March 19th, 2012

Elle looks up

A couple observations about scifi.

Have you ever noticed that in most scifi series, the main characters almost always understand the way alien math works? And sometimes the other way around; I'm watching an episode of Stargate: Universe where some aliens in a galaxy billions of light years from our own have somehow implanted Chloe with the knowledge of advanced *human* mathematics. I mean, sure, some things will be universal, but the notation system - the symbols that are used and the way they're laid out on the workspace - would be completely different. Even simple math! My constructed world of Traipah uses entirely different symbols than ours for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division - even the equals sign is different! And it's written backwards and upside down from the way we do it! I don't know near enough math yet to come up with more complex operators, but given enough time and work I probably could. All those Greek symbols we use in higher math, they'd be something else entirely!

Oh, and prime numbers! SETI folks and their fans, pay attention: Prime numbers are always the same, but how they're written out depends on what base you're using. In our base 10, the primes start out at 2, 3, 5, 7, and 11. In Traipah's base 6, those primes are written as 2, 3, 5, 11, and 15.

Hell, until the Arabs invented the place system of math, most people had no zero; it was rarely needed.

Of course, it's all just an extension of the whole "we and the aliens can always understand one another's language, even if we've just met, and in some cases even read written languages without knowing the living language, unless it serves the plot to have it be otherwise" trope. It's laziness! And it's not even necessary! So much drama can be made from trying to figure out a new language or an alien math or a dead written language. Even if all it takes is a few-minute montage, give it at least *some* consideration!

Hell, we can't even figure out how to decipher Linear A, because there's nothing to compare it to - no living language, not even a Rosetta stone sort of thing to compare it to dead languages we can interpret. If it weren't for some similarities to ancient Greek, Linear B would also have remained indecipherable! And it's all further complicated by the fact that Linear A is a syllabary, not an alphabet. Just like Traipah's written language! If some human archaeologists found the ruins of a Traipahni civilization, it wouldn't matter how many hundreds or thousands of pages of text they found; without a sample of the spoken language, or some kind of Rosetta stone thing that helps them decipher it (which would require some kind of Deus Ex Machina to exist, in this case), it could go untranslated for hundreds of years! Or thousands! Hell, it could remain untranslated forever!

Most scifi shows do this kind of crap to some degree, but Stargate is the worst offender! The movie did a good job concerning language barriers, but the series didn't even TRY. Oh sure, they're fairly good about taking time and lots of work to decipher written languages, but everyone on every planet in the whole fucking galaxy speaks the same damn language, and it's English! (With the exception of a few Jaffa words, and mentions in passing of Jaffa and Gould languages, or the occasional Asgard cussing in his or her native tongue.) And they don't even try to handwave it; they just act like there's no need at all to explain how or why everyone in two different galaxies (Milky Way and Pegasus) speaks English. Wait, they speak English in the Ori galaxy, too, so make it THREE galaxies. And the Ori galaxy is so far away from our own that their ships have to use a supergate to get here!

Gods... at least Star Trek has the universal translator, and Dr. Who has the TARDIS translating everything! And even then, both those series have had occasions when they ran across a language they couldn't translate.
And at least Stargate: Universe is better about that than the other Stargate series. They've run into two different alien species so far, and neither one of them spoke anything the humans could understand or even hope to speak. Yet, as I mentioned above, somehow these aliens billions of light years from our own know advanced mathematics in human notation, and gave that knowledge to Chloe, who did not previously know that kind of math. At least their knowledge of the Alterran language is at least partially understandable, as they'd been studying the Destiny for months or years before the humans arrived on it. Though how they interpreted a language they'd never seen or heard spoken, on a ship from a galaxy far, far away, written by a species they'd never seen before, I don't know. (Hell, the show still hasn't adequately explained how the aliens have been using the communication stones to switch bodies with some humans, when they had no way to get hold of those stones.)

