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Tuesday, June 26, 2007 -- 10:54 pm

Day 2 of the Year 8278. The morning practices as earlier described. At the Tower, news from an echthron that his backers were uncowed, and we would submit our spells to a contest. This means many late nights ahead, of course, honing the spells to readiness. Rest would be welcome. But I can't deny that, confident of success, I also relish the competition. I almost wrote, would that the success or failure had no wider implications, but I revoke the thought: catering simply to one's pride would be pointless. And so the bulk of the day meditating on major and minor sorceries in diverse fora. In the evening to observe another discipline of sorcery, as I try to learn the art. A more personal, grappling form of sorcery, with different rules and different prizes at stake. Thence home to toil over my spells through the midnight hours, and thence to bed.

Monday, June 25, 2007 -- 9:25 pm

Working my way through Guns, Germs, and Steel; much interested in the premise, but bothered by the lack of rigor and occasional sloppiness of detail. The story thus far: yes, I'm readily persuaded that accidents of geology (available minerals) and distribution of domesticable species were substantial factors in determining which peoples developed material prosperity and advanced culture, but there are some irritating arguments, such as the role of literacy in the first confrontation between the Spanish and the Incas. He essentially argues that the Spanish enjoyed an unidentifiable logistical superiority based on their inheritance of a literate tradition, and while Pizzarro himself may have been illiterate, he was still able to benefit from all the advantages of written communication -- such as modeling his attack on the Incas on Cortes's attack on Montezuma. My understanding, though, was that Pizzarro was present with Cortes during his assault -- no great feat of communication there.

Also, the book seems to take no account of why the ingenuity of various local peoples -- aboriginal boomerangs may be a silly example, but what about Inca metallurgy -- was insufficient for a large, world-conquering empire. And I also see no hint of a discussion of cultural issues, such as why medieval Islam abandoned its extraordinary intellectual advances, or why China and India, while catching up rapidly, are comparatively late to the game. As usual, there's much more to be examined here.

Monday, June 25, 2007 -- 8:46 pm

I recently came across a manuscript of peculiar provenance, in an unfamiliar language. By some good fortune I also happened upon something of a guide to its contents. As an exercise for my own amusement, I'll try to translate and post from its pages on an incremental basis.

In this Day 1 of the Year 8278 since the founding of the Most Serene Republic of Morah, I, the learned Archmeflys Petronerteppet, set my pen to record the passing days of my humble life. A peaceful enough beginning, rising after the sun to glance through some favored texts. My preferred readings, alas, are sometimes the most difficult, as I struggle to master the ingenious tongues of the northern nomads. I was also perusing one of the most revered histories of the ancients, but again was reduced to annotating definitions of words in a single line from a tattered lexicon. I last practiced some of the foreign scripts, used even today, at the fringes of the fabled Middle Kingdom -- both the preferred imperial style, and that curling script of a breakaway province, which they say evolved from the lack of any surface but dried leaves for inscription. My radiant bride studied charts and maps from our latest scouting for a home away from Morah's bustle. And so to the Tower for my trade, paging a learned tome on the dawn of civilization along the route. Some would call the craft I ply at the Tower too genteel and academic for the name of Sorcery, but this day was typical among those I deem more satisfying. I was mulling of the structure and inner logic of my assaults, testing their soundness, largely without interruption. Midday two fresh tomes arrived, in other tongues of the north nomads -- I love such things more than utility could ever justify, and will have to find a way to justify their retention. Midday repast with the learned Argent Kaviaq, whose discourse surveyed the causes, known and unknown, for the flourishing of Morah and its forebears, and the Middle Kingdom, the great Turning Away from knowledge in earlier times, and the failure of others to flourish despite great promise. Thereafter further divinations and reflections -- these days I keep my spells entirely beneath the surface of my divining sphere, honing and testing, until ready to realize them. In the evening, still at the tower, time lost in politeness to an apprentice, young Vidhap, who spends an entire watch vexing over inscrutible shadows and, just as tediously, disspelling them with platitudes. News from Kameesi, who of a sudden will be out in the plains for some half a year. And so home, looking over my notes of various languages on the way. At one point I was heckled by a youth as I passed -- who misguessed my profession. Home, and dining on a rich soup with greens. Many pressing concerns, about my sorcery and about an impending voyage, but decided to spend the evening in home duties and quiet leisure. Much interested in fathoming the new divination techniques, that promise means to assess the truth of a thing without knowing the subject matter, and that probe the paradoxes of the minute. Regret at no more time to spend on foreign tongues, and on herbologies. And so to bed.