Interlude 2: Musical moment

Today was another reasonably uneventful one. Got a sexy new green cover for Mopho Cake III, went into Helsinki with the family and generally hung out.

Oh, and I uploaded the following adorable little video of the small but loyal Minchin fan base here in Finland, singing the refrain of The Fence.

Can’t say I approve of my daughter admiring a Christchurch boy, but I suppose exceptions can be made.

The Fence is one of my favourite songs by Minchin, a very clever take on the perils of over-thinking and the seductive lure of ignorance is bliss. How difficult it is to really know anything, and how it is usually the ill-informed who have strong, judgemental opinions either way.

Plus, it sounds adorable coming from a three-and-a-half-year-old.

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Interlude: Not withering on the vine, no sir

So, after an epic writing marathon under extremely challenging circumstances yesterday, I’m no longer too worried about my writey muscles atrophying. I still feel like a big hand-flapping litwanky crybaby about it all, but everyone was very kind to me and all in all it was a good day. Lots of running around outside, followed by an easy stint at child-minding in the evening. Mrs. Hatboy was at a concert, Wump was absolutely exhausted and Toop was, while slightly fractious, asleep sweetly by eleven.

Amazing, what a good day’s writing and a good night’s sleep will do for the mood. My dad woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, but he’s just finished cutting a whole trailer-load of wood for us so the poor bloke’s probably wrecked. Plus, he’s got an iPad and is having trouble getting his e-mails read. Shocker.

Then today we got ourselves up to the “shitpile” (Högberget, the highest “mountain” in Vantaa) and enjoyed an Easter barbecue. That was nice, and a good workout carrying a backpack full of Tomps[1] and sausages and also Wump on my back, all the way up there. Then home to prepare for a grand old lamb roast dinner with the combined families. Busy day.

[1] If you don’t know what these are, you need to read this blog more carefully – or get out here to Bar Äijä’s more often.

What kept me distracted this morning, though, was a far wackier – and yet simpler – problem.

Now, I’m not a big maths-type person, but this was weird.

Take a square, right, divided up into a million little squares (I went with a million because the example I was actually thinking about, with ten million, wouldn’t square-root into a nice round number). This makes a square, yeah, with a thousand little squares on each side.

Right? 1,000 x 1,000 = 1,000,000. Easy.

And the circumference of that square would be four thousand, because there’s four sides and you count the outside of each side and each side is a thousand square long. So in terms of length, the circumference is easy too.

Of course, in terms of how many actual squares make up the circumference, it’s only 3,996. Because you only count each corner once, so it’s 1,000 + 999 + 999 + 998. Yeah?

So it’s 4,000 sides of squares, but only 3,996 actual squares.

And then, if you think about it, 3,996 is 4,000 minus 4. And those 4 are the four corners.

So you’re only counting each corner once, and at the same time you’re not actually counting any of the corners at all.

And then, if the ten-million-area was a circle instead of a square, the circumference would be nowhere near four thousand.

Just … what sort of a silly universe do we live in, anyway?

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Torquis in Machina, Part 2

Creepy was waiting for me when I led Torquis out of the stable.

That’s your horse? That’s what you spent the last of our money on? They saw you coming, mate,” he hooted. “Not that I’m at all surprised, considering those clothes you’re wearing.”

“First of all, it’s proper knightly attire,” I said loftily. “Second of all, I wouldn’t go laughing too loudly. Look at what you’re wearing. You look like the official mascot of the Xix Asparagus Board.”

Creepy, as much as a five-foot-ten, seventy-pound geek in green tights was capable, puffed himself up.

“Just because I have the figure to carry off doublet and hose and you don’t-”

“And that’s another thing. That codpiece…”

“What about it?”

“It’s a bit out of place.”

“What?” Creepy looked down at the front of his pants. “I spent a lot of time in front of the mirror making sure it wasn’t, and a lot of tape making sure it stayed that way.”

“It’s shaped like a horned skull with a .54 Magnum sticking out of its mouth.”

“So?”

“So,” I started, and then gave up. “Come on, let’s go to the tavern.”

