dragoness_e: Raven on the wing (Raven on the wing)
2017-08-19 05:05 pm
Entry tags:

New Orleans Museums being cool (pun intended)

Three New Orleans museums are admitting people free of charge to their air-conditioned buildings on days forecast to be 95°F or above. Details:


Bravo for Fine Arts and basic decency!
dragoness_e: Raven strolling (Raven strolling)
2017-07-05 06:37 pm
Entry tags:

Recommended Reading: The Gunpowder Age

Now and then I read something really interesting, and never think to tell anyone about it. This time, I'm telling you about it.

The Gunpowder Age, by Tonio Andrade, Princeton University Press 2016, ISBN 978-0-691-13597-7.

From the Introduction:

Historians have long studied gunpowder's revolutionary effects, but they've paid most attention to the West. Indeed, you've probably heard the saying, false but often repeated, that the Chinese invented gunpowder but didn't use it for war. This meme is still widely circulated, appearing in scholarly works, and even in China itself. But in fact the Chinese and their neighbors explored gunpowder's many uses, military and civilian, for centuries before the technology passed to the West. These Asian origins are often glossed over, and most studies of gunpowder warfare focus on the early modern period (ca. 1500-1800). This was, historians have argued, when the first gunpowder empires were born, and when the "gunpowder revolution" and the "military revolution" helped transform Europe's feudal structures, laying the groundwork for Western global dominance.

But the gunpowder age actually lasted a millenium, from the first use of gunpowder in warfare in the late 900s to its replacement by smokeless powder around 1900. Examining its full sweep can help us answer--or at least clarify--the question of the rise of the West and the "stagnation" of China.

The book is a study of the history of the development of gunpowder in both Chinese and Western warfare, and refutes or attempts to refute many of the classic theses for China's so-called "stagnation". (Answer: it wasn't what most people think). The author is a professor of history at Emory University, who specializes in Chinese/European contact history, among other things. The book is clear and straight-forward to read, not bogged down by academic jargon, but it is a well-documented academic work--everything is footnoted and referenced in the extensive bibliography. The author does not rely on regurgitating other English-only works, but uses and cites original Chinese sources. I approve. Always go to the original source if available, because other people's interpretations of a source are just that: their interpretation.

I learned a LOT from this book, including the fact that I had a lot of misconceptions. I'm one of those people who was taught that the Chinese never did anything significant with gunpowder. Oops, wrong as wrong can be. They did bombs, rockets, guns, incendiaries, and other fun things like "fire lances", which were an early predecessor of the gun that shot fire (burning gunpowder) out of a tube at people. (It took them a while to work out good enough powder and barrels to use gunpowder as a propellant rather than an incendiary. However, it worked as a short-range anti-personnel weapon. I suspect that being set on fire by burning gunpowder was at least as unhealthy as catching a bullet).

I also learned that medieval armies were using early cannon starting in the 14th century--you know, during the Hundred Year's War, that classic late-medieval war that brought us Joan of Arc and those classic demonstrations of English long-bow awesomeness, Crécy and Poitiers. Speaking of which... did you know that Joan of Arc was a skilled artillery tactician? Apparently one of the things that made her armies dangerous to the English was her knowing how to deploy cannon in a siege. Did you know that there were volley guns deployed to protect the longbowmen from any charging knights? Their arrows would kill horses and did a number on the crossbowmen, but they didn't actually penetrate plate all that well.

