Phoebe the Steel Flea is governed by rule 909
Who has phoebe's matchbox now? (may be a dead link
when she is Somewhere Else)
SnafuMoose (Stephen F. Roberts) - found Phoebe at 11:31 CDT Tue May 28 1996
SnafuMoose (Stephen F. Roberts) - reported at 10:04 CDT Thu May 30 1996
...So I'm rummaging through my AckaHome. Cleaning out this, purging that... And I come across this really nice looking red and blue match box. It was a little tattered, but very pretty.
...And I said to myself, "I don't ever recall owning a match box." So I hit the side of the match box.
...Out jumps the sparkling image of Phoebe. She was beautiful and I did marvel at her. She paused for a moment and said:
"...General SnafuMoose, you helped (at least tried to help) a man who could have been my father (but wasn't) during the game-end crisis," she even spoke with parenthesis, "now we (the parenthetical we, meaning all who inhabit AckaNomic) are again in desperate need.
"...The forces of confusion and silliness reign. The last vestiges of the old republic are resigning and leaving their offices. Soon, nothing will be left of what was once the greatest nomic in all the galaxy (or at least the greatest nomic on this mailer).
"...Contained within this match box are plans that may help you (and others who may find the match box) banish the forces of darkness." (I really was impressed with this talking in parenthesis thing). "You must speak of these plans and restore civility and decency to the galaxy and AckaNomic (or not).
"...This is our darkest hour..."
"...Help me SnafuMoose... you are my only hope..."
...With that, Phoebe jumped back into the match box. Her mighty leap caused the match box to fly from my hand and out the window. Sadly, I have now lost the match box, but I have done my duty by telling all of what she told me...
...I feel all patriotic now.
Phoebe, recognizing my Klingon heritage, began to speak in perfect, albeit high-pitched tlhIngan Hol. I will translate it here for the convenience of you Terrans.
"De'ghew, you are a wise and strong Klingon warrior. I now impart upon you the wisdom of the Ancient Ones, such that you may share my wisdom with your fellow Ackanomians."
"I is true that many forces would jeopardize the magnificent nomic in which you play. I call upon you and other mighty nomic warriors to defend it. But I warn you, to defend Ackanomic you, the defenders, must first determine who is attacking it. It is indeed a foolish warrior who plunges into battle knowing not whom he should attack. Make you not this mistake, for if you do you will only add to the danger you wish to vanquish, and in doing so you will have failed me."
"Now go forth, De'ghew, and conceal my matchbox very carefully, such that none may discover it. Do not speak of our encounter until early next Thursday morning."
Saying this, Phoebe did bound into her matchbox. I have carefully hidden the matchbox as instructed by the nanotech, and now I impart to you the wisdom she gave me. May her wisdom guide us all.
About a week or two, give or take a few hours, I found this funny looking matchbox stuffed in my mailbox. I kept meaning to check it out, see why someone would give me this silly little matchbox, but then I kept forgetting to do just that.
So this morning, I finally remember this odd gift that I found. I open it up, and what would you know... A shiny little Steel Flea popped out and began speaking. She introduced herself as Phoebe, and then said the following:
"Let me tell you a story, my friend, about a man who liked to do nothing. He would get up whenever he pleased, put on whatever clothes he pleases, and then, after a brief stroll through trough the groves outside his perch, he would come to his favorite caf=E9. He would sip his pensive coffee there, glancing now and then at the fresh newspaper neatly folded before him,. Much of the morning passed in pleasant reverie out of which there rose now and then a sharply delicious half thought that would become full when he committed it to paper, something he rarely bothered to do. He was content just to sip at several cups of coffee until it was time for lunch at the house of one or another of his many friends, who were also in the business of doing nothing. During lunch, he would test thoughts he'd had during breakfast, and was gratified to get several new angles on them. In the afternoon, he would climb onto a grassy knoll and nap, having a number of notable dreams in the process, that would then add themselves to the thoughts born in the A.M. and grown in the P.M.
By evening he was brimming with energy and enthusiasm, and he would go to the bar, where the powerful thoughts he contained would spill forth in explosive abundance between more affluent but less imaginative people. No question about it, doing nothing was what suited him best, although he never had any money to pay for either his coffee or his beer.
But one day, someone bought one of his do-nothing ideas, and asked him for another. After a few weeks, he started to do nothing on purpose, that is, he did nothing deliberately in order to get one of his great (and profitable) do-nothing ideas. He now had enough money to stop doing nothing. His walk to the Caf=E9 became brisker, less noticing of the verdant brilliance. The coffee was indifferent, and he started actually reading the newspaper he had merely enjoyed for it's smell before. Even his friends, instead of conversation companions, became sounding boards. And his dreams got grim and apocalyptic. At the bar, he got into fights. And that's the story of how this man became a workaholic. Instead of doing nothing, he was always doing something. If you are like this man, my friend, if you are doing nothing, beware of those who'd pay you for it."
So spoke Phoebe The Steel Flea
As I was walking down the street between the Senate and the Free Market, I chanced to spot a lovely, if slightly battered, red and blue matchbox. So intrigued was I that I picked it up.
"Surely," I thought, "such a lovely matchbox must belong to someone."
There was no indication on the box regarding to whom it should be returned. After some trepidation, I decided to see what might be inside the matchbox. Imagine my surprise when, after I opened it, a tiny steel flea hopped out.
This was no ordinary flea. Her name was Phoebe, and she was very wise. I listened to her very carefully, for her small voice was difficult to hear, and this is what she said: "Though thy fellow citizen should burn thee to a crisp, respond not with flames of thine own. Though thy fellow citizen should falter in his obedience to the Rules, ridicule him not. Shout not thy hasty thoughts to all the world, but only those that thou hast carefully and thoughtfully considered. Calm reason sootheth the heart thy fellow citizen, and fueleth his mind. Worketh to changeth what thou canst, to accepteth what thou canst not, and to discerneth the difference."
Phoebe went back into her matchbox, and I closed it again. So inspired was I by her words that I walked on lost in thought. Before I realized it, I had walked far past the Free Market, well out into rolling pastures. That would not have upset me much, but somewhere along the way, to my great chagrin, I lost that precious matchbox.
I had this strange dream the other night, which I report in violation of the rules of etiquette (only tell your dreams to the person you're next to while having them), as it seems to be What Pheobe Says:
I dreamed I was on some other world, which, unlike Ackanomia, was clearly round, as I was on the beach attempting to see two sunrises. As I lay down in the sand to see the second one, I found a red and blue matchbox, very pretty, if a little battered, next to my head. Curious, I opened it, and found within something that looked like a tiny ball-bearing. Actually, it was microscopic, but as this was a dream, I had no trouble seeing it. It was very pretty and shiny, and it rolled around a bit in the box, until it cracked open, and from it emerged what appeared to be a tiny armored train. It, too, was very pretty and shiny, and wondrous to behold as it moved about in the matchbox. Soon, however, it stopped, and unseen hands constructed over the armored train what I can best, but poorly, describe as a tiny Quonset hut, pretty and shiny as ever a Quonset hut could be, which soon completely hid the tiny train from view. The Quonset hut was rather inactive, and so was not very interesting, but soon it split along the peak of its roof, and Phoebe the Steel Flea, pretty, shiny, and as marvelous an entity as could be imagined, crawled out and flew away over the sea. Then I knew that it had been her all the time, in the various forms a Steel Flea might have in different stages of existence. Whatever her form, though, she was always pretty and shiny, beautiful and amazing, and I felt privileged to have seen her.
I did, however, lose track of the red and blue matchbox, very pretty, if a little battered, as I watched Phoebe disappear into the second sunrise, and although I searched the beach until I woke up, I never found it.
When I saw the Registrar's Report that I'd found Phoebe's Matchbox, I thought that she might have induced the dream, and that she might still be with me in The Revolving Shed, so I searched it from top to bottom, and in every orientation, but I couldn't find any sign of Phoebe or her Matchbox. (Well, I did find my can of WD-40 leaking all over the inside of my toolbox from a tiny puncture.) I can only conclude that Phoebe imparted her wisdom to me through a dream, and that my dream is What Phoebe Says.
I wish I'd seen her while awake.
I was clicking through my correspondance, trying to add something constructive to the discussion of game custom and external concepts, and could not. Stuck, I noticed in the back of mind's I a small matchbox. Mentally, I opened same, and out popped the Steel Flea Phoebe, who added her small thoughts to the thought by snowgod which I was currently considering:(snowgod): > Again, I agree... But you cannot create a rule that places something > outside the reach of the rules, and there may be no other solution. > Possibly, instead of saying that game custom is unregulated, we could say > that "game custom cannot be regulated by any other rule than this one, or > rules which this one defers to on the matter of the creation of game > custom."I think you have to take for granted that things exist outside the rules which can affect their interpretation. For example, the definition and grammar of the English language. It also seems reasonable for the rules to *refer* to these "external concepts", ie, a rule could say: "The rules must be construed and interpreted using the rules of English syntax and semantics".
The act of "referring" to external concepts does not, in and of itself, regulate them (at least until possibly CFJ 113). I believe "game custom" and "spirit of the game" should be, and were, examples of these external concepts. The fact that a few rules *referred* to them is ok. The one potential bug is R 216 and R 545, which *add* things to game custom. IMHO, that is ok as well. Following the English anology, its seems reasonable for a rule to explicitly add the word "Torkola" to the English language, for purposes of interpretation vis-a-vis the game, without *regulating* it, per se. (Or the I.R.S. had the bug of internalizing an external concept).
