Archive for January, 2003

You Will Comply

Tuesday, January 14th, 2003

This one’s for RJ. Sorry it’s a PNG - the jpeg didn’t compress well.
Be Like Stalks!

Big in Japan

Monday, January 13th, 2003

I was looking through my logs earlier today, trying to figure out why my hits had gone up recently, and I found some foreign links. For example, Talk to Oneself 2 wrote about my styleswitcher. I ran it through Babelfish, along with the other two sites linked there, but that didn’t make it any clearer to me. If you go to the main page, the styleswitcher has been implemented with some nice little graphics. Unfortunately, the script has suffered in translation as well - it only works in IE. I tried a few Mozilla-based browsers and they were all broken.

Synonyms for Seema

Monday, January 13th, 2003

Seema doesn’t feel right about the gift terminology, so I dug up some other options from Roget’s:

gift, donation, present, cadeau[obs3]; fairing; free gift, boon, favor, benefaction, grant, offering, oblation, sacrifice, immolation; lagniappe [U.S.], pilon [obs3][U.S.].
grace, act of grace, bonus.
allowance, contribution, subscription, subsidy, tribute, subvention.
bequest, legacy, devise, will, dotation[obs3], dot, appanage; voluntary settlement, voluntary conveyance &c. 783; amortization.
alms, largess, bounty, dole, sportule|, donative[obs3], help, oblation, offertory, honorarium, gratuity, Peter pence, sportula[obs3], Christmas box, Easter offering, vail[obs3], douceur[Fr], drink money, pourboire, trinkgeld[Ger], bakshish[obs3]; fee &c. (recompense) 973; consideration.
bribe, bait, ground bait; peace offering, handsel; boodle*, graft, grease*

So how about, the fic is the contribution; the feedback is the receipt?

Did I mention I turned on MovableType’s auto-ping feature a while back? Anyone who just can’t sleep at night without knowing whether the blog has been updated can track it at or

The Gift

Sunday, January 12th, 2003

Quote of the day: [T]he story is the gift. My feedback is the thank-you note. End of transaction. –Te

Te inspired an immensely long thread at fandom_wank, which brought out an interesting response from Alara Rogers about women in packs. I don’t intend to say anything new or deep about it, but I figure that some of my readers might have wisely overlooked the latest LiveJournal shennanigans.

First of all, I agree with Te. My fic is the gift. Your feedback is the thank-you note. In 99% of cases, the transaction ends after the gift, not after the thank-you note. You may think you’re coming under the radar by not sending feedback, but I track all my hits. I know how few of you send thank-you notes. You’re not fooling anyone.

However, my fic is a free gift. I do not do it for the feedback. (I wrote a logic lesson a while back for those of you who think that’s impossible. Here are two of my other posts on feedback: feedback and feedback and contests.) If you don’t want to send feedback, don’t. If you can’t think of something to say, don’t worry about it. I may set up a feedback form to alleviate the reader’s feedback guilt someday, but it won’t be soon. I have XML to convert first.

If you happen to be, as we say in Portuguese, bem-educado enough to email feedback, I will answer it - not because I’m under any obligation to do so, but because I, too, am bem-educada. If you post feedback in a public forum, such as ASC, the J/C Index, or a mailing list that I’m on, I may or may not reply, depending on whether I see the post in the first place, and whether I think replying will waste more bandwidth than my reply is worth. If you post feedback to a mailing list that I’m not on, of course I won’t reply, because I won’t see it. I may hear rumors of your feedback, but an email in the inbox is worth two in the ether.

If I ever became so popular that I had a backlog of feedback, I might not be as industrious as Te is, making the effort to reply to every email. There is a point at which that sort of thing becomes a burden, and there is no moral or social obligation in RL to reply to every thank-you note or piece of fanmail you receive. Fortunately, I’m in no danger of such fame. My fifteen minutes are up.

One thing no one has been able to explain to me is the objection to the term gift. I don’t know what else to call something made entirely by me, and given away to you (with or without hope of payment in feedback or in kind). Three or four times, I’ve given fanfic to individuals as a gift, on the occasion of birthdays or particularly painful Voyager episodes. Why, when I write a story and give it away to everyone, is it no longer a gift? If I embroidered a doily and gave it away, it would be a gift. Even if it’s a bit tatty and misstitched, even if it winds up a mathom, it’s still a gift. If I buy a book and give it away, it’s a gift. If I self-publish a book and give copies to my friends, they’re gifts. So why is my fanfic not a gift? Have I given it to too many people, simultaneously instead of serially?

There have been occasions where people thought they were responsible for my stories in some way, large or small - so that they might not think of them as mine to give away as gifts. In the case of writing in a group effort, copyright law clearly identifies the writer as the owner of the work, unless someone else has employed (not merely cajoled) the writer to write it on their behalf. There is no copyright in ideas or arcs, only in works that are instantiated in some medium. I also get the sense that certain fandom communities consider themselves responsible, as a group, for the achievements of individual members - specifically, they expect a certain kind of gratitude or loyalty, and will accuse those who move on to other fandoms of forgetting where they came from.