We started down the muddy street. However many years had passed since Sir Garçon de Chapeau of Cola – the real one – had last made an appearance, the Xixians hadn’t managed to solve their sewage problem.

Torquis was clip-clopping alongside with deceptive submissiveness, which told me he was waiting for somebody to get within biting range. That was what horses did. Creepy was muttering about the unfairness of it all. That was what Creepy did. So in a way, all was well with the world.

“I still think we should use our knowledge of future history and technology to become as Gods upon this Earth,” he concluded.

“How many times do I have to explain this to you?” I sighed. “This isn’t Earth. It’s almost Earth – some of the languages seem to be interchangeable, the culture matches in most parts – but it’s not. If this were Earth, I wouldn’t be able to do this,” I spotted a grubby young street urchin coming our way, and as she limped past us I quickly and discreetly Laid Hands on her.

Creepy was looking at me out of the corner of his eye when I straightened.

“Not without going to jail, you wouldn’t,” he said disapprovingly.

“It’s magic,” I explained, pointing at the little girl, who had begun to skip merrily. “I healed her … whatever it was. Polio, I think. Anyway,” I added, “there’s another problem with your plan. We don’t know anything about Earth’s history or technology except vaguely what might have happened in the past hundred years, and how to use inventions made in the past twenty. We can’t just go and invent the light bulb.”

“They have tungsten in them.”

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Torquis in Machina, Part 1

I looked doubtfully up at the horse. It looked down at me with a grin that contained far too many teeth to belong to a herbivore.

“What’s his name?” I asked.

“Torquis.”

“Torquis?” I wrinkled my nose in an admittedly un-Paladinly way. “What does that mean?”

“Spanner.”

“That’s not a very good name for a charger.”

“It’s short for Torquis In Machina,” the gap-toothed stablehand grinned gap-toothily.

I thought about that. “I’ll take him,” I concluded, as if there’d ever been any doubt. Torquis In Machina was literally, as well as proverbially, the last charger in the stable.

“Alright. What’s yours?”

“What?”

“What’s your name? Only I got to take down every name, or Galbus will have my-”

“Oh, right. I am Sir Garçon de Chapeau, of, um, of Cola.”

“You too, eh?”

In spite of everything, that hadn’t quite been the reaction I’d expected. “Me too what?”

“Oh, come on. Sure you don’t want to go with something a little less attention-grabbing?”

“What? No, that’s okay, I’ll stick with my actual name, thanks.”

“If you say so, Sir. And your squire?”

“Creepy. Of Couch.”

The story of how Creepy and I came to be a knight-and-squire team in the medieval-period fantasy world of Xix is really quite an interesting one. It is not, however, entirely relevant at the moment.

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Burpin’ eggs, scratchin’ my underarm fungus

(it’s a Futurama joke)

Had a busy day today, after a long hike in the forest we did some work in the back yard. I managed to climb to the roof peak and cut away a bunch of dead creepers that have been working their way into the house’s ceiling and gutters. I not only survived without falling off the ladder or stabbing myself in the eye with whiplashing vines, I also got away with a long walk in the unstable terrain of the woods, and navigating the slope behind our slide while dumping the offcuts, without breaking another ankle.

But I ramble. Man, this predictive text thing will make me lazy.

Otherwise, Easter is progressing in an uneventful sequence of events. We’ve even maintained cordial communications with my parents, despite the occasional bout of doomsaying and the even more occasional attack of cringeworthy Australian-politics-fuelled bignorance[1] that they come out with, and the laziness of which Mrs. Hatboy and I are guilty.

[1] Bigotry and ignorance. It’s a word I made up, and is unfortunately applicable to some of the gems I have been getting, not only in my poor hippie ears right now, but also on Facebook and elsewhere on the Internet. It’s not really their fault, it’s the fearful and hate-laden bullshit the media feeds the whitebread world every step of the way. We’re all better off without it.

Anyway, that’s why we’ve been keeping busy with an assortment of housekeeping and shopping tasks. Hasn’t left me much time to blog, at least about anything interesting, but I’m still learning. Soon I’ll get the Word-and-blog process working well. Then there will be no stopping me.