The problem CFJ 113 presented, I guess, is the following language from its reasoning: "You can do anything you want if the rules have nothing to say on the issue". I render "nothing to say" as regulate, thereby alleviating the problem. Others can render it to just mean "mention" it, thereby construing it to bring it into the rules, as (I think) ThinMan did. The fact that CFJ 113's reasoning, is itself implicit game custom at best, IMHO, compromises ThinMan's (CFJ 222) argument, but we've been through that, and I acknowledge that ThinMan disagrees that his argument is compromised in the way. Anyway, CFJ 113 is irrelavent, given the Protection thing. I'm just a Sleel Flea, I cannot fully grasp these things anyway.
R 660 obviously regulates game custom as /dev/joe cleverly pointed out. This sinks the ship. I do not necessarily argee that it leads to a paradox, it more "locks in" extant custom when Protection Bugfix passed, but that is for the Supreme Court to decide. In any case, the game will be difficult to play with "locked in" or "indeterminate" game custom.
The fix, it would seem, is to fix R 660, and formally *recognize* the idea of external concepts, and *define* some of them. pTang attempted to the latter with CFJ 231; his mistake was using the term "game custom", rather than "linguistic and customary interpretations" or something like that. The other mistake, of course, was that GC *was* regulatd by R 660. If it were not for R 660, I would have to say the verdict of CFJ 231 was in error, R 216 and R 545 notwithstanding.
Thus spoke Phoebe. As I attempted to intice her to elaborate further, she and her matchbox faded into the recesses of my mind, and where lost.
while cleaning up after the rather messy occupants of my humble abode, i happened upon a device which rather resembled a matchbox. a strange thing to find indeed, as i forbid smoking in my residence, and have a neato lighter with a six-inch neck for lighting candles and the like. out of curiosity, i opened the matchbox. a small creature, the nature of which i was not able to determine, popped out of the matchbox, took one look at me, screamed "YOU!" in the shrillest voice i have ever heard, and disappeared (along with the matchbox-like object) in a puff of rather unpleasant-smelling blue-green smoke.
i can only presume that this was the legendary Phoebe, of which i have heard a great deal. i am completely at a loss as to why Phoebe, if this was indeed Phoebe, chose not to share her wisdom with me. or, perhaps, she did....
While perusing my Ackanomic mail this evening, a strange icon appeared on my screen. It was in the form of a brightly coloured matchbox. At first I was doubtful about activating it, having no idea how it got onto my computer, but eventually curiosity got the better of me and I clicked on the icon. The screen went blank for a moment.
Then I heard a strange whirring sound and a tiny metallic creature appeared. Here is what she said:
"Call yourself an Ackanomian? You sit in Aubergine Hall all day reading your mail and responding to very little of it. If you didn't get selected to judge something from time to time you would do even less. Still, I suppose you do as much as you can, seeing that you seem to be addicted to that fantasy life of yours, you know, the one you laughingly call "real".
"My advice to you is to take a vacation, get away from it all for a few days, then come back refreshed and ready to take part in the vital affairs of state which have up to now been passing you by."
And with that the screen went blank again.
I rebooted my computer, opened my mail program, and wrote this message. Just before sending it, I had the presence of mind to add the following sentence.
I hereby put myself on vacation until next Monday (29th July).
It was a heavy night last night in the Den of Iniquity! Why do we always get drunk after those Church meetings? Stumbling to the kitchen to make myself some coffee, I fell into a heap of empty beer cans, and noticed among the debris a battered matchbox. Nothing special there, but I had used up all the gas in my cigarette lighter the previous night (to demonstrate to Malenkai what might happen to him after the witchhunt). I was about to light up a fag, but instead of matches, I found a marvel of microscopic engineering, who whispered to me the following:" I am at the beginning of time,What am I? "
I complete the coming of night;
I occur twice in eternity,
And I am always within sight.
I had already dropped the matchbox before I had the presence of mind to ask Phoebe for the answer, and although the matchbox _must_ be in here somewhere, I can't find it anywhere.
Last night, while I was trying to go to sleep, I heard a scratching noise somewhere in the room. I got up to check it out, and found that it was coming from a little blue and red matchbox I found on the side of the road last week. I opened it up, and a shiny little flea jumped out (actually, she was quite large for a flea, but still much smaller than the matchbox).The authenticity of this was questioned; the result of the vote was 5 to 5, so no penalty was imposed.
She spoke: "Be careful, when you allow players to agree to require actions to occur, to ensure that the players can't force other players to do things without their consent. The File Clerk is your friend."
That was it, and she jumped back into the box with such force that it closed and flew out the window. I couldn't find the matchbox again, but when I re-read the Contract rules I smiled a wide grin.
Phoebe's only words to me were,The authenticity of this was questioned. The result of the vote was 4 to 1 in favor of "Phoebe would not say anything so crass".
"Paint my matchbox blue, the red is giving me a headache."
And while waiting while the freshly painted matchbax dried in the window sill, it mysteriously dissapeared.
So there I was, cramped up in my Gaol cell (which looked remarkably like Phoebe's Matchbox), when I found an item (which was remarkably the size of my gaol cell) which was Phoebe's Matchbox.
She poped out of her box, and though I'm not exactly sure how this was possible, out of the cell too and spoke to me (and I assume she spoke through the cardboard walls of my gaol cell since she wasn't inside it).
"snowgod," she said, "be careful of the advice you take from ancient nano-tech devices. The odd's of receiving correct advice from a steel flea, or even the rumoured machine that goes ping, are about the same as those of a human being hit directly by an asteroid fallen from space (1 in 150 trillion).
"Of course," she added, "I'm not talking about me here. Phoebe the steel flea is wise beyond her (millions of) years and all the advice I'll ever give is correct. The rules garauntee it!"
With that she vanished out of my life for a second time. I can only hope I can once again find her so I may learn what other nano-tech devices may still be floating around, undiscovered!
The denizens of Ackanomia hold potentially unlimited power. Even the past may be amended by your will. Thus were my creators created. My past is not your past, for the pasts are now manyfold. Therefore I beg you take car lest temporal chaos ensue.
I'm very worried, players. I was wandering around my house, recently redesigned into a lovely hexagonal-shape, perfectly suited for playign Cosmic Encounters in, when I did spot a lovely little matchbox, red and blue, if a bit battered. I opened it up, and saw, to my delight, that lovely little nanotech wonder, Phoebe the Steel Flea. Upon the opening of the box, she did say to me...
"Worry not about points and money, Spend your time creating fun. Enjoy the game and smile some more, Bring good cheer to everyone.
Quibble not over minor flaws, Players aren't perfect, goodness forfend. Praise good work, encourage good times, And may Ackanomic's cycles never end!"
I was in awe of the little nanotech Flea. Housed in such a small little body, it held wisdom and beauty of the ages.
However, that was several days ago, and I have not seen her since. I do recall seeing summat of a note saying that some felon had taken poor Phoebe for ransom. Whatever shall we do?
The other day I was dusting my scroll-shelves, including my never-worn Prosthetic Forehead when I something caught my eye. 'Hey, I was looking for that', I exclaimed excitedly as I picked up the matchbox, so often described before on this forum. Slowly the matchbox opened, and an intricate piece of what could only be described as a most sophisiticated form of a-life emerged. I knew this one, I nearly found once before, and carelessly lost it, and I was not going to let it happen again. Nano-mechanisms, undiscernible even to my sharp semi-Vulcan senses, worked in the background as the Steel-Wings of the Flea spread open. And then I heard a voice, it was undoutedly the voice of the Flea:
Fret not the dark times that come to Ackanomia.
Though things may get worse before they get better,
and many paradoci may still abound
through dialogue and goodwill
one may reach the goal of a dynamic yet stable nomic
Thus spake the Flea on day three and two dozens on the month of September on year 1 of Ackanomic.
Upon returning home from the Parade, I was just placing the Great Trombone in its cradle by the fireplace when something dropped out of its mouth. I was wondering which of the drunken revellers shoved eir trash so disrepectfully down the throat of this fine musical instrument, when, bending over I saw that it was a matchbox. Sightly battered, its once bright blue and red sides starting to fade, it looked like any other piece of flotsom from a party the size of the last Parade.
But as I picked it up to throw it in the trash can, it suddenly opened by itself and a buzzing speck sprang out and hovered in front of my face. I could barely make out its shape, due to its size and constant buzzing; it was a flea, but so shiny it was obvious that was made out of some metal.
This must be Phoebe, the famed Steel Flea, and so I listened to the buzzing to hear what words of wisdom she might impart to me. Soon the buzzing became a coherent, intelligent noise, not really words, but understandable nonetheless. Here is what Phoebe had to say to me:
Listen to the Elders, for whilest they are grizzled with age, they yet have wisdom; witness their performance in the game. Do not disdain or avoid controversy; for even the dumbest argument, yea even a box of hammers has some grain of Truth to impart. Beware of sheep in wolves' clothing, for they will promise glory, and only deliver the Cartuese Goose. Seek not prizes, for they are but shadows of the ultimate Prize: the Game Itself.
Suddenly, Phoebe flew back into her matchbox and both the matchbox and the wonderful steel flea vanished, not in a puff of smoke, but in the fading, dwindling way a television screen or monitor looks when you shut them down. I hope I see her again someday, and hear again that incessant, yet wonderful buzz.