Okay, now it's clear that all I have to do to get myself motivated to learn something is to relate it to my constructed worlds in some way, because changing the math system of Traipah to base 6 and coming up with symbols for simple math operators has changed me from someone who absolutely hates math to someone obsessed with it. I still suck at it, and I still kinda hate it, so at least some small part of my obsession with it is fueled by spite and/or the desire to make sense of the bizarre world of mathematics. It has become a difficult puzzle I must solve.

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Fay Doll still

Weekend update

I was on the MAX (light rail) and saw this guy smoking just before getting on the MAX. He looked like your normal Portland hipster. A few minutes later, he gets my attention and asks for spare change because he's supposedly $13 from getting a hotel room for the night.

MY reaction, and the words we spoke: "Sorry, I don't have any cash or change on me. But I wish you luck." (True enough, if not the real reason; the real reason being "I'm living hand to mouth myself as it is.")

Alex's reaction, luckily confined to the inside of our skull: "What, you can afford cigarettes, but you can't afford $13 for a room? Maybe you need to sort out your priorities before you go spanging."

(Spanging [spain-jing] is a slang term that means asking for spare change. It's short for "spare changing.")

Yes, that kind of thing is why I generally forbid Alex from speaking aloud. Because he's the kind who'll burn his bridges before he even gets to them. And that was one of the tamer, nicer things he could say.

And last night (Saturday), Alex was complaining aloud (muttering, really) about people smoking in the bus stop shelters and how he'd like to grab the cigs out of their hands and put them out in their smokers' eyeballs. It was all I could do to stop him going over there and bitching them out for smoking in the bus shelter. It bothered both of us so much that we actually walked two blocks away to the next stop to get away from it. He was in a bad mood after that.

Later, we got on the line 14 we'd been waiting for, and not long after getting on, the bus was stuck waiting for some cars on the other side of the road to move, so the bus driver could turn the bus. This was mainly because some idiots had parked on our side of the street at the corner there; if the driver had turned anyway, he'd have scraped the sides of the parked cars. Given the narrowness there, and the needs of the buses, if parking there isn't already illegal, it should be. I think someone heard us when Alex said, "Just turn anyway and scrape the sides of their cars; it'd serve the idiots right for parking there." I honestly think Alex would have had a near-orgasmic spasm of joy if the bus had done exactly that. As I write this, he's imagining the bus breaking their windows as it bullies its way past them, and shoving the cars up onto the sidewalk as it turns.

Also, I think Alex is more British than American. He came very close to calling cigarettes "fags" aloud last night, and it's the word he initially thought at me on the MAX today.

Alex is a bit of a paradox, really. He hates humanity, but only because humanity sucks at having compassion for people. He's socially progressive and compassionate, but individually detests everyone on principle until he gets to know them personally, and even then he doesn't like or trust everyone 100%. Also, Alex agrees with me that nobody should be wanting for food or shelter in a society as rich as ours, unless it's entirely by choice. (And even then, he keeps talking about force-feeding anorexics and not letting bulimics use the bathroom by themselves.) But in the same breath, he can fantasize about causing all of humanity to go extinct for the good of the planet. I don't think he'll be satisfied with humans until they morph 100% into Ah'Koi Bahnis - culture and all. Anything short of that, and they're disappointing at best, to him.

Changing the subject now...

Last night, I saw a woman who looked a lot like my friend Alyssa, while I was at Starbuck's, but it wasn't her. It's odd, but in the past year or two, I've seen about one or two dozen people that look almost exactly like Alyssa. The hair, the glasses, the clothes, the face - it's like Alyssa has god-knows-how-many dopplegangers of her running around Portland.

~ ~ ~

Earlier today, at the UU church sermon, I learned something interesting. Okay, so according to the Reverend, the truest translations of The Bible from the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic have Moses unable to look directly at God, even as he's up on Mount Ararat. He actually has to hide in a crevice, while God puts His hand on Moses's face. Now in most translations, Moses sees God's back as He leaves. But in the truest translation, Moses see's God's arse (buttocks) as He leaves. More evidence that a Discordian wrote The Bible! :-D (Personally, I think Eris was having some fun messing with Moses's head by pretending to be Yahweh, and couldn't resist flashing Her rump at him.)

