• Member Since 18th May, 2012
  • offline last seen Nov 14th, 2020


Lecturer by day, pony word peddler by night.


Obiter dicta -- things said in passing.

A collection of short stories, vignettes, and delete scenes, mostly based in the Civil Serviceverse and tending to be either slice of life or comedy. Also contains contest entries including FanOfMostEverything's Imposing Sovereigns.

Currently contains:

1. An Afternoon For Dotted Line [slice of life] [comedy]
2. The Game The Princesses Play [comedy]
3. On the Inaccuracy of Proverbs [slice of life] [comedy][sad]
4. The Nature of War [history]
5. On Forensic Accounting & Choral Singing [comedy]
6. Hoofprints [human][sad]
7. Dr. Spinning Top—Specimen Annotated Daily Schedule [slice of life]
8. Love and Other Acquired Tastes [comedy][sad]
9. Any Other Business? [comedy]
10. Songs Like Snow [romance]
11. Civics [comedy]
12. The Other Princess [slice of life] [comedy]

Chapters (13)
Comments ( 895 )




(Sorry, I'll try to keep myself to productive comments now...)

I love your Equestrian Civil Service stuff so very much.

That's...that's all I can say about this. I want to start gushing but I don't know where to start. Rose's song encapsulates your writing just as well as Dotty's character.

A few problems with the footnote formatting but other than that... I've missed this guy! Glad to see him up and about again (though the idea of sleeping in a filing cabinet brings my back such pain). I'm going to have to go reread Princesses again when I'm through this lot. Is Celestia going to have this playing next time Dotted walks into the throne room? :pinkiesmile: I imagine that the rocket plans might make a nice gift for Celestia one day.

who is made of awesome and needs to publish Summer Sun already

You heard the man, Tea! Chop chop!

I'm reminded of the Samurai Jack episode "Seasons of Death," with massive montage of a sword being forged with all this esoterica and then Samurai Jack shattering it in one blow and walking onward.

Civil Serviceverse

Surely you mean the Civil Serverse. :trollestia:

Oh....oh, Twilight... :fluttercry:

Wonderful little story; there's just so much personality hidden between these words, it's an absolute pleasure to read.:pinkiehappy:

partway I felt like I should quote some of my favorite moments, and comment on what made them so great, but after having read only half of the story, and gathering five to seven "favorite lines" already, the idea felt futile. Besides, I have a feeling everyone can already see why each line is fantastic :raritywink:

As for the grammar and style, this is top notch. I did find a few places where there was a missing comma, or where a period would have fit better, but that was pretty much the extent of errors I could find, and even they were few and far between.
The only other complaint I would have is that the paragraph with Dotted reflecting on Rose was a bit overwhelming, introducing a bit too much at once -- especially exclaiming how she was almost a daughter to him.

Well, Mornington Crescent, Fizzbin, and Calvinball I got, but if the philosophical concepts game was a reference, it's one I don't know.

Now I want to see newly-bewinged Twilight trying to come to grips with this. Very entertaining, in any case!

No, honestly, I think that's the combination of tags that's best fitting.

*glee* You got it! You got it!

And, I want to point out I came by the dimethylmercury idea honestly, by reading John D. Clark's "Ignition!"

Awww, gosh, thanks.


And, hah, I can see Celestia arranging that Octavia Van Clef play it at the Grand Galloping Gala. It makes Rose happy, it mortifies Dotty, and it annoys the nobility. Win, win, win for my uniquely benevolent Trollestia. :trollestia:

Oh dear. What have I done?


...exactly what I intended.


There's a bit of that in there, sure enough. With a twist, of course. :twilightsmile:

Ghost, all of these are genius, and I don't understand why any of them aren't one shots. My crush on Dotted Line only grows with each story, and I love your writing in every situation. Write more, you ninny.

(Um, this was supposed to be a compliment. So, pretend it just says "good job!")

This sounds like a game of Nomic that's had over a thousand years to mature.


