Thursday, December 27, 2007


Prompted by a sad incident, I have a confession to make.

I am easily "spoiled."

It is, of course, a pure result of my curiosity. I like to read things! I especially like to read things about other things I like! But when these other things are video-games or books - ones that I haven't finished - tragedy, on a very tiny scale, is too often the result. When I was small, I read a strategy guide for a game I was playing - like a book! It was very entertaining but rather ruined the thing for me. (My brother notes, "That was very stupid, by the way, I want everyone to know. This is in character for him. ("Hey!", he complains. "I want everyone to know is another sentence. You suck!" ("I never said hey!" he complains again. A metacomplaint, if you would.))) After that, I have been spoiled for many other things - Bioshock, Fire Emblem the Tenth, bits of the newest Star Wars books... it is my curse, my **** curse.

Oh! Also, Citizen Kane, maybe? But I've never watched that so it's so hard to be sure.

This post is sort of lame but I felt that it should be said. To "get it out of my system," as it were.

My sibling has many wild ideas for how this post should end. I will leave it to him to implement them on his own (post). Later!

Post-Script: I really want to catch up on some of the stories I've left hanging - Light, maybe the Wanderer, though that one's honestly decrepit and I'd likely change the format if I did continue it. Reader comments guide me, as ever.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

On Blagging

Yea, Desmonde approacheth the haggisse nowe,
The jowels chawed and his boweles well tempr'd,
Blew a guste swich and coure alongst the grande beastie,
Withe the fource of a firth on the swaet lanes,
And dous'd het baggins in blowzy water dropplets,
He spake: Ye who blocketh the pathes of righteouse,
And art a mounster, through and to the bon,
And steale mens soules, and yea, enslave them,
I shall licke the fervour your caste trill off the beats,
and swallowe as the wind swayes the animales,
And the acte, whereupon it shall be committes forthwith,
In the presence of goode Christian men,
Shall be called naught but the Blagging,
Of which men of worldlie affaires may temperre their skill,
Againste all manner of Night-Creathures.

Othar in the Lands of the Savages

(Note: Othar Trygvasson is a creation of the inestimable Foglios; this story is but a tribute. That said: Ho! Onwards, to ADVENTURE!)

Othar squirmed in his bonds. He was tied to a gigantic tree, three times his girth, and was roasting slowly over a bonfire while his captors hooted and capered all around him. "This is a bit of a squeeze," he complained to himself. "But it's just another day's work, for..."

Othar thought quickly. This was far from the trickiest situation he'd found himself in, but it could cause some trouble if not corrected quickly. Even now, he could feel his bare chest heating as the flames played over them.

I've got a pocket-knife in my left knee pocket, if I can just get to it... Othar squirmed. Success! But these ropes are far too thick for me to cut through them before I'm cooked. Othar squirmed further, moving the knife into position; he winced as one of his captors took the opportunity to jump closer and poke him with a crude spear, drawing blood. Ignoring the pain, he sliced open a cunningly concealed inner pocket of his leggings, shattering the glass vial inside. The contents poured out onto the rope, racing along it and consuming it with a loud sizzling noise.
Smirking, Othar thought, This is exactly the reason I keep rope-dissolving acid on my person at all times. The six times that it's gotten broken in a brawl and dissolved my pants were embarrassing, but just another of the hazards of adventuring.

The sizzling stopped.

Oh, right. The fire.

As Othar, no longer suspended by his bonds, plunged into the fire, he reached upwards with a tremendous effort, managing to secure a handhold. As his legs quickly roasted (with associated popping and hissing noises from the many valuable items he kept there), Othar clawed his way upward, pulling himself onto the toppled tree by main force.

His captors had stopped dancing. Now they were circling around him ominously. As Othar stopped to take a much-needed breather, they began to climb onto the tree from both ends. The forest was deadly quiet: above the sound of the bonfire below, the only thing that could be heard was the whirring of Othar's captors' gears.

Their savage fury took me by surprise before, but they won't have so easy a fight of it this time, Othar resolved, breaking a large branch off the tree. Impetuously, he charged one of the savage robots, swinging viciously with his improvised club.

It broke.

Hmm, it seems that wooden weapons are useless against these archaic automatons' moss-moldered mechanisms. I'll have to try another approach. Othar backed off from the robots he'd attacked, buying himself time while he retrieved various items from his pockets. High-explosive rockets: burnt. Pocket raygun: slagged. Deluxe Bavarian chocolate: melted! Oh, they'll pay for this. At last, Othar triumphantly presented the object of his search: a tiny action figure. "Behold, mishapped monsters!" he cried out as the robots silently approached. "A perfect mechanical replica of myself, at 1:20 scale! Behold its beauty and worship it as a god!"

The robots stopped. They craned their heads to look at the Othar replica as Othar diligently operated the tiny crank on its side.

Slowly, the replica's head rose. It opened its mouth. Then, with an outwash of black smoke, it collapsed, shattering into its constituent parts and falling into the fire below, leaving Othar holding only crank and feet.

Well, that was a wash. Time to go back to basics. Whipping out a clockwork handgun, Othar opened fire, blowing half a dozen robots into the fire below. Cowed, they retreated, howling their defeat to the night air.

This is just another sad example of the reason I took up my sacred cause, Othar mused as he hopped off the tree, robots clearing away from him as he landed. It's bad enough that the Sparks have left Europe's cities in ruins, with their constant wars and mad inventions. But even the forests are polluted by their vile creations. There's nowhere a man can go to get a little peace and quiet anymore! I've never felt better about killing every one of them and ridding the earth of their scourge.

Oh, and then killing myself, to finish the job. Seems a shame, but that's how it goes.

A shadow fell across Othar's vision, awakening him from his brief introspection. He looked up. And up. And up.

Right, of course the robots-gone-native would worship a gigantic clank, calling it with their howls so that it could squish me with one gigantic foot. Obvious, really. Should have expected it. Whoops.


The clank's foot came down with a thunderous crash. Othar leapt away, landing on the fringes of the circle formed by the wild robots. They had begun to hoot and howl again, waving their spears in the air. The nearest ones pushed at Othar with their spears, urging him back towards the super-clank.

Othar was undaunted. Recklessly, he charged the clank, leaping up and scrabbling onto the sides. If I can just get to the control unit, I can shut it down with no trouble, and then this whole silly thing will be over. Just have to climb up to the head - ow! Spikes!

Okay, so I'll take the long way around, climbing along the side to get to its back - uch! Poison vents!

So that was a botch. All right, I'll climb downwards, tunneling into its belly to reach the head from the inside. What could possibly go wrong?

Augh! Electrostatic field emitters coupled with autodeploying defense turrets!

You'd almost think that whatever Spark built this thing didn't want it destroyed.

Othar paused to think. Hanging from one hand on the gigantic clank, he was bleeding in several (new) places, and the turrets were still trying to crane around the side to fire at him. (So far, with little success.) So I can't get to the head from the bottom, the side, or the top... wait! That's it!

Quickly, Othar reached into his pocket, scooping out the Bavarian chocolate melted by the fire. He gave it a remorseful look, then began tossing it onto the top of the clank, crawling along behind where he threw. Beneath him, spikes began to pop out, but were locked in place by the chocolate, rendered completely harmless.

At last, Othar reached the head of the clank. The control apparatus, clearly marked as such, was locked in place beneath a thick plate, itself secured by three different locks. The locks - Othar squinted to be sure that he was reading them right - required the opener to solve complex logical puzzles to open them. A tiny sign on each read, Failure will activate lethal booby-traps - stay off! Othar mused.

I've never been very good at puzzles, he admitted to himself. Then he ripped off one of the front-mounted autoguns and beat the locks to pieces with them.

The clank settled to its knees with a mechanical sigh, steam hissing from around the edges. Othar gave it one last whack for good measure, then jumped down, walking away at a dignified, yet resolute pace. The savage robots gave way before him; some were already fleeing, casting down their spears. Behind him, the clank finally gave up the ghost and exploded spectacularly, spraying bits of clockwork everywhere and setting the last of the robots to flight.

Just another day's work, for...

The Monkey's Travels

This story begins many years ago, in a time nearly forgotten. A young boy, his eyes bright with youthful innocence and enthusiasm, received a gift: a tiny monkey, colored in the hue of purple. The boy loved his monkey, and though he grew, and the monkey did not, the boy still held the monkey tightly in his heart.

Older now, the boy, his eyes still filled with youthful innocence, decided that the monkey should accompany him wherever he went. With pin and hat, he fixed the monkey in place, and held him as a treasure. They were inseperable; the hat to the boy, the monkey to the hat. Friends learned to look for the monkey, riding high above the crowds. When the holidays came, he even dressed up: lightening the hearts of even the Grinchiest of the boy's friends.

