her paddle was quickly pulled from her grasp. She screamed in shock. A sailor was swimming beside her. He steadied her boat, clutching her paddle. She’d been ambushed.

“Please come with me,” he said, clearly Goan.

“Why should I?” Sapphire said fiercely. “Leave me alone, or I’ll scream.”

“You already did,” he said, smiling. “But don’t worry; I won’t force you to come. I am only delivering a message from the Captain. She invites you to join her for tea.”

She?” said Sapphire. “Your Captain is a woman?” She wondered why she was so surprised by this.

“Yes, she is,” said the sailor. “And a truly great Captain too. She has taken our ship to places we never imagined.” He beamed at Sapphire, his white, white teeth dazzling. “Will you accept her invitation?”

“If I say no, will you give my paddle back?”

“Immediately,” said the Goan.

“In that case please give me my paddle.” The Goan’s smile declined, and he passed back her paddle. “Now swim ahead,” said Sapphire, “and I will follow you.” His smile returned.

It was a beautiful ship with an elegant puzzle of ropes and sails. The three main masts had five square-sails each, and there was an array of long triangular sails – seeming washed kites – attached to the tusk-like mast at the front – was that the prow? Further triangular sails stretched taut between the masts. Why so many? What were they all for? A flag flew atop the main mast – royal blue with a golden sun, and a shape within, which was hard to indentify whilst limp.

“Welcome aboard sailor!” someone called down from the rear top deck – the stern? It was a strong female voice, maybe Anglo-Indian. Sapphire saw a sturdy, dark-skinned, dark-haired woman in her fifties – surely the Captain. “Thank you for accepting my invitation. Shall we?” she indicated for Sapphire to enter some ornate double-doors. Well I’m here now, she thought, so may as well.

The inside of the ship was beautifully crafted. There was teak panelling and mirrors, and ornate lamps of exotic designs, featuring spiders and peacocks. The captain led her to a spacious room with three sides of stained glass glowing. She said, “We were wondering who was watching our operation. I sent Gonzales out to investigate. He took more direct action than anticipated, but here you are.” She nodded warmly. “We’ve got a bit of cleaning to do – those barnacles really build up on the bottom, and algae accumulate. That slows us down. We need to lose some cargo too. Reduce weight to lessen water displacement. We’re near maximum deadweight tonnage. We’ll only carry high value items from now on.”

“But where are you going?” said Sapphire. “You haven’t told me.”

“You must join the crew if you want to know that, sailor. All I can say is that throughout history, ships have been used by men for many things – fishing, commercial, and military purposes; to transport people, to entertain them, to spread technology; to colonize and enslave; to spread new crops leading to our world’s crazy population growth, and promoting energy-intensive economies. Here’s our chance to make a difference.”

“I don’t understand. Where are you going?”

“Have you read Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn?” Sapphire nodded. “We follow the advice of the great sailor-philosopher, Mark Twain.” The captain closed her eyes and recited, “‘So throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbour. Catch the trade wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.’ To this I add ‘change’.”

“Change what?” said Sapphire.

“Change everything! We sail great rivers, lakes, and seas, following our dreams. Taking ideas everywhere. We’re always looking for good crew members. Will you join us?”

Sapphire felt that she had nothing to lose, and said, “Aye-Aye Captain! When do we sail?”

“As soon as you salute our flag,” said the Captain, indicating for Sapphire to go above board. The royal blue flag was now fluttering. Within its golden sun was the shape of a little girl.

Apple Express

Posted in Alternative Energy, Infinite City, Lucerne Village, Organic Farming with tags , , , , , on March 7, 2012 by javedbabar

“Bloody apples!” shouted Farmer John. “Falling everywhere! There must be an orchard in the sky.” He was standing in the middle of a field. Where had they come from? He stamped his right foot and held the top of his head with both hands, as blood seeped from a gash beneath his fingers. They really were bloody apples.

Apples had been falling for almost a month now. They were infrequent to begin with, and quite unripe; small, green sour balls. They had become a daily occurrence of late, now bigger and riper, almost ready to eat.

There was a daily hot wind coming up the Valley, ten degrees warmer than the air in Lucerne. It was a strange, localized occurrence. No one minded the temperature, but its power was a problem: it had blown away old barn roofs, caused tall trees to topple, and excessive wear on Lucerne’s wind turbines. It blew hot up the Valley at noon, and returned cold from the glaciers at dusk – and it seemed to be carrying apples.

