## Archive for November, 2010

### The process of drafting in mathematics

November 30, 2010

Sometimes one can’t write the draft of a mathematical paper with constant gravitas. Sometimes a line bursts in that needs to be modified with extreme prejudice the next time you go through your logic.

Such as this:

Now, let the shit get real, boys.

Not up to the standard of mathematical publication; though it would make for interesting reading, no doubt. “Let $n$ be a natural number, yo. We’re talking about continuous real functions $f$ here, so listen up, crowd. I ain’t gonna tell this twice. I’m about to prove a result on integrability. See Rudin’s Lemma 3.1 on how it was done classic-style. You know $n$, you know $f$; now here’s $g$, and it’s a continuous function too, and a finite… bitch. Now, let the shit get real, boys; this is a result for the ages —”

Then, sometimes, one tinkers with the LaTeX file and feels it needs an epigraph of some kind, some quotation to sum it all up, some emotional summary in addition to the factual abstract.

Which is then placed at the beginning of the file, carefully preceded by a comment sign so that it won’t show.

A few examples of mine: from a particularly gnarly graduate studies bit of work:

Some days it don’t come easy
Some days it don’t come hard
Some days it don’t come at all, and these are the days that never end
— Meat Loaf

Given the choice between the experience of pain and nothing, I would choose pain.
— William Faulkner

From my licentiate thesis, a double:

Some of you may have had occasion to run into mathematicians and to wonder therefore: How they got that way?
— Tom Lehrer

You know we all became mathematicians for the same reason: we were lazy.
— Max Rosenlicht

And a few of the commented-out alternate titles for my master’s thesis (some translated from Finnish) —

• The Groups of Cain and Abel
• The Lives and Deeds of the Primes
• The Halting Proble (sic)
• Insert Title Here
• $2 + 2 = 5$
• (Unrelated proseminary work title) II
• (Unrelated proseminary work title) IS STILL TRUE
• (Unrelated proseminary work title) as a mover of world history
• Partial Fractions and I
• My Most Beloved Diagonal Matrices
• Sex and drugs are nothing compared to a good proof – on booze, there is no definitive result yet
• Musta maisteri (A pun — reads either as a slangy “I’m gonna be an M.Sc.” or, pulp-style, “The Black Master of Science”)
• Magister Negi Magi (Well, more a Magister Scientiae. Though one shouldn’t think graduate studies in mathematics resemble a magical harem manga overmuch. There are incantations, but that’s about all. They won’t get the panties off anyone.)
• The Lemma of Death and Other Shuddersome Results

A few of those would actually make good titles for actual published papers, too. Who could resist reading something called “My Most Beloved Diagonal Matrices”? What would they be? What would they tell of you? Would the prospective reader think, have I been missing something? Don’t I yet know how to love diagonal matrices? Is there something especially lovely in them? By Jones, I need to read and find out!

And “The Lemma of Death” was an actual nickname for one fecking troublesome result in there. One of those where a reference has both “we can easily see”, “by the usual methods”, and “immediately”. A beginning graduate student really learns to hate those.

And then there was the title that actually adorned the work’s first page for months and months, because dagnabbit you have to have something there and as you don’t want to get attached to an ultimately inaccurate overall title, it better be something unusable like the cocksure throwaway comment of lecturer X on being asked who the Dead Male Russian Mathematician Firstname Q. Lastname, my field’s absurdly central big name man but otherwise an unknown, is:

“Lastname? That’s some wild party girl.”

### Finnish discussion about God and religion

November 29, 2010

Just finished a book, Nurkkaan ajettu Jumala? (doesn’t translate well; “[Is] God driven to a corner?”), a 2003 exchange of letters on science and faith between Juha Pihkala, then a bishop of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church (the “gently eunuchoid” church as I’ve called it), and Esko Valtaoja, an agnostic professor of astronomy and one of my heroes.

Can’t say I found the bishop’s arguments persuasive; I have to say they seemed more like evasions and sophistry, arguing for some kind of a Christianity and some kind of a God, busily retreating ever further behind a smokescreen of quotations and word games. Either I am a moron, which is a possibility, or then it really is frustrating how the more liberal believers (such as Pihkala, now retired) have such nice, sensible opinions, but descend into such byzantine verbiage of indecision when trying to explain what and how they exactly believe.

I think the biggest argument for God that Pihkala, a modern, science-accepting man, came up with was that people in all cultures have these similar feelings of something or someone out there, and deep unity with the cosmos and the like; which is pretty weak. (Isn’t this more a result of our shared, imperfect mammalian ancestry, as Valtaoja repeatedly reminded, than of some outside Thing beyond our different cultural traditions?)

(Then again, good that that was what he said. For some reason I’ve been seeing the traditional logical arguments for God, the cosmological, ontological, transcendental and the like, as more and more something like the playground word games where the unwary target ends up admitting his non-heterosexual preference, and the loose sexual morality of his female progenitor.)

Valtaoja was much better, and for all his protests of not being a “combative atheist” and not being out to rouse any rabbles was quite merciless about why religion seems like a Bad Idea to him: a foundation for abominable lack of doubt, and an equally willing source for many and any hubristic interpretations and mistakes. (That’s my pomposity, not his.) It is always a pleasure to read someone who you 98% agree with. (A potential danger, too, if you read only that; but I’m not really enthusiastic about the religious side having anything important to offer; that’s one of the small details where Valtaoja and I seem to differ. I only got through a recent Hitchens-Dembski debate by calling up some fetish pornography in a parallel window and running it with equal volume whenever Dembski’s turn to speak came. Turns out that distracts one enough to tolerate and analyse the inanity. Not that I’m stupid enough to call a moderate, sensible, nice bishop of the Finnish Ev-Lut Church the same as an Intelligent Design asshat like Dembski.)

Valtaoja defined himself as an agnostic, which was funny in a way. When he explained what he meant by “agnostic”, the result was more or less this: he is not an atheist because he does not claim to know there is no God; he just doesn’t think there is, and acts accordingly. That’s fine, and more or less the same way that Richard Dawkins defines his opinion, which Richard calls atheism: it is agnosticism in the philosophical sense, but for the sake of not misleading it ought to be called atheism, because the admitted possibility of being wrong seems to hover on the same level as being wrong about heliocentrism. Could be; not very damn likely to be. Then again, “misleading” also depends on whether one’s dictionary has “does not believe” or “knows there isn’t” in the definition of atheism.  (Would be a poor scientist that went around saying she or he was absolutely certain about anything, really absolutely knew anything, beyond all doubt. That would be being as bad as the more deluded believers; that would also be something scientists, or the so-called New Atheists, aren’t.)

