I Didn't Bring a Scallion, but I Want One

Line from Miku-mikuni Shiteageru. And yes, "negi" means "scallion", not "leek"—also that thing Miku's always swinging around seems somewhat thin to be a leek. In Asia, they grow the Welsh onion, which never develops a bulb, so it's probably not correct to translate it as "spring onion".

Post 'bout anime, and also Vocaloid.
  • So, there's this cover of the Katy Perry song "ET", by Megurine Luka.
    Please notice that Luka doesn't sound any more autotuned than Katy Perry does—she just sounds like she has a Japanese accent, because she does.

    Only, Luka does not actually exist, she's a voice-synthesizer. I have said it before and I'll say it again, "The time of flesh is ended. The future belongs to the machines."

    ...At least, where pop music is concerned.
  • Transitioning to talking about Macross because the 3DPV of Megurine's song "Corruption Garden" features both Itano Circus mecha fights and the good ol' Macross Missile Massacre (which the makers of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica were proud of themselves for having...22 years after Studio Nue did it). I need to watch the first movie, which, though I dislike some of its revisions (the two sexes of Zentraedi are supposed to be rivals within the same military, not enemies, and I don't like the movie versions of Britai and Exedor's bodies). Why? The Zentraedi language, that's why. I also need to see if it's the same as the Marduk language from Macross II, which is apparently now non-canonical.

    Interestingly, I'm surprised nobody ever came up with the obvious answer to why Zjentohlauedy and Vrlitwhai are pronounced Zentraedi and Britai—Tibetan. Tibetan is written all crazy-like, because its orthography is centuries out of date, e.g. how the 13th Dalai Lama's name was pronounced Tubdain Gyatso...but written Thub-bstan Rgya-mtsso. Maybe all those extra Ls and Js and Ws and Hs in Zentraedi represent obsolete sounds. (Alternatively, the voice-cast of the anime speak a language with 18 consonants that never puts more than one of them in a syllable, and just can't pronounce "Vrlitwhai" as written—speaking as a Slav, it ain't that hard to do. For your reference, English has 24 consonants and can put three of them in a syllable; Czech has 27, and not only can it put three of them—any three of them, practically—in a syllable, it can use most of the ones that aren't stops as vowels, e.g. prst "finger", vlk "wolf", z "from", v "in").
  • I wonder if anyone has ever noticed the startling number of things in Warhammer 40K—damn near everything that isn't borrowed from Warhammer Fantasy, Aliens, or Dune—that are probably from Macross. The Eldar, having been made by the Old Ones, are basically the Zentraedi—making the Old Ones the Protoculture. They were made to fight the Necrons, who, of course, are the Protodeviln and Supervision Army (leave to one side that the Zentraedi pre-exist the Supervision Army).

    Eldar mecha bear a striking resemblance to Meltran Queadluun-Rau mecha, albeit emaciated, with helmets that look a lot like the main body of Glaug and Regult battle-pods. There are, of course, two big differences between the Eldar and the Zentraedi, of course; Eldar are not sex-segregated test-tube babies (and using love-songs as psych warfare would probably just bring Slaanesh a-knocking)...and they're not 30 feet tall (neither can they change size, like Zentraedi can). Actually physically the Zentraedi are basically Imperial Marines on steroids (they have similarly reinforced bodies, and at one point Commander Britai fights a human mecha hand-to-hand in space...without so much as a breath-mask, because officer-class Zentrans are crazy modified).
  • Apparently, Guillermo del Toro wants to make a third Hellboy. Many suspect he's planning to use the Hobbit money for that (maybe that's why it's a trilogy now). Now, I liked the first one, little as it really resembles the comics, but the second was just awful. Then again, Pan's Labyrinth—Del Toro plainly does not grasp the fairies (neither does he get the Spanish Civil War—remember, the real Communists were worse than his fictional fascist—but "not knowing jack about history" is typical of the Mexican Left).

    Personally (and this is how this relates to anime), I think animation is necessary, to do justice to Hellboy. But none of the animated Hellboys have been any great shakes, mostly by completely ignoring the extremely iconic art from the books. And don't say it doesn't work as animation. Know why? This:

    It's the ending of the second season of Sayonara Zetsubô Sensei. I don't know, looks pretty good to me. This "can't do" attitude on the part of too many animators has left me in despair.
  • Pretty lackluster anime just now. Other than Binbougami ga!, is there anything worth watching, that's out now (in Japan, the summer TV season ends in September, and the fall one starts in October)? Lemme check. Nope.

    As for the fall season (which starts in October)? Another season of Bakuman, if you were following that (I just read the manga). Same RE: Hayate the Combat Butler. Kamisama Hajimemashita is a manga by the lady what did Karakuri Odette; its anime oughtta be okay. I seem to recall Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun (Monster at the Next Desk) was all right, it's getting an anime. They're releasing an OAV of the Tenri arc of World God Only Knows, which, I mean, damn right they are.

