Friday, 25 July 2008

Machismo, Top Gun and Tubs of Lard

Hello, Fricka here.

I am a little confused about what his 'lordship' wants me to do here. All he said was "Write whatever comes into your head. Don't try to be clever!" Cheek!

So I've read all of his posts (?) this morning and I must say that it is exactly what he seemed to be doing except he was trying to be clever. The trouble is I'm a lot younger than he is, I don't get the chance to read so much and I'm worried that it will all seem a little more boring than his was. But I promised so...............

Everyone's been really kind about my toe and I must just tell you that it is healing nicely. I was just glad that was all the seal got. Perhaps if I tell you about that?

But first, otherwise you might not understand, I have to tell you something that his 'lordship' managed to leave out both from his tale about dear Havelock and all of his own 'soul bearing' this month. Like father like son? I wonder why he never mentioned that we've been paired for four years? Ever since he fell over me at the floe edge as he came out of the water and nearly tore my wing off! Are your males like that? Don't say anything which makes them look less male? Ah well, he'll kill me for saying that when he gets back but.........

We always 'go to the movies' as he says when I first get back and last year we managed to find a French sub-titled version of 'Top Gun'. My French is a little better than his so I suppose the dialogue stayed with me a bit more. But all I could think of after the seal grabbed my toe and bit through, as I was weaving and jinking through the water with the seal inches from my tail, were Goose's words "Jester's on our tail! Now's the time to give us some of that pilot sh*t, Mav!" Somewhere in my brain, I wasn't swimming, I was flying. Maybe that's why I got away.

'Little Fricka' is doing very well and 'Uncle' Wobbling Tub of Lard seems to have taken it upon himself to act as surrogate 'daddy' in between training sessions. Still, I cannot begrudge him that, we've never known a penguin do what he did, except poor, dear Havelock and we have always thought that he was an aberration, a genetic quirk. Perhaps we are evolving to deal with all the added pressures you are placing on us here? Who knows? I hope so. His 'lordship' says that in another fifty years, we'll be so far inland to find firm ice to breed that the females will never make it back in time. I hope he isn't right.

The bonxies took three more chicks today. That makes five in all since I got back. At least little Fricka is safe with Cozy. There isn't a tube nose on the planet who will take him on, especially as he ate half of what Stingo bought back for Fricka. No, she had her fill and Stingo was full to the brim anyhow.

All I have to do now is find a 'clever' title.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Toes, lies and food, glorious food!

Fricka's back! Fricka's back! Fricka's back!

Sorry. I'm supposed to be a mature, adult and responsible penguin. Such childish outbursts ill become me. But it is good that she is last. Little Fricka has been fed (again) and is starting to look healthy.

Poor Fricka has lost the best part of her left outer toe on her left foot but while the wound looks ragged, it has started to heal. It is of little consequence, beauty after all has always lain in the imperfections. She is, I think, a little put out that I had so little faith that I named the chick before her arrival but she understands and although with hindsight her choice, Freya, would have been better, 'little' Fricka she remains.

To celebrate, Fricka and I went to the movies, well ok we watched a DVD on the big TV in the station while everyone was out billing and cooing over the new arrivals. Now I love movies but unfortunately we have to wait for the station to get a foreign language film, subtitled in English, otherwise we can't understand it. We can only read and type, the spoken word means little or nothing to us, just noise. The film was 'El laberinto del fauno' (Pan's Labyrinth), a very cute fairy story wrapped up in a very dark tale of fascist Spain in the '40s. For some reason, it got me thinking about lying, deceit and stuff - well I suppose it would really, it's what fascists are really, really good at.

Now penguins don't deceive, deliberately lie, try and hide parts of the truth. It's why Cozy's behaviour the other day was so surprising. It's just not something we engage in. I guess we are on such a knife edge down here that any deception would be pointless, eventually you'd get found out and no-one would trust you again and you'd be on your own, at the mercy of the elements. It's probably why no-one tries to get out of their stint on the outside, ultimately, there's no point, you'd die alone, very quickly.

But you lot? It's a way of life! We see it a lot in your politics (with a small 'p' and a big one), in news, in business, in fact everywhere! It seems that you can't engage in any interaction with each other without trying to occlude your objectives, your aims, your means, whatever. Now I can see that if you've got cancer, you might want to hide that from people you love and, more importantly, from people who love you. But you are going to have to tell them anyway, at some point it's going to be obvious that you are not well, isn't it?. So why wait? It doesn't diminish the pain they will feel, just dimishes you. That at least though I can understand. But the cynical 'we don't mind and they don't matter' attitude that some humans have, especially fascists and stalinists (same thing really), towards hiding their true objectives and the means by which they are going to attain them; wrapping them up in all manner of spin, lies, half truths, dodgy statistics, why do you put up with it? You even admit to seeing through all the deception while it's going on. Me, I just don't get it. Although perhaps you are all so innured against this stuff that you can't rouse yourselves from the apathy. After all, the new boss is invariably the same as the old boss. Does that count as plagiarism? If so, (c) P Townsend, esq MSOR (Member of the Sex Offenders' Register)

Oh well, it's your life! Or lack of it!

