Rannm Thawts Nine

ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin. Post #585—which is 32 × 5 × 13.
  • Apparently, calling the stuff that powers magic "mana" wasn't completely random; the term had been used in anthropology ever since an 1891 book on Melanesian religion. However, that doesn't explain why they started using the Polynesian term throughout anthropology—not when they already had the Latin word numen, which gives us the English word "numinous".

    I suppose it could just be because anthropologists were not studying ancient Rome. But still, it's odd that anthropologists use a Melanesian term for something that had a European name. One might posit that it's because anthropologists believe Melanesians a fit subject for study, in a way that Europeans somehow aren't. Why do they call the modern Western kinship system "Eskimo" and that of ancient Rome "Sudanese"? Wouldn't it make more sense to call the Eskimo one, say, "Italian," and the Sudanese one "Roman"? The latter terms must surely be more meaningful to a modern westerner.

    It also does not escape my notice that the sort of people who make the most noise about institutional racial biases and the "othering" of non-Western cultures (never mind that if you're Western, the non-Western is "other" by definition, that's what "non-Western" means—and that to the non-Western, the West is "other" in turn), never mention things like this. One might suggest it's because they don't actually know any anthropology...
  • Crunched some numbers. Given the 68 megajoules per cubic meter energy-absorption of composite metallic foam, it seems like, at the thicknesses typical of personal body armor (6 to 10 millimeters), the minimum "spot radius" for a c. 10 kilojoule laser beam to penetrate the armor, is in the centimeters range—possibly even tens of centimeters. So it looks like the main determinant in what range a laser can penetrate such armor, is the boron-carbide plate.

    Thought I'd go with 7-millimeter B4C plates for the lighter armor worn by Peacekeepers, since those probably ought to be the typical thickness of the hard inserts in our body armor. That, even a zled hand laser with a 4.29-centimeter lens can penetrate from a bit over 280 meters, in near-infrared; in near ultraviolet, the penetration range goes up to over 1300 meters. The long laser with an 8.58-centimeter lens can penetrate 7 millimeters of B4C from 821 meters away in near-IR, and over 3900 meters in near-UV.

    The VAJRA suits, meanwhile, have 10-millimeter B4C plates, which the lasers penetrate at about seven-eighths the ranges of the 7 millimeter ones.
  • You will perhaps recall the aspersions I cast on Ursula LeGuin characterizing the word "ichor" as "the infallible touchstone of the seventh-rate". As I said, the real sign of the seventh-rater is probably something like dressing up drearily overdone hippie-dippy Liberal Protestantism in poorly-understood watered-down Taoism. (This leaves to one side the issue that every combatant vessel below sixth-rate is "unrated" or a "sloop-of-war", and also leaves aside unflattering comparisons between LeGuin and types of ship that are not even accounted sloops—like garbage scows—which was tempting, and would've been gratifying, but was gratuitous. This is me becoming a better man.)

    But I think I've hit on a real touchstone, seldom-fallible at least, for detecting writers who fall short of the standard required to be considered sixth-rate, though I remain uncertain as to whether it distinguishes the unrated/sloop writer from the non-combatant writer. Namely, if they mistook lines from Dead Poets Society for serious writing advice, intended for a literate audience. You know why you say "very tired" and not "exhausted"? Because "exhausted" means that you have no energy left—it literally means "burned out". You know why you say "very sad" and not "morose"? Well because "morose" doesn't even mean that, it means sullen and ill-tempered.

    Why it's almost like the hack who wrote Dead Poets Society was a half-educated pretentious dilettante who acquired his vocabulary via thesauruses (Devil's catechisms!), rather than through actual literacy. Oh but that can't be right; it's so beloved of shallow English majors. That must be because it's good, and not at all because it panders to their laughably false-to-facts self-conceit as much as Ender's Game or John Green do to the self-conceits of their audiences. (Admittedly, Dead Poets Society and John Green have an awful lot of audience overlap...)
  • Not entirely new news but apparently it's 100% official they're making four Avatar sequels. I understand the desire to milk the cash-cow but Cameron is, if possible, more offensively incompetent than Michael Bay, more clichéd than Roland Emmerich, and almost as hamfisted as Paul Verhoeven.

    I'm not exaggerating. Go to a fanfic site and read a story about someone's Sonic OC. The dialogue's almost certainly not going to be more sanctimonious than Sigourney Weaver's lines in Avatar, or Sarah Conner's rants in Terminator 2, or the corporate straw men in everything the hack makes. I'd probably pick the "protagonist's mother listing masturbation euphemisms" scene from the first Transformers, if I had to choose.

    However, it occurred to me, that if they must found a franchise on this cinematic squirt of foamy diarrhea, the first one would require a retroactive subtitle. Also something to distinguish it from the other Avatar. I suggest "The Last Rainforest". (That's certainly what I intend to call it.)
  • Did a little more number crunching. Given the minimum size to be Colossal in D&D, the damage done by a Colossal boulder that falls as little as 30 feet (which is the same as maximum fireball damage, 10d6), the density of basalt (the most common rock), and the velocity an object has after a fall that long in Earth gravity...a maxed out D&D fireball is the equivalent of just under 250 kilos of TNT—but purely as heat, with no concussive effect.
  • I know I've mentioned my dislike of "person from our world goes to another world" stories. I didn't get into their most irritating habit, congratulating the audience for the achievement of living in the only morally admirable society/era in all of space and time. (It's particularly irksome in light novels, which are written in a country that would have to acquit about 40 times as many people to be as lenient as the Spanish Inquisition.)

    Apparently, though, Kadokawa agrees with me that "going to another world" stories (isekai in Japanese) are lame. Their "Entertainment Novels that Adults Want to Read" Contest, for which the submission deadline is July 16, forbids isekai. It also requires that the protagonist be an adult male—I guess they were tired of the "ordinary high school student", too. (It's actually to appeal to older audiences, but still, that need to shoehorn the Japanese school system into every setting is easily as obnoxious as the "other world" thing.)
  • Speaking of, I was watching Natsume Yûjinchô on CrunchyRoll, and I'm impressed by how stupid it isn't. None of this "yôkai are born from human emotion" nonsense here; and when one of them becomes a god, while it's because he used the power of human emotion, human emotion didn't create him. When he dies with his last worshipper, it's not because he was created by their worship, but because he'd invested so much of his power in it (like the One Ring but bittersweet rather than evil).

    I think it's so mature partly because it's from a manga. Where light novels, and shows based on them, cater to the ridiculous conceits of neckbeard man-children (hence the idiot phenomenologically anthropocentric "clap your hands if you believe"—as in the West, your Japanese neckbeard is usually a secularist), a manga can take a more intelligent, "we don't know where spiritual things come from, but it probably has nothing to do with our monkey butts" approach. (And remember, Natsuyû is shojo—it's still more mature than light novels.)
  • Thinking about it, Young Justice (of which we're apparently getting a third season, finally, sometime this year) is not only a how-to of making a comics adaptation, it's also a how-to of doing animated storytelling. It uses its time-skip so it can meter out how much the audience knows about certain events. It masterfully balances multiple entire rogues' galleries and "families" of hero protégés. It even uses animation, and that with a fairly limited style, to convey the relationship between Dick Grayson and Tim Drake, and of both with Bruce—and the effect the death of Jason Todd had on them.