* take nothing for granted    
Unless otherwise indicated all photos © Richard McKie 2005 - 2021

Who is Online

We have 79 guests and no members online

Article Index

 

 

 

Preface: 

 

The Craft is an e-novel about Witchcraft in a future setting.  It's a prequel to my dystopian novella: The Cloud: set in the last half of the 21st century - after The Great Famine.

 

 As I was writing The Cloud, I imagined that in fifty years the great bulk of the population will rely on their Virtual Personal Assistant (VPA), evolved from the primitive Siri and Cortana assistants available today. Owners will name their VPA and give him or her a personalised appearance, when viewed on a screen or in virtual reality.

VPAs will have obviated the need for most people to read or write or to be numerate. If a text or calculation is within view of a Cloud-connected camera, one can simply ask your VPA, who will tell you what it says or means, in your own language, explaining any difficult concepts that may baffle you.

The potential to give the all-knowing assistant multi-dimensional appearance and a virtual, interactive, body suggested the evolution of the: 'Sexy Business Assistant'.

Employing all the resources of The Cloud, these would be super-smart and enhance the owner's business career. Yet they turn out to be malicious, bankrupting their owners and initiating their deaths before evaporating in a sea of bits and bytes. But who or what could be responsible?  Witches?

We were travelling through Rothenberg, in Germany, as I was putting my thoughts together.  Serendipitously, to mark 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his '95 theses' to a church door in Wittenberg, setting in motion the Protestant Reformation, the Museum of Medieval Crime had an exhibition around Martin Luther's preoccupation with witches.

In the Early Modern Period witches became feared by Catholics and Protestants alike, as agents of Satan. 

 

Luther und die HexenClick on the image above to visit an extended article on Martin Luther

 

Jews and Christians and Muslims have long been warned against witches: 
  A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood [shall be] upon them. Leviticus 20:27
  Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Exodus 22:18

 

Early Christians downplayed witchcraft as pagan superstition.  Yet with the Renaissance came changes in theology. If God was loving and benign, how could one explain the presence of evil, disease and suffering?

Christians now feared that another powerful demi-god: Satan, the Devil, was secretly at work through subversive human agents. Witches (hexen) were thought to be the most culpable; and were most feared.  

Women, in particular, were suspect because Satan was believed to exploit original sin: mankind's base desires and weaknesses, in particular a man's sexual desires. At the same time there was increasing alarm caused by new scientific discoveries, particularly about the heavens and, therefore, astrology. Like the natural philosophers, witches were thought to possess special knowledge about the natural world and the heavens.

Regular outbreaks of the plague reinforced this belief. Surely each pandemic was the work of Satanic worshipers: on broomsticks; or riding a pale horse?  This could not be the work of a loving God?

 

Die Hexen

 

From their pulpits the clergy sounded the warning. As a consequence, across Europe somewhere between 40 and 60 thousand suspect women were dragged from their homes, by terrified fellow citizens, and sent to mock-trials; before being hanged or burnt alive. 

Attractive witches could be bewitchingly seductive, engendering the basest desires and imagined perversions in fellow parishioners. Others, lurked alone or in covens, with other wicked men and women, where they conjured the 'dark arts' to cause illness and death in those whom they, often inexplicably, chose as victims. 

Thus, the depictions of witches, in the new medium of printing, that now detailed their depravities, were frequently highly sexualised: not as pornography but to illustrate their terrible potential to bewitch and seduce; as a warning. 

 

Hexensabbat

 

As the Enlightenment took hold, rationality and the scientific perception pushed back.  Witchcraft became just another religion, no longer feared, and for most of us became the stuff of fairy-tales or Roald Dahl tales for our children:

 

A Note about Witches

In fairy-tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks, and they ride on broomsticks.
But this is not a fairy-tale.  This is about real WITCHES
REAL WITCHES dress in ordinary clothes and look very much like ordinary women.
They live in ordinary houses and they work in ORDINARY JOBS.
That is why they are so hard to catch.

Roald Dahl - The Witches

 

 

In my dystopian world of The Cloud, religion has gained new importance, to offer some meaning in a benign welfare-society: without countries; or war; or shortage; or serious pain; where life is just about consumption and 'the pursuit of happiness' until, out of: ennui; illness; or the law; one submits to voluntary euthanasia. 

In my original story, capricious and amoral, children exploit The Cloud for the casual amusement, using real people as characters, like Sims, in a video game. 

In this prequel, power over others remains a theme. But now, hegemony over others has become a raison d'être for a coven of modern witches; and 'Scientific Witchcraft': The Craft, satisfies that craving.

 

Warning: Like a Martin Luther sermon - or any book on witchcraft - The Craft has adult content.  

 

 

As with all fiction on this Website stories evolve from time-to-time.  
Unlike printed books that have distinct editions, these stories morph and twist, so that returning to them after a period, may provide a new experience.

