Saturday, September 18, 2010


And another week of Fall semester, 2010 gone by for this student of chemistry and medical terminology. This weeks chem lab had us working individually to produce zinc iodide and calculate the empirical formula of the molecular compound (which I am fairly certain is a salt). Equipped with my own lab coat and goggles (I am so a nerd) I set about combining solid zinc (Zn) granules with iodine granules (I2) granules, then dissolved the latter in methanol (non-reactive with either substance) and heated the mixture to affect the reaction of zinc and iodine ions. And then I spent the rest of the week to date with this classic moment from the Simpsons floating around in my brain. Up next a lab titled, "Solution Conductives and Titrations," (I have yet to read the lab report but I suspect this may involve mixing a solution with a strong ionic charge), and then my first exam of the Semester (yikes!).

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

Chief of Security's Log [I]

The ongoing situation with the Neural Parasites [originally encountered by the Federation and Starfleet C.A. 2364] provides a particularly challenging ethical dilemma.

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.

Let's See How Coherent This Turns Out

As I write this I've been ill and fairly out of it for a few days now. However I promised myself I would write another entry as soon as possible, and since I am having trouble maintaining my focus on studying chemistry during my break at work now seems as good a time as any.

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

So Busy!

It's been over a week since I've drafted an entry and man what a week and change it's been. I've been keeping pretty busy with homework for one. My classes remain interesting but they definitely are keeping me occupied. Last Tuesday was my first lab section in over a decade, and I think it went pretty well. It was a simple temperature monitoring exercise (measure temperature trends of hot water, add ice, melt, measure temperature trends of ice cooled water) and I believe I understand the concepts about thermodynamics/energy transfer it was intended to demonstrate quite well. For the most part the material in the text and video lectures for Chemistry has been a slightly more in depth review of material I read about over the summer in Kristin's Intro Chemistry text book. Ions, different types of substances (Compounds, mixtures, diatomic elements, etc.), chemical bonding processes, molar measurements, composition of an atom, calculated atomic mass, balancing empirical formulas, isotopes. It's interesting to me, which I guess is a good thing and a positive indicator that I am preceding in the right direction in my studies and career aspirations. To put it concisely: science is awesome. Medical terminology has been okay too, though not as exciting. It is definitely living up to its status as a one credit course so far, but that is not to say I am not learning material there. It's just so straightforward compared to what I'm used to in my studies; there aren't really higher concepts to familiarize myself with (well basic word construction concepts, but that's nothing new to me), it's just data memorization. Once that's down it's pretty easy to steamroll my quizzes.

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 . . .