One more little job to do and I'm off to the sea tomorrow for fish, fish and more fish and then I'll be onto 'seconds'. Probably start with prawn cocktails and finish off with some nice sea cucumbers with fish in between. You need a good start to reverse the metabolism from burning fat to laying it down. Rest assured I know exactly how to do that! Fricka has said that she will cover for me when she can, although they may be a little sporadic, depends on how soon the chicks move to the creche.

Now I wonder where they put the string?

Monday, 21 July 2008

Sadness, anger, resignation and loss

As of 10 minutes ago she was still with us. Weak but still here. Sparky has been a real hero. We have been taking turns to feed her but we have both exhausted what little we have to give.

It was strange last night that having been so anxious and then so angry, I came to a kind of resigned acceptance that what would happen would happen. It was curiously liberating and satisfying and reminded me of something I did a few years ago after Myfwany failed to return. I spontaneously wrote this poem in my head while someone in the station was playing the second movement of Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez (for guitar and orchestra) on their music player. The way the music develops, it goes from sadness to anger to resignation and is about the death of the composer's son not long after being born. I don't know if it was conscious or not, but the poem seemed to follow the same structure in a strange sort of way. Less the sentiment expressed, more the language used. Or maybe it's just the literary pretension rearing its head again. When I got a chance to type it up, it had changed slightly and was no longer about what it had started out being about, although traces are still there. Perhaps I'll post it before I go back to the sea but then I really want to embarrass myself that much?

I suppose I should apologise to any 'believers' out there for even thinking of asking for you to pray for a non believing penguin. It's not even as if God would have listened anyway, we have no souls, remember? Still you can see how religions might propagate. You get desperate and pray to some deity, a particular tree, the monkeys in the jungle and if by chance you get what it is you want then you might think the prayer had been answered. If a few more people enjoy the same good fortune you might actually think that prayer works. I don't think that's tenable nowadays following the double blind US research into the power of prayer, no seriously, which found not one iota of difference, not even a placebo effect. They used cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and groups of devout christians. They divided them up into four groups of patients: the first were prayed for and were told that was what was happening; the second were prayed for but were not told it was happening; the third were not prayed for and were told they had been left off the prayer list and the last group were not prayed for and were not told anything. Neither the doctors not the prayer groups knew exactly who was in what group (hence double blind). Not a jot of difference in survival rates!

A small trickle of females started to arrive about an hour ago, some other eggs have already started hatching. The main column according to Sparky is still some hours away, although it is not that big and there will no doubt be other columns to follow. I am trying not to hope that Fricka is in the first one. I think the disappointment might be more than I can take right now.

A weird thing happened this afternoon. I was feeding Fricka the last of my 'milk' (it's a kind of fatty fluid we can secrete for a little while to tide the chick over until real food arrives) when I got this impression of being stared at. Do you ever get that? Anyways I looked up and it seemed as if half the rookery was staring at me in what I thought was pity. I was starting to get a little bit self conscious when a familiar voice said "if you don't turn around now and open your mouth, I'm not going to be able to tip this cropful of fish down your gullet, am I? I don't think you want me imprinting your chick, do you?" Now penguins don't, can't smile but I swear Cozy was smiling, the widest,widest grin it is possible to imagine. "I'm sorry it took so long, I couldn't stop snacking while I was out there. I trust you have now learned your lesson and from now on, BEAKS are OUT!"

Did the monitor go a little bit blurry then? No? Oh well, you can't win them all! And if it did, I'm sorry. I couldn't resist not putting that bit first - perhaps I am becoming too much like you.

I am angry with them, Cozy, and Stingo and Sparky for not telling me (they knew), but I am also ashamed that it never even occured to me that he would, could, do what he did. When all is said and done, it is more dangerous in the ocean than it is here and.......So, I have, I think, learnt my lesson. I will rail against the cosmos but I will not abuse my friends.

Cozy says that Fricka has been seen on the ice west of the first column but a leopard seal has taken a part of her toe as a souvenir, so she is moving more slowly. Some of the other females are holding back so she is not alone. The damned bonxies will try if they think you are weak enough. Cozy has sent Stingo on the long trek for more food just in case. No doubt Cozy will find somewhere for it if it's not needed.