Farmer John said in the pub one day, “That fruity wind, it should be called the Apple Express, like the one from Hawaii is called the Pineapple Express.” Other people had thought the same, but he was the first person to say it. He was acknowledged to have coined the term. “It’s causing problems. Those apples are landing square on my spuds; almost like they’re aiming for them. Potato plants are bearing apples – or that’s what it looks like when I walk down the rows.”

“How will you harvest them?” said Farmer Tom. “Apples will be mixed in with your spuds.”

“They will be,” said Farmer John. “They will be. What can we do?” No one wanted to think of the extra labour needed to remove the apples. They considered letting them all rot there, fertilizing the ground. But there was no way to avoid some slipping in with spuds. The apples’ moisture would rot the spuds. They’d have to pick the apples out, before or after harvesting – either way it was a massive task.

Walking along the rows one day, Farmer John picked up an apple and examined it closely. It had been transformed by its warm, windy journey. The apple’s skin was gleaming as if it had spent an hour in a bowling ball polisher, and its cheeks were as rosy as a ruddy farmer’s. He took a big bite. “By God!” he exclaimed, syrup pouring out of the corners of his mouth and over his chin. “That’s the juiciest apple I’ve ever eaten.” He felt a warm tingling in his belly like the fire of a light rum shot. “And it’s full of cider!” He ate many more apples, and went to the pub merry already.

Lucerne Valley farmers were happy, they had an extra crop. Gorgeous apples fell on their fields daily. Farmer John called them Mt. Alba Apples, as they seemed somehow linked to Lucerne’s mountain guardian. Holding an apple high in his hand, it seemed a new sun above the mountain, shining blessings down. They sold really well at grocery stores and farmers markets, and were popular with local kids not yet nineteen.

Beyond the City, the 4,800 acre Glaser Valley Farm’s (GVF) owners were not impressed. The Apple Express had become fierce of late, tearing along the Glaser Valley, over mountain passes and across lakes, through to the Lucerne Valley – carrying their best apples. These delicate apples – grown for export to Japan – had very weak stems. Just before they fell, many were picked up by the Apple Express and carried off to Lucerne. GVF was losing a quarter of its crop this way. They initiated legal proceedings against Lucerne Valley farmers, claiming financial compensation for lost revenues, and punitive damages for theft. It was a very short hearing though.

“This case is unprecedented,” said the judge. “And frankly inexplicable. So we will need to discuss it from first principles. I will consult my most learned friends and establish a philosophical framework, based on agricultural ethics and tort law. Please explain the essence of your case in simple terms. Our sponsors require this for our television audience.”

GVF’s attorney said, “My clients are hard working toilers of the earth. They have a decade of agricultural achievement behind them…”

“Objection!” shouted the Lucerne Valley farmer’s attorney. “Seven years is not a decade.” The judge agreed and changed the record to say “many years”.

GVF’s attorney continued, “They invest much time, effort, and money in growing the best apples for export across the world, to improve our nation’s trading balance. The fruits of their labours are being stolen by others. We demand fair-minded justice.”

The Lucerne Valley farmers’ attorney had a bright idea. He suggested that Farmer John make their statement. “My family’s been growing potatoes for a hundred years,” he said, “and it’s…”

“Objection!” shouted GVF’s attorney. “He’s making that up.”

Farmer John provided the names of his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, all farmers in the Lucerne Valley. The judge overruled the objection. Farmer John continued. “And now we’ve got fields full of apples. We never asked for them to drop out of the sky. But we know the earth’s cycles. We believe that our brother farmer’s jumbo jet-fuls of exports are directly related to their problem. Climate change is controversial, but here we see it in action. And we are wondering whether to include the two deaths in our community caused by falling apples within the scope of this case, or to file a separate one.”

Glaser Valley Farmers withdrew their case. Despite their 25% annual attrition, they continued to make big profits selling the remainder to Japan. Farmer John continued to have his annual crop of apples for twelve years, but less fell each year. By the time the Apple Express stopped blowing, apple seeds were well established in Lucerne. Mt. Alba Apples became an invaluable companion crop to spuds.