- Mid-October: I present my interest in moving to the overnight shift to the manager at my employer who oversees the After Hours team. My goal is to free up my days to take more classes and expedite rate at which I can complete the necessary prerequisite coursework to allow me to gain entrance to Veterinary School.
- Last Friday of October: I am offered the opportunity to take the After Hours position as one of the current members of said organization wishes to return to a regular 8 hour daylight shift. I accept readily.
- November 2: I discover both that it is my designated day for Spring 2011 course registration and that had I not accepted the opportunity to change jobs just a few days earlier I would have been unable to continue taking any classes at all. I register for the second course in the two semester chemistry sequence I began in August and a class literally called, "Managing Stress".
- November - Mid-December: I complete my Fall coursework while training to adopt the After Hours position.
- December 16, 2010: Having taken my Chemistry final two days prior I start my new job. My standard work cycle is seven days, Tuesday - Monday, 6.30PM - 6.30AM on duty followed by seven days off.
- January 2/3, 2011: realizing how crazy and irregular my new schedule is and that it will take a lot of work for it to become routine and feel as stable as the previous months I decide to treat this whole experience as an observational study and record information on my experiences because, shoot, my life feels really interesting now. Hopefully I can turn this into an amusing article on Cracked.com or maybe even a book or something.
Monday, January 3, 2011
Sunday, October 17, 2010
On to more pleasant topics. Yesterday, after having lived in the upper-Midwest of the United States for over 29 years I visited a corn maze for the first time ever. It was a pleasant (though tiring experience) to share with friends and family. There were plenty of attractions at Sever's Corn Maze all of which are described on their website (a site I wish I had visited as Google Maps failed to provide me with remotely accurate directions to the maze) but the special treat for me was Vogel's Exotic Animal Petting Zoo. It was incredible and a rare opportunity for me to spend time in close contact with the large animals, particularly small-ruminants, that I so greatly hope to serve as a doctor of veterinary medicine some day. They had a huge goat pen and I truly could have spent all day with those wonderful little guys and gals. Additionally there was a young dromedary camel and some llamas but there were a lot of other very interesting animals too including spider monkeys, lemurs, a dwarf horse, a zebra, ostriches, golden pheasants from China, multiple varieties of antelope, deer and gazelle, some large South American rodents, miniature deer (muntjacs), tortoises an albino wallaby and several other animals I didn't even have an opportunity to interact with (though at a distance I am fairly certain I saw what were either more wallabies or kangaroos and some breed of ox or yak). I'll say it again; I really could have spent all day in there. It was very pleasant for me.
In other long-term career related news my Mother informed me while driving me over to visit her and my Father this morning that the newest member of one of her book clubs is married to a recently retired veterinarian who had worked at the Minnesota Zoo. She offered to let the new club member know about my career interests and attempt to help in arranging for some contact between me and this fellow. Talk about an offer one can't refuse! It would be great just to have a chance to conduct an informational interview, but if I'm being really optimistic here is somebody I might be able to find a mentor in or at least a friendly acquaintance who might be able to help me in arranging volunteer opportunities working with animals and/or be willing to throw together a letter of reference someday, when I finally have the necessary educational and volunteer background to apply for vet schools. If you're reading this please pray or cross your fingers for me as is appropriate to your sensibilities that this may be the start of an exciting new opportunity for me.
That's all I've got for now. Hopefully I'll be writing here again sooner rather than later.
Friday, October 1, 2010
The events of the last 24 hours have been mentally, physically and emotionally fatiguing. Well into the Neutral Zone the Spector's sensors detected a Romulan D'Deridex class Warbird derelict and displaying no life signs on redundant scans, but with all shipboard systems functioning normally. After conferring with Captain Robau, Shano & I assembled multiple away teams. One, Able Team, including a medical team under T'kela and Lt. Cmmdr. Sakkath (who was deferring to Shano and myself for reasons as yet not entirely clear) transported to the bridge of the [ship we would later learn to be named] IRW Sha’arik, while a second, Bravo Team, under the command of Lt. Fletcher with security command delegated to Lt. Tor transported to the engineering section. What we encountered proved nothing less than a shocking and a deplorable example of the lengths to which the elite of the Romulan Star Empire (particularly the Tal'Shiar) are prepared to go, exploiting their own loyal citizenry, in pursuit of their ambitions.