Of course I haven’t forgotten where I came from - I came from my mother and my father, the latter of whom, whether genetically or environmentally, is responsible for all this Trek. My lovely sister Veronica is responsible for my having taken a detour into Buffy. But the harsh truth is, I wrote the fic, every kilobyte of it. Maybe that ties this entry in to Alara’s women in packs:

Do I mean misogyny? Maybe not. It’s not a hatred of women that drives females to bay in packs and leap upon the prey, metaphorically tearing her throat out. It’s a hatred of women who excel, women who are well-known and well-liked and actually admit to knowing this about themselves, women who seek to improve themselves.

So maybe wank is the opposite of snark. Snark is more likely to mock the underachievers than the overachievers, not, perhaps, in principle but because sarcasm is a linguistic skill that is often accompanied by other writing skills - so the snarkers are the overachievers. Snark can also be inside the fic, while fandom_wank is always meta. I don’t see anyone mocking Te with fic, but I live to mock TPTB with fic. TPTB are the true oppressors here, the ones who own the show and do terrible things to the characters - so lay off the poor BNF’s already.

Honor and Asatru

Saturday, January 11th, 2003

‘Alas for Boromir! It was too sore a trial!’ he said. ‘How you have increased my sorrow, you two strange wanderers from a far country, bearing the peril of Men! But you are less judges of Men than I of Halflings. We are truth-speakers, we men of Gondor. We boast seldom, and then perform, or die in the attempt. Not if I found it on the highway would I take it I said. Even if I were such a man as to desire this thing, and even though I knew not clearly what this thing was when I spoke, still I should take those words as a vow, and be held by them.
‘But I am not such a man. Or I am wise enough to know that there are some perils from which a man must flee.’

RJ took my aside on Asatru more seriously than I expected. At the time, I thought it was just another tiny Internet sect, but now I’ve done a real search and discovered that Asatru is everywhere:

(I took the religion selector and found it highly accurate, or at least highly transparent. Asatru wasn’t in my result list, though I suppose it’s covered by Neo-Pagan at #19 - rather low, considering my belief in honor, but the quiz was not subtle enough to pick up on that pagan virtue. Twenty questions only get you so far.)

I mentioned Asatru in relation to The Lord of the Rings purely for its moral content. Neo-paganism doesn’t interest (or disturb) me because, in my opinion and experience, modern people are incapable of belief in past gods. Dead religions cannot be revived, no matter how moral or attractive they might be. It takes a certain mindset to believe in the hosts of Valhalla or Olympus, and that mindset, like Tolkien’s elves, has passed out of the world (or at least the West) and is no more.

So, back to honor. I said,

Honor means, among other things, doing good not because it is good but because you are good. It is an entirely irreligious motive.

RJ replied,

That true honor is “irreligious” in the sense of “not motivated by an external religious code of behaviour”, I would agree with. And I would even agree that honor, like every virtue, must spring from the heart of the individual rather than being an act of outward conformity.

By irreligious I meant what irreligious actually means, neglectful of religion; indicating lack of religion. By religion I mean the service and worship of God or the supernatural, and not any peculiarly Christian definition under which other religions are religions but Christianity is not. Religion is a synonym of faith for my purposes.

The concept of personal honor is irreligious because it rests in the person and not in the deity. A Christian who is honest because of his faith is therefore not honest because of his honor. You cannot have both motives - or rather, you can, but most religions frown upon the latter and their adherents battle the sort of pride that inspires pagan honor. RJ knows this, as is clear later on:

As a result, the genuine child of God is motivated not by external strictures or threats but by an internal reality — his new God-given nature. He serves God and does God’s will not out of craven fear or selfish ambition, but out of gratitude and a sincere desire to be like his heavenly Father.

On the other hand, the genuine man of honor (as opposed to the man of faith) does good, and perhaps even serves God, not out of gratitude or love for the deity but out of his own personal integrity, his honor. This is a difficult distinction to make within a Christian context because the possession of good motives apart from Christ may not even be considered possible (due to the fallen nature of man or original sin). It’s easier to see the distinction in Judaism, where there is a question about the status of a person who obeys certain laws not because God gave them but because he, philosophically, believes that murder is wrong, theft is wrong, etc. (If I recall correctly, it’s not enough to obey because you believe it’s right; you’re supposed to do it because God said so. The point, anyway, is that there is a distinction here.)

I think most monotheistic religions come down against honor in this sense, despite a history of toleration, in practice, even for extreme manifestations of personal honor. Consider, for example, the toleration of family honor killings in Islamic countries, though in most, if not all, cases they violate Islamic law. Practices like duelling that once highlighted the conflict between honor and Christianity are long-dead in the West. Perhaps that is a victory for Christ, and perhaps it is a victory for Time. Rare now is the person who can look back and feel the sentiments of another age, even partially and syncretistically.

We boast seldom, and then perform, or die in the attempt.

Tolkien shows us the mores of Asatru without the gods. If Boromir believes in Asatru’s notion of honor, Faramir does him one better - he achieves it. The Valar are far off in The Lord of the Rings, and if anyone is doing good for Elbereth’s sake, they do not say so. Faramir speaks the language of honor, not the language of religion, and I for one will take him at his word.

