Stories from a Dublin Scientist

Month: May, 2015

You are what you eat

You are what you eat.

That is what they say.

That is why I eat meat, beef especially.

And why I’ll not consider vegetarianism.

I can just imagine it.

A whole body made of vegetables

It is simply unnatural.

Vortumnus-(Vertumno) by Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Written for the Grammar Ghoul Press Shapeshifter 13 challenge number 3.

Picture it and Write: Safety First

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s picture it and write for Ermilia’s blog here. Once again the picture is not mine, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, Enjoy.

Safety First

Marcus’ Hi-Viz jacket chafed at the top of his neck. He wanted to take it off but knew that the dressing down he would get from Phil, his boss, would not be worth it. “Safety is the most important part of our job.” the middle aged farmer would say to whomever would listen, “You think that farming is a hum-drum activity but if you knew the number of people who have had a sticky end working the land you would have another think coming.”

Phil’s zeal for workplace safety was, in reality, not something to dismiss off hand. Still it grated somewhat. It meant you had to consider every step you made since Phil was ultimately watching you and was liable to call you out if he saw anything potentially dangerous. Add to that his ‘Four strikes and you’re out’ rule and Marcus found himself in a working environment almost as toxic as the conditions Phil was trying to ameliorate.

Marcus was out in the south feedlot, replacing old fencing when there was  a general summoning over the radio. “Everyone over to silo five. Quick as you can.” Phil sounded irate. Well; more irate than usual.

Marcus couldn’t just leave what he was doing so he was a good half an hour before reaching the small group of people gathered around the tall metal silo. Phil glowered at him but Marcus held his head high. Phil new what he was up to and couldn’t say a word about leaving it. This seemed to irk the manager even more.

“The reason I have called you all here.” Phil began emphasizing the ‘all’ when looking that Marcus, “Is to discuss the gross error that Julio has made when filling this silo.” Marcus and everyone else looked pityingly at the young immigrant worker who had earned their manager’s wrath this time “Julio could you come over please?”

Nervously, Julio stepped forward. Phil grabbed him by the shoulder and pointed at the silo. “We had a delivery this morning did we not Julio?”

The young man nodded “Sí Señor. Yes.”

“Enough to fill the silo by a third, was it not?” Phil had all the amiability of a hungry shark, Julio scuffed the dirt with his boot. “Sí”

“So that means that two thirds is empty does it not?”

“Sí! It does.”

“Wrong!” Phil almost shouted causing the young man to jump, “It is not empty. Because when you get grain being shifted you get???”

Julio looked confused, saying nothing. Phil’s face got darker and darker.

Marcus decided to give Julio a break “You get dust.”

Phil glowered at Marcus even more darkly than before but he continued talking “Yes! You get dust, you get grain dust, that floats in the silo for hours. And if you can answer directly.” Another sharp look at Marcus “What does that mean?”

Julio stuttered “I, I don’t know Señor.”

“Well since you don’t know the answers. Marcus?”

“It means an explosion hazard.” Marcus made his voice as neutral as he could. “If a spark gets in.”

“If a spark gets in.” Phil repeated “Very good. That is why we??” He gestured up the long winding stairs along the side of the Silo.”

Julio finally caught the import of what Phil was saying “We turn on the spark suppressor.”

Phil look into the sky, as if in to say ‘finally’ and the out loud “Yes we do. Which you failed to do this morning. And which you still haven’t done.”

Julio blurted out “I shall do it now Señor!”

“Yes you shall!” Phil snapped back “And you shall consider this the first strike on your record.”

Julio nodded and ran to the silo. The clanging of his boots on the metal stairs made it hard for the others to hear Phil shout out his latest lecture. “You may think that I am too strict or that these rules are for fun. But you are mistaken. This are all for your safety and for the safety of those around you. Julio’s mistake left this silo a powderkeg just waiting to go off. It was only a miracle that….”

Julio must have made it to the top by then and must have pressed the suppressor but something went wrong. The next thing anyone knew was a deafening roar followed by an avalanche of high velocity grains flowing at them. Most of the men were knocked out instantly but one or two would later claim that they saw the silo climb slowly into the sky, flame and grain pouring out of the bottom, and a very surprised Julio on top.  

They found the Silo a half-mile away, splattered across a third of a feedlot, as was Julio. The rest of the workers all got away with minor injuries, from a broken bone or two to rough grain abrasions. All except for Phil, who was just a little too close to the bottom of the silo.

Marcus over from Phil. They all say that he was a nicer, friendlier man to work for. But that he was still a stickler for safety, at least as cautious, if not worse than his predecessor. And he would often tell this story, to anyone new, or just anyone who would care to listen, so that they would know, like he did, why you should put safety first. 