I must now stay until she comes. Without my voice she will never find 'little' Fricka in amongst the chaos here. Oh well, hunger we get used to. Tomorrow is a new dawn and perhaps we can expect more of a new day than I could ever have imagined this morning.

Oh and the title refers to the Rodrigo. What on earth else might it have referred to?

Friday, 18 July 2008

The chick's broken shell

The chick broke shell 2 hours after my last post. She (we have a way of knowing, which I cannot explain) is too small, too frail, too soon.......

We have a little sustinence we can give but it will last only about three days, we have so little left in reserve after so long without real food. I have perhaps one day, maybe two, left. Sparky has proved a real friend, he is minding the chick and has said he will give what he can, when he can...but......and still no sign of Cozy. Was I so insulting?

Why doesn't he understand? He must realise that I was just anxious about the egg. That I didn't mean to lose it. That I didn't mean to hurt him.

I have nothing left now but a tiny hope.

I begin to understand, in ways I never could before, Havelock's pain and why you lot might be religious. After all, when you have nothing left, what's wrong with praying to some omnipotent being for help? If it comes out fine, you can thank the deity and believe you are 'chosen'. That must surely help. If it doesn't then there must, of course, be something wrong with you and you are not worthy of help and must try harder.

Oh please hurry...........

I just wish, now, I hadn't decided Sophocles was what I should be reading! I only wish that I could be as strong as Oedipus at Colonnos. But I am only a penguin.

We have a tradition that the chick is only named after the first real meal (delivered by the mother). It 's always a joint decision. But in this case...................I do not want my daughter going nameless into the void. So I have named her..........and perhaps her mother will approve, perhaps not.............., but she is Fricka now and Fricka for as long as she is here and most importantly she is Fricka wherever she may go.

The bonxies arrived this morning. Please, if you have a God, pray for her........and me....please?

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

More anger and then some

I can't believe I've done what I've done. It's this blog, it's making me like you! And the egg definitely moved twice yesterday and again this morning. Please not now.........

I got Cozy his second flare yesterday. Of course I should have realised what he would do. It's obvious. So, so very obvious. He asked for another piece of string! I don't know if you've ever seen an angry penguin, if you have, this was worse. I couldn't move for fear I might lose the egg and all I could do was scream, louder and louder, leaning forward so he'd get the full blast of it. All he could say was, "I only asked." I don't know why, but at that point I lost it completely. I turned into one of you! I poked him hard with my beak at least five times. His throat, his breast. As he looked down, you could just see the first glimpse of trickling blood. He turned and started to walk away. I tried to apologise but he just ignored me. I wanted to go after him but I couldn't.....the egg.

I haven't seen sight nor sound of him since. Stingo, who kindly offered to sit the egg for 15 minutes while I type this, in between telling me what an idiot I am, says, "Cozy's not interested in talking to you, ever! He says f**k the string! "

Why? Why would I do that? I said I'd do anything to see what he'd got planned. Why? Is trying to explain what it's like down here to you making me like you? We, the males that is, are not aggressive at this time, it just doesn't pay. So why?

I will get the string. He won't take it but I'll get it all the same.

I need to get back to the egg.

Please hurry!

Monday, 14 July 2008

Premature birth, anger and stress

B**locks! I swear that egg moved by itself this morning. It's two weeks early. It can't hatch yet. I can't keep it alive for TWO WEEKS., not without Fricka. And how will she know? Please.....not early, dead rather than early. Oh Havelock, where are you? It must have been my imagination, must have been.

Forgive me. It's just everything is so finely tuned down here that a couple of days can make all the difference and everything has always gone so smoothly. Please not this year. Not when I decided to do a blog! Please?

And if that wasn't bad enough, some bl**dy newbie's decided to start writing his PhD on station! You're here for research not to write your so**ing thesis! You cretin! He's been stuck in front of a computer clacking away for days. Um, excuse me? I've a blog to write if you hadn't noticed! Oh alright, you couldn't have but.......Eventually I had to ask Cozy (groan) to organise something. I said maybe I could get a second flare............Cozy's sitting on my egg right now. The gang? They're doing the conga up and down the bluff! The newbie's outside, tongue hanging out of his mouth, charting every move! They never learn!

Sorry, I'm a bit angry/anxious today.

The guys have been clearing snow off the rig these past few days and hopefully my little plan to get Aslan to conform to daddy's wishes will pan out. Cozy's going to organise the 'display' to co-incide with the chicks' general departure for the sea. "Something to tell their chick in the creche," he says. Cozy's attempt at 'artistic immortality', if you ask me! Ah well, he is minding my egg, must remember to check the flare box.