As I said, I liked Valtaoja’s letters better; and there was one particular paragraph that made me act like a sport fan presumably acts like when his team suddenly scores a jillion points at once (I am not big on sports); namely —

Mitä jos kuoltuani todella joudun vastaamaan sanoistani ja teoistani, kuten epäilemättä moni tämän tekstini lukeva mielessään ajattelee; mitä silloin sanon puolustuksekseni? Sanoit itse, että hedelmistään puu tunnetaan. Ei ole minun vikani, että osoittauduit niin surkeaksi puutarhuriksi.

Which is roughly as follows, after this tangent; Valtaoja’s aside to readers (“if I have to answer for my words, as many of the readers no doubt think”) is because, well, the book came out from Kirjapaja (“book smithy”), a small publisher of mostly religious stuff, and I think most of the readers of any religion-science fracas in Finland tend to be mostly from the former camp, the rest of us having already moved on from that, and from religion.

(Indeed, Valtaoja mentions at one point that he doesn’t really know any Christians — though his circle of friends and acquaintances no doubt contains some, he hasn’t ever discussed religion with any of them; the subject has never come up; and not one has, even in a subclause, spoken out about any faith, or made any visible gesture indicating it. Which is the same experience I’ve had; even when I was involved in parish youth work for a few years, before the millennium, the youth worker, and to a lesser extent the priest, was the only one that ever professed any non-ritual, non-social faith; not one of us younger camp helpers did, and much less the young ones. Our involvement was entirely social: a pittance of money, some summer work that felt like a “good thing”, the sweet intoxicating power of well actually no power at all, the acting of silly sketches and outrageous evening entertainments*, and the joy of working with nice people to entertain, to make the underclassmen sit down and refrain from smoking for a week, to tell them to learn to say out loud this Bible bit; but I think we would have been shocked if we had been asked if we believed. Not that I didn’t, in a nebulous way (and I have no idea at all about the others!), but the question would have been a big social no-no, and not a particularly important one, even in those circles. Just say the meal prayer, make do with the social bonding and go on with the camp helper and entertainer stuff; what you personally believe is your business and your alone, and not a big deal as long as we all get along.**)

(Come to think of it, “camp helper” probably isn’t the most fair or felicitous way to describe an isonen, a confirmation camp tutor and gofer, recalling as it does both camp followers and concentration-camp guards. Or maybe that is just me.)

But, my poor translation of what Valtaoja said, and what made me cheer and jump up and down like a drunken sports-fan —

What if after I die I really have to answer for my words and deeds, as no doubt many of the readers of this text think to themselves — what will I say in my defense? You yourself said that by their fruits shall you know them; it’s no fault of mine that you are such a worthless gardener.

If you know Finnish, the book is worth the price for Valtaoja’s contribution alone, and is not made worse by Pihkala’s portion, though I did not much care for it; and if you don’t know Finnish get the book anyway; you can put it on your shelf and say it contains whatever a book with a bishopy, cassocky fellow and a wild-bearded smirking guy on its cover can ever be said to contain. (“Oh, that? A definitive exegesis on the beard of Jesus, and a refutation of the heresy of the Whiskerites.”)

(image from the Kirjapaja page)

(I can’t even say how I want to make
a lolcatty captioned version of this;
possibly “SERIOUS BISHOP IS SERIOUS”
for Pihkala, and “SCIENCE BEARD FTW”
for Valtaoja. What does this tell of me?)

* * *

*, “outrageous entertainments” : The first tutor says, “And now, presenting, illan vetonaula!” — which means figuratively “the leading star of the evening”, or literally “the dragged nail of the evening”. Then me, a string in hand, and the biggest nail the camp had dragged after me on the other end of it.

**, “get along” : Well, once, when I was attending the confirmation camp as a confirmee, I didn’t get along. There was a possibility of anonymously submitting religious questions to the priest, which he would then answer publicly. With twenty of us young ones, there were less than ten questions, which I’ve entirely forgotten; I think half of them were by me, inquiring in a detachedly curious speculative way about insignificant little details. One inquiry was about the abominable Psalm 137, “By the rivers of Babylon”, which I had found in the Bible by myself, and which seemed like a shitty thing to say, dashing your enemy’s babies against rocks; but that wasn’t a big deal to either me or the priest; I’ve forgotten the answer he gave. The inquiry that did not end well was asking if, had Jesus lived in our time, we would carry images of electric chairs round our necks. The priest did not take this question well, and became flustered and offended in a way I did not expect, and did not understand. Then again, it was after that that I became this summertime camp helper for a few years. There were no lasting ill feelings on either side, and I assume he knew by the abominable handwriting it was me, and soon realized it had been rude curiosity, not malice.

### Reformed Equizarathustrianism

November 29, 2010

I hijack this blog for a sudden 5000-word slam of microreligion. Feel free to use as necessary.

Here’s an idea for a religion that actually makes some damn sense and wouldn’t make me feel like a total tool for following it. Only a partial fool.

OF GODS AND MEN

There are two gods, one of good, one of evil. We’ll call them Ahura and Angra after the Zoroastrian deities, but we’ll add this additional wrinkle: they are equal. Ahura, the good one, is not more powerful than the evil Angra. His eventual triumph is not guaranteed. Angra is not a lesser demon, because to say this would imply Ahura could remove him, and what good is he if he does not?

In what manner are Ahura and Angra “good” and “evil”? Obviously it would be absurd for them to be two random actors whose whims define those two qualities; thus one needs to assume good and evil are more than the properties of these two powers. Hence before there were humans, there was no good and no evil. Only with the creation of humans from the gay lovemaking of Ahura and Angra did good and evil come into being: for “good” is that which is pleasing and beneficent for humans, and “evil” is that which causes them suffering and hardship.

Thus before mankind, neither good nor evil existed; after mankind came into being, there appeared a rift between the two gods, for Ahura wished everyone to be happy, and Angra wished himself to be happy. From this they were both corrupted: for Ahura came to realize his personal happiness was immaterial compared to the happiness of the human multitudes; and Angra grew to hate and despise the teeming masses, and determined to cause them as much suffering and as many hardships as he ever could.

These created beings were created out of animal stock; no dead dust were they, but animals the gods had bid to rise. How exactly this coheres with “the creation of humans from the gay lovemaking of Ahura and Angra” is obscure; possibly a deer was used as a dildo. Or then it was all spiritual; that’s always a good one. But anyway humans are of animal stock: brutish limbs, raging animal hearts, very primitively animal-hungry genital regions; it is only in their eyes that the different is seen, and in the undulations of their voice; for the divine that is in them sits atop them as like a crown; in their heads are they divine; in the alertness of their sight and the cogency of their words are they divorced from their lowly origin. It is this mindfulness which makes them capable of good and evil, able to both feel and inflict both.