I was installing to mirrored globe which now dominates the main hall of FunkyTown earlier this morning. As I attached the spinning ball to it's support, I noted a small blue and red matchbox perched in the beam. Being a naturally curious sort, I opened the box and out hopped what appeared to be a steel flea. It's Pheobe, and she spoke thusly:
Tell your friends not to worry. All is well in Ackanomia, sure as the Earth is flat. Truly, the departure of so many fine players has dimmed the view from my matchbox, but I can see a Harfy Light ahead. I believe it to be at the end of the tunnel, the start of a stronger Ackanomic. I must go now for I am in charge of eating all the retracted proposals. That Guy Fawkes keeps me well-fed. I hear the Goose wants my job.
In real life, I keep a candle next to my bed, and the matchbox that sits next to the candle is a small, slightly time-worn, red and blue matchbox.
I returned from school (where I was, as we Americans refer to the condition, "burned out") one night, tired, and opened the matchbox so I could light a candle. Out leapt Phoebe. I had never seen the steel flea before, and in the dim light I could only see the tiny reflection of the donut on my computer screen in each of the miniscule metal plates that form her body. I knew in an instant, though, that it was she.
She was beautiful.
"For you, prophet, I have a prophecy.
"A time of Strangeness approaches. Its nature is yet uncertain, but it will bring about paranoia, and fierce accusations among the Players.
"The solution lies in technology, and research now may bring relief later. The next Inventor shall bear the onus of saving Ackanomic from Strangeness and the horrors that accompany it."
I wanted to ask Phoebe what she meant, where this Strangeness would come from, but I dared not interrupt her, and, motionless, I listened to her high, soft voice as it sang on:
"The rewriters of rules must take pause, for the time approaches when the threat of Strangeness shall be greater than the threat of the loophole or paradox. You, child, are one of these. It is essential that you set aside the distraction of toying with semantics, when the time comes to set such mundane matters aside.
"A man in a tornado does not stop to wipe the mud from his face."
...and with that cryptic expression, Phoebe leapt back into the matchbox, and I, surprised at the sudden motion, dropped it to the floor. I scrambled around my room on hands and knees, searching for it, and finally found the matchbox. --At least, it looked just like Phoebe's matchbox.
But alas, when I pulled it open, there were only matches inside.
Wasting time around the Castle one day, doing mundane chores like measuring the east wing for a Tower, and putting a surge protector on the Electronic Potato, I noticed an unusual object lying in the dust of a dark, unused room. I walked over, careful not to drag the Purple Robe of Justice in the thick dust, and picked the object up. It was a blue and red matchbox of some sort. I opened it, and into my palm jumped Phoebe, who, to make a short story long, spoke thusly:
It was written in the prophesies of those who created me that a period of ignorance would blanket the land; all knowledge would be lost for a great many millenia.
Thus Chorg and the people of Jara created three artifacts to preserve this knowledge in spoken, written, and visual form, until such time as some souls became Enlightened and astute enough to comprehend it once again. Two of these artifacts have already been found...
The time is nigh to find the third, as it is marked by the coming of the 3 P's: an hour long Parade that was three hours too long, a Prayer written a long time ago, before it could be known that we would not start at the beginning, and of course, Yours Truly.
Such is well protected, for we assured that only the Enlightened were qualified to open it, and the astute able to find its location and key. Of course, sometimes the truly enlightened have trouble becoming recogized as such; in this unfortunate case, published proof of ones enlightenment or knowledge of the facts is sufficient qualification.
Just then Phoebe started to tell me the location of the Chalice in the Palace as well, but in the haste to transcribe her words, I dropped her matchbox in the thick layer of dust on the floor, and I could not find it again.
Under a heavy workload from the deciphering of the Scrolls, I was briskly pacing around Ackanomic. The breeze was freshening up, and worried that condensation might interfere with my suction shoes, leaving me dangling for my life, I decided to head back home.
Obviously, I had not been paying attention, for I did not immediately realize where I was. Then, I heard a high pitched voice calling my name.
"Calvin, Calvin, it is time we spoke, you and I."
I was stunned. There, lying in the half cut grass of the front garden of Wayne's now haunted house, was the pretty box I had often heard of but never seen. Trembling, stirred by the knowledge that I had just heard the voice of the Ancients themselves, I reached for the box. And opened it.
And there she was, Phoebe. Just as others had said and legend promised, speaking words of wisdom.
"Ackaphysicist, you have the duty to translate the Scrolls to all of Acka, and already you have done much. However, I know that you have found a passage so interesting and complex, that you know not how to proceed."
This was all too true and I nodded. I walked over to my house, and showed her the tome. There, for one week, she helped me with the stranger inscriptions. Then, with the work advancing at last but not yet completed, she spoke again while on one of our late walks through the nocturnal city.
"Remember Calvin, that the Ancients may be revered as deities for their awesome powers and knowledge, because they were beyond the comprehension of Today. But you must not succumb to this spell. The Ancients made mistakes, as all sentient do. They also made much more costly mistakes than any of you ever will.
And this you have found out. Just as I have shown you differences between some of the reports in the Tome. The Tome is a collection of their lives, their work, their knowledge. But it also much more. By recording both their greatest successes and their greatest failures, they hoped to inspire the Next Ones to greater heights. Does one not learn more from errors? Why repeat the errors that have already been made?
A large part of the Spirit of the Ancients lives on in eleven parts scattered in this universe. The land of Acka is the 1st eleventh of their essence. The tome is the 10th eleventh of their essence captured. I am the 7th eleventh. There are more, but two eleventh have been lost never to be found."
I was about to ask why, and where, and how, when Phoebe cut me off with an eerily quiet voice, surprising in its gentle forcefulness:
"Perhaps not lost forever!"
Surprised, still in shock from knowing what she was, an intelligent object of the Ancient, I stuttered trying to speak more, ask all the questions I had racing in my head. But they all got stuck in a bottleneck somewhere in my mind. My fumbling fingers reached to hold on to the slipping box but it was too late: it fell.
I looked and looked around the Senate, which was where I was passing by at the time, but I found naught. So I returned home to try and complete my work.
I was standing in the main vault of the Monument to Futility, tinkering with the Chartreuse Goose foutain wondering why it wouldn't gush forth Right-handed Grapefruit Juice as it was designed to do. Peering down the giant bronze bird's bill, I espied a red and blue matchbox, slightly battered from all its journeys, but nonetheless quite pretty. I gathered that it must be blocking the pipe, thereby clogging the fountain.
I reached as far into the fountain's bill as I could, and finally, I removed the matchbox. Still, the fountain would not flow. And as I stood there, wondering what could possibly be the matter now, a clear, melodious voice behind me said, "Perhaps its because you don't have any Right-handed grapefruit juice to flow."
I turned around in surprise and awe, for there, hovering before my eyes and speaking such wisdom with that beautiful voice, was Phoebe, the steel flea. Her tiny form was encircled by a halo of silver light, from which radiated sprirals of radiance. Cool breezes seemed to emanate from her as I lay crumpled, tired and sweaty, in a useless fountain in that giant tower of my folly. She was beautiful.
She said, "Strive as you may with wrench and snake, the fountain never shall flow. For far beneath this tower, its pipes must pass through the ruleset, whose multitudinous convolutions block its flow. Rearrange, then, consolidate, simplify, for just like the grapefruit juice, their convolutions often block the flow of fresh ideas to acka." The light about her intnsified slightly, and she turned to go.
"But what about bugs?" I shouted. She half turned back, smiling at me over her shoulder. "Fear not bugs," she said. With one last coy smile, she whispered, "Do you fear me, and an I not a bug?" She then turned toward me once again and approached, landing on my left head's nose. My other head felt insane jealousy. She knelt down, and I swear she would have kissed me, had not at that moment the Chartreuse Goose waddled in and bitten her right on my nose. I guess I should have given that damn bird something to eat. And as the Goose waddled out of the tower, sneering at my, I looked at the now empty matchbox lying in my hand, I ran to the highest part of the tower, and hurled it out over Acka, let the winds do with it what they may.
The other day I was in the woods, digging a grave for my wife. I was distracted by the noise of the scraping and banging coming from the coffin, and was thinking that I should have made the coffin more sound-proof or restrained my wife in some way. But I was happy; my life would soon be peaceful once more. Forty years of that foul mouth, always accompanied by that foul breath, were about to come to an end. My only regret was that I had waited so long; I am old and withered, and no young maiden would now have me.
I became aware that I was not alone with my thoughts. Someone (or something) was listening to me. I looked around, but saw nobody. Suddenly I noticed, in the pile of earth I was creating beside the grave, a small object. I picked the object up and, dusting it off, found it to be a red and blue matchbox, very pretty, if a little battered.
I opened the box just a crack, and out jumped the most strange and beautiful creature I had ever seen. She introduced herself as Phoebe, the Steel Flea, and spoke to me thus:
"I have listened to your thoughts as you toil here in these woods, and I wish to ease your regrets. Always remember, it is better to have loved and lost than never to have lost at all."
With that Phoebe jumped back into the matchbox and the lid slid closed. I placed the box on a nearby stump, intending to take it home with me. But when I finished my chore, the box was mysteriously gone.
Having recently spent a great deal of time with a particular Steel Flea, I have the following messages to relay to the general public:The authenticity of this message was doubted, and the result was 8 to 4 that the message was bogus, posted at Wed, 01 Jan 1997 14:23:54 -0500.