A tidbit for people looking for an historical, multi-ethnic setting for adventure:

The period from the 1540s to the 1560s was a golden age of East Asian piracy, and the pirates were a motley and multiethnic lot. Most were Chinese, but sources make clear that they worked with Japanese, Portugese, Siamese, "black Malaccans", "black barbarian demons", "white and black mixed types," and various other "barbarians". They exchanged ideas, techniques, and technologies, creating what one scholar has called a "hyrbrid maritime culture." Although arquebuses weren't widely used by the pirates, they were certainly present, and Ming officials took note. According to one source, a pirate band led by brothers surnamed Xu "lured the barbarians from the land of the Franks... and they came in a continuous stream." The Xu brothers established an island outpost, Shuangyu Harbor, which, according to one scholar, "became the stage for the dissemination to all of East Asia's maritime realms of every kind of gunpowder weapon." The Xu brothers worked with many other pirates, including Wang Zhi himself, as well as a man named Bald Li. Some sources suggest that among Bald Li's adherents was "a barbarian chief who was good at guns." -- p.171.
dragoness_e: Raven on the wing (Raven on the wing)
2017-06-25 10:28 pm
Entry tags:

Varda and Manwë

...are the names of two of the many dwarf planets (Trans-Neptunian Objects) out beyond the Kuiper Belt.

Varda's moon is named Ilmarë
Manwë's moon is named Thorondor.
dragoness_e: NASA F-15A #837 (NASA Starscream)
2017-06-14 12:26 pm

Climate change... it isn't doing what you think it is

I recently finished reading an interesting book, After the Ice Age: The Return of Life to Glaciated North America by E. C. Pielou. (I'm researching what parts of the Earth looked like for humans at the end of the last glaciation, when the big ice started melting and the sea levels started rising.)

In researching Ice Ages, I learned a number of interesting things. One is that we are still in the Quaternary Ice Age; we are merely in an inter-glacial within the Ice Age. The Ice Age will not end until the continents stop surrounding the north pole and the Antarctic continent moves off the south pole. That's a very long time in the future. In the meantime, glacials and inter-glacials are governed (mostly) by Milankovitch Cycles, though the changes in Earth's orbit affect temperature in complex ways. Note that neither element (plate tectonics, orbital cycles) is under human control. There will be another glaciation, and there is not much we can do about it.... except maybe dump lots of CO2 in the air.

But wait, isn't everyone worried about anthropogenic global warming (AGW)? Well, yes... and no. The warmest period of the current interglacial, the Holocene Climate Optimum (aka hypsithermal), ended about 5000 years ago, about the time of Egypt's Old Kingdom, which developed during the warm, wet period. It's cooler now than it was during the Optimum; in North America, various temperature-sensitive ecosystems were several hundred kilometers north of where they are now. Right now, we might warm back up to that temperature; the main thing that climate scientists are concerned about is the rate of warming, which seems greater than what has happened before. On the other hand, sudden climate changes don't show well in the fossil record; the resolution isn't that good. We know it warmed very rapidly at the start of the Optimum.

The Little Ice Age may have been the start of the next round of glaciation (the "neoglacial")--if so, it was reversed right around the time industrialization started dumping CO2 in the air in a big way, about 1850. AGW may well be what is staving off the next glaciation; we don't know enough yet. What we do know is that panicking that "global warming will destroy the world!!1!!" is stupid hysterical nonsense.

Another glaciation, on the other hand... well, look at the last glaciation. There is nothing quite as devastating to an ecosystem as grinding it under a few hundred feet of ice--not even strip-mining for coal is that bad. Nothing lives on an ice sheet, and nothing bigger than microbes and algae lives under it. (Although there are cave refugia under the rock under the ice where cave lifeforms carry on...). The sheer weight of a continental ice sheet depresses the continental crust under it (this will be important later); the presence of a continental ice sheet alters the weather in major ways, as icy catabatic winds howl off the ice sheet to sweep the lands surrounding the ice (it also carries dust for hundreds of miles, piling up massive loess deposits beyond the ice). All that water locked up in a continental ice sheet is no longer part of the water cycle; the whole planet becomes drier and more arid. Polar deserts and tundra surround the ice sheets; boreal forests persist in humid areas of what used to be the temperate zone. The rest of the mid-latitudes are cold steppe. Temperate forests get pushed back to the humid sub-tropics; the tropics become more arid and rainforests nearly vanish, replaced with steppe; the old steppe becomes deserts. The Sahara desert enlarges far beyond the current nightmares of desertification. Alpine and tundra life persists at the edge of the ice, or in isolated refugia along the coast or on nunataks. The sea-level falls 100-120 meters.

