Archive for October, 2011

Fridays

October 28, 2011

Oh, Fridays.

This one began with talking with the next academic person over about mobile phones.

That is, he mentioned he might want a new one to replace his dinosaur, sighed over the prices of the i-Apples thingies, and talk ensued. Friday talk.

I gave advice —

Me: “Well I can recommend Android. Not that I’ve used any of the alternatives but, hey, Android is good!”

— and more advice —

Me: “Oh, and there are two types of touchscreens. I don’t remember what they’re called or what is better, but get the better one. It only reacts to, like, human touch, human skin, you know.”

He: “So no dice for zombies?”

Me: “No. Zombies are out of luck. Zombies are stuck with inferior phones. That’s why they’re irate. Zombies are out on the streets demanding better phones, groaning JOOOOBS!”

— and explained the joys of mobile Internet —

Me: “Like, if I go to the loo and remain there a long time, that’s the reason. I’m diddling with the phone.”

He: “…”

Me: “Or if I, like, scream ‘Oh no!’ or ‘Bloody shit!’ or ‘Stop it, you bloody lunatics! Stop this madness!’ — it’s, like, just me on the Internet in the loo, reading news, and not something, like, weird. So don’t feel obligated to knock.”

— and by the end he wasn’t so worried about getting a new phone.

I’m great in easing the worries of others.

Negatives and certainties

October 25, 2011

I

It is impossible to prove a negative, I hear.

This strikes me as a very stupid statement. (Then again, I don’t know anything about philosophy.)

In pure logic; in mathematics, say, proving a negative is the easiest thing in the world. “There is no even prime greater than two.” That’s a negative; it is proven in one line.

(“A Proof. An even number is divisible by two. Kapow!”)

(Well, okay. “And if that number is greater than two, it has two as a divisor and thus cannot be a prime, i.e. a number whose only divisors are one and itself. Any number you’d suggest, its demise I attest. KAPOW!”)

In real life (which I know considerably less about), you don’t ever prove anything, never, so not being able to prove a negative is a true statement, but not a particularly deep one.

Real life is a mess, you see: anything you claim you know about real life might be just a hallucination, a misunderstanding, a really convoluted mistake, or a lie. Real life has no “proof” that Copenhagen exists; just really good evidence, leading us to assume that why yes, that mermaid statue is there for real. There are people who say they’ve been to Copenhagen; there are satellite pictures, webcams, the like. It could all be a giant hoax, or a mistake (“Did I say Copenhagen? I meant Bielefeld!”) — but the most sensible interpretation of the observations is Copenhagen is there.

(Just for note: I don’t think I’m playing any postmodernist games here; I’m just a mathematician trying to express what I’ve heard scientists to say.)

And the negative in real life — well, you can be pretty sure there’s no unicorn behind you, watching you.

Don’t look; keep reading.

First, on a general level, the non-existence of unicorns is about as certain as the existence of Copenhagen: there’s no carcass, no photo of one; there’s no particular reason why a unicorn should exist; it is one in a bestiary of similarly no-show Medieval beasties; known “unicorn horns” are narwhal tusks; and so on. Unicorns could be invisible and immaterial; but there could be a hallucinogenic anomaly that makes people believe in Copenhagen, too. “Could” is not “is”, not even “likely is”.

If there is no good reason to think unicorns exist, there’s no good reason to think one is watching you.

I said don’t look. They don’t like it.

There’s no way to conclusively prove your non-watchedness; but reality is not a game that has a visible set of rules, like mathematics or Magic: the Gathering. In Magic, there’s no deep existential doubt about the number of cards in your hand; in mathematics, a set of four has four elements in it and no mistake. In real life the rule set is hidden, and we perceive it only through its effects, and the effects are dastardly complicated, and we can’t ever consult the rulebook. We just try new plays and try to figure out which rules are acting when the universe kicks us in the nuts. We could be missing “except”-clauses for a long time; we could be operating and testing in just an “except”-clause of a greater rule until we come up with something clever.

We’re assuming just that there are rules; the rest is conjecture.

When you’re playing that kind of an uncertain game, it’s silly to get stuck on not being able to prove negatives; in real life, you can’t prove anything. You just try to convince yourself and others, just try to sidle closer to truth. Every negative is a unicorn watching you; the negative proof is impossible in theory, and approximately doable in practice.

As regards actually being watched by a unicorn, the most stringent observers tend to be convinced that not being watched by one is the bet to make, the one to live your life by, the one to consider true when choosing windows and security alarms. And if one day you will be found in your chair ravaged by hooves and a horn, eh, we’ll be wiser the next day. (You, probably not; but you’ll get a footnote in a zoology manual. “First confirmed unicorn victim”, page 53.)

The reason why people talk about “proof” and “certainty” in real life is… eh, because people are dumb. That is, most people don’t realize how easy it is to be mistaken. I myself went through a phase when I thought anything in a book had to be true. Then I ran into a book by von Däniken.

The problem is, nothing has to be true just because it is written down.