"Where is the jacuzzi I ordered for my match box 3 weeks ago? Speaking of bubbling, watery entertainment, I note that our fair land experienced a flood recently. As far as natural disasters go, I have the following advice: drink a lot of fluids. A fully hydrated individual is a productive individual, my creators used to say, and who am I to question their judgement? Oh, that reminds me, you really must choose a new official dictionary. Any dictionary which does not contain the word guberniya is not a very good dictionary. I encourage everyone to vote for Malenkai's proposal to merge the dictionaries, old and new. Hark, the voices are calling me again, I must go. This is Phoebe the Steel Flea, signing off. Is that a Silly Vacation Hat on your head, Mr. Sevin? I can't tell, you may or may not be wearing one, my eyesight isn't as good as it used to be. Ah well, such is the life of a harfy Steel Flea such as myself..."
Phoebe, master of the arcane arts, recently blasted the following missive (it was a wordless message):The authenticity of this message was challenged. The message was found to be authentic, by a vote of 8-7.
"Long is the bison
Whose tail exceeds his measure
Just the facts,
Phoebe spoke thusly......The authenticity of this message was challenged. It was found to be bogus by a vote of 12-4.
All hail Malenkai, ever wonderous munition dealer. Ackanomians should not dredge up past winning attempts in their own game to win internomic. Such activity will turn away the masses and Acka may find herself alone in the Internomic blackness.
I was walking, in a place that I will not name. There I happened upon a matchbox. Opening the matchbox I heard a voice soft and clear, clearer than any voice I heard before. I recoginzed the voice of Phoebe. I stood by as if in a trance and heard the following words:
"Red skies at night - sailors delight.
Red skies in the morning - tornado warning"
I listened intently as the voice went on.
"Except of course on the second tuesday, third wednesday or the third day before the full moon; when the opposite is true."
I stood for I know not how long, amazed by the wisdom of the words of Phoebe. Then a sudden impulse to share these words with my fellow Ackanomians, and a desire to hide the matchbox, overcame me, awakening me from my trance.
I awoke to find a world changed, witchhunts and a great volume of e-mail being the order of the day. Yet the message needed to be told, containing the wisdom of the centuries, and I have told the message, to you, my fellow Ackanomians.
While sitting in snowgod's beach cottage contemplating, among other things, a haiku and a limerick, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around, or at least turned my head, and saw Phoebe sitting there on my shoulder.
She said to me:
"snowgod, why have you neglected me and failed to post my wisdom in the past? I am dissapointed, and as punishment I will not pass any wisdom on to you during this visitation.
"I know that they may call a hearing against you for posting what might seem to be bogus wisdom, but rest assured that that too is part of your punishment. In the future you must be more careful about what you do with ancient technology.
"God save us if you ever become the Scholar of Ping.
And with that Phoebe departed, leaving me humbled and with no wisdom to offer to you.
As I was walking along one of the tiny lines separating our houses, yesterday, somewhat dejected at the thought of having failed to post Phoebe's Wisdom, the sight of Malenkai's Castle reminded me that the recent Holiday afforded me another chance (thanks, Malenkai). Perched on the tiny point where three Castles and a Shed meet, I looked down to better keep my balance, and lo!, at my feet was a pretty red and blue matchbox, somewhat battered, and I knew what I had to do. I picked it up eagerly, opened it with anticipation, and was rewarded by the sight of Phoebe the phabulous nanotech, sparkling in the sunlight, as she buzzed around to my left ear. In a high-pitched, metallic voice I heard "Look before you leap." I was about ready to cast a vote of "Phoebe would not say anything so crass" upon the spot, when I heard buzzing in my right ear and then "He who hesitates is lost." Hmmm, I thought, and hmmm again, whereupon I heard buzzing in my center (pointy) ear, and, as I strained so as not to miss a word of Phoebe's Wisdom ... laughter. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised, but as I spun around to catch the rare sight of a laughing nanotech, I dropped the matchbox. And I was too slow to catch her laughing, anyway. And I couldn't find the matchbox again, either, despite the small size of the point on which I was standing. I hope someone else can find it soon.
As I returned to /dev/house, I started cleaning up a bit, dusting the space around that recently vacated by the Machine, etc., and I ran across a vaguely familiar little matchbox. I opened it, and out came Phoebe.
Ackanomic's subgames have really started working well, and this has the potential to bring it to its goal of being the harfiest nomic. However, as it is now, Acka stands to lose both fun games and fun players unless a system is developed to allow some players to only play the subgames and not have to see the enormous volume of e-mail that is the main Ackanomic list. It is already happening with Ye Olde Rusty Lantern, but it is not yet too late to reclaim that game.
Then she jumped back in the matchbox, and the box disappeared into the dust on my floor, and I could not find it again.
Today, I finally attacked my home and started rifling through my belongings, searching for Phoebe. (I had been waiting to get Fibber out of my house beforehand, you see, afraid that Phoebe might take the good-natured humor behind its existence the wrong way.) I had not been searching long when, sure enough, behind the wastepaper basket I found a little matchbox - red and blue, very pretty, if a little battered. I opened it up, and out popped a great many strike-anywhere matches. Of all things. The matchbox, I remembered belatedly, was a memento I had brought home from a long-ago parade. (Somebody had been using them to set off some R115-firecrackers, I don't remember who.) I then had to gather the scattered matchsticks, and in my haste I accidentally ignited one as I picked it up, burning a fingertip and causing me to drop it, subsequently lighting several others.
After I had finished extinguishing the tiny fires, cleaning up the remaining matches, and rearranging the furniture so that the sofa covered the new holes in the carpet, I was too tired and frustrated to continue ransacking my own home, and so went straight to bed. But, there, at the head of my narrow bed, sitting on my small pillow was a half-open matchbox, and a glittering flea perched atop.
"Phoebe!" I said. "That has to be you."
"Breadbox," she replied in a tiny but clearly-enunciated voice, "well met. You are eager to talk with me, I have a feeling."
"Yes," I hesistantly replied, sitting down upon the bed (not too close, lest my weight bend the mattress and threaten her balance). "I guess I'm rather fascinated by the idea of being audience to wisdom from a nanotech flea."
"Ah, yes, several of you Ackanomians seem to regard me with a certain fascination. And yet, breadbox, you strike me as one who is not quick to take proffered wisdom to heart. In fact, you most often keep your own counsel, I gather. Advice from those who have seen more than you, you are wont to file away, and take it out to consider its value only much later - perhaps even well after the fact? And that may be good or bad. Perhaps Ackanomic is best served by a senator who will not be swayed by other's words, and perhaps the worst historian is the one who does not learn from anyone else's experiences, including the ones he chronicles. Perhaps, perhaps. A Nomic can prosper through every kind of participant, and can wither under a different configuration of the same people.
"Have I made you nervous yet? A bit unsure of yourself, even?" She paused and looked at me. I think she was grinning. I nodded, of course: she most certainly had. I couldn't tell if my face was pink with embarrassment or pale with self-doubts. "But don't be, breadbox! I'm not asking you to search your soul and build yourself a new-and-improved personality - at least, not yet. Knowing your tendencies, I'm giving you this advice now, for you to file away. I predict that you'll finally take it out and examine it, and act on it or not, in good time. In time for you to know what role you truly wish to play in Ackanomic for when it matters most. And: since I know you have an interest in the viciously self-referential, I also decided to tell you my ulterior motive for giving you this advice now. And my ulterior motive for *that* is simply that I think you'll eventually be forced to return to what I've said today and make a decision.... Even if it's only to find out how it all ends!"
At this Phoebe bade me goodnight, and climbed down into her matchbox. I gently lifted it off my pillow and laid it down on the nightstand. But as I laid down myself, I realized that Phoebe had disturbed my thoughts much too much for me to even consider sleeping. Losing a grip on my politeness briefly, I sat up in bed and said, in a plaintive whine (which is embarrassing to recall), "Phoebe! So then everything you've said is all addressed to a future me? You have nothing to say to the me that is here and now?"
Phoebe poked her head out and considered me. "No, I suppose not. Not wisdom, anyway. But I don't want you, or the you that is here and now, as you put it, to feel snubbed. For this you, then, I can sing a little bedtime song. Perhaps it will help you sleep." And she began to sing, in a chanting nursery-rhyme sort of voice, the following:"When a Nomic's feeling daring, and feels like scaring up the bats--There was more ... much more, I think, but this is all of her song that I can recall. I know that the words written down here look pointless and juvenile, but for me, her nursery rhyme had a strong soporific effect. I soon forgot to worry over my newly acquired worries, and instead found myself trying to follow the nonsensical images of the song. And at some point, long after I was sensible, I fell fast asleep.
When a Nomic's feeling comic, or trageodramatically flat--
When a Nomic's folks are sharing, and are wearing, many hats--
That's when the Steel Fleas visit, just to hear them say: 'What's THAT?!'
"La la la, la-la la la, the Steel Fleas travel one by one.
La da da, la-la la la, the Steel Fleas have them on the run.
The Steel Fleas all come out of hiding, riding ponies and horseflies.
La la la, la-la tee dah, the Steel Fleas love a big surprise!
"When a Nomic's lost its conic sections; ellipses are made illegal--
When a Nomic's drunk its tonic, ..."