Picture it and Write: Purpose

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s Picture it and Write for Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway Enjoy.


What is a purpose? Does it define you? Does it drive your existence? Perhaps for some it does. Perhaps for some it lurks at the bottom of the mind, quietly influencing how things work.

Or maybe it is a hindrance, mental chains holding you fast in a single direction, the way you would never wish to go.

They say that the purpose of apples is to be eaten. That this is the way the seeds are spread far and wide and how the mother tree, to which the apple ultimately defers, propagates itself.

But you can also say that the ultimate purpose of a woman is to reproduce. That does not mean that squeezing a rugby ball sized mini-me out of the most intimate part of your anatomy is in the least bit pleasant. Some religions refer to it as a curse, and indeed it can seem that way for some, cursed by the drives that lead to such pain.

But; they also say, that it is ultimately worth it. That, in the end, fulfilling ones purpose ends with a feeling of joy and contentment.

But pain lingers. How worth it can it all be. That there’ll be scars, emotional, and physical. If there is a purpose, what use is it if the purpose, by design gives such pain.

I think of the apple being eaten so that seeds may have a chance and I wonder if that apple, ever thinks about what has happened to it. If it could have gotten away without being eaten.

If, for want of a better word, there was a better way.


Rainbow Moon

People came in droves from the count centers, YES resounding in their ears, they looked into the sky. A rainbow above the crescent moon.  Equality wins.

Written for Grammar Ghoul Press Shapeshifting 13 #2

Doctor Joe: Agony Uncle 26

Doctor Joe: Agony Uncle, Flashes of Brilliance*.

Hey Doctor Joe,

So I have this huge crush on my best friend’s sister, I wrote her poems in different languages. When I told him that I like her he smiled at me (what does that mean?).Then he started telling me that I should stay away from her and never speak to her again. I was sad(of course), so he started to comfort me by telling jokes. What is he trying to say? Is he trying to say that I should ask her out or stay away from her? Please help me.

I’m desperate.

P.S. I’m thirteen and in middle school


Dear I’m Desperate.

Let me first of all say that I personally cannot remember that much from before my twentieth birthday, possibly because I was hungover but I can’t be too sure from such a remove, so what advice I shall provide will be solely from my adult experience. Take from it what you will.

Sisters are in my experience like having a first edition Star Wars figurine. You’re not going to play with it and you’re sure as hell not going to allow anybody else to play with it. Best friend or not, sisters are off limits, inviolate and dangerous to boot. That you have not just suffered a bout of amateur dentistry is a sign indeed of how much of a friend you have there as are the jokes to let you down gently. But still, the rule stands. You my friend, are playing with fire.

What you haven’t told me however is how the sister has reacted herself to all this. You tell me you have a crush on her, you tell me you write her love poetry (and multilingual to boot, a good scheme if it works), but you do not tell me if she has said anything to you. Has she talked to you? Has she given you the time of day? Does she hide in bushes as you approach? All of these matter because, in a free world anyway, it is what the lady decides that counts. He brother can rant and rave, even threaten violence, but if the girl truly wants to see you, nothing will get in the way of that and if she is happy with you, he will and must back down. To do otherwise will invoke the wrath of a teenage girl, I know battles hardened soldiers who quake at that possibility.

If it is unrequited however, she is well within her rights to call in her brother and hell or high water you are going straight for a beating, deservedly so. She may be too polite to tell you to get lost but rest assured there are ways she can let you know. Death threats for example.

It is not going to be easy Mr Desperate, anything worth it seldom is. Your friend may say “stay away” but that is unlikely to mean you will never see her again. If you still go to his house, you are likely to run into her every now and again. Try and strike up conversation (no more poetry for the time being, there is a time and a place for that) and gauge her reaction. If there is nothing, leave it at that and move on, there are plenty of fish in the sea. If she seems interested (not just polite, there is a difference), proceed with caution.

You worry about your friend and truly if you do this your friendship may well be at risk. If the sister is happy he may be forced for accept it but he may never truly like it. I personally wouldn’t care, I would sell my own grandmother for a shot at the perfect woman (and have, miss you granny!). But what to risk and how far to go are choices we all must make in this game of life.

In truth; each situation is different and only you are truly capable of judging it.

All the best and good luck,

Doctor Joe

*Editors note: Amongst hours of dull tedium.

To read more from doctor Joe or to ask a question click here.

Picture it and Write: Changed

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s Picture it and Write by Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine I only use it for inspiration. Anyway enjoy.


“So you want to go into Anthropology do you?” Professor McKenna asked me, “Do you understand, I mean truly understand what you would be getting yourself into?”