The end of the glaciation was also devastating. The great ice sheets slowly thinned and melted back, revealing land scrapped bare of soil except for the layer deposited by the retreating ice. Vast icy lakes of melt-water formed at the melting edges of the ice sheets, because the land was still depressed from the weight of the ice. Beyond the ice sheets, the land had bulged upward in isotatic reaction; as the crust rebounded from the weight of the ice, the land beyond the ice sheets sank back down to its normal position, adding isostatic sinking to the eustatic sea level rise from the melting ice. (Because the bordering crust had bulged upward, at first the glacial melting didn't raise the sea levels much...then it suddenly did). As the crust that had been under the ice sheet rose, the proglacial lakes switched drainage routes, and/or drained away--the vast freshwater sea that covered what is now the Great Lakes and most of Ontario eventually settled into the Great Lakes; the inland freshwater seas further west shrunk into the Great Bear and Great Slave lakes of the present day. (Fish populations re-populated the interior because of these lakes and drainage switching around, as fish can't walk to new lakes or rivers). Plants slowly migrated northwards, from the south or from refugia, first the pioneers that could grow in rock dust, sand and gravel, later the plants that needed damp, organic-heavy soil to root in. Animals moved in as fast as the plants they could browse on, though the big carnivores could cross sea ice and barrens in search of prey (Newfoundland is top-heavy with carnivore species because of this). Humans moved in where there was sufficient food, and hunted mammoths.

The sea level rose and rose and rose as the great ice sheets melted and the crust rebounded, up to 120 meters in some places. Beringia flooded, and became Siberia and Alaska. The dry land ('Doggerland') between the British Isles and Scandanavia floods, becoming the North Sea and the English Channel. Much of Southeast Asia becomes the string of large and small islands that we are familiar with today, instead of the low-lying continental mass it was during the glaciation. The face of the world changed.

Note that I am not arguing that global warming is happening--that it is undebatable fact, measured by satellite for several decades now, and by buoy and ground station for over a century. We have the numbers. There is a correlation with global CO2 levels. What we don't know: how hot does it get before Earth's feedback mechanisms kick in and damp it down? The oceans lock up and deposit excess CO2 in the form of carbonates via the Carbonate-silicate weathering cycle; the hotter it gets, the faster that happens, until enough carbon dioxide is pulled out of the atmosphere to cool things down to Ice Age glaciation levels again.

Panic and hysteria help no one and nothing, except someone with an agenda that requires people to react without thinking. They certainly don't solve the problem of AGW...if it is a problem that can be solved, or even needs to be solved. Climate does change, it has changed drasticly in the past, it will change in the future, it is changing now. Things will never be exactly like they were last Tuesday, that's just not how the Earth works.
dragoness_e: Living Dead Girl (Living Dead Girl)
2017-05-12 11:57 pm
Entry tags:

Cultural Appropriation is Fine

[Inspired by recent incidents in the Canadian writing community]

Cultural appropriation is a good thing. It means the majority culture is learning to appreciate and is curious about something besides themselves. It means the culture isn't stagnating. It means The Other is good, not bad, and a friend, not an enemy to be suppressed or exterminated. It means The Other is stopping being "Them" and is becoming "Us". We humans love Us; we humans regrettably tend to hate Them. Better for all if they are Us.

The notion that cultural appropriation is bad is one of the more snowflake, dumb-ass and downright poisonous ideas to come out of the left. The logical end-point of "cultural appropriation is bad and you mustn't do it" crowd is cultural segregation and apartheid--everyone is only allowed to write or make art about their own racial and cultural niche, and no one will be exposed to any culture but their own. That would be bad; we learn to tolerate and accept People Not Like Us by getting to know them in person; ditto for cultures.