    So, continuations of some stuff that was all right, and some shojo series getting anime. Seriously, that's it? Come on, you're practically Hollywood. And no, I don't mean that in a good way.
  • My brother's finally seen Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. His current Team Fortress account is named Theophrastus Bombastus, and he's been devouring everything Wikipedia has about Hermeticism and alchemy, because, well, we're blood-related. But what's funny is, he tells me he keeps coming across people who think FMA is anti-religious or atheistic (generally, the people who think so are atheists—so, I guess "think" should be in quotes).

    But, as my brother would point out to all these idjits, Hermetic alchemy is pantheism, not atheism. The Truth at the Gate is Poemandres, Mind of All-Mastery, the Teacher of Men...a divine emanation. The whole point of the entire series may be summed up with a quote from the Corpus Hermeticum—"Though Unmanifest, God Is Most Manifest".

    It helps that Arakawa-sensei isn't as stupid as the dude who wrote Baccano. He actually uses a plot centered on Hermetic alchemy for atheist screeds. Only, dickweed, you actually have God as one of your characters. He's the reason for the immortality stuff. When he first shows up, he says, "I know all thy desires and am with thee everywhere"—he's Poemandres.

Reborn in the Purple

So I've had complaints about the bright green on black being hard to read. Personally I found it soothing, but, other people being able to read one's blog is not without a certain significance.

How do you like white (actually, very pale pink) on Tyrian purple, instead?

Changed the fonts, too; I like slab serifs. I think I'd gone with Josefin Slab once before. The headers are Josefin Sans.



Someone named godescalc put a comment referring to Kind of a High End Gift Shop on Un colpo, un uccisione. Ordinarily I delete comments that are on the wrong post (I mean, come on), but (s)he raised a point that needed addressing. Or, well, missed a point that needed reiterating, actually.
"Even assuming it were just a set of energy states in the brain, and it isn't, brains aren't digital. Think of digital audio with the ten layers of white noise..."

You can always, in principle, get rid of the noise by digitising/simulating with sufficient resolution, at increasing cost in memory and computer resources. It's possible that a decent brain upload and simulation would be possible but restricted only to the rich, and everyone else would have to make do with something low-res and glitchier.
Actually you just make the noise more subtle. It is—in principle—impossible to eliminate noise when converting between analog and digital. In practice, you can make the noise be composed of so many pixels ("high resolution") that people don't notice it, but, well, "little inaccuracies nobody notices" may be just fine for music or photos, not so much when it comes to people's minds.

Leaving to one side that according to the Lucas-Penrose argument in cybernetics, the mind is unrepresentable in machine logic—that's what I meant by "it's not just a set of energy-states in the brain". Human beings can construct Gödel propositions, machines are—by definition—incapable of doing so. And all the counterarguments to Lucas-Penrose are merely exercises in utterly missing the point.

Sorry, mind-uploading makes FTL look easily feasible. FTL only violates our current conception of the laws of physics; mind-uploading is a logical impossibility.


Kind of a High End Gift Shop

Well, really the way it worked was that I had probably built fifty robots before Mystery Science Theater, and I had sold them in a store in Minneapolis in a store called Props, which was kind of a high end gift shop.
—Joel Hodgson
Post about future tech/equipment, with which I kick off a new tag relating to same, "production design/props". If you feel like browsing by tags, you might wanna periodically inspect that one, 'cause it's gonna take a bit for me to go through and tag all the old posts.
  • So I think, though I'm not really going to go into much depth, that the human computers in my thing will run, roughly, Linux. In part because it's probably only a matter of time until Windows comes to be built on Linux the way the MacOS is, and in part because it's apparently huge in China (also, apparently, Latin America).

    Of course, by this point, which of the big 3 a computer is running is essentially trivial; they all look alike. I mean, I remember when Mac windows had the maximize button in one corner, the close in the other, and could only be resized from the bottom right.

    That trend to sameness is only going to continue, and I figure by the 24th century there'll only be one system, running both desktops and handhelds (and yes, you'll still have desktops, there are lots of jobs where you do, in fact, have to sit at a desk and enter information, and typing is simply more comfortable than writing with a stylus on a handheld).
  • Similarly there's still TV, but TVs are actually computers that can download any video you wanna see and have volumetric displays (holograms). Radios are probably the handhelds (phone volume and radio volume controlled separately), as are ebook readers and wallets. Though, your biometrics are actually your ID and all you need to pay for things.

    I'm endlessly amused by people who think it'd be just terrible for the government to know your biometrics—like it pretty much does already. And seriously, the argument actually is "you have nothing to fear if you don't do anything". They only need a search warrant to give you a court-ordered prostate exam now, you know, and all one of those means is a judge signed off on it.