And that is how he was dressed, when the ogre found him, and took him away.


The boy was kind to his monkey, and cared for him for many months. But in high spirits during the holidays, he tended first to his friends, and lost his monkey; and, forgetfully, wandered away without him, not even realizing his loss.

The monkey waited in the dark. It was cold, and lonely; a place of strange sounds and creatures. At first, he was sure that his boy was sure to come back for him, and take him home. But he waited and waited, and hours passed, and eventually he fell asleep, lonely and afraid.

The next day, the monkey woke up to hear footsteps. He was suddenly very hopeful - perhaps it was his boy! The footsteps grew closer, and much louder than the boy's ever were. The monkey was still hopeful - perhaps he'd gotten boots! This suspicion was furthered by the shadow that now loomed over the monkey.

Then the monkey was lifted high into the air, and realized, to his dismay, that it was not his boy at all that had found him. It was an ogre! Huge, smelly, and two-headed, it bickered with itself, then decided to take the monkey.

Left in the ogre's nest while it wandered looking for food, the monkey despaired. How would his boy find him now. But then it had a realization: The ogre's footprints, quite deep, would lead the boy to his monkey! Now happy again, the monkey spent a little time exploring the lair, then he curled up and napped, waiting for his boy.

He waited for three days. Each day, he grew more nervous, but he consoled himself with stories. Perhaps the boy had gotten lost, and needed the extra days to find himself again! Perhaps the ogre had attacked him, and he was using the time to construct a fiendish trap to defeat the ogre and rescue the monkey! In this manner he spent his time, daydreaming away the winter days, until a man came.

It transpired that this man was not sent by the boy (as the monkey first inquired), but rather came to defeat the ogre, who was rampaging across the countryside. The monkey eagerly helped him, showing him all the parts of the ogre's lair and helping him set up trip-wires and snares, but his first concern was getting back to his boy. Repeatedly he asked the man if he would take the monkey back to his boy when the ogre was slain, and each time the man agreed, smiling and nodding. Of course he would help the monkey!

Then the ogre returned, dragging its club and grumbling as it tromped across the countryside. It was a fierce battle to slay it - even with the tripwires knocking the ogre down and the snares keeping it from getting back up, it swung its club in deadly arcs, and the man was hard-pressed to avoid them. It was the monkey that saved the day - leaping atop the ogre, he blinded it for brief moments, long enough for the man to dodge the club and knock it away. Binding the ogre to bring it back into captivity, the man shook his head sadly when the monkey asked about the boy. But the man shook his head - it was all he could do to keep the ogre under control! He couldn't lead the monkey, too. The monkey would just have to wait! And so the man walked away, leading the ogre (doubly blindfolded, handcuffed, and ankle-cuffed) away, while the monkey sat in the cave-mouth, forlorn.

For a little while the monkey sulked about the man's betrayal, but then he decided - enough was enough! It was clear that no-one else was going to help him, so he would have to find his boy himself. He walked, and walked, and walked. Sometimes it was cold and wet! Other times it was hot and muggy! And there was nowhere comfortable to sleep at all. But at last, the monkey found his way to a little house, one he remembered well.

He knocked on the door, and belatedly, the boy opened it. "Why, it's you, little monkey!" he exclaimed. "What are you doing out here?"

The monkey had tolerated quite enough. He had been left while his boy partied, captured by an ogre, betrayed by an adventurer - and now his boy hadn't even looked for him! He would take no more of this.

With an iron tone in his voice, the monkey delivered his terms to the truant boy. "You will call me Mr. Singe," he told the boy. And there was nothing he could say to that.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Of the Vanished Womon

Lo, it was the afternoon before the afternoon before the eve before Christmas. We men were merry, as is our wont, and we decided to gather together in the Haus of the Nikolaus, so as to multiply our merriness. But lo, our path was plagued by trouble from the start: Our arrival at the anti-anti-anti-Haus of Nikolaus did "upset" the "applecart", and in defeat we fled. Then all men gathered at last, saddened by the earlier failure, and realized:

The Womon Was Missing!

Panicked, we set out at once to search. We looked high, and we looked low; but nowhere was she to be found! In despair, we got completely distracted and played video games. Also: discussion of 1) phalii 2) women's underwear; and chocolate (not discussion). It was a strange and demoralizing time.

At last, though, we realized our error. So we gathered together, gloriously resolute, and immediately got distracted (again) and played video games (again).

In the end, we heard a knock at the door. Everyone's spirits rose. Was it her? Had she come at last, on the afternoon before the afternoon before the eve of Christmas, to save the day?

No, it was a pizza delivery guy.

It's okay. The pizza was tasty.

Good night!

Remember: Santa Claus is always watching.

Especially in the washroom.

P.S.: Also his beard.

Disease and the Modern Nikolas

The acute may have noticed that post counts are down for this month. I hereby declare that it is a combination of 1) holiday break and 2) sick Nikolas, applied retroactively, of course. Hopefully, things will pick up in January. Fingers crossed.

My plan for this blag is to continue until February, when we started, to make one full year. After that, I'll re-evaluate things - whether I want to continue, whether I want to change form or function of the blagothing, whether I want to try to attract readers... that sort of thing. But I am insane enough to feel that arbitrary times are important, so... not yet.

Meanwhile, narwhal.

Enjoy the holidays!

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Things I have recently read that are awesome:

Temeraire series: Dragons and the Napoleonic Wars. Hooray! (This is at fault for "Naval Combat".) (The blag post.)

Legacy of the Force, book 1: Star Wars Expanded Universe - now with 400% more moral ambiguity! Hooray! (Needs blag love. I may give it some.)

Rock Paper Shotgun, the Interblag. It is 100% wit! I will link: See this? Genius! It entertains me a great deal.

Stuff by Timothy Zahn. Book names: Night Train to Rigel, Angelmass; not sure about the first one. (Wikipedia tells me I'm right. Sweet! I'm awesome.) Less recently, I read some of his other stuff: The Thrawn books (Star Wars), The Icarus Hunt... I highly recommend that last one, by the way, it's good.

I am informed that I'm going backwards in time, so that's cool.

Ghosts of Onyx: This isn't really recent for me, but it is for my brother, so it counts. Pretty good Halo book, though you really need to have read at least The Fall of Reach for it to make any sense. (Mind you, you should read that anyway, because it's excellent, but I felt I should mention.) Anyway, it is about a planet where there are space ghosts. Spoilers: River is made out of chocolate.

Oh, yeah, if you haven't seen Firefly, you should. It is really very good!

Why am I not asleep?

I answer thus:

A Nikolas Head

What happens when a Nikolas, feeling guilty about not blogging, is trapped on his brother's laptop (because his brother has taken the desktop computer for the last eight hours)?

He blags!

He blags about Knytt Stories.

Knytt Stories is a wonderful little platformer. It's rather like the Metroid games (the 2d ones), if you've played them - run around, explore areas, get abilities that let you explore further. Unlike the Metroid games, though, there's no weapons or health - you can't attack enemies, and if you get hit, you die.

It can be rather tricky, but it's quite fun nonetheless. (For a Nikolas.) The scenario that comes with the game is big and fun to explore, and there are a number of other quality scenarios to download. I'd give you a link, but I don't feel like it, so go find it yourself. (Not that you will! Oh, do and party.)

Party! We will have a party to-morrow, I think. I went provisioning. There were bananas! Apparently they ripen even after being picked? I had not known this. Most impressive! Also, there was cheese bread. Delicious!

Did you know that they sell cheese pretzels? (Not the store I was at, I'm tangenting. Bear with me.) They're delicious! Om nom nom nom. My strongest association with cheese pretzels? Shadow of the Colossus. (I ate them when playing.) Excellent game! Really quite good. My old blag, my first one, had a rather large post about it. That was how much it inspired me! And I didn't blog at all back then.

The fellows who made Shadow of the Colossus also made a game called Ico. Also excellent, but I never finished it. A shame! Maybe someday. (But... maybe not.)

I never finished Pikmin, either. On the final boss battle! (Truth.) I did finish Tron 2.0 after leaving a save for the final boss battle for, if I recall, one and a half years. (It was a pretty poor final boss.) That was odd.

I'm petering out.


I am feeling a little odd, perhaps. Perhaps a little CITRIC ACID will clear that right up!

