Friday, March 30, 2012

The Mastermind

Who is the Mastermind?

Me. Or rather, that is my temperament.

(But I'll get up to the real thing in time, don't you worry.)


It is not some passing arrogance that leads me to decide this: I recently decided to take an MBTI personality test and got the result that I've gotten since I was nine, that of INTJ. This happens to correspond to the Mastermind type.

What is the MBTI? The Myer-Briggs Type Indicator is a personality type classification that draws influence from Jung. People are categorized based on four criteria - introversion/extraversion, sensing/intuition, feeling/thinking, and judging/perceiving. This makes for a total of sixteen types (2^4).

(Simple English Wikipedia explains it clearly.)

Salient characteristics of INTJs include:
  • Analytic
  • Comfortable working alone
  • Pragmatic and creative
  • Intolerant of inauthenticity
  • Independent of thought
  • Aware of both knowledge and limitations (Confucius would approve)*
  • Confident in own ability
  • Demanding
  • Distant and reserved
  • Not fond of showing emotion
  • Better in working situations
All of which apply to me. Even "demanding" and "distant" and socially awkward.

Yes: I will accept this classification as legitimate.


When you know your type, and start looking for it in your influences, patterns emerge.

A lot of people I follow, such as Theodora Goss, Hecate Demeter, and S. Mash are also INTJs. Three may not seem a lot, but they make up about 6.25% of the people I follow (through tumblr/blogs), even though INTJs make up only about 2-4% of the population (it is even rarer for females to be INTJ). Further, I didn't know when I started following them that they were INTJs.

Historical/fictional figures who may be INTJs include Thomas Jefferson, Augustus Caesar, Peter the Great, Jane Austen, Franz Kafka, Nikola Tesla, Dr. Johnathan Crane (from Batman Begins), Fitzwilliam Darcy, Sherlock Holmes, Willy Wonka, and Nietzsche.

Do we gravitate toward our own type? Not to implicate the people I've mentioned, but I'm seeing a great invisible whirlpool drawing all us Masterminds together to plot a new world order.

Just kidding. (Mostly.)

But it does hearten me to find others like me. I've been feeling un-Mastermind-like of late, with the usual teenager problems. And it soothes my overbearing vainglory to think that I might have something in common with such writers as Austen or Kafka. Or, indeed, with Willy Wonka.


*子曰:知之为知之,不知为不知,是知也。Translated: if you know what you know and know what you don't know, then you truly know.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Memento Mori

For the trees rise
Like the spears of a Roman legion
But the enemy is not among these:
Ostrogoths, Huns, Carthage, Etruscans
But rather
Time and the passing of it
This is one Rubicon you cannot cross
This is one Danube you cannot hold -
Cannot fortify, cannot grip.

It'll kill you, eventually
Brutus will come, whom you trusted
Or Odoacer, whom you did not
Nero will turn on you
And tell you to die.

Maybe no one will come for you
And you'll crumble on your own
Your gods forgotten,
Your borders unraveling,
Your pipes of lead as though you could be poisoned
From the inside out
And maybe you can
Maybe there's something wrong inside you
Cancer ambitious, ambition cancerous
You should have listened to Marcus
(basterai, basterai)

Depart then satisfied
End thy journey in content
You have embarked,
Made the voyage,
Come to shore:
Get out.

Find your way back
To the forest where Lupa found you
To the trees that rise around you
Like the columns of your famous temples
Like empires built on your bones
Dis Manibus

You can rest now.


Written March 2012. Needs some revision.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Do you want to go on an adventure?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Last Winter Hunt

Spring begins officially tomorrow! On my last hunt of the winter, I have found various interesting and lovely things to share. Mostly images.

Kilmeny, by Warwick Goble
Two poems shared by Hecate Demeter: "Beloved, Let Us Once More Praise The Rain" by Conrad Aiken and "Moon and Water" by Mary Oliver.

Get some perspective.

Sicily is really beautiful.

Lovely image and concept: exchanging art.

Illustration 7 for Il Penteramone, by Warwick Goble

The Getty Villa. If I go to Caltech, I will visit this place.

"Heartbreak Morning" by Barbara Newton.

"Breaking Wave" by Graham Brace. Great colored pencil drawings are inspiring.
Illustration to the Thought Machine by Ammianus Marcellinus,
by Frank R. Paul
How to Digest Books Above Your Level: I have a feeling that as I continue to direct my education, I'll be referring to this. By the same guy, a guide to Stoicism.

I read a lot this season.

winter 2011-2012

The Hotel Under the SandThe Psychology Of C. G. Jung: 1973 EditionThe Inside StoryGoliathCrispin: The End Of TimeBreathe My Name

More of Evelyn's books »

Book recommendations, book reviews, quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists
To quote a poem I wrote in fifth grade, "Winter is the time to put your thoughts in order." Now, it is spring. Do you hear that? Adventure. It's calling.
Illustration from In Powder and Crinoline, by Kay Nielsen

Friday, March 16, 2012

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

Have I got a long post for you today!