“I know it will be hard work.” I said, slightly affronted, “I know the amount of study and hard days in the field that it will entail. I’m not scared of it.”

The professor chuckled “You think this is just about hard work. Anything you do that is worthwhile is hard. What I am talking is about what anthropology specifically does to you.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“To be an anthropologist, to be a good one, you need to get to know them, to really get to know them, to understand them, you almost have to be like them.” he looked out the window of his office for a second. “Have you read about my first project, my work in Central Africa.”

I nodded. “Your work on the n’Gaele tribe was seminal. A true masterpiece.” I could feel myself blush “It is why I want to work with you.”

He grunted, “Don’t be so certain about that. There is a lot I left out about what happened there, a lot that didn’t make it into the book.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Imagine yourself dropped in the middle of nowhere, deep in the rainforest, in an area filled with natives that have one of the most viscous reputations on the whole continent, natives who even if they don’t kill you on sight are liable to ignore you and evade you for all your time there.”

“That you managed to get anything is truly remarkable. A testament to your skill.”

“Are you sure about that. I wasn’t completely blind. I had a smattering of the n’Gaele language and a general idea about their customs.” his eyes darkened a shade. “Including their initiation rite.”

I nodded. “Yes! It was a gruesome business. That they killed their neighbours so readily.”

“Ha! Is it so hard to fathom? They live a hard life. Competition can mean death. To reduce your neighbours gives a greater chance of life for your tribe. When it is your future or your morals, what is liable to fold first?”

“But they don’t label it as a simple survival matter. You yourself wrote that there is a religious dimensions about it. That is why they use the quartzite knife instead of regular flint blades.”

“That they hewn themselves from river stones. I know. I know.” he waved his hand dismissively “Just because we in the west have a marriage ceremony does not mean that in the end it is not just all about fucking, is it not? The religious aspect is a justification but ultimately it is about showing yourself willing to do what needs to be done for the tribe, to show you hold its survival above all else. Only then can you be trusted, let in.”

“I see.”

“Do you really? Do you really get where I am going with this? Tell me.” He asked, “Did you perhaps notice the dedication at the beginning of my book?”

I strained my memory. “No.” I said.

“It was to U’Toro, my guide. It says Without you, I will not have gotten anywhere.

“Was he a big help?”

“Incalculable. He was of the Zoma tribe you see. Relative newcomers to the region, and something of an arch-nemesis of the n’Gaele.”

“But if he was an enemy. Why did you….” I stopped speaking, shock moving over my face.

Professor McKenna nodded grimly. He opened a drawer in his desk and took something out. It was a knife in a pigskin sheath. He removed the knife, it was a ghostly white.

“Quartzite?” I asked.

He nodded again “Made it myself.”

He didn’t say anything else. He didn’t need to. He just carefully put the knife back in its sheath while the import of the words that past between us gradually sunk in.

Hard work I knew I could deal with. You don’t even make it this far without a lot of blood sweat and tears. But would I be willing to go that far? Or even half as far?

I did not know.



Blowing Whistle

It was a dark night, orange light scattered by the mist pouring around the bare trees of the empty park. Philip huddled within his coat as he walked through the unfamiliar landscape, cursing his editor at every step. He was here to meet a contact, someone who had left a message earlier that evening promising a major new story.

Coming underneath the trees, Philip could make out a figure on one of the benches.  He, Philip thought it was a He, was hard to see in the dark, but looked completely covered up, all the way down to a wide-brimmed hat hiding his face. “Are you Freddy?” the figure nodded in the affirmative and then shuffled over to let Philip sit beside him. ‘Freddy’, Philip had been told it was a pseudonym, had a strange way of moving, a bit more fluid than normal. “We got your message and my editor sent me here.” Philip started “It is a cold night and I could be at home. This had better be good.”

It will be. Very good. The informant said. It was a whiney electronic voice. like something from a synthesiser. “What the hell is that?”  Philip got up off his seat. “What’s wrong with your voice?”

It is a voice box The informant said I lost my voice, I have cancer. “I’m sorry to hear that.” Philip said, going to sit back down. The informant made what looked a bit like a shrug in all is coverings, Thank you. I will die soon, this is why I decided to go blowing whistle now before it is too late.

“You mean whistleblowing?” Philip clarified. The informant nodded slightly.

“Yes!” Philip got down to business. “Your message mentioned the new pesticide from Glock Chemicals. What can you tell me?”

That they are very bad. Somehow; there was emphasis in the neutral tones of the voice box. RoachAway is a poison. Bad for people. Bad for air. Bad for everyone.

“These are strong words.” Philip wanted more than just that. “Do you have any proof?”