In other news, Toop has started to make slightly more language-like googly noises, although a lot of that may just be the milkvomit tickling her vocal cords on its way up her oesophagus.

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Mopho Cake III

Introducing the new, fancy-schmancy toy around the house, Mopho Cake III. Nothing much to add here, just testing the UI and posting facilities. So far, they look pretty good. Since this is out first afternoon together, things have been remarkably smooth. No major disasters.

Not sure I love this typing system … the spell / capitalisation checker isn’t as smart as it thinks it is. And I’ll have some work ahead getting my photos and ringtones installed.

I leave you with a freeform poem as filled in by MC3′s spell checker.

Why do you think you are a few days ago?

However the first time in the world to me that I have a great day and night;

Oh, this is a good day to all the time of the most important thing is that the only one who is the best of luck!

Why, why do you think you are a few days ago and I will be a good day to all?

Why?

 

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Character study: Augustus Sloane

Sometimes, if you want to understand a thing, it helps to start small. And you can’t get much smaller than aactur[1].

[1] Well, technically you can. Science-magi in the First Age succeeded in splitting the aactur, resulting in a subspecies, the aactil, that was composed of far fewer conceptual ‘aactur-atoms’. The subsequent containment breach and expansion of the subspecies literally destroyed the universe as they knew it. The universe we live in now is the reconstructed one that took its place, and we’re all still suffering the consequences. It was widely agreed never to try to split the aactur again.

It’s not worth thinking of aactur in most readily-accessible terms. You can’t really think of them as things, like motes or mites or molecules or protons. Go in far enough and there is no matter, no energy, there are no waves, no particles. It’s all aactur, exposing different facets of themselves to the universe.

Aactur are expressions of a fundamental, founding binary – each one is composed of equal reflections in reality and unreality, perfect halves making up a whole, which in turn makes up everything. And that’s a far broader concept than even most people think. Molecules, atoms, subatoms, spectra, subspectra, energy, all of it, is all made up of aactur. They skitter across the quantum foam like dust devils on the surface of a moon. They make up everything in the universe – in the urverse. They are the urverse and, owing to their binary nature, they are also Limbo. They form it, and thus define it.

It also doesn’t pay to think of them as life-forms in any sense we really understand, although they are conscious entities according to their own unknowable qualifications[2]. Each aactur reality/unreality couplet comprises a basic expression within each sphere, and contains those two most important features of life: the spark, and the conduit. Spirit and soul.

[2] Indeed, they are legally unknowable, their mystery enforced, in the mythic knowledge of the terrible consequences of studying them too closely. Whenever a melodramatic technophobe intones that “some things man was never meant to know,” there is a certain amount of Aactur Plague genetic memory coming into play.

The spirit, the lifespark, of the aactur displays in different ways depending on the waves, energy, atoms they’re forming, and whether those atoms are making up organic or inorganic matter. In a process that goes beyond conceptual and enters the realm of pure divine-level symbolism, the aactur making up organic matter bend their lifesparks to that one purpose, forming the spirit – according to the different biological orders – of the life-form, anchoring it to existence on a femtoplanck level. But the spirit is nothing without the soul.

Just as each aactur has a lifespark within reality and a function in both spheres that dictates its place in the cosmos, so too does it have a connecting umbilicus between reality and its reflection in unreality. This connection is the soul, writ small: a conduit between the urverse and the unimaginable gulfs of Limbo. This conduit could be described as the soul of the aactur, if the aactur could be described as a life-form in any sense we understand. But at that level, it’s really just the element of a soul, in that everything in reality and unreality is a gestalt of aactur in different configurations.

Perhaps, then, you begin to understand the meaninglessness of the question of whether only sentient organisms have souls, whether animals or vegetables or minerals have them, and the even greater nonsensicality of the question of when a living thing can be said to have a soul. It’s simply a matter of arrangement, just as different atoms have different sets of properties and masses, so too will different formations of aactur make up things with different interpretations of that mystical connection with the other sphere.

At least in a sense, however, the question is not meaningless. Each aactur has an infinitesimal element of the soul, and these run together to form the larger conceptual construct within a life-form, giving it mind and self and that vital link to Limbo that allows it to continue after the degeneration of its physical molecules and the passing of their lifesparks. That whole, once woven together, endures in unreality and will return, if you believe the stories, at the End of Days to make its voice heard when the walls between the spheres cease to be.