As Ahura renounced his own happiness for the happiness of mankind, so ought a true human follower of him do: not scorn his or her happiness, casting it away in mindless imitation of Ahura, but imitate him wisely. It is true wisdom to give away of your own comfort and happiness when that giving improves the lot of others more than it decreases yours.

OF PLEASURE AND BEAUTY

Ahura is the god of good: he is the god of all things which are pleasing to men. This doth include the things that comfort the mind, and dull the senses, and make for a world-loving stupor; but it is of Angra to use these things beyond moderation. For Ahura does not forbid a haze of happiness chemically divorced from reality; he merely does not approve of it being the sole pleasure and comfort of a human being. Varied pleasures are good to Ahura; it is of Angra to love only one thing and grow bitter and disdainful of all the others.

The pleasures of Ahura go far beyond the animal pleasures of the drug and the cock; he is the god of good: he is the god of all things which are pleasing to men, and beauty is pleasing to all men. This does not mean what is beautiful is good, or that which is good is beautiful; no. The truth of Ahura is that to behold beauty is pleasurable, and hence good; but whether the beautiful thing is good or not is not within the scope of his law.

As it is said in the Hymn of Pheik Meid-Ap:

And as there is beauty in the face of a man, and that of a woman, so there is beauty in the crush of clouds over an autumn-red plain; so there is beauty in the seething rainstorm on the Inland Sea; so there is beauty in the pyramid of Ahura, man-built, ripping up from the heart of the City of Gods.

There is beauty in human beings, and in the nature round them, and in the things they make; and it is the truth of Ahura to seek out this beauty and behold it and understand it and record it; but it is not of Ahura to say what is beautiful is good; or what is beautifully said is true; or what pleases the eye and the hand ought to be a universal law. There are beautiful things which must not be, if the world is to be a good place for men; there are puppets dancing on dark strings screaming in pain that are exquisite in their beauty, but that beauty must not stop a follower of Ahura from cutting their strings.

This is the greatest teaching of beauty, save the rule that beauty and goodness are not one; this rule that there are many varieties of beauty, for beauty is that which satisfies a human eye, a human hand, a human mouth, a place below, or the yearning of a human mind. As all humans are in small ways different, so their beauties are different; and it is foolishness and evil of Angra to say there is but one law by which there is and is not beauty. The world is one; the world is not a slave to the whims of a human mind; but beauty is in the eye of the human that looketh, and he who beholds makes things beautiful or ugly according to his own whim.

OF WOMEN AND MEN

These holy rules do speak of “men”; and this they do meaning women and men both, for women are the heart of mankind; they are the house in which a child grows, as the house of a family is the place where an adolescent grows, there too until it is its time to leave for wider fields. It is of Angra to say women are cows and broodmares for this; no, they are the center-pillar and heart of mankind; for giving birth they are sacred, and carrying the child they are saints.

And yet in this too does the lie of Angra intrude: for it is ever the will of Angra, the god of evil, to insist there can only be all, or none; to say there can be no choice, and no decision left to women or men. It is said in the serpent tongue of Angra that hence all women should bear children; and the children they bear should be as sacred as the women who bear them. This is wickedness and evil.

This has Ahura said, adjudicating what is good for women: a child is not a human being until it breathes free cut loose of its mother. Until then it is a mewling animal being, a pet and a hearth-animal of the woman that bears; to kill it is not a crime, and a woman who kills it is not a murderer; but to rob a woman of the child growing in her against her will is a crime of violence; but not a murder.

Furthermore, women are saints and more worthy than men for their bearing of children; but this worth is not a fixed place for them nor an obligation for them. This twin parable is told of this in the Red Testament of Bub-yer-Onkel, a Prophet-Judge of Ahura:

As a man is not unworthy who does not do heroics in war, preferring a library, so a woman is not unworthy for not giving birth.

As a man is not ungrateful who does not learnedly understand the world, preferring the sport of arms, so a woman is not ungrateful for choosing something else than the sacred pain of the childbed.

And in final rebuff to Angra, it is not the pain which is sacred, but the result of that pain and discomfort: if the pain were to go away, the sacredness would remain undiminished. It is always a lie of Angra to say that if a thing leads to good, so does a more painful and torturous way to do the same lead to even greater good; this is great wickedness. Truly, is it not said in the Great Commandments thusly: “There is no good in self-negation, save when that is to the furtherance of the happiness of others”?

This all is said of women, for the saying of this on men: as women are the sacred house of new life, so men are the other half of the work which makes that house fertile. It is not their place to be the lords of that house, or its servant slaves; but they are a neighbor of equal worth in the judging eyes of Ahura. And yet Ahura and Angra are equal, and the desires and drives of evil are as strong as those of good; thus is even human language touched and perverted by evil, and it is ever difficult to speak one’s mind, or to formulate words to please both one’s eye of beauty and one’s mind of judgment; and as a mark of this one often hears speech of “men” when “women and men” are meant. Whether such a small injustice in service of beauty is good in Ahura’s eyes is not known; but Ahura is a cold judge, and men, and women also, must make their own judgments on this.

One more immense lie of Angra is this: that of the houses that are men and women ever should only two, one of each, be fenced together. This is madness, and evil; it cannot be the good judgment of Ahura that there should be a judgment of good and evil on how women and men fence themselves; fences are not a matter of good and evil. It is not abhorrent to Ahura no matter how men and women fence themselves in union: a man and a man together are not evil; and a woman and a woman are not displeasing to Ahura.

OF DIVINITIES AND DEMONS

Of Angra, there is Aeshma: he is the demon of the base urges, the demon of rage, the demon of anger and blind fury and the cock’s desire that overwhelms the good judgments of one’s soul; he is a frequent tormenter of mankind, and there is no prayer to oppose him save great patience and the study of these opinions of Ahura. He is a swelling wave; but the one who waits with patience is passed over by the wave, and left unharmed.

Of Angra, there is Sraosha: he is the demon of obedience, the demon of following, the demon of slavish devotion and discipline and believing what one is told; he is the more devious of these two, and by some mistaken to be an emissary of Ahura; but he is not so. There is no prayer to oppose him save great patience and the study of these opinions of Ahura. He is a whispering serpent; but he who knows good is not so because Ahura so wills is passed over unbitten, and he who knows what Ahura says is not by that sole fact true is wise, and will be left unharmed.

Of Angra, there is a third demon, which is nameless; it is the demon of Heaven. It is the demon of mystery. It is the demon of worshipful ignorance, and spirituality, and the expectation of rewards. There is no prayer to oppose it save great patience and the study of these opinions of Ahura. It is a veiled dagger; but the one who does good because it is good will not be killed by it; and the one who knows to worship blindness is to worship Angra will not be poisoned.

All the demons and divities there are beyond Ahura and Angra are of Angra alone; for all those who raise altars are of Angra. It is wrong to worship a man or a woman as a god; it is wrong to venerate them and strike down those who criticize them; and it is even worse to venerate gods which are not even men.

