Archive for May, 2012

Found a "ba"! — Accidental Sandic

Thursday, May 31st, 2012
I was on youtube watching something (A cookie to you if you can guess what) and I happened to see this image on the side-bar.  I did a double-take for sure.  Look at it closely.


See the squiggle the green arrow is pointing to?  That's a ba!

It's either a "ba" or "bha", depending, I guess, on how you interpret this part.


To me, that looks like a "bha".


The image of the guy is from a movie called "Valhalla Rising".  I don't think I'd heard of it until I saw the ba image.  But seriously, how neat it is that someone accidentally made one, and that it made it onto a movie?  And how neat is it that it's written onto flesh like Bas are supposed to be?  I think I'll have to watch this movie (even though it apparently got horrible ratings). :)

Here's the video I saw on the sidebar with the ba in it.

Characters and Elements Found in Myth and Folklore

Thursday, May 31st, 2012
       I got the idea of sending my termites out on an epic journey, complete with all the bells and whistles, out of the blue as I was finishing up "The Termite Queen."  I wish I could say that the idea came from a learned source like Joseph Campbell's theories of the Hero's Journey and such, but instead I think the source was much more of a pop culture phenomenon.  I was a big fan of "Xena: Warrior Princess" at the time!  In that series (and its predecessor "Hercules," which is much inferior, I think, although I did enjoy Michael Hurst as Iolaus), Greek myth and occasionally myths from other cultures are reworked, processed through a compressed time frame (Caeser is contemporary with Troy, for goodness' sakes!), and given their own fresh interpretations.  So that was in my mind at the time.
       But another source has to be Watership Down, which is an epic about rabbits and one of my favorite books of all time.  It has all the elements of the heroic journey, told in the context of a rabbit culture here on Earth.  My books also have the elements of the heroic journey, told in the context of an isopteroid culture on another planet.  As Amb. Tarrant Hergard said upon the occasion of the admission of  Earth into the Confederation of Planets:  “An ancient Earth adage says, ‘There is nothing new under the sun.’  Perhaps the phrase should now become, ‘There is nothing new among
the stars.’”
       In the article "Epic Poetry" Wikipedia lists the following characteristics of an epic:
  1. Begins in medias res.  [Actually, I don't do that one, unless you consider beginning right after the conclusion of "The Termite Queen" to be in medias res.]
  2. The setting is vast, covering many nations, the world or the universe.  [check!]
  3. Begins with an invocation to a muse (epic invocation).  [No, not here]
  4. Begins with a statement of the theme.  [Umm, not exactly]
  5. Includes the use of epithets.  [No, I don't think so.]
  6. Contains long lists (epic catalogue). [Ah, yes -- I subject the reader to epic lists three times throughout the series.  One in each of the original volumes.  Maybe I can construct lists for the other three! Or maybe not.]
  7. Features long and formal speeches.  [At times, when appropriate]
  8. Shows divine intervention on human affairs.  [On only two occasions does the Nameless Mother personally poke her antennae into the mix, but the foretellings of Seers prevade the books.]
  9. Features heroes that embody the values of the civilization.  [Definitely]
       Then there are the stock characters who are encountered in epics.  First, of course, you've got the epic hero and ours is ready-made:  Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head, the extra-large Da'no'no Shshi Warrior from To'wak.  Often this hero is a demigod; whether that's true of Ki'shto'ba you'll have to find out later.  The hero has to go on a quest and be tested in some way.  So far, so good.
       The hero may fall in love, rescue and marry a Princess.  (???)  Impossible!  There are some things sexless termites just can't do!  Although there IS one place where Ki'shto'ba rescues a fertile female nymph ...
       The hero must have Companions, be it just a sidekick or a dozen of them.  I opted for a dozen.
       There is the wandering Bard, who roams the world recounting the deeds of the hero.  Here we have Di'fa'kro'mi the Remembrancer, who is also Ki'shto'ba's First Companion.
       Its Second and Third Companions are little Workers -- sidekicks par excellence.  Every termite Warrior must have groomers and feeders - squires, in effect.
       The Fourth Companion is the twin -- a pervasive theme in mythology and one stressed by Robert Graves in his Greek Myths.  Hercules had a twin named Iphicles; Ki'shto'ba has one named A'zhu'lo.
       Then there is the trickster.  Aren't tricksters fun, though?  Reynard the Fox, Coyote, Raven, Loki, Puck, Ariel, Q in StarTrek, Odysseus -- and last but hardly least, El-ahrairah in Watership Down.  And right up there with those: Za'dut, the Fifth Companion of Ki'shto'ba -- a Worker but so much more.  Its name means two things in the Shshi language:  Little Lizard and Little Thief.
       Finally, there are the Seers.  Fiver in Watership Down comes to mind.  And Greek myth is loaded with Seers, which fits right in with Shshi culture, since every fortress has an Alate who is gifted with Seeing (even if part of it does come from ingesting a hallucinogen).  Tiresias, the blind prophet of Thebes, becomes in my tales Thru'tei'ga'ma, the half-blind Seer of To'wak, who sets up the premises of the tale early on.  Ki'shto'ba won't acquire a Seer as a Companion until the fifth volume, but different Seers in different places have tremendous influence all the way through the story.  How much of their pronouncements are true foretellings and how many are merely self-fulfilling prophecies?  Again, you'll have to find out for yourself.
      

A Little Laboratory Work; a short story

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

The following story appears on the Third Sunday Blog Carnival for June 17, 2012!