But that’s a little beyond the scope of this essay.

How, exactly, souls are formed and preserved, and how elements of aactur in unreality form into souls and connect to life-forms in reality, is all a matter of conjecture and mystical theory. But it seems to be a fact that at a certain point the souls-in-potentia in the aactur making up a life-form reach critical mass and a soul is born, connecting the life-form’s flesh in reality to its shadow-counterpart in unreality, by the functionally-infinite anchors of its spirit lifespark.

When does this happen, turning a froth of unwitnessed and miniscule potential into a living thing? A vastly pointless question, since it is all a matter of the rearrangement of concepts too small for us to even imagine … but then, like all the pointless and unanswerable questions, this is one with which an inordinate number of people are far too concerned. Sometimes it happens at conception – the aactur that make up sperm and egg, in human beings for example, already have the requisite elements, but it’s arguable as to whether these cellular genetic building blocks have souls in the same sense – or in any sense, really, any more than a stone or an amino acid chain have souls just because they’re made up of tiny elements that might have tiny soul-elements. Get close enough, and all such considerations cease to have meaning. It’s a knowledge with inexpressible potential for coldness of vision.

Sometimes it happens later, just another decoration hung randomly on the tree from the genetic grab-bag of biological growth bestowed upon an organism by dint of its gestation inside its progenitor.

Sometimes, particularly in cases of births that take place before full gestation process is complete according to the natural law of the species in question, the soul does not coalesce and actalise until after the birth, resulting in an organism from which something is – however briefly – missing. Until it isn’t.

Of course, there is a logical if rather horrifying projection of this fact, and indeed there are myths in many cultures about the neversouled, infants born without souls and in which souls never blossom … but this is all they are. Myths. A life-form cannot exist without a soul any more than it can exist without a second dimension, or its atoms exist without mass. A soul may be late to express, but never more than a few moments once that symbolic step into life is completed. Otherwise, of course, the life-form simply dies, and becomes nothing more than an assemblage of flesh.

A soul is infinitely more likely to be removed[3], warped, or damaged within the body of an established life-form than fail to initialise in the first place, and there are not only myths about this but actual science-mystic precedent, especially since it is through the soul, and the conduit to unreality it represents, that things in reality exercise magical power.

[3] Or, more accurately, the intra-aactur soul-element bonds broken down and the collective conduit essentially closed.

Nevertheless, the myth of the neversouled is an enduring one.

There is an element of compelling, disturbing truth behind the myth, even if the idea of the neversouled itself is inherently nonsensical. It is because of this grain of truth, and the superstitions and prejudices that have grown around it, that some of the older and more expensive medical establishments and institutions employ Soul Doctors. They are extremely specialised and exclusive, their work is very complex and often their talents centred on a single species, it being all but impossible to comprehend an alien soul. They can see if a soul is missing, see it when it blossoms in the unborn foetus or newborn, see what impact its arrival – late or timely – has on the baby. They perform other functions, too, since “watching, eternally vigilant, for the arrival of the neversouled” is a dubious justification for a paycheque at best, but their other tasks mostly fall under the definition of therapy, disgnostics or counselling.

There are no Soul Doctors on Earth, at least there weren’t at the time of Sloane’s birth. There aren’t that many human Soul Doctors anyway, it being a discipline that requires extensive training, a broad knowledge base and above all a life-span beyond the mere century or two afforded to the average human being. And, more importantly, Earth at that time simply couldn’t support the profession, recourse to the required magical energies having long since been sealed off by vast and remorseless powers. But it would have come as absolutely no surprise to any practitioner of the craft to learn that Augustus Sloane’s soul had only flickered into life two point four seconds after he was cut, gasping and squirming, from his mother’s belly as she lay dying in an overdose-related seizure.

In those to whom the soul blossoms late, it is said, the flesh remembers what it was to be a spark without conduit, a life without a soul.

Augustus Sloane. Sometimes, if you want to understand a thing, it helps to start small.

And sometimes it doesn’t.

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