    You remember in Larry Niven how Earth is so over-crowded that pickpocketing laws are unenforceable? (We will forgive him not having crunched the numbers—it was before Wikipedia and even before cheap calculators—but actually 105 billion people, far more than his Earth has, would still need only 15.3% of the ice-free land surface, including their agricultural land.) Yes well if your bank account is accessed by your retina scan, you are your debit card, and you don't need a wallet. Pickpocketing is impossible (well, people's handhelds might still get stolen).
  • Meanwhile I think zled networks use something like the Tumblers from Project Xanadu, though probably not purely numerical. In many ways their Signalers' Sodality is a lot like guys like Ted Nelson, except (partly because they're not so hard-up for funding) less ranty.

    'Course, thanks to how their grammar works, they're also less portmanteau coiny, because damn. Any "sociolosopher" who coins words like "docuverse" and refers to synthetical knowledge as "intertwingularity" should be slapped. It's not just Nelson—all of our more casual computer writing is rife with it. E.g. various Transhumanists, with, e.g., their Jupiterlects and their Adhocracy and their Contelligence. Doesn't it make you want to defenestrimmolate them?

    You'd think people who are as orientalist as the average Transhuman would know they sound like a third-string Japanese comedian's C-game. Or maybe not; I suppose the definition of orientalism involves having only a shallow knowledge of the culture in question.
  • Speaking of Transhumanists and computers, have any of them realized that it's completely impossible to upload anything even approximating a mind? Even assuming it were just a set of energy states in the brain, and it isn't, brains aren't digital.

    Think of digital audio with the ten layers of white noise, or digital images with all the dithering to conceal the jaggies. I don't know about you but my mind is not accurately representable by a crocheted sampler.
  • Speaking of digital noise, my Luddite aunt and grandmother got a DirecTV dish I think less than a year after the switch to all-digital broadcasting. Why? Noise. See, a bad reception on an analog receiver is still a show. A bad reception on digital looks like the chest of a general—a whole bunch of little stripy ribbons.

    This raises issues RE: space. You'd probably use green lasers or at least tightly focused beam-radio, and for some things (SOSs, certain safety beacons) ships would have analog equipment—an analog radio being a hell of a lot easier to juryrig in an emergency than a computer with a transmitter is.

    Incidentally, considering we're already largely shifting away from the "radiating like a star in the radio band" that SF of previous generations claimed was the sign of any high-tech civilization, the Fermi paradox looks to have turned out to be a case of "the frog in the well knows not the wide sea". The kind of radio transmitting they were doing when Fermi first asked "Where the hell are they?" is already ceasing to be the kind of transmitting we do. And our SETI has always been something of an afterthought, and even it was born of a number of cultural ideas that are far from universal, even among Carl Sagan's contemporary conspecifics.
  • I have just found a site that ever science fiction writer needs to devour. It's called "Gajitz.com", and their "unbuilt concepts" tag is awesome. It's full of nifty ideas like the clothes-hampers in apartment buildings each being a detachable, central drum for a communal washing machine. Admittedly, every other idea on that page (except maybe the quadruped Roomba) is dumb.

    Also? This. A paper-thin battery made of lithium-soaked carbon nanotubes. How do you affix it to a device? I'm thinking conductive glue—the battery is a sticker. And it's rechargeable.
  • I don't think I mentioned it here, but it'd occurred to me that given handhelds of the future are likely to still have cameras, they can be used for "augmented reality" displays. Anything the stereotypical future-person gets from surgically-installed artificial eyes, you get from your phone. I'm sorry, which is going to be a hit with more consumers?

    Of course, you don't walk around holding up an iPhone in front of you if you're in a war-zone—you wear a Bluetooth with a scouter built in. Come up with your own "over 9000" joke, I'm tired.
  • So if you needed proof of my theory that, pace Heppenheimer, space colonists will simply replace hydrocarbon-polymers and wood with silicone and bamboo, I've done some looking about on the webs.

    Bamboo furniture—frequently marketed as "sustainable", which is not just for hippies, on a habitat-ring—is everywhere, though a lot of it is in the form of gimmicky rattan. Personally I suspect most future furniture, like most of ours, will be particle-board Ikea stuff, but with the particle-board made of ground bamboo instead of wood sawdust.

    As for silicone, anything you can make out of rubber can be made from silicone, and is. E.g., I'm not sure about all of them but at least some of those little white erasers, which I much prefer to the pink ones since they don't dry out, are not rubber at all. Nope, silicone. Also you can get it in any consistency from gel to rubber to hard plastic, whereas generally hydrocarbons need different polymers for multiple consistencies.