[My inspirations for this piece came from the following articles in Natural History Magazine:  “The Longest Winter,” by Gabrielle Walker (April, 2003, pp. 44-51; about the “Snowball Earth” theory of the Cambrian Explosion); and “A Plenitude of Ocean Life,” by Edward F. DeLong (may, 2003, pp. 40-46; about how Archaea and planktonic microorganisms are much more abundant in the oceans than anyone had realized)  I retained some notes at the end regarding how I got my names.]

A Little Laboratory Work

by Lorinda J. Taylor


       … a large room containing the work stations and equipment of the scientist …the transparent ceiling reveals a dark sky densely strewn with stars, whose light is caught and concentrated in luminous wall panels …  A door opens and someone enters …
       “Crescent, is that you?  Glad to have you back!  How was the conference?”
       “Amusing, as always!  The University never fails to put on a good show!  But it’s nice to be back in familiar territory!  Sorry I was a little late getting here.  I stopped home to check in with Nifti.”
       “She was fine when I saw her at the lattice-ball tournament.  She won three matches and hit her intersections 32 times – more than any other competitor!  Did she tell you about it?”
       “It was all she talked about!  I don’t think she missed me much!”
       “Oh, I can’t agree with that!  I was there and she mentioned a couple of times how she wished you could have attended because she has never performed better.”
      “Well, it’s a shame, but she is old enough to understand about my work – how important it is.  I’ll be sure to view the transimages with her.”
       “So did you learn anything at the conference that made it worth the waste of time?  Must have seemed odd not to be making a presentation.”
       “A relief, really.  It allowed me to focus on what others had to say instead of worrying about how I was going to be received.  It was the same old group, displaying the same old cantankerous dichotomies.  At one extreme, the reactionaries – at the other, the progressives like myself.  The cosmic physicists, who think everything should be left alone and merely observed, versus us molecular biologists, who believe nature ought to be actively improved and enlarged.  The Noli Tangerines vs. the Revolutionaries!  And then there is always that gang in the middle that I call the Tinkerers … those old-line life scientists who have very little imagination and prefer to simply fudge along cautiously the way they have always done.”
       “I suppose it’s too much to expect reconciliations.”
       “Definitely!  Mimito, I couldn’t keep myself from speaking out.”
       “Was that wise?”
       “Well, everyone knows where I stand.  I found old Afarinand’s harangue so annoying that I stood forth and said that if she had her way, either chaos would prevail or change would be obliterated, and that it was up to us bioengineers to make sure neither of those things happens.  Then Kaihanga, whom I rank among the Tinkerers although she likes to think she is progressive, said that certainly change was necessary but that my approach was far too extreme.  I countered by asserting that being innovative didn’t mean forsaking careful thought and appropriately documented research.  We live in such a fragile environment that simply abandoning it is out of the question, but we daren’t just loiter along in infinitesimal steps, either.”
       “Oh, I quite agree with you, Crescent!  You know that!”
       “Of course I do!  But I think I’ll go check out my creatures.  They are a little like my offspring, you know.”
       “You’ll find them in good order.  I made sure of that!”
       … presently …
       “The little characters are coming along swimmingly!  Ha, ha!  Swimming is all they know how to do!  I want to set up some fresh experiments on how they react to varied exposure to different types of radiant energy – determine if anything has changed while I was gone.”
       … later …
       “Everything looks good!  I also ran analyses on their response to increased levels of carbonic acid in their culture medium and to abrupt alterations of temperature, and there were no surprises.  If everything continues to proceed at this pace, I should be ready for the field trial long before it’s scheduled!”
       “Oh, that reminds me!  You have a message from Metod about the target area.”
       “Curses!  Let’s see here – what does the Division Chief have to say now?  … Well, we’ve been over all this before!  ‘We continue reluctant to authorize the utilization of Target Area 3075/444-3, which is demonstrating characteristics that limit its suitability, to wit, a tendency to be subject to radical climate shifts.  We strongly suggest that you search out a target area with a lower incidence of tectonic activity.  Your work is too significant to throw it into an environment where the probability of life-failure is high …    Humbug!  I’ve factored all those so-called flaws into my calculations!  In fact, they’re the main reason that I selected this area!  But these obstructionists simply aren’t willing to concede that my hypotheses could have any merit!”
       “I have to say – I can see some grounds for Metod’s position … ”
       “Mimito!  Even you?”
       “Now, don’t take it like that – you know I’m your biggest advocate!  That’s just it – I’m really in awe of your work, Crescent.  What if it does fail?  The characteristics that you’ve engineered into your lifeforms are so difficult to achieve that you haven’t been able to grow many of the creatures.  That means that you will have to implant the whole colony in order to have any chance of success.  With nothing in reserve, you would have to start from scratch if they die out.  Likely you would not get permission for that.  Then what will happen to your goals?  How will life suffer?”
       “It’s not going to fail!  If ice does come to dominate the target area (and I’m positive it will), it won’t last forever, and these creatures are structured to withstand all kinds of extremes and to flourish under conditions of radical change.  Really, you’re becoming a bit too much of a reactionary yourself, Mimito!”
       “No, I protest that statement emphatically!  But I’m not the genius that you are, Crescent.  I haven’t passed beyond photosynthetic slime mats.  I suppose I must admit to being one of those old-line biologists you were talking about … one of your Tinkerers, if you will.  I can’t grasp the long-range prognosis the way you can and I don’t have your innovative imagination.  I’ve always said it:  if you can pull this off, you will be the leading candidate for the next Zibentak Prize.”
       “Well, I’m flattered.  You’re a good friend, Mimito, and I apologize for my testiness!  And I assure you that I mean to do everything possible to prove all your fears unfounded!  But now I suppose I’d better get down to work and formulate a rebuttal to Metod’s cavils.  It mustbe Area 3075/444-3; I investigated literally thousands of locations and, in spite of her complaints, it’s the perfect place to test my theories.  Maybe I should just threaten to abandon the project altogether if the University doesn’t go along with what I want.  No – better not do that!  They might take me up on it!”
       … a great while later …
       “Mimito, I’ve got it at last!  All my reasoning and nagging and heckling have finally paid off!”
       “They’ve authorized Target Area 3075/444-3?  Crescent, I’m thrilled for you!  When can you make the implantation?”
       “As soon as I can get my project inserted into the light transference schedule.  The area is in a pretty obscure sector, so special transportation is required.  But it can’t be very long now!”
       “We’ll have to celebrate!”
       “Nifti and I are going to the Social Hall tonight for some dancing.  Do you want to come along?”
       “I won’t be in the way?”
       “Of course not!  It’ll be Nifti who does all the dancing anyway.  I’m getting a little old for such flitting around.”
       “Well, that makes me feel good, since we’re the same age!  But I guess I’d better accept your invitation.  I hate to think of you sitting alone while she is out capering.”
       … The Social Hall, lit by floating balls of luminescent gas …
       “Isn’t she beautiful, Mimito?  So graceful …  It really was worthwhile taking the trouble to have an offspring.  At the time I was rather grudging about how it distracted me from my work, but now I’m glad.”
       “I believe it was the experience of propagation that gave you some of your ideas, Crescent.”
       “Oh, maybe a little.  You ought to try it.”
       “Oh … I don’t think so.  It’s not my style.  I’ll just remain bound to my piddling little experiments with the slime mats.  But, Crescent, I’ve always wondered what your opinion is about something and somehow this seems like an appropriate time to ask.  About the old deity thing … ”
       “The deity thing?  You mean, that theory that an Almighty Power sits off somewhere and manipulates our lives?  You’re surely not serious!”
       “Well, nobody can really prove what came before … you know, before the First Burst … or what will come after everything drifts back into the dark … ”
       “And I suppose our University is just a speck in that Power’s culture dish, and that Power itself is just a thought in some greater Power’s mind, and so on to infinity!  No, I think we are what is, Mimito – we and the control we exert over our environment.  That’s the truth as I see it, and it quite satisfies me.”
       … Mimito may smile and nod agreement, but in her soul she is not sure …

