Stuff and Stuff

Random thoughts, particularly SF equipment.
  • It occurs to me, a big part of the reason I'm so interested in fictional equipment, is my sister's film school days were dominated by props and production design. The fact she's now all DIY-steampunky is not really surprising, is it?

    Then again, it goes back further, to when the first few real anime on Cartoon Network showed me cartoons that actually cared what things looked like (American cartoons didn't, then—mostly still don't, but the shift to CGI has fixed it somewhat, by imposing at least some realism). The Jurai, in Tenchi, have some of the coolest stuff you'll ever see.
  • So in my book, the humans can't use orbit catapults, or Verne guns, for passengers, because the acceleration 'd kill 'em and they can't do their artificial gravity thingy that close to a planet. But they use artificial gravity to make Mars colonization livable, so what's the deal?

    Well, creating an area of near-Earth gravity under a few habitat domes, on a barren wasteland like Mars, is one thing; countering a 100 g acceleration (yes really) while near a major city, is another.
  • Couple of places, actually, I have seen people talking about how space colonization would only pay as a mercantilist endeavor (which is true). And several of them point out that, therefore, a space colony would not be like the American West, but like colonial Australia. At least in having a great deal more involvement from the home government; remember how I said penal space-colonies probably wouldn't exist (though then again both Australia and the New World did have a lot of debtors come in, to work off their debt in helping to set up the colony and so on).

    But am I the only one who thought, immediately, of this?
    Once a jolly spaceman swung by an asteroid
    Hoping to save him some delta-v
    And he sang as he sat and waited for the burn to end,
    "You'll come roaming the ITN with me."
    Yes, you'd never actually have manned space missions on the ITN; "poetic license", bitches.
  • Interestingly, speaking of aeronautics, the original meaning of "pushing the envelope" was "exceeding operational parameters"; the envelope in question is a mathematical one, "the locus of the ultimate intersections of consecutive curves", the curves in question being the graphs of various tolerances the aircraft has. Pushing it was only a good thing in flight-testing—doing it in another context (the flight testing having established the real envelope for the craft in question) was likely to lead to the deployment of other aeronautics terms, like "auger in" and "buy the farm".
  • I urge you, with tears in my eyes, study up on military slang, if you wanna create a conslang for a spacefaring civilization. Many spaceship crews would come from military aviation, so there's the cultural setting factor, and military slang is just artistic. I mean, nicknaming the ejector button "the admiral's doorbell", because if you press it you're gonna have a meeting with the brass? That's poetry, kids.

    If you can think of a better slang term for spacesuit than "bag" (what Navy aviators, at least, call flight suits), I'd love to hear it.
  • You know Bill Watterson? Wrote Calvin & Hobbes (remember this is random thoughts). Well, he's crazy—he approaches Scott McCloud-level froth-mouth—about the idea of licensing comic characters. Someone really needs to point out, though, that while the licensing of Peanuts characters and Garfield is essentially in line with those series' spirit, the only place anyone sees Calvin anymore is in those unauthorized "peeing on things" bumper stickers.

    He sure showed them.
  • Speaking of Scott McCloud, a lot of Korean manhwa are webcomics these days. Some of 'em are actually pretty good. But, uh, they listened to Mr. Infinite Canvas, which was dumb—as Tycho pointed out, it's not a good idea to make a comic that can't be printed out.

    For some of them, the period dramas, they might make the case that the comic being a 9-foot-long scroll is intentional, but still, those images are just unwieldy.
  • Been rereading some old reviews of Avatar, and just watched the fourth (and best!) Pirates of the Caribbean movie. As you might expect, this put me in mind of the La Leyenda Negra, and Spanish colonialism (because the Spanish in Pirates 4 are badass).

    I am reminded of a much worse bunch of colonialists, the English, dealing with the Indian custom of suttee (widow-burning). Charles James Napier said, in one of the most epic pwns in the history of international relations,
    "This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs."
    The Spanish had a little custom, vis-à-vis human sacrifice, called "Carthago delenda est."
  • Lord knows I loves me the Haloz, but the fact is, the real Warthog is a long sight cooler than the UNSC's Jeep. Because the real Warthog is the A-10 Thunderbolt II, AKA "we put a plane on this gun", AKA "God's own anti-son of a bitch machine".

