Letters Column for August 2005

Hi!

In August, I received $1441.67 in donations. Thank you very much! Even after bills, I should be able to replace my machine with something more than adequate for writing Hitherby on. Donations are no longer urgent, although they will still be helpful until such time as Weapons of the Gods comes out, and afterwards are still nice.

I am doing better now, although I’m still a bit shaky and may miss one or two entries in the coming week. Fair warning: I’m also lined up to catch not one but two different bugs. I’m coughing frequently, which might be related to the high fever my housemate has—and I’m at risk of whooping cough in a couple of weeks. (Someone who was contagious but hadn’t manifested symptoms yet spent time with my other housemate a couple days ago, and we just found out today.)

**

Does “Kyrievo” really mean “lordship” or suchlike? All I have for now is the rather inadequate glossary in the back of the “Teach Yourself Ancient Greek” book I got at friendly local library…
— ScrewyAnathema

My Greek site died! All my wonderful translations gone, gone!

Honestly, I don’t even know what I thought Kyrievo meant. It’s sad. I know it was very specifically not what the nametag said.

Perhaps someone can recommend a good online Greek dictionary that’s still accessible.

**

isn’t this just backwards time?
— GoldenH

Hard and Cold? Yes. Of course most stories are just forwards time. ^_^

Hard and Cold is a study of how free will interacts with outcomes. It flinches a little bit, compared to the closest comparison I can think of—Gordon R. Dickson’s similarly-themed Necromancer—but I’m always nervous about getting too philosophical and writing a philosophy paper instead of a story. Particularly since I’m qualified to write stories but not to write philosophy papers!

**

I imagined putting a note in it, a message of hope and cheer, and writing on the first blank line on the front, “Mail Room please deliver to a random company employee at a time of your choosing.” A message in a bottle, thrown into a sea of swirling paper, to be cast up on some remote desk days later.
— Metal Fatigue

^_^

It’s probably better to give them a room number and a time, though. That way the Mail Room can think they’re in the middle of a Back to the Future movie. ^_^

**

what is Green wolf the wolf of?
— HedgeMouse

Green Wolf is the wolf of life. It’s the teeth in the forest. It’s the flowers that tear up from the earth like the claws of the grave. It’s the rough licking tongues of the daffodils that trouble your sleep and give you strange dreams when you fall asleep in a beautiful sunlit meadow.

Green Wolf is the wolf of the green.

**

The title . . . invite(s) us to count the number of sacrifices in the story.
— rpuchalsky

Strictly speaking, it’s there to make sure people don’t miss that Claire and the minotaur are each sacrificing something at the end. Focusing attention on the whole idea, y’know?

Actually counting doesn’t give you any more data than that, but the official count is: Claire, Meredith, and the minotaur are sacrifices; Claire makes one; the minotaur makes the fifth. ^_^

**

I also want to know if Peter is the Saint Peter.
— mineownaardvarks

Nope!

The Saint Peter died a long time ago. Then Jesus built a Church on him! That’s trapped him so he doesn’t appear in stories any more. He’s also counterweighted so that when he tries to spin in his grave it actually gives the Church much-needed oil-free electrical power—that’s why the Vatican hasn’t had to tap the rich oil deposits under the catacombs of Rome!

**

All four of (my wisdom teeth) were removed yesterday morning.
— Eronarn

If people take one message away from Hitherby, it would probably be that proper dental hygiene is very important. I’m glad you’re on top of things!

**

The parts of Hitherby with which I agree are a narrow plurality.
— me

“Plurality” implies that there are possibilities other than “agree” and “disagree”; I’m intrigued. Care to elucidate?
— Metal Fatigue

Sure!

Models of the world aren’t easily evaluated in terms of truth or falsehood. A world model that depends on specific facts can be false. A model that only depends on specific facts can be true. But in general you can only evaluate models for the world based on how accurately they can predict future events and how much dissonance they suffer when faced with the present.

There are a number of models of the world that Hitherby makes a case for. Mine is one of them. It argues the case for my model of the world more often than it argues for any other single model, so “plurality.” It doesn’t do so much more often, and certainly not a majority of the time, so it’s a “narrow plurality.”

