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Cold in Gardez

Stories about ponies are stories about people.

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New Story: Natural Histories (Lost Cities Sequel), and a philosophical question · 9:43pm April 28th

Hey folks,

Bit of a delay on getting this story the gate, but things have been crazy with all the covid and stuff. On the plus side, I'm practicing piano a lot more than usual.

The central idea for Natural Histories came to me over the holiday break back in December, long before I knew what coronaviruses were or just how completely life could change in a short amount of time – something I should have been better prepared for, living through 9/11 and all it did to reshape our world. But back in that happier time, I was visiting my family, and we were driving to spend the day after Christmas with some other relatives. Our trip took us through some long rural areas, interspersed with trees and rivers, and as we were driving I watched a hawk glide down to land among some grasses, scaring a small flock of starlings into flight. It was a tiny drama, one of thousands that played out in just that single field every day. And it made me wonder about all the stories that happen, either natural or to our fellow humans, that go unremarked and unnoticed by the larger world.

So, in the vein of Lost Cities, I would like to present another work of experimental fiction. It is a look at the stories that come afterward. Sequels and postscripts for cities that have moved on.

Natural Histories

Once upon a time there was a high tower at the edge of the world. The ponies who lived there thought it would last forever.

It did not. Neither did the great pegasus cloud fortresses, or the earth ponies's mighty metropolises, or even Everfree, home of the Sisters and the glorious capital from which they ruled an empire. Cities, it seems, are as mortal as ponies – they are born, they live, and someday they must die.

But the world goes on. The stories never end.

On an unrelated topic, because I'm feeling philosophical today, I have a question about life.

I was reading a profile about an interesting and frankly very intimidating woman, Martha Nussbaum. Midway through an accounting of her accomplishments, it notes that ''Her conception of a good life requires striving for a difficult goal," and that made me pause for thought. I do a lot of difficult things – I run very often, I have learned Japanese, I write and I draw – but are any of these goals? Do I, in fact, have any difficult goals for myself? Why not? As we battle through the coronavirus pandemic and all of our lives are rearranged in some fashion, should I be thinking more about goals, and less about day-to-day pleasures?

I'm still figuring out my answer. If you have one for yourself, I'd love it if you'd be willing to share in the comments.

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Comments ( 20 )

I had a goal of writing a story and publishing it a chapter a day, and I did that.

I also had a goal of owning a certain number of specific cars, and I did that, too. I was actually kind of sad when I bought the last one on my list.

should I be thinking more about goals, and less about day-to-day pleasures?

I think you've already answered yourself somewhat. A goal, however simple, requires it to be something that requires distance and a process to accomplish. That could mean doing something day by day in the process needed to reach your goal, but it isn't just going through things by the day. Goal-seeking is more active, and what you're describing sounds like the larger process to these actions are passive even if the daily tasks and hobbies you have are not.

What sorts of thing have you been enjoying playing on piano?

Bruh, since I left the Army, I haven't had a goal. Like... at all. Life used to be simple: DO my job, aim for the next rank. But now? I mean, I know I'm going to school for my broadcasting degree, but after that? Iunno.

In situations where I am unhappy, it makes a big difference to me to have a goal to strive for, especially if that goal will get me out of the unhappy situation. I can get through almost anything if each day is visibly getting me a step closer to salvation.

But I think maybe the journey is more important than the destination. I've set big goals for my life before, and then the world has changed, or I have changed, and the goals have changed along with them. I think that's okay. I'm coming to the conclusion that constant progress toward big goals is more important than whether or not you actually get there.

"It is the struggle itself that is most important. We must strive to be more than we are. It does not matter that we will not reach our ultimate goal. The effort itself yields its own reward." --Gene Roddenberry

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something I should have been better prepared for, living through 9/11 and all it did to reshape our world.

Man, unless you lived through the Spanish Flu, don't feel bad for being blindsided and unprepared for a pandemic. :B

I am very excited about this new story.


