Friday, April 29, 2005

On the Nature of Power

No, I'm not going to give you that crap about absolute power corrupting absolutely. You've probably heard it a thousand times already. It's lost all meaning for you.

I've resolved for this blog to be as angst-less as possible, so I'm going to try to keep this more as a lecture and less as a rant. Please excuse me if I turn out not to be entirely successful.

Each one of us holds power in a certain way. It could be a physical method of dealing with things. It could be something that's tied into social influence. It could be some skill that you hold over everyone else. Regardless of who you are or what you do, you have power in some way.

It is exactly how you wield this power that determines which side of the moral fabric you're on.

I say that power exists to help people. The fact that you have greater access and control over your circle of abilities implies that others do not have the same degree of skill or influence as you do. The moral conclusion dictates that you use your power to fill these out - to cover such 'gaps' and achieve a sort of equilibrium by fulfilling others' needs.

In the event that there is no such need for the power you wield, the prudent course of action would be to wait, perhaps to continue practicing. There would be a right time to wield the power that you have, and the right move would be to await that moment.

Using your power and influence purely for the purpose of getting what you want puts you squarely on the immoral side. A bully who beats kids up for their lunch money is immoral. A politician who stiffs pensioners of their monthly payments just to increase his wealth is immoral. A man who rapes the woman he is infatuated with is immoral. We may say as much as we want that only the acts themselves are immoral, but no matter how many times we say it, those acts still make their perpetrators evil in our eyes.

Wielding what power you have just for the sake of expressing it is also by itself evil. If you look for other kids to steal money from, then you are evil. If you look for other illicit sources of wealth to siphon, then you are evil. If you constantly taunt and harass a woman with the intention of rape, then damn it, you are evil in every sense of the word.

I see little difference between immorality and evil. Immorality leads to evil by view of the common man, and it is difficult to return from that path no matter what you do.

I write of heroes and villains, and I know that it is the wielding of power that differentiates them more than anything else. I hold knowledge that heroes are, when the chips are down and all hell is breaking loose, fully willing to use everything at their hands to set things right. I hold knowledge that villains are, when the world is still and the silence is passing, fully willing to shatter the peace with their own baseless needs and desires.

Everyone must stand somewhere. On which side are you on?

Complex: We Have a Winner

In an e-mail sent on 10:30:37 am, April 29, 2005, a four-man team submitted the correct solution to the Complex metapuzzle. They've chosen to take P500 worth of gift certificates from Powerbooks for their efforts. (Powerbooks isn't an official sponsor of this contest, but hey, we like 'em anyway.)

Congratulations to Switch, elf, Rain Man, and Vector for their efforts. (Their mutual sites are here and here.) Sorry about all the sleepless nights, guys. :)

The solutions for each puzzle are as follows. As before, I won't be posting any hints in the body of this message in case you still want to try your hand at solving the puzzles.

3:00 - Marketing (puzzle and solution)
4:00 - Administration (puzzle and solution)
4:00 - Accounting (puzzle and solution)
6:00 - Design (puzzle and solution)
9:00 - Copywriting (puzzle and solution)
Metapuzzle (puzzle and solution)

Now that things are over and that I've got about an hour till I head off to Powerbooks, I'm going to lie back and relax for a while... and think of what I can put together for next time. Hwahahahah! :)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Perchance, to Dream

Sometimes I'm too tired to sleep.

Deep within our minds, the many tales both written and unwritten vie for the right to enter our dreams. Among them lie our desires and our aspirations, our memories and our regrets, our mysteries and our revelations. They nest in the cortical folds; the alpha waves; the id, the ego and superego. There they sit, unsatisfied by their lot in life, searching for the few chances where they may transcend existence and gain fulfillment.

They are, however, woefully unaware that the subconscious is a dangerous place for raw ideas. The battlefield claims more casualties than the ideas themselves - while some of them take credit for striking down others of their kind, it remains a fact that most of the interlopers are blasted into oblivion by the sheer force of whim or fate. Or, surviving that, they may simply be sucked into the singularity created by our first awakening, never to be seen again.

It is a rare idea that crosses the dream country and takes root within our very consciousnesses. But its struggle only becomes more difficult then. There, it must stand against the constant assaults of logic, and continue to protect itself against the winds of chance (which blow even in this arid region, yes). It must remember all this, and at the same time know to raise a single tendril to catch even a small piece of the soul that floats by every so often.