The bridge and to a lesser extent the engineering section of the Sha'arik were found to be laden in corpses, the first view of what would later be found to be the entire crew compliment of the Romulan vessel victim to an engineered virus. Beginning our investigation, Lt. Fletcher and Bravo Team began to dissect the Romulan engineering section while those of us with Able team worked to determine the location of the Warbird's sickbay (an endeavor which may have won Starfleet intelligence the subtle victory of access to the layout and schematics of the D'Deridex class) and to decrypt any ships logs that may have been of use in determining the cause of the Romulans' deaths. (Notably Lt. Sakkath proved invaluable in translation of the Romulan text, displaying an even greater familiarity with the language than myself, but this is an aside to return to later.) After locating their sick bay I formed Charlie team out of myself and Crewman Washington to escort Doctors T'kela and Corwin to sickbay and leaving Lt. Vincenz in charge of Able Team. Between the research by the Medical teams and the information relayed to me by Shano after his team managed to gain access to the logs of Palar, Commander of the Sha'arik, all data seemed to indicate that the ship had been intentionally infected by agents of the Tal'Shiar with the engineered virus and left to be found in Federation space. Effectively the Tal'Shiar had destroyed one of their own ships, commanded by a man who evinced respectable traits of honor and duty, to become a weapon of propaganda and/or biological decimation against the Federation. This treachery went so far as to install a device of sabotage on the bridge operations station of the Sha'arik that disabled it's cloaking device after a set time when they predicted the entire crew would have succumbed to the virus.
As our investigation continued I had the good fortune to be unaffected by the virus. I wish I could say the same for all my colleagues. Within a matter of hours all members of the away teams of Human and Vulcan (and Romulan?) decent were suffering symptoms of the virus. I am thankful that Shano had the foresight to order the Ops officers he brought with us to travel in EVA suits or we may have suffered worse than we did. While T'Kela and our medical staff worked with Lt. Aban and the science officers to try and find an effective treatment for the aggressive virus, matters became complicated when another D'Deridex, the D’vairin, de-cloaked, having arrived in response to Palar's distress signal, sending their own boarding parties onto the Sha'arik (N.B. all boarding parties consisted of ten members). I must diverge here a moment to consider my own actions at the moment that Captain Robau informed us of the the D’vairin's arrival. My first response was to carve my old "signature" from the Iota-Eridani VI War into a prominent location and to prepare weapons that would have been otherwise concealed for use in battle. Had I not engaged in the latter action I would have still been armed after we were taken prisoner should our situation not improved and martial action proven necessary. This is a lesson in forethought that I should remember for future encounters regardless of the opponent.
In any event, outgunned and without cover to balance matters tactically Able, Bravo and Charlie teams were all forced to surrender. While we attempted to stall any action by our captors with talk (my praises to Captain Robau for whatever simultaneous diplomatic battle he engaged the Romulan ship's Captain in) and to convince them of the danger they had exposed themselves to things became progressively worse. Exacerbating the situation was the indoctrination to which the personnel of the Romulan fleet are subjected was very apparent in their attitude towards the Federation, their initial insistence that the virus was deployed by us and their willingness to disregard basic logic in defense of the purity and honor of the Star Empire. We lost Dr. Corwin first. While I was prepared to be patient for the virus to disable our captors to a sufficient degree that our lower numbers would be balanced the losses would have been too devastating. I watched my trusted Ensigns Vazquez and Vincenz both die to the disease. How many times had they enthusiastically joined me in the Spanish Civil War scenario campaign in the holo-suite? They both always performed exceptionally in the Barcelona scenario. Crewman Mantegna, one of the most devoted men I have ever met with regard to the ideals of the United Federation of Planets, was lost to us as well as many other good men and women outside of my department. Lt. Cmmdr. Sakkath very nearly died (will come back to this), and Lt. Fletcher and T'Kela did not fare much better. I cradled her head as she was lost in delirium, in and out of consciousness as I engaged the leader of our Romulan captors, Sub-Commander Galtus, in a gambit of words. Eventually the evidence of the Tal-Shiar timer and Palar's logs convinced Galtus and his superiors that we were telling the truth. We were released and Galtus and I oversaw the make-shift triage unit that the cargo bay we had previously been confined was converted to. Thanks to the co-operation of Dr. Elbrun and the Romulan medical personnel and the excellent computer modelling skills of Lt. Aban the work begun by T'Kela could be completed and a cure deployed before we lost any more people than could be helped.