Also, the King James version of the Bible mistranslated Jesus's frequently-spoken phrase "kingdom of God." The Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic words used for "kingdom" in those quotes are actually feminine words. The Aramaic word (and remember, Jesus spoke Aramaic) for "kingdom," in fact, is related to the word for "womb." Therefore, the best translation into English for "kingdom of God" is actually "love's dominion" or "love's rule." And this is one of the phrases that the historical Jesus is known to have used frequently - these weren't words put into his mouth by later people for their own reasons.
Personally, I'd go with "compassion's rule," but it amounts to the same thing.

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Hermione not amused

Old humorous article I wrote

I found something in an old notebook that made me laugh. A whole bunch of somethings, actually. I don't think I've ever posted them here, but if I have, it's been a long time, since these were all written during my first year in Portland. Here's the first one:

“God Is Picky.”

I find it odd that almost all the religions of the world have laws against eating certain foods. Only very rarely do these rules make any sense, like Hindus not eating beef, since Hindus find cows sacred, and most cultures look down on eating anything sacred. (Except in the case of chocolate, which is just divine!

Usually, though, the rules are just silly. Jews don't eat pork. They say it's because pigs are unclean. Well, hogwash! Catholics, for a long time, didn't eat certain kinds of meat on Fridays in honor of Jesus wandering around the desert for 40 days and nights, an experience that I'm sure Jesus was rather keen on forgetting about. Instead, they ate fish. How this relates to the Jesus/desert thing, I don't know, because I always thought the definition of a desert was “not much water about.” If Jesus was able to eat fish in a desert, he either stumbled upon a rare land-fish of the middle east that carries water in its flippers, or he was some sort of god. I would think an appropriate meal for Lent would instead be lizards and cacti. Or maybe borrowed food. (“No that's alright, I don't want it back anymore.”) What is especially odd about eating fish for Lent is that seafood is off-limits according to the Bible. (Though, admittedly, in the same section that prohibits shaving and being in the same room as a woman when she's having her monthly bleed.)

The Jainists take food pickiness to the extreme, though. Here we have an entire religion devoted to being paranoid about not hurting any kind of life-form, even insects. So of course the only thing Jainists eat is fruit... and it has to literally fall off the tree first. I can just imagine the first non-Jain to come across a group of Jainists. They're all standing expectantly around a fig tree. The non-Jain saunters over and takes in the view quietly. After waiting with them for several minutes, he can't stay silent anymore.
“So, what are we waiting for?”
“We're waiting for some figs to drop, so we can eat.”
There is silence for a little while. Then the non-Jain says, “So why don't you just pick some?”
This causes an uproar. “That might hurt the tree!”
“Oh.” Another pause. “Isn't fruit intended to be eaten?”
“That may be so, but we can't risk hurting the tree.”
At which point, a small herd of elephants comes by, strips the tree of fruit and leaves, and thunders off. The non-Jain smiles confoundedly and says, “I'm going to go now, I'm not hungry. I had half a small dog earlier for breakfast.”

(Now don't get the wrong idea, I'm all for believing what you want, I'm just the visitor here. I'm like the non-Jain in the story [sans dog consumption], looking at all you humans and wondering why you do the strange things you do. But I digress.)

I find it very annoying when I find an absolutely awesome and fascinating religion, and they have the most ridiculous rules against eating certain foods. I've been fascinated lately by the Yezidi, a sub-culture descended from Islam, whose people worship one Malek Taus along with Allah. Malek Taus, or the “Peacock Angel,” is known as Lucifer in other religions. Only, instead of being a bad guy, Malek Taus is an angel loyal to Allah, and was assigned by Allah to be middle-management for Earth, along with other angels whom Malek Taus is the boss of. Malek Taus is, therefore, to Allah as Commander William T. Riker is to Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

I found this fascinating. And then I found that I could never convert, even if I wanted to, and even if they took converts anymore. Because they have a law against eating beans. My entire diet consists mostly of bread, cheese, and beans. So you see why I could never convert to the Yezidi faith.