*        *        *
       … the Great Hall of the University, set among glowing dust …
       “Fellow members of the University Assembly, colleagues, friends:  I greet you all!
       “I could declare that I never expected to be standing before you accepting the Zibentak Prize for Significant Contributions to the Development of Life, but I will not make that statement because it would be a falsehood.  I always had great faith in my hypotheses and I knew that if I could prove them, honors would follow.  And time has justified my faith and verified those hypotheses – that if the life-codes of certain photosynthetic microorganisms could be manipulated so as to confer the abilities to withstand the extreme conditions of volatile planets and to adapt rapidly to environmental change, a process would be set in motion that would result in a biosystem that differed from anything ever envisioned.
       “Target Area 3075/444-3 was one of those locations where a previous generation of cosmic physicists sought to create a closed atmospheric and hydrological system during their investigations of the interactions of gravity and matter.  Their work with satellites of Star 3075/444 succeeded admirably in the case of the geologically dynamic third planet, although it failed in the case of the smaller fourth world, which lost its electromagnetic field too soon.  Hence, the planet under consideration provided a good area to test the earliest experiments with corporeal lifeforms; its oceans were long ago successfully cultured with archaic sulfur- and nitrogen-converting microorganisms and then with chlorophyll-bearing slime mats. 
       “However, as with most of our experiments, the resulting biosystem remained stagnant.  So I set about infusing its oceans with my engineered microbes and then I waited for certain climate changes to take place.  And just as predicted, the shifting of this active planet’s tectonic plates nudged its continents into an equatorial alignment that ensured a universal freezing of the oceans.  The rampant volcanism, however, provided open holes and undersea hot spots that gave my extremophiles just enough edge to allow them to endure.  Several subsequent intervals of melting and refreezing took place before the continents drifted once more into a configuration that permits the maintenance of higher atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.  Now the ice is retreating toward the poles and the seas have been boiling with carbonic acid reactions – quite an interesting sight!  The elevated carbon dioxide levels have allowed my lifeforms, along with a few of the planet’s original microorganisms that managed to survive the ice, to burgeon and release a huge burst of oxygen gas into the atmosphere.  
       “The scattered configuration of the continents should persist for hundreds of millions of the planet’s cycles – long enough to ensure that the target area remains a suitable natural laboratory in which my theory can be further tested, or rather, where the results of the introduction can be monitored.  The newly enriched oxygen atmosphere is providing a protective shield against certain hostile stellar emissions, and the content of dissolved oxygen in the oceans is increasing.  Within this positive new milieu my lifeforms are diversifying and adapting quickly.  They have already begun to form a multitude of distinct organic forms and even cooperative multicellular creatures with specialized parts … and they are reproducing prolifically – one of my foremost goals!  A few are beginning to take advantage of this new fecundity by abandoning photosynthesis and acquiring their energy from the process of engulfing fellow organisms, utilizing the abundance of dissolved oxygen to metabolize their corporeal content.  Yes, you may shudder, but it seems that a variety of life a step removed from dependency upon radiant energy is in truth manifesting itself!
       “But the most remarkable feature observable in these phenomena is that the changes are taking place entirely on their own!  Those organisms that are especially adept at transforming themselves to utilize new resources grow larger and more dominant, while less able varieties cease to exist.  Before now, the potential of evolution as a sculptor of lifeforms was only a controversial theory, but now it may be emphatically stated:  The theory of evolution had been conclusively proved!  The lives of us Shapers in the University’s Biodiversity Program have just become immensely easier!  No longer will it be necessary for us to tortuously craft every molecule of every minute creature, only to fall into despair as we watch 95 percent of our endeavors fail.  My persistent labor has yielded far more than the successful results of a single experiment.  It has produced a whole new method by which biodiversity may be created!
       “I cannot accept this honor without acknowledging the work of those prodigies who came before me, who first conceived the possibility of corporeal, carbon-based life and then engineered it into reality.  My contemporary colleagues also deserve my gratitude, especially my friend the Shaper Mimito, whose successes in refining the action of photosynthesis in chlorophyll-bearing organisms are at the foundation of my advances.  I would also like to thank my offspring Nifti for her patience with my single-minded devotion to my task.  She herself is now studying to become a Shaper of Life, and I expect great things from her a few million cycles into the future. 
       “When that future comes, I would hope that we can all hover together above the laboratory world called Target Area 3075/444-3 and view the consequences of the handiwork of the Shaper Crescent of Galactic Division #3075 of the 9th Parallel University.  Perhaps we will observe beings there that are something like miniature, corporeal versions of ourselves:  with brilliant minds that speak to one another … with ten limbs and seven eyes … with fleshed offspring budding profusely all over their integuments … evolved in the image of their Creators!  And yet perhaps no such outcome will occur:  time may reveal to us something entirely different – even more incredible and totally unforeseen.  Can any prospect be more exciting?  It is what makes the kind of science that we practice more rewarding than any diversion ever devised by any of us supreme beings since the Burst first spawned us.
       “And then there is the possibility that one of us (perhaps my offspring – who can say?) will venture to carry these achievements farther yet – to contrive ways of implanting seeds of this new evolutionary life-system on less receptive worlds, or even to produce corporeal lifeforms that can endure outside the nurturing milieu of water.  Perhaps one day creatures will be able to absorb dry oxygen and glide across the barren rock as easily as we Shapers dance through the void between the stars.  Perhaps novel ways of engineering life from elements other than those we have come to call organic will make the most intractable of matter throb with life!  Likely by that time I will have slipped back into the starlight, but that does not make the possibility any less exhilarating to me! 
       “And so I conclude with a challenge to you all – forge forward!  Do not idle in self-satisfied complacency!  Strive to make us Shapers worthy of that appellation that some of us believe to be our due:  the Omnipotent Masters of Creation!”