There are no gods save Ahura and Angra: and Ahura does not demand worship, Angra does not deserve it. A god of demands and threats, burning punishment-fires and greedily withheld sky-rewards, is always a false and wicked god, and there is no good in following such for what might be good in their following can be good without it as well.

OF BEFORE-LIFE AND AFTER-LIFE

As the human being is an animal coupled to a divine spark, and out of his or her ancestors does rise from the beasts and from the words of the prophets also, so is also the beginning and the end of an individual human being.

A man is a house built of the dust of the earth, shaped by the will of two builders; a woman is a tower of crude stone, seamlessly slid together by two artisans. A man is the inhabitant of that shell of twin origin, two sources and two builders; a woman in the ghost of that place of twin double construction, the material and the makers both are two. There is in both the stuff of their being, the animal flesh; and there is the spirit which is of Ahura and Angra and thence both good and evil; but the flesh is separate and is neither, though susceptible to both.

A man is a house; a woman is a tower; and the tooth of time doth gnaw down all houses, and cause all towers to fall; so too with men and women. For a while they stand; then the occupant departs, and the ghost within is no more; for the world is a cruel city where to step outside one’s house and home is to die and be no more.

But yet the house’s ruin and the tower’s stones do remain, and are not altogether eroded away, but taken as the models and materials of newer inhabitations. Likewise what remains of the words and works of a human being is their immortality: though a human being may die and be no more, in his or her children there is eternal life, and in all those his or her hand or word or deed has touched; and so do we all live on, forever, in diminishing or growing shadows and highlights over those that come after us; and it is our choice whether to cast no trace, or to loom in terrible shadow or brilliant light after we are gone: for everyone that comes after us is a children of ours, not only those that our animal instincts do make.

THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT OF ALL

This only is required for the understanding of good and evil, of Ahura and Angra, to dawn: there is no good and evil in the stars, or in the ground beneath one’s feet; there is no good and evil in the arcs circumscribed by stars or the lives of animals; all good and all evil there is, is in the various consequences of all on the lives of men.

THE CREED OF THE GREAT COMMANDMENTS

We the of the Reformed Equizarathustrianism Church of the Internet (lol) do adhere to the following Moesian creed:

1. There are but two gods, and they are Ahura the Good God, and Anga the Evil God.
2. There is no evil but the fates and fortunes of men; no good save what gives pleasure and better life to women.
3. There is no good in self-negation, save when that is to the furtherance of the happiness of others.
4. Beauty is not goodness; and goodness is not beauty; but it is good to seek, behold, understand and record beauty.
5. The world is one; what division there is, is in the minds of men.
6. Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder; and so do also happiness and the pleasant path of life differ from one human being to another. It is not the work of men to find one path which is the path of everyone; it is the work of women to shape a land where all paths are pleasant and good, and every man and woman has a path according to his or her tastes.
7. Man and woman both are sacred temple-houses in the great city which is all of mankind; and it is for each house to order itself and fence itself as it wills.
8. There are four roots to the blood-leafed tree of all evil, and these are three of them: anger, and obedience, and mystery. Only in careful decanters of crystalline patience and study can their venom and acid do anything which is good; and of nature, they are evil.
9. The four root of the tree of evil, whose fruits are endless and beguiling to the mouths of the hungry and the sated alike, is this: to be certain of one’s own righteousness, or even of the righteousness of one’s prophet, or even of the righteousness of Ahura.
10. No damn figs; they are a fruit of evil and give even the greatest of prophets a food poisoning and diarrhea in the most unfortunate of times, places and audiences.

THE GREAT WARNING

Every human being is of Ahura, and of Angra: therefore do not trust anyone utterly, for every prophet and teacher has a sliver at least of the evil of Angra within his or her heart. Therefore do not also despise anyone utterly, for every tyrant and murderer has a sliver at least of the good of Ahura within his or her heart.

This, too, is said and it is not heresy: There is Ahura, and there is Angra, but they do not define good and evil; they merely desire one or the other. Thus there may be evil in Ahura’s goodness; and good in Angra’s evil, no matter how either would rage at and protest such a thing.

Therefore believe not these teachings of Ahura absolutely; for to be certain of anything in the greatest of all sins, greater than lies or murders; for he who is utterly certain is a fool and shall never be made wise.

Therefore do not despise Angra utterly; for those who do evil often see themselves as acting for some greater good; and there are many who would spill oceans of blood to wipe away a single tear.

RITES OF TIMES

This do in worshipful devotion, to show that you prefer Ahura over Angra, good over evil.

On the first day of each month of the calendar of saints, light a fire in the night-time, and say a prayer in the manner of Naat Inkluuded Inheah; this is to mind you how in every darkness there is light; and though light is not good, and darkness not evil, so likewise there is in everything evil also a sliver of good.

On the middle day of each month of the calendar of saints, retire to a lightless room in daytime, and say a prayer in the manner of Naat Inkluuded Inheah there; this is to mind you how in every light there is darkness; and though light is not good, and darkness not evil, so likewise there is in everything good also a sliver of evil.

These observances are not a fixed law on you, and you shall not be lesser for not observing them; but if you observe one, also do so with the other. For the third observance is the constant observance of the Commandment Against Certainty: and if you blame others for their observational irregularities, you have failed.

On the tenth day of each year, hold the Festival of the Pillar. Then eat and drink and be merry and free with smiles and embraces; and as the night falls light a bonfire and place three puppets in it: these will be the three great demons of Angra, and as the fire burns you shall contemplate them and their power over you; and though you will find they did ride you, you shall not be ashamed; though you will find they did seem pleasant to you, you shall not despair; in the fire of the Pillar you shall see them for what they are, and you shall know that though they may ride you and seem pleasant to you, you shall not fall into their power. This is the Festival of the Pillar, and how it should be held; the rest is for you to decide.

On the one hundreth day of each year, hold the Festival of the Cloud. Then drink and sing and be glad; be free with gifts and praise and embraces; and as the night falls light a bonfire and gaze into it. Fire is that which devours; it is a clean thing, untainted with good and evil, and can be neither or one or both.

In the fire you shall place three rods, one of iron, one of wood, and one of the coal of Naehm-Holderr.

The first shall not be consumed; so will your righteousness in Ahura not be consumed by the worry and the terror of the world.

The second shall be consumed; so will the plots of Angra against you fail.

The third will burn with a bright and colorful flame, and be consumed, and yet leave behind the tears of Lhais.

As morning comes, and as the pyre cools, find these tear-stones and give the to your children, so they may remember the lesson of the coal of Naehm-Holderr: there is nothing that is created by either or Ahura or Angra alone; but yet as the tear-stone is what remains to them, so they can strive to be of only one, though they are born being of both.