Nothing has to be true just because it is in a published scientific paper, even.

Nothing has to be true because you feel like it, or because a teacher says it, or because everyone agrees about it.

The universe doesn’t give us answer sheets; there’s no ringing bell when we’re right about something. The universe gives us more than enough rope to hang ourselves by our mistakes. Because this is fucking scary, and also non-obvious, and because we have a limited lung capacity, we say “certain” and mean “as certain as I can imagine it being”; we say “proof” when we mean “all the evidence is for it”; and we say “truth” when we mean “truth, as far as we’ve found ways of testing it”. (Not “a truth”, but “an approximation of the truth”.)

That way, proving a negative is doable; and most times, that is enough for life.

* * *

II

The preceding is, as I understand it, what the middle part of this Matt Cartmill quote is about.

“As an adolescent I aspired to lasting fame, I craved factual certainty, and I thirsted for a meaningful vision of human life — so I became a scientist. This is like becoming an archbishop so you can meet girls.”

* * *

III

Tangentially related: this is what skepticism is about. I’m certain-with-footnote that there is no Bigfoot; that homeopathy has nothing in it; that there is no God, too. I’m not baldly, boldly CERTAIN because that’s more than I can honestly say; that’s for persons that have no subtlety.

But, and this is the important point, while not capital-C certain, I’m not an agnostic either. The question of Bigfoot is unsolvable in the deep philosophical sense either way; it could be really good in hiding, or any presented carcass could be a hoax (“This living Bigfoot is just manufactured to be like a Bigfoot!”); but the question is solvable in the practical sense, in the same sense that Copenhagen’s existence is solvable, and solves: in the sense of, “good enough, consistent enough, elegant and observation-fitting enough, for now”.

If you ask me — people usually don’t — skepticism in the practical sense doesn’t mean agnosticism, that is unwillingness to decide, or willingness to surrender to uncertainty. Skepticism means going for the best explanation, with all the evidence, with all the wits you got, while admitting there might come a better explanation come tomorrow. But until then, the findings of today will do. With enough days of that attitude, the next different day will be farther and farther away. It’s possible to be Right without being Certain of it.

* * *

IV

And, well, if you had a Cosmic Answer Sheet, or some Fundamental Oracle, how would you even know it was correct?

Maybe the first ten answers correspond to independent observations, to some extent. Maybe the first ten thousand. But maybe the thing is the work of some more advanced but still fallible scientist. Maybe it contains non-obvious untruths. A trivial mathematical example would be the fallacy of crossing out the sixes. It is true that

26/65 = 2/5

and

16/64 = 1/4,

but it would be a very bad idea to suppose those two examples serve to establish a general rule. Similarly, in real life, there were two centuries between Newton and Einstein that were full of people certain that time was fixed, and no funny business happened even if you moved really fast. Because getting to a fraction of c with a horsecart is difficult, the untruth (well, the incompleteness) was non-obvious; Newton seemed to be an Oracle.

Conversely, maybe the Absolute Tome is right, but you disregard it because your independent test is faulty, being based on an insufficient understanding of the nature of reality: the Tome is Wegener, and you’re unable to see how true its theory of plate tectonics is, because you reason from unsafe assumptions.

Well, the Sheet might try to convince you by saying it is infallible, but saying so doesn’t make it so.

The only way such a Cosmic Answer Sheet could work was if it gave the answers along with the route of arriving at them; but even then, those steps would need to be checked. (Come to think of it, that could be a Holy Book I would be willing to believe in: one that contained novel true statements whose truth could be independently checked and/or derived using given instructions. The usual offerings are not persuasive: “This unclear, many-valued, poetic past statement was about this concrete later past event or discovery!”; most “prophecies” are on the level of Assassinations foretold in Moby Dick.)

Even in math, if you had a collection of statements and one of them was “All of these statements are true”, it would not help you. That one statement could be either true or false with no contradiction, with no problem with the rules of the game. And I fear if you tried to improve that statement you’d end up in the wonderful nightmare land of set theory, which could just as well be named for Set, the Egyptian demon god of deserts and chaos.

* * *

V

To sum this all up: There is no certainty anywhere, but there are pretty good odds.

Ceremonies

October 24, 2011

Listening to the podcast called H. P. Podcraft, heard a mention of the online bookshop Miskatonic Books. Over on their side saw a book called Lovecraftian Ceremonies.

Subtitle was “Seven Occult Dramas for the Magickal Performer”.

Which curbed my enthusiasm.

Because I had hoped for “Lovecraftian Ceremonies: Marriages, Divorces and Especially Burials by the Rites Older Than Man”.