It is only the most special of ideas that learn to harness logic and seize chance as opportunity, to no longer snipe at the soul's passing but instead gain its friendship through sweetened promises and charged emotions. The soul holds the greatest love for these ideas, enveloping them in an overwhelming cloud of passions until the combined soul-entity emerges, and only the grateful spectre of the idea remains.

Sometimes I'm too tired to sleep.

The Appliance Store

I was at the local appliance store the other day, clutching a wad of bills in hand and looking critically at the displays.

I hate buying wedding presents. There are a number of present-giving occasions that provide plenty of opportunities for innovation (Birthdays, Christmas, and so forth), but a wedding just isn't one of them. Whoever dictated that you can only give appliances as wedding presents must have been one of the most boring persons on the face of the earth.

I suppose that it is possible to give an innovative wedding present, but it's a risky prospect. Either the bride and groom turn out to have no use for strange new appliances, or the present doesn't quite have the correct impact. I remember watching one unfortunate married couple open a present to find a set of strobe lights underneath all the paper. The creative gift-giving was there, yes, but strobe lights? Was the giver expecting them to turn their bedroom into a little nightclub or something?

I finally settled on a nice-looking model just inside my price range and got one of the salespeople over. I like dealing with salespeople nowadays - they're a constant reminder that how they act with me is pretty much how I have to act with my own clients. For that reason, I lapse into my personal patented approach whenever I deal with salespeople:

1. Act surly. Not "angry" surly, but merely "quiet" surly. Frown, but don't scowl.
2. Speak in perfect English. Add the American or British accent if you can.
3. Make a show of inspecting the product. Check it for dust if you have to.
4. Ask questions. Nothing nonsensical, but enough to catch them off guard.

What usually happens when I do this little patented approach is that the salespeople usually handle me carefully, as though I were an anthrax-laden package wired to explode. They even ask me to inspect the box they package my purchase in.

While this does seem like a mean thing to do, I get impressed a lot by salespeople who handle me perfectly. They look me in the eyes despite the fierce frown, they talk to me in their best English, they answer my questions without that memorized-this-from-the-manual accent. It's worth it just to find the good ones, and even if I don't, I at least get treated to the sight of someone squirming under simulated pressure. You'd better improve your skills there, sir.

Their display piece happened to be their last stock in that model, so I waited patiently as they cleaned, boxed and bagged the whole thing. I watched them the whole time, refusing a seat in favor of maintaining the masquerade.

So there I was, stuck in a landscape of flat-screen television sets and stainless-steel refrigerators. I checked out the prices on one or two of them - perhaps one day I'll be making enough money to buy one as a wedding present. I mean, if the whole logic of wedding presents involves getting the married couple started on the right foot, then we should really be giving them things beyond mere rice cookers, water heaters, and - heaven forbid - strobe lights. I know a lot of people who could use a car, for example. :)

Once it was all over, I shouldered my package and walked out the door. Although I was relatively satisfied with both the purchase and the service, I figured that I was unlikely to pass by the place until the next wedding rolled along.

On the other hand, I took one look at the bare-box appliance I was holding and decided that it would be a good time to get it gift-wrapped. Here we go again, then.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Antaria: Profile: Vordan

Vordan, Grandmaster of the Druids

For all of nature's concerns, it is the problems of society that have become all too familiar to the current Druid Grandmaster. Prior to his ascension, Vordan served his gathering of mages as a diplomat, forging and negotiating ties between the Druids and the other influential forces in Antaria. He finds it most untastefully ironic that such unities do not exist within his own order.

While the argument on the modern world's place in nature has occupied Druid sentiments for generations, it was only recently that the bickering has escalated into violence. The most traditional school of thought rejected the possibility outright, and continued their crusade against "nature's nemeses." The more liberal Druids, however, subscribed to the notion of the modern world as being a part of nature itself, and welcomed new influences into their lifestyles. Vordan takes neither of these sides; In fact, he has become rather sick of their constant fighting.

What irritates Vordan the most is that his predecessor, the young upstart Gideon Briargreen, revelled in the division between the Druids. Briargreen's rationale, as Vordan had personally heard from the inexperienced young man, was that natural law itself was a mass of opposing forces: Birth and Death, Summer and Winter, Predator and Prey. While certainly worthy of thought, Briargreen's philosophy easily widened the rift between his fellows; Vordan was named Grandmaster immediately after the young man was killed trying to pacify two warring fanatics.