Not the Melon

Thursday, January 9th, 2003

Useful link of the day: 3D Tutorials for Bryce

I wrote a J/C fic! No one is more surprised than I am. Honey-Dew was a birthday present for Jade. Also officially up on the Voyager fic pages are the filks that have passed through the blog recently, The Sound of Sickbay and The Borg Queen, as well as the one-page edition of The ChetSev Series, the ending of which is new.

Now the muse can get back to her proper material, J/P and the Borg.

MacWorld Domination

Wednesday, January 8th, 2003

Ad of the day: New big and Powerbooks from Apple

I think my Bryce demo is old - Bryce 5 is supposed to be native to OS X already. I guess that’s what I get for scraping the bottom of the Internet looking for free stuff. The hottest new free stuff is the beta browser Safari for OS X.2, which broke Apple’s all-time record for downloads today - 300,000 in 24 hours. (And you thought no one used Macs…) Safari is even faster than Chimera. My browser did pretty well against the other competition - IE whatever (I never open the thing myself) and Netscape 7. It was nice to see that I’m not the only hopeless Mac geek using Chimera. Mozilla wasn’t even mentioned per se. Safari is based on Konqueror, an open-source browser about which I’ve heard great things but have never used myself. I still won’t get to use it, though, because Safari requires X.2, which is 0.5 more operating system than I have on my trusty old powerbook.

I need to upgrade, and if I get a new Mac, the new OS comes free. (Shopping logic - you have to love it.) I’ve been thinking 17″ flat-panel iMac, but then there’s that new 17″ Powerbook. Yes, you could buy three or four PC notebooks for that kind of money, but then you’d have to use a PC, wouldn’t you? My Powerbook (a 333MHz G3, also known as Lombard or Bronze for the bronze keyboard) has been so handy over the years that I don’t think I could go back to being chained to a desk - certainly not if the same display is now in a Powerbook. Then again, the swinging iMac arm is very cool.

That’s the trouble with Macs - you want to buy them for looks alone, and once you have one it refuses to die even when the whole black-and-bronze thing is three years out of style. I don’t need a 17″ display to write stories, but there’s this little voice in my head saying save the economy - buy a Mac.

Honor and Glory

Tuesday, January 7th, 2003

Illustration of the day: “Icebergs on the Sea of Ymn” (for Marriage is Irrelevant)
Icebergs thumbnail

Tonight’s topic is that most misunderstood of virtues, honor. I mentioned it back in the comments as a non-Christian value in The Lord of the Rings, with the example of Faramir holding himself bound by the statement that he wouldn’t take the Ring if he found it lying in a crossroads. RJ related this to “let your ‘yea’ be ‘yea’ and your ‘nay’ be ‘nay’” — in effect to be so honorable and truthful that a simple “yes” was as binding to them as any sworn oath. The biblical passage, however, is about simple honesty and in some quarters is even considered to be a prohibition against taking oaths.

Honor is not about honesty or courage or chastity or any of the other virtues which it encourages. Honor is about the actor, not the acts. Consider, for example, The Rape of Lucrece. (Read it now if you haven’t; there are spoilers coming.) (Don’t make me say I told you so…)

Lucretia pays the ultimate price; she chooses honor over life itself, because she values honor more than life. One can therefore be a martyr to honor. During the Spanish Inquisition, some of the accused refused to recant their heresy and thus save their lives, not because they still believed in the heresy but because they never had. Honor did not permit them to lie to save their lives. There was some question (among the genuine heretics) of whether these martyrs should be counted towards their God or condemned as suicides.

Honor means, among other things, doing good not because it is good but because you are good. It is an entirely irreligious motive. Similarly, C.G.J. Jacobi cites honor in explaining the purpose of mathematics: C’est pour l’honneur de l’esprit humain. A more religious mathematician should have said the glory of God rather than the honor of Man.

It’s getting late and I haven’t been all that coherent. Here’s the Asatru perspective on why honor and Christianity conflict. Asatru is a Nordic pagan revival religion, bringing us back to the (other) underlying spirit of The Lord of the Rings.


Monday, January 6th, 2003

I was too busy to install Bryce this weekend, but now it’s up and running. So far, it’s been annoying. It’s not native MacOS X, so it’s running the Classic environment. I never run that cow - it’s for people who live in the Mac past. I doubt I’ll end up forking out the big bucks for an official copy. My mac is also an antique at 333MHz, so despite the ample memory Bryce is rendering rather slowly.

My ongoing experiments in 3D software (POV-ray after this) are intended to help me visualize alien planetary landscapes. Yes, I do it all for the fic. I’m hoping to illustrate some fanfic, too, before my 30-day trial expires. Watch this space for practice images.

Time passes…

I made this one following the Bryce tutorial - things were much easier once I booted into OS 9 directly.

Don’t Touch That Hobbit!

Monday, January 6th, 2003

Tolkienology 101: What is Your Tolkien Belief System?

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