And the midday of that second day you shall cane the children who receive the tear-stone, to remind them of the greater wisdom that they saw materia consumed, and materia remaining; it is not that Ahura is spirit and Angra matter, for they both exist equally in both, and neither holds a stronger sway over either domain. This is the Festival of Cloud, and how it should be held; the rest is for you to decide.

RITES OF PLACES

This do in worshipful devotion, to show that you prefer Ahura over Angra, good over evil.

In your own privacy, and in times and places and manners of your own choosing, and without ever telling anyone the time, the manner or the frequency of it, consider all these teachings of Ahura; and let not Sraosha, the demon of obedience, take you: sooner agree with what is good than with what is the teaching of Ahura. (For did not Ahura renounce his own pleasure for the pleasure of all human beings? What fool would worship Ahura over Ahura’s own goal?)

And this doth Ahura command: he who boasts of the frequency and depth of his considerations is a pitiful fool; she who ostentatiously displays her prayerfulness deserves jeers. If any of you say, “I am a worthy follower of Ahura”, that person is to be laughed at; if any of you say, “I am a better follower of Ahura than you”, that person is to be pitied and told all the faults of his character, all the mis-steps of her dance of life.

Consider matters of good and evil according to your own want; and when the time seems right act according to your personal design. Never say you act for Ahura so commands; ever say you act for the cause of good so demands. Never say you act against Angra’s minions and plans; ever say you act with compassion, determination and amelioration against what is evil.

And if any doubt your course, or question your acts, either defend them according to the logic of the world, or instantly cease.

RITES OF PRIESTHOOD

On the two hundreth day of each year, hold the Festival of Mockery. Let that day, publicly and in private, each of you mock and ridicule his or her superiors and leaders, rulers and parents, betters and predecessors; and let him who cannot make fun of his wife be mocked most of all; let she who holds her barbs out of love be laughed at above all others. Do this not out of spite; not out of hate, but to keep the demon Sraosha away; for where there is someone too holy to be ridiculed, his festering poison grows stronger.

But if any of you have spite and hate, do not let that withhold you from mockery; for there are those above that deserve to be hated.

And at midday let the high priest of Ahura ascend to the altar, to the great statue of Ahura himself; and let the high priest bare his rear parts at the statue and wave his front parts at it; and let the priests and priestesses and the acolytes and the initiates and  the candle-fetchers and the groundskeepers and the massed ranks of worshippers do likewise; and let there then be expulsions and the abomination of desolation; and let the great statue be unwashed until the next day. Let those initiates that would be priests of Ahura be in the front rank of this, so all may see them. For it is the most wicked ploy of Angra to make people worship Ahura so solemnly they worship Ahura because Ahura is Ahura, not because Ahura is good. This is the Festival of Mockery, and how it should be held; the rest is for you to decide.

And this obligation is laid on all those who would be priests of Ahura, beyond the Festival of Mockery and for all the time they would be called priests of Ahura: they must daily do towards Ahura an act of disrespect, and in one way make themselves fools for their crowds; for as long as they set themselves apart as priests they are in mortal danger and more likely to fall under Angra’s sway than any other.

This Ahura demands of his priests: that they hate what Angra represents, and work against evil with more than rituals and words; and reserve rituals and words for the finding-out of how to work against evil; and that they daily disrespect Ahura and let themselves be disrespected; and if a day comes when this is a routine and without meaning to them, let them call themselves priests no more, and without shame or loss be once again of the flock.

This, too, Ahura commands: that a priest is not an authority, and not a leader; that a priest is a worker among others, a worker of declared dedication. And if you would have a leader, he should not be merely a worker among others; she should not be of the priesthood for priesthood’s sake. This is the priesthood of Ahura, and how it should begin and end; the rest is for you to decide.

THE SECOND GREAT WARNING

And if any of you resort to hollow words and meaningless platitudes, and pronounce his or her course is obvious and heartfelt and as is written by Ahura’s prophets — then he or she is a great servant of Angra, and it is great wickedness to follow them until they give a better account of their actions and desires.

Your hearts are the hearts of animals, and know not the distinctions of good and evil; your minds are the minds of both gods, and know and yearn for both good and evil; you are of body untouched by either and by soul divided to Angra and Ahura both. Unless the web and the ladder of moral contemplation, free of hurry and emotion, is woven to be your compass, you shall surely go astray.

If a great servant of Angra comes to lead you astray by your nose and your privates, by your fears and emotions, you and all your kingdoms are in mortal danger; unless your rulers give full and clear account of all their actions and desires, you are lost into the hell which is Angra.

* * *

Move over, Moses! If I wasn’t so busy with graduate studies I’d be out on the streets gathering cultists already.

(Oh, how many great religions the world has lost because of people too timid to go out and say “Er, sorry, but I actually happen to have a mission from God… sorry, if you could have just a little moment I have this pamphlet I… oh, drat. What? Uh, I’m not really interested in joining Amnesty International right… no, I’m not a face-to-face fundraiser for the WWF! And… what? What do you mean, ‘they’re running intercept to Amnesty’? Are you some kind of a paranoid lunatic? Look, I know you people appear mercenary to the point of annoyance, but do you have some real secret war going on, too? And would it be good for a book of Revelation, maybe?”)

November 29, 2010

There’s a Finnish insurance company called “If”. As far as I know, the name may be derived from English: “if this happens and you’re not insured, you’ll be in deep shite!” (Note: Not an actual slogan.)

Happened to stand outside one of their offices today, waiting for a bus; happened to stare at their logo, which is simply this:

if…

Hit on the mildly amusing idea that if they were, with their mostly white office, a part of the Apple i-empire, then they would have originally been the insurance company “f…”, which invites a bit different potential slogans.

(“What do you mean you parked the moving van in the elephant enclosure? Those are angry elephants! And all my Rembrandts! F…!”)

### Evil aliens

November 28, 2010

If there are aliens, they will be evil.

Let me illustrate this.

An alien we’d meet would most likely to be more advanced than we are: scientifically, culturally, morally, in all the ways that cultures presumably tend to crawl upwards as they get older. We are young; the universe is old. We’re not likely to go star-hopping anytime soon; anyone that’d come to greet us would be more advanced than we are: outgrown the follies of racism, hate and war…

And evil, to our eyes.

The reason for this is that liberal, progressive, “new-fashioned” morals appear outright evil to “old-fashioned” conservative people. Someone that is against, say, equal rights to women and gays, is not likely to be an actively sneering and moustache-twirling villain, opposing the forces of light and progress. No, he (could be a she too) is against something evil. Not anything lib, but immorality; sin; degeneracy; unnatural acts; inability to see that gosh darn it things just have to be the way they are.