So far, Vordan has indeed remained neutral in the face of a growing conflict between the traditionalist and the modernist Druids. Some say that his impartiality belies his true wisdom; Others say that he is merely afraid to make any significant moves against the delicate balance. From his own corner, Vordan merely considers how to get out of his precarious position, but he has yet to produce any results.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


I've just fired off an e-mail to Mensa Philippines in order to pre-register for their qualifying exam on May 7. Hopefully they'll receive and confirm it before I change my mind.

Mensa, for those who are unfamiliar with it, is an international organization of people who have IQs that lie within the top 2 percent of the world's population. With such an elite circle of membership, it is somehow remarkable that Mensa, for the most part, actually does nothing at all. Mensa has very little political, social or cultural influence to speak of, and has had no bearing in any important events to date.

Mensa, however, creates some very nice puzzles. And, as everyone probably already knows by now, I'm a sucker for creative puzzles.

I am, however, hesitant to pay significant amounts just to enjoy these aforementioned puzzles, which is why I keep putting off taking the qualifying exam. There's a P400 entry fee associated with it, you see. Earlier exams cost P500 and only bought you membership for a year, and I figured then (probably correctly) that I could get more enjoyment out of the back shelves of various bookstores.

Times have changed, it seems. It looks like Mensa Philippines now has more volunteers running the organization, enough at least for them to be able to set up a small mailing list. That, and I've got a substantially larger salary this time. I suppose that if I can afford to offer a P500 prize for a small metapuzzle on this blog, then I can give this membership a try.

I'm still at a loss at to what Mensa Philippines actually does, though. It's hard to conceive of them swapping puzzles all the time, and it's even harder to imagine myself participating in some of the overly intellectual discussions.

If I pass the exam, I wonder if I can put the Mensa membership on my resume.

Then again, any potential bosses probably wouldn't know what the heck Mensa is. I wouldn't want to have to explain it to them either:

HR: So, you're part of this international group.
Me: Yes.
HR: And they're composed of the smartest people in the world?
Me: You could say that, yes.
HR: So... what do you do?
Me: Well, we, um... sit around and talk a lot. And do puzzles.
HR: Uh-huh. What else?
Me: Well, um... we don't do much else, actually.
HR: Nothing else? You mean, you don't do anything that smart people are supposed to do, like produce controversial social analyses, create revolutionary new operating systems, or cure cancer?
Me: Uhh... no. We, uhh... talk. And do puzzles. (Worried smile.)

At the moment, I cannot stress how important it is that Mensa Philippines receive and confirm my pre-registration. It's just too easy for me to change my mind.

Or even worse, I might completely forget about it. For all I know, I could be at home that day, trying to solve the latest teaser on somebody's site.

Complex: Extension

Seeing that a lot of people seem to be busy this week (as well as the fact that no one's handed in a final solution yet despite a couple of close calls), I'm extending the deadline for Complex. Solutions will be accepted until 6:00 pm (Manila time) on Friday, April 29, 2005.

If, by that time, we still have no correct solutions, I'll be posting the solutions and keeping my gift certificates. It seems that this one really is harder than the first. :)

Monday, April 18, 2005

Complex: One More Week to Go...

Lest you think that my little metapuzzle competition is out of the picture, I must remind you that you've still got until Friday this week to send in your solutions. The puzzle is right here; Go get 'em, boys.

The prize is still up for grabs - P500 in a combination of gift certificates. While a few people have already gotten some correct solutions, no one's given me an answer to the metapuzzle yet. Everything's still wide open.

Besides, you owe it to yourself to try to secure the bragging rights. This is a puzzle that makes you feel good if you manage to solve even a little piece of it. Don't deny yourself the pleasure. :)

Three-Letter Words

People who know me as a writer have noticed that I have this annoying habit of making up my own words. What amuses me, however, isn't the fact that I certainly do make up my own words, but rather the fact that I sometimes use real words that people accuse me of making up.

If you think that I'm just being some random oik about this, then you can find some other poor sot's blog to read. Feh.

I think I picked up "oik" from Terry Pratchett, probably from one of his Rincewind novels. Pratchett used it to describe a person you wouldn't lend money to, and I can only find a single online reference for it, which describes "oik" as "(British slang): a disparaging term for someone regarded as inferior".