    Also? You can make clothes from silicone, though it's a bit weird; it'd be more likely to be used in a supplementary role the way it is now (t-shirt ink, for instance). More likely for space-colonists' clothes is bamboo fiber, and, well, cotton. Hydroponic cotton, as described in this paper from the Canadian Journal of Agricultural Science.


Un colpo, un uccisione

Italian translation for "One hit, one kill" (一撃一殺, ichigeki hissatsu).

So a lot of fans of European martial arts get mad when you point out they're doing the exact same thing as Japanese martial arts. But...they are.

For instance, the "longsword", which is the thing most of us think of as a bastard or hand-and-a-half sword (slightly smaller than the great- or two-handed sword), works just like a katana. Half-swording, for instance, was probably involved in Okita Sôjirô's "three-piece stab" (sandanzuki); it's just too hard to stab someone quickly in both shoulders and the throat without the other hand getting involved. It's also used in some high blocks in Yagyû Shinkage swordsmanship.

Or how about this picture:
That guy on the left? Waki-kamae. Dude on the right is in chûdan kamae.

Finally, apparently a sword-fighting manuscript by Fiore dei Liberi (I don't know if it's his Flower of Battle, or something else), talks about using the longsword with one hand. Know what specific advantage he talks about?

Sudden. Additional. Reach.

That's right, Saitô Hajime's signature left-handed thrust, the surprise step-through and stab while taking your front hand off the hilt, giving you an extra 1 to 2.5 feet of reach.


Sobre el arte del plumífero 2

That last word there is read as "dos", of course. Thoughts upon the plying of my ignominious trade.
  • I found it odd that one of those litmus-tests for writers (blind savage taboo-thinking, bah!), designed to detect if your character is a Chosen One or not, had, as one of its questions, "Is he a member of a royal or otherwise powerful family."

    But, shouldn't that say "unbeknownst to him"? Because no Chosen One is ever born in the purple, not and he gets raised there, anyway—they're always raised by dirt-farmers, often un-avuncular uncles. If a Chosen One is royal, he finds this fact out through some contrived, well, contrivance.

    Personally, given the Stalinist bent of our literature vis-à-vis the portrayal of hereditary rank, if you portray anyone with an aristocratic upbringing as being a responsible adult, I will forgive you one bungle somewhere else. Unless your story involves time travel, in which case you're going to have an uphill battle persuading me that you have human rights.
  • Christopher Paolini is, well, "what not to do", in writing. In large part because, as some dude said, "I couldn't take it anymore after Harry returned from his first run-in with the Dementors to find the Ring Wraiths had burned the Lars Homestead."

    Derivation and influence are unavoidable; don't even try. But a good writer—and this is what separates real writing from glorified fanfic, pace Superversive—looks at the things that influence him, and actually consciously analyzes what makes them work. The fanfic-writer (or the Paolini-type hack) simply unreflectively ganks ideas and shoves them in any which way, without so much as disguising them.

    My example would be, Eragon's sword. Leaving to one side "Dude, five feet? Eragon doesn't have the hairdo to pull that off," Eragon only has a sword because other heroes do. But...Eragon's a dragon-rider. Why is his main weapon something stuck to his hand? How about, I dunno, a bow? Or, as I suggested once in the now-defunct Anti-Shurtugal forum, why not some kind of primitive gun, only instead of flint or a match, you fire it by saying "fire" in the Ancient Language™?
  • I do, however, feel really old, what with the number of people who criticize Eragon's ripoff-ness and never mention Anne McCaffrey and Ursula LeGuin. (By the bye, the number of people who recommend McCaffrey to middle-schoolers, and even younger, is very, very terrifying. Not age-appropriate, dude—I read those things when I was twelve, and no, I don't mean the YA "Harper Hall" series (Minolly, I think's her name, has sex with that boy she likes in the third one of those, anyway).)

    I don't think I've mentioned this before, but dragons that behave like ducklings and imprint on the first person they see, was pretty much played out by the end of the scene where Lessa "Impresses" Ramoth, i.e. the first time anyone ever did it. (I'll concede it makes more sense for dragons than for werewolves, pace Meyer, since that is not how wolves-mating-for-life works out—Kôga in InuYasha was how that actually works, i.e. and as a character in my own werewolf story puts it, "Instant ball-and-chain.")

    And as I have said before, LeGuin (et al) and their 'special magic language' thing, is crap. Real magical traditions just use words, albeit often in some classical language; if you can't figure out how your characters would cope with words having power, you're not only not creative enough to be a writer, you know no anthropology whatsoever. One thing I could stand to see is two related schools with a written-spoken distinction, where one can only use spoken spells and another can also write them. In real life, a major difference between South Asian and East Asian Buddhism is the South, thanks to the Brahminical tradition of singing prayers and not writing things down (a tradition they share with the druids, btw), only thinks of mantras as sound, while the East, thanks to the Chinese (Taoist, LeGuin!) tradition of powerful writing, the written form of mantras is considered just as effective. E.g., how Buddha seals the Monkey King with a talisman reading 唵嘛呢叭咪吽, in Journey to the West.
  • Many people, talking about Eragon being so derivative that shortening the title to "" is putting it mildly, will allow that "most fantasy just uses the same few plots". Which, I'm sorry, got a point. Fantasy and (to a lesser extent) science fiction may use roughly the same basic plots over and over, but mainstream lit-fic always uses one plot.