This is my theory about that law: the founder of the Yezidi faith married a woman who was excessively fond of beans. She ate them at least as much as I do, maybe more. Pinto, garbanzo, black; boiled, refried, mushed up. In soup, by themselves, even spread on toast. She ate three times her weight in beans every day, and could not get enough of them. Because of this, her farts were the stuff of legend. Her bowel movements sang the praises of the almighty bean for all to hear. And yea, the neighbors had to invent gas masks. The poor husband, meanwhile, had lost his ability to smell, but sensed the smell seeping into his very bones.

One day, the fumes finally got to him. In his gas-induced vision, he saw Malek Taus. The exchange went something like this:
“Behold! I am Malek Taus, Lord of this Earth, assigned by Allah Himself to – (cough, hack, gasp)! Holy shit, what IS that smell?”
The founder sighed. “That's my wife's flatulence. She is very fond of beans.”
“I pity you, friend. Anyway, I come here to tell you the Truth about Me.”
A pause.
“Okay, I've never done this before,” says Malek Taus. He hands the founder a book. “Here it is. Enjoy. And remember, tell your friends to pick up my book at Narnes & Boble, where they can get 10% off the cover price. Catch ya on the flip side!”
The founder of the new Yezidi faith stared at the book, a collection of stories Malek Taus had written during his college days majoring in literature, and had a brainwave. Mustering all the charisma, charm, and righteousness he could, he converted his wife to the new religion, and conveniently added in a bit about beans being foul in Allah's eyes (or nose, more likely). It was hard work prying her away from her legumes, but he finally succeeded. And at long last, he regained his sense of smell.

I think I'm going to start my own religion and follow in everyone else's footsteps by forbidding foods I don't like. Yea, verily thou shalt not eat lima beans, brussels sprouts, nor pickled herring. The ironic thing is that since humans tend to be unable to resist the forbidden, that this religion might actually get people to eat more vegetables. Maybe I should ban other veggies, too, like spinach, broccoli, and lettuce. NAH! I couldn't, I like those veggies too much.

My new religion shall be called Ickyism, and the mythology shall be thus =

In the beginning, there was Gord. It was dark and warm and wet and cozy where Gord was, for He could remain there to listen contentedly to the thump-thump of Creation. Gord was happy and content.

Then one day, Gord was rudely squeezed through a very tight and cramped tunnel and into a cold and dry land of light and noise and chaos. He did not like this very much, and missed the continuous thump-thump of Creation. Thus He uttered the cry that Ickyists everywhere mimic in their churches, the Holy Scream of Gord. And this cry was magical, for at once He felt something soft and warm in his mouth, and drank comforting ambrosia from it.

Yet Gord's tribulations were not at an end, for nary a year had passed when the comforting ambrosia was denied Him, and replaced with a green goo most foul – pureed lima beans. Lo! Gord did protest of this intrusion and abomination, but it only got worse from there. Strained peas, pureed broccoli, then eventually, when He finally had teeth with which to bite His tormentor, brussels sprouts, pickled herring, and liver. Verily did Gord's attacks against His tormentors increase in frequency and ferocity, and at last He was rewarded with pizza, hot dogs, and bologna.

Gord grew older and began to create the world of mortals. But His life is full of discontent, and verily He is a capricious Gord. To prevent Him knocking His creation to the ground, we appease Him with toys, delicious food, stories read aloud to Him, and lullabyes. These things we must do every morn to ensure the sun will rise, and verily are the Abominable Foods forbidden, for they greatly anger Gord. We Ickyists look forward to the day when our messiah comes to tell us that Gord has finally grown up to become a lawyer and mellowed out some. Until that day, though, we live in constant fear.

Ah, but for all the fun I poke at the crazy things humans do, I love the human race. And, like Gord's mother and his followers, I look forward to the day when humanity grows up and people finally understand that God (by whatever names It may be called) really does not care one way or another how we live our lives, as long as we do not set out to purposefully cause harm to others. But even that God will not stop, for we have free will. Peace be with you.

This was cross-posted from
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