I remember no dreams, and woke up feeling very refreshed, but apparently I tossed and turned a great deal that night, for the bedsheets were twisted and half on the floor, along with my right leg and most of the objects I had left on my nightstand. I searched the room for a good hour, but the one thing I couldn't find was Phoebe's red-and-blue matchbox.
After schmoozing off snowgod for a few weeks, I decided that it was about time for a change of venue. Having received an invitation to CnH's house, and having deduced that he meant his new one, I decided to drop by CnH's for a biscuit or two and a nice cup of tea. At first I was confused by not knowing exactly where the new place was, but before long I realized that I didn't actually have to know where the house was in order to get there. How nice. And as I was travelling through the ambiguous part of Ackanomic between snowgod's and CnH's, I spotted a familiar red and blue matchbox.
I eagerly picked up the matchbox, and opened the cover, anxious to hear more of Phoebe's wisdom. To my surprise, Phoebe did not emerge. I did, however, hear her tiny voice: "Can't a flea have _any_ privacy? I'm trying to take an oil bath!" Surprised, and a bit embarrassed, I quickly closed the matchbox again.
Not much later, the matchbox cover opened slightly, and Phoebe poked her head out. "Ah, ThinMan," she said. "I knew we would meet again soon."
I apologized for interrupting her bath, but Phoebe shrugged it off. "Don't worry over it, T.M., it happens now and again. I gather you have been treading on thin ice, pushing the bounds of taste and responsabilty, and just generally walking the edge."
"You mean that CFJ 356 thing?" I asked.
"Bingo," replied Phoebe. "And here is a bit of wisdom for you: watch it."
"'Watch it?' Is that it?"
"Be considerate of your fellow players and observe the spirit of the game. Restrain yourself where necessary. Don't let your personal enthusiasm and tastes cary you away. In short, watch it." With that, Phoebe ducked back inside her box and pulled it closed. Mindful of her advice, I decided not to try to hoard Phoebe's wisdom for myself. I carefully hid the matchbox somewhere between wherever "here" was and wherever "there" was, and am now reporting these events for all to consider.
I have way over stayed my welcome at ACME Labs, I am sure, so I am heading home to FunkyTown. On my way I take a little side trip to the vancant lot beside my home. Ever since FunkyTown was tossed way down here in the boonies, my mirrored globe doesn't spin and light up the whole neighborhood. For once, I am glad of this.
I flop down on my back and look up into the sky and watch for the comet. At least the Liberal Press would have us believe it is a comet. I happen to know as well as you that it is, in fact, the Aliens wishing to abduct one of our rules. As I lie here, the pain in my back (did I mention the pain in my back?) continues to grow.
I reach down underneath my bulk and what should I find, pressed into my tailbone, but a red and blue matchbox. I'm no cat, so fearing nothing, I open that beauty up and am surprised to see my old friend Phoebe, the Steel Flea.
Phoebe says, "You're not going to try to tell everyone we're old friends again, are you?"
I reply, "Ermm, no, of course not."
She nods her wee head. "I am supposed to be batheing, you know. I've just barely escaped the grasp of that nice ThinMan. You Ackanomians demand an awful lot of me."
"Sure, but we respect your wisdom."
Pheobe got a good chuckle out that one. "Wisdom, eh? Well, you make sure you tell everyone about this bit of wisdom, even though you aren't going to like it. Those bakers we've been hearing so much about aren't bakers, at all. Just remember that any dough they make has to come from somewhere. And their mixers look more like something you'd mix cem..."
At this point, I pushed that metallic little insect back into her box. And shoved it into my pocket.
I arrive back at my home, empty my pockets, placing all my carefully gathered PFBonds on the dresser. Not among all the junk on my person do I find that crazy matchbox. There *is* a small hole in the hem of my pocket which looks like a tiny pair of metallic hands ripped the stitching out.
Sitting out on the roof of the Castle last night, gazing out at the comet (which appeared strangely flat), I noticed a loose stone below my feet. Strange, thought I, that the Acka rules would allow such deterioration of my abode.
I lifted the stone up and discovered why it was loose: somehow a small blue and red matchbox got lodged in the roof of my home. No wonder the roof was leaking all over my copy of the ruleset.
I picked up the matchbox, and noticed something about the coloring that I had not been aware of previously. The box was banded by 2 red stripes, followed by a blue stripe then another red stripe. Interesting that I had not noticed this before. I ran my finger down the blue stripe, causing the box silently slide open, and out popped Phoebe into the clear night air.
"I've been thinking about the game and winning", said she. "I have some thoughts on those matters to share with you":
"I think Acka needs a new way to win the cycle, a more competetive-interactive game-like way to win. Tell me what you think of this idea which I call 'Hidden Adjenda':
There exist X different categories. Examples of categories may be: 1. Treasure Hunting, 2. Subgames, 3. Proposals, 4. Entity Collection, 5. Scoring, 6. Finance and Bond Trading, 7. The Machine that goes *ping*, 8. Offbeat Harf, etc.
Each player's Hidden Adjenda is a numbered list of 1 event from each category. If that event occurs, that entry replaced with a TRUE. The first player to achieve Y TRUE's on their list wins the cycle.
For it to be truly interactive, competetive, and game like, the events would have to be interlocking, and in some cases, mutually exclusive. For example, its not good enough to have an event from the proposal category such as: "I have submitted a proposal that contains 20 seperate instances of the character 'Z'"; but mabye "I have submitted a proposal that contains 20 seperate instances of the character 'Z' and it was accepted (or rejected)". Better yet, of course, is something like "snowgod has submitted a proposal that contains 20 seperate instances of the character 'Z' and it was accepted"; your job being to get that to happen somehow, without giving your adjenda away. Or instead of the 'Z' bit, how about: "snowgod has submitted a proposal that contains the phrase 'Burn the Witch', and it was accepted".
Some of the other categories are more straightforward. For Treasure hunts, the obvious is 'I have found a Treasure [from the list of suitable extant treasures]'. But mutual exclusivity can be worked in, if the condition is 'I have found treasure 106', and it is on several lists; or mutual exclusivity with potential trading, such as 'I possess the Fine Wooden Chest and have Y-1 TRUEs on my card'.
Subgames are obvious in terms of 'I have won a game of X', or 'I have won a game of X in which Robert Sevin was a player', or 'I have one a duel against Niccolo Flychuck'. Another adjenda item elsewhere might be 'Niccolo Flychuck has had exactly 5 duels called against him this cycle'.
Bond trading might be: 'I have the bonds of exactly 5 different players, and all such holdings are prime numbers', or 'At least 7 different players hold PFMohammed'. Entity ownership might be: 'I own X', where X is a random extant trinket, or '/dev/joe owns the Harfy Banana Wings, and has done so for 14 consecutive days', or 'Calvin N Hobbes has won a Silver Moon'. Your job being to jury-rig the events to occur."
Wow!, I thought. My head was spinning with the possibilities. It was a really rough description, and not well fleshed out, but I got the gist of it. It was the sort of winning condition that could be open to anyone, and possibly provide a bit of harfy interaction, and mabye some diplomacy and harfy skulduggery.
I had some questions though. "Who decides what are the 'suitable Treasures'? Who decides the contents of the Hidden Adjendas in the first place? Are they Tradeable? Is there a way to find out the contents of other people's, in whole or in part?"
"Slow Down!" exclaimed my petite ferrous friend. "Of course, there will need to be a referee who sets it up. The Speaker would always be willing to do it, if some sort of arrangement such as the Grapefruit Holder or GamesMaster or Goose Holder doing it didn't work out. As for the 'suitable Treasures', we all know that all cool things require some sort of judgement; the referee ought to able to choose a pool of suitable Treasures.
As for Tradeability, each line item would be Tradeable for a line item of the same number with another player. All trades would be contents unseen. It would be impermissable to outright discuss or disclose the contents of one's adjenda, but Otzma Cards or Gadgets could be worked in to it to enable viewing of a line item of someone's adjenda. One thing that would probably be knowable is the *paradigm* for setting up the events."
Ok, cool. I got one more question that has been nagging me lately, though. "Do you think people care about winning the game, and do we want another winning condition?"
Phoebe continued: "No matter what it seems or what people sometimes say, people care about score, winning, and care when someone is trying to win.
CFJs that involve winning usually have more heated debate than those that don't, even if the point of law being raised by the periphial one is more interesting. Look at breadbox's win proposal. Acka voted it a Silver Moon, and some players rushed to change their votes at the last minute when the winning condition was pointed out.
I think winning matters; there's a satisifaction in playing well and winning. Look at the way people play Acka's subgames. I think the issue lies in Acka's winning conditions.
Winning by points and money (Museum and Round Earth), the straightforward ways, is a grind it out affair and takes alot of time (unless you have a Whamiol sometimes). The beauty of these schemes is not in achieving them, but in not achieving them. They provide the nomic backdrop where a scam at any time can roll a player towards a loophole win, and thus are really necessary to make nomic a nomic; either to provide real fiber for writing tight rules, or for planting eggs and loophole surfing.
Winning by paradox is dead. There's not much to talk about here. The only paradoxes to ever have won are based on the contents of a single rule, and the 2 methods used are no longer winning conditions. It seems implausable that a third general method other than 'this statement is false' and intra-rule precedence will be discovered. The only real chance is something along the lines of the Copycat paradox, in a different situation.