    Namely, "some dude has lousy relationships with his family, discovers himself artistically, there's some smut, unintelligent things are said about human life and its aspects, deliberately unsatisfying conclusion involving partial reconciliation that nevertheless reveals that all relationships (not founded on solipsistically self-interested monkey-lust) are a sham". That's it.

    Oh wait, two basic plots. The other is summed up by Bohemian Rhapsody. You really wanna get into a pissing contest over who's more formulaic? Yeah, that's what I thought.
  • There are two ways to complain about technobabble as deployed in, e.g., Roland Emmerich movies. One is the stupid way—to note that "the neutrinos are causing a physical reaction" is a silly line, by dint of its vagueness. I mean, what reaction?

    The other is the correct way. Namely, to note that neutrinos do not cause physical reactions—which is why the characters thought it worth mentioning; if you complained in the first manner, congratulations, you know less science than Roland Emmerich—and no date on a calendar is going to change that.

    Neutrinos are found everywhere (though they aren't, well, detected everywhere, if you see what I mean). They don't give a tinker's damn at a rolling doughnut how many times this planet has circled its particular star; they've been the same since not very long after the Big Bang, and will probably be the same until not very long before the Big Rip. The only things they can effect—and given their 0 rest-mass, they don't effect those very much—are the cores of stars, which are dense enough to bounce neutrinos off.
  • I realize just now, that what I don't like about Firefly is that the people who wrote it obviously didn't care that the stories they wanted cannot happen in the setting their preaching required. No state, let alone a totalitarian one, would let Mal or Kaylee anywhere near a spaceship engine. But the Alliance is totally über-regulated...except when it comes to things like "who can perform Kzinti Lesson attacks against our Navy?", where they transform into anarchist libertarians who make Cory Doctorow look like Kim Il Song.

    The fun of science fiction comes from trying to make the story you want work in as realistic a way as possible. If you want your setting to be in the 26th century, realistically you need to give up terraforming. If you want the terraforming, you're gonna need to set the thing far in the future. If you want a totalitarian state, you can't have a tramp-freighter. If you want the tramp freighter, well, you're misapplying seafaring tropes to space—individual space travel, once we get big-people rockets, is unlikely in the extreme—so, you probably want to write space opera, which is something else entirely.

    Actually, that's only one thing I dislike about Firefly. Much worse is that its halfwit fans insist that its uses of artistic license are, like, totally scientifically possible, because magic, and then accuse you of not letting it use artistic license. ("The defendant has pled the fifth." "No, he's telling us everything he knows! You just think the fifth amendment should be repealed!")
  • A part of why I am self-publishing is, due to being slightly more than half again as smart and four or five times as crazy as a normal person, I not only know all kinds of things, but I cram them into books (fairly well, I feel). It would take a small team to edit my works.

    For example, in my second SF book, I have quotes from 18th century Japanese plays, discussions of the Lucas-Penrose argument, and an extended quotation from the Chinese version of the Ksitigarbha sutra. Who, pray, would a traditional publisher find to check my translations, parse my logic, and proofread my Sanskrit-phonetically-transcribed-in-Chinese?

    (Don't worry, what the Ksitigarbha sutra says isn't directly plot relevant, that it's there and is saying it is the important thing—but I am not the Sakura Wars anime, I don't have shrine maidens counting when they're supposed to be chanting. When I have people reading/writing things, they are real things, if I can possibly find them. Aztec vampires in my werewolf book, when they cast a spell on the hero, are really invoking Tezcatlipoca.)
  • According to Wodehouse's foreword to Summer Lightning, Thackeray ran around the room seven times bellowing when he came up with the title "Vanity Fair". This also apparently happened to Wodehouse when he came up with "Summer Lightning", and then he discovered about a dozen other people had the same title-idea. He hoped that at least his book would be included in the Best 100 Books Called "Summer Lightning".

    But titles are important, aren't they? Yet hard to come up with. I cheat: all my SF titles are Latin quotes—the first two are Faith of the Phoenix and The Dark Gates Stand Open, while the next two (which occur simultaneously) are A Man, I Remind You and And War Down the Proud. Similar dodges are very common; Japanese stuff uses, as I do, classical quotations (about 60-40 their classical and our classical), while Star Trek is big on Shakespeare. I would go ultra geek and reference Navajo myth, but given their big war-god/hero cycle is called "When the Two Went to Their Father" and their most sacred mountain is "The Mountain Around Which Moving Was Done", it's obviously somewhat of a poor fit for book-titles.