END

Notes:

This was written in August of 2003.
In English “crescent” derives from the Latin crescere, to come forth, grow, akin to creare (see create).  The word “create” is from Latin creare, from IE base *krī, to grow, cause to grow, cf. cereal.
In Maori, Kaihanga is Creator; Atua is God.
In Hungarian, Creator is teremto.
In Finnish, to create is luoda or laatia
In Farsi, Creator is âfarinande, while Creation is âfarineš
In Sanskrit, one word for to create was mimita
Last but not least, in Beowulf a word for Fate, Creator, or God is Metod.
Zibentak is adapted from Sieben Tag, German for “Seven Day,” thus the last division of creation.

A Little Laboratory Work; a short story

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

The following story appears on the Third Sunday Blog Carnival for June 17, 2012!

[My inspirations for this piece came from the following articles in Natural History Magazine:  “The Longest Winter,” by Gabrielle Walker (April, 2003, pp. 44-51; about the “Snowball Earth” theory of the Cambrian Explosion); and “A Plenitude of Ocean Life,” by Edward F. DeLong (may, 2003, pp. 40-46; about how Archaea and planktonic microorganisms are much more abundant in the oceans than anyone had realized)  I retained some notes at the end regarding how I got my names.]

A Little Laboratory Work

by Lorinda J. Taylor


       … a large room containing the work stations and equipment of the scientist …the transparent ceiling reveals a dark sky densely strewn with stars, whose light is caught and concentrated in luminous wall panels …  A door opens and someone enters …
       “Crescent, is that you?  Glad to have you back!  How was the conference?”
       “Amusing, as always!  The University never fails to put on a good show!  But it’s nice to be back in familiar territory!  Sorry I was a little late getting here.  I stopped home to check in with Nifti.”
       “She was fine when I saw her at the lattice-ball tournament.  She won three matches and hit her intersections 32 times – more than any other competitor!  Did she tell you about it?”
       “It was all she talked about!  I don’t think she missed me much!”
       “Oh, I can’t agree with that!  I was there and she mentioned a couple of times how she wished you could have attended because she has never performed better.”
      “Well, it’s a shame, but she is old enough to understand about my work – how important it is.  I’ll be sure to view the transimages with her.”
       “So did you learn anything at the conference that made it worth the waste of time?  Must have seemed odd not to be making a presentation.”
       “A relief, really.  It allowed me to focus on what others had to say instead of worrying about how I was going to be received.  It was the same old group, displaying the same old cantankerous dichotomies.  At one extreme, the reactionaries – at the other, the progressives like myself.  The cosmic physicists, who think everything should be left alone and merely observed, versus us molecular biologists, who believe nature ought to be actively improved and enlarged.  The Noli Tangerines vs. the Revolutionaries!  And then there is always that gang in the middle that I call the Tinkerers … those old-line life scientists who have very little imagination and prefer to simply fudge along cautiously the way they have always done.”
       “I suppose it’s too much to expect reconciliations.”
       “Definitely!  Mimito, I couldn’t keep myself from speaking out.”
       “Was that wise?”
       “Well, everyone knows where I stand.  I found old Afarinand’s harangue so annoying that I stood forth and said that if she had her way, either chaos would prevail or change would be obliterated, and that it was up to us bioengineers to make sure neither of those things happens.  Then Kaihanga, whom I rank among the Tinkerers although she likes to think she is progressive, said that certainly change was necessary but that my approach was far too extreme.  I countered by asserting that being innovative didn’t mean forsaking careful thought and appropriately documented research.  We live in such a fragile environment that simply abandoning it is out of the question, but we daren’t just loiter along in infinitesimal steps, either.”
       “Oh, I quite agree with you, Crescent!  You know that!”
       “Of course I do!  But I think I’ll go check out my creatures.  They are a little like my offspring, you know.”
       “You’ll find them in good order.  I made sure of that!”
       … presently …
       “The little characters are coming along swimmingly!  Ha, ha!  Swimming is all they know how to do!  I want to set up some fresh experiments on how they react to varied exposure to different types of radiant energy – determine if anything has changed while I was gone.”
       … later …
       “Everything looks good!  I also ran analyses on their response to increased levels of carbonic acid in their culture medium and to abrupt alterations of temperature, and there were no surprises.  If everything continues to proceed at this pace, I should be ready for the field trial long before it’s scheduled!”
       “Oh, that reminds me!  You have a message from Metod about the target area.”