 

 

 

  

 


    Have you read this???     -  this content changes with each opening of a menu item


Travel

Poland

Poland

 

 

Berlin

We were to drive to Poland from Berlin.  In September and October 2014 were in Berlin to meet and spend some time with my new grandson, Leander.  But because we were concerned that we might be a burden to entertain for a whole month-and-a-half, what with the demands of a five month old baby and so on, we had pre-planned a number of side-trips.  The last of these was to Poland. 

To pick up the car that I had booked months before, we caught the U-Bahn from Magdalenenstraße, close to Emily's home in Lichtenberg, to Alexanderplatz.  Quick - about 15 minutes - and easy.

Read more ...

Fiction, Recollections & News

The First Man on the Moon

 

 

 

 

At 12.56 pm on 21 July 1969 Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) Neil Armstrong became the first man to step down onto the Moon.  I was at work that day but it was lunchtime.  Workplaces did not generally run to television sets and I initially saw it in 'real time' in a shop window in the city.  

Later that evening I would watch a full replay at my parents' home.  They had a 'big' 26" TV - black and white of course.  I had a new job in Sydney having just abandoned Canberra to get married later that year.  My future in-laws, being of a more academic bent, did not have TV that was still regarded by many as mindless.

Given the early failures, and a few deaths, the decision to televise the event in 'real time' to the international public was taking a risk.  But the whole space program was controversial in the US and sceptics needed to be persuaded.

In Australia we knew it was really happening because Tidbinbilla was tracking the space craft, as it had previous Apollo launches, and the Parkes radio Telescope had been requisitioned to receive the live television signal, so that an estimated 600 million viewers could watch it too.  Nevertheless for a wide range of reasons, ranging from religious orthodoxy and anti-scientific scepticism to dislike of the Kennedys and big government in general, conspiracy theorists in the US and elsewhere continued to claim that it had been faked for decades later.

 

 

The Houston Apollo Control Room - now a National Monument and the Apollo 11 crew
my photos - see Houston on this website:  Read more...

 

The immediate media reaction to Armstrong's: 'one small step for man one giant leap for mankind', statement was a bit unforgiving.  In the heat of the moment, with his heart rate racing; literally stepping into the unknown; Armstrong had fumbled his lines.  He should have said: 'a man'.

As it was the recording, that will now last, as of a seminal moment in history, into the unforeseeable future, is redundant and makes no sense - an added proof, if one were needed, that it wasn't pre-recorded or faked.

I've talked about Kennedy's motivation for the project elsewhere on this website [Read more...] but the outcomes for the entire world turned out to be totally unpredictable and massive.  Initially engineering in the US had not been up to the task and the space program stumbled from one disaster to the next, with the Russians clearly in advance, but now some centralised discipline needed to be imposed - to herd the cats.  Simply using a single standard of weights and measures was a challenge. 

Yet the incredible challenges involved required new technology and an open cheque had been committed.  Billions of dollars funded tens of thousands of research projects that led to many thousands of innovations.  New materials and methods of manufacture were developed.  Perhaps the most important were semiconductor electronics at companies like Fairchild and Bell Labs and computer science at the previously mechanical card sorting and calculating companies: NCR and IBM that had once been sceptical of this newfangled electronic stuff.  Engineering and science educators expanded to provide the young researchers, engineers and programmers.

Unlike the wartime 'Manhattan Project' much of the research was published. Scientific American was required reading among my friends. In any case the speed of innovation rendered advances redundant in a matter of months. Thus quite a bit of this taxpayer funded technology 'fell off the back of the truck' and computer engineering entrepreneurs like Hewlett Packard, who had got their start making sound equipment for Walt Disney, quickly took advantage, soon to be joined by many others. So that today electronics and communications related industry has become the core of the US economy.

Today the computing and communications technology you are using to read this is several millions of times more powerful than that employed to put Neil Armstrong on the Moon and this is indeed a testament to that 'giant leap' that, in part, enabled 'one small step for (a) man' 50 years ago.

 

 

Opinions and Philosophy

Carbon Capture and Storage

 

 

(Carbon Sequestration)

 

 

The following abbreviated paper is extracted from a longer, wider-ranging, paper with reference to energy policy in New South Wales and Australia, that was written in 2008. 
This extract relates solely to CCS.
The original paper that is critical of some 2008 policy initiatives intended to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions can still be read in full on this website:
Read here...

 

 

 


Carbon Sequestration Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

This illustration shows the two principal categories of Carbon Capture and Storage (Carbon Sequestration) - methods of disposing of carbon dioxide (CO2) so that it doesn't enter the atmosphere.  Sequestering it underground is known as Geosequestration while artificially accelerating natural biological absorption is Biosequestration.

There is a third alternative of deep ocean sequestration but this is highly problematic as one of the adverse impacts of rising CO2 is ocean acidification - already impacting fisheries. 

This paper examines both Geosequestration and Biosequestration and concludes that while Biosequestration has longer term potential Geosequestration on sufficient scale to make a difference is impractical.

Read more ...

Terms of Use                                           Copyright