    One thing I think we can all agree on: don't be Phil Dick, and title your thing an entire sentence. There is a reason that, when Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and We Can Remember It for You Wholesale were made into movies, they were called Blade Runner and Total Recall, respectively. (The Bladerunner is actually the title of a story about medical-supply smugglers in a society where all medicine is free...so long as you pass the Eugenics screening, and illegal if you don't. If you wondered why the hell guys who hunt down androids were called that, well, the studio had the rights to both books.)


Let Me Play Among the Stars

If you don't know what that's from, just...well, seriously, you should know at least one version of what that's from.

Science fiction. And science. And fiction.
  • I'm very confused by the appeal of Hunger Games. A dude, commenting on an article about it that I was reading, said, and it's difficult to dispute him, that the thing is basically an allegory of the Marxist class-war. Only, applied to the "generation gap", which isn't actually a thing—just a local fad of late-Victorian Britain's upper class, like so many of our follies.

    Frankly, one wishes that Boomers like Suzanne Collins would shut up already. Guess what, coffin-stuffers, you're the old people now, and you've done more bad and less good than every generation before you.

    Then again, I suffer the disadvantage of reading a lot of manga. And trust me, Battle Royale is only the most prominent series to use the "young people fighting to the death as metaphor for some generational disaffectedness" idea. Been there, done that, learned the kanji for the slogans.
  • Speaking of kanji, due to the Nook thinking it's 1997, the electronic version of my book, when it's out, seems like it won't have the Hebrew, Arabic, or East Asian letters displayed properly. But the Greek comes out okay, though I had to remember to tell Calibre to encode the thing in UTF-8. All of this would be easily solved if the Nook's reader, like its internal browser, could display multiple fonts, but apparently that's just too hard. Fortunately I plan to do my book print-on-demand as well, because ebooks are all well and good but being able to take a book off a shelf and say "I wrote this" is still something you need to do.

    Before anyone asks, PDFs may be able to encode fonts, but in every single other regard they are awful on e-readers. Also? For some reason, my book simply ceases to be after page 53, when encoded as PDF. On a reader, anyway; read in Acrobat on a computer, it's just fine. No, I don't get it either.
  • The kanji for "equivalent exchange" (tôka kôkan) are 等価交換. That's important, because they are my favorite 4-character idiom. Given the concept's applications to economics, thermodynamics, and mythology, I consider them fundamental to all my writing, fantasy as well as science fiction.

    Personally, if a fictional religion is not founded on "I give that you may give", I have a hard time swallowing its existence—unless explicitly set up as a messianic existential theodicy that specifically denies the principle, the way Christianity and Buddhism are. And if a science fiction setting purports to be realistic, and then gives me terraforming in less than 10,000 years, or high-acceleration rocketships that aren't mostly propellant tank, well...I'm sure giving each portion of the ship a color-scheme themed for its most associated character is just as good.
  • So Vernor Vinge apparently coined the concept of the Singularity, which he originally described as being the point where technological progress becomes an asymptote of vertical—that is, undefinable, incomprehensible, and ineffable.

    Only...Equivalent Exchange. In this cosmos, thanks to Mr. Thermodynamics, "progress" reaches a point of diminishing returns. Our processors, whose speed doubles every 2 years (Moore's Law)? Yeah, that's going to end right around next year, after which it'll be every 3 years. We may eventually run up against a processor-speed limit that's a function of physical laws.

    Despair is the inescapable price of your boastfulness.
  • I actually realized this thinking about "DarkerAndEdgier" Westerns, of all things, e.g. Sam Peckinpah, but it applies to any and every creator who thinks he's making his stuff more mature and realistic by shoving in lots of pointless death, brutality, and, especially, rape.

    Namely, I used to write stuff like that too...and then I became a high-school junior. It's arrested development; as I think I said before, the actual grownups don't need to demonstrate that they're mature, and—unlike adolescents, who are clinically almost indistinguishable from psychopaths—have sufficient empathy as to not find that crap entertaining. (In Peckinpah, and especially in "dark fantasy" à la G.R.R. Martin, there is also an element of what I have called "chronological blackface minstrelsy"—pandering to the ignorant prejudices of a provincial, bigoted audience.)
  • Speaking of empathy, however, I always hated that being how you spot the androids in both BladeRunner and Yada-yada Electric Sheep. I think I might actually have an android in my book point out that humans can't directly experience the emotions of others of their kind (well, apart from certain psi-users), while AIs can.