I had a goal of writing a story and publishing it a chapter a day, and I did that.

That was pretty awesome. A+

I used to read Malaysian and South Korean news. I first found out about covid in Decemberish, when I was reading an article on the Hong Kong situation. I said it would be exactly this bad. Nobody believed me, said I was fearmongering.

My goal in life as a whole is "Pursue Happiness, Be Content."
My next tattoo will be the eponymous "You Are Already Dead" in whatever Japanese script it looks best in, as a sort of koan. It's a belief I've had for a long time.

A difficult goal is something you want to achieve that requires effort beyond the norm, or that requires you move outside your comfort zone enough that you notice it.

What is difficult for one is easy for another. I would have great difficulty learning another language, for instance, but my wife leans new languages as a way to pass a boring afternoon.

I like to cook, but what I really like to do is learn new dishes. Often this is difficult, even challenging, but it isn't necessarily hard, as I know the basics of cookery fairly well. Is trying a master an unfamiliar dish a difficult goal when I understand the mechanical fundamentals of cooking? I'd say so, because the mechanicals are only a small part of the task.

Is pushing myself to improve or enhance a familiar dish a difficult goal? Is learning a more efficient and studying way to cook a familiar dish a difficult goal? The difficulty is in how far beyond the comfortable you push your activities. Don't trick yourself into thinking that difficulty is synonymous with novelty and unfamiliarity.

This ramble was brought to you by the lazy Shiraz gang.

Her conception of a good life requires striving for a difficult goal,

This might seem counter-intuitive, but I'm of the mindset that a good life itself is a difficult goal, simply by virtue of there being so much that can be done to achieve it. It's made up of little goals along the way, but they, I don't think, detract from the overall larger goal itself, that of "a good life." But even so, the meaning behind that idiom is hopelessly ambiguous for a reason. A good life doesn't mean anything because there's too much room for meaning in there. But paradoxically that makes it have a centralized meaning, which is to say, meaning derived from the need to search for it.

Viktor. E. Frankl wrote "Man's Search For Meaning" after his time in the concentration camps, and I've been reading it for one of my classes. I've also, in this trying time, been turning to old favorites for comfort: Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, and the poems of Walt Whitman, both of which are filled with small, bite-sized profundities that fill me with a kind of warmth with their honesty and hope. To attempt to connect all three, I would say that they ask and then answer the question of how to live in the face of struggle. Furthermore, as life seems to always be a struggle - a struggle for a good one, or a decent one, or even just to have one, both the philosophical kind and the literal financial kind - then by living, we are trying to answer that eternal question.

I'm fond of another saying: To not act is to act. It's a way to remind me that being proactive can, for the most part, be the better choice compared to being inactive, by virtue of the risk of progress being made versus the risk of no progress at all. Goals, I suppose, could be the steps by which one accomplishes this proactive quality. Fulfilling them is, mathematically, the perfect example of proactive quality, but I'd argue that simply trying to fulfill them - struggling towards them really - yields just as much good fruit, even if things don't work out as you'd want them to.

Life is a struggle, but through that struggle we find ways to live it. I'm not sure if that's what Nussbaum was saying, but that's how I've taken to understanding what it means to be alive. Plus, I am reminded of death all the time, but I think that's sort of a necessary observation. Death is a shadow, but not a shade. It's life's partner. The struggle to live may very well be also the struggle to die having lived.

Big ideas, sure, and daunting, existential ones. But there's a kind of comfort with knowing that, for lack of a better term, "the struggle is real." An alternative, less abstract, but still artistic way of rendering it, may be found in this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote:

To find the best in others; to give one's self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exaltation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.

I used to have a goal. A simple one. Do my best to make life better.

50 years of psychological pulverisation from people scared of loosing what little power they have over their own life through the idea of a work ethic due to robotic generated post scarcity took care of that.