Based on his physical fortitude, his calm under pressure and his display of good judgment in a tense situation I requested that Crewman Washington receive a field promotion to the rank of Ensign to replace and have requested the same of Crewman Said, who was with Bravo team, at the suggestion of Lt. Tor.
Ultimately I was impressed with both the late Commander Palar and Sub-Commander Galtus as men of integrity, honor and good faith. It disgusts me that they should be subjected to such manipulation and exploitation by those who they serve with virtue. It is both a testament to the potential of the Romulan people to be great and noble and an indictment of the depravity, avarice and duplicity of the Star Empire in which they live. It is my hope that Palar's own people will give him the honors he is worthy of. I have already asked of Captain Robau that we should pay him his due respect. As for Galtus I would be pleased to encounter him again on the same positive terms we parted ways. I am confidant that if we were to meet again in an antagonistic encounter neither of us would hesitate to see our duty through, and while I respect him for this, it is unfortunate. The examples of these men are contrary to so much of what I experienced of the Romulan Star Empire in my final years on Iota-Eridani VI and this bears reflection.
On the other side of this is the USS Spector's own Lt. Cmmdr. Sakkath. Sakkath has presented himself as being born from one Human parent and one Vulcan parent and alleges to favor Human custom. Unfortunately, I have found numerous evidences since assuming my duties on the Spector that lead me to find this claim suspect. From the first his demeanor, gregarious rather than reserved. gave me reason for pause. While I do not deny that it is possible this may simply be the way he behaves, my studies at the academy indicated that Vulcans are far enough removed from Romulans culturally and [at this point] physiologically that their emotions can be far more volatile and intense than those of other humanoids if they do not adhere to their tenets of logic and comport themselves in a stoic or, at least, reserved fashion. This is alleged to be the case even with Vulcan-Human hybrids (in fact I seem to recall reading explicit reference to it in the memoir of the late Dr. Leonard McCoy, who served on the original USS Enterprise and the USS Enterprise-A with the venerated Ambassador Spock of Vulcan perhaps the most famed of such hybrids). I believe I will try to find a moment to speak with T'Kela privately and verify how much veracity there is to this belief about the Vulcan/half-Vulcan temperament. Beyond this most of my has been primarily speculation but I believe the incident we have just endured may have generated more evidence, circumstantial as it yet is, to indicate that my hypothesis that Sakkath is not a Human-Vulcan but in reality a Human-Romulan may be correct. Most glaring of these points are his extensive familiarity with the Romulan language and technology we encountered on the Sha'arik, talents of which he has never made any prior mention or display. There was also the speed with which the Tal'Shiar engineered virus attacked him. While he survived where some of our human comrades with weaker constitutions did not he seemed to be effected at a much faster rate and with more severity than the more robust humans to be infected (Washington for example), and faster than any of the Vulcans. T'kela is by no means the most physically resilient Vulcan I have ever met having been a Starfleet Security for over a decade including direct combat service during the Dominion War, but she spent more time in closer proximity to potential infection sources than Sakkath did and was one of the last of the infected to lose consciousness. Then there was the boarding party serving under Galtus the members of which began to show signs of infection as quickly if not more so, than any of our human casualties. What does all this mean? The evidence remains circumstantial and I as yet have no genuine proof that Sakkath is actually of Romulan and not Vulcan ancestry. If this is the case however what then? It would be my hope that this is nothing more than a repeat of the Simon Tarses Affair; that Lt. Cmmdr. Sakkath misrepresented his heritage when applying to Starfleet academy out of fear of discrimination for being descended of a people [with a government] historically antagonistic to the Federation. The more sinister possibility is that he is in fact an agent in deep cover for the Star Empire, perhaps the Tal'Shiar. I would prefer that such a complication not trouble us, but if I learn this possibility to be the truth I will do whatever is necessary to see that truth brought to light and dealt with as necessary.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
It occurred to me earlier today that I have been so focused on my classes of late I don't think I have really thought about WHY I am pursuing this course work to begin with, namely my desire to pursue a career as a Veterinarian. I am glad that I became aware of this and intend to try to find a way to regularly connect with this aspect of myself. Today I think I did that a bit when I joined my Wife at a yarn store in St. Paul. While Kristin looked for yarn and new crochet hooks I made an effort to familiarize myself with the different yarns from different kinds of sheep and alpaca (and their was some llama and mohair in there too). In a roundabout sort of way I think that's a good start.
