Friday, 20 July 2018

Tribble Conservation

“What!” I hear you exclaim. “Are we mad?” But the answer is a stolid no.
The tribble home world, Iota Geminorum IV, is in dire straits since the Klingons set out to destroy all of tribblekind. Any why? For no other reason than the furry little critters are 'annoying' and have a tendency to squeal in a Klingon’s presence.
But why is the resurrection of the tribble so important? What use is a tribble? Plainly put, it is fodder.
We all know tribbles breed at
an alarming rate. Born pregnant, through asexual reproduction (which means they self-fertilize) a single tribble can produce a litter of around ten kittens every twelve hours. With sufficient food supply, a tribble can result in over one million tribbles in less than four days.
As to the reason for this prolific breeding ability, it is simply to ensure their continued existence because for many of the creatures on Iota Geminorum IV, the tribble is their main food source. With the loss of the tribble, these creatures have but two options: to predate other species or to starve.
Naturally, they have chosen the first option, but as these other species do not breed so quickly, prey is becoming scarcer with each passing day, and as that prey becomes rarer, species are being forced to predate upon their own kind. In summary, all of the animal species on Iota Geminorum IV are under threat.
Take the ghost flyer, for example. A small raptor with razor sharp teeth and a vicious hunting instinct, it used to be perhaps one of the most common creatures on the planet (barring the tribble, of course). It could be found across the planet in almost every landscape and on every continent, with a large number of subspecies. However, their numbers have now declined by over 70%. Initially, they have turned to hunting other species such as the little razor mouse, but as they do not reproduce as prolifically as the tribble, their numbers suffered quickly too. More disturbing, the effect snowballs.
The razor mouse,despite its sweet, furry appearance is also a predator. Hunting in small, family packs, its primary food source was also the harmless tribble. With the loss of the tribble, the razor mouse has found new prey in even smaller rodents, insects and even its own species. Razor mice numbers are down 82% and the decline continues. When the razor mice become extinct, what will the ghost flyers eat?
As each species dies out, another becomes the primary food source and comes under renewed threat. Already extinct are the swallow-tailed eaglet, larger spotted bantock, urbassi goomba, greater crested ghost flyer, teena mouse, kangaroo rat and the bushy tailed felix. However, the tragedy continues with yet more devastation.
Tribbles consume plant matter—and in great quantities. They consume billions of tonnes of vegetation each year. Without the tribbles to graze the plains and forests of Iota Geminorum IV, the vegetation is growing uncontrollably, strangling the landscape. At first, it was just a case of the plains becoming very lush and the forests more verdant, but as they have continued to grow uninhibited, the plants have literally sucked the moisture out of the ground. Drought has become an issue and as a result, a good number of plant species, no longer able to draw sufficient nutrient enriched liquids out of the ground, have died off. The plains have turned from savannahs to deserts. Even the forests, once havens, are wilting and dying.
In total, with the loss of the tribble, the entire ecosystem of Iota Geminorum IV is in jeopardy. For all of these reasons, the tribbles have to be reintroduced to Iota Geminorum IV.

The Tribble Summits

Early last year, a team of eminent xenobiologists approached the Federation with regard to the problem, proposing talks between the Federation and the Klingons. While the Klingons are not members of the Federation, it is imperative that any plan involving the conservation of tribbles has their cooperation and agreement, otherwise, they will just return to Iota Geminorum IV and decimate the tribble population again. After much negotiation, a summit was agreed and as a fellow expert in the field of tribbles, I was invited along.
The talks were not easy to say the least. Tempers ran high and it is clear that the Klingons still detest the cute little beasties with a vengeance. They didn't take it well when it was pointed out (on more than one occasion) that a humble tribble really was no match for a big, burly Klingon warrior. (Would the destruction of all tribblekind really secure a Klingon warrior a place in Sto-vo-kor?) However, all was not lost. Indeed, and ironically it turns out that the ghost flyer is not only the tribbles' primary predator, but also its saviour.