       “Curses!  Let’s see here – what does the Division Chief have to say now?  … Well, we’ve been over all this before!  ‘We continue reluctant to authorize the utilization of Target Area 3075/444-3, which is demonstrating characteristics that limit its suitability, to wit, a tendency to be subject to radical climate shifts.  We strongly suggest that you search out a target area with a lower incidence of tectonic activity.  Your work is too significant to throw it into an environment where the probability of life-failure is high …    Humbug!  I’ve factored all those so-called flaws into my calculations!  In fact, they’re the main reason that I selected this area!  But these obstructionists simply aren’t willing to concede that my hypotheses could have any merit!”
       “I have to say – I can see some grounds for Metod’s position … ”
       “Mimito!  Even you?”
       “Now, don’t take it like that – you know I’m your biggest advocate!  That’s just it – I’m really in awe of your work, Crescent.  What if it does fail?  The characteristics that you’ve engineered into your lifeforms are so difficult to achieve that you haven’t been able to grow many of the creatures.  That means that you will have to implant the whole colony in order to have any chance of success.  With nothing in reserve, you would have to start from scratch if they die out.  Likely you would not get permission for that.  Then what will happen to your goals?  How will life suffer?”
       “It’s not going to fail!  If ice does come to dominate the target area (and I’m positive it will), it won’t last forever, and these creatures are structured to withstand all kinds of extremes and to flourish under conditions of radical change.  Really, you’re becoming a bit too much of a reactionary yourself, Mimito!”
       “No, I protest that statement emphatically!  But I’m not the genius that you are, Crescent.  I haven’t passed beyond photosynthetic slime mats.  I suppose I must admit to being one of those old-line biologists you were talking about … one of your Tinkerers, if you will.  I can’t grasp the long-range prognosis the way you can and I don’t have your innovative imagination.  I’ve always said it:  if you can pull this off, you will be the leading candidate for the next Zibentak Prize.”
       “Well, I’m flattered.  You’re a good friend, Mimito, and I apologize for my testiness!  And I assure you that I mean to do everything possible to prove all your fears unfounded!  But now I suppose I’d better get down to work and formulate a rebuttal to Metod’s cavils.  It mustbe Area 3075/444-3; I investigated literally thousands of locations and, in spite of her complaints, it’s the perfect place to test my theories.  Maybe I should just threaten to abandon the project altogether if the University doesn’t go along with what I want.  No – better not do that!  They might take me up on it!”
       … a great while later …
       “Mimito, I’ve got it at last!  All my reasoning and nagging and heckling have finally paid off!”
       “They’ve authorized Target Area 3075/444-3?  Crescent, I’m thrilled for you!  When can you make the implantation?”
       “As soon as I can get my project inserted into the light transference schedule.  The area is in a pretty obscure sector, so special transportation is required.  But it can’t be very long now!”
       “We’ll have to celebrate!”
       “Nifti and I are going to the Social Hall tonight for some dancing.  Do you want to come along?”
       “I won’t be in the way?”
       “Of course not!  It’ll be Nifti who does all the dancing anyway.  I’m getting a little old for such flitting around.”
       “Well, that makes me feel good, since we’re the same age!  But I guess I’d better accept your invitation.  I hate to think of you sitting alone while she is out capering.”
       … The Social Hall, lit by floating balls of luminescent gas …
       “Isn’t she beautiful, Mimito?  So graceful …  It really was worthwhile taking the trouble to have an offspring.  At the time I was rather grudging about how it distracted me from my work, but now I’m glad.”
       “I believe it was the experience of propagation that gave you some of your ideas, Crescent.”
       “Oh, maybe a little.  You ought to try it.”
       “Oh … I don’t think so.  It’s not my style.  I’ll just remain bound to my piddling little experiments with the slime mats.  But, Crescent, I’ve always wondered what your opinion is about something and somehow this seems like an appropriate time to ask.  About the old deity thing … ”
       “The deity thing?  You mean, that theory that an Almighty Power sits off somewhere and manipulates our lives?  You’re surely not serious!”
       “Well, nobody can really prove what came before … you know, before the First Burst … or what will come after everything drifts back into the dark … ”
       “And I suppose our University is just a speck in that Power’s culture dish, and that Power itself is just a thought in some greater Power’s mind, and so on to infinity!  No, I think we are what is, Mimito – we and the control we exert over our environment.  That’s the truth as I see it, and it quite satisfies me.”
       … Mimito may smile and nod agreement, but in her soul she is not sure …

