2017/11/12

Mélange III

The random thoughts are the Spice! The Spice is the random thoughts!
  • Discovered, while working on my conlangs, Proto-Indo-European was freaking weird. The vowel is basically optional, its specific quality depending only on stress or accent; it defaulted to *e but could be *o or *[nothing] in some circumstances. The *a, *u, and *i vowels were originally a *e followed by an *h, *y, or *w sound (respectively), not independent phonemes. The same root could also appear prefixed with an *s or *h, seemingly at random; the *h seems to have turned into an *a at a late point.

    The fact that the vowels were so variable lends, I think, credence to the theory that Indo-European and Afro-Asiatic (like Berber or Semitic) are related, although the latter can put the vowels around its three consonants in almost any arrangement and the former always only puts them in the middle of its up-to-three before or after. (I'm not sure if *s- or *h- count against the "up to three at the beginning" rule; both seem to have been appended at random. Again, the *h often turned into an *a later on.)
  • I'm alternately amused and irritated when anime talk about the Spanish Inquisition as being so horrible. Because, Japan? Buddy? The Tokugawa shogunate killed 100,000-200,000 in 220 years, just at the Kozukappara execution-ground, and another 100,000 at Suzugamori; I can't find any numbers for the Itabashi one (apparently Kondô Isami is as important as every other person executed there put together), but it was probably comparable. And that doesn't count the hundreds if not thousands of harakiri that members of the warrior class were forced to commit. The Spanish Inquisition, aside from using much milder tortures than the shogunate, executed 3000-5000 people in 356 years. I.e., the shogunate killed something like 100 times as many people, in less than two-thirds as long.
  • Apparently there's another reason not to use particle beam personal weapons: they're freaking impossible. If the beam's plasma is at a higher pressure than the air, it just becomes a cloud instead of a beam. If the plasma is at a lower pressure, you're putting less energy downrange. Plus, the beam's impact with the air is going to irradiate you—Winchell Chung compares it to "sending a load of red-hot buckshot through a room full of dynamite...when you are standing inside the room".

    Looks like a lot of particle-beam weapons would also have inferior penetration to lasers for the equivalent amount of energy, since more of the energy put into a laser beam hits the target (most of the energy put into a particle beam is wasted on getting the particles moving in the first place). Basically the only time you're going to bother with particle beams is when you have big facilities with the power to burn, like how our current laser weapons and rail-/coilguns are vehicle-only. And even then, in space.
  • I don't know what to think of Star Trek: Discovery. A lot of people are offended by the political subtext that apparently lies just below the surface, but I mean, Star Trek has always had that element of a children's hospital head-injury ward putting on PSA skits. I kinda like most of the new characters, going from the first episode, though apparently the ship in the pilot isn't the one we're going to be seeing for most of it. I don't know how much of the crew in the pilot is going to carry over.

    Now, of course, the Klingon "villains" are clearly 100% in the right, in their resistance to Federation cultural imperialism, but that, too, is not unheard-of for Star Trek villains. One of the people criticizing Discovery actually complained that post-Abrams Trek wasn't "cerebral". I mean, it's not; but the implication was that this is one of its variances from Trek canon. I'm pretty sure the choice between mindless action and mindless tedium in a staff-meeting is simply a matter of taste.

    And a lot of people complaining about the politics involved also complained that the Klingon scenes were in Klingon. Um...what? All aliens should talk alien languages all the time, if remotely practicable; complaints about having to read subtitles are quite inaudible to me, I consume most of my television in subtitled form. Similarly, the new look of Klingons? Yes please. They had to do something; the ol' "only a rubber forehead" approach just wasn't going to cut it, when these are the main alien of the second or third most popular science fiction franchise in the Western world.
  • On the other hand, the new Ducktales? Holy mackerel is it good. While making Webby just the product of Dipper and Mabel doing the Fusion Dance might not be the most creative choice, Webby in the original was awfully close to Scrappy Doo territory, and that's no way to live.

    Having Donald as a semi-regular is a nice touch, though I think the nephews should talk a bit more like him—occasionally in the original they would devolve into Donald-esque squawking if they got angry. Apparently (presumably after Gizmo Duck shows up), they may have Darkwing, which is astounding.

    About the only way it could be better would be if they can figure out a way to give Donald elemental magic and a zipper on his hat.
  • Another thing that was good was, I just got Battle Chasers: Nightwar. It's a really good JRPG that doesn't happen to have been made in Japan. One thing I thought was funny was that you have the option of putting the voices in Japanese—an option you don't have in most imported games, despite the fact the Japanese audio for those didn't cost any extra money. You don't really have to, though, since the English voice-work is actually really good. Unlike Breath of the Wild, which has some of the worst I've seen in years.
  • Mention of Breath of the Wild reminds me of something people say that happens to be the opposite of the truth, namely that doing the unexpected is a good thing, in writing. It's really not, not when the expected thing is narratively satisfying and makes artistic, aesthetic sense. In Breath of the Wild, for instance, the relatives of the dead Champions ought to replace them as the masters of the Divine Beasts. It was the obvious choice—in the sense that the obvious choice in a mystery is to have the protagonist brood in the shower while washing themselves in the manner generally learned when around ten years old, rather than slipping on the soap and dying, and the plot then being sidetracked onto dealing with that fact.

    One writer who gets undeserved praise for doing this a lot, is George "Rape Rape" Martin. Whenever something would make narrative sense, whether it be by genre convention or just not being puerile, mean-spirited, and subconsciously misogynist, he does the opposite. Then the kind of people who probably mistake a painting hung the wrong way up for a bold artistic statement lavish him with praise. Except when the expected thing is actually stupid, like people dying only when someone else does something—if your setting is "everyone can die", in the name of "realism", they really ought to die more often in riding accidents or from bad water while on campaign, than murder. That unexamined trope is in full force, though.

    As in politics, "subversion" is only a good thing when it serves a definite, genuinely desirable purpose—and is proportional to the aims sought. When it doesn't, it's just vandalism. Or terrorism.
  • I had worried about whether zledo having red and blue camouflage markings makes sense, but there could be an explanation. Part is that their typical mammal-analogue prey is as crepuscular as they are; night vision is as monochrome for them as for Earth animals. The main thing camouflage does in that kind of light is break up silhouettes.

    Another part is that their non-crepuscular prey—or the main predators of their ancestors, remember that their world is basically Mesozoic in many regards—can see in near-UV, and the markings, which are anthocyanin, might show up in that wavelength the same way that markings on the plants do. No reason their plants wouldn't have markings visible in near-UV, for pollinators, like ours. There are also plenty of things about minerals that are "shiny" in near-UV, so the camouflage would also give some benefit without plants around.

    Besides, a lot of animals have better camouflage in brush than in open land, e.g. tigers. Maybe the zled "race" (which I'm now calling "ecotype", since that's what the visible "races" are) that loses its spots in adulthood only had to worry about that sort of predation in childhood, like the predators aren't big enough to take adults.

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