The Ghost Flyer

The ghost flyer is a winged raptor, so called due to its ghostly pale hue. These colourings vary between the subspecies to camouflage it in its surroundings. All of subspecies live both on ground and in the trees but can't fly. Instead, it glides between the branches of trees, or from one rocky crag to another, and swoops down upon its prey from above. Armed with serrated teeth and razor sharp, slashing
claws on its front limbs, they are nasty little cratures that hunt in packs.
Although not sentient, their intelligence is not to be underestimated. Their hunting methods are highly sophisticated. Using a series of low-pitched whoops and whistles, their attacks are highly organised and lethal—a fact the Klingons will attest to. They regaled us with tales of their encounters with the ghost flyers—how they would attack the Warriors brazenly, be it in their beds at night, or by singling out a lone Warrior and then descending upon him in a swarm. Some proudly displayed their battle scars acquired in the conflicts with ghost flyers and spoke with great admiration about the creatures. When they came to realise that this admirable and noble creature was under threat, the Klingons relented. Finally, they have agreed not to hinder attempts to reintroduce tribbles to Iota Geminorum IV, and that is all we needed.

The Tribble Breeding Programme

With tribbles now extinct from the planet, any breeding programme will have to draw its stock from tribbles taken from Iota Geminorum IV in earlier years. For this, we can thank Cyrano Jones. He distributed tribbles far and wide across the quadrant, sometimes with intent, but mostly just dumping them when their numbers became too great for him to cope with on his small trading vessel. Sadly, many of those tribble 'outposts' have also been obliterated, but pockets remain in some of the most surprising places.
Andoria, for example, has a tribble farm where a very hardy subspecies of tribble (the Greater Arctic Blue Tribble) has evolved. (With such a fast breeding rate, evolution is much quicker for tribbles.) Blessed with
a coat of exuberant, thick, blue fur, the Andorians farm them for their pelts to make such things as ear muffs and to form accent collars and cuffs on clothing.
A small Romulan moon has another new subspecies. Known as the Cackling Tribble, rather than purring as most tribbles do, it produces a cackling sound.
The mission, therefore, is to assemble as many tribbles as we can, quarantine them (to ensure they are disease free), study all the specimens collected and then send them back to Iota Geminorum IV. Once back on the planet, however, they are not released immediately back into the wild where they would be instantly predated. Instead, they are taken to the new Tribbulation Facility where breeding commences. The overflow stock is then released into the wild in a controlled fashion and their progress monitored. The surrounding terrain is also monitored and hopefully, through all these steps, the world of Iota Geminorum IV can be restored to its former glory.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

AWAY MISSION REPORT: Em Con

Cadet Sandy Joe Reid

On May the 5th Rosie and I went to Em-Con with our Mum and Dad.
It was really fun. We went as characters from Guardians of the Galaxy and everyone loved my Rocket Racoon mask. Rosie hated her costume because she said it was not pretty and she did not look like a princess, being dressed as Baby Groot, but everyone thought she looked cute.
People stopped us, every minute to take our photo and someone even gave me and Rosie a gift each.
Mummy was dressed as Gamora and Daddy was dressed as Star-Lord.
We met up with Grandma Erika and our cousin Ellie while we were there; they were also dressed up as Harry Potter characters.
There were lots and lots of fantastic costumes, but the Zombies were my favourites because they were so funny as well.




Saturday, 19 May 2018

CENTAUR 2017 AWARD WINNERS

Now little more than a distant memory, but these awards are so important that I thought it worthwhile to remind everyone of the winners from 2017. Awards are made each year with additional commendations being made during the year. Any crewmember can nominate someone for a commendation and full details can be found in our handbook available from the LIBRARY on our website.

Junior Member Of the Year: Sandy Joe Reid
Sandy may be our only cadet but he is a delight. He attended the Klingon Banquet with us and takes part with crew members and contributions to our newsletter. He may be only five years old, but he does so much to enhance the membership with his input. He has contributed so much to the station and its crew with his interesting stories and artwork. He's a fine cadet and really deserves this award. Well done, Sandy.

Enlisted Member Of the Year: Kevin Hightower Baker
Kevin has stepped forward to host the second get-together, which is something to be admired. Well done, Kevin, for taking the lead on this. He also posts in the Jupiter Lounge regaling us with tales of Jenny.

Officer Of the Year: Holly Bowler
For dedication to the Centaurian and the station. Her production of the Centaurian magazine for the chapter is amazing. She has far exceeded the CO's expectations, imprinting her own style on it to make it a truly wonderful addition to the Centaur Library.