*        *        *
       … the Great Hall of the University, set among glowing dust …
       “Fellow members of the University Assembly, colleagues, friends:  I greet you all!
       “I could declare that I never expected to be standing before you accepting the Zibentak Prize for Significant Contributions to the Development of Life, but I will not make that statement because it would be a falsehood.  I always had great faith in my hypotheses and I knew that if I could prove them, honors would follow.  And time has justified my faith and verified those hypotheses – that if the life-codes of certain photosynthetic microorganisms could be manipulated so as to confer the abilities to withstand the extreme conditions of volatile planets and to adapt rapidly to environmental change, a process would be set in motion that would result in a biosystem that differed from anything ever envisioned.
       “Target Area 3075/444-3 was one of those locations where a previous generation of cosmic physicists sought to create a closed atmospheric and hydrological system during their investigations of the interactions of gravity and matter.  Their work with satellites of Star 3075/444 succeeded admirably in the case of the geologically dynamic third planet, although it failed in the case of the smaller fourth world, which lost its electromagnetic field too soon.  Hence, the planet under consideration provided a good area to test the earliest experiments with corporeal lifeforms; its oceans were long ago successfully cultured with archaic sulfur- and nitrogen-converting microorganisms and then with chlorophyll-bearing slime mats. 
       “However, as with most of our experiments, the resulting biosystem remained stagnant.  So I set about infusing its oceans with my engineered microbes and then I waited for certain climate changes to take place.  And just as predicted, the shifting of this active planet’s tectonic plates nudged its continents into an equatorial alignment that ensured a universal freezing of the oceans.  The rampant volcanism, however, provided open holes and undersea hot spots that gave my extremophiles just enough edge to allow them to endure.  Several subsequent intervals of melting and refreezing took place before the continents drifted once more into a configuration that permits the maintenance of higher atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.  Now the ice is retreating toward the poles and the seas have been boiling with carbonic acid reactions – quite an interesting sight!  The elevated carbon dioxide levels have allowed my lifeforms, along with a few of the planet’s original microorganisms that managed to survive the ice, to burgeon and release a huge burst of oxygen gas into the atmosphere.  
       “The scattered configuration of the continents should persist for hundreds of millions of the planet’s cycles – long enough to ensure that the target area remains a suitable natural laboratory in which my theory can be further tested, or rather, where the results of the introduction can be monitored.  The newly enriched oxygen atmosphere is providing a protective shield against certain hostile stellar emissions, and the content of dissolved oxygen in the oceans is increasing.  Within this positive new milieu my lifeforms are diversifying and adapting quickly.  They have already begun to form a multitude of distinct organic forms and even cooperative multicellular creatures with specialized parts … and they are reproducing prolifically – one of my foremost goals!  A few are beginning to take advantage of this new fecundity by abandoning photosynthesis and acquiring their energy from the process of engulfing fellow organisms, utilizing the abundance of dissolved oxygen to metabolize their corporeal content.  Yes, you may shudder, but it seems that a variety of life a step removed from dependency upon radiant energy is in truth manifesting itself!
       “But the most remarkable feature observable in these phenomena is that the changes are taking place entirely on their own!  Those organisms that are especially adept at transforming themselves to utilize new resources grow larger and more dominant, while less able varieties cease to exist.  Before now, the potential of evolution as a sculptor of lifeforms was only a controversial theory, but now it may be emphatically stated:  The theory of evolution had been conclusively proved!  The lives of us Shapers in the University’s Biodiversity Program have just become immensely easier!  No longer will it be necessary for us to tortuously craft every molecule of every minute creature, only to fall into despair as we watch 95 percent of our endeavors fail.  My persistent labor has yielded far more than the successful results of a single experiment.  It has produced a whole new method by which biodiversity may be created!
       “I cannot accept this honor without acknowledging the work of those prodigies who came before me, who first conceived the possibility of corporeal, carbon-based life and then engineered it into reality.  My contemporary colleagues also deserve my gratitude, especially my friend the Shaper Mimito, whose successes in refining the action of photosynthesis in chlorophyll-bearing organisms are at the foundation of my advances.  I would also like to thank my offspring Nifti for her patience with my single-minded devotion to my task.  She herself is now studying to become a Shaper of Life, and I expect great things from her a few million cycles into the future. 
       “When that future comes, I would hope that we can all hover together above the laboratory world called Target Area 3075/444-3 and view the consequences of the handiwork of the Shaper Crescent of Galactic Division #3075 of the 9th Parallel University.  Perhaps we will observe beings there that are something like miniature, corporeal versions of ourselves:  with brilliant minds that speak to one another … with ten limbs and seven eyes … with fleshed offspring budding profusely all over their integuments … evolved in the image of their Creators!  And yet perhaps no such outcome will occur:  time may reveal to us something entirely different – even more incredible and totally unforeseen.  Can any prospect be more exciting?  It is what makes the kind of science that we practice more rewarding than any diversion ever devised by any of us supreme beings since the Burst first spawned us.
       “And then there is the possibility that one of us (perhaps my offspring – who can say?) will venture to carry these achievements farther yet – to contrive ways of implanting seeds of this new evolutionary life-system on less receptive worlds, or even to produce corporeal lifeforms that can endure outside the nurturing milieu of water.  Perhaps one day creatures will be able to absorb dry oxygen and glide across the barren rock as easily as we Shapers dance through the void between the stars.  Perhaps novel ways of engineering life from elements other than those we have come to call organic will make the most intractable of matter throb with life!  Likely by that time I will have slipped back into the starlight, but that does not make the possibility any less exhilarating to me! 
       “And so I conclude with a challenge to you all – forge forward!  Do not idle in self-satisfied complacency!  Strive to make us Shapers worthy of that appellation that some of us believe to be our due:  the Omnipotent Masters of Creation!”