Spent about half an hour yesterday reading juvenile poetry on Yahoo. You know, "I'm thirteen and my boyfriend's just broke my heart!" I know, sad life I lead but there's only so much Sophocles you can read in one sitting. What struck me was even when it wasn't just formless nonsense, there appeared to be little concept of metre, ie the authors weren't reading the poem out loud to themselves, just writing. Now I don't 'hear' these words but I get the rhythm and it completely ruins it when the rhythm suddenly goes awry. I made a few suggestions. Ah well, you only get a few Shelleys in every generation.

I'll need to keep these short just in case. The last thing I want is MY chick imprinting on that wobbling tub of lard!

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Zen clapping and kick ass women

It seems to have finally calmed down, we've had little or no wind for the last 36 hours, maybe the weather's finally turned. I'll keep my wings crossed.

Havelock left yesterday for the sea. He looked so sad and lonely as he waddled off into the distance. Just one lone penguin on a mission. I know why he does it but it still doesn't make an awful lot of sense to me. Being on your own out there is dangerous especially if a storm blows up and you cannot find shelter. We always return to the sea in groups just in case. It may only be a small huddle we can put together but it's way better than nothing at all. Still it's his choice......Sometimes I wonder if what he really wants is to get caught in the open in a storm.........

Sparky's looking after the egg at the moment. "Just this once," he said, which means I'll have to ask 'Mr Artistic Vision' the next time. Oh well, could be worse, there could be no-one to ask.

Dropped by the Quantum Physics page on the Einstein for dummies blog earlier. It's getting very philosophical, which reminded me of something I read a few years back, 'the Tao of Physics' by Fritjof Capra. Now Capra is a physicist, and I suspect a buddhist, and the thrust of the book is that western philosophical thought since Aristotle ill prepares a human mind for quantum mechanics. It's often deterministic and whether it's explicity stated or not, dualist. There is a 'perception machine', your body, and an 'I' that actually processes the information into a world view, what Dennett calls the Cartesian theatre. 'I' is the audience. A society steeped in that kind of thought finds the fuzziness of quantum mechanics, where there are only probabilities, very hard to deal with. They get hooked into the apparent paradoxes.

Capra's argument is that eastern philosophies are much closer to providing a human insight into quantum mechanics because they emphasise the idea that the reality you perceive is just that, one you perceive. The real reality lies elsewhere, you just have to find a path to it. This in turn reminded me of the day I 'got' the two slit experiment.

You shine light through two slits in a screen onto another screen. You get interference, bands of light and dark as peaks and troughs in the wave cancel or reinforce each other. Light travels in waves. QED! But then you drop the light source so it only fires one photon (discrete quantum of light) at a time. You still get interference. The photon goes through both slits at the same time and interferes with itself! Bizarre? So we'll nail it and put detectors at both slits and see what fires. One detector fires and no interference. I puzzled, thought, screamed for days, weeks, months. How? How could the photon 'know' it was going to measured? Then one day I understood. Not in a way that I can explain or put into words, I just got it! It made sense! The fuzziness made sense. I suppose it's sounds a bit 'new agey' (and perhaps it is) but somehow I just got it in an intuitive sense. I got relativity the same way, one day it just clicked!

It's a little like the zen koan "Imagine the sound of two hands clapping. Now imagine the sound of one hand clapping." Now I say this to my 'brethren' all the time when they're bleating their pathetic little defiance to the wind. For me, I have to wave my one wing as though I am clapping both together, but after ten minutes or so of waving, I swear I know what it sounds like. I 'hear' something at the end of each 'wave' as my wing stops. And it's not the sound of two wings clapping. But then I have to force myself to think like you - I don't normally - and maybe that makes a difference.

The blog also came up with a strange little coincidence.

Someone was confused about half-lives (of isotopes), ie exponential decay. The first half of some isotope decays in time 't', leaving half left. Half of that (one quarter) decays in time 't' too and so on.She didn't understand why it wasn't the same as a pat of butter. If enviromental conditions remain static half the butter will melt in time 't' and half of the reaminder will melt in time 1/2 't'. The answer has to do with probabilities and stuff but what was intriguing was her name, Jael (Yael). Now Jael was one of those biblical 'kick-ass' women who got one over on their enemy in (usually) violent fashion. Jael drove a tent peg through Sisera's head while he slept having been served 'butter' or some curdled milk drink by Jael. Strange, huh?

Oh well, only another couple of weeks and Fricka will be back.