Department Of the Year: R&D
A lot of excitement and fun on the Centaur takes place around the Research and Development department. There are always new experiments and things happening in there, with interesting posts by both Tony Burr and Ian Moore. It shows how important trial and error is to true science. There's an air of mystery in that department, of things unknown, questions about the truth of reality.

Leadership Ribbon: Colin Barrow
Colin has excelled in his Leadership skills. He took the lead with regard to the vessel readiness program and brought it to fruition. And let's not forget that he keeps the CO on the straight and narrow.
"He listens to me when I'm in a quandary and helps me to make the right decision.”

Academic Achievement Award: Tarin Breckin Teague
Tarin has very quietly taken a good number of exams in the Academy and has achieved some very excellent results. Well done, Tarin.

Federation Ribbon: Tony Burr
Tony has supported Centaur from the very beginning. He thinks of things from angles the rest of us have never anticipated and is a valued member of the Command Team. Thank you, Tony.

Diplomatic Ribbon: Anni Potts
For sticking up for the chapter and crew when it was needed. She is a true leader... and if she is ever wrong she will admit and learn from it. She is always there when we need her and always has the Centurion's best interests at heart.

Morale Ribbon: Erika Stroem
Erika feels like the emotional glue that holds us all together. She shows how much she cares for everyone on board and always makes herself available to talk when you need her. She's supportive of all the crew and regularly makes encouraging comments and posts that make people feel welcome. She's great for laughter and fun, which is always essential to good crew morale.

Centaurian Recruitment Award: Holly Bowler
For introducing new members to Centaur and promoting the ship at every opportunity.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Starman

By LTJ Holly Bowler


The SpaceX launch of Falcon Heavy was a moment in time I’ll never forget. I was chatting with Emily Jane when Josh hollered up that the launch was about to happen, so I joined him at his laptop and kept Emily close by on Messenger while we watched history unfold.
There’s something absolutely breathtaking about watching such a sight, remembering that we humans are still searching, still striving, still trying to find our way out there in the universe, despite the backwards turn many would have us take. So much effort, thought, focus and resource invested in a single moment, with the ringleader standing wide-eyed and waiting, expecting this crazy endeavour to be met with failure yet still holding onto hope. I can’t image what must have gone through the minds and hearts of Elon Musk and his crew when they watched their gigantic baby take its first
steps.
All I know is the feeling of experiencing the countdown, the unity of humans taking part throughout the world, excited and just waiting to exhale, watching the powerful rise of the gargantuan rocket, the almost perfect return of the boosters, the images of this beautiful vehicle and its driver clearly not panicking as Starman was ejected into the vastness of space with an endless journey ahead. To see our beautiful world from afar, from ‘out there’—the profound epiphany of being. Let us hold out for hope still.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Poor Klone

A true story by Cmdr Erika Stroem


Klone was a black cat, who was an offspring of another black cat who used to live with us; hence the name.
We were at the vet, for hopefully Klone’s final check-up. He had contracted some sort of unknown disease or poisoning that attacked the brain, which had baffled the vets. I had lost so many of my loving pets through it: Ozzy, a very young long-haired kitten, Tipsy and Topsy my daughter's two rabbits, Blue the parrot and Shera, my beautiful twenty-eight year old tarantula. The vet said that it may have been coincidental with Shera as she was very old
and on her last two legs, so to speak.
But Klone was the only one of our pets who caught this killer disease and actually survived it. However the vet did say that he would more likely to be left with some brain damage. Although I felt happy that he was on his way back to better health, I couldn’t help feeling guilty and embarrassed.
While most people transported their cats in up-to-date cat baskets, all I had was a cardboard box. I could not afford many things in those days and had to suffice with what we
had at home.
While sitting in the waiting room, with the box on my knee and being an hour early, as the next bus would have made us late, Klone got a bit restless. It
was a long time for him to be stuck in his container, especially not being able to see anything, so I opened the lid, just enough for him to pop his head out. I saw his eyes smile at me with gratitude for not making him have to suffocate any longer in his limited space. Having nursed him for so many weeks, I had become so close to him in a spiritual way, as though I had touched his soul and him, mine. I was unconditionally in love with him and so grateful for his survival.
We sat for a while, just staring at each other, when we got distracted by someone laughing. It was a lady who was accompanied by two children and a pink
toy poodle and she was pointing in our direction. Maybe she was referring to Klone with his head peeking out of the box. I suppose it must have looked quite funny. But how dare she point when she is the one with the pink dog, for crying out loud.
We watched as other people and their pets went through for their appointment with the vet, waiting eagerly for our turn. New batches of people came in and
as soon as they sat down in the waiting room, they also started pointing at Klone in his makeshift cat basket. One woman even went into fits of hysterical laughter. I smiled back at her, thinking, “I agree it could be cute, but surely not that funny.”
As time passed, people came and people went, who all pointed. They giggled, laughed out loud or tittered to themselves. One guy even asked if he could take
a photo. Another lady who had already been in to see the vet, deliberately grabbed the vet’s arm for him to come out of his consultation room to have a
look; who in turn beckoned the receptionist to come and see.
By then my smiles turned to frowns, as I was confused and paranoia was just about to settle in, until one abrupt lady came and sat next to me.
“I don’t know how you could,” she said, raising her eyebrows.
“Could what?” I replied anxiously.
“Have you not seen what is written on the front of the box?”
I hadn’t, as I’d just grabbed the first one available out of the porch. I gingerly turned the box around and when I saw it, I closed my eyes in disbelief. I wished for a hole to appear for me to make my escape. However, I at least then understood why people had found it so amusing. Nevertheless, it would have been better if it had not been written in such huge red letters. I cringed when I read it ... MEATY DOG FOOD.
Poor Klone!

