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Author Topic: EP456: To Waste  (Read 11393 times)

eytanz

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on: July 28, 2014, 11:49:27 AM
EP456: To Waste

By Luke Pebler

Read by Joshua Price

This story has not been previously published
---

When I wake, it is not yet hot.  But it will be soon.

I am already thirsty.

I get up from the cot and go to the machine.  I put my dick into the intake cup, and when my pee flows into the machine it clicks on automatically.  I stretch and reach out to snag my camera by its strap.  I review the shots I took yesterday while I finish going.  The machine whirs while it does its work.  I wait, still looking at photos.

When the machine beeps, it has produced almost eight ounces of clean warm water.  I sip some of it, just enough to wet my mouth, and put the rest into a second machine.

When the second machine beeps, it has produced five ounces of hot coffee.

I crouch in the corner of the room, where the rising sun cannot find me.  It is still cool here.  I inhale deeply, wanting not even the steam of the coffee to go to waste.  I sip.

When I look up, the boy is in the doorway, watching.  I do not know how long he’s been there.

“He wants you,” the boy says.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



Scott Spath

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Reply #1 on: July 28, 2014, 06:55:42 PM
When I started this episode, I was so excited to hear Mur's voice again! So glad to have her back!

I thought the story itself was a great illustration of the serious repression that a journalist can face when trying to expose the truths that they see. On one hand, he feels he has a duty to report the truth about the warlord rather than showing the people that the warlord is merciful. On the other hand, he would like to live to see tomorrow.

Even if journalists aren't frequently put to death in our modern society, this story definitely remineded me of the Al Jazeera journalists who were recently jailed in Egypt for attempting to report stories unfavorable to the Egyptian regime. It also made me think of numerous ag-gag regulations being introduced and passed in the United States seeking to impose terrorism charges on individuals simply for photographing and exposing the horrors which take place in animal agriculture. It is not difficult to understand why a journalist may skew the story in favor of those in power in order to keep their own freedom or life.

I like the fact that the story ends without the photographer definitively deciding that he is going to expose the truth about the warlord. I assume that this is because he feels he will be safer if he doesn't draw any further attention to himself after disappearing. Even away from the warlord and his men, there is no safety in exposing the truth. And considering that he's spent some time showing the warlord as merciful, it is unclear whether the general populace would believe the truthful photographs anyway, so it would be a difficult call whether publishing them would even amount to anything other than a death sentence for the photographer.



Gamercow

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Reply #2 on: July 29, 2014, 07:47:32 PM
Very happy to have Mur back in the saddle.  Curious as to the hows and whys, but it really doesn't matter. 

I think the story ended ambiguously because he honestly didn't know if he was going to publish the photos or not.  I did love the automatic satellite uplink thing, that was cool.  Is that real?  Are there cameras with this feature?  Seems like it would be a huge boon to field photogs.  That said, high quality photographs are BIG.  Pushing that bowling ball through the coffee stirrer straw of satellite bandwidth would be difficult.

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SpareInch

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Reply #3 on: July 30, 2014, 12:31:31 PM
What caught my attention in this story was the High Tech field dressing stuff. You just bung it onto just about any wound, and it rebuilds your body.

Could it possibly be that the ease with which wounded men can be patched up has helped to perpetuate this civil war?

And why hasn't The Journalist's supply of coffee beans been impounded by The Warlord?

If it was me, I'd nick 'em! ;D

It was interesting the way The Warlord has located his fiefdom in a location where the people are utterly dependent on him though. I couldn't work out if that was to make it harder for the government to find and attack him, or if it was to control his own subjects. Maybe a bit of both. I can really see a real bandit warlord choosing to base himself somewhere like that. A closed and isolated community where he can quite literally control everything and everyone.

It fits.

And speaking of Bandit Warlords... I'm going to join The Sparticus Choir and say it's great to hear Murs voice on the show again.

Fresh slush - Shot this morning in the Vale of COW


Dem

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Reply #4 on: July 30, 2014, 12:40:32 PM
What intrigued me was the notion that living within your means curtails ambition in the sense that there is no drive to create a better scale of resource. In this context, waste - like obesity in some cultures - is a sign of wealth although the reason for it here is theft and not invention. The parallels with modern culture are striking but I wonder if we're on the turn, moving from the throwaway society through recycling and frugality to valuing conservation?

Science is what you do when the funding panel thinks you know what you're doing. Fiction is the same only without the funding.


bounceswoosh

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Reply #5 on: July 30, 2014, 01:43:02 PM
Recycling is to waste as confession is to sin in the Catholic world. (Reduce, reuse, recycle)

I live in Boulder, Co, epicenter of supposed liberal sensitivity - and the consumer culture is Alive and well.