    Incidentally, the fact it's the Thunderbolt II is, I think, a reason to like the F-35—the Lightning II. The Hawg is named after a WWII fighter that excelled at close air support and ground attack; the F-35 is named after a WWII fighter also made by Lockheed, the Gabelschwanzteufel ("fork-tailed devil"). The Hawg's namesake was made by Republic, a component of its own maker, Fairchild-Republic.

    Still not so sure about halting orders for the F22, though—"air superiority" fighters are called that for a reason. Oh well, we are still getting a few; hope it's enough.
  • I realized, a great number of my style choices (style here meaning in the editing sense, not the artistic one per se) are because I write for the ear. Thus, I prefer to use italics for emphasis, rather than sentence structure, because you change the way you physically deliver the word, in speech, rather than changing the whole sentence around. It just sounds more natural.

    Huh, interesting, the unadorned prose style I favor, though in many ways the more modern, is actually less literary—in that it more closely approximates oral communication—than the older style. Does that represent progress or not?
  • Speaking of conforming writing to oral communication, people still appear confused by the fact that languages like English and French, which encode etymological as well as phonetic information in words' spellings, are actually better than your quaint "phonetic" spellings. Why?

    Two reasons. First off, you better hope to God all your sounds change uniformly, or your "phonetic" spellings will rapidly cease so to be. Korean got lucky, Classical Latin not so much—it was originally a highly phonemic alphabet, probably as much so as hangeul (it even marked vowel length, which hangeul doesn't). Look at all the various things that happened to the Latin C just by the time of Vulgate, originally a K sound in all positions (incidentally, Qu is a legitimate phonemic letter, as much as Korean's "ch" is; Kw is a separate sound in a lot of Indo-European languages, just as "tsh" {ish} is in Korean).

    Second, especially for a language like English, European, Australian, and American English are all spelled nearly the same: but they render almost shockingly few of their sounds the same way in speech. Actually in America it's worse; Southwestern American, like I speak, and Northeastern American, like my father's relatives speak, are probably almost as foreign to each other as either is to British English.

    An example of what you'd get, spelling each variety of English "phonetically", is readily apparent: Scots. Scots has essentially the same grammar as English (almost exactly the same as Southeastern American, e.g. inflecting verbs that follow auxiliaries, rather than putting them in the infinitive). But go read a few pages on the Scots language Wikipedia. Do you want to have to wade through that, if the product instructions or webpage you're dealing with happens to come from Australia?
  • Finally, you know how people always say science has shown man just how small he is, in relation to the cosmos? Yeah, well, by discovering that the cosmos is not infinite, and that light has a finite speed, science has actually shown man that the universe is much smaller than he thought.

    The main medieval astronomical texts, for instance the Almagest of Ptolemy, said that the Earth could be treated as a mathematical point—with no dimensions—relative to the scale of the heavens. Many medieval thinkers thought, you will recall, that the stars were windows in the celestial sphere that let in the light of the Empyrean, from beyond—and they thought that celestial sphere was infinite, the light reaching the Earth simply because they thought light's motion was instantaneous.

    It's comforting, isn't it, this cozy little universe revealed to us by science, compared to the infinite void we once believed ourselves to hang within?

1 comment:

penny farthing said...

The F-35 is quite awesome, as was it's namesake. Interestingly, the original Lightning shares something with the Thunderbolt II - being unwieldy looking, yet crazy maneuverable badasses. Keep your schedule open in mid-April, as DM is having another airshow. It may be "just" the Thunderbirds, but probably it'll be a full show with many other aircraft flying.

I'm super glad French spelling hints at its etymology. I can get the gist of written French, but I can't understand spoken French at all, since they don't pronounce half the letters and I have no idea how it relates to Latin.

Thank you! Older conceptions of the universe were way more mind blowing than what science has shown us. Science is awesome, but people get all mystical about it and it pisses me off. Don't even get me started about the abuse of quantum physics in new age and self help circles. On a related note, I pwned some dudes who were all misty eyed over that Carl Sagan "mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam" thing. I said all the vastness of the rest of the universe can't contemplate a trick of perspective, or any significance it might have.