Monday, September 13, 2010
We are faced with a species that perceives itself as superior to humanoid life in all capacities. The actions of the Neural Parasites (to be referred to hereafter in my records as NPs for the sake of expediency, until such time as a proper species name is designated) to date indicate, however, that they require, or at least desire, the use of supposedly inferior humanoid forms in order to utilize the technologies and increased size of these species. A host organism does not seem to be required for sustenance of the NPs, as they have exhibited the behavior [per records composed by Captain J.L. Picard, Commander Dr. B. Crusher, Commander W. Riker and Lt. Commander Data of the USS Enterprise-E] of ingesting worms or insectoid larvae of uncertain origin by means of nutrient consumption typical of the host organism. I speculate that they would be capable of ingesting and metabolizing this food source without the aid of a host organism if necessary. Observation of three NP controlled crewmen detained on the Spector [Lt. Commander Sakkath, Lt. Aliok & Ens. Jaina] indicated that the NPs can also sustain themselves by gradually extracting nutrients from a host life form as well. The physical strength and resiliency of the host organism seems to be increased as a result of this attachment. This enhancement of athletic capacity is a benefit of the relationship between host organism and NP that might lead me to characterize the NPs as symbiotic were it not for the fact that they dominate the brain functions and dictate the actions of the hosting organism. This control is such that the host is not aware of their body's actions while inhabited and retains no memory of actions undertaken while under the domination of the NPs after the NP is separated from the host. Likewise the NP controlling a host body generally displays a vague awareness of the persona of it's host and their role in society, but does not have access to the stored personal memories of that person. Of the five NPs identified on the Spector following an effective scan by the ship's sensors (N.B. suggest to Captain Robau that commendations be issued to T'Kela, Glas and Fletcher for this critical technical breakthrough) one inhabited a Vulcan host & another a Vulcan-human hybrid at the time of their identification and capture. A third had briefly inhabited T'Kela, a Vulcan, a few hours earlier. All four NPs abandoned their hosts when the hosts were intentionally incapacitated (the fifth NP was not in possession of a host at the time of its identification and capture) with anesthizine gas.
Based upon the aforementioned facts I hypothesize that the NPs selection of host was intended to maximize physical capabilities by combining the natural physical enhancement to the host form that results from infestation by the parasite with Vulcan physiology, inherently more physically able relative to that of most other Federation member species, wherever the strategic opportunity presented itself. I would further extrapolate that, despite their attested belief in their racial supremacy, they are not capable of effectively defending themselves or executing their goals without possession of a capable host form. The abandonment of those inhabited bodies that had been disabled is reminiscent of a tactical retreat. In terms of metaphor, the humanoid life of the Federation, perhaps the whole galaxy, is both territory for which the NPs are engaged in an extended battle for control, and tools to be exploited in waging their war of domination. They need not even infest every living entity in the Federation to affect dominance of our civilian and military organizations. Sufficient domination of key personnel of influence within the civilian government of the UFP, Starfleet, and other official and unofficial social and cultural organizations could have granted them victory before anybody capable of mounting a resistance could be alerted to their actions. Based on the engagement of the Spector, Hood and Monitor with the NPs I am optimistic that we have already begun a sufficient resistance to their efforts.