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Mission Report: In Search of the Paranormal

by CAPT Ian Struthers

At the start of April I took my wife Marsha, who I usually refer to online as Mrs S, to Edinburgh for her birthday for a couple of days, we had a great time despite me having a head cold.
When we arrived on the first day we went to the Edinburgh Dungeon, which is great fun as long as you go along with what the performers are doing. If you are ever in Edinburgh I highly recommend it; it only takes about an hour and a half.
The first thing they do is get you to stand and get a couple of photographs taken ... one with your (or a friend’s) head on a chopping block. The second is against a plain background.
You then go through to be judged for crimes that were common at that time. Not everyone gets judged, and the best bet is to stand near the back and not stand out. The judge is really comical and a couple of “eyewitnesses” are called. Once sentencing is done you make your way down to the torture chamber. Once you get into the torture chamber they explain and show how “confessions” were obtained.
You make your way around other rooms where they tell you about the grave robbers, dissections and “Burking” which was how Burke and Hare killed their victims. There is a haunted graveyard and room, and they tell you about the plague; that bit is funny as you stand in an old style close (street) where you get squirted with water.
There is a wee boat trip where they also tell the story of Seany Bean and his cannibal family. One of the best bits is the “Long Drop”, a ride that lets you know what the gallows felt like and when you take “the drop” they take a picture. I’ve not gone into too much detail in case some of you visit it. There is a chance to get items and a copy of the pictures taken; they Photoshop the background onto the blank one.
Mrs S loves all those programs about the spirit world and ghost hunters, a lot of which you really need to take with a large pinch of salt. I’m not saying whether I do or do not believe in ghosts, etc. However, there have been things I’ve seen and heard that have left me scratching my head, which is why later on we went on a Ghost Bus Tour. The bus had the registration 666 and was supposedly haunted because they used to use it for funerals; the casket would be on the lower deck and mourners on the top deck.
We went along Princess Street, turned left and parked outside a graveyard. The bus conductor, who was also the narrator of the tour, took us down into the graveyard and told us about some of the strange goings on and how people who had been “ghost hunting” had been left with scratches.
He told us about Burke and Hare, and about being “saved by the bell” and the “Graveyard Shift” which related to folk being buried alive. Nasty.
We boarded the bus again after about ten minutes, and the tour continued around Edinburgh where we were told about cannibals, murders ... you know the usual fun things. The bus has cameras and screens which enhanced the experience. I loved the “Low Bridge”. Again it was great fun and well worth going on.
On the second day we spent most of the time wandering around the tourist hotspots doing a bit of shopping. It was nice as I found a couple of Harry Potter related places I hadn’t seen before. We ended up in the cafĂ© in St Giles Cathedral. I loved the stained glass windows and gothic architecture.
The only drawback of the weekend was there were works on the railway line which resulted in having to take a coach between Aberdeen and Dundee. No one from Scotrail was on hand so the coach drivers did their best to sort out the chaos.