Dem

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Reply #6 on: July 30, 2014, 03:00:06 PM
Recycling is to waste as confession is to sin in the Catholic world. (Reduce, reuse, recycle)

I live in Boulder, Co, epicenter of supposed liberal sensitivity - and the consumer culture is Alive and well.

That'll be a no then, huh? :(

Science is what you do when the funding panel thinks you know what you're doing. Fiction is the same only without the funding.


bounceswoosh

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Reply #7 on: July 30, 2014, 04:27:52 PM
Not in my cynical experience, unfortunately.



InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #8 on: July 30, 2014, 11:28:14 PM
First of all, great to hear you again, Muir. Second, you are not old!!! Trust me on that. Just because you are surrounded by people who are younger doesn't make you old.

Once, on a bus, I encountered an old classmate (seven years my junior) who was complaining about getting old (she was the ancient age of 21), when a musical African accent behind us said "Do not be concerned about getting older. That is why we are alive!"

Now, as for the story, first of all ICK!!! for the first scene of a child with a mangled leg writhing on the ground!!!

But what really interested me, far beyond questions of journalistic ethics, is the central idea that to be civilized is to waste.

Certainly you don't have to go any farther than Palm Springs or Vegas to see titanic waste. Plus there's the idea of the potlatch, but that might be a misinterpretation.

But I don't think that's really what civilization is about, I think that's more a display of power. And given that the Warload (cleverly decontextualized) seems to have been from a part of the world pissed on by the "First World", that's an understandable view. But I don't agree. Civilization really did come about to share - and greatly increase - resources, which also allows trade for the surplus. But you have to have an awful lot of surplus - and probably a callous disregard for the less fortunate - to waste resources on a massive scale. Or even a noticeable one.



SpareInch

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Reply #9 on: July 31, 2014, 06:49:38 AM
First of all, great to hear you again, Muir. Second, you are not old!!! Trust me on that. Just because you are surrounded by people who are younger doesn't make you old.


Mur can't be getting old! I think she's only a few months wiser than I am, and in a few weeks I'll be reaching my 22nd 19th Birthday.

As for waste... When I was young - Er... Young-er that is - milk came in glass bottles. When you used up all the milk, you rinsed out the bottle and sent it back to the dairy to be filled up with milk again.

Now milk comes in a carton, and when it's empty, you have to throw it in a landfill. At least, where I live, the recyclable waste collection won't take it.

Is it any wonder people waste things like food packaging under those circumstances?

And the question of food stockpiles is one that keeps cropping up in conversations here in the UK, even if it isn't considered newsworthy these days.

Sure, you need a surplus to get you through the lean times. But sometimes, that surplus is just ridiculous!

Given the hoarding and waste of the first world, I suppose The Warlord's comment that Civilisation is about waste might seem like a reasonable hypothesis, except that, like so many third world leaders, having so exactly identified one of the flaws of our civilisation, he then sets out to specifically adopt that one trait. Hoarding and wasting.

Fresh slush - Shot this morning in the Vale of COW


InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #10 on: July 31, 2014, 03:17:55 PM

As for waste... When I was young - Er... Young-er that is - milk came in glass bottles. When you used up all the milk, you rinsed out the bottle and sent it back to the dairy to be filled up with milk again.

Now milk comes in a carton, and when it's empty, you have to throw it in a landfill. At least, where I live, the recyclable waste collection won't take it.


See, I'm not sure this is the sort of "waste" the author intends (though I suppose you could make an argument for it). That sort of thing was probably an economic decision on the part of the dairy industry. It was probably cheaper to go with cartons over bottles, even when you factor in the recyclability of bottles.

No, I see "waste" in this case not as "garbage" but "using valuable resources in a somewhat frivolous way". Palm Springs and Las Vegas have massive fountains… in the middle of a blistering desert. And in the midst of a huge drought.

I think a good Classical example would be the Colossus of Rhodes. Rhodes was so well-off that it could "waste" bronze - some of it captured weapons - on a huge statue, rather than making more weapons. It had all the weapons it needed.



bounceswoosh

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Reply #11 on: July 31, 2014, 07:20:15 PM
Milk cartons ARE "using valuable resources in a frivolous way."

There are a number of milk delivery services in our area. Weekly milk in glass bottles which we then set out to be swapped with filled ones.



