Does This Have a Pattern?

Random thoughts. Probably. I don't know if they have a theme or anything.
  • I think a factor in John C. Wright's misinterpretation of Buddhism as nihilism, one that I didn't mention, is that for some bizarre reason "sunyata", which means "emptiness" (also "contingency" in the ontological sense), is often translated as "non-being". It makes no sense, since Buddhism is actually a monism so extreme it denies logical negation (basically, "not-A" is unreal because it only has meaning relative to "A").

    It was particularly bad of me not to have mentioned that issue, though, because I myself have been guilty of the "non-being" usage. My sole defense is I was referencing the version of Journey to the West that I had read, which uses it that way in translating Guan Yin's speech to the Monkey King, I believe vis-à-vis the Bear Demon. Not much of a defense, is it? I'm sorry.
  • I know that I have touched on this before, but where, oh where, do people get their ideas about "rugged individualism" in space? We actually know the exact spirit that makes for good spacemen. It is, indeed, typical of the American pioneers. But it is essentially unknown in modern America, except among recent immigrants—because it is a spirit best seen in modern East Asian countries.

    Basically, being a downtrodden dirt-farmer—which is the human condition generally, but was also highly typical of the settlers of the American West—makes one well-suited to space travel, but has absolutely nothing to do with "individualism". What made the American frontier work, and has made Asian cultures work, is the desire not to be a burden on one's group.

    How is it that a hatred for receiving charity is as typical of cultures characterized as "collectivist" as it is of one characterized as "individualist"? Maybe it has something to do with neither of those words actually meaning anything, as a description of a real human culture.
  • Seriously, if you have space-colonists who have to be very careful so as not to suffocate or die of radiation poisoning, you are not going to have Niven's Belters. You are going to have a culture like, well, every subsistence culture ever, complete with extremely strict, shame-based, village morals.

    I suppose we should cut Niven some slack—Margaret Mead still had a few tattered shreds of credibility, when he wrote the first stories with Belters—but come on. Nonjudgmentalism is pretty much a rich people thing; eccentricity is a luxury. Even middle-class people can't afford it, that's where the whole concept of "bourgeois morality" actually comes from.
  • Read this. I don't say that you have to use this for anything you write, but you should certainly look into it. The peculiar conditions of Martian timekeeping are of purely intellectual interest even if you don't decide to use it.

    I don't know if I should try incorporating this into my books; I know that people use Modified Julian Days, the ISO 8601 calendar, and also local calendars, in space-colonies, but that's about as much detail as I go into. Presumably their day is a mean stellar day for their planet, while stationers and those aboard ships only use the 24-hour Julian day, measured in the 24-hour Universal Time system (GMT but cooler).

    I don't know how people planetside tell time. Maybe they go very old school and talk about physical times in terms of, e.g., noon or sunrise, and then periods in between by "halfway to", or something—maybe they just measure from noon or midnight or wherever in as many hours as it takes. I'm sure whatever a colony decided, its inhabitants would get used to it. Or they'd have a psychotic episode.
  • Seriously, what is the deal with coffee in science fiction? I don't only mean the whole "everyone in science fiction drinks coffee, even the aliens, even though it's never named that", thing. I mean...Frenchmen don't drink their coffee the same way Americans do. Similarly, British science fiction: you do know nobody else takes their tea the way you do, right?

    Seriously, it's bad enough you can't just have them call it "coffee", and can't come up with an original thing for aliens to drink (zledo drink broth and straight hot water), but you seriously think everyone drinks their hot caffeinated beverages the same way you do? Read a book!
  • The fatal flaw, I think, of Marxist analysis, is an oversimplified assumption. Namely, that all exploitation is zero-sum. See, Marxism's analysis of capitalism is otherwise far more correct than the analysis capitalism's defenders usually use. Capitalism really is the system where you, not having the means to produce salable goods, have to seek employment from those who own those means. So far, Marx is right, and his critics—who usually, rather than actually analyzing the system of labor in question, wax lyrical about creative entrepreneurial genius—are wrong. (Or they conflate capitalism with Free Trade, which it predates by about 150 years—mercantilism is still capitalist, thank you very much.)

    But then Marxism goes on to assume that you, though ultimately a dependent for your economic survival on someone with whom you have no true relationship, are simply exploited by your employer, deriving no benefit for yourself. Which is simply false. People who begin as employees ending up in the investor-class themselves is barely remarkable; for them to at least end in management is the norm. That's all any system can ask; a system where the farm-boy Kikuchiyo can be expected to become a samurai, and not unlikely a daimyô in his own right, is not exploitative in the true Marxist sense of the term.

    Admittedly the Marxist "zero-sum" analysis was far truer in the 19th century (another undisputable fact many of capitalism's defenders do dispute, which is pretty much a "Castro led a popular revolt"-level lie), but Ireland and India were also parts of the UK at the time, and Prussia was a state, not just an ethno-region like Moravia.
  • When Marxism is expanded beyond economics to race and sex, it has to introduce two other assumptions, due to the exploitation narrative generally not being as purely self-evident. Namely, first, that all differences are inequalities, and second, that all inequalities are exploitative. Thus, if more of an ethnicity go into skilled labor than the professions, there must be discrimination in the professions—it can't at all be because, say, one culture values mechanics and plumbers while another values lawyers and doctors.

    This is especially goofball in the relations of the sexes, because while there are egalitarian societies without classes, and not all societies will have all, or even more than one, ethnic group present, all human societies have both sexes present (except for things like monks, nuns, or most ship crews until very recently). Is that a Chesterton quote you see on the horizon? You bet your bippy it is, cupcake.
    You could compare it with the emancipation of negroes from planters—if it were true that a white man in early youth always dreamed of the abstract beauty of a black man. You could compare it with the revolt of tenants against a landlord—if it were true that young landlords wrote sonnets to invisible tenants. You could compare it to the fighting policy of the Fenians—if it were true that every normal Irishman wanted an Englishman to come and live with him.
    —"The Suffragist", A Miscellany of Men
    If it is a thing that existed before 1936, I can find you a GKC quote for it.
  • Turns out (is that a pun?), I can't take any bitter satisfaction in the rotating section of the ship in 2001: A Space Odyssey being too small. Clarke knew it was too small, but he was overruled, just like with the radiators. Hollywood, everything you touch you destroy.

    This is a more realistic version, done by people at NASA. This is actually pretty much how the version in the book worked, by all accounts (I haven't read it).
  • Tank armor is endlessly fascinating, although I mainly use it as a jumping-off point for speculations about powered armor and walking mecha. For instance: which is most effective, HESH, kinetic-energy penetrators, or shaped charges? Right, it depends.

    I think, based on how I've described their armor's performance, and a perusal of NATO's STANAG 4569 vehicle-armor standards, that the high-end armor the zledo wear is the equivalent of Level III vehicle armor—i.e., they are not armored like tanks, but they are armored like an up-armored Humvee (I can't find much on American military vehicle armor, for some reason, but they're basically as bullet-resistant as this Russian armored car).

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