I don't know why I use "oik", really. Maybe it just rolls off the tongue so well. Maybe the nature of the word is such that you immediately know that it's a somewhat derogatory term. Maybe the word just sounds so funny that you can't help but laugh despite the fact that it's technically an insult.

"Sot", on the other hand, I learned from Scrabble. I've lost more than a few viable slots on the board to "sot", which would eventually turn up in the dictionary to stymie my challenges. It apparently refers to an alcoholic or a drunkard, although I'm not sure if it's insulting or not. "Sot" doesn't roll off the tongue as well as "oik" does, mind you, but the beauty of the word shows when you combine it with an adjective. I like using "arrogant sot" for some reason, and I tend to lapse into the phrase "some poor sot" when I'm not paying attention.

Now "feh" - that's a more derogatory turn of phrase. I think that it's technically onomatopoeia - a word that's spoken like the sound effect it describes - because it's an exclamation that denotes an idea or concept that one thinks is beneath his or her standards. "Feh" sounds pretty much like the contemptuous release of spittle onto the nearest curb. Not that I specifically use "feh" to insult anyone, mind you - I'm more likely to say it as an expression of disgust, usually at my own ineptitude.

No, you probably won't find "feh" in your standard dictionary. Does this mean that I've lied and completely made up a word again? Well, no - "feh" can be defined in Scrabble as "a jewish coin", and although that doesn't describe the way I use it, it's good enough for me. "Feh" is still a legitimate word. :)

Odd, though, that the three three-letter words that came to mind here are all derogatory turns of phrase in one way or another. At least now I can see why people refer to the unmentionable realms of literal profanity as "four-letter words".

It's remarkably minimalist, in a way. It just goes to show you that you don't need as many as four letters to show someone or something exactly how you feel.


Friday, April 15, 2005

Antaria: The Druids

It is not surpising to say that Nature exerts a heavy influence on the Druids. As stewards of the land, the Druids almost completely immerse themselves in a natural environment at all times. To say that they have developed an aversion to human dominance may be more than a minor understatement.

Exactly how far Nature influences each Druid is another matter altogether, though. Some Druids accept a compromise between the human and the natural world, and this allows them to associate with other human beings moderately well. The majority of the class, however, is significantly more militant - clutching at the more tooth-and-claw aspects of Nature in order to reclaim what the human world has "stolen". Both ideologies constantly antagonize each other within the sect, which leaves the Druids somewhat paranoid and suspicious of outsiders.

Regardless of belief, however, Druids have the powers of Nature at their disposal, and have no compunctions about unleashing those abilities on those who displease them. Experienced Druids are not only able to call upon the natural environment to fulfill their wishes, but may also take on its aspects if they so desire. There have been stories of Druids rending opponents with sharp claws, or tracking interlopers with extraordinary senses of smell.

In an increasingly civilized Antaria, however, the Druids have largely relegated themselves to the more untouched areas. Two things are said about the Druids in this regard - first, that they know evey rock and blade of grass by name, and second, that any unknowing figure who intrudes upon their forested sanctuary expects swift and earnest retribution. It is, of course, of great importance to seek the Druids' side in matters that concern their domain... but the Druids choose their allies sparingly.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Sister Reodica, and Other Such Concerns

Sistr Reodica predicted d tsunamis. Shes nw predictng ther wil be an ntnsity 9 earthquake @ 5pm. April 14, 2005 in mnla. Pls. pray hard. bettr safe than sori
I got this text message right in the middle of the first of two corporate presentations, and it irritated the heck out of me. Just an Intensity 9 earthquake? You'd think we'd rate at least a ten or so.

However, I have to admit that Sister Reodica - whoever she is - is smarter than we'd probably give her credit for. In articles posted around the Net, she admits that the prophecy wasn't her own, but was given to her by a passing 'visionary'. I suppose that that way, if Manila didn't fall screaming into the sea, she could always tell people that the guy was probably cracked in the head, and that she didn't believe it for even a second.

It's marvelous, the way life and religion go so well together. So many people make so many predictions in the name of one god or another (although God - the one with the capital "G" - seems to get the lion's share) that we essentially content ourselves with excuses as to why these predictions fail. In the case of Sister Reodica and her visionary's earthquake, we're told that prayer and repentance will allow the catastrophic event to pass us over. Considering that it's past five and I haven't felt the earth shatter underneath my feet yet, then the rest of the country must have dropped to their knees in religious ecstasy in the last hour.