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #12 on: July 31, 2014, 08:49:44 PM
Did anybody else notice the irony of how The Warlord was preaching how to be civilized is to waste (and he clearly didn't like that), but the very next moment his goons were wasting water?
To be civilized is to waste. Sure, I can get behind that. The affluent First World Person can throw away resources on buying three times as much food as he actually needs, a TV set with a screen the size of a one person tent and more cars than people with driver's licenses in his household. But here you are, Mister Warlord, wasting the most precious commodity in existence. And it's not affluence, you're playing with people's lives. So I suggest you climb down from that high horse you're on, it seems to be a bit thirsty.

(Sorry for the rant, hypocrisy pushes my buttons).

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InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #13 on: July 31, 2014, 09:00:51 PM
Milk cartons ARE "using valuable resources in a frivolous way."

There are a number of milk delivery services in our area. Weekly milk in glass bottles which we then set out to be swapped with filled ones.

Well… yes and no.
I'm not going to argue that non-resusabe cartons aren't a waste when compared to bottles; clearly they are. But I'm pretty certain that someone in the dairy corporation decided that bottles were more expense (by whatever calculus they used). So to the company, it's not a "waste" in the bottom line.

Waste in this sense would be, instead of mass produced glass bottles, the dairy went with hand-cut crystal. That would be extravagant. And wasteful. But, hey, if there are people in the world vain enough to pay for it…..

(and I have heard that milk delivery is making a comeback in some places).



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #14 on: August 01, 2014, 06:44:52 AM
Milk cartons ARE "using valuable resources in a frivolous way."

There are a number of milk delivery services in our area. Weekly milk in glass bottles which we then set out to be swapped with filled ones.

Well… yes and no.
I'm not going to argue that non-resusabe cartons aren't a waste when compared to bottles; clearly they are. But I'm pretty certain that someone in the dairy corporation decided that bottles were more expense (by whatever calculus they used). So to the company, it's not a "waste" in the bottom line.

It has to do with production costs. It's much much cheaper to buy outsourced mass produced cartons from somewhere else (often another country) than to wash and sterilize all those glass bottles.
Also, milk in a carton lasts longer. Glass transmits heat very well, so a glass bottle of milk left out of the fridge would spoil faster than a carton.

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SpareInch

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Reply #15 on: August 01, 2014, 08:35:56 AM
I was just trying to say that all waste seems to be part of the same culture of convenience. Here in the UK, most families either have two working parents, or else they are single parents, so the doorstep delivery with glass bottles, or even cartons, just isn't practical, and I suppose from the supermarkets POV they sell more if they use paper packaging because it's cheaper. With the bottle return system, you don't actually pay for the bottle.

And I have never been within a thousand miles of Las Vegas, so I have no idea what goes on there. Water is, thankfully, still abundant here. Maybe there's a business opportunity there LOL

Getting back onto topic though, I think it was telling that while The Warlord was condemning The West for waste and wasting extravagantly himself, the western jour no had his water filter machine so he could drink his own pee.

The hypocrisies and contradictions in this story do seem to mirror a very complex world nicely.

But I still like the magic bandages best.

Fresh slush - Shot this morning in the Vale of COW


wintermute

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Reply #16 on: August 01, 2014, 01:33:10 PM
I did love the automatic satellite uplink thing, that was cool.  Is that real?  Are there cameras with this feature?  Seems like it would be a huge boon to field photogs.

I don't know about satellite links, but sports photographers use a similar system to send photos to their laptop (via bluetooth or wifi), which connects to local wireless and automatically sends the pictures to their editor in realtime. This is how you can see pictures from a sportsball competition before the match is over. I guess the system detailed in the story is plausible, but would require rather more power.

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wintermute

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Reply #17 on: August 01, 2014, 01:39:18 PM
I suppose from the supermarkets POV they sell more if they use paper packaging because it's cheaper.

Plus, glass is thick and heavy. Moving around all those bottles costs money (not to mention bringing back the empties), and you can fit fewer pints of milk in the display if they're in bottles than if they're in cartons. I'm sure those are also significant factors.

Science means that not all dreams can come true


matweller

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Reply #18 on: August 01, 2014, 05:42:37 PM
I suppose from the supermarkets POV they sell more if they use paper packaging because it's cheaper.