Containing among others the following classics:

  • The Marriage of the Ichor Bride, According to the Cult of the Ichor-Baptism, to the Googroom of Swampness (Note: to prevent irrevocable loss of sanity, should be performed as a “role play” only.)
  • The Divorce for One, by the Apparition of Clui-Tsathoggua, the Reaver of the Opposite Sex
  • The Marriage Pact of the Rictus-Nightwound, for the Bloodworm-Lizard, for the Nameless Blasphemy of the Grotesque Unspeakable Sin of the Netherwounds (this is just gay marriage, but the author was not for it)
  • The Quick Rite for the Reversal of the Reburial, for One Priest, Two Shovelmen and a Lookout
  • The Disharmony of a Wizard’s Tomb (Keeps Unruly Youths Away Or Your Blood Back!), As Made Famous By The Tome’s Eibon!
  • The Baby Shower, or, the Terrible Rain of Mewling Infants
  • The Engagement Words According To Schädelzerschmetternerberg Mountain (“Sweet eternal love I swear, and if you betray, the Hounds of Tindalos have thee!”)
  • The Engagement Words According to R’lyeh (“Fhtagn bewbs etc.”)
  • The Engagement Words According To Mrs. Mason (“The Rat-Thing That Beareths The Secrets of Salem etc. etc.”)
  • The Last Rites, That End The World Entire, Symbolically Speaking

* * *

Q: “And do ye, under these loathsome gibbous moons, in this void full of the gibbering echoes of elder witcheries, take this nameless thing as ye wedded Thing?”

A: “Verily, I do, and may the Claw rend me if I recant on this.”

Q: “Thereby I then, with wild and ecstatic phrensies, do pronounce ye a Thing and an Another Thing! May ye common spawn, your hellish, squamous, rugose progeny flood the universe!”

A: “Iä!”

Q: “Let ye all rise for the Adulatious Devouring of Naan.”

And now, some dick jokes

October 16, 2011

Q: Richard Nixon was asked to make a sandwich. What did he say?

A: “I am not a cook.”

* * *

Q: Richard Wiseman cheated death. How?

A: It’s the Friday Puzzle!

* * *

Phil Plait said, “don’t be a dick”. To which Richard Dawkins said, “am I supposed to be Tom or Harry, then?”

* * *

Q: Richard the Lionheart was given a lion after arriving in the Holy Land. What did Richard say?

A: “Good, now I have a spare one!”

* * *

“Richard Gere.”

“Where’s the joke?”

“With the gerbil.” (rimshot)

* * *

Q: What’s the difference between Richard Feynman? Answer in the form of a Feynman-gravitating frequently-attributed quote.

A: “If you think you understand question making, you don’t understand question making.”

I don’t like religion

October 15, 2011

I don’t like religion; this post is 2500 words long. You have been warned.

* * *

I have deep, indeed I might say vocal, problems with religion and the whole concept of God.

To be honest, I hate religion. I hate the lies in it, and those lies acting on the world; I hate the injustices it perpetrates; I hate the deceitful and unclear thinking it propagates; I hate the twisted hell it portrays the world as, and I hate the servile, apologetic mindset that sees such a world as good.

To think of it! This world as the work of God — this world, with parasites, tsunamis, rape, poverty, tooth decay and fatal diarrhea — this world is the work of your God? He could do no better? He couldn’t make either the world or the human animal better than this? Or wouldn’t? If this all was a result of impersonal, amoral natural forces, its nature would have no implications; nature is neither good nor evil, and makes ugliness as much as beauty — but if this all is the work of a Creator, that Creator is responsible for every damned flaw and crime in it.

This world, as a piece of His plan — even worse. If He means to have a better world after this, why this blasted vale of tears? If He can conceive of a soul in Heaven, why this before-death of uncertainty and pain? Does He think that a rape victim, a disease-ridden, famine-slain inhabitant of some pestilential slum, will be better equipped for eternal bliss? Has He not heard of trauma? Does He not consider the cost of this fucking training camp for Heaven? No goal, no hidden or subtle plan, is worth this much suffering and waste.

(And if there was a Heaven, the people there would be cowards and slaves for not overruling their Lord and bringing relief to us. They would know Earth, and Heaven; don’t even consider their knowledge of those in a hypothetical Hell, for their knowledge of Earth and those that cried on it would be enough to sour their joys forever. You, probably being a compassionate person, will feel uneasy thinking of Darfur, of Somalia — what would those in the eternal sunshine of Heaven feel, thinking of us? It might be happiness to shrug and say God will deal; but goodness, no.)

And that the chief architect of this twisted horror would claim it His right to give us laws, and to judge and punish us for breaking them — we have a word for that, when humans do it: it is tyranny. Mere strength does not give one the right to rule; if you make children, or create other sentient beings, mere making does not give you the right to rule them. As for intrinsic goodness, any damned villain can claim that — let the blackguard step down, justify his ways and laws, and see if we re-elect him. If He is not an impersonal force of nature, He can cease from acting; if He would not be a tyrant, let Him ask for our consent before subjecting us to His appeal-less kangaroo court of Heaven. (But no — the thought police in priestly gowns says Big Father cannot appear directly; will not deign to answer directly; but He loves you. And it is merely your stubborn selfishness that keeps you from groveling at His feet, and licking His toes. You should be ashamed for your pride.)