I have proof here. There was a rustle on the bench between them when Philip looked down there was a fat file full of documents. Philip was a little confused, he was certain he did not see the informant’s arm move but ignored that obviously wrong impression and took up the file. He took out a penlight that he carried with him for just such occasions and leafed through the sheets of paper. There was piles of evidence there, toxicology reports on heightened cancer risks to users, waste management reports on dumping material into rivers, printed emails between executives detailing ways to pay as little compensation as possible. If true, it would blow Glock Chemicals wide open.

Philip looked up from the file and turned to the informant. He had turned away, his hat shielding his face from the reflected light of the pen. Even under that weak light, Philip could see that the informant was not still, as if he was shaking. “We’ll have to do some checking but if they are real I can see why you wanted it to get out.

RoachAway is bad. The electronic voice again held force. It should not be used. People think it is good but it really is bad.

“If that is so.” Philip said “Then you have done more than your fair share to rid the world of it.” He made to rise, the file and light still in his hands, but he made a miscalculation and stumbled to his side, the file knocking the hat off the informant. Philip was about to apologise then went suddenly silent.

Instead of a head, going down into the coat was hundreds and hundreds of cockroaches. Under the light of the pen he could see a speaker and tablet embedded in the mass of insects.

Philip looked at the cockroaches, the cockroaches looked at Philip. The cat was out of the bag. 

Written for Grammar Ghoul Press mutant 750 number 33

Picture it and write: Marbles

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s Picture it and Write for Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, Enjoy.


“Where are they? Where are they?” the old man muttered as he wandered to and fro on the sand of the beach. “Are you alright?” I asked, I assumed that he had lost his glasses or wallet. He rubbed his forehead worryingly  “I..I don’t know. I know that they are gone, but I don’t know where. I have to find them.”

Needless to say, this was not very enlightening. “Okay! Okay!” I tried to placate him. “I’ll try to help you.”

I bent over and started combing over the sand looking for whatever it was. I didn’t take long before I found something. It was a round glass object. Inside was a scene of a sunset. It looked beautiful. I called over to the old man. “Here! I found something.”

He scrabbled over and eagerly snapped up the sphere in his hands. His muddled face lost some of its confusion. “Ah! I remember it now. I can remember the long summer days when I was a child. The sun used to spend what seemed like hours setting and I would sit with little Lucy watching it. I never wanted it to end.”

I looked in the area in greater detail Sure enough, there was another two, one with a smiling infant and another with a room filled with people. Upon taking them up into his hands he remembered his “little baby Jules” and “my public speaking debut, the most terrifying moment of my life”.

By then I wasn’t so concerned. I understood what was going on; This man had simply lost his marbles. I could see the sparkle off them in the sand like stars speckled across the sky. It would be relatively  easy to gather them up again for him.



Plan of action

What we have here is an enigma gentlemen. Our target has gone and fallen off the face of the Earth. We know that he wants to go to the other side but we also know that he hasn’t got to them yet since the world has not blown up yet. So there is still time.
Whatever scruples you have, dispose of them.
We have to get him.


Written for Grammar Ghoul Chimera 66 #17

Playing With the Rain

Rain suddenly started plummeting around me as I walked down the Main Street. I jumped quickly under an awning but I was already soaked through.

I was cold, wet through and not sure where I could go when I heard the noise of people from an open door across the street.

It looked like a bar, there was a lyre and guitar shaped piece of metal on the wall. It looked like the best place that I could go to warm up. I ran as quick as I could across the street, getting even wetter than I had before, and went in through the door.

Inside it was thankfully warm with an open fire on one side and a stage on the other. I headed straight to the bar to order a hot whiskey and took an empty chair as close to the fire as I could get. With luck, I aimed to dry myself within an hour.

As I let the heat of the flames soak into me there was some commotion as a man with a drum kit came onto the stage and set his equipment up. He then started to brush the skins of the drum with a light stick. Ratatatataata. It sounded familiar to me, I couldn’t quite place it.

There was a flash from behind us, I thought it was someone taking a photograph of the performance. Suddenly he changed tempo, hitting a low note, as if on cue, there was a deep rumble from outside, the sound of thunder. When he then went back to brushing the skins I finally realized, he was playing along to the the rain.

It was remarkable. The drummer kept tempo with the pitter-patter of rain drops coming in from outside, punctuating it with deeper resonances when there was the sound of thunder.

He kept it going for so long that by the time my clothes were bone-dry, I didn’t notice, by then, I was transfixed by the sound of a true artist communing with the sounds of the outside world. It was the first time I was ever glad to have been rained on.


Image from WikiCommons taken by Vysotsky and used under the Creative Commons Agreement


Written for the Light and Shade challenge for Wednesday May the Sixth