    Of course, empathy is a two-edged sword, despite what hippies like Phil Dick might think. Christian charity or Buddhist compassion, which are the actual moral thing that Dick was pointlessly emotionalizing, are at the foundation of Just War doctrine and the Life-Giving Sword. And you know what aspect of public discourse involves the most appeals to empathy? Death penalty advocacy—if I even suspect an article will be about crime policy, I don't read it, for fear of having to endure some horror-story.
  • I don't think I've mentioned it, but the device—a staple of the genre, going back at least to Bester—of portraying psi-interactions as a sort of virtual-reality thing, much like bad cyberpunk (but I repeat myself) portrayals of hacking, needs to die as soon as possible. And be buried in a shallow unmarked grave.

    Admittedly, that would tend to make the visual portrayal of "psychic combat" difficult, but, well, as Chesterton and Tolkien have both pointed out, some things only work in written form. Though I have seen good attempts in manga—they may be using visual metaphors, but very simple ones, e.g. how Greed interacts with the souls of Father and Ling, in Fullmetal Alchemist. (Though, how the hell you can cold-cock a guy's mind is anybody's guess—that scene gets grandfathered in for being awesome.)
  • This is here because occasioned by feminist science fiction, but has anyone stopped to consider that the whole edifice of post-modernism—RE: things like the sexes being "socially constructed"—is essentially nothing more than the elevation of the worst part of phenomenology into a fetish? I refer to that whole thing in phenomenology that basically says, to sum up a very vague body of speculation in an epigram, that no, the tree in the forest nobody can hear doesn't make a sound.

    Because, bullshit. The sexes existed a billion and change years before you were around to get professorial chairs by claiming they're socially constructed. Did you learn nothing from the Sokal hoax? The physical world exists; a bunch of reductive materialists should not be talking like Mary Baker Eddy, but that aspect of PoMo discourse is virtually indistinguishable from Christian Science. Because—far from coincidentally—both are basically warmed-over Gnosticism, the perpetual discharge of elite classes looking to safeguard their status. As I have said before, and Chesterton before me, the body is one of the ways in which men are equal.


The Countless Foliage of the Tree of Tales

Was working on my scripts, and getting frustrated with my inability to make my Elvish into a font. Decided to use a different means of script-formation than the pictograph-one that changes Egyptian to Phoenician.

See, it occurred to me, if both the elves and the dwarves awoke at the same time (the elves as shoots of the World Tree, the dwarves "born of Mother Earth and Father Fire"), the dwarves, living much shorter, would doubtless have more 'innovation'. After all, as Max Planck said, "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." Even absent the (contemptible great-ape) traits that make humans resist new techniques and ideas, individuals simply don't bother to learn new methods if the ones they had were sufficient.

But eventually, probably after about a dozen dwarf lifetimes and a few elf generations, the elves, still using logograms (more on those in a second), might notice that the dwarves had developed a phonetic notation, and devise one for themselves. We do, in fact, have an example of how that looks, when it's not done by academics; its creation was probably inspired either by the Elder Futhark or by Roman writing, probably the former given that it has a Z, and the Romans used that letter about as often as we use ð. Also Z did not, and does not, exist in Irish.

Because I refer to Ogham (a 4th-6th century inscription in which, by the way, mentions my surname). Now, while its "just add another notch" system is near to the over-regularity I dislike in most con-scripts, they aren't based on similarities of the phonemes; they seem to be semi-random. Thus, I assigned my letters to their shapes in "alphabetical" order—the random alphabetical order I created by ticking off the sounds in my elvish as I went down the word list (it was alphabetized by the English words, so the elvish words were in random order—I recommend this method for coming up with alphabetical orderings in conlangs).

Of course, Ogham is rather ugly to be an elvish writing (and—I'm roughly 5/8 Irish so I'm allowed to say this—Irish, like Welsh, is rather ugly to be a base for elvish). But I used the principle of the thing. Rather than going "1-2-3-4-5 strokes on one side, 1-2-3-4-5 strokes on the other", etc., I start with a stroke pointing one way, on one side of the center line, then on the other side, then pointing the other way and on the first side, then pointing that way and on the other side again. After that, I add a single smaller stroke to the first stroke, and repeat the process. After that, though, instead of adding another subordinate stroke, I add a dot—and again repeat the process. Then I add another dot and repeat, and a third dot and repeat. I only use two of that last, since I only needed 18 consonants. The vowels are exactly like the consonants, except they have their strokes on both sides of the center line (I only need 10 of them, for the 5 basic vowels and their long counterparts, and I had 5 basic shapes to play with and could still switch them in two directions).

Notice, though—main center line, stroke off of that, smaller stroke off of that. My elves call these 'stems, branches, and twigs.' The dots, they call 'leaves'. Though if, e.g., carving it on a cave entrance to say "Don't go in", they can make characters out of notches and gouges, it also readily lends itself to decorative use, each "leaf"-dot being drawn as an actual leaf, sentences as trees with each branch a word, and so on. Plus it's got a "fractal" structure, which was a theme I'd already used other places in my Elvish culture—being shoots of the World Tree, branching (and we really ought to call "fractals" "ramals", since they're "branching"—like blood vessels—more than they're "breaking") is a major element of their worldview.