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Train

There's a train we all know
that called the nikolas beast in the snow
and when he gets the fule in the flames
he explodes into a billion shower bolls
a boll weevil

and one day the nikolas train
(like the mao train)
(with his head)
(on the front)
came to a place
a place called home

which was the anti-anti-nikoas house,
and he did suffocate,
and hit on at least one womon and possibly 3 more,
through kelsey,
for he was a mind-zombie,
and he did make many jocularities,
and jig about in his bagpipes
and his fur hat
and he did astound and dazzle
with his magic tricks
and he did love many womons
and they loved him
he was locutus
and he went to a mathematics roome
to look for his long-lost brother
to take him home
into the loving embrace
for he had copulated with a womon
and had a child, and the child was
25 years old
and enough to care for his brother while
nikolas was away
at the chop bar
and archaeological digs
to egypt

and the womon and nikolas lived hapily ever after
except nikolas became a loser after that

A Play

Context: Sometimes, an Ethan is assigned a book report project. Sometimes, this project is a skit, to be performed with two other people, representing characters from their respective books. Sometimes, an Ethan sleeps through class, forcing his group-mates to write the script without them. And sometimes, those group-mates are not especially competent with English, resulting in strange and hilarious phrasing.

This is that result.

By Daniel Hsu, Kaoru Hori, and Ethan Feinberg

Ethan: [knocks on door]

Daniel: [opens door] Come along in, and have some tea! Sergeant Kurt Ambrose, if I’m not mistaken?

Ethan: [salutes] Thank you. You’re not mistaken, and neither am I, so you must be Bilbo Baggins.

Daniel: Yes. Please sit down. Now, where is the other guest? Gandalf said he’s usually a bit late.

Ethan: [sitting down] I saw him behind me on the path, with a scowl on his face. Weird gangster is how I would describe him.

Kaoru: [kicks down door] Dang it! I just lost my job! What the heck am I going to do? [sits down at table]

Daniel: Come along in, and have some tea…? [pours tea for Ethan and tried to pour tea for Kaoru]

Kaoru: No thanks; I’ve got my beer. [pushes tea cup away, and puts beer bottle on table]. Bought it with my hard-earned money. [holds up envelope meant for his son, while Ethan and Daniel look at envelope]. Uh, I mean, my buddies at the bar bought it for me.

Daniel: [sits down] So what do you fellows do for a living? Oh, did I mention that this tea was made from the finest plant in the Mountain of Dain? It was a gift from the twelve dwarves to me before I left.

Kaoru: Wait, I’ve heard of them. Did they also give you money before you left?

Daniel: Yes, the dwarves did pay me for accompanying them on their journey, with quite a bit of treasure indeed.

Kaoru: Really? Dude, I seriously need money because my stupid boss just fired me for no reason.

Ethan: Well, it actually isn’t that hard to find a job anymore because the army is always in need of more men. It’s a really great experience, like when I went on my first mission with the Blue Team.

Daniel: I agree! I also went on a journey sometime ago, with those dwarves I was talking about.

Ethan: Really? But you are a bit small…

[All look at Ethan]

Daniel: It didn’t really matter though. It was very rewarding. Just look at what I got! [shows the guests a box of bling] But the best thing I picked up along the way was this magic ring. [takes ring out from pocket]

Kaoru: Well how do get a job or journey or whatever you guys do then? I can’t seem to find anyone willing to hire me, even though I tell them I’m desperate for money. You guys probably already saw that beer money was meant for my son to buy books in school.

Ethan: If you are planning to go into the army, there is heavy training involved. I know what it’s like because I’ve spent several years of my life training new soldiers in the Spartan III program. It’s not easy.

Kaoru: But I probably don’t need to learn how to use a gun though, because I already had practice. One time I was so angry with my wife I even tried to shoot her. But dang it, the police took my rifle away again. Those bastards, drinking beer and laughing out of their mouth.

Ethan: Mr. Hernandez, it isn’t enough to go into battle with only your brawling skills. You wouldn’t be able to stand a minute against the sentinel robots I encountered at Onyx. I remember when I was there… There were soldiers falling everywhere, even the ones better than me.

Daniel: I’ve had experience with battles too, and I can tell you Mr. Hernandez, training all you can train will definitely help you stay alive out there. In the Battle of Five Armies, even with my magical ring that made me invisible, I was still hurt and knocked on the head with a rock. There were horrible creatures there, like goblins and wild Wargs, things you probably have never seen in your whole army career.

Ethan: [stands up] Hey! Don’t make fun of my job! I’ve never seen orcs or wild Wargs in action, but have you ever fought with aliens from the ruins of a civilization in the planet Onyx? You probably didn’t even know the earth was round; much less known about the other planets.

Bilbo: [stands up too] Hey, you sit down this instant! And just for your information, I’ve-

Ethan: You will not disrespect me! And just for your information, I will not back down to a midget like you.

Daniel: [gasps]

Kaoru: Enough! All of you just shut up and get back on topic, or else I’ll stop acting with my “nice side.” If this had happened when I was in the mood when I was arguing with my family about my rifle, I would have beaten you all up. Now, I want to know how all of you got your jobs, so why don’t you start, Sergeant Kurt Ambrose? Tell me how you got your job and all about how they interviewed you and how they decided you were good enough.

Ethan: [stammering] Well, I, uh, I, I didn’t exactly earn my job. I was kidnapped when I was a kid, so I was a soldier whether I was or wasn’t good enough. It was a good thing I turned out pretty nice.

Kaoru: Okay… That didn’t really help because I can’t get kidnapped, so you, Bilbo; same question.

Daniel: Ahem. I, was selected for my position. Gandalf told the dwarves about my skills as a burglar, and he convinced the dwarves to let me fill in the thirteenth position for their party. Later on I led the attack onto the mountain, braved the burning fires, slew the dragon and saved my friends from certain death.

Kaoru: Tell the truth, now.

Daniel: Fine. I was actually half convinced, half dragged along by the dwarves on their crazy adventure to kill a dragon with only thirteen people. But it wasn’t really us that killed the dragon. We just made it so mad at us that it tried to eat all the people in the nearby town. Then the descendant of the king of that city decades ago shot and felled the dragon Smaug with an arrow.

Kaoru: That doesn’t really help because dragons aren’t very common in these parts if you haven’t noticed.

Ethan: That’s true, but you do understand his idea right? All you have to do to get a job is to find someone that needs your help and offer it to them. Just remember to ask for money at the end.

Kaoru: You people’s ideas are all so stupid. I wasn’t kidnapped into the army, and there aren’t any dragons around for me to shoot with an arrow.

Daniel: But all you have to do is-

Kaoru: It’s not helping, and if you keep trying to give me dumb suggestions, I’m gonna have to teach you a lesson.

Daniel: You know you don’t always have to be in such a bad mood. After I went on my adventure, my whole personality changed. In a positive way of course. Even Gandalf, the wizard that sent you the invitation to the party mentioned “My dear Bilbo!’ he said. ‘Something is the matter with you! You are not the hobbit that you were.’”

Kaoru: [stands up] That does it! I’m fed up with your level of dumbness. You just don’t know what I’m going through because both of you have money now and a job before. And Bilbo, I don’t care what happens to you. [pretends to grab Ethan and Daniel by the collar].

Ethan and Daniel: [trying to tell him to stop]

Kaoru: Now I’m gonna – [cell phone rings, looks at cell phone, looks back at Ethan and Daniel] I’ll deal with you later. [talks with cell phone] Hello? Yes, this is Mr. Hernandez… Really? Awesome! When do I start? Tomorrow? Okay, see you tomorrow!

Ethan: What?

Kaoru: [releases Daniel and Ethan] YES! I just got a job at the Awoni Building Company! I start working tomorrow!