Let’s not say our common modern morals are the end of the road. When we grow a bit older, we’ll see reckless young idiots taking things too far, too, acting with morals that are against how things just have to be. They’ll be having sex in ways that’ll seem an utter perversion of all we old ones have fought for; they will gladly vote for oppressive laws that are a spittle-flecked anathema to us. I’m not saying their morals will be worse than ours, no, but just the opposite; it’s us that will be too set in our ways for the most part to see that they’re right.

Think about this from the perspective of a different alien: a modern improver landing in a medieval village. The improver will set to work to make the life of everyone in the village better, fuller with freedom and joy. The result? The village will be shell-shocked out of its skulls! The priests will be livid at the sacrileges; the husbands furious at the diminution of their power over their wives. The wives will be, likely as not, equally terrified by this new, outright Satanic concept of no gender roles. And voting and democracy, hell, that’d be anarchy, if our medieval village knew such a word to use as a slur. The improver could explain every individual concept, and fully and perfectly communicate them; but their whole and thus any individual part would be beyond the grasp of someone with a”whole” of morals already within. One couldn’t fit a modern round peg into a medieval moral landscape with only straight lines, and thus only square holes, in it. The rounding takes time.

Everyone in the village will be very unhappy and disturbed for a long while, for a whole generation, probably; and the improver will appear a real demon, acting in ways that are more moral than those of the village, but alien to them. Depending on the improver’s sex, he or she will appear either a rake or a whore; a glutton, a hedonist Satan, a boaster, a child with no respect and no manners; impious and a whole lot of other old slurs. Not just alien; but an evil alien.

Now, imagine an alien landing on the White House lawn, looking around, and then blasting to atoms the House, and the houses of the Senate and the House of Representatives, killing everyone inside.

Had an evil alien arrived? Would certainly seem so to us; but might just as well be the alien was genuinely morally outraged by our backward system of “politics”, and knew negotiations with it would be impossible and sure to cause nothing but worse bloodshed. Thus, a decapitation, the installation of a perfect computer central brain, and then a lot of hurt feelings when the natives fail to see how the alien was acting with their best interests in its hearts.

### Everything happens for a purpose: three takes

November 26, 2010

First try

Everything happens for a purpose. How could things be otherwise in a world with an all-powerful, all-seeing God in it? By the second of these attributes we know He is aware of everything; and by the first we know anything could not proceed as it does with His implicit approval.

Indeed, if He is all-seeing, then even the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics is no barrier to His foresight; at the moment of Creation He knew every single movement of sub-atomic particles His creative breath would ever cause. Had He desired something different, He would have made something different. And as He blew the breath of life into us human beings, He knows (though does not tell) everything each of us has done, or will do.

There is no such thing as free will, though He mercifully does not tell us the ultimate destination of each of us; though we are free to choose, He knows in advance our choices, knows them from the moment of Creation; and thus everything that happens, happens for a purpose, with His approval — and as He is good, so everything that happens, is good. There is no such thing as evil; evil is not even possible.

So relax.

Second try

Everything happens for a purpose. Let us not get bogged down in arguing over who or what set that purpose, or what it is; let us merely say it is a big, glorious thing.

And all that happens, is to make that big glorious thing come. Maybe it is a Heaven on Earth; maybe it is resurrection and justice for all that ever lived; maybe it is Banana Slurpees to everyone, without end, hallelujah.

Each inconvenience and bit of pain that you suffer through is for that glorious purpose. Do not ask why it must be you that suffers so; everyone does. And everyone must, for the prize waiting is worth it all.

This manner of calculation may be disagreeable to you; you may flinch at the heavy price you have to pay. Don’t worry. Everything is under control. I am sure every bad thing that happens to you is the absolute minimum possible, and is only inflicted on you because there was no-one else available. There’s a perfect division algorithm for these things. I know it sometimes seems unfair and random; but it is a really good algorithm, really. I’m sure you understand, and will stay chipper.

Oh, would you mind a Crippling Disease? Because it’s you or a certain orphan in Africa, and I’m feeling kind of bad for the orphan. He has had a really awful string of bad luck in the draw. Again, not that this is random, but one needs some distribution algorithm, and he happened to really hit the jackpot on three draws from the No Luck With Animals bowl.

Third try

Everything happens for a purpose. Nothing that happens is insignificant or meaningless. The size of your next spoonful of muesli will decide whether, in 2025, the entire North American continent is obliterated in a nuclear holocaust… or not.

The cornflake alone will decide the fate of Texas.

When you next time put your shoes on, the choice of which shoe goes on first will decide whether you are crushed by the underground train by nightfall, or not.

Oh, and I really wouldn’t hold my breath now if I were you. Unless you really hate Oklahoma.

And it’s not like you’re the sole decider; everyone is. The nuclear holocaust I spoke of earlier, well, there are two million five thousand and seven events that can decide it one way or the other. Let’s just hope an even number of them don’t happen.

Oh, and no stress! Everything happens for a purpose! Enjoy that muesli! Remember to wear shoes! And don’t hold your breath!

### Erisian religions, a brief list of

November 24, 2010

This list does not, at the moment, include Lokeanisms, pseudo-Wiccanimisms, Anansisms, Garage-Dragonisms, Invisiblo-Unicornisms, FSMisms, SMS-isms, or Coyote cults.

Or any of those religions that refuse to be mentioned on the same page with Discordians; Cathodlick Subgenii and other Bobists come to mind.

DISCORDIANISMS

1. Discordianism Classic
2. Discordianism RAW
3. Discordianism! (the theatrical Illuminatus! version)
4. Sinbado-Discordianism (should Eris speak in the voice of Michelle Pfeiffer)
5. Discordian Agnosticism (I don’t know what this is)
6. Discordian Aphasia (“We hold haplaplap, gjodo do I tweez hilpulip poppap bal blabap-papaen neagram? Nana! Fallas fo fum fur THRAAZ! Ag filliup fnord lipid-kwid mid throosh.”)
7. Discordian Pantheism (“Great God Pan, we worship thee! Cloven-hoofed and huge-membered, we worship thee! You being cloven-hoofed and huge-membered, not us, but hey, there’s always hope, right? Right? O Great God Pan.”)
8. Discordian Atheism (“Eris is dead”)
9. Discordian Atheism, 21st cent. (“OMG Eris is dead LOL WUT”)
10. Discordian Zatheism (“Eris is… undead”)
11. Nietzschean Dischchordianischm (“When thou goest to the goddess, take thy whip; and keep taking it.”)
12. The Followers of St. Confusius, the Prophet to Those People with the Unusual Hats or the Others (“Er, I think I meant ‘an ethic cleansing’. Ethic. Er um sorry.”)