Late Addendum: Whoops! I said I'd get to more on the logograms, and then forgot to! Anyway, so, the elvish logograms work like most others, I think; individual characters are made up of a combination of basic signs, with elements corresponding to semantic and phonetic—like how "loyalty" in Chinese is written 忠, composed of 中 "middle" and "heart" 心. The heart is because it's a feeling; the middle is because "loyalty" and "middle" are pronounced the same (zhong in Mandarin, chû in Japanese, and *trieung, ish, in Old Chinese, apparently)—so it's "the feeling that sounds like 'middle'".

But while I was researching elvish writing in other series (I am so glad Forgotten Realms had the sense to redo Espruar), I came across some of the stuff with the Eldar Lexicon from Warhammer 40K (space-elves still count). And their writing, which appears to be some combination of logograms, sounds, and psychometry, has a look I like, and some of the things they do struck me as neat, if unlikely. While it is unlikely that, as is so often done in fictional scripts, anyone would convey "bad" by inverting "good" (to sum up a major theme of the Eldar writing system)...what about conveying other information by the shape and orientation of the sign?

So I decided my elves' logograms have a basic "core", that works like a hanzi, hieroglyph, or Sumerogram—it represents a stem. Then, around it, they draw shapes, that convey other information. I was going for an Eldar-like look, so they use triangles for verbs and circles for nouns; whether the triangle's point is up or down depends on whether the verb is intransitive or transitive (remember, my elvish grammar is based on Tibetan—it's ergative). I have little flanges at the top and bottom that convey, e.g., tense, aspect, and mood (indicative unmarked, but they also have subjunctive, and express the negative as a separate verbal conjugation the way Korean and Japanese do).

Of course, the elves still use their logograms despite having an alphabet (anyone who thinks that's a silly idea, I cordially invite you to try any scholarly inquiry in a Korean topic, without the aid of hanja—I look forward to reading your suicide note). Logograms have a number of advantages, that's why Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Maya, and Japan (have) kept them in use for centuries after they developed a phonetic writing system.



Some things I forgot to put in that last random thoughts post. Strictly speaking, I only confirmed one of them today. But, anyway.
  • If you watch the cutscenes in Skyward Sword, you will of course notice that whenever Fi says "master", the actual sound you hear is "mari"—presumably the Hylian word for same. But did you notice that, the first time you ever see her (when Zelda vanishes), she addresses Link by name—and the word she says is "Matas"? Presumably a translation convention, like the one that renders Banazir Galpsi as Samwise Gamgee, is in effect. Now I need to pore over every second of Fi's dialogue and find out what Zelda's real Hylian name is (and Hylia's, for that matter).
  • Turns out, I was giving a lot of people—writers, historians, whole civilizations—too much credit. At some point (ain't bothering to check), I said the Moors first used the pointed arch—or rather its precursor, the horseshoe arch—but the Europeans were the ones who noticed the things were more stable than round ones.

    Only, turns out, actually, they were using horseshoe arches in Visigoth Hispania at least a century before the Moors...and in pre-Islamic (i.e. Christian, specifically Maronite) Syria in the fourth century AD.
  • Speaking of giving people (and peoples) too much credit, you know how the West is supposed to have gotten its Aristotelianism via Avicenna, Averroes, and Maimonides?

    Yes, well, none of them would've had a lick of Aristotle to their names if not for a guy named Isidore of Seville, who predates the lot of them by half a millennium. And as if being snubbed by history (in the name of Orientalist self-hatred) weren't bad enough, poor Isidore is now patron saint of the Internet. Seriously, you can just see Thomas More, patron of lawyers and politicians, who got beheaded by a close personal friend, slapping Isidore on the back and saying, "Damn, man. I mean, seriously. Rough break."
  • It may've been changed by the wiki-magic, but TV Tropes used to claim that Vikings couldn't understand why Christians' god wanted them to kneel—supposedly their gods would want followers who were bold enough to stand in a god's presence, or something.

    Only, skít tarfs. Has, uh, anyone ever discussed the issue of kneeling with a representative of an Eastern church, Orthodox or Uniate? We Latins do it a hell of a lot more than them. Why? Well, let's just say that certain Germanic tribesmen felt it, as Jeeves would say, "a liberty", to remain standing in the presence of a holy being—while the Churches of former Byzantine territories (even the one founded by the Danish clan of Rus) retain the old Roman pride in bending the knee as little as possible.

    In other words, it is truer to say that Vikings (and similar) are the reason for all the Christian kneeling.