Now theyre even more terrified through computers being able to Think better than they can.

Noone ever wants a competant computer, otherwise Microsoft etc wouldve had problems years ago.

I want to build Lord Havelock Vetinary. The Patrician Computer. After all, the only thing that works is a dictatorship, or at least Tyrant that the people actually accept, if not want, apparently. :trollestia:

I knew someone who was an undergrad in one of Martha Nussbaum's classes. He said that she was incredibly sexy despite being 60 years old, and he and some other classmates had the (unsuccessful) goal of being her boytoy.

To be quite honest, I am something of a floater where life is concerned, I just do what I do, and let life take me where it wills, oh sure I have goals but they are the short term kind, what I decide to eat for lunch or what I will wear on a certain day, things like that. I have some hazy long-term dream/goal things, but to bring those to anything related to fruition would require "actual" work and I'm like a hobbit, I'm fond of good food good drink good company, but not to fond of going out of my comfort zone and I can be quite lazy and procrastination-bound.

I think a goal is a manifestation of drive, and drive is what matters. For some they'll be closely linked, like a passion to climb Everest and a willingness to actually make it happen no matter the time or resources required. For other their 'goal' might look more like doing well at work or writing more pony fiction, neither of which has a built-in finish line or end date but can still be what motivates us out of bed in the morning.

Better to be permanent than either, indeed. (In the actual context of The Prince, the question of being loved or feared was as a means of staying in power, so making the question moot through the number of ways AI have to not die absolutely scans)


My favourite method for that is to use a true unalterable ROM chip for booting from.

Not BIOS, thats 8 bit and not even as comprehensive as SpectROM, its suprising how much machine inteligence you can get in 128k and by the time you get to 4 Meg, you can have a system that at its base is pretty much a modern fully useable desktop. With speech, neuralnet, A/V, network etc.

Best example I can give for data storage with totdays research, is 1 bit can be held extremely reliably in a memristor cell thats as little as 3 nanometers on a side. So thats 1 billion bits, or 128 Meg, in a cube 3 micrometers on a side. Which I beleive is more smoke particle than dust particle, and so can float in the air, settle in pores etc?

If an AI uses Cisco Network Encoding, then it can be sat on the net, fully operational, and noone would even be able to tell it was there, and it could reform from fractional corrupted data sets even without needing a complete seed, as long as enough parts of the seed are available. I beleive its called N of M encoding, took me years to realise its effectively an upgraded CD Audio error correction method, where the data packets are chunky to planar conversions. One packet contains all most significant bits, etc..

At least theres something to look forward to when various AI are working correctly. No more waiting for translations of stories, movies etc from around the world, just use your personal machines real time translation function or speech synthesis instead of waiting for a dedicated audio book, given the vocal matrix will be able to speak in any style and persons you prefer.

Have the option to take any Saga off Fimfic, the put it through Audio Book, Radio Play, Animatic, or even full 3D VR sensorium? Well, have to wait for things like Adobes AI Blade runner class image manipulation program to patent expire there.:pinkiesad2:

Hope the piano practice is going well.

Thank you for writing. :)

Regarding the philosophical question, personally, I'm not sure. I don't think there's only one pattern for a "good life", though; it's something that varies with person, place, culture, and time.

Hmm... Much to unpack here, but first I would like to know why what she thinks a good life is would concern you?

I think difficulty is relative, so was it hard to learn Japanese? Did you want to? If so, then yes, it was a difficult goal. If it wasn't difficult, then you are probably like me; much effort for potential or little reward is not very motivating.

As to what you should and should not do... You should absolutely write more stories, that is a objective moral good that should never change no matter what :rainbowwild:. But seriously, if your goals are things you want to do , then there is no choosing; you are doing it because you want to. Unless they are things you must/need to do. If neither, then I wonder why you would do it?

I have three goals and have since before I can remember.

I should really start getting back to work on the first one. I've let myself be far too lazy.

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