**

I hypothesize that the Lethal Magnet School for Wayward Youth has a higher proportion of wayward youth as students compared to a school in, say, Nebraska, not because they are sent there to better mold them into society’s next generation, but instead because by going to a school for wayward youth they in fact are transformed into them.
— Eronarn

That’s the problem with pouring soylent green into a mold—you never see the hidden beauty of its natural lumpy shape!

**

And some of it’s my sympathy for the poor clinking cat.
— JoeCrow

*giggle*

Clicky! Clacky! CAT!

**

It’s pretty clear that the difference between the ancient world and the modern world is that gods no longer walk the earth. This is because Belshazzar ate all the gods of the old world, (including himself,) and Siddihartha somehow changed the nature of the world so that humanity and gods were divided. Gods no longer had power in the temporal world. I just don’t understand why “Suffering is unnecessary” caused that to happen.
— Sparrowhawk

It’s been pointed out often in fiction that “might makes right” falls apart when someone mightier says, “No, right makes right.”

I always find this interesting. It shows up in Rurouni Kenshin/Samurai X; it just recently showed up in Schlock Mercenary; I’m sure I’ve seen it elsewhere, too.

The reason I always find it interesting is that it’s not actually an argument from force. It doesn’t just prove that you can use bigger guns to make might-makes-right types cooperate. It shows that the might-makes-right philosophy is inherently and objectively inferior to a moral philosophy, if the moral philosophy has bigger guns.

You can do this with any philosophy, really. For example, ultimately, Christianity is pretty Jesus-centric. If Jesus comes down from Heaven and says, “I’ve thought about things for a while, and I’ve concluded that Ayn Rand was right,” then Christianity [wogly]

Is Jane wondering whether the change in the wind is– like this? Replacing one questionable regime with another that’s somehow reciprocal? I sure hope not…
— melsner

Think about it this way.

Jane and Martin have to have had this conversation. I mean, seriously: they know very well that people have tried to save the world before.

The only question is: how difficult is it to save the world, without making it suck in a different way?

The Tyranny of the Mundane suggests it might be difficult, so let’s all cross our fingers very hard for Martin and Jane’s good luck!

**

Loved the story, although I am a little worried I might be an ale-man!
— Taliskar

Don’t worry! You’ll like the drunk tank.

**

I like to think that maybe there are performances we don’t see where Sid and Max take hands and kiss and hold each other for a really long time, and Max’s head drops down on Sid’s shoulder and he says “I’m so sorry” and Sid says “It’s okay,” and it is.
— mineownaardvarks

^_^

**

Thanks for the nostalgic laugh! I’d send him the link but I somehow think he’d take it in poor taste… Hm, perhaps I can send it to my other friends though!
— dave.o

You could!

**

If (the thief of hamburgers, seeking to save the world,) stole Hardee’s burgers (he) would probably need (fewer).
— Ravious

Or he could just simplify the whole thing and steal the Federal Meat Reserve. It’s over five tons of delicious meat!

**

I think it’s shameful the way the Mainstream Media covers up important stories like this one (the interruption of the Iraqi constitutional process by an MMO party leveling off of Shiites).
— Tom Scudder

That’s their slanted skepticism at work!

Seriously, though, I don’t think it was covered up; I think that the media just doesn’t know how to cover events that happen on some servers but not on others.

**

In the Hitherby timeline it is written that Siddhartha was born in 576 BCE, that he started wandering in 546 BCE, and achieved Enlightenment in 539 BCE.
— David Goldfarb

Yup! There are many different proposed Buddha timelines in the real world. I chose the one that suited my needs.

**

For example, an omnipotent god is automatically responsible for all the suffering in the universe, because he could prevent it.
— mineownaardvarks

Strictly speaking, it depends on the definition of omnipotence.

If God can make 1+1=3, and other similar actions, then yes, absolutely. If not, then it’s possible that every action that could prevent that suffering is ethically incorrect, and it’s not clear that one can ever have a responsibility to perform an unethical act.

(It’s not *necessarily* impossible to have such a responsibility, but it’s certainly open to dispute.)

**

How can an action be virtuous, save by its effects?
— Joejay

Hm!

Sometimes when I was playing Final Fantasy with my friends, I would have a network error. I’d receive no packets over the network, but I’d still be able to send them. Often it happened during a fight, and I wouldn’t be able to see what was going on in the fight. So I’d trigger macros—fighting blind, basically.