Such a God — it would be the blackest treason against humanity, against all decency, love and pursuit of good to give worship to such a monster. It would be a similar crime to stay a second from the pursuit and punishment of such a monster… if He existed. Without Him, the world is amoral; with Him, immoral.

And, finally, that people would think this all good; think this imaginary monster was worthy of a special place, a special category, just to excuse His crimes; that people would worship the wretch, that people who would with revulsion deny any of their fellow human beings such worship give that abject, mindless, slavish, adoring, uncritical love to the sky tyrant that gives them nothing but silence and plague in return… is enough to make me hate, pity and recoil from any and every church, religious service and sentiment of religion. Their God is not worthy; no God could be worth worship with this amoral world, this divine silence, to answer for.

Mind you, religious people are not evil; they’re just terribly, stubbornly, heartbreakingly happily mistaken. The religious ideas and ideals are evil, terrible, despicable, ugly — but they also confuse and blind you, and the people are hoodwinked by tradition, wishful thinking and simple human stupidity. (And their willingness to accept something because a Big Guy says it; no other justification needed, and doubt is bad unless it leads back to God. God says do not kill; that is moral. God says kill those fags; that is moral. What children play with Simon, adults play with God.)

Here the thought may rise that the author is raging against some unhip Old-Testamental God, and Jesus is better — but no, the god above, the god of hellfire and universal dominion, is Jesus. Yahweh of Old was a petty rules freak with anger management issues; but Jesus was a megalomaniacal psychopath: his message was his way or hellfire.

And the supposed sufferings of the man Jesus arouse nothing in the author but disbelief and scorn: a single crucifixion is not enough to punish God even for His own sins!

And His forgiveness — what, He needs this charade to change His own mind? To save us from the hell of His own implementation and design? Is He mad?

And a single day on the cross, a day of whips and nails and pain — there are millions and millions and millions of human beings that have suffered worse for years, for their entire lives — are we supposed to be impressed by Jesus’s little charade? Oh, poor widdle godling, He stubbed His toe — away, you hellish puppet! Away, you monster, tardily come to pretend you are one of us! You are a worse pretender and hypocrite than any in fiction or truth; you, Jesus, are a worse criminal than any of your glassy-eyed follower fanatics! I spit on you and your cross!

You come from infinite power, with the surety of returning thereto, and you dare to say this single day of pain, or thirty years of mortal life, mean anything to you?

What did you risk?

What did you lose?

Nothing, you sick, pestilential, celestial fuck! Judas should be worshipped for betraying you; you did not even have the decency to forgive him for the part he had to play for your narcissistic little Easter pageant. You are not a hero; you just play one, and kill those who do not applaud.

But to not be too hard on Jesus, what of humankind — are we the work of a God? We, we descendants of monkeys? If so, are our flaws not from nature, but from the hand of a God? Not only do we have souls, but they are God’s work?

Is so, then what malicious and careless artisan is He?

We are creatures plagued by fear and paranoia, suspicion and desires that make our lives at times joyless, and at times a living hell. We are good enough to maximally suffer for our failures and evil. Our bodies are weak, easily injured, prone to delirium and crushing pain. We know enough health and hale days to always fear infirmity and injury. There is no escape from pain and indignity with these supposedly god-tooled bodies, minds and souls of ours. What small comforts of medicine we have, are recent inventions; our inventions, because God would not provide.

So are we to think that we are the work of an all-wise, all-good creature? That this — look around you, damn you — that this is what He, all-wise, all-knowing, chose to create? This is how we are made in His image?

If any God made us, he is a villain; a lover of pain and misery; a capering devil that takes amusement from the degradation and humiliation of human beings… but that is known already. What has he asked for, but our submission, our admission of weakness and frailty, vows of love of poverty and deprivation, our mewling praise for His bloody throne?

We are made as God wishes; our nature tells His nature.

As for other religions, other gods — if they too claim to be the makers of this world, they are responsible for all it contains, and their blame increases with their reputed power, wisdom and agency. If they claim humankind as their work, they are responsible for all the grief and pain the defects in that work have made us prone to. If they claim the power to judge us, they deserve to be hated; if they claim the right to teach us, they deserve to be torn to pieces for the abysmal unclarity and wickedness of their teachings, for the corruption and human evil they allowed their prophets and religions to fall into. And if they claim what they cannot show, they all deserve to be called untruths, lies, phantasms, bitter comforts and enemies of humankind. Their houses deserve to be dark and empty, their names curses spoken with disgust and pity; their followers deserve better than those scarecrows and the world of uncaring horror they imply.

There are those who would say religion in not a matter of creeds, of truth statements; fuck them. The mere existence of God would make this world into a living hell. It is simple, and uncomplicated: God does not get to play by special rules. If His actions would be evil for a human being of great power and understanding, they are evil for God. If His demands would be excessive, His inaction damnable, His methods crude and cruel, given His powers and knowledge… then they are. If we will not judge God, how do we know Him from the Devil Himself? Only a desperate apologist, a spinmeister of diabolical cunning, would place God in a special category whose inhabitants may freely do whatever they want, and never be judged for it.