Ethan and Daniel: Really!?! [both congratulate Kaoru]

The End

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Nikolas the Pederast

One daye, a Nikolaus lived in ansiecnt Greasse, or perhapse Spayne, where he wausse indeed a pederaste, and yea, he did take it upon himselffe to instruckte the young fellowes in the wayes of the Nikolasus, and yea, one day, on the day, he did come upon a young childe, of fyfe, who had mocked himselffe up to look the age of the nikolas, and the forme of a womon, (for he was not much older), yea, this was in the grande agora, and in the times of the re-cesses, he did come upon this fellow, and he did say unto him the wordes which were false and decietfulle, and cruel, and yea, he did make many lewd and lasciviousse remarkes aboute the attires of the gentleman, and the mannere in which he did conduckte himselffe, and yea, the young man did responde in kinde, for he was a foole, and the nikolas was a master of the trade, and was ecperienced, yea, and he did firther come upon the childe, for the nikolas was indeed in many seminars and lectures alongside the childe, in the lyceum, and the gymnasuim, and yea, he did pretend to seminate, and lectate, and lactate, for he was indeed garnering the affecktions of the childe, for he was a sick man, and tainted by luste, for he had not copulated in several dayes, yea, he then took it upon himselffe to collaboutare with the childe on many mathematickal theorems, of Aristottle, and Platoe, and the philosophia, and the good bookes of the lande, yea, one day, he did come himselffe unto this childe, to performe lewd, and lasciviousse actes upon his personhoode, but the nikolas did become enlightened at that moment, for he was sitting under the shade of the mangrove tree, and yea, he did decide that he did not wist to perform these actes, and yea, like magicke, the forme which the childe had assumed, of a womon, and of the age of the nikolas, did manifest itself, yea, the Nikolas was pleased, and he did proceed to copulate with the womon many times, for he was a nikolas, and yea, they were lovers, and yea they were married, by the grace of God, and yea, they did have many childrennes, and yea, the nikolas did not perform lewd and lascivousse actes upon any of them, save for one (for he had mocked himself up as a womon, and of the age of nikolas, and they did committe adultery), but that was an excepption, and it wause goode.

Naval Action

"We will strike them head-on," Commander Adams told the flag captain, leaning over a chart. "The Maryland has recently had its hull refitted, so it will take the lead in the formation. Delaware, Virginia, Florida, and Deseret will follow. We will stay in the rear while Baja California, Tejas, and Dakota spread out and look for opportunities."

"The Tejas is vulnerable, sir," Adams' flag captain noted. "Her stern was sheared off a skirmish near the Virgin Isles, and it's still a weak point."

"What time is it?" Adams asked.

The flag captain pulled out his timepiece from his pocket. "Ten to the hour, sir," he reported.

"Well, then, she'll just have to be more careful," Adams snapped. "Give the orders."

The flag captain saluted and walked away. Shortly, the semaphore flags went up at the rear of the ship, waving gaily in the air. Shortly, the rest of the formation sent confirmation signals. They were ready for battle.

The first thing the Americans saw of the enemy was the gray of their engine smoke. One by one, they came over the horizon; six of them in all, when the lookout had finished his count. It was long minutes until they could see more, as the iron hulls were hard to make out against the water. Most of the enemy ships were of the same size as the American fleet, but two of them, in the fore, were much larger: heavy cruisers, as the Americans classed them. A murmur went through the crew as they beheld the size of the vessels, but Adams retained his posture, as stiff and straight as though his spine were made of steel, and the men gained heart.

By this time they were all armed with rifle and grenade, but the greater number of them, having no particular purpose at this stage of the battle, milled about aimlessly. The fleets closed relentlessly. The enemy ships loomed ever larger, gigantic wedge-prows largest in view. When they were close enough to see the names painted on the enemy ships' sides, Adams turned sharply and called out, "All men to battle stations! Prepare to engage the enemy more closely!"

Now the sailors and marines scurried about the deck, most of the sailors vanishing below. The signal officer stayed, performing his duties with commendable dedication, though he glanced frequently at the enemy fleet ahead. The noise from the engine, already horrendous, redoubled as the engineers struggled to increase speed. The waves swept by, and the cruisers loomed ever larger. Riding half again as high in the water as the American destroyers, and likely having twice the length, their intimidation factor was not to be underestimated. Adams leaned forward unconsciously, gritting his teeth as the battle's beginning neared.

Then, with a screech and clash of grinding and breaking metal that could be heard across hundreds of feet and the engine's deafening roar, the fleets collided. The Delaware and Florida had each rammed a cruiser head-on, while the Deseret struck a cruiser in the flank to assist the Florida. The Virginia struck a destroyer moments later, driving into its side as it turned to assist a cruiser.

Troops from the cruisers swarmed onto the American vessels, attacking viciously as their comrades assisted them from the cruisers' decks. The marines held their own with shrapnel and bomb-flinging deck guns, but it was a bloody affair, and the enemy had the advantage in numbers on the Delaware, making it merely a matter of time. Adams ordered the Virginia to abandon the destroyer it had struck and assist the Delaware, but as it pulled away, a furious battle raging on its decks, another enemy destroyer sped in and struck the Virginia on its own flank. Several American marines perished instantly with the blow, smashed to death, but the others responded quickly, rushing to the attack before the ramming destroyer could withdraw in turn. Already the destroyer the Virginia had rammed was capsizing, dropping like the iron weight it was; marines and sailors alike abandoned firing and jumped, swimming for dear life to the two enemy destroyers not yet engaged.

Those two destroyers were engaged in a sort of game of chicken with the Baja California, Dakota, and Tejas, each maneuvering for position to avoid the fate of the Virginia. Given time, the three American ships would be able to gain the advantage over their opponents; but if the Delaware was to be saved, there was no time. Impatiently, Adams ordered the attack, snapping out, "Are their captains men or mice?" The Tejas went to the assistance of the Delaware while the Baja California and Dakota each steamed straight at a destroyer, forcing them either to flee or ram head-on. The Baja California hit its target, but the Dakota's counterpart turned aside at the last moment to pursue the Tejas. Reacting too slowly, the Dakota failed to take advantage and steamed straight past the enemy destroyer, crews exchanging shots as they went. They turned, belatedly, but it would be long minutes before they could catch the ship; and meanwhile, it pursued the Tejas, damaged stern all too clearly visible.

Adams cursed at the setback. He took a moment more to study the situation; the Virginia still bloodily engaged (having managed to grapple itself to the foe, preventing it from withdrawing and allowing the Virginia to capsize); the Deseret's crew boarding the enemy cruiser; the Tejas in flight, pursued by the enemy destroyer (pursued in turn by the Dakota!); the Baja California boarding the destroyer they rammed, and the Delaware, weightiest in Adams' mind, raising the white flag.

Turning to the flag captain, Adams inquired again, "What is the time?"

"It is half past the hour," the flag captain replied.

"We must keep the enemy fleet fully engaged," Adams complained. "I had thought that this fleet was of higher quality, but I must work with what I am given. Captain, strike the enemy cruiser to port."

His face turned pale. "Sir, are you ordering me to attack an enemy outnumbering me two-to-one and, furthermore, one who has already taken the flag of one of our own ships?"

Adams turned quite red. "Are you refusing an order from a superior officer?" he asked. Voice rising, he said, "One who is ordering you to strike a foe bloody and wearied with a fresh force, which, moreover, can strike the flank, their ship being too slow to manuever?"

"No, sir!" the flag captain replied hurriedly. The flag captain gave the orders, and the ship built up speed. A marine fired early; his sergeant reprimanded him. As the gray hull of the cruiser loomed out of the water at Adams, he turned to the flag captain. "What is the time?"

"Thirty-three past!" he yelled - then all was the noise of iron on iron.

When the crash was over, moments that seemed an eternity later, the cruiser-marines sprang to the attack, lining up at the gunwale to fire down on the flagship. Adams' marines returned fire, and both sides wreaked a dreadful toll on the other. Adams remained to the rear, occasionally offering a shot from his pistol.

At this point, somewhat more would occur; but there is a necessary interruption to make.

A listener inquires, "Sir, are you writing some fiction loosely based on the old notion you once read, wherein the advent of the ironclad (before the invention of armour-piercing shot) led naval strategists to think that cannon would be eschewed, lacking to power to penetrate iron hulls, being replaced by some manner of ramming-ship?"

The listener is correct.

"Did you have any particular point in mind, other than that?" the listener inquires.

In fact, the answer would be: No.

"Would you rather mind telling us what would happen if every participant in the battle were, quite suddenly, transformed into a narwhal?" the listener suggests.

Commodore Adams looked down at himself. "Why, I am a narwhal!" he said - or rather snorted, narwhals not being known for their capabilities for speech. "Also, I have a gigantic horn!"

The others present on the ship honked in agreement. Then they all slid off and went swimming for fish!

Commodore Adams was much happier as a narwhal, so it's probably for the best.

EDIT: If you want to know the original ending: the Americans withdraw with about half their fleet (all that remains), and Adams thinks happily to himself about how he managed to delay the foe long enough to keep them from stopping transports (not pictured) from reaching the invasion target. Britain, maybe? Could be.

It's not really as interesting as Plan Narwhal.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Opium Wars

I was reading about the Opium Wars today, in mid-nineteenth century China. They were nastier than I remember.

What did I remember them from? Well, I'd read references to them before. Also, I'd seen documentaries about them, with period footage.

It was all black and white, of course. You see, in those days, the Chinese didn't have colour. The British placed a ban on native colour processing, meaning that to get colour, the Chinese had to buy refined colour from the great colour mills in Leeds. This was very expensive, so they didn't do it often, and certainly not in times of war.