END

Notes:

This was written in August of 2003.
In English “crescent” derives from the Latin crescere, to come forth, grow, akin to creare (see create).  The word “create” is from Latin creare, from IE base *krī, to grow, cause to grow, cf. cereal.
In Maori, Kaihanga is Creator; Atua is God.
In Hungarian, Creator is teremto.
In Finnish, to create is luoda or laatia
In Farsi, Creator is âfarinande, while Creation is âfarineš
In Sanskrit, one word for to create was mimita
Last but not least, in Beowulf a word for Fate, Creator, or God is Metod.
Zibentak is adapted from Sieben Tag, German for “Seven Day,” thus the last division of creation.

Finally got around to updating the lit list.

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012
You can see it here, if you're wondering.  I think I've finally gotten all the things which are in this blog linked to and dated.  Now to work on offline ones.

I can't wait to see just how many things I've *actually* got.  There's enough here to fill a small book already, I think.  It's such a weird thing to think.  Grains of sand fill an hourglass and make up a desert, though, after all.

What's fun to look at is the increasing number and length of things done in the language year by year.  In 2008 only one thing was done, but by 2012 there are at least two dozen works halfway through the year.  Wonder if this trend will continue?

onion is sipulta

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012
sipulta = onion (noun) (some things Google found for "sipulta": a rare term; a rare last name that can be Finnish; similar word silputa means shred in Finnish; similar word sepulta means buried in Latin and buries in Spanish)

Word derivation for "onion" :
Basque = tipula, Finnish = sipuli
Miresua = sipulta

The Basque and the Finnish words for onion are unexpectedly similar, the middle four letters in both words are IPUL. I considered making my Miresua word sipula, but thought that was too like the Finnish word, so I inserted the T from the Basque word to make it slightly different.

Grammar Sticky

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012
Now that I have a lot of the basics of the grammar figured out, I'm going to start making a series of posts going over it all and link them to a sticky post (if I can figure out how to do that). This will make it easier to look up specific aspects of the language and help me crystalize the concepts and work out the kinks.

So for those who've been following this blog, bear with me. I'm going to be restating a lot of what I've already been over.

Phonemics and Romanization
Stress
Gender
Gender and Vowels
Gender and Consonants
Pluralization
Direct Objects
Indirect Objects (Part 2)
Prepositions
Pronouns
Articles?
Word Order
Tense Marking Nouns
Tense Structure: Tier 1 (Tier 2) (Tier 3)
Verbs and Intention
Other Verb Forms
Conjunctions

Core Vocabulary
People

More on Formatting Covers for CreateSpace

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012
       First a progress report on the text of v.1 of the series ("The War of the Stolen Mother"), which I've now begun to prepare for publication.  The editing hasn't amounted to much so far -- some rephrasing to smooth things out and a few changes to the Foreword to account for the fact that there will be six volumes in the series instead of three.  I haven't shortened anything, but I didn't really expect to.  I think this story is practically perfect as it is.  (Self-praise, etc., but I can't help it.  I really like my premises in this series, and if the Shshi can at time be wordy little beasties, that's part of their nature.)
       I'm working on the cover.  I've resized the picture that you can see in an earlier post, which means that it comes out narrower and taller.  I figured out the best way to do this.  Group your picture into one entity, then open Format Autoshape and then Size.  In Size, use Scale, marking Lock Aspect Ratio.  Then gradually reduce the width until the Absolute Width shows as close as possible to what you want (in my case that is 5.75'').  (If you increase the heighth, you end up with something really wide and you have to redraw everything.  If you don't lock aspect ratio, then you'll stretch or narrow the figures instead of merely reducing them in size.) 
       Then make a square on your document that is the size of the cover allowing for bleed (in my case 5.75 " by 9").  Move your adjusted drawing onto the square, fitting it against the left margin of the square.  It will be a perfect fit in width, with lots of empty room at the top.  Then draw another square the size of the actual cover (in my case 5.5" by 8.5")  Position this square on top of the drawing, aligned against the left margin and allowing .25" at the right and .25" at the top and bottom (this is the bleed, the area that will be trimmed in the finished book). 
       Now you have saved all the items in the picture -- you won't have to cut anything off -- and the proportions will be correct.  All you have to do is adjust the positioning of the objects in the drawing to fill the space at the top and to fit in the title.  That will still require some work, but you won't have a huge redrawing job.  And be sure not to let anything important lap into the bleed, but also be sure that the bleed area is filled in with something because you don't know exactly where it will be cut.

This is not what I was planning to write about this morning, but since my posts on Ruminations of a
Remembrancer on formating text and covers for CreateSpace have attracted a lot of hits, I decided to elaborate a little on the cover aspect.  I mean to write another post in the next couple of days; I want to talk about the characters that occur in epics, mythology, and folklore.

Evethkazga

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

One episode left. The season sure does speed on by, doesn’t it?

Sunday’s episode was, I think I’m safe in saying, the episode that everyone’s been waiting for since the series got the green light. I’d say it was worth the wait. There’ve been a ton of superlatives heaped on “Blackwater” so far, so I won’t bother adding to them. I would like to add a comment or two about one specific omission.