Would you invoke a free will defense for a man who let his daughter starve? Be beaten to death? Be raped, stigmatized and reviled? Hey, maybe that’s what the daughter needs to grow to be independent and adult — how misguided of us to think the father, standing next to this all, would raise a hand to interfere. How dare you judge the father!

Would you call a father the best of fathers, if he poured fire, flood and plague on his children? How naive of you to protest; he just couldn’t find a better way to raise his little ones. And if the little ones fight, and lie, and kill… oh, the children! Who would blame the father!

It does not matter what the details of God’s nature and creation are: that this world is as we see it, and that there is a God, inescapably point at that God being the most horrific monster ever conceived, a Satan beyond all Satans, the worst devil, and worse for calling himself good.

I am also not cool with the practice of religion. When a survivor of a disaster thanks God, I want to spit in her face: sure, thank God, you worm: He killed the others, but spared you. How nice of God. Do you think the dead are thanking Him in Hell?

When people pray for something… sorry, I mean, when they are begging for some small thing, like health or the life of a loved one, and God is silent and flips a coin for the answer… well, I want to shake them and ask why they bother. Doesn’t God know already? Will a bit of groveling make a difference? Is God that hard-hearted, or that difficult to convince that you really would like your mother to not die?

And when the answer is not a miracle (it never is) but a toss of coin for one of the mundane outcomes, when God gets away scot-free no matter the hurt and the upset, and people actually go on their bellies and thank God for the lesson and say they’ll be stronger and God was so good and did so justly, surely for some greater plan… I don’t know if I am more disgusted and upset by the actions of the petitioner or of the petty god. No tyrant ever was so successful with brainwashing; no terrorist ever gave his hostages a Stockholm syndrome so good.

And when people praise God, and ignore all the evil that is God’s fault if the good is His work — I retch. People could not do evil if God willed otherwise; Satan could not act; a tsunami could not kill; but God is too prissy or too lazy to intervene. He has excuses, and people to make excuses for Him. This world is apparently as good as it can get; don’t bother thinking how Heaven fits in all this. Our ignorance is too delicious and precious to Him.

And the worst part of religion is that it hobbles our ability to speak, to protest. We are not meant to know, or understand; hence shut up. We need God; to suggest otherwise is gauche, so shut up. God is as God-men say; to show otherwise is shrill, strident and rude, so shut up. And the words! What is a “sin”? Some vague bad thing the authorities disagree about. What is “faith”? Some virtue that involves very dodgy decision-making. What is a “soul”? Why, a magic thing that no-one has ever seen. What are fate, meaning and purpose? Metaphysical ghosts that are assumed to exist, much to the detriment of all useful discourse! All religious talk is about ill-defined things that have never been shown to exist. And what is God? Why, it is a superlative with no properties except an endless thirst for respect.

Maybe it is just me; maybe I’m viewing this all from a weird and skewed angle. Maybe there is enough good in religion to offset the falsity and evil of it.

But then again, I could dredge up much clearer controversies, like sexism and racism, and say that maybe there’s something in the old, venerable thing, much celebrated in the old arts, much enthroned in the society, the family, the state; much beauty, heritage, community, bonding, comfort, and peace of mind in a private, personal sort of way, despite the lies, absurdities and evil… but I will not, because that too would make me feel like a dishonest asshat. If there is genuine good in religion, it deserves better company; and good, decent religious people deserve better than religion.

I don’t like religion; I guess I could have said that in one line, but saying it with a bit more emotion makes me feel I’ve expressed my point more clearly.

Fun with theology: Soul and Eden edition

October 11, 2011

1

Two monkeys sit on the savannah. Suddenly, one keels over.

“What now?” the other monkey asks — these are evolved monkeys.

“Gahh”, the first monkey says, and struggles to a sitting position.

“Where?” the second asks.

“No no”, the first says. “I just got a conscience.”

“Hur?”

“I mean, I have morals now. And when I die, I will live on in a different, better place!”

The second monkey thought about this for a while. “Place with no gahh?”

“No gahh”, the first monkey said, beaming. “But you’re not getting there because you got no soul.”

* * *

2

“What’re those?” the saint asked, pointing an uneasy finger at a dingy, shadowy corner of Heaven.

“Poor creatures”, the angel sniffed.

“They… they’re monkeys!” the saint yelled. “What are monkeys doing in glbnd glbnd—”

The angel kept a hand on the other’s face, and whispered: “Shhh. They don’t like being called that. They’re the Unlucky.”

“Ge gnngcky?”

“The Unlucky. You see, you toga people have souls, all of you. That took a bit of time… you don’t know it, but some ee-voo-luu-shun. It’s complicated. First there were… em-oh-nkeys with no souls, then with really small souls, then some had souls some didn’t, until finally everyone had a proper soul and they were people.”

“Nn thss r?”