Is it possible for these actions to ever be the “right” thing to do during a fight, given that I couldn’t witness their effects?

An interesting related question is this: if you fold before the flop in Texas Holdem, do you have a five-card poker hand after the flop goes down?

**

It is, however, difficult to have a motivation for dropping flowerpots out of windows so virtuous that it overcomes the anti-virtue inherent in killing babies.
— Joejay

It’s not so much killing the babies as providing them with an obstacle course that will toughen them up for later life experiences!

**

Ananda is all ears.

“I appreciate the physical manifestation of your attentiveness,” says Mr. Kong, “but please reduce the unseemly and slightly alarming number of your ears.”
— mineownaardvarks

*giggle*

Well done. I could see myself writing that here. ^_^

Have you read Jack Vance, incidentally?

**

The first is, wow.
— philomory

Thank you for your kind words. ^_^

**

I know not whether you speak of ar-kab or su-din, my lady.
— S

Hm!

In traditional Babylonian MeNIX, the first of those is used to archive the Merkabah to clay tablets, and the second to bring forth a great clamoring in the halls of the gods.

So I’m going to have to go with door number two!

That’s my clamorous nature!

**

if the rich clay bats are properly kiln-fired, does one obtain a brick bat?
— Unferth

Flap flap flap FLY BALL!

**

everybody loves a man in cuneiform
— svend

That explains the invasion, but not the trouble the Army is having making its recruiting goals!

**

How does your brain work like this?
— ADamiani

I stack the neurons for superior functionality!

**
And . . . done!

That’s it for this month. Thank you for reading! Thank you for commenting! And thank you very much for donating—it really does matter, particularly right now.

Be well until I speak to you again.

And, er, you can stay well, after that, I mean, I don’t want you to store up sickness and then explode in plague when we speak again, I mean, just, you know, it’s a well-wishing.

Yeah! That!

Rebecca

9 thoughts on “Letters Column for August 2005

  1. If God can make 1+1=3, and other similar actions, then yes, absolutely. If not, then it’s possible that every action that could prevent that suffering is ethically incorrect, and it’s not clear that one can ever have a responsibility to perform an unethical act.

    I LOVE YOU!

    You summed up my very favorite (but most awkward and frequently misunderstood) argument about God’s omnipotence/omnibenevolence in two concise sentences. I have to save yours in a convenient location and show it to people, with proper citation of course.

    I still think he could be responsible for suffering even if it was the right thing to do to allow it, though. Not as in he bears guilt for it, just… responsibility. For his ethical judgement if nothing else. Do perfect gods make decisions?

    Also, I’m giddy that my silliness was judged Hitherby-worthy. :-)

    Edited:

    Sorry, I was so giddy and in a hurry that I forgot: No, never read Jack Vance. I will now though.

    Also, considerate of Jesus to wait until after Peter died to build the Church on him. Not all religious founders would have such patience.

  2. I hope you feel better soon. There seem to be a lot things going around now, maybe because it’s the beginning of the school year.

    I haven’t been commenting much lately, in the last few days because of Katrina. One of the things that I helped to put together (if anyone cares about what I work on normally) is a public list of potential toxic chemical sites in New Orleans, you can see it at

    http://www.ombwatch.org/article/articleview/3088

  3. I still think he could be responsible for suffering even if it was the right thing to do to allow it, though. Not as in he bears guilt for it, just… responsibility. For his ethical judgement if nothing else.

    Gee, it’s almost as if you were talking about Martin, isn’t it?

  4. Gee, it’s almost as if you were talking about Martin, isn’t it?

    *g* I’ve long suspected Martin of being God.

  5. Honestly, I don’t even know what I thought Kyrievo meant. It’s sad. I know it was very specifically not what the nametag said.

    Do you know what you transliterated the v from? Also, is it supposed to be classical greek, modern, or koine?

  6. I actually found “kyrievo” at the Perseus site — the transliteration I used was “kyrieuw”, that is kappa-upsilon-rho-iota-epsilon-upsilon-omega. It’s the dictionary form (first person singular present active indicative) of a verb meaning “to be lord or master; to have power over”.

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