Past encounters have indicated a telepathic, possibly hive-mind like, collective link between the NPs at least those spawned in the same brood. This may extend to all those descended from the same NP Mother Creature regardless of generation. The records of the 2364 NP conflict indicate that when the NP Mother Creature inhabiting the body of Lt. Commander D. Remmick was slain life functions of all the spawn NPs were terminated. This may suggest that the standard NPs are themselves only extensions or tools of the NP Mother Creatures without sentience of their own and cannot exist autonomously of this central intelligence. It also suggests that the standard NPs do not share a telepathic or neurological connection with any NP descended from any other NP Mother Creature (though the possibility of non-collective telepathic communication between NPs from different broods cannot be excluded).
Efforts at interrogation of the NPs dominating Lt. Commander Sakkath, Lt. Aliok and Ens. Jaina while in holding (bearing in mind that all 3 may have been extensions of the same entity) indicated a duplicitous negotiating posture and an unwillingness to seek genuine compromise on the part of the NPs in finding a living situation amenable to both species. To clarify the latter point when it was suggested that the NPs abandon their host life forms and accept assistance in locating a protected world they could inhabit where their needs would be satisfied the offer was dismissed with an attitude that bordered on condescension. In hindsight such a suggestion bears comparison to the internment or forced relocation of a subjugated or repressed people to ghettos or reservations. I use the terms ghetto and reservation rather than suggesting a concentration camp because the intent of such an arrangement would be to provide the NPs a world under Federation protection where they would be essentially left alone to exist without dominating other sentient species while being the beneficiaries of defense from extra-planetary threats it remains one of the less morally repugnant resolutions to this conflict I've conceived so far.
A (less-ethical) and more concentration-camp like solution similar to the previous one would be to forcibly bond the NPs to a largely passive non-sentient species such as the Tribble, but this would only be feasible if a method could be developed to make it impossible for the NP to separate from its host after infestation (N.B. It may be worthwhile to consult T'Kela about the possibility of this type of genetic engineering?).
A more preferable solution would be if there were a willingness on the part of the NPs to allow the host organisms to enjoy a genuine sentient symbiosis like that between the Trill and Symbionts. The benefits to the host would then be enhanced physiological traits and participation in a collective consciousness (these benefits would be particularly useful for Starfleet military intelligence operations). In such a hypothetical scenario hosting an NP would be purely voluntary on the part of the host. Unfortunately it seems unlikely that this is possible. The attitude of the NPs to date has indicated that they do not deem their hosts as worthy of maintaining control or even awareness of their own bodies during infestation. Furthermore, even if the desire to be cooperative on this matter existed or were to develop in time there is no indication that the NPs are physically capable of interacting with a host in this manner.
Negotiation with the NPs to redirect their efforts at another culture, even one in conflict with the Federation, is NOT an acceptable solution. I will not be permit such a fate or abuse to befall another civilization for the dual reasons that to do so would make me implicitly guilty in the enslavement of that society, and there is no guarantee that once their work was complete the NPs would not simply utilize their newly subjugated hosts as weapons in a renewed effort to pursue domination of the Federation.All other alternative measures to address this conflict I have been able to devise thus far share the same despicable resolution: extermination of the NPs under the provision of Starfleet General Order 24. There is little I find more repellent than the concept of genocide and to make such a proposal is in contradiction of virtually all the principles of Starfleet, the Federation and the code of Ushaan I have sworn to uphold and defend as a Starfleet officer and Andorian warrior. That said, the intelligence gathered to date indicates that the intention of the NPs is nothing less than the total subjugation, domination and exploitation of the peoples of Federation Space [and perhaps the galaxy at large], that they are uncompromising in this goal and that they will utilize every means at their disposal to achieve victory. This is a wholly unacceptable outcome. I did not spend nearly two years of my youth in bloody guerrilla conflict on Iota-Eridani VI challenging enslavement, abuse and exploitation by the Romulan Star Empire only to permit a species that extends the methodologies of the Star Empire and Tal Shiar to their most extreme ends to subjugate the whole of the Federation. Given the uncompromising posture of the NPs and the danger they pose to the freedoms of peoples of all worlds in the galaxy it is my belief at present that they constitute an extreme, actively hostile, threat to the Federation and I reluctantly concede that, given these circumstances, the application of General Order 24 to the NPs is the only realistic means by which to address the threat they pose to other sentient life. May God, our ancestors and descendants forgive us such an undertaking.