“These are… well, think of them as not all that bright monkeys, that are two million years old each. And because of the small souls, some of them are not all there.”

The angel withdrew his hand; the saint wiped his lips. The flesh of angels was sweet and scented with oils, but still. “They don’t have harps.”

The angel shrugged. “They don’t know how to play.”

“They’re naked!”

“Honestly, do you want to see a mo… a stooped hairy thing in a robe?”

“I’ve seen the Irish.”

“Trust me, these would be worse. And they’re not up to much big praying or anything, and their theology’s horrible.”

The saint looked at the clutch of morose monkeys, mostly just sitting in place, apathetically looking at each other or the sun of Heaven; and then he turned back at the angel.

The angel shrugged, again. “Basically just disapproval.”

“Of…?”

“Of most things.”

* * *

3

Grok looked across the valley at the approaching pack of Big Men, and growled.

Grak did the same, except instead of growling growled, “Those be them?”

Grok nodded. “The Big Men. The Evil Men. Has no souls. Has no conscience, no morals, no guide and no good.”

Grak nodded.

Grok continued: “Will never do no good. Will never understand us. Will never live forever; are nothing but animals. Is well known, this.”

Grak kept nodding; this was a quality sermon. Behind Grak, a hundred or so of their kin fingered stone axes, and waited as the Big Men grew closer.

Grok raised a spear and yelled. “If we is to not taint us, we is to not live with the Big Men. Death to the Big Men!”

And so the Cro-Magnons’ genocide against the Neanderthals began.

* * *

4

It was a day as days usually were; it began with someone knocking at the tent door.

The tent door being a flap of cloth this wasn’t much of a sound, but the old woman had grown familiar to it.

“Yes?” she called.

“Who lives there?” a male voice called from the outside.

The woman sighed. “Sarah daughter of Tubal-Cain?”

“No you aren’t”, the voice said.

The woman sighed, again. “Why do you ask if you know, stranger?”

The man outside laughed bitterly. “No reason. I just dropped by, like my fathers and brothers before me, and like my mothers and sisters before me, to tell you to go fuck yourself.”

“Right”, the woman said.

The man snorted. “And now I’m back to the backbreaking toil and stuff. Thanks a million, Eve. Have a bad day.”

“Do I ever”, the woman said.

* * *

5

“Oh shit! Get more towels!”

“There’s so much blood!”

“Give me the saw… quickly! Ah, it slipped!”

“Lay down, darling — lay down —”

“Ahh, I got it. Towels, string, sew it! Sew it before… so much blood—”

And on the next day, Adam and Eve were forced to admit that their sons could not get brides through the rib extraction method.

* * *

6

And the day after the terrible Day of Expulsion dawned in the Paradise that was Eden, and Yahweh the God Himself stretched, scratched and walked the lily-lined avenues, content with Himself.

“How goes the watch?” he asked of the Angel With A Flaming Sword — “I have seen nothing, heard nothing, and I don’t have a nose”, the Angel answered, “I have gone round Paradise every hour, waving this great big flaming sword in front of me, and observed nothing.”

It said that, and Yahweh was content.

He went to the center of Paradise then, to drink from the dew pools and to have a bite of the Fruit of the Tree; and going there, found Paradise quiet. The animals bowed as Yahweh passed; all animals, save the Serpent, which had thought it wise to lie low for a bit.

Meanwhile, quite a distance away, two human forms were walking away. Both were weary, but both had walking sticks at least.

Yahweh came to the dew pools and drank, and was content. He found an axe by the pools, and was puzzled.

Yahweh went to the Tree… and found the Tree stripped of its Fruit, and cut down.

Meanwhile, quite a distance away, two human forms were walking away. Both were weary, but both had walking sticks, and a big bag of Fruits to eat; and both were grinning like maniacs do.

And the morning of that first day there was a cry in Paradise, and that cry was: “FFFFUUUUUU—”

* * *

7

“Wait”, Eve said. “Snakes talk?”

“Thisss one doess”, the Serpent said, with a voice indicating it would have shrugged, had it had shoulders.

“Who else talks?” Eve asked.

“Huh?” the Serpent replied.

“Do lions talk? Rabbits? Mice? Butterflies?”

“I am… unsssure”, the Serpent hissed. “But lisssten, there’s thisss Fruit—”

“You wait”, Eve interrupted. “This changes everything! Oh, you don’t know how boring Adam can be; it’s nice to have someone else to talk to.”

“Talk to?” the Serpent hiccupped.

“Why, yes! Adam is such a man, and so is God — and they never told me animals could talk!”

“Well, it isss—”

“Oh no!” Eve cried. “If animals talk, they think!”

“Ssss?”

“And Adam’s been making steaks of them! Oh, how can we appear before the face of God ever again!”

“Sssse, there’sss thisss tree—”

“Oh, never mind the fruit, unless they talk too.”

“Well no, but there isss thisss lamb—”

“The horror! The horror! What if Adam slaughters and cooks it next?”

“What, cooksssss the Lamb of God?”