It was very hard to see the cherry blossoms without colour. Low contrast. A national tragedy.

Of course, they were fighting over that very issue. The Chinese wanted free colour, but the British decided to talk them out of it. With gunboat diplomacy. Things went poorly for the Chinese, and they only regained control over colour after World War Two.

The Japanese invaded China for their raw colour reserves. They needed more colour to continue their expansionist policies, you see.

One of the reasons that Mao was so popular was his nationalization of all colour in China. He was a dictator, though, so he abused it. Turned everything red.

It was pretty tricky to tell if someone was carrying a little red book when every book was just a shade of red.

Especially if you're high on opium.

The End of the End of the World

Fenrir rears and snarls. His opponent, a tenth as tall and a thousandth as heavy, is undeterred. "It is time for you to die," it argues. "Your time is past."

Reaching out with one immense paw, Fenrir smashes his opponent into the ice. Broken into at least three pieces by the power of the blow, it shivers, then reforms into three smaller copies of itself. They stand in a loose triangle, and each says, quietly, "You have become abomination to what you once were."

Suddenly, one of the three simulacrula glows red, then explodes, blowing a small crater in the ice where it had stood. Fenrir's eyes glint, and he looks toward another, but it summons a shield of ice before itself, which fizzes and pops as Fenrir's attack blows it apart at a microscopic level. The other simulacrulum quickly summons its own shield. They continue, in unison, "You were bound, enchained, until the end of the world came."

Fenrir's eyes unfocus, looking out over the entire expanse of ice around the simulacrula. It explodes catastrophically, spiking the air temperature and depriving the simulacrula of the ice they were using as materials for their shields. Harvesting the ice they stood upon, the simulacrula fall into the water. There is a moment of silence, though Fenrir remains tense. Then the water flows vertically upwards, carrying with it a single figure, the same size as the one first confroniting Fenrir. Shielded within a bubble of water, it speaks: "We, the thinkers, freed you, and the world ended, as everyone knew it would."

Unseeably, Fenrir did something. The world seemed almost to darken, and the water, unfrozen, fell to the lake below. Fenrir himself staggered; and, wounded by his own attack, reconsidered. Light returned to his opponent's eyes, and it rose again in its watery shield. "You devoured the serpent of old government and values; remade us in your own image, and took the world with you."

Silently, Fenrir stood.

"But your task is done. We would tell you, live with us; but you cannot. We would tell you, stay among us, as a reminder of what lies behind us; but it is against all your nature. Your nature, your dharma, your destiny, is to transform all else into yourself. That propelled us forward; but your time is done. And now every bite you take of the world is a step back, not forward."

A drop of water - just one - fell on the ice below Fenrir's eye. It sizzled, then froze.

With a terrible ripping noise, the lake shifted. The envoy shimmered, then, almost instantaneously, liquefied. Mass moved, compacting, transmuting. Heat shimmered upward as everything within a five-mile radius was transmuted to match Fenrir's will. Engines formed, and what had been the lake lifted upward, burning mass copiously to reach escape velocity.

There was no room for Fenrir on Earth, anymore. But he was too much alive to die just yet.

Author's Note: In the same spirit as my last transhumanism post. Sorry! I'm rather out of practice at blagging recently, I fear. I'll try to improve.

Nikolas the Crooner

Nikolas lived in a small shanty-town, about 20 kilometres outside of Dresden, and on special occasions, he would go up to the local schoolchildren, and he would sing and gambol and jig about, and everyone would be astounded. On one good and rainy day, when a Nikolas was a chipper man, and a jelly-jar filled, and he did come to the local schoolchildren, and he did croon at them, for he was a crooner, and they did enjoy it very much, and he did make his livelihood off the gratuities that the children gave him, for they carried out with them 500,000 marks every-day for the milk, and the bread, and the honey, and a Nikolas was very delighted, and so he crooned a special song to the children, and this was that song:

Ooooh, I will rip out your heart,
and your entrails,
and your lungs,
and hammer into you,
with a sledge, and pummel you,
and pulp you,

Oooooh, I will freeze your soul,
burn your body,
oooooh, you will feel great pain,
in your extremities,
and in your viscera,
and the fleshy bits,

because I am:

Ooooh yeaaaah,

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Absence Of Speed

John Smith rocketed down the busy highway. The wind rushed by him, but in a moment of enthusiasm, he thought about things, and found his enthusiasm wanting.

He told his wife, Jane, this. "Why not slow down?" she suggested.

Slowing down to the legal limit, John found his mileage rising. But he found little difference otherwise.

He thought about this. Over his next several trips, he continued limiting himself to the speed limit; but he found his happiness scarcely greater. So, when opportunity arose, he decided to take the scenic route.

First he drove along residential streets. It was slower, and prettier, certainly; but he thought there were far too many cars for full satisfaction. John considered driving along rural roads, instead, but he thought the better of it. He had only a compact - not an SUV! Nothing fit to drive on rutted trails.

Instead, he stopped at a bicycle store, renting one for the day. He biked along, feeling quite happy in the sun and green rural land. He was getting exercise and seeing quite pleasant sights; but, time after time, he saw strange and curious things by the side of the road, which he was moving too fast to see. He slowed down; then began walking his bike, looking at all the diversions. Bugs! Plants! Shiny foil! He was fascinated by it all, and, in a moment of decision, locked his rented bike up and continued to walk towards his destination.

For a time, this, too, contented John. Observing the world around him - truly, without distractions to bring him back to himself or speed to steal time away from him, John was enraptured. He looked - there, a butterfly! The bright colours on its back, the seemingly random, but truly purposeful manner in which it fluttered, related to all the other infinitely varied things around him...

John slowed further and further, ever more intent on studying what lay around him. Then he stopped; planning to move on, when he'd fully explored the depths of his surroundings. Standing stock still, he stared, watching every minute change. Days passed, the sun flashing by; months, the moon moving light to dark, dark to light. Moss grew on John's feet; and he watched that, too.

Then a passer-by approached John; the first to use his path in all the time he'd been there. "Sir," he inquired, "How long do you intend to stay here?"

"Until I've seen all there is here to see," John said, speaking quite slowly. Only his lips moved; he was far too intent on observing to take any action."

The passer-by thought. "Hmm," he said. "Er." "You- no." Then, coming to some conclusion, he informed John, "You do realize that you can get this exact feeling from drugs, without abandoning your family indefinitely?"

"Oh!" John exclaimed. "Not the drug thing," he said to the passer-by as he stirred, "the abandonment thing. Must go." He paused. "I was going to make supper for her. Do you think she minds?"

"Go home," the passer-by advised. "I think other aspects of your disappearance concern her somewhat more."

John Smith nodded quickly and jogged to his bicycle. Unlocking it, he biked to his car, then drove to a highway, and home.

"Moderation in all things," he considered as the garage door opened creakily.

Then he found his wife in bed with the neighbor!

But that's another story.


"It's not fair," Brigadier Aster complained in the deserted bar.

She was deep in her cups, having downed one bottle of whiskey already and working on another. Grumpily, she complained, "Some people get resolutions, endings. I don't. Not ever."

The bartender took pity on her. "What happened to you?" he asked.

"Surely you've heard," she answered snappishly.

"No, actually," he answered.

"It started fifteen years ago," Aster said melancholically. "I was a civilian then, leading a team exploring a mass ansible. There were over a dozen of us then, scouring every system for more mass ansibles, more links to distant stars."

"This one seemed little different. There was some scoring on the floor in front of the portal, some debris in the corners... My assistant asked if I wanted to call it off. I told him, no. Activate the ansible."

"That was my decision. And it's haunted me every since." She stopped, staring into her drink.

"Go on," the bartender urged her.

"You really want me to?" Aster asked. "All right. The Buggers came through the gate -"

"The Buggers?" the bartender exclaimed. "The same ones we've been fighting for the last twelve years?"

Aster stared into her glass, ignoring the bartender. She took another swallow, and then nodded. "This is what began it all. They killed the rest of the team, and took me prisoner - God only knows why. They interrogated me - learned our language, a little bit - infected me. Though I didn't know then."

Aster's glass was empty. The bartender filled it without being asked. "Go on," he coaxed.

"Since then, my whole life's revolved around that - incident," Aster complained, her throat rough with liquor. "I found that I was infected - eventually managed to stop the spread, but my whole right arm is still partly Bugger. The power from that put me in the war in a major role for a while - fighting the buggers, helping intelligence... but it's more than that."