A couple of friends of mine who’ve read the books had been bugging me leading up to Sunday, “So are we going to see the chain?” The answer, as we all saw now, is no. No chain! So it goes. But this raises a non-trivial question: Does it matter? What exactly was lost with the loss of the chain? In my estimation, little. In A Clash of Kings, the chain has a three-fold function, as I see it (one literal; one figurative; one textual). Those functions are:

  1. Literally, the massive chain is there to prevent Stannis’s ships from retreating as they’re doused with wild fire.
  2. Figuratively, the construction of the chain is a massive effort on the part of the blacksmiths of King’s Landing. As it plays such an important part in the victory, this is a way to give the people a real stake in it—something to point to and be proud of.
  3. Textually, it serves to further showcase Tyrion’s mental acumen.

In the show, the literal role the chain would have played is minimized. As we follow the battle, we see a decoy ship sent out in “defense”, where Stannis is expecting a fleet (a fleet smaller than his, of course, but a fleet nonetheless). The visual explosiveness of the wildfire when lit (via Bronn’s arrow) renders the potential for escape rather pointless. To me, the thing looks less like a fire than a nuclear bomb. The effect is instantaneous and devastating, so escape wasn’t really an issue—and furthermore, Stannis decided to keep pressing on, anyway, so the function of the chain in the show would have been theoretical, more than anything.

Without the build up we see in the book with the slow construction of the chain, the importance of Tyrion’s speech to the troops is rather elevated. What we see is a group of soldiers who have no real stake in the fight and no will to continue, and Tyrion rallies them. He does the same thing in the book, but here without the chain, I think his speech is slightly more impressive.

Finally, something that has happened in the show which didn’t really happen in the books is Tyrion as a character has been thrust to the forefront—largely in response to Peter Dinklage’s excellent portrayal of him in season 1. We see this happen in television shows all the time: One character becomes more popular or impressive than the others, and so the writers “write them up” (one clear example that comes to mind is The Simpsons. When the show started, everyone tuned in to see what shocking thing Bart would say. By season 4, it was clear that Homer was the star). As a result, well, Tyrion didn’t need to be any more brilliant. He’s had it in spades this season—and will likely continue to. His character doesn’t need the extra acclaim that the chain would bring him, so omitting it hasn’t really affected his character all that much, in my opinion.

I think it was a wise decision on the part of Dave and Dan to have George R. R. Martin write this episode (for a number of reasons), and I think he did an excellent job in writing the chain out. I think the proof of this comes from any fan of the show who’s never read the books. Their reaction: What chain? The logic of the battle, though scaled down, works well enough as shown, and it doesn’t feel like anything major is missing. Those who’ve read the books know, but show qua show, I think it stands up remarkably well.

Oh, but this is the Dothraki blog, isn’t it? As you may have noticed, there was no Dothraki in episode 9. Not that that should be a surprise, now that the episode has aired. Unlike any previous episode (and perhaps unlike any future episode…?), “Blackwater” focused on one single event. There were different points of view, yes (Sansa, Davos, Tyrion), but it was all the same narrative, and all the same timeline. So, of course, there was nothing from Qarth, and also nothing from beyond the Wall, nothing from Robb’s camp, etc. Given the scope of this episode, that was probably for the best, and one wonders if any other event might warrant a similar treatment. (Those who’ve read the books may be able to think of at least one, but even that one’s iffy.)

Today’s post came out a day late because I was up at BayCon for the weekend. It was a smaller event than WorldCon, but good fun! In addition to moderating a couple panels, I got to meet up with our very own khaleesi Daenerys and her boyfriend Crown of Gold. We had a wonderful dinner with my wife and Juliette Wade and her family, and then when we went for gelato, which was delicious. It was truly a red letter day. San athchomari, zhey okeosi!

And now for some disappointing news. Many will have noted that last week Dothraki.org went down. This is actually because the site is hosted on the same server that the Na’vi community is hosted on, and it went down. It came back up on Sunday, but, unfortunately, went down yet again, and the problem appears to be more serious now. Dothraki.org was the best resources on the net on Dothraki (I used it myself), and if it’s gone, that leaves this blog, which is a blog, and not as useful as, say, a wiki that can simply list tables, vocabulary, etc. There are a number of potential solutions, but it’s not clear what’s going to happen moving forward, so in the meantime, we just have to hang tight. On the bright side, sunquan has put up two more Dothraki tutorial videos on YouTube. Check them out!

And next week: The finale of season 2 of Game of Thrones. Lot of loose ends to be tied up. Can’t wait to see one of my favorite episodes from the books: The House of the Undying. Anha laz vos ayok!

Generating Semantic Maps

Monday, May 28th, 2012

One of the central features of the Conlanger's Thesaurus is the cross-linguistic semantic maps. For the first version of the Thesaurus I used those I could find in public linguistics journal articles. But it occurred to me I could come up with some of these on my own.

First I came up with some straightforward software to manipulate lists of definitions to produce the semantic maps automatically. I wasn't actually expecting this approach to work out so well right away, but my initial assumptions and model turned out to work pretty well.

The biggest problem has been finding good dictionaries to work with. All too many online dictionaries — and not a few printed ones — are simply lists of words with single-word definitions. This is not a great way to get at polysemy. However, over the last few days I have managed to find enough good dictionaries online to make me confident in the cross-linguistic (and cross-cultural) polysemy maps I've been creating.

The code is explained at Generating Cross-Linguistic Semantic Maps. At the bottom of that page is a list of core words around which I have generated maps. Even if you cannot understand the Python programming language, you can see the list of languages and meanings I have used in the links that end in .py. The maps are images of the common polysemies.

There have been two big surprises to me in these maps. First, "face" can refer to the blade of a knife in two utterly unrelated languages (Turkish and Inupiaq). Second, I was surprised how often "sweet" can refer to what English speakers consider other flavors, especially "salty."