There won’t be another day

This flash fiction is inspired by the following photo prompt. the challenge is hosted by Madison Woods. Head over there for more flash fiction action.

I welcome constructive criticisms. That’s why I am posting these pieces on a blog. 🙂 Thanks in advance for taking the time to comment.

Wordcount: 100

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Let’s take a dip to cool off before food.

My Blackberry vibrated.

Please don’t! You promised today would be just for us.

I apologised to her but answered the call. My secretary said that I was urgently needed back in the office.

I’ll walk back after lunch. Alone. Again.

***

I sit down on the grassy bank. I feel the morning dew seeping through my jeans. I watch the sun rise.

Its orangey rays illuminate the mist covered fields. But they are not strong enough to chase away the chill within me. Last night she told me she wants a divorce.

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Forget him not

This flash fiction is inspired by the following photo prompt. the challenge is hosted by Madison Woods.

I welcome constructive criticism that’s why I am posting these pieces on a blog. 🙂 Thanks in advance.

Wordcount: 100

A barbwire fence separates me from the spot, where he took his last breath. I see the emergency crew laying him on a stretcher. They try in vain to get his heart pumping again. But his body had slammed into the steering wheel with a tremendous impact. The damage was too much for his young body to bear. Why didn’t he buckle his seatbelt? Why did he drive drunk? Why didn’t his friends stop him?

Now I stand beside the road and brave the elements to serve as a warning against the senseless loss of life. Don’t drink and drive!

Back to Nature

This flash fiction is inspired by the following photo prompt. the challenge is hosted by Madison Woods.

I welcome constructive criticism that’s why I am posting these pieces on a blog. 🙂 Thanks in advance.

“Mommy! I need to pee!”

“Lily, why aren’t you asleep yet? You peed thirty minutes ago!”

“Mom! I can’t sleep. Lee is wiggling in her sleeping bag!”

Samantha rolled her eyes at Jack. She left the warmth of the campfire and headed towards the children’s tent.

“Come on Lily. Do you only need to pee?”

Lily nodded her head energetically as she got out of her sleeping bag.

Samantha looked back at Jack and her smile slowly melted away.

“Lee sweetie, I need you to keep quiet and still. Kids, remember what I told you to do when a bear visits us?”

Springtime Blues

Irene squeezed her eyes shut blocking out the sunrays and pulled the blanket over her head.

“Wake up sleeping beauty. It is a beautiful day!”

M opened the windows letting in the sound of birds chirping and thousands of invisible pollen. Although she could not see them, she felt their presence immediately. She rubbed her tongue against the roof of her mouth. With closed eyes she groped for the packet of Kleenex she always kept on the nightstand. The itch spread to her nostril and she felt the pressure to sneeze growing within her. She was ready to give in to it.

M said loudly, “Achoo!”

“Why did you do that for? It is bad enough that you rip me out of a wonderful dream. Am I not even allowed the satisfaction of a sneeze?”

“Stop complaining and eat. We are going to make the best use of the first sunny day after winter.”

Without another word, Irene ate her toast with jam and drank her semi-hot cup of chocolate quickly. M was probably trying to make her agreeable by serving breakfast in bed. She dragged herself from the bed and into the bathroom.

“I assume you already have it all planned out. What are we doing?”

The hot shower caused the sore skin around her upper lips to burn; another reason why she hated spring. The following weeks she would be wearing a moustache of crusted skin, caused by the attrition of super soft paper handkerchiefs against her even softer facial skin.

“We are going to the mobile home fair. It is outdoors. What better way than to spend a day like this outside?”

“Afterwards I’d like to go to that newly opened frozen yoghurt place. I forgot the name. Michel was raving about how great it is the whole day yesterday at the office.”

“Fine with me! Now get changed quickly. The later we get there, the more difficult it would be to find a parking lot.”

“15 more minutes, if you let me get ready in peace.”

Irene washed down her allergy tablet with a big gulp of water. She packed her anti-allergic eye drops and nasal spray in her handbag. She was ready for the wild outdoors!