* * *

8

In Paradise, man was in harmony with the animals.

The woman also; but accounts of this time, being written by men, usually forget to mention this.

Man being in harmony with the animals, could not bear to injure them; would not spill blood; and hence man could not eat flesh.

For the reason of this harmony, man needed not weapons, nor clothes; and since the gardens of Paradise provided, he needed to do no work, nor toil to provide for himself. He knew not shame, nor guilt; not grief, nor fear.

And by the Downfall these pacifist vegetarian nudist hippies became… well, curiously enough, persons that the more they adore the memory of Paradise, the more they disapprove of any pacifist vegetarian nudist hippie they see. The more they see themselves as fallen, the angrier they are at those who exist in an imitation of the unfallen state.

The wrath of God is a perverse and circuitous thing.

Diversions

October 11, 2011

Aaaah. Cannot think of anything to say; hence will point you at some diversions that have diverted me.

The SCP Foundation. Crowdsourced creepy fiction. Will eat your free time, and your soul. (The actual sausage factory is here.)

Modest Medusa. A webcomic about a medusa. Modest and charming.

Nedroid. Likewise a webcomic. A bit odd. Also charming.

And to end with, here’s a nice love song from Ludo:

This might sell: Secret productivity tips!

October 9, 2011

Here’s another fine book I could write some fine day.

Secret productivity tips
of the
ascended masters

Contents:

  1. YOU are the only YOU
  2. The Laws of Attraction
  3. The Elements Never Forget
  4. Harnessing the Power of the All-Mind
  5. Your Angel Is Empowered
  6. The Power of Love Your Work
  7. Today Is The New Yesterday
  8. How To Dominate Your Boss
  9. Harness the Energy of Your Workflow
  10. There Is No Failure But Being A Failure
  11. To Work Is Human, But To Be Productive… DIVINE!
  12. There Is No Quantum But The Quantum, & YOU Are Its PROFIT!
  13. The ProDuctivity Code
  14. Winners Don’t Lose

Info-energy-boxes(tm):

  • The Horus Heuristic
  • Early Bird Flies Over The Deadline
  • Relaxify!
  • Slice, Dice and Delegate
  • Caffeine is a Toxin
  • Television Will Kill Your Children
  • Torture Your Enemies To Death, And Take Pictures
  • Quality, Quantity, Quantumy

Angels of the Workplace (excerpts):

Metatron, Voice of God — The Firm must speak with the Voice of God. It is blasphemy for any part of the Firm to speak contrary to the Voice of God. And yet Metatron is not the Voice of God, for the Voice of God is the Voice of God, and Metatron is the Voice of God, not the Voice of God. Metatron is a Serpent, and the heads of serpents are to be crushed.

Uriel, Fire of God — There are workers who are a waste of flesh. Uriel fires them; Uriel chews the fat off the lean screaming body of the Firm. Uriel is a destroyer, the trump of the deck, the apprentice of fire. Use him well, but if he turns against you, chop off his head.

Asmodeus, The True Lord of Creation — But in the Balneo you will find the blessed bloodred Oleum Antimonii in the retort, which should be taken out very carefully. The helm must be very slowly removed, taking care to soften and wash off the Lute, so that no dirt falls down into the beautiful red oil and makes it turbid. Is this not the greatest truth?