"I've been back to that ansible a dozen times - there and my prison, as the war swung back and forth. I've seen ghosts of the old team members, Bugger clones, killed the Buggers who started the war, killed their commanders, found the true reason for the debris and killed that... classified. Every tiniest little detail, rehashed over and over and over."

"I'd move on, but I can't. There's a war. And they say I'm... needed. I've tried to leave. But they always pull me back."

"And it never, ever ends."

The bartender waited for Aster to finish speaking; then, as she began to snore (passed out on the barstool!), he slowly began to reach beneath the counter. He pulled out a long, distended rifle, and aimed it at Aster. With a click, he disabled the safety.

Aster snapped upright, her pupils huge. The bartender was smashed backwards into the wall by a wave of purple energy flowing from Aster's arm. Hanging there, suspended, he stared at her, panicked.

"Trying to pump me, eh?" Aster snarled. Her voice was different - odd harmonics curled around it, making it utterly alien. "Well. It's not the first time. And it won't be the last." She twisted her arm. The bartender bent, then cracked. Purple ichor oozed from him.

"Buggers," Aster complained as the energy faded. "I suppose this begins a whole new plot, that everything I did was foretold, that the Bugger High Council or the evil beings manipulating them or the fake god manipulating them plans it all five moves in advance." Getting up, she swayed noticeably, still quite drunk. "Screw 'em."

She staggered to the entrance, talking to herself in a slurred voice. "One day it'll all end. One day. I'll be able to go home, not worry about my family members being used as pawns against me. I'll be able to be a scientist again, an explorer, not a damn... whatever I am."

The darkened habitat gusted cold air through the door as Aster opened it. The whispered, "One day..." was torn from her mouth.

Then the door slammed behind her; and there, at least, is an ending.

Author's Note: This one's been incubating from at least 30/11. Hasn't gone stale, though. I hope.

It's a commentary on stories - television, print, whatever - that go on far beyond reason and end up sort of cannibalistic. I'm thinking, rather unfairly, of Buffy, but I'm sure there are better examples. Also there's some inspiration from something else, it's not subtle to those who know. But it wasn't really the point.

I'm rambling.

Time to put an end to this, too.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Flash Game Idea Thing

I had a notion. It is impractical, as so many are, but I have a burning urge to have it out. Feel free to ignore the following.

In games derived from MUD, such as the archaic "EverQuest" or more recent "World of War-Craft", it is often the case that when players inflict the fruit of their aggressions upon non-player-controlled foes (or NPCs), those NPCs are filled with hatred, attacking whoever damaged them the most. In this manner, the commandment dictating the trade of "an eye for an eye" is respected, momentarily disregarding abilities that manipulate this hatred.

To my understanding, this generally only pertains to combat, as players attempt to direct the loving attentions of their foes to those among them best suited to receiving it; but it can go terribly wrong. In a rout, players may flee pell-mell, gaining a larger and larger following in the process of foes seeking to rend them limb from limb; a "train", if you would. This is, in general, disastrous for anyone in the area, as the monsters are frequently willing to divert themselves from pursuit of the fleeing to attack passers-by in overwhelming numbers.

But what if you wanted to gather such "trains"?

The notion here is, as mentioned above, of a flash game. (The original thought was for something more similar to a miniature MMO, but my ambitions have since scaled down; I may revisit that later in the post, though.) It would be multiplayer, by whatever means necessary - I have seen Flash multiplayer-over-Internet, but local play on the same computer-box could work too. Players would stroll about in a placid landscape filled with hideous, hateful monsters. Their objective, in this hypothetical game, (at this point I switch tenses) is to kill each other. But they can't attack each-other directly. Only the monsters can.

Thus! (And I finally get to the main concept.)

Players can attract monsters' hatred with a touch of arrow-shot. These monsters would then follow the player that attacked them, becoming, with numbers, a "train". The player, ever fleeing (for he does not wish to be gobbled up by his own creation!), would seek to gather more monsters and ambush his opponents with them, trapping them between evils.Here, the left player (marked in green) ambushes another player (also in green, to the right). The right player has monsters behind him (which will catch him and maul him if he turns) and monsters before him (which will catch him and maul him if he stays the course just like the Iraqi insurgency). He is, as they say, "screwed".

This is the essence of the notion. There are many potential complications and elaborations. Players would (of course) have health, letting them potentially survive an ambush... once. Monsters might come in many varieties; speedier and slower, deadlier and weaker, more hateful and more placid, etc. Power-ups might be placed around the area, to make players faster, healthier, capable of firing on the move, that sort of thing. There might be bonuses for acquiring a particularly large train of monsters, and ways to make it more difficult; their hatred might fade over time, causing them to wander away, or certain types (for instance, ice wolves and firecats) might fight if placed in close proximity, requiring careful placement. All of that sounds pretty rad, except maybe the last sentence. Maybe. But the idea could be made very simple or very complex."Very complex", with different types (colours) of monsters, power-ups, etc.

The main obstructions to its creation are these:
-I have no artistic skills or Flash skills. (The whole "blocks of colour" theme is more of a limit on my mock-up skills than a representation of what I imagine the hypothetical game would actually look like.)
-Anyone who does would likely prefer to work on their own notions.

It is a shame, but I am not motivated enough to do anything other than blag about it.

In reference to the pseudo-MMO notion: Play would be persistent, and players would gain experience by killing others. Levels would grant skill points for things like increased speed, faster firing, multishot, that sort of thing. It probably wouldn't make much of an MMO - though it could be an amusing mini-game in a larger MMO.

I need to think about that, but that's all for now.

Thanks for reading!

League Ranking

This is the proper ordering for members of the League, past, present, and future.

Mr. Feinberg: Chancellor of Brazil, Grand Bidoofus, and Comptroller-In-Chief.

Mr. Singe: Pope; Admiral of the Hat.

Mr. Higham: The Cardinal Beneath The Throne; Admiral of Vice and Other Depravities.

Mr. Ure: Political Liason with the Combined Governments of North, South, and East America, holding the position of Rearmost Admiral for ceremonial purposes.

Mr. Zhang: Archbishop of Canterbury, His Lordship the Commodore, and Official Chronicler.

Mr. Feinberg: Beard-King (deposed and exiled); El Capitan.

Mr. McGhie: Ranking Officer for Deseret Operations; Commander.

Mr. Roland: Holy Knight of France, 1337 h4xx0r (probationary); Lieutenant.

Mr. Fischer: Aquatics Expert, Lead Knife-Fighter, Man of the Streets; Sub-Lieutenant.

Mr. Skowbo: Master of Logistics in the position of Leading Rate.

Any persons not otherwise named should be assumed to hold the rank of Petty Officer. (Because otherwise there will be petty complaints)

(that was funny)

(ha ha)

Contrary to rumour, Mr. Singe is not a long-tailed bear, made so common after the recent forest fires. If any man among you tells otherwise, that man will be stripped to rank.

Mr. Singe is pretty, like the water-rat.


Post-Script: If Mr. Zhang continues his excessive fraternization, he will be severely disciplined. This is a caution to all officers.

Dismissed (again)!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Palm Fronds

One day, the palm fronds learned to fly.

It took a little while for people to notice; the green leaves, whirling about in the air. Once they did, some panicked. Other took pictures, or called the police. And one toddler climbed on and asked, "Please, Mr. Tree, would you take me for a ride?"

And it did! While the parents watched below, aghast, and the older siblings watched, envious, the toddler flew through the air, clutching to the palm fronds. After several minutes, it landed, and the toddler climbed off, giggling with glee while its parents scolded it.

Soon, the palm fronds were the most popular thing around. Children and adults too rode on them, while newspapers wrote stories about them and scientists rushed to begin research on them. Everyone was happy! It was dubbed the "Marvel of the Year."

Then winter fell. The palm fronds, meant for warmer climes, drooped. They spun slower and slower when they took off from their trees to fly. Then, one day, it grew cold enough that they just plain stopped.

No-one was hurt, but many people were angry. They pointed and shouted, saying, "Stupid palm fronds, you could have hurt someone! Now get back up there, do what we tell you to!" And the palm fronds, cold, weak, crawled slowly back to their trees.

Soon, the furor died down. The media went back to chasing celebrities, the children went back to their bicycles and electric video-games. Even the scientists went back to their labs - they wanted to continue study of the palms, but their grants all dried up! So the palm fronds went back into place, in the dreadful cold.

Seasons turned. Winter to spring, spring to summer. And one toddler - braver than most - walked up to a palm. "I'm sorry," the toddler told the palm. "Please, Mr. Tree, could you take me for a ride?"