************

Irene stopped in midstride and pressed her upper thighs together. Another watery glob of pollens came charging out of her nostrils. But she was ready to capture it with a new paper handkerchief. She folded the tissue in half and held it before her nose like a hygiene mask, ready for the next sneeze. The tingly feeling in her nose was a dead giveaway that she wouldn’t have to wait long for the next one.

She scanned the crowd around her. Where was he? She had only paused for a few seconds. He couldn’t have gone far. That is the problem with visiting an outdoor mobile home fair. On the one hand, the constant pollen attack was weakening her physical state of being. On the other hand, she kept losing track of M in the blink of an eye it took her to sneeze. She remained standing in the middle of the path. He had to come out of one of these mobile homes sooner or later.

She felt drained of all energy. Too bad she was too old to lug a schnuffeltuch around. She would love to curl up on her sofa with a comforter and give in to the feeling of sickness that overwhelmed her. But she couldn’t hide indoors all spring or could she? She contemplated the repercussions of such a decision when someone tapped her on the shoulder.

“Would you like some apple juice?”

“No thank you. My panty wouldn’t remain dry for long when I have to walk around with a full bladder and sneeze unrelentingly. Let us get on with this show. A frozen yoghurt is waiting for me.”

They walked down the aisle hand in hand.

The Cloud Beckons

This post is about Cloud Computing as understood by me, a nonspecialist in technology. A few days ago the CeBit, one of the world’s leading ICT trade fair, was held in Hanover, Germany. During this week, one of the trending topics was Cloud Computing. Then on the TED website, I came across a feature on a company called Akamai, which provides platforms for Cloud Computing. The signs were there, urging me on to write about it. Therefore here I am writing a post about this super-duper what-ever-it-is.

If Cloud Computing conjured an image of a computer in the clouds turning water into food, I have to disappoint you. No, it has nothing to do with resolving world hunger ala “Cloudy with a chance of meatballs”. That would have been pretty cool. However Akamai claims that Cloud Computing would help fight against global warming. How you ask? To find an answer to that we need to define Cloud Computing.

What is Cloud Computing?

There is no single definition of Cloud Computing and so the following explanation is my personal understanding of it. In essence Cloud Computing refers to sharing server capacity by numerous users and/or organisations around the world. A suitable metaphor I can think of is a safe. You can either store your valuables in a safe at home or you can store them in a bank vault or you can use both to satisfy your need to protect your valuables. Storing at a bank has the added advantage, that there is someone looking after your property all the time and they probably have more resources to protect your property than you might have at hand and you don’t have to buy an expensive safe.

However Cloud Computing is not restricted to sharing hardware only. There are services offering licensed software for the users in their clouds. Therefore instead of buying x number of licenses, which at times might be restricted to use in specific devices, you can make use of a software via the Cloud regardless of the device you are using.

How does Cloud Computing support sustainability?

Carbon footprint has become a household term. When you book a flight, you pay a fee to offset your carbon footprint. When you order a package to be delivered to your house, you pay a fee to offset the gases emitted by the delivery van. You cycle to work and walk to the grocery shop. Your conscience is clean. Maybe you should think again. Do you know how much electricity you consume each day? Laptops, iPads & co., mobile phones all need energy to operate. Do you have any idea what your personal carbon footprint in this area is like? I have to admit I don’t but it probably accumulates to a substantial amount in my lifetime.

Companies are all into sustainability nowadays. Cloud Computing helps you be green and at the same time reduce costs. Have you ever been inside the server room of your company? The rooms are usually cool to prevent the hardware from overheating and there are lots of blinking lights, even when no one is in the office working. Therefore there is energy consumption without corresponding productivity or in other words value creation. By joining the Cloud, you are basically outsourcing these servers. You no longer have hardware taking up valuable office space and consuming energy even when they are idle. You store all your information in the Cloud.

Now those offering Cloud Computing platforms do have hardware, with all the associated non-green aspects mentioned earlier. Is the concept really green? The key point is by serving a wider user base, the Cloud can effectively reduce idle time and utilise the server capacity available. Therefore instead of 500 000 thousand servers being used by various organisations, the Cloud only needs about 40 000 servers to do the same amount of work. (These numbers were cited by Akamai in a promotional video.)

How does Cloud Computing impact you?