Or maybe the prediction was full of crap in the first place. But we're not going to go in that direction, are we? We'll probably blame the alleged 'visionary', who will never be properly identified. Or we'll praise the sudden devoutness of the nation in the last few minutes. Or we'll grumble a bit, and then go about our daily lives without doing anything about it.

I'm eating a cheeseburger right now. After spending four hours trotting between two straight meetings, our marketing team decided that it was worth passing by McDonalds before heading back to the office, and I agree whole-heartedly. Besides, if a major earthquake really was going to happen, I was going to face it with a cheeseburger, fries and a Coke in hand.

It's half an hour past five. The earthquake's late. I guess you just can't trust earthquakes nowadays.

I'm still eating my cheeseburger, albeit a little more slowly now. Maybe Sister Reodica's visionary's god is on Daylight Savings Time or something.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Anatomy of an April Fools Day Message

When Elbert Or (he who administers countless people with regular doses of Cast) announced an April Fools Day contest on the Nautilus mailing list, I was immediately intrigued. The only thing that the contest required was a treatise on the origin of April Fools Day, and I figured that if a ten-year-old essay on Beta Carotene could make it into the pages of Cast, then what more for a freshly-written entry?

So I went and did my research; There's certainly no shortage of data on the origins of April Fools Day on the Internet. Apparently, the basis for the "holiday" came about as a result of the creation of the Gregorian Calendar in the late 16th century. Prior to that, Europeans based the first day of the new year on the vernal equinox (the "official" start of spring, in a way). When the Gregorian Calendar was adopted to compensate for minute differences between the statistical year and the solar year, January 1 was designated to be the formal New Years Day. People who persisted in celebrating New Years on the vernal equinox (sometime in the beginning of April) were widely derided as "April Fools".

That's the long and the short of it, really. I've conveniently left out the opposing theories, the minor details, and the occasional Kick-Me sign.

What matters more is that, about an hour after I enthusiastically started writing, I found the essay and explanation to be as dull as dishwater. It was most definitely not what I wanted to submit for a contest, much less for something centered around April Fools Day. I tried spicing it up a couple of times, only to give up after a few lines. I simply did not feel very funny that day.

That's when it hit me - why not write something whose tone was totally serious, and yet by its very nature was a joke? Such a thing would certainly qualify for April Fools Day. And as for exactly what to write, I only had to ask myself who Elbert Or least expected to submit an entry for his contest.

The result? Here.

Considering that I was writing to a person who probably didn't know who the heck I was, I felt that it was important that the letter look like an obvious April Fools prank. If I downplayed the joke too much, there was the possibly that it could be mistaken for spam and consequently thrown away. The Back to the Future series of movies got a lot of references in the letter for this reason - I wanted to ground it on a pop-culture work that people would recognize as pure fiction. With this setup, I could then put in all the improbable wackiness I could think of.

The character of Nerus Salamanca came into the picture when I started worrying that the letter wouldn't be counted as a proper submission for the contest. As a result, the future Elbert Or predicted that a young man named Nerus Salamanca would be submitting the winning entry, with dire consequences for the future. By noting that, I figured that I could submit a more serious treatise later in the same week under Salamanca's name. If Salamanca won, then I would be happy. If Salamanca lost, then Elbert Or would save the world. That's a win-win situation right there. :)

For the final touch, I registered a brand-new Yahoo account so that the letter would appear in Elbert Or's inbox under the name "Elbert Or". I also felt that it was important for the letter to have an April 1 date for the sake of credibility, so it was all dashed off within a couple of hours.

I realized that I had underestimated the impact of the letter only when it appeared on Elbert Or's blog, although I did get a good laugh when people speculated that Elbert had written the piece himself.

Over the last number of days, I've considered the possibility of hiding my involvement in this creative exercise. That way, I could continue to write similar pieces for different people over the years. The nature of Nerus Salamanca convinced me otherwise, though; Now that the concept of the future overlord was out in the open, there was the possibility that some other writer would claim ownership of him, and utilize him in any number of other nasty pranks.

So here I am, everyone. I'm right in front of you. Feel free to throw whatever stones you've got in hand. (I just know that I'm almost certainly going to get one of these pranks in return when I least expect it.)

Oh, yeah... I almost forgot about the actual entry. On the Friday deadline of the April Fools Day contest, I planted myself in front of my computer, went through my research once again... and proceeded to get bored. It was as though the sow's ear was resisting my abilities to turn it into a silk purse.