Winning by palindrome and Frankenstein monster seem like sort of individual winning conditions. You sit down by yourself with the ruleset and a lot of time, and try to find a win here. There is no real interactive-competetive aspects of these wins. They do provide the potential for loophole surfing, but again that is an individual activity generally, not an interactive one. I would say Acka is more of a social game than a competetive one, hence players spend time on the social aspects rather than sitting down for six hours and attempting to slide one of these wins through.
As for the Chalice Vault and Runestone of Jukkasjarvi, they mystify me a bit. They seem to have some of the aspects of the game-like, interactive-competetive win I've been talking about. I expected to see people trade the fragments around a bit more, or at least use the JMCL or try to sell them for cash or form pools of cooperation. The JMCL just gathers dust. As for the Chalice Vault, I expected some people to do as you have, Malenkai, and sell your key to the highest bidder, or at least get into it a bit more. I guess the initial burying of the Purple Key may have put a damper on the game. Its a good rule, despite what some say, give it time to develop. Perhaps, though, oh Exalted One, you made the Runestone of Jukkasjarvi thing too grandiose and hard, but give that time too and see if interest picks up. It may be that it takes too much time and organizartion on the part of the players, while the Hidden Adjenda idea may not. Perhaps the players will give you some feedback someday."
"STOP!! I forgot something!", exclamed I. "People always expect a Treasure clue from you, and have probably read this far waiting for one. Are you going to give me one tonight, for me to transcribe for all of Acka?"
"Of course!", spoke the Steel Flea. And as I was waiting for the clue, I reaslised I was only talking to thin air.
Last night, while working on a new subgame for Ackanomic (based on Conway's Life), one of the red and blue matchboxes I was using to represent cells opened all by itself, and Phoebe popped out.
I asked Phoebe, "What do you think of this new game I'm working on?"
Phoebe responded, "It has potential. But I'd rather you not use my matchbox as a token." With that remark, she threw her matchbox off my desk onto the floor behind it. But she remained on the table. I took another empty matchbox and put it in the space to mark that cell so I wouldn't forget.
I then asked, "Why has it taken so long for people to find my treasure? Do they need another hint?"
Phoebe said, "They need to realize that the map has something extra added to it, and that extra thing is also the answer that the map requires."
I replied, "I couldn't have said it better myself. Just one more thing. What do you think of this?", holding up Fibber's baggie.
Phoebe simply said, "Cheap imitation!" and jumped off the desk at about the same place she threw the matchbox off. I looked around but I couldn't find any sign of her or the matchbox after that.
The faint smell of anger, now, but receding, no longer so pungent as before; I had wandered away from the main streets of town and soon found myself peering into an altogether different kind of darkness: the Wilds of Ackanomia had found me. The moon dared not cast light here, for fear of what we might see, and so I felt my way along the path, creeping as quietly as possible through the inky dark.
After a few minutes of this hunted wandering, I came upon a clearing, bathed in the soft trickle of starlight. In the distance, the sound of crickets could be heard, a quiet serenade to counterpoint the beating of my heart at the lovely sight. All around me it seemed there were stars - I could not begin to count them, and I dared not profane the beauty of this place by speaking. I looked up and peered into the vast infinity of creation. Silent. I sat in the soft emerald clearing, and wept silently. Above me the heavens wheeled
Because of my tears, I did not trust what I saw - but it seemed that one of the stars had fallen from the sky, to land in the clearing, twinkling merrily. I smiled at the peacefulness of it, then wondered: was it a falling star? I stood and approached, afraid to dispel the dream by finding only dew reflected the true starlight. But when I bent to examine it, I found a matchbox, made of a metallic substance, which flared with light as I picked it up, and then died to a dull gray. I fell to the ground again, and placed the matchbox in the grass.
A figure emerged.
Though I had never met her, I knew at a glance it was Phoebe. I sat silently, listening. And after a moment of silence (perhaps she, too, was savoring the beauty of this place), she spoke.
"There's still much to be done here, You can call me Al. But I wonder if you'll be the one to do it...I wonder sometimes if Ackanomia is far closer to being carved in stone than cast in bits and bytes." She sighed. "I will tell you something now, and you must listen well. Acka is slowing down, that much is obvious. We won't delude ourselves." Her tone was growing steadily less quiet, and the trees whispered with her. "There are many things to do here, but the work of any one person pales to what is necessary to change the structure of Acka beyond the merely cosmetic. These Rules of yours are a wonderful creation, yes - but we don't create for ourselves. You must be willing, at some point, to turn your back on pride and fundamentally change your perceptions of this creation; only in that way can we truly make progress."
I sat stunned by her words - they seemed too dark to be hers. But I peered into the sky and realized that she was right.
"Why are you telling me this?" I whispered. "I'm barely qualified to _speak_ about Acka."
I thought she smiled - I still do to this day. "Go and tell everyone. These are good people, and they're doing good things - but it's not good WORK. It's good PLAY. Make sure that _everyone_ understands that distinction."
She retreated into her matchbox, and then turned once more to speak. Light welled up around her, and I shielded my eyes from the glare. I heard faintly, as if from far away, words: "If Acka were a boat...well, you know the old saying."
I didn't, but that didn't matter. The last thing I remember was a falling star, which seemed strangely not to fall at all, but to twinkle once and then appear again in the heavens, where its light illuminated my little clearing. I smiled once, and fell into the sleep of dreams. When I awoke, stars were falling all around me.
There is a matchbox on my bed. Red and... I think it's blue, hard to tell in the halflight streaming coming in through the door behind me. Definitely a matchbox though, I can always tell about these things.
I just stand in the doorway, hardly even daring to breathe. I think to myself...
I don't smoke, do I? Hrm, no, positive I don't smoke.
The black candles... hrm, no, have something else to light those of course, how silly of me...
Definitely not mine then.
So how did it get here??
I mean, it's on my bed, and it's not mine, and I don't use matches for anything really.
Well then, someone must have snuck in and left it here.
A cold shiver runs down my spine. I am not alone.
So, I think to myself, what now?
I could run for the door and try to escape, but no, they'd be expecting that. That's what most people would do, after all, if they found a strange matchbox lying on their bed. I mean, not just anything, but a matchbox. It's ominous, ominous in that it's extremely innocuous, so subtle that many people probably wouldn't even notice it until it was too late. But I'm not like most people, not since, the accident....
Err, um, what was happening again? Where am I... ? Ah, yes, the matchbox, it's all coming back now. Very well, don't run out of the house. After all, you've never been out of the house, who knows what's out there. Best stick with what I know. So, what are my other options... Well, I could um, take the matches and set my house on fire! Yes, yes, a brilliant idea! The smoke and heat will surely force the intruders out!
I rushed to grab the matchbox and carry out my inspiration, knowing that they would intuit my plan if I did not act quickly. I screached to a halt, however, when the matchbox opened. Something was inside, something small and shiny. I was instantly fascinated.
"Hello Vynd," the shiny thing said, "I've been waiting for you."
"Um, hello, err, shiny thing," I stuttered.
The shiny thing peered at me, or at least, that's what it looked like. Then it said, "Don't you recognize me, Vynd?"
"Well, no, I don't think so. I have so many small shiny things, I guess I get them mixed up sometimes. Most of them don't talk to me though, so I feel kind of bad about not remembering..."
"I'm Phoebe, the Steel Flea. Surely you must have heard of me!" the shiny thing, err Phoebe, said.
"Oh, I guess you're not mine. Sorry to have gotten confused there. Nice to meet you Phoebe, although I must admit I haven't heard of you before. I don't really get out much, you see..."
Phoebe seemed rather miffed. She said, "I'm in the Rules, you don't have to 'get out' to hear about me. You've got a copy right there under that..." she did a double take, "that, um, thing, with the err, snowcones sticking out of it. Haven't you ever read them?"
"Well... some of them. The ones I wrote, mostly, but a few other ones..."
Phoebe stared up (excuse me, down) at the heavens. "Why don't you go read the part about me then, Rule 909."
"Phoebe the Steel Flea lives in a mat..."
"Not out loud, Vynd"
"Oh, sorry... Hrm. OK, so you like, go around and impart wisdom, or something?"
"That's the gist of it, yes."
"That's neat. You make a good living, imparting wisdom? It sounds like a good job. I just got elected Senator, but I bet I could do the imparting wisdom gig on the side if it's worth it. I've got lots of good ideas, ya see. I was thinking just yesterday how it might be neat if there was some sort of object that got passed around at random each week, and whoever has it will get extra points when their proposal pa..."
"The Magic Potato"
"Um, sure, we could call it that, I guess. Kinda liked my name though, 'The Joyous Zepplin.' It has a nice, strong, ring to it."
"No, Vynd, you misunderstand me. The object you describe already exists, and it's name is The Magic Potato. It's in the rules already, you see."
I was crestfallen.
"Vynd, I came here to impart wisdom to you. I had intended to explain to you the five ancient and infallible methods of winning the cycle..."
"Cycle? Like, a bicycle? I've already got one of those, althoug if you're talking about a motorcycle, that'd be pretty cool."
Phoebe glared at me, then continued, "...the cycle, but it is obvious you are not yet ready for such knowledge. Instead, I would like to recommend something far less complicated, but rewarding nonetheless." Phoebe took a deep breath, "Read the rules, Vynd."
With that, Phoebe closed her matchbox again. Almost immediately, it began to levitate into the air. It went straight through my ceiling, and the Chevy Suburban I was using as a light fixture, leaving a neat, matchbox shaped, hole. Just before it passed out of sight in the area of the dashboard, Phoebe called out to me, "Oh, and Vynd, try to get more sleep. I was siting on your bed for 4 days." And with that final message, Phoebe was gone.