Chances are you have already had contact with the Cloud in some form. You are simply not aware of it. Akamai alone has some reputable customers and there are so many other providers of Cloud Computing on the market.

Have you ever lost a work laptop? You lose more than the presentation you were working on. There are usually sensitive company data stored in the hard-drive. Data and information equals to money and competitive advantage in today’s world. If you were using the cloud, no data would be stored locally and ergo no data lost and no breach in security to fear.

Security leads me back to the metaphor of bank vaults. It is common knowledge that valuables are stored in bank vaults. Therefore they are often the target of criminals, who want to get rich quick by getting possession of these valuables. Likewise the Cloud might become a target for hackers and if you are unlucky, they might find a way to get hold of your data. By storing data in the Cloud, you are solely dependent on the Cloud to protect it for you.

My Conclusion

Every cloud has a silver lining. But clouds could cause floods too. As a private individual, I would probably buy an external hard drive to store my personal data; like photos. As it is Facebook and Google know way too much about me, I don’t need to add the Cloud to that list too. I shiver at the thought of what would happen, if they all joined forces. 🙂 That is my view on Cloud Computing.

Related Articles

  1. http://www.ted.com/pages/266
  2. http://www.akamai.com/html/misc/ted.html
  3. http://www.cebit.de/home
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Server_%28computing%29

Neglected by evolution or man’s own doing?

What do the following biblical characters have in common apart from the fact that their related by blood; Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech and Noah? They are also known as the Antediluvian Patriarchs, which translates as Scriptural Fathers of the Pre-Flood Age. According to the bible, they all lived to be a couple of hundred years old. That was my first thought when I read the synopsis of a TED talk under the theme; “Might you live a great deal longer?”

This is the final post on an unintentional series about ageing. I have written about immortality, the youth culture and the final act. Today’s post looks at Aubrey de Grey’s assertion that the first human beings to live to a 1000 years have already been born. The British researcher on gerontology claims that we need to develop treatments that repair the damage caused by ageing and thereby delaying pathology. Below you will find the video of his TED talk. However be warned that he talks really fast and packs a whole lot of information into 18 minutes.

Basically Aubrey claims that ageing leads to pathology because of physical damages accumulating in our body. He identifies 7 areas where this damage occurs; Cell loss/atrophy, Death-resistant cell, Nuclear Mutations and Epimutations, Mt DNA mutations, Protein crosslinks, Junk inside cells and Junk outside cells. (These points were listed on a slide Aubrey used during the talk – 16th minute.) I need an encyclopaedia to make sense of some of these points. But the gist of it is metabolism damages our cellular structures, which culminates in death.

Aubrey proposes that it is possible to repair the damage through treatments. He says that anti-ageing treatments would keep improving and treat people before they enter the certain death phase and thereby increasing their life duration century by century. As a result of these continuous treatment improvements it would be possible to reach a life span of a thousand years. However we need to invest in the research of such treatments immediately, if we want to experience longevity to this extent.

In the Q&A session after the talk, Aubrey stressed that ageing is not the result of selection. In his opinion, evolution has neglected to find a way to resolve mortality because it would require too much energy and more sophisticated genes. In other words, if evolution were more hardworking we probably would be immortals by now.

This brings me back to the topic of the Antediluvian Patriarchs. I probably would get to hear that the bible is a fictional work and thus not a fitting reference when trying to find answers to a scientific question. Since this is my post, we will stick to the assumption that the Antediluvian Patriarchs had existed. The last of this group, Noah, supposedly lived up to 950 years. Therefore according to the bible, men started out with life spans of almost 1000 years. However after Noah, the life span continually decreased until King Solomon only lived to be about 70 years old. According to WHO statistics from the year 2009 the median life expectancy is at 71 years. It would seem that human life expectancy has been constant for thousands of years.

Why has the time we spend on earth shortened after Noah? It would appear that sin and men distancing themselves from God led to a drastic cleansing through the flood. Noah was the chosen one to start a new civilisation on earth. However this new world became tainted by sin too.

Since I believe in the existence of God, I do not find it too farfetched to assume that God’s original creation had very sophisticated genes. However the quality of genes deteriorated overtime as a result of our indulgence in activities harmful to our physical wellbeing. Therefore I think it is plausible to undo these damages through advanced medical treatments.