Ah, but that is a legendary blade against a legendary warrior. I can see the similarities, yes, but I think the point of each one is different. Opposite, even. Not perfectly opposed, but...on the one hoof, we have the triumph of a person over equipment (I want to say technology, but I think there was some magic involved in the forging?) in Samurai Jack, and on the other hoof we have in this story the triumph of mere equipment--and not even notable equipment--over a mighty warrior (with his own legendary equipment).

I remembered there being some intriguingly nasty propellants discussed in Ignition!, but I also remembered that there was a short story with hilariously nasty propellants, and since I remembered that red mercury came up in the short story googling that was much faster than digging through my copy of Ignition! to come up with astoundingly atrocious combinations.

I'm considering that being the official nomenclature...

I know. :fluttershyouch:

Glad you liked it!

As for the line being laying it on a bit thick... in retrospect maybe. There's some groundwork that makes it a bit less out-of-the-blue in A Canterlot Carol. After all, it's pretty clear he's been pretty much adopted as a family member by the Salads in that one.

Ah well. I'll do better next time.

It's an oblique reference to a "Dungeons and Discourse," with nods to Azad from Player of Games by Iain M. Banks.

Oh. Wow. Gosh. Um.

...gosh... :twilightblush:


I'll try to write more. Honest. I've one story at draft 0 already. Perfect fit for OD. And there's going to be a few non-pony words, too, which may interest you.

That's exactly what it is! :pinkiehappy: It isn't Calvinball exactly. Rules exist. They are just complex enough that it may seem to an outside observer that there aren't any.

GhostOfHeraclitus posting a new story?

Look that, its xmas all over again.

Glad to see you posting more work!

“My sister wishes to see you at your earliest convenience. But, please, don’t wake up right—”

Dotted awoke, blind, trapped, and struggling to breathe. For most this would be cause for panic, but Dotted, after the initial shock, knew what was going on. He had fallen asleep in a filing cabinet. Again. He sighed in the warm, papery darkness, and kicked out once, hard. The weak hinge of the filing cabinet gave way, as he knew it would, and the drawer slid into his office. He heaved himself out of the drawer and noted with grim satisfaction that he had conscientiously filed himself under ‘L.’

Twilight would be damned proud. :twilightsmile:

“Go. Rest. At the very least this afternoon. If I must, I will make it an official royal command. And I shall arrange that it be in writing with calligraphy and I shall have town-criers read it out in the square.”

Best Princess. As if that were ever in question.:trollestia:

Just ask her students, who could generally go from wide awake to blissful slumber after only three minutes of her lecturing. Over the years she graduated from tossing bits of chalk at the more flagrant snoozers and snorers to a custom-built squirtgun.

This feels like a crib-note, but completely lacks any number...
Yup, the next footnote is 6, the previous is 4. :trollestia:

The music started slowly. A simple theme played once, serious and solemn, with no ornament and in it, woven throughout, the rhythm of crashing waves. Then a counterpoint, plucked and cheerful, seeming to laugh and caper. At the final note, Rose seemed to accelerate and the two melodies intertwined and danced one ‘round the other. It hardly seemed possible that one violin was making all of these sounds, but no matter how carefully Dotted looked, an orchestra refused to materialize. The music grew yet more complex, introducing another theme to the dance, a variation on the Equestrian March, bold and official. The swirling complexity of it all continued, with three themes weaving and melding in a dance that was becoming more furious with each passing measure.

I get the distinct feeling you enjoyed that passage. :yay:

Anyone out there can get me a full description of Leafy Salad and Rose Salad-Flower?

He heaved himself out of the drawer and noted with grim satisfaction that he had conscientiously filed himself under ‘L.’

This line is brilliant. Please write a novel. Please. I will give you money.

No, really, I'll give you money. As in, I'll buy the novel.

Oh certainly, the lesson was different, I'm just talking about the staging of the forging scenes being similar.


One may wonder how much of Equestrian history, including border skirmishes, key events in the formation of Canterlot's Civil Service, and Luna's banishment, were actually Byzantine outgrowths of this game. Dotted will probably sleep better if he doesn't know.

Let the chapters roll like fine tea into crystal cups. With honey. And just a little lemon. Perfect...