Plus, glass is thick and heavy. Moving around all those bottles costs money (not to mention bringing back the empties), and you can fit fewer pints of milk in the display if they're in bottles than if they're in cartons. I'm sure those are also significant factors.
I think bottle cleaning has been a major factor in getting away from glass also, which costs the dairy energy and machinery. One used to also return pop/soda bottles to the grocery store every week and buying beer in returnable bottles used to be a big thing in a lot of places, but most areas have gotten away from it for the huge infrastructure that has to be in place for that to work. There's also the factor of the soap involved in cleaning itself and the polluting factor involved there. Paper cartons may actually be less polluting than cleaning glass bottles. I once heard a story about a guy going to interview the head of the EPA who was stunned to see the guy drinking his coffee out of a styrofoam cup. When asked about it, he said it was actually less polluting than cleaning a mug. The truth of that is somewhere in between, but it illustrates the point that there are many factors not immediately apparent in those situations.



SpareInch

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Reply #19 on: August 01, 2014, 06:06:54 PM
A kid used to be able to buy a lot of sweets with the money from pop bottle deposits... Ah... Those were the days...

Fresh slush - Shot this morning in the Vale of COW


Devoted135

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Reply #20 on: August 03, 2014, 02:39:48 AM
So glad to hear Mur's voice again! Loved the intro and the outro. :)

This was definitely a somewhat difficult story to listen to since I find Warlords/Dictators/Military Presidents to be fairly scary in their special mix of brutality, unpredictability, and absolute power. You can never tell if they are going to laugh at your joke or blow your head off... I thought this story captured that tension, especially in the scene where the Warlord's men are amusing themselves by wasting water in front of the villagers.


As for the Civilization=Waste question, I thought that the Warlord was saying "see, I waste, therefore I am civilized." Maybe I misunderstood him, but I thought it was a deliberate ploy to deflect accusations of being uncivilized. Also, the cruelty factor.



Zelda

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Reply #21 on: August 04, 2014, 04:47:57 AM
Milk cartons ARE "using valuable resources in a frivolous way."

There are a number of milk delivery services in our area. Weekly milk in glass bottles which we then set out to be swapped with filled ones.

Here in San Francisco milk cartons go in the (mandatory) composting.

I thought that an editor or someone had access to the automatically uploaded photos so that although the Warlord thought only flattering photos were being posted the wider world was seeing his crueler acts as well.



InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #22 on: August 04, 2014, 05:17:27 AM
I thought that an editor or someone had access to the automatically uploaded photos so that although the Warlord thought only flattering photos were being posted the wider world was seeing his crueler acts as well.

My listening of the story was that all photos were uploaded to a "cloud", but only the ones the Warlord approved of were posted. Which seems to me the Warlord was well aware what was being published about hism. However, the Warload didn't realize that all photos were uploaded.



Windup

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Reply #23 on: August 04, 2014, 06:01:36 AM

I liked the story a great deal.  Possibly because I was originally trained as a journalist, I found the journalist's plight very compelling. Though I wondered how he was going to handle the photos once he returned to someplace where he was safe.  If he started posting the warlord's unflattering photos, it seems pretty clear he'd be putting the boy's life in danger. Once the unflattering stuff started appearing, the warlord would figure out pretty quickly what the camera was capable of, and you'd expect him to go into bloodthirsty tyrant mode on whoever was currently holding it. In that respect, I don't think leaving the camera with the boy makes any sense, unless he has some plan to extract the boy as well.

As for the whole "civilization is waste" line, I see that as little more than a BS justification by someone trying to defend his own indefensible behavior. It's just intellectual window dressing for his assertion of privilege and power, and one that the warlord senses will push the journalist's buttons. I saw the journalist's flummoxed reaction as being more an indication of the strength of the warlord's personality and immediate power rather than the strength of his argument.

How you define "civilization" depends on many things -- not least of which is your reason for defining it -- but the general definition that makes the most sense to me is: The accumulated repetition of successful behavior. This may allow for waste, since one of the definitions of "successful" is typically "increase in the output of goods and services," and that allows for a surplus that may be reinvested, consumed or "wasted." However, I don't think "waste" is particularly central to the idea of "civilization."

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Reply #24 on: August 04, 2014, 07:53:08 PM
I liked the parts of this story but didn't think the whole really hung together. The photographer may have pictures showing that the Warlord isn't really so 'merciful' but come on, who really believes a Warlord's propaganda- the clue is in the name... And maybe I'm too cynical but what will happen anyway if the truth is shown? There's plenty of cruel despots and dictators out there ruling unchallenged. Perhaps this could have been stronger if the Warlord wasn't a Warlord but someone/thing that really did appear benign to the wider world.
Then the leaving of the camera... Again could have been more powerful if it involved a real sacrifice by the photographer and a chance of salvation for the boy. But really he's escaping with all of his award winning shots, probably leaving the boy to a nasty death. So for me there was not enough of a story/character arc here. Just man gets captured, see horrible things, escapes, probably nothing changes...