Do I think this is the right time to invest in such medical treatments? No. In my opinion, if such treatments were available now, it would only benefit the rich. After all, we have vaccinations for diseases that still kill thousands of children in the third world country. The reason for their death is lack of money, which bars their access to the medication. Thus you can imagine how it would be, if it were possible to live for centuries. It would be naive to assume that such treatments would be free of charge.

What do you think?

Related Articles
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antediluvian
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriarchs_%28Bible%29#Antediluvian_Patriarchs
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah
http://www.biblestudy.org/maps/life-span-of-bible-patriarchs-before-after-the-flood.html
http://www.who.int/healthinfo/statistics/mortality_life_tables/en/index.html

Similarities between Gouda and Life

I love Gouda. I love the creamy taste of its young body rubbing against juicy ham between 2 slices of soft white bread. I love the slightly crunchy taste of its older body and gladly wash down the saltiness with a glass of fine red wine. It would be wrong to assert that Gouda gets better with age. To claim the opposite would be wrong too. Gouda tastes great in any age to me.

To me Gouda presents a suitable metaphorical comparison to the human lifecycle. As it is with Gouda, I will not claim that life gets better with old age. Surely there might be aspects that get better with age like our wealth of knowledge and experience. Similarly there are aspects that definitely worsen over time like our eyesight.

We should refrain from comparing old age with middle age or youth or focusing on the things that no longer function as well as they used to. Instead we should be seeing it as a unique phase of the human life cycle. As a unique phase that has its own ups and downs and potentials for self-realisation.

I used to liken life to the seasons in nature. Spring symbolises Childhood, summer symbolises Adolescence, autumn symbolises Midlife and winter symbolises Old age. Is one to view life as a process that progresses from growth, maturity, decay and ends in waiting for the cold embrace of death? That sounds like a rather pessimistic view of life. It doesn’t have to be that way. Winter can be a wonderful time for relaxation. A time to go on a virtual trip together with a good book, with a cup of hot chocolate in a hand, while snuggling under a fluffy blanket. Winter is also a wonderful time to take walks in the nature, especially for those who like me suffer from hay fever. Such a walk provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on the meaning of life, while breathing in the cold and crisp winter air. Therefore there are ways we can make the wintery phase of like more pleasurable.

Although I have about thirty years to reach this phase of my life, I was inspired to write this post after watching a TED talk by Jane Fonda titled: Life’s third act. Below you will find a video of her talk, which lasts about 11:20 minutes.

Here is the gist of her talk. We live on average 34 years longer than our great-grandparents and a whole adulthood could fit into this time span. However old age is still viewed as the time before death – a time when our bodies weaken and degenerate. Jane Fonda calls the last three decades of our lives <em>The Third Act</em>. She talks about how an ageing demographic has forced (the intellectual) society to rethink its definition of this period in life, which has its own unique characteristics and opportunities. Traditionally life is viewed as an arch; where it is all downhill after the peak in midlife. But she thinks the metaphor of a staircase to more suitable to describe ageing. As we age –ascend the staircase – our spirits become wiser, more whole and more authentic.

Jane Fonda relates about the time when the thought of growing old made her depressive. Now she is right in the middle of the life phase she was terrified of and she realises she has never been happier. She does admit that ageing is no bed of roses and we might encounter problems as a result of our genetic construct. Nevertheless we can undertake measures to make use of the extra life time we have available. Old age presents us with the opportunity to review our lives. We can tie up loose ends, find closure for unresolved business, forgive others and ourselves and move on. As a result, we can change our relationship with our pasts.

In closing, she makes a point that as children we know who we are and what we want. As we grow older, to be part of a group or another person’s life we compromise who we are. In old age, we have the freedom to focus on our person again and redefine our lives. This would not only impact the rest of our lives but also impact the lives of the younger generation, who can use our new gained knowledge to (re)shape their own lives.

I agree with Jane Fonda, although in her stead I would have used the Gouda instead of the staircase as a metaphor. 🙂 Do you agree with Jane Fonda’s view of The Third Act? Do you already have plans to make your third act special?