I'm afraid I went though a quite a few months where I just physically couldn't look at it, let alone try and solve the issues it had. Fortunately, nanowrimo at least got me writing somethings again.

Ghost, I have no words to describe how brilliant this is.

We really do need a history tag. :twilightoops:

Also some Philospher's Chess from Alan Dean Foster' Flinx stories?

Devil's Venom for the rocket fuel?

3696262 Read the story. /Then/ criticize. With something other than a frowney face.

This is just the strangest combination of feels...

Can we get a music major in here? Someone needs to write that song, get it played and recorded, and than use that recording as the opening tone for a series of dramatic readings of this man's work.

3697165 I think it was more a sign of confusion.

As this is really a series of oneshots, and ought to be published as such - you deserve it - I shall break my usual routine of producing a single round up comment at the end of the last chapter and respond to each of these so called "chapters" individually. I know you'd prefer it that way anyway, even if some of these comments get really short.

This is Dotted's reward. I almost felt like scolding you for being so nice to your characters, but through a combination of carefully seeded references to Dotted's miracle service, through a beautiful dance with the Princess of the sun, and this being the coda to A Canterlot Carol - in which Dotted is shown to be the very personification (ponification?) of Hearth's Warming spirit and selflessness as interpreted by someone who gets it (humbling, that was) - we're left with no doubt whatsoever that he deserves this.

Yes little fillies and colts, follow your passion, work hard, maintain a respect and wonder for the natural world, and you will become the skilled and respected, artist, engineer, academic, leader, or beauraucrat that everyone - or those who know what to look for - will look up to. It will be a fulfilling life. In theory. It might involve sleeping in a few filing cabinets. I feel somehow inadaquate now. My life does not measure up to the wholesomeness of this pony.

Nevertheless, I can read and enjoy these stories in this age of wondrous telecomunications technology. I can even occasionally bring myself to see what you did there. An Afternoon for Dotted line is about an afternoon in the life of Dotted Line, and is simultaneously about An Afternoon for Dotted Line, a suspiciously titled musical number which, in turn, reprsents, musically, an afternoon in the life of Dotted Line, and which is given to him, on an afternoon. In his life. Yeah. I'm done now.

Just kidding, how do you end a phrase on a leading grace note? What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Clearly none of the ponies in this world have heard of Calvinball.

That was my first thought, upon reading the first line of this maze of references. All doubt was immediately erased from my mind upon the introduction of the time-fracture wickets.

I can't say I'm enlightened, but perhaps Dotted is. Then again, he always was.


Dear me. More people respond to my zero word comment than to my dozen paragraph epics. Perhaps I should be infuriatingly concise more often! :twistnerd:

3697165 I'll have you know, that's a "we shall see" face! :ajsmug: (And that, 3697295, is the face of undeserved self-satisfaction)

We have seen. Now, since you asked, we shall criticize.

That was too good. That was an excellent video, and it is so very Twilight. Watch it again, but imagine Twilight standing in for that guy. Yeah. It works. I briefly wondered if you had altered the value of the N/cm² figure for pony bones. Y'know, they might be stronger. :rainbowwild:

Also, in my unending quest to be right on the internet, I declare this story insufficiently sad to warrant such baffling tagging.

Kidding again. It works. :pinkiesad2:

/me reads fic

/me dies due to the sheer inadequacy

Goddammit Heraclitus, you just have to be amazing, don't you.


I need a drink.

I love a good game of Calvinball, but damn, Luna fights dirty in the Philosophical Quarter.

Well, I must say that this was mildly orgasmic. You know ghost, you are so similar in your writing style to the great Sir Terry Pratchett that it is downright uncanny. I don't suppose an Orangutan has visited you in the past with a book of writing tips, an encouraging "Oook" and a congratulatory banana?

Ah, The Nature of Hyperbole. What a tale. It's clear the griffins don't subscribe to the idea of dedicating one's life purely to their passion. Perhaps a result of their lack of magical glyphs that declare the nature of their talent - though often with debatable clarity - to all the world. Who needs degrees when you've got cutie marks? Then again, maybe if they had it their way, too many of them dedicate their lives to glorious victory.