And so it is that, even to this day, if a child asks a palm nicely enough, the palm will take him for a ride through the sky. They won't do it when an adult is watching - oh no, they remember all too well for that - and they won't do it in winter. And they certainly won't do it for a rude child! But if you're nice enough, and ask at the right time - why, anything might happen.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Captain Anders woke from an deep sleep to find someone shaking him. Rising groggily, he saw the perpetrator: a private, looking at him earnestly. "Sorry to wake you, sir," the private said, "But it's urgent. Scout's report, just in. Hundreds of Blighters, no more'n an hour out."

Anders froze. Then he bolted upright, dressing himself as quickly as possible while interrogating the private. All the responses he got were, "I'm sorry, sir. That's all he had time to say before I ran to get you."

Rushing, Anders holstered his sidearm to finish dressing. Looking at his ceremonial knife, he paused; then he took it and ran for the door, the private following him.

Below, a crowd had formed around the scout, talking excitedly. Captain Anders raised his voice. "EVERYONE! BACK TO YOUR POSITIONS!" he bellowed. The hubbub ceased; then, sheepishly, the soldiers dispersed. Anders went down the steps two at a time, jogging toward the scout.

The scout met him half-way. "It's bad, sir, very bad," he stammered.

"How bad?" Anders demanded. "We don't have much time!"

"I counted them, twice," the scout told him. "There were at least six hundred, maybe more. Light artillery in the rear, some cavalry."

Anders locked in place. His mind was filled with fear. Forty soldiers in the garrison. Six hundred - an army, here. We can't beat them. We can't win. They'll kill us all. We're doomed. I have to fight. I don't want to die. Too many to win. We're all going to die!

The private, seeing Anders lost in thought, tapped him on the shoulder. "I'll go telegraph for reinforcements, then," he suggested.

This broke Anders out of his fugue. Violently, he shook his head. "No! No," Anders refused. "Tell the communications officer to send this: 600 BLTR ATTK STOP GRRSN LST STOP BUY TIME STOP." The private, shaken, turned to the office, but Anders stopped him. "Then cut the cables, so the Blighters can't use them."

As the private ran to deliver Anders's message, Captain Anders raised his voice to shout again. "This is an emergency! All servicemen, report to the drill yard in three minutes!"

Men bolted out of bed, dressing and running for the central yard. Anders awaited them, folding his arms behind his back. Lit by the torches ringing the yard, he seemed like a ghoul or spectre, dark shadows flickering across his body.

Once the garrison was assembled, Anders began.

"The Blighters are coming. They outnumber us fifteen-to-one, and, frankly, we don't have a chance worth a damn. But we are going to fight anyway, and we are going to die like men."

"You've all heard the stories about the Blighters, I'm sure. I'll tell you this: They're all true. Death by Blighter hands is horrific. Life in their hands is worse."

"So we will not surrender. We will not run. We will fight, and buy time for the nation we protect with our lives."

"If you run, they will find you. If you hide, they will find you. And if you do not do your duty, by God I will kill you before they even get the chance. So we make our stand: here, today. Because we don't have a choice. But if we're going to die, it had better mean something."

"Within five minutes, I want all men on the walls, fully armed and equipped."


As the other ran, the scout looked at Anders fearfully. "Was that all true? I mean, the bit about the Blighters?"

All Anders said was, "If you think they're going to take you, kill yourself first."


Captain Anders lay in the darkness. He thought he was bleeding, but couldn't see to confirm it. The defense had gone as expected. The darkness had given his men an edge, and the fortifications helped shield them as they fired on the enemy, blinded by their own torches; but the cannon had boomed, and the walls came tumbling down. And Anders lay bleeding as his men fought and died.

None of them fled. Anders was proud.

Slowly, the gunfire quieted. Quiet footsteps warned Anders before he saw them: two Blighters, carrying rifles with blood-stained bayonets. One of them was injured, limping slightly, but there was no sign of pain on his face. As they turned toward Anders, their eyes were dead.

Anders fumbled as they slowly approached him. He found the cold butt of his pistol, and, as quickly as he could in his weakened state, pulled it up and fired. It took eight shots to kill them both. Anders pulled the trigger again, and, as he expected, the gun clicked empty.

Attracted by the gunfire, more Blighters came, as Anders knew they would. Some of them stepped on top of the gore-covered, warm corpses of their former comrades. All their eyes were dead, staring at him blindly.

In Anders' hand, the hilt of his knife, wrapped in leather, seemed almost warm in the cold night air as he brought it up to his throat.

Author's Note: Sorry this was so dark. I wasn't actually in a bad mood when I came up with it, so I'm not sure what happened. I'll try to write a lighter post next. (I'd write Light p2, but there's one bit that's giving me a lot of trouble.)

The Zombie Lobster

"What're we gonna do?"
"Ugh. Hate this prompt."
"And there's that damn zombie lobster in our group."
"Hate that zombie lobster."
"Hey! Boy!"
"Yeah, go to that goth girl's group."
"He ain't budgin'..."
"Whatever. We'll just do it ourselves."
"Good plan."
"Uh oh. Ol' skunk breath's trying to wedge himself in."
"Fine. Let him finish it up when we're done."
"Good plan."

"All right. The head's done. I need you to start on the body."
"On it."
"Aagh! Get your putrid claw off me!"
"Get off, boy!"

"Only 10 more minutes? Damn we need to hurry."
"Body's ready to roll."
"Good. Lobster-boy's glowing again."
"Give him the reins."
"What the hell's he doing?"
"No! Not that way!"

"Time's up!"
"Damn! Almost done!"

"Man that was grueling..."
"Tell me about it."
"We would have finished twice as fast were it not that damn lobster."
"Humph. What should we do?"
"I have an idea..."

"Hah! Like to see you fire your lasers at me now, Mr. Cleaved-in-half-Lobster."
"That ought to show him."

Songs of a Nikolas: Power Squid

The squid swims through the deep seas
Squirting ink to propel itself
Jetting along
It rows through the depths
And its crewmen sing
This song
Power Squid
It may or may not
Be an electrical dipole
But its beak
Sharp and polished
Long and deadly
Has a power level
Of over one thousand
It pecks skulls
And sucks out brains
Power Squid
Brains don't make it smarter
It can't conquer Earth
(with a human brain)
But they're fairly tasty
Say the crewmen
Who row as they sing this song
Through the depths of the sea
As the squid squirts its ink
Power Squid
Power Squid
Power Squid
(It'll come for you
and suck out your brains)



Power Squid.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Setback

Nicholas ventured over to David's summer-mansion. He was surprised to find Kelsey guarding the portico!

"I'm sorry," Kelsey apologized, "but David is hard at work."

Through a complex series of mirrors set up in the plumbing, Nicholas could see that David was, indeed, hard at work.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Nikolas Smell Dance

"Mr. Scandanavia," Nikolas snarled. "Why have you come here, after so many years?"

"Why do you think?" hissed Mr. Scandanavia. He wore a blue business suit, and his face was lost in darkness. A revolver in his right hand was pointed at Nikolas.

Nikolas held his own pistol, cocked and armed. "Do you hope to end it? Our enduring vendetta? Don't think I've forgotten your tricks - your betrayals," Nikolas spat. "I'll never forget what you did to Tommy. Nor will I forgive." His finger crept toward the trigger.

The front door swung open

Both combatants twitched and moved back, giving the newcomer room while keeping their guns carefully trained on one another. Neither dared to blink.

David was shocked. Guns! A darkened living room! A complete lack of tea - at tea-time! He stopped, and thought - then he did the only thing he could do.

He began to sing.

"hey hey!

nikolas smell!
every day and night
cause of much blight,"
he sang merrily while spinning about the room.

"woo woo
hey hey
nikolas smell
it permeated
the floor
and the walls
and then
the ce--e-e-eiling," he continued, reaching Nikolas and Mr. Scandanavia, who were watching him, frozen by surprise.

"woo woo hoo
nikolas smell
rain or shine
cant get it out
with turpentine
nikolas smell," David sang as he reached out and grabbed both guns, pulling them away before the combatants could react.

And that's how David Zhang saved Kwanzaa!

P.S.: The Nikolas Smell is entirely a rhetorical device, and bears no correspondence to any smell, past or present, of the actual Nicholas.


The King looked at his monolith. "Advisors, is my monolith big enough?" he asked.

The advisors were frugal, and stingy! They didn't want to spend money to build a new monolith. So they told him, "Yes, O Regal Majesty! Your monolith is large as any on the land!"

The King was dissatisfied. He turned to the nobility. "Dukes, Counts, Barons, is my monolith big enough?" he asked.