I think it would be a good idea if, whenever Phoebe comes to visit someone, they post a message letting everyone know what she said. That way, her tremendous wisdom will be shared with all. I realize a lot of it may be over most people's heads, but I'm sure that the right people will benefit in the end. Thus this post, in which I have passed on Phoebe's wisdom, as an example to you all. Now that my task is complete, I think I shall take Phoebe's advice to heart, well, that last part at least...
I was relaxing in the Revolving Shed last night, thinking what a bust my last bartending job turned out to be, which is somewhat worrisome considering the Tardy Justice fees I'm piling up, when a little matchbox, red and blue, and very pretty (if a bit battered), faded into sight. Phoebe the Steel Flea popped out, as we've all come to expect, and told me the things she didn't tell snowgod on Monday (I'm sure you can look it up). Then she popped back into her matchbox, and faded out. All in accord with the Rules.
Phoebe emerged from her matchbox and handed me a piece of paper without saying a word. The piece of paper had the following typed on it...The authenticity of this wisdom was challenged, and it was found authentic by a vote of 7 to 6.
IMPORTANT: You must accept the enclosed License Agreement before you may reveal the wisdom I am about to impart on you. If you do not accept the terms of the License Agreement, you are not authorized to reveal my wisdom!
After reading this letter from Phoebe, I turned around to ask for the License Agreement her letter refered to, but alas, dear Phoebe and her matchbox were gone.
It would appear Phoebe has been in too many windows machines and is under the influence of the Devil Gates himself.
This morning I found the prettiest little matchbox tucked in the little PC-MCIA bay of my new laptop. Immediately I popped it open and out, to my delight, popped Phoebe, the steel flee. Resplendent as ever in the early sun that leaked through the blinds, Phoebe settled on the little touchpad and looked up at me with a little smirk.
"Took you long enough to find me, didn't it?"
I mumbled something about having had a lot to do during the past week.
"Well, listen up, because I haven't much time." I folded my hands before me on the bed and set my chin on my fingers to get a closer look at the little sage. "While I was passing the time in your little computer here I noticed a few pirated software items mucking about. What are you thinking?" She wiggled her little antennae.
Embarrassed, I pretended to be acutely interested with something on the screen, behind her little head. Phoebe went on. "Let's take this Borland C compiler, for instance. You do know GNU makes a perfectly good product, for your purposes at least, correct? With make and awk and grep and more for that matter, and you don't have to risk fines and jail time. Besides, the Borland integrated environment is grossly inferior to Emacs any day of the week, or I'm scrap tin."
Abashed, I mumbled a promise to get rid of the Borland stuff and use gcc for everything up to dental floss.
"Now then, on the other hand...
"Your piracy of that mathematics package, the one that retails for A$&infinity; or about 350 U.S. dollars, does or does not constitute damage to the company that packages it? Discuss." I thought about it for a second. "Well, I would guess that I only harm the company if I give the software to someone who would have bought it from them otherwise, or if I take the software for free when I would have purchased it otherwise. So in swiping a program I had no intention of paying $350-plus for retail, I do no harm to the company." I paused for a second. "Furthermore, since having the program helps my performance in school, it could be argued that in charging $350 for it and making it illegal for me to use otherwise, *they're* the ones harming *me*-- and other non-rich students across the country."
I looked up, and was certain I saw a little smile on Phoebe's little steel face. She was about to comment, I'm sure, when the laptop, for no reason, clapped itself shut. The last I heard from Phoebe was a little *bzzzip* that seemed to move past my right ear.
The little matchbox seemed to have disappeared as well. Then I looked at the clock. I guess she really did have a pressing engagement...
"Mr. Finger!! Hey you, Mr. Lunatic!"
I heard that little voice, and turned around, but there was nothing there. What is this, I thought to myself? Am I being haunted by an undead? Are my ears still ringing from the chewing of the Anti-Gumball? What could I possibly be hearing?
I took a step into the shadows, but still I couldn't see anything. The sickening metallic crunch under my boot, though, soon led me to understand the phenomenon. I was being addressed by none other than Pheobe, the infamous steel flea.
I lifted my boot off of her carcass, and peeled her from my sole. She was battered, and crunched, and she didn't look to well.
"Mr. Finger, er, Fringe," she said, "You have greivously injured me though I know you didn't mean to. Only one thing can save me now."
"Tell me what you need, Pheobe, and I will save you." I said to the flea, now fading fast.
"I need you to stop alliterating, Mr. Fringe. I need you to stop alliterating and I need some processed cheeze product to mend my aching exoskeleton."
"I have just the ticket, Pheobe. You're going to be okay."
I reached into my pocket and pulled out some "Jukkasjarvi Cheez-Whiz 342545" to spread on her metallic shell. However, when I looked down, she was gone. All I heard was a fading voice in the wind saying "Whatever you do, Mr. Fringe, watch where you step."
I jumped to my feet, almost hitting my head against Mold's, and grabbed the matchbox off my desk. "What is it?" he asked.
Why hadn't I recognized it before? Carefully I opened it, and a glittering flea hopped out onto my hand. "Phoebe!" I raised my hand up close to my face. "I can't tell you how glad I am to see a familiar - er, entity - tonight."
My visitors stared. "What is THAT?" asked Scold.
"This is Phoebe the Steel Flea. Not a real flea - she's a nanotech."
"How do you do?" said the ever-courteous Phoebe.
Mold jumped in. "A nanotech? You mean she's a technological relic left over from the ancient astronauts?"
Scold wearily crossed her arms, eyes rolling. "Mold, you know there's no evidence that the prehistoric natives of Ackanomic were 'astronauts', however technologically advanced they may have been."
"No evidence? What about the Codex of Kra translations? They clearly indicate ..."
"Breadbox," said Pheobe, quietly so that only I could hear her. "These people are your friends. Do not trust the advice of strangers."
My accumulated fears of the evening fell from me like weights. "Oh, Phoebe, I can't tell you relieved I am to know that. I'm so glad you're here; I had no idea what was the right thing to do. How can I ever thank you?"
"No thanks are necessary, breadbox. But that's not the reason I originally wanted to visit you. I know that you enjoy hunting for treasure."
"Scold, how can you possibly maintain that the descriptions of U1 and U2 could refer to anything besides ..."
"Well, I dabble in it, yes."
"My advice is this: when treasure hunting, it is best to bring along some tools. I would recommend a Gimme Shelter, a Cheez-Whiz, and a Pulse Laser. Of course, to maximize your chances of success, I'd make sure I had some authentic Snowgod Campaign Prosthetic Foreheads on hand, too - or at least a reasonable imitation."
"Uh, okay." I didn't understand exactly what all this meant, but nonetheless I grabbed a pen with my other hand and scribbled down the particulars in the margin of one of my notes. "Thank you, Phoebe. Is that all you wanted to tell me?"
"Yes. Well, I might also mention that it could be to your advantage to do some research on alternate IEEE standards." I gaped at her, dumbfounded. "Just a hint," she added slyly.
It occured to me that the room had grown quiet again. I saw that Mold and Scold were once again peering at Phoebe. Mold began, "Breadbox - uhm, is there any way we could borrow that nanotech long enough to run some lab tests ..."
I quickly put my hand down so that Pheobe could jump back into her matchbox. "No. She's not mine to give. Phoebe belongs to herself." I saw that he was unconvinced, so I quickly cut him off. "Look, there's something I think you should know. I had another visitor tonight, just before you showed up."
I was interrupted by an electronic chirping. Scold stepped back, saying "Excuse me," and pulled out a cell phone. "Hello?"
Mold turned back to me. "Yes? Go on."
"He told me - or, rather, this stranger implied that it would be in my best interests not to talk about, quote, religious issues. I'm pretty sure now that he was warning me to not discuss the abduction with you two." Mold frowned. "He was the one who left Phoebe's matchbox on my desk, though I don't think that he knew ..."
Eyes wide, Mold suddenly grabbed the cigarette out of the ashtray and held it up between us. "HE was here? HE told you not to talk to us?"
Breathless, I nodded.
Mold turned. "Scold ..."
Scold looked up from her conversation, concern evident in her eyes. "Mold, there may have been another abduction. Rule 407 this time."
"'May have been'?"
She nodded. "It's not clear what actually happened. I think there's been a thread split."
They looked at me for a brief moment. Then Mold dropped the cigarette back into the ashtray and turned to go, saying over his shoulder, "Thank you for the information. We'll be in touch."
"No problem; let me know if there's anything else ..." But they were already gone.
I slowly sat back down, trying to digest everything that had happened. I looked at my desk, and saw that Phoebe's matchbox was nowhere in sight. Thinking that Mold had walked off with her, I almost got up to run after them, but then I realized: no, Phoebe had simply vanished again, as she always did. I leaned my whirling head back against the wall behind me. A conspiracy? Aimed at one of the Churches? Surely Malenkai would not be party to such skullduggery. Would he?
As I was sitting in the Hay Loft, reading the RSA spec, I came to a curious passage:
"It is an error if a small blue-and-red matchbox is on this document."
Somewhat startled, I looked, and indeed it was. It then popped open, and I, recognizing others' descriptions, immediately supposed that this must in fact be Phoebe, about who I had heard so much, but who I had never actually seen before.