I do wonder, since it was mentioned, what this tale would sound like from the mouth of a pony. These idiots, see, kept killing random ponies and demanding that we meet them in disadvantageous positions to be killed by their superior forces. We let them break their skulls on our walls for a while until they gave up. Did Celestia the Terrible manifest at some point during this silliness?

At some point during the forging process, I wondered whether there might be some sort of metaphor for the creation of atomic weapons in there, as since a fair number of people died as a result of accidents in nuclear research, I thought it might fit with all the griffins lost in the absurdly arduous process of enchanting the blade of wonton destruction, but then the sword proved to be utterly ineffective at cleaving the ground where the honorable whatever his name was fell.

Hopefully, through my excretion of these vague impressions of mine, I have done my part to - ever so slightly - sate your craving for comments. They do tend towards being flat analyses devoid of feeling, but believe me when I say I thoroughly enjoyed every one of these, especially that sad comedy.

Oh yes, you asked for comments, didn't you? Well then. Ahem.

I noticed one spelling error during my initial run-through of the first story, which I immediately ignored so that I could continue to imbibe this wonderful elixir of a story. It's not very helpful of me, I know, but it's nearly two in the morning now, and I have to be at work at eleven. If no one else has caught it by the time I re-read (and I will most likely re-read, at least three times over the nest few weeks), I will make a note of it, and pass it along.
Dotted Line is, as usual, an unusually well realized character. I see the princesses, especially Celestia, through his eyes, and am intrigued by what I see. Still, though, you can see the pony underneath, even though he himself is too humble, starry-eyed and (hmm) pious to do so. It makes for an interesting dynamic.
The Salad family are a fun bunch of folk, especially the newly introduced (but early and oft referenced) children. I feel that I know them. That's a hard trick to pull off in, what was it, five thousand words? I don't know that I can praise that any more highly. The song at the end of the first story was an interesting addition. As always when I hear a song described in prose, I wonder what it sounded like to you. For myself, I have a series of feelings presented to me (rather nicely) and no melody to go with them. I wonder if it's like trying to explain color to the achromatic.
Moving on, the Game the Princesses Play was a rather fun aside, inviting the reader to play along and guess the references. I picked up Calvinball and a few theory of knowledge nods myself, while others quite eclipsed my knowledge, by the looks of the comments. Again, we see this wise Celestia, so exalted in Dotted's eyes, and catch just a glimpse of the soul behind it. I wonder if that will ever change. I imagine that Celestia has had quite a lot of time to get used to it, over the many, many long years of her reign. I wonder if that's why she thinks better of confronting her Secretary over the matter. (Also, I love seeing Luna here! Just thought I'd say that)
The next story was short, sweet, presented an observation that we've all made at one point or another, and introduced me to an informative and entertaining video. Plus it was cute, in a sad, look at the adorable puppy way. I meant to have something more scholarly or profound to say about it, but, I find that I am not, in fact, a poet. Or a plumber with the soul of a poet. (I apologize for those last two sentences. I find that I am incapable of good humor at this time of night. Please be merciful)
The change in tone for the next tale was swift and palpable. The use of repetition, formalized phraseology, and grand, stark, sweeping statements speaks of an old tale, passed on through an oral culture (reminds me quite a bit of my childhood, actually). While the tale itself was tonally consistent, I wondered what had brought about this change; if this story was an experiment with a different style, placed here in this collection because this is, after all, a collection of snippets.
Imagine my surprise then, when I get to the bottom of the page to find that this story is being told by a new character (with a really cool name, I might add), and this choice of tone is both deliberate and considered. Well done! Once again, I was delighted to spend a bit of time with the Salad children, and I literally clapped my hands in appreciation of the last line of the story.
All right then. I hope this meets the standards of commenting around these erudite and well-spoken (well-written?) parts, and that this post brings some enjoyment. Or at the very least, does not offend.

I have only one thing to say here.

Hee Hee. :pinkiehappy:

Sounds like a Twi-snit waiting to happen.

I'm sick.
It's past 2:00 AM
I have a headache.
But for the life of me, I could not stop childishly grinning and giggling out loud.