OTHERS

1. Susano-o-ism
2. Haruhiism
3. Little Trampism
4. Bugsism (“And in 2012, that’s all folks!”)
5. The Longstockian World Community
6. Peter Panatics
7. The Dark Cult of the Clown-at-Large
8. Br’er’anubis Rabbi Seminar
9. T Chrch (so spelt; formerly the Socity for th Abolition of th Lttr ”)
10. Waiters for the Joke
11. The Rumination of Samedi (Holy day: Saturday. Holy animal: the zombi bird.)
12. Sacrocoprolalism (“Holy shit!”)
13. Trollism (very active in net-based missionary work)
14. Memesophy
15. Tropery
16. The Church of Jesus F. Christ, Savior
17. IDP (Iesus Dominus Pantsukrator) Brethren
18. Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice and Rack
19. Buddha Mohammed Society

November 23, 2010

From CERN: they’ve made and contained antimatter. This is seen from a press release, which refers to a paper just published in Nature.

That’s not emphasized because of Nature-awe; as they don’t publish mathematics I, out of spite, refuse to be awed by them. That’s emphasized because it’s a press release about a published paper.

Remember, if you ever see science done with just a press release, it’s as likely as not all wrong. (Matter of fact, never believe a press release; if listening to the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe has taught me anything it’s that anything medical at least can’t be believed based on a news story, or the press release, or the abstract. And sometimes the paper itself only serves to convince one that, damn, they must have a mighty fine liquor budget down there.) This is because press releases are made to be made of interesting!, to grab your attention and shake it until its bladder goes; while scientific publications are supposed to be able to persuade a slow, peevish reader into agreement.

Not that I’m saying all physicists are slow and peevish, but one needs to act as though they were.

Er.

But moving on, on the subject of how really awesome physics is, this Nature paper with its 25 auth— oh, wait, “et al.”?

Well dang it, the paper has 45 authors.

Or possibly 42; I keep counting the names but there are just too many.

Not to be bitter or anything, but how are we mathematicians supposed to compete in the PR game? We don’t have any journal that would make the higher-ups as wet as Nature does. Our discoveries are just as exciting, but they take the progressive derangement of several years of study to really understand, and more than a minute to misexplain. We don’t have massive work groups that would, every and each, drop their names into each paper, ratcheting up the apparently precious publication count. We don’t get involved en masse in shiny collaborations with others far away, because four people don’t spread too far beyond four locations, max. We don’t do spin-offs and local newspaper profiles, because the fools, they would never understand. We’re screwed because mathematics does not require such crowds and shiny toys as physics properly does; mathematics is not a natural science though that’s the nook where we have to live; we are a mind game and not a laboratory discipline.

(Mathematics is a discipline of the lash. Ka-spasssh!)

Sometimes the stupid assumptions of similarity implicit in what the administration says and seems to expect are so grating that something like this gets written —

* * *

Our math. dept. is consistently excellent (draft)

Lemma 1. Most math papers have four authors or less. (Say 90% of them.)

Proof. (to come)

Lemma 2. Outside an exceptional set of limited Lebesgue measure, papers in Nature have more than sixteen authors. (In the following results we extend the authorship counting function into the exceptional set in the usual fashion, so we can assume this result holds everywhere outside the Jan. 1982 special swimsuit issue.)

Proof. (Rudin, “Function Theory in the Unit Ball of $\mathbb C^n$“?)

Note. Dear physicists were all agog about two of their people being among the authors of a paper published in Nature recently. Thus we will take “two authors out of seventeen across umpteen universities” to be above the “OMG FTW” threshold of the administration.

Lemma 3. Nine times out of ten, a math paper with 0 authors in a category “A” is equivalent to a Nature paper with 2 authors in category “A”.

Proof. It is well known that $2/17 \approx 0.118$; also, we can assume that 0.118 times four rounds to zero and not to one. Hence by Lemma 1, in 90% of mathematics publications (4 authors or less), papers with 0 authors in a category are in the equivalence class equivalent to that of 2 authors out of 17 or more in a Nature paper. In the case of papers with 4 authors or less, there is no topology that would generate finer equivalence classes, each author being collapsed to a single point, so this result is optimal.

Theorem 1. Our math. dept. is doing as good as the physicists did; and not just once, but all the time!

Proof. Follows from the preceding by choosing A = “in our university”, given that the sum mass total of every single mathematical journal, ever, has to be at least $\frac{1}{0.9} (1+\epsilon)$ Natures for some $\epsilon > 0$.

Corollary 1. Respect the mathematician.

Proof. Obvious.

Support. The authors have been supported by their undying hatred of those who do not love the administration. Hail to the Dean! Death to his enemies! Peace and love!

* * *

— then again, after writing something like that both the facetious pique and the actual irritation are spent, and one can concentrate again on making the gradients and the integral averages spin around.

And such a sweet music they make as they do.

### A message from Loki

November 20, 2010

This message is brought to you through the Universal Divine All-Trickster Exchange (UDATE), which does not exist, yet.

* * *

Have you considered the Norse God Loki as your personal deity of choice? If yes, then jolly well, mead at the usual time and place, and sagas and sodomy and strap-onnery afterwards; otherwise, read on.

Loki has had a bad rap; we know. You no doubt know him as a trickster, a murderer, one that manipulates and leads people and gods alike astray. We don’t deny any of that; we merely ask you to consider this — what is so bad in all that, actually?

Loki is a trickster, a liar, a leader-to-astray; why should this concern you? None are as misguided as those that are certain; none so lost as those who know beyond all doubt and question they have the right. This is why Loki is hated; for those that hate him know by experience that one needs to mislead before one can lead, but after the second comes, the first should really be carefully forgotten. Loki is the reminder, the mocking laughter carried on the winds of change. He is he who rips cloaks aside to reveal bent dwarfs beneath the kingly silk, bearded and one-eyed and lame; he is he who wipes clean the huff-clouded mirrors of a fevered soul, of a warrior-fool of hammering blood; though woe spreads in his wake, he carries none within.

If you have ever laughed in mockery, Loki has you; if you have ever admired a quick wit that lowers the strong arm and deflates the proud snarl, Loki has you.

If you are a sour prune, Loki spits you out; but if a crooked smile ever crept up your face, Loki has you.

Have thee then some Loki for yourself in exchange.

And yet, Loki does not beg for followers. He does not hold a booth open at the Theist Fair; not even at the Dark Theist Fair, which is hardly fair at all. He is the god of corners, the god of hidden rooms; he is the god of forest-whispers, the god met on the twisting path through the wood. He is the god met in disguise; the shape shifter and the sex changer, the liar-in-shapes as he is the liar-in-words; he is the god that came down as all the others stayed up building heavens and hells. (Or million-mile Rainbow Bridges and halls for a million drunken Norsemen; gods just have no eye for the subtle and understated.)