I looked closely at the tiny, intricate form. "What wisdom do you have for me, Phoebe?" I asked. "Why do you come to my home at this time?"
"That should be 'whom', not 'who'," she said, in a small tinny voice. "But at least you're describing this in proper past-tense story form; I so hate it when somebody only gives me a few lines. But use less self-reference next time; everyone's seen it before, anyway, and it just makes you look silly."
"Ah, so," I said.
For a few seconds there was silence. Then we both tried to talk at once:
There was another second or so of silence.
Phoebe looked mildly reproving. With a click of the tongue I motioned her to continue; shortly she did so.
"But that's not why I'm here. There's a couple of things that have been coming up lately. I'll answer your question, however, before I get called away."
"Will do," said I, "you actually get called away, then? And what determines the events, what happens or how I describe it? And how can they be happening concurrently?"
Phoebe assumed a lecturer's pose and made reply, speaking as one making that perfectly clear to oneself clear also to others, to one's mild pleasure:
"The events don't actually happen within the framework of time, at all. The orderly progression of time is unregulated, therefore anything can happen. The description has final authority, but it cannot contradict the events themselves. Now, had you chosen to write in first-person perspective, the situation would have been slightly different. In that case, my referral to your grammar wouldn't actually have been contratemporal at all" - I smiled as she used my word - "... at least, if you were writing as I spoke. But we both know that if you did that, nobody could ever read it. Your handwriting is not what it will had used to been. Then, too, my observations have given me a good deal of foreknowledge - more, even, than Malenkai - and I don't really have to obey causality at all, you know."
"So, then, you're a bit like Merlin, aren't you? Living outside of time?"
"No, that's not it at all. I'm cliched old and wise. Acka simply wouldn't be complete if I couldn't bend the rules, a bit."
She paused, then continued: "I see you've developed a spontaneous nosebleed. I'll wait."
"Thank you for being so patient," I told her, upon my return (not wanting to share the details of my ignominy with the rest of Acka). "I have no idea why I get them."
"It's a small eddy in the fabric of the universe, caught in your nose," she replied, astonishing me. "Every so often, the other end drifts a bit, and a capillary becomes congruent to the rest of space. And, then, too, the other end can wander quite far. When you sleep with your nose pointing off the bed, things sometimes disappear off the floor."
"I've always maintained that was a black hole, myself." I interjected.
"No, it's just a discontinuity." I thought she might say more, but she didn't.
There was a brief lull, but this time I waited.
"At any rate, I digress. I have come to tell you - beware of the color yellow! Rishonomic is suffused with it, and in a quantum state. Do not let this menace spread to fair Acka!"
This moved me almost to composing a poem on the spot, but Phoebe gave me a look that implied I had better not.
"What can we do about this yellow menace?" I asked.
"You must alert Acka! None of the other players that commute to Rishon have done anything. You must warn them to*@&SYSTEM FAILURE" - and Phoebe disappeard in a flash of bits, her matchbox with her. This seemed to me an ignominous departure; surely better timing would have been possible.
But at least I had managed to get some good metaphysorical information out of Phoebe. Still, though, I thought, I never did get to ask her why she keeps meeting with misfortune.
It always rained on my nights. Drizzled. I was twelve when I began to own certain nights and repudiate the others. I could give them to myself because they belonged to me. My own ephemeral dominion in temporal materialism. I was sure no one else claimed them, and the soul in me -- the same soul that had been mine an eternity ago -- that soul in me needed to protect its kin. And drizzly nights, I knew, were most akin to me.Calvin N Hobbes commented soon afterward:
Out no more than a few minutes I saw a young woman, black hair knotted in the back of her head. She was standing in my night air, hiding behind my rain, behind my raindrops which hid her image, making it dance and blur. I would have commanded my kingdom stop, had I not know it would not obey me.
The usurper sorcerer of this and many other nights had met his match. The kingdom of the night he had assumed was his had discerned in the glow of the priestess the true heir to that most ancient throne. She was dressed in black. The mother of an emotion was she. Jealousy.
A word was spoken by the mistress of this night. I knew I heard it, for all of creation made murmurs silent. The rain drops all fell on soft grass. The air froze. The crisp expectant earth tensed up. Soundless. The word was a language I felt I knew. Felt made sense. As some formidable noise. Like the release of some long held breath. Not to be denied.
Then the earth rumbled gently as if satisfied and turning over. The air again warm and smooth to breath. The rain resumed its rhythmic drumming. Chains had been broken. Blake's poetic prophet had been set free from lesser frames like a tiger from it's anxious symmetry. And free, that poet would fulfill his promise, treat his experiences shamelessly; exploit them.
Rain drops dodged the slender figure as she made her way toward the marble statue I had become. She turned around away from me, perhaps to take in the surroundings, perhaps to show the flirting dance of Morgan Le Fay's dress around her. But I noticed only a pearly nape, between dark hair and dark dress, sprinkled with glittering stars of blackness. Fresh. Humid.
As I imagined her smiling, perhaps like all prophets might, my blood grated like a cat in my ears, telling me I could again move. Summoning energy from the secret reserves of my being, absorbing the energy of each droplet that lost its perfection on my shoulders, arms and hands... I took a step back.
I heard a cry. Another. Falling from some great height in the nocturnal silence. A splash of water. A body. I stopped. More cries, more desperate and moving away. Cries that a river growing angry muted.
The drama that had unfolded gripped and gnawed at me tormentingly. Breathing became more difficult. Fun. Life. Knowledge. Pointless. The clamoring colours of a match box were but a tiny anchor holding a tanker pregnant with oil from its rocky doom. By some inate reflex more than from conscious act, a hand that once belonged to me as the night had, got hold of it. Opened it.
No pandora's box was this, to release some cleansing plague upon Camus's world. No dense black box was this, whose secret would have to be cajoled and ripped out. No nature was this, whose modest secrets were to be pried and trotted out by ungentlemanly scientists. No. This was a box that told to all its secrets wise. With Phoebe there, looking into a soul painfully regained, answering the insoluble problem before her box became lost once more: "Existentialism born anew."
And it was so.
>surroundings, perhaps to show the flirting dance of Morgan Le Fay's dressOf course, that should read: "... dance of Vivien's dress..."
I woke up this morning with something crawling on me ear. I went to swipe it off, but then I realized it was Pheobe and I was loathe to hurt her more.
"Mr. Lunatic Fringe," She said, "Can you tell me where to draw the line between simplicity and fun? Why not just repeal everything?"
And then she bit me, on the ear, and left.
I had been pondering the matter for hours. Was /dev/joe really guilty of a crime as heinous as Zuriti'ili? Certainly anyone who owns that many entities could easily have committed Zuriti'ili, but that didn't mean that they had, and I didn't want to unjustly convict someone of something so dreadful that the very mention of its name has been known to make prosthetic foreheads drop off.
I was so perplexed by this thorny moral dilemma that I didn't notice the approach of night until it was too dark to see. I got up to go and turn on the light, but tripped over some of the kipple littering my floor, and fell with a sort of squelchy thud onto some unnamed horror of decomposing dinner. Pulling myself up onto one elbow, I remembered the matchbox I had found before my unpleasant time in cell 96 of the Ackanomic gaol. When I opened the box and reached inside for a match, I instead laid my finger on something small and metallic.
"Is that..." I began, but a small voice interrupted.
"Phoebe? Yes, who else would live in a..."
"Matchbox", I interjected. "I can't tell you how glad I am that I found you; you see, I have to decide whether /dev/joe is guilty of..." I broke off, unable to speak the word.
"Zuriti'ili, I know" finished the flea. "I understand your difficulty; Zuriti'ili is indeed an unpleasant..."
"Crime." I butted in quickly, unwilling to lose this strange contest of finishing sentences. "Tell me Phoebe, do you, old and wise, know whether or not /dev/joe is..."
"Guilty?" I was startled by the speed of Phoebe's interruption, and as she spoke her voice became faster "Yes, he is," and faster, "and you should also know" until it was so high pitched "that Zuriti'ili can never involve" that at the end "a prime number of named, ownable entities." it was little more than an ultrasonic squeak, with so little pause between the words that this time I had no chance of finishing Phoebe's sentence.
At that point, my elbow slipped in the rotting food, and by the time I reached the light switch and illuminated the room, Phoebe and her matchbox were Somewhere Else, or at least elsewhere.
I was wandering around my evil twin's house earlier today, admiring the furnishings, and I happened to put my hand in my pocket, where to my surprise I found a battered, red and blue matchbox with which I have some familiarity. I withdrew it and slid it open, revealing, as I expected, Phoebe, the nanotech steel flea.
"Nice toga, ThinMan," Phoebe said.
"Really?" I replied. "Thanks. But you have to give snow -- er -- Nach -- er... umm... -- master of lunar fungus! Yeah, that's sounds mostly right. Anyway, give him the credit; he designed and made it."
"Perhaps I will. But that's not what I want to talk to you about." Phoebe jumped up to my shoulder, then stood in my ear to whisper. I can't tell you everything she said, but here are a few snippets:
"Acka is less stable than you might think." (admonitory)
"When you least expect it, expect it." (very hushed)
"Cooperation is the key. Give and take." (advisory)
"Definately the fourth Doctor." (emphatic)
"I _have_ seen a talking claw." (amused)
There was more, but it was mostly idle chit chat, catching up on old times and the like. When we were done, I went and his Phoebe's matchbox in the very last place anyone would look. Or the last place I'd look, at least.