This is only after having read the first story.

Thank you so much for writing this. I'm really looking forward to the next chapters but *HAD* to comment.


Cadence felt something knot unpleasantly in her gut. She was not a violent pony, never that, but the idea of someone teasing Twilight until she wept and hid herself under her blankets made something cold and ugly uncoil inside her. For a fleeting moment, she recalled how certain ancient chronicles described Celestia as 'terrible.’ Right now, Cadence felt she could be terrible, too. All too easily.

Well, now. I have always rather enjoyed the notion of Celestia going mama-bear on those who would harm her student, but I very much LIKE this part here, indicating that Cadance is the same way.

It was then that Corporal Sure Cut, of the 133rd Royal Hussars, shot him with a crossbow. How much his previous life as a mane-dresser prepared him for that moment is unknown.

Dat Irony.

Do you mind if I shamelessly praise you once again? Because this is deserving of shameless praise. Great heaps of it in fact. The last one in particular. Nature of War indeed, :raritywink:


Oh god. Don't do that. Don't you put that evil on me. I'm supposed to be good and write more normal Snit!

*Mumbling* Man, I could post it as another interlude to Alicorn Stories and everything. That would make it an update! That'd be alright, wouldn't it...?

That was a lovely Dotted Line story and reminds us again what a fundamentally good pony he is. I particularly like his interactions with Celestia because I'm convinced that he is in love with her but, being a good minister and servant, will never openly admit it to anypony, least of all himself. Celestia knows, naturally enough (she's seen it so many times before) and that is one of the reasons she's so strict with him - she doesn't want his devotion to lead him to work himself into illness or worse.

Regarding your footnote (2) - It's clear that somepony is either toying with hypergolic fuels or, even worse, a nuclear pulse drive. Neither of these are particularly good for use in any plot of land you plan to use for anything but desert for the next few centuries. That said, I can think of no better use for an Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle that to fire Congress or Parliament into low Earth orbit or, even better, through escape velocity/

As always, there is a lovely Pratchett feel to these stories. I'm looking forward to seeing more from your characters.

Easter Eggs.

You rat, I don't think you told me about the origin for this story idea! Certainly I don't remember seeing that video before. You've just got a stack of these folks, don't you? CGP Grey, Vsauce, who else do you have tucked away?


Anyway, I reread this chapter since I figured if I was going to post a comment, I might as well make it a real one. Sadly, this remains my least favorite chapter in the collection—probably because of its length. I do still like it, but it fails to really invest me in what it's talking about. That said, Foalsitter Cadence and Filly Twilight tend to be pretty wonderful to read, and this is still plenty enjoyable. But I should really go re-read one of the other stories, too, when I can. (And you're getting enough wonderful comments right now that you can live with me being less than gushing, I suspect. :moustache: )

Only the people who have never been at the receiving end of bullying, who are callous idiots, or most likely both, believe in the cruel lie that words can't hurt you. (The extra-special, lay-the-blame-on-the-victim version adds "unless you let them", a piece of such exquisite sneering brutality that anyone giving it as "advice" to the victim of bullying should be liberally pelted with sticks and stones.) The soul of a child is easy to hurt, and the scars of the soul linger longer than the scars of the body.

Awww. Thanks.

You are both right, really. It does have a completely different point than the episode in question, but the forging sequence was semi-consciously modeled on that and other "An Epic Weapon Is Made" scenes.

Sadly, it's so often his job to know. No wonder he's allowed to write off sedatives as a legitimate business expense. :pinkiehappy:

Your chem-geek cred is noted and respected. :twilightsmile:

Thanks! :twilightsmile:


I know, right? I mean how do you tag it otherwise? Slice of life? But there's war and stuff. Adventure? But nobody goes on an adventure.

I've not read those, but know that you mention 'philosopher's chess' I feel almost honor-bound to do so.

Only a little bit of FOOF. Maybe some mercury. Hardly harmful at all. :pinkiehappy:

That's really quite im... well. I won't say impossible. I've heard the fanmusic this fandom makes. But it is unlikely.

:twilightsmile: Awww, gosh, I'm blushing.