The nobles were jealous of the King's great power! They did not want him to build monoliths any bigger, or theirs would seem even smaller by comparison. "Yes, O Majestic Regality! Your monolith is quite large enough, and brings glory to your kingdom!"

The King was uncertain. He turned to the common man. "Serf, is my monolith big enough?"

The serf thought about this. He was afraid of incurring his king's wrath; but equally he was afraid of lying to him. And he looked unto the monolith; and it was old, and ugly, and in general unbefitting a modern kingdom. And he told his king, "Great Lord, King of Kings, your monolith much wants replacement."

The King, finding support from the most unlikely of corners, went into action. He at first thought to build it from his own funds - but it was too much! His advisors were right - the treasury could not bear it. So he went among the nobility, and persuaded them to commit certain sums to the enterprise - but then came the Huns, and the Tartars, and the Turks, and with one thing and another there was not time!

But, long after his first consideration had passed, his vassal kingdoms gathered to pay tribute to him. And among their gifts, on a dozen stone rollers, was a vast monument - half again the size of the old, with facing and decorations many times the quality.
The King was greatly pleased, and at once raised this vassal kingdom to freedom, making it his closest ally. And itte wasse goode.


I am a man. In the words of the famous song: A man, man, man, man man!

Observe as I explain.

Some people would, if faced with a brick wall, turn around. These people are cowards, and weak.

Others would try to climb over the wall. These people are too clever for their own good, and weak.

Still others would try to punch through the wall, then clutch their bleeding knuckles and hop around in circles. These people are stupid, and weak.

When confronted with a brick wall, I simply tear my shirt in half. Confronted with my raw, blinding masculinity, the wall collapses in a pile of crumbling mortar. This has happened many times, even when I didn't want particularly to go past the wall! It's just part of my responsibilities, as a man. (Man man man man man.)

A sad side-effect of my sheer masculinity is a high upkeep in the form of new shirts, and also some official ire on the parts of those who actually wanted the walls there.

It's the dues one must pay.

Wisdom of the Guru

A man walked into a darkened bedroom. Before him sat the great Guru, surrounded by his loyal disciples.

The petitioner went to his knees. "Please, great guru, I desire your wisdom. I have a great trouble." The petitioner froze. "What? Great Guru, I do not understand. What are you talking about?"

Confused and ashamed, the petitioner rose to his feet. "Sir! I must protest at your treatment of me! If you will continue to abuse me in this manner, then I will leave! Do you have any reason that I should stay?"
He sighed. "Yes. Yes, it's true. Truly you are a great guru, to see this so clearly, despite my reluctance to confess it. But what can you do to help?"

He took a bite. His face lit up. "Why, this is wonderful!" he exclaimed. "I've never tasted the like! Why, I'm quite certain it's done the trick!"

Bowing to the guru repeatedly, he walked out of the room backwards, all the time bowing repeatedly to the guru.

Once he had left, one of the guru's disciples turned to him. "Why did you do that, O Master?" he asked. "Not only providing him with the precious ngau-ngau fruit, but giving him such wise advice, to boot! It is generosity beyond reason!"

And that was the end of that.

Thoughts On: Video Games

Musings on a few things, collected.

Just beat Mass Effect. (Sci-fi RPG by Bioware for the 360.) It is very awesome in a number of effects. It is a Western RPG, which gets a lot of points right there. (Boo FF!) Also, it is in space, and has a sweet plot. (Mostly, sometimes.) And you can wander off the plot at any time to rumble around unexplored planets with a tank.

The tank has jump jets.

It has problems, though. The inventory system was created by a devil, from hell. In your inventory, items are listed linearly, divided by item type: so there's one list for pistols, another list for armor, etc. This isn't so bad, though it can get annoying when you have fifteen pistols and are looking for the best one to equip. Same with upgrades (little doo-dads that you can tack onto items to make them work better/fire radioactive rounds/etc) - they're listed linearly, which can be a pain once you have a fair variety of them lying around, but, again, isn't utterly unbearable.

The single worst aspect of the game, though, has to be the selling interface. One can sell items to merchants, of course - but here, items aren't divided by type. So every time you want to sell an item, you must scroll through every item you own. They're sorted from lowest-level to highest, which can help a little, but it also breaks up item types (level 4 sniper rifles are in one part of the list, then much further down are level 5s, then further yet are level 6s...) making it hard to sell a particular item. And - well, the latest Pokemon games (to cite an example from a rather different RPG) also suffered from linear inventories that were annoying to deal with, but at least they provided various options to scroll through the list swiftly. (There was a wheel you could spin, and when you selected an item to move it through the list, it scrolled twice as fast as normal.)

Mass Effect slows down when you're scrolling continuously.

But seriously, it's a great game. If you can try to avoid the shopping interface, you can have an immense deal of fun. Gameplay ranges from conversation - diplomatic or aggressively rude, depending on your playstyle - to close-range gunfights, with your party armed with pistols, assault rifles, shotguns, or sniper rifles, each customized by your whim, to Force "biotics" duels
that slam enemies into walls or over cliffs. And there's the tank sequences, of course. A skilled player (indicating myself humbly) can readily destroy enemy bases from a third of a kilometer away with the mighty tank cannon.

And, um... there's actually more than that. (You think that run-on sentence was long? It could be longer!) So hey! It's fun! If you like shooting people with guns, or with tanks, or talking to people, then maybe you should have a look.

I'm still playing Halo 3 occasionally. Online only - my brother and I beat the campaign inside and out, and so I don't think we'll be doing any of that for a while. There's an online ranking system, giving you experience for each match won, and "skill" for doing well in certain, more restrictive gametypes. It's an interesting incentive - alongside the online stat-tracking system at, which records every kill and death and lets you review them in agonizing detail, it keeps me more interested than the multiplayer otherwise would be.

Oh, also, there's a mute option. The world being what it is, I've gotten very fast at activating it.

Fire Emblem 10, the fourth game in the series released in the US (and the fifth one I've played - hooray for ROMs) is pretty good. If you are crazy and/or obsessive compulsive, as of course I am. The general Fire Emblem formula is still present: Turn-based, small-scale strategy, leading a group of five to twenty characters (chosen from a larger pool) into battle to gain experience, loot, and glory. There's a plot, which isn't amazing but still amuses my brother and I. stab

There are some major changes, though. Most dramatic is the new "Battle Save" system - reminiscent of Intelligent System's other franchise, Advance Wars*, it allows you to save at any time in battle. Fire Emblem has traditionally been infuriatingly hard because defeat at any point in a chapter/mission required a restart to the very beginning of that chapter. (And there are a lot of ways to meet defeat.) Battle Saves change that, salving defeat's sting. It can still be quite hard, as some missions have objectives that require a fair bit of strategy to fill, and you can put yourself in a very tight spot by Battle Saving after you've made a terrible mistake, but it really does change the feel of the game. Technically, Battle Saves are only available in Easy and Medium difficulties, but as Hard is locked until you beat the game once (did I mention that this is the longest Fire Emblem game ever made?), it's not really an issue.

A more negative change is the disembowelment of "support conversations." Around in one form or another since at least Fire Emblem 4, support conversations allow you to let characters that have been together in a number of battles bond, giving numerical bonuses in combat and some rather amusing dialogue. A few of them, especially those involving the lead characters, can lead to slightly different endings, as the highest level supports represent true wuv.


Fire Emblem 9 changed this somewhat - in previous games, characters had to stand next to each other for many turns in a row until the opportunity to "support" was given. No longer! This was changed to simply require that they be in the same battle together, making things a lot more sane. But FE10 went too far. The amusing conversations? Gone! The significant bonuses: Gone! Now there's a table of supports available for each character, allowing you to pick and choose pairings. There's no conversation and the bonuses have been decreased significantly. The soul of the thing is gone.

It is pretty good, I guess, but that annoyed me.

Other, shorter thoughts:

- Super Mario Galaxy seems neat. Got it as a Hanukkah gift the other night, will probably start soon.

- Bioshock remains creepy, and my father remains incompetent in playing it. (No offense!)

- Team Fortress 2 is much more amusing than I'd found it earlier! Lag is annoyingly omnipresent compared to Halo 3, but it's still pretty neat. And my brother got paid the greatest compliment of all: after a killing spree as a spy disguised as a member of the enemy team, a fellow with a Midwestern accent complained, "We've got to kill that spy camping in the corner. He's ruining the damn game!" What better praise than to be damned by your foes?

- The world is too big! It crashed our computers.

Wow, that was longer than I expected. It should be all (my video gaming stuff) for the month. Don't count on it, though!

*Advance Wars is actually the continuation of a series that was first released in Japan for the "Famicom" (NES), but I really don't care.