To enliven the office environment

October 7, 2011
  • Take a blank sheet of A4 or whatever the copier or printer uses. Scribble “THIS IS CRAP!” in the margin; put somewhere in the middle of the communal printer’s or copier’s paper stack. (or “will this shit really fly???”)
  • Use the Internet to acquire a picture of a photocopy of someone’s hindquarters. Take a photocopy of that picture, and leave it in the copier’s tray. (You’d be crazy to model yourself.)
  • Abandon a USB stick in the coffee room. The stick is empty; also, its name is not “KINGSTON” or “4 GB DEVICE” but “BOMBPLANS”.
  • Visit a maker of custom-texted coffee cups. Leave one in the coffee room, with a text of “You have to be insane to work here”, or “I will not die alone”.
  • Visit the same, inquire about the full range of objects that can be manufactured with a text or image of your choice included. A thong with your university’s logo, left in the toilet, would be just fine.
  • Choose a desk, an office, the like. Every time you walk past or visit, surreptitiously leave a pen or a pencil behind. (For maximum effect, a pen monogrammed with the officeholder’s initials. Better still, after a few pens, the full address and contact details.)
  • Buy a stapler. Attach a tag indicating it belongs to your department, division, etc., and then leave it at the copier spot of the next department over. They will eventually return it to your officefolks. Wait a month; repeat. And repeat.
  • The copier could use a sign saying “Do not use bleached paper”, right? Let the others figure out what, if anything, it means.
  • Ah heck, just put pink paper in the printer.
  • Would it be difficult to order custom watermarked printer paper? (“WANKER”, “behind you”, or the dean’s home phone number)
  • You know you can buy bottles of animal blood over at the superstore? If you had a vial with you and you spilled it on the bathroom floor, you’d have to hurriedly mop it up, right? Possibly in such hurry you didn’t quite get it all.
  • Alternately, were you at the smoking spot outside, who says you couldn’t slip and dump the rest against the wall? Such shame, it being the bottle of blood that had the grits in it and all.
  • Buy thumbtacks. Each day, push one more into the communal noticeboard. (For added effect, paint a numeral on each. 1 for the first, 2 for the second, and so on. Then skip all primes greater than five.)
  • Speaking of thumbtacks: tack up a blank sheet of pink office paper on the noticeboard; then rip it away, leaving the four tacks and a corner of pink paper in each. Let people wonder what advertisement was there, and was so hurriedly removed.
  • Buy a Harlequin romance. Choose either the male or the female lead. Cross over all instances of his or her name, and replace with that of someone at the office. First name for first name; surname for surname. Leave in a public spot.
  • Better still, through Dubious Means acquire the actual text of a novel, search-and-replace a few names with those of your co-workers, and print a copy at Lulu (or the similar) with the usual, utterly mundane cover. Leave in the coffee room for people to read. (Or just have the text proceed as usual for the first 80% of the novel, with just two insertions of a lower-case four-letter-word of your choice (“Perchance to fuck dream”); the remaining 20% swiftly degenerates into creepypasta and insult insertions, then the words “do not read” followed by an expletive in half-page-high letters, and then just empty pages and the back cover. No, actually, that’d work better as a gift to someone who reads in dark, lonely places.)
  • Produce a small lemonade bottle half full of urine. Leave in the bathroom on the handwashing stand. (For the empty heavens’ sake don’t leave it in the coffee room. People looking for coffee can be inattentive.)
  • Acquire a syringe and a sooty spoon. Leave to dry wherever the coffee mugs are drying.
  • Leave a pair of female underwear in the men’s toilet. Then, for great equality, leave an empty condom wrapper in the women’s toilet.
  • Send a card addressed to a John McFakename to your department’s address; the contents, just a happy-birthday wish. Then send another card. Then a third, with a childish scribble and best wishes from “Alike age 5 yrs old”. Include vague hints that, yes, this is the department John should be working in.
  • Most keyboards have keys that can be pried off. Switch S and A. (It is probably possible, but horribly difficult, to rewire a keyboard to actually register S as S and A as A even after this. Then again, observe the make of office keyboards and buy one just like them; you have time to tinker when not at work. And if that doesn’t work, well, then you have plenty of spare keys to leave floating in the toilet bowl, one each day.)
  • Print this; place in a prominent place. Your job is done.

You can really see it’s Friday.

Lifetime supply

October 3, 2011

Another WordPress “what about this for your next post?” suggestion, paraphrased because I moved away from that page already: “What would you want a lifetime supply of?”

Well, money.

No explanations necessary.

But that is a dull answer.

Depends on what “a lifetime supply” means. If it means “as much as you want”, almost anything would do; if a lifetime supply of lemons fails to make your life perfect, just want and sell a few truckloads and buy that other thing you crave. (While money can’t buy happiness, a man doth not live on happiness alone.)

But what if “a lifetime supply” is meant in the marketing, award-winning sense: as much as you, and you alone, would consume, were you an average person?

And does this mean, you get it all right now, or bit by bit as your life goes on? If you get the whole lifetime supply of, say, lemons right now, truckloads and truckloads, you will not be enjoying those lemons all your life — unless you kill yourself trying to consume them all before they go bad. (Now that would be the work of a cruel, evil genie.)

And what, exactly, is a lifetime supply of caviar? Is that an average Joe-person’s supply, all that he’d ever want or have, i.e. nothing; or the average caviar-eating refined type person’s lifetime supply, one tin a month? Do you get to choose?

“Why yes, my lifetime supply of Jaguars means one per week.”

It feels as if a lifetime supply of Jaguars should mean “you’ll always have one; if you wreck one, you get a new one” — with the assumption that you get a permanent option for a functioning car, and not an accumulation of junked ones. A lifetime supply of books feels as if there should ever be the next one waiting, and those that are read quietly go away; but what’s a lifetime supply of assassinations?

“Hey Clive, what’s the average number of hired killings your average Joe gets to order?”

“None! Nada! Zip! Zero! Easiest reward ever!”

A lifetime supply of Nobel prizes?

“Well, I have this one but I’m tired of it. I want a new one!”

“You can’t stop having a Nobel prize, you greedy git! Consequently, you don’t get another!”

Does “a lifetime supply” mean all that you need, just the amount you can’t do without? Cannot be that; you (or I) don’t need caviar; not toilet paper or cars, either; most things are not necessary for human life; and (except toilet paper) not for a humane life either.

And so I find myself unable to choose, because the damn question makes no sense. I’ll just link to a short story of mine, a story of the wurst kind of speculation over infinities like this, and stop.

(There’s a thread over on Metafilter that answers the contest “lifetime supply” question; the answer is unfortunately drab.)