At worst, badly-done appropriation comes across as crass, rude and insensitive to people of the originating culture. So don't be crass, rude, or insensitive. However, there is not a single damn thing wrong with braiding your hair differently, eating different food, or wearing different clothes than those you grew up with. Don't let anyone force you into a creative or life-style strait-jacket because of what they think is appropriate for you.
dragoness_e: Living Dead Girl (Living Dead Girl)
2017-04-22 08:43 pm

LJ is dead; long live DW!

I finally deleted my old livejournal. From the reports of others, the rotting corpse of the former journaling service is allowing lots of porn spammers in the comments; I don't need my name and works being used for that kind of crap.
dragoness_e: Fanart of G1 Starscream with F-22 kibble in robot mode (Starscream F-22)
2017-03-22 07:48 am
Entry tags:

Looks like Octane's flight crew...

For readers of my Transformers fanfiction: This lovely picture is almost exactly how I envisioned Octane's "Beyt'al-Ocatane" crew (Talifeyah and the rest), years ago.

The only difference is that Al-Octane's crew uniform is a white hijab with sky-blue uniform tunic and trousers. But don't they look like they could be sitting in Skyfire's cockpit?

All congratulations to Royal Brunei Airlines and their first all-female crew.
dragoness_e: NASA F-15A #837 (NASA Starscream)
2017-03-05 04:58 pm
Entry tags:

Clone Wars and Revenge of the Sith

We finally finished semi-binge watch of The Clone Wars, and then re-watched Revenge of the Sith as the finale and bookend to the series.

Well then.

In general, Clone Wars (CW) was much better than Revenge of the Sith (RotS). The contrast between the quality of acting in the one vs the other was shocking and dramatic--the CW voice actors were quite good; with the exception of Palpatine's film actor (Ian McDiarmid), the RotS acting was terrible!

Matt Lanter, Anakin Skywalker's CW voice actor, did a much better job of sounding resentful, rebellious and dangerously angry than Hayden Christiansen did. Christiansen's performance made Anakin sound like a whiny, emo, entitled brat instead of a powerful young Jedi sliding inexorably towards the Dark Side. He simply did not sell Anakin as Sith Apprentice Darth Vader. Most of the time he sounded like he was stoned and phoning his performance in.

I blame inexperienced actors in the hands of a lousy director. Natalie Portman is supposed to be a decent actress, but her performance as Padmé was lackluster, to say the least. She also came across as phoning it in. Ewan MacGregor's performance as Obi-Wan Kenobi was better, but he still had a lot of scenes that should have been redone to actually show emotion. James Arnold Taylor, the CW VA, delivered a much better and more consistent performance as Obi-Wan. Samuel L. Jackson's performance was hampered by terrible dialogue (don't let Lucas write dialogue. Just don't!), but he delivered his lines well enough. Even so, Jackson's performance in RotS wasn't anywhere near the quality of his performance as Jules in Pulp Fiction or Nick Fury in the MCU movies. I wonder how much better RotS would have been if Tarantino were directing it?

The one stand-out was Ian McDiarmid's performance as Chancellor Palpatine. I thought his performance was better than Ian Abercrombie's in Clone Wars. I suspect he was an experienced enough actor that he could deliver a good performance even without a good director. He did a very good job of portraying Darth Sidious being, well, insidious and manipulative: showing Chancellor Palpatine acting like Anakin's apparent good friend and mentor, all the while slyly planting seeds of discontent and mistrust.

I can't say much about Chris Lee as Dooku in this movie, as his part was so short and a lot of his screen time was taken up by his stunt double. Corey Burton, Dooku's CW VA, did a damn good Chris Lee impression as Count Dooku, and was delightfully menancing. Of course he was--this is the guy who played TFA Megatron! (He's also Cad Bane, another convincingly scary character. Looking at his credits at IMDB, it's somehow appropriate that Burton plays Dracula in a lot of cartoons--a part that Chris Lee was famous for in his younger days).