So, in a position where I simply couldn't write anything profound about April Fools Day, I took my cue from the alternative time-travel theories and submitted this, care of Nerus Salamanca himself. It was a lot less subtle than the first letter, but I feel that that's exactly how Salamanca would phrase it.

Stones ready? :)

Monday, April 11, 2005


About a month ago, I released a small homage to the MIT Mystery Hunt that was composed of three puzzles and their respective metapuzzle (with their solutions available at the end of the same week). I got quite a bit of reaction on those puzzles, which indicates a good number of 'closet-solvers' around here.

Seeing that my birthday's coming up, I might as well toss up a new set. To be honest, though, my birthday really has nothing to do with it - it just gives me an excuse to offer a small prize to the first person who sends me a correct solution. (More details below, yes.)

The solution to each of the puzzles below is a legible word or phrase, with exactly one correct solution per puzzle. All the solutions must be put together in order to produce one final, metapuzzle answer. Everything is laid out in a manner similar to the MIT Mystery Hunt puzzles, which means that this obviously won't be as easy as many people think.

Should you manage to find the answer to any one of the puzzles below, you can confirm that answer by e-mailing me at Please include your method of solving along with your answer itself. I will not give out any hints to the puzzles at hand, although I reserve the right to tantalize you as I see fit. :)

If you think you have the final metapuzzle answer, send it to me at the above address along with all your other puzzle solutions, as well as your method of solving for the metapuzzle. I won't give out hints here as well, and I will discard any incomplete solutions.

The first person to send me a correct and confirmed metapuzzle answer gets a total of P500 in gift certificates from some combination of fine establishments: Powerbooks, Yellow Cab Pizza, Bizu, Astrovision, Starbucks and a number of other places are possibilities. This 'winner' gets to choose exactly what gift certificates they want, as long as they're within my reach. If they're from the Philippines outside Metro Manila, I'll send these in the mail. Unfortunately, I can't really offer or provide this 'prize' to anyone outside the Philippines, but at least you get some good puzzles, right? :)

You have two weeks to solve this set of puzzles. Solutions will be accepted until 6:00 pm (Manila time) on Friday, April 22, 2005. (EDIT: This deadline has been extended to 6:00 pm - still Manila time - on Friday, April 29, 2005.)

You're free to work alone or in groups, just as long as you decide how to divide the prize beforehand. You're free to use any resources you have at your disposal to solve this, although I must warn you that my relatives and I are most definitely off-limits here.

If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment. I'll be placing updates on this main article, if applicable. A running timeline of all solvers' efforts at the puzzle is up here.

And now...


There's nothing about as chaotic as office moving day, particularly when it's the last day in your old office and nobody's really packed yet.

To make matters even more complicated, your boss is on leave. In the message he left for you, he mentioned being needed to do something 'educational' and 'entertaining', which probably means that he's out playing golf.

He did leave you his planner, though, so perhaps he didn't leave you most of the heavy work after all. With a bit of luck, you can probably get your co-workers to stop playing around and move on.
3:00 - Marketing
4:00 - Administration
4:00 - Accounting
6:00 - Design
9:00 - Copywriting
Aside from your boss's relatively simplified schedule, there also seems to be something stuck on the back of the planner.


Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Antaria: Talons

In the clearing, the doe paused. Something felt wrong; not just strange or new, just... wrong.

It raised one foreleg, as though nervously considering whether to run or not.


There was the soft sound of a branch snapping.

A terrifying roar split the air.

Rustag fell upon the deer, his teeth and claws tearing into unprotected flesh. The deer screamed in pain and surprise, and tried desperately to get away.

Rustag would have none of that. He slammed the deer's body to the canopied floor, and grasped its neck with both bloodied hands. The deer attempted to scream once more, but this time the sound came out as a faint wheeze from its constricted throat.

Rustag sat there, leaning his weight against the animal's chest, pinning it down as it slowly suffocated under his massive hands. He waited as patiently as the predator did, looking for the point when the light finally left his prey's eyes.

He let go. The deer's head made a dull thud as it hit the forest floor.

Rustag uttered a low growl, so low as to lie beyond the range of human comprehension. He laid his hands upon the doe's soft skin, wiping the traces of blood away. He stared at the dead, warm flesh for a few seconds.

Then he bared his teeth and began to feed.

"Rustag," a voice said, from a few yards away.