Here are my notes from this book:
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

I've translated my notes from the abbreviation-ridden shorthand I use, but if there's anything that's incomprehensible tell me straightaway.

The notes here don't follow the order of the book, but are rather grouped in ways that make sense to me. Click for whichever category you'd like to read:

Plant Domestication | Animal Domestication | Diseases | Writing | Inventions | Societies | Geography | In Sum

Plant Domestication:

Hunting-gathering -> food production (farming) b/c: depletion of wild game, more domesticable wild plants (i.e. via climate change), tech for gathering (sickles, baskets, etc.), population density up, prodimity to other farmers (replaced by them or adopt methods)

Birth rate up for food production v. hunter-gatherers

Plant domestication: unconsciously at first (hunting-gathering: eat the most promising, help spread the seeds; human selection negligible because animals also), then choosing + planting most desirable (large/seedless fruits, non-bitter, mutations that don't inhibit germination; must breed true)

Interplant competition up because more density

Diversity of environments (altitudes, climate variation) -> biological diversity, so better able to domesticate + become farmers

Cereals and legumes domesticated first; flax domesticated early for clothing (fibers)

Apples, pears, plums, and cherries domesticated in classic times

Roman foods: oats, poppies, Fertile Crescent crops, millet, cucumber, citrus, rice, apples, etc.

Staples: wheat, corn, rice, barley, sorghum, soybean, potato, manioc, sweet potato, sugarcane, sugar beet, banana

Cereals > corn

Acorns = "fallback food" in Europe

Animal Domestication:

Domestication fails because: diet (biomass conversion 10%, so no carnivores), growth rate (nothing that takes too long to reach adulthood), elaborate/long courtship rituals, tendency to kill humans, nervousness/panic, lack of dominance hierarchy, territorial behavior (solitary)

Big domestic animals provide protein, wool/hides, transport of people and goods, vehicle of war, source of industrial power

Major domestic animals: cow, sheet, goat, pig, horse


Crowd diseases: need big, dense populations + waste; acute (die or recover quickly); epidemics w/ intervals rather than constant; not sustainable in small groups

Microbes from soil or animals can constantly reinfect

Diseases become less fatal in order to spread more


Symbols for words, phonetics, clarifying meaning


Solutions look for problems (invention begat necessity)

Based on previous models; do not come forth from a vacuum

To be accepted: 1. be economically useful, 2. prestigious, 3. compatible with existing technology, 4. observably advantageous

Wheels are viable only if there are pack animals

Isolation -> fewer inventions adopted and maintained

Sedentary living allows for bigger inventions because they don't need to be carried

Competition helps invention


Bands (5-80) - essential 1 or more extended families, hunter-gatherers, nomadic

Tribes (hundreds) - fixed or seasonally nomadic, food production, multiple clans, everyone knows everyone so no need for complex conflict resolution, no stratification or inherited leadership, little specialization

Chiefdoms (thousands, tens of thousands) - internal conflict, hereditary leadership, general bureaucrats, specialists, slaves, tribute

States (50k+) - multiple cities, capital, monopoly of information in positions of power, extensive taxation, specialization (also in bureaucracy), centralized economic control (disastrous when removed), slavery, formalized justice system, written laws, literacy, multiethnic/lingual, often non-hereditary

To justify "kleptocracy" (keep fruits of commoner labor): monopolize weapons, redistribute wealth in popular ways, maintain order/reduce violence, make religion that justifies (divine right)

Religion also -> unity, reason for sacrifice

Farmers can build public works in off season

Big societies need systems in place to resolve conflicts

Outside threat/conquest -> consolidation

War -> low population density -> defeated move farther away
|  \-> moderate population density -> take women and territory, kill men
\-> high population density -> use defeated as slaves or make them a tribute state


East-west major axis facilitates spread of everything

Rivers + gentle terrain unify

Rainforests, deserts, high mountains hurt diffusion


What affects a society's success?

  1. Difference in plants/animals available for domestication.
  2. Difference in factors affecting rate of diffusion (axis, barriers).
  3. Diffusion between continents (isolation).
  4. Area/population (larger is good - more inventions, competition).

And this handy graphic:

I encourage you to read the book for yourself. There's a lot of good stuff there that I can't explain well enough to include. Very helpful for worldbuilding!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Warrior Spirit

I am trying to cultivate in me all that which is the noble, the brave, the bold.

"Death is nothing. But to live defeated and without glory, that is to die every day.
-Napoleon I

"The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary man takes everything as either a blessing or a curse."
-Don Juan, Tales of Power (via MML)

"There is no substitute for victory."
-Gen. Douglas MacArthur

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."
-Theodore Roosevelt, Citizenship in a Republic

"Until you stalk and overrun, you cannot devour anyone."
-Bill Watterson, Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons

Friday, March 9, 2012

Foci, or the Crosscurricularity of Math and Creativity

Everything has the potential to feed your creativity. That includes math class.
In precalc this week we've been learning about conic sections. Circles, ellipses, hyperbola, parabolas. All are slices of a cone. All have squared terms in their formulae. All have foci.