Another thought I had is that the RotS actors are film actors, and had to do a lot of green-screen work in this movie, where they wouldn't have seen the special effects that are going on around them in the movie. The worst performances seemed to be in scenes where the actor would have just been sitting in a chair in front of a green-screen, imagining they were reading those lines in a ship that was on fire, crashing and exploding. A good director could still have coaxed a good performance out of them. Conversely, in Clone Wars, the actors were mostly experienced voice actors, used to bringing characters to life when they can't see anything but a microphone and maybe some of the other actors reading their parts. Note that Ian McDiarmid was lucky enough that almost all of his lines were delivered in a more traditional film acting situation: to other actors on the same stage with him. That probably helped. Also, Clone Wars was NOT directed by George Lucas, unlike RotS. That probably helped Clone Wars.

The fight choreography also seemed a bit lacking compared to either Clone Wars or any MCU movie. Only the final fight scene between Obi-Wan and Anakin, and Palpatine's massacre of the Jedi sent to arrest him conveyed the sheer viciousness of Sith vs. Jedi lightsaber battles that I saw all through Clone Wars. The rest of lightsaber battles looked like a couple guys sparring (badly), to the point where Dooku suddenly losing both hands was almost Pythonesque in its absurdity. There was no energy to those battles. I would chalk it up to the limitations of film vs. CGI, except that (a) the lightsabers are CGI, and (b) any fight in the MCU movies involving Captain America was done ten times better. Or, for examples with sword, any sword fight in an Errol Flynn movie, or the incredible fight choreography in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Tellingly, I cannot find credits for a choreographer for RotS.

However, I found this interesting tidbit on IMDB:

George Lucas allowed his friend Steven Spielberg to help design some sequences during pre-production. This was partly because Spielberg wanted the experience of using the 'pre-visualisation' techniques pioneered by ILM as he was going to use them for War of the Worlds (2005). It was also because Lucas felt that his roles as Writer, Director, Executive Producer and Financier were taking up too much of his time and he needed another director to bounce ideas off. Spielberg's main contribution was in the climactic lightsaber duel between Obi-wan and Anakin.

...it shows.

I want Obi-Wan's varactyl as a mount in WoW.
dragoness_e: (gaming posts)
2017-02-07 08:18 am
Entry tags:

Netflix did what?

I hear Netflix is going to be discontinuing streaming "Clone Wars" in March. Guess what I'll be binge-watching? I'm already halfway through season 3, so it's not that far to go to finish it.

On WoW, I got Bedewyr (my warrior) to level 10 (woo-hoo!), found the bank in Stormwind, and finally unloaded all those crafting ingredients into storage. Not enough bags, captain! I also learned the sad news that WoW does not have shared banking slots. WTF? How are you supposed to trade gear between alts? Later, Becky told me that you use mail to send stuff to your alts. That's all well and good, except where it isn't: one, as a trial player, I don't have access to mail; two, I tend to use shared slots as a central depot that all my alts can come pick over for supplies. I don't see how to use mail for that. So, when it comes to altoholic friendliness, WoW is not so friendly as EQ2 or EQ1.

I also started my Tauren druid, Finvarien. Gee, I see why Becky said the human zones suck--the Tauren starting zones are so pretty! Even the hideous Thornsnarl area appears to be a shout-out to a certain Disney movie. Even if the mixed fantasy native American aesthetic of the Tauren is wildly anachronistic, it's a refreshing change from pseudo-medieval European everything (also usually wildly anachronistic).

I figured out how to reset the tutorials, so I would get the explanations again. Yay me! Low-level stuff is still very handholdy--I have yet to be in serious danger from anything. Even with Bedewyr, the only time he took enough damage for me to bother eating some food was after fighting 5 wolves without pause