Rustag started, shifting his stance so that he had full view of the interloper. He snarled to mark the kill as his, and his alone. But the man standing across from him did not move an inch.

"Rustag," the man said, viewing the predator and his kill with interest, "I see now why they call you 'deer-killer'."

"Igos Wellspring," Rustag growled, straightening to stand on two feet. Even when standing as a normal human did, Rustag was an intimidating figure.

"We know each other, it seems," Igos smiled.

"How fortunate," Rustag spat. "What do you want, Igos?"

"Nothing, really," Igos said indifferently. "I merely wished to offer you a warning."

"A warning?" Rustag laughed. "And what sort of warning would be of consequence to me, little Igos?"

"You've been far too obvious, Rustag. Too much hunting."

"There is never such a thing as 'too much hunting'," Rustag said, flexing his claws.

"You left a trail of half-eaten carcasses from here to the Allandrian border. Rumors of wild beasts are running rampant among the Lorend peasantry. It's only a matter of time before the nobles send a military company to investigate."

"What do I care for peasants, nobles or soldiers?" Rustag growled, "They would never catch me. They would never dare catch me."

"What would you do then?" Igos asked. "Kill and eat them?"

"Don't tempt me, little man."

Igos gave Rustag a knowing smile. "You know how they are, Rustag. They prefer the sense of order that they themselves impose. Anything that compromises it will get their immediate attention."

Rustag frowned. "I like to hunt," he said.

"And I like to live," Igos answered. "Keep this up, and you'll have a company of knights on your trail in less than two days. Last I heard, Rustag, you can't bite through steel armor."

Rustag snarled, baring his long teeth in Igos's direction.

Igos smoothed the front of his robe, paying Rustag no attention. "You're not in Allandria any more, Rustag. The Lorends don't have as much respect for us, and they prefer that you keep off their game."

"I will hunt them. I will hunt them and feed on their blood."

Igos's gaze became more focused, more penetrating. "And what will you do once they come at you, almost a hundred to a man? What do you think Lord Vordan will do, once he learns of your transgressions? You may act as a beast does, Rustag, but for Aran's sake, think like a human."

Rustag remained silent.

Igos folded his hands together. "I've offered you a warning," he said. "Measure it well, Rustag. It may be the only thing that anyone shall offer you."

When Rustag next looked up, Igos was gone.

Rustag crouched over the deer's carcass once again. It had stiffened and gone cold by this time; the conversation had robbed it of its warmth. Rustag still tore at it, pausing only to wolf down the larger pieces.

Igos was right. The remains of each of Rustag's prey had been quite obvious. To tell the truth, Rustag was tired of chasing deer; they were far too easy for him now.

Rustag worried one end of a thigh bone, wondering how long it would take the scavengers to arrive.

Normally Rustag left nothing to mark his passing. Perhaps a scrap of flesh here, or a shard of bone there. For a hunter, Rustag was an extremely practical person... practical enough to know that leaving behind a carcass made it -

"Bait," Rustag said, and smiled a feral smile.


"Come to me, little humans," he whispered.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Cortical Scrub

I just finished my initial draft of a new set of puzzles. This'll most likely be the last one I'll be doing for a while. I've found that they're getting more and more difficult to think up.

Why a new set of puzzles? Because my original post (solution here) got a greater response than I originally expected, that's why. Who knew that there were so many solvers out there?

Besides, my birthday's coming up, and as with most other birthdays, I'm going to be obligated to waste some of my savings anyway. I'll probably offer a few gift certificates to whoever solves the new set first. Powerbooks comes to mind. Maybe Yellow Cab Pizza, if they do offer gift certificates in the first place.

That, and I really want to offer an incentive because the new set of puzzles seems to be harder than the last one.

Any suggestions for what you might like for prizes?

Monday, April 04, 2005

Eulogy: Karol Wojtyla

In 1978, a Polish cardinal was elected to the highest position in the Catholic Church, the first non-Italian pope in over four centuries. Upon his ascension, Karol Wojtyla announced that he would be taking the name 'John Paul II' in remembrance of his predecessor, Pope John Paul I, who led the church for little more than one month.

Last Saturday, Pope John Paul II died after a 27-year pontificate that spanned visits to over a hundred countries, meetings with countless world leaders and ordinary Christians, and doctrines that moved the Catholic Church into the modern era while still retaining its most traditional practices.