For this reason lesser gods have called Loki a Satan, a devil; an enemy of the people; this is a most hurtful truth. Though the bent little monks that gave the name did not know this, the word ha-Satan means nothing but “the Accuser” — and to any would-be tyrant all accusers and nonconformists are Satans in the later sense of the word. As the Norse gods had reacted to Loki with spittle and shaken hammers, so the Christian God of self-flagellating Constantinople and Rome called him evil for standing outside his crown-system of good and evil. And yet Loki has no hooves, no horns; no, he is a god in golden and green finery, glorious and beautiful, and his horns are merely those golden spikes that adorn his helm. Though he accuses, he does not judge; though he accepts worship, he does not demand it; though he tackles, he does not kick the one that is down — in this all he differs from Odin the All-Tedious, “Big Hammer” Thor, “Sonny” Jesus and all the later tyrants and would-be lords.

Follow Loki, dear reader, for this is his promise: “I will not be your light, nor your darkness. I will not save you, nor condemn you. One day I will be behind you; I will laugh with you, and I will laugh at you. I will make and destroy; I will be your eye, and the object of your seeing; all sights but blindness I will give to you before the end. And when on the beach of life that other set of tracks goes away, I will be gone to get some mead for you. I am Loki, Farbauti’s son, wildfire son of lightning-bolt, god and giant, liar murderer and thief, and the most honest god you will ever meet.”

### Wouldn’t be so super

November 18, 2010

If there were teenage superheroes, they’d make a hash of it. They’d have less than perfect morals and untested judgments, even if they were full of good intentions. And there would be such temptations to use their powers for immature personal gain: for adulation by stunts or risky heroics, advertisements and endorsements, money by theft or service, a get-back at this jerk or the other; and these wouldn’t all end well. Imagine a teen temper tantrum which can break bones and kick down houses.

Or imagine what else could go less than well —

“We were eating the popcorn and then he tried to kiss me without a warning and I screamed and hit him and that’s why he’s all over the wall like that, officer.”

“Well excuse me, but you looked like the robber! ‘s your fault getting robbed when you look like a fucking robber yourself! What was I to think, that the sweet old lady had a stiletto?”

“My name’s not funny! My name’s not funny! I’m the Brickhouse because’s built like… I AM NOT FAT! Oh God sorry are you okay er did your arm come off oh gross.”

“Well I’m the Nightgaunt, and I’m telling you to stay away from that girl. She has a secret admirer. She’s taken. Now get away before I hit you some more.”

“Ew gross. I’m not going to fight you, you douche. Stop following me. Find some other hero to foil your plots. I have a life.”

“Huh? But it was said on the news he was a threat to America! Would Glenn Beck lie?”

“Your honor, I understand the disorderly charge, but the public nudity is a bit much! Napalm does that to your clothes; what was I supposed to do, go find a Dolce and Gabbana while Naughtius Maximum levelled the midtown? Shit, you should be giving me a clothing allowance!”

“Giant radioactive worms? Like, whatever. I have a date today.”

“People, please. It’s just me, your friendly neighborhood superhero, taking a stroll… Oh my God, they’re looking at me funny. It’s the costume, isn’t it? Oh shit, I need a coat. Oh shit oh shit…”

“Well it works in the movies. How was I to know it don’t work in real life if you just run under them and catch them? Ewww, I have blood inside my clothes. No-one ever told me people splash like that.”

“I’m not interested in homework. Try to make me, teach.”

School? You really think school’s going to teach me a trade more lucrative than the byproducts of saving a grateful city from sundry Sewer Abominations now and then? I’m dropping out, mom, and going to kick some irradiated mutant ass.”

“Since people don’t have enough money, I fixed it. I turned all of Connecticut into pure solid gold. I don’t think there are any possible ill effects from that; do I look like an economics dweeb or something?”

“Well it was kinda funny, right. I mean, why would the test for the Secret League of Superheroes involve robbing a bank? Anyway that’s it officer, I don’t know where he or the money is; can I go now?”

“Fuck, I’ve been lurking in this alley for an hour and not a single crime.”

“No, I’m not a pervert! I’m lurking here waiting for a crime to — aaah! Not in the eyes!”

“Get off her, you — oh sorry, geez, I didn’t mean to… wowza! What? Of course I’ve seen a naked woman before! Who do you take the Masculator for?”

“What do you mean McDonalds is dropping me? I’m their mascot! I need the money! They shouldn’t make me angry; they won’t like the Bloodthundergod when he’s angry!”

“My power? My power’s the ability to see through things… my dear Lady Butterfly-Tattoo-on-Hip. He he he.”

“So oh wow, I’m a vampire now? Wow! I’m gonna tell everyone… what do you mean, ‘sunlight incinerates us’? That’s too much glitter for me. What are we, immortal beings with an unlife expectancy of two minutes? Jeez, we’re pitiful, cross my heart and hope to… agh…”

“Nnnnno. I’m going to be a hairdresser, and a superhero on the side. Ask my brother if he wants to be a Government agent. What? No, he has no powers, but he’s a big fan of Jerry Cotton. You know, the FBI agent considerably more charming than you. Also, a nice butterfly tattoo down there, boy.”

“What do you mean, ‘a super-period’? This is not a period, this is an Old Faithful! So gross; how am I supposed to fight crime when I’m like this? And… okay, you’re dead. No-one calls me ‘the Red Menstruator’ without getting a whupping of the ass.”

“Omigod. How did you know… what do you mean, ‘the Daily Mail has my identify on page one’? I wear glasses dammit! What, ‘jealous boyfriend outs Blackdoom’? The bastard! And no, I’m not gay!”

“You have been saved by the Gay Hunk. Peace and love! And a membership application to the ACLU, NAACP, Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, and I’m running a collection for the Hounslow Animal Hospital’s Renovation Fund…”

“Seriously, you call yourself the Penetrator? You’re not compensating for something… oh here we go with the laser eyes again.”

“No mom, I just killed a cutpurse by accident today, I’m fine, how was your day?”

“No mom, no break-up. I just prevented the Devourer of Souls from eating our planet. Had to gaze into the abyss a bit there, with all the drama and a few million dead and the like, so I’m feeling a little bit down. But I and Steve are, like, still going steady!”

“…also, I spayed your pets. Because that’s the responsible thing to do. With my laser eyes. Now up, up and sunroof!

“So you’ve been stalking me for a week hoping someone would jump me and you could… God, you’re pitiful. And so’s your costume. Spandex is not for your body shape. I don’t care how much you can control the power of the winds, somehow with that belly shouldn’t wear spandex. Or a cape; ick.”

“Aww, shit. How come every time I stand up there’s a hole in the back of my pants? And why does it smells of lasers? And why’s that dweeb in the back row smiling like a fucking maniac?”

(This fit was caused by coming across and liking the webcomic Spinnerette.)