And, yes, the title has layers. The original meaning was that it was meant to be just Dotty being happy. It's just an afternoon, entirely for Dotted Line. The story equivalent of a hug, really.

One reason I wrote it is because I was planning a story where Dotted gets in a really bad way and this was a sort of preemptive apology. You'll be pleased to know I've abandoned the story because the villain I created was simply too horrible for me to write.

It's not really Calvinball (references aside). It's more, as someone pointed out before, a game of Nomic that got way, way, way out of hoof.

And the enlightenment is meant to be in relation to this: Everypony sat around trying to figure out what the game meant, as if that was the important thing. It wasn't. The important thing was that, well, there were the two princesses. Together. The game and, indeed, the score are of secondary importance.

If it is any consolation, I got your intended meaning[1] immediately.

And, also, how do you know how much a "Neighton" is? :trollestia:

[1] "Oh really?"

Do I have to be amazing? Listen, grass grows, birds fly, sun shines, and brotha' I brew tea and then imbibe it.

So no, I guess I don't.

Being amazing is a conscious choice on my part. :twilightsmile:

In seriousness, don't fret over things. Writing isn't a race or zero-sum. Write the best you can, and things will be well.

Just don't ask me to repeat this advice after I've read a Skywriter story. Gah. Talk about feeling inadequate...

Oh, you should see her in the pro-epistemological variant. Downright brutal, she is. :twilightsmile:

Oh, wow, gosh, thanks. It's hard to give me a more extravagant compliment that that. And, no, my life has been Orangutan free. Hah as if I would take writing tips from a monke--APE I meant AP--*thump*

Also I am geeking out so much over your avatar... :twistnerd:

Calling in Celestia is the nuclear option in these sort of things. Treaties and solemn accords state that the sisters two or their control over the firmament will not be used in wars that do not:
(a) threaten the execution of duties delineated in the treaties of Dusk and Dawn,
(b) involve paramilitary forces or forces not representing a well-regulated regularly constituted military force of an acknowledged state,
(c) involve slave-holders or slave-takers with whom the state of Equestria and all her holdings are in a permanent state of war, or
(d) follow the conventions and customs of civilized warfare in respect to the treatment of prisoners and civilians, the use of magic on the international prohibited list, or wide-spread environmental degradation.

Why, yes, I did think about this.

How the song sounded to me? Well, you know what Zappa (I think) said: writing about music is like dancing about architecture. That's why I focused on the emotions and the general structure of the piece trusting that everyone will compose their own definite version.

That's the nice thing about writing, really. Infinite special effects budget, and the scoring is a snap.:twilightsmile:

As for the tonal shift in Clawsewitz's tale, well, originally it didn't have the coda with the Salad children. It was left ambiguous who was telling it and why. But then the mysterious 'Nettlefish suggested that it would be nice to know who the teller was (I always imagined it to be a griffin poking gentle fun at his own people) and Bradel[2] suggested the Salad children as the audience and then I wrote it, and then Bad Horse suggested that the 'Nature of War' line be moved to the very end of the coda, and there you go.

[2] As should be obvious by now, getting awesome collaborator-pre-readers is a must when writing these things.

I'm sorry you are unwell(and hope you get better soon!) but utterly gleeful that my story managed to pick you up a bit.

Damn right she is. There is a lot interesting in how someone with a sweet disposition and mild manners might, when someone they love is slighted, discover hidden reservoirs of fury the didn't even know they had.

Praise? Well... sure. I can stand for a little bit more...:trollestia:

(I want all the praise...)


Why, thank you.

And you note correctly, by the way. Dotted does have something of a crush on Celestia. Not Celestia the princess, or Celestia the divine. Just Celestia. He'll never tell, of course.

Unacceptable! I demand all the gush all the time!


You rat, I don't think you told me about the origin for this story idea! Certainly I don't remember seeing that video before. You've just got a stack of these folks, don't you? CGP Grey, Vsauce, who else do you have tucked away?

That would be telling...

And that's part of the motivation for the story, actually. The saying is wrong. And Twilight fixed it. That's what she does. :twilightsmile:

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