Lately my creative work has been tugging me in a lot of different directions. I'm working on revising the Utopia Project, of course, but also throwing around ideas for the ballad of the Sorceress and the Falcon Knight; Matt of the Lekronome; the GW storyline; SF; and the clash of humans, demons, and fae in seventeenth-century Amsterdam (also known as the Trials of Taniel).

It was getting to the point that I'd write a steady 400 words in TUP, then go through at least there of those other stories in rapid succession, adding a sentence here or there or, possibly, reading over what I'd written and waiting to see if the ideas I was throwing around were going anywhere.

To add to that, I've finally decided to take my education into my own hands. (It's a decision long overdue, I know.) There are a lot of subjects in which I wish to expand my knowledge. A sample of such: Jungian psychology, Nietzche's philosophy, Chinese classics and history, Roman history through the five good emperors, military strategy/tactics, German language and literature, Italian folklore, local flora/fauna/history, and a slew of left-brain topics such as programming and economics. You could say that I had a mild case of choice paralysis.

The net result: not doing anything because there was just so much to do.

That's when precalculus saved me.


Parabolas have only one focus. Even ellipses and hyperbola only have two.

When "multiple foci" is used in the medical sense, it means a disease has caused damage at many sites.

(Yes, I just broke the metaphor.)

My point (given in neither Cartesian nor polar form) is that less is more. If there are fewer things on which you focus, you will be able to focus on them with greater intent and concentration.

To that end, I stopped trying to write all the stories and research all the things. I'm going to focus on the Utopia Project for writing, and on Jung for my self-education. Two foci, not twenty.

I only put this system into practice this week, so it's too early to say if it's working. However, I'm feeling good about it: my word counts haven't gone up or down, but my sense of dissatisfaction at not working on all the other stories has faded. I'm reading a lot more from the Jung book I've checked out from the library.

I'm also starting to think about all the things I want to get done over the summer, and beginning to narrow the list down. Believe me when I say it needs thinning out.

Before, I've only ever thought about things tactically. When I wanted to get something done, I'd calculate how much brute force I'd need to get it done. With enough hours, I thought, I could get it all done.

But some sporadic musing on strategy v. tactics (spurred by an AP Euro WWI game in which we destroyed all the German troops in round 3) made me realize that you can't do everything and, as a corollary, you definitely can't do everything at the same time.

But you can do something. Two somethings, in fact, and if those two somethings are the only ones that you are focusing on, you'll only have to divide your finite time/effort in half.

In short: make like a conic section, not a disease. And never underestimate math.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Oblique Path to Knowledge

Lately, I've been feeling disappointed with some people I know. The only solution I know is to forgive yourself for not seeing the signs earlier, and to let go of the bitterness.

So I'm not going to talk anymore about that.

We have better things to do.


Earlier in the year I read Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury. He shared an idea that got me excited:

Make lists of titles.

When you get an idea, or really just an intuition, or a word/phrase tugs at something inside of you, write it down and add it to the list. It could grow into a story.

Here is part of my list:
  • The Kingdom in the Mountains
  • The Night Train
  • The Swamp Witch
  • Rubicon
  • The Pavilion
  • The Glass Mountain
  • Damascus
  • The Last Emperor
  • The Ice Express
  • The Monster King
  • The Demon Lords
  • The Cult of Crashing Cars
  • The Mind Butcher
  • The Chaos Snake
  • The Sorceress and the Falcon Knight, a ballad*
*I'm working on this one right now.

Begin! And make sure you really feel the titles you add - each of these gives me a kick in the psyche.


I've been reading Jung. Rather, I've started reading Jung - fine, a concise synthesis of his ideas, written by Jolande Jacobi.

Sometimes I feel on the verge of drowning under terms, so I'm going slowly. Turning things over in my mind. Trying to psychoanalyze myself (after all, "no analysis can ever exhaust the unconscious").

These titles to which I have a strong psycho-physiological reaction (I doubt that's a real word; it's just to let you know that I react both intellectually and with some deeper level of myself) could probably tell you a lot about me. But then, many of them are connected to symbols and such that have been significant to me since my childhood.

Some examples: In first grade my friends and I played a game called "baby animals beat the serpent". The serpent has become the Chaos Snake, and is the kind of enemy you cannot do without - I'd say more but it's going into the story of the Sorceress so I'd be giving away important plot points.

Anyway - I connect the Chaos Snake, the Serpent of my childhood, to the Ouroboros and other mythological snakes. It's surprisingly similar, or extrapolate-able. Jung's theory of the collective unconscious is looking ever more convincing.

A couple of the titles in my list are connected to Rome. The earliest I can definitively date my fascination with Rome is seventh grade, which I count as a different era from childhood; but still, interest in some things die, while other things seem connected to you from a deeper place.

Dreams. See what stuff pops up there. (I haven't had a drowning dream in a while. It's concerning.)

What point am I trying to make here? Use your art to learn about who you are. Trust your gut to know you better than you do.

I'm still thinking this through - what this means for my art, my life. If my thoughts seem half-formed, it's because they are. I know precious little, but one thing I'm certain of is that there will always be unfinished business.


Good weekend, gentlefolk.