I think I mentioned in my last entry that I had done some more creative writing recently and this seems a good time to talk about that. Basically I left work super-upset a couple of Fridays ago. When I got home my wife and our house-guest weren't really hungry, having eaten a late lunch, so I had a snack and cloistered myself in the bedroom where I began to expand on the gazetteer of the Fantasy setting I have conceived of. I had already come up with two fairly well developed nations: The Vyzalvian Empire, inspired by the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires with some Egyptian, Arabian and pan-Middle eastern flavor in the mix as well. Their rival to the north is the Confederation of the Martine Archipelago, a loose alliance of late-medieval to baroque European style island states that trade freely among themselves and ally for the sake of common defense. I already had short write-ups on these two nations finished, and had written the words, "The Raj of Bactristan," on a new line in my notebook in preparation to write about a different country. For Bactristan I took my inspiration from the pre-colonial Indian sub-continent, with a bit of Persia added to my recipe. A fuedal kingdom with natural fortifications in the form of mountain ranges to the north and densee jungle to the south separating small communities connected by an elaborate network of rivers that serve as highways. I didn't stop there.
About a month earlier I had thought it might be interesting to add country with a pre-colonial African flavor to the mix. This is something that isn't commonly explored in Fantasy literature (not in any sort of respectful way anyhow. The result was the Kingdom of Lumba and the Keewok Protectorate. This country is actually two peoples; the heavily agrarian and hierarchical Lumbana of the plains and the tribal Keewoka who survive by hunting, gathering and subsistence agriculture. The two cultures frequently skirmish with one-another over resources the other is covetous of, but they actually have much in common culturally and unite against aggressive actions by outsiders towards their lands.
After this I just kept going with new ideas. What was East of the Martine Archipelago and north of Bactristan and the Vyzalvian Empire? I found myself writing of a vast wilderness dotted with small Duchies and Principalities of limited power, ranging tremendously in terms of technological and social development. Forests frequented by highwaymen. Nomadic Herding peoples and raiders. And at the end of it all , far to the east where scrub land gives way to the fields of glass, the city of Shi He Sai. Traders from all other countries travel to Shi He Sai to exchange their wares for exotic goods and artifacts of unknown origin. Many suspect that Shi He Sai is the gateway city to a fantastic isolated empire, but none who have attempted to explore beyond the city have ever returned. I wrote a pretty extensive explanation of the truth, but why should I give everything away here?
Next up for my creative writing projects: A personal log for the character I play in the pen and paper RPG I participate in every other Saturday. Yes, I am that big a geek.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Outside of school things have been going fairly well. I think I may have mentioned this in an earlier entry but I volunteered myself for the extra homework of preparing a devotional for last night's 19 Day Feast (for the month of'Izzat) at the Baha'i center of Minneapolis. This was a little bit stressful (largely because of my procrastination) but did feel very rewarding. I hadn't realized it when I volunteered, but this year the Feast of 'Izzat fell on the same night as Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the New Year on the Jewish calendar. This has particular significance to me as a member of the Baha'i faith who is partially of Jewish descent. I made mention of this during the Devotional portion of Feast last night and also acknowledged that we are approaching the new year on the Islamic Calendar (Eid al-Fitr, the conclusion of Ramadan, is tomorrow). I found significance in the alignment of these events and it definitely influenced me in constructing the devotional, leading me to draw on passages from the Torah/Bible and the Qur'an as well as the Baha'i writings and prayers. I neglected to mention this to the assembly but it really felt very special to be there with that community on Rosh Hashanah. For much of my youth my Hebrew heritage was a liability that could place me in physical danger if certain members of the community at large were aware of it. Last night I was able to discuss that part of my background and identity in a spiritually nurturing environment where I feel a genuine appreciation for diversity, a respect for differences and a comfort that I never would have felt celebrating Rosh Hashanah ten or fifteen years ago.
That's all I have in me for now, but I want to try to put another entry or two together before the week is out. I've done some creative stuff recently that I definitely would like to reflect on. Until then . . .