The media, in its reflections on Pope John Paul II, has referred to his papacy as a study in revolutionary conservatism: On the one hand, he took hard-line stances on some of the most controversial church-related issues - condemning abortion and homosexuality, and denying any possibility of ordaining women as part of the clergy. On the other hand, he was a charismatic diplomat - waving to massive cheering crowds in some of the unlikeliest corners of the world, whispering a prayer at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall and speaking at a Syrian mosque, apologizing for the Vatican's silence at the murder of millions of Jews in World War II.

Yet, beyond that, the former Karol Wojtyla was remarkably human. He played soccer. He acted in a small theater. He loved skiing. He had a method of talking to people that was so disarming that few could help but like and respect him. He took two bullets from an assassin's gun, with one embedding itself in his abdomen and the other shattering one of his fingers. He said hello to the world from his hospital bed. He met with his would-be assassin and gave the man his forgiveness.

He fought Communism with words and gestures. He walked with a limp. He visited the United States and Cuba, and treated Fidel Castro and George Bush much the same way. He had a fantastic memory for people. He had an almost innate knowledge for when things were getting monotonous, and would invariably have the perfect quip in mind for such occasions. He was the kind of person who felt as though he should stop and talk to you, schedule be damned. And until one cold Easter Sunday in 2005, he addressed the loving crowds before him for every prominent religious ceremony of every year.

Pope John Paul II - or Karol Wojtyla, however you may think of him - was a rare man. He was the kind of man that few people are lucky enough to run across. And bless his soul, he made himself as available to each and every one of us as much as possible.

Ecclesiates 3:4 tells us that there is a time to laugh, and a time to weep. That there is a time to dance, and a time to mourn.

This is a time to mourn.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Vote for Jac!

Well, so much for trying to get peoples' attention for April Fools' Day.

Jac Ting Lim's up for contention in the Mr. and Mrs. Bikini Bodies 2005, a competition organized by Slimmers World International. The field of over 80 applicants has been narrowed down to 26 candidates, and now it's time for the SMS votes to decide who makes it and who doesn't. Jac has been gracious enough to post a picture from her photoshoot, and words fail me when trying to describe her there.

To put it in as frank a manner as possible, I'm fully expecting every single red-blooded male (and maybe a subset of the female population, but I won't go into that) out there to put in a vote for Jac. If you don't bother, then I'd probably start wondering what's wrong with your eyesight. The contest's on April 16 - you might want to have your vote in by then.

Geez, she looks really good, doesn't she? Now why can't I have a body like that?

Oh, wait - I'm a guy. (Forget I said anything.)

Ong Bak Rawks!

Hello friends!

Finally! Finished downloading Ong Bak! Damn ang galing nila makipagaway. Putcha yang Matrix bulok! 3d na nga mukha pang naka suspend sa wire! The artist who played in Ong Bak - Tony Jaa ay extra pala sa Mortal Kombat. Nalala nyo yung pelikulang yun? Naalala ko na nagfieldtrip pa kami nung highchool just to watch Mortal Kombat. The girl who played Kitana is hot! Speaking of hot the temperature today is insane! Just came back from lunch out and sheeeeeesh! "Makatas na tong kilikili ko" (a friend once qouted). Lucky im wearing this shirt that dosent easily stain or else i'll have thr rings of saturn in my armpits LOL!

Anyway looking back at highschool I remember my first crush. She was this cute little girl. Hindi ganun kaganda pero goddess ang dating sakin. Kamukha nya yung leading girl sa Ong Bak. Kaya pala parang ang "ganda niya kahit mukha siyang lalaki" (anotherqoute from my friend, he's a funny guy). Wonder where she is now. Hey! Night Shift Nurses just completed downloading. Guess i'll have something to do later tonight ;) DSL connection is da shiznitz!

Disclaimer: April 2005

Oooof. Too many posts coming at this time. I can't be too creative here, as I don't want this to take the shine off some of the more interesting entries. So I'll say it straight, and I'll make it up for you in the May disclaimer.

The entries posted in "To The Tale, And Other Such Concerns" are all original works by Sean, except where noted. Allusions or quotations given in these entries are given the appropriate references where possible. Sean is perfectly open to confirmed corrections wherever they may lie.

The availability of these entries for reading on the World Wide Web does not imply their free availability for the use of profit-oriented ventures, academic writings or other such items. Please request permission from Sean before using any of his work. As all works here are dated, Sean claims copyright on all original items as described above.

You heard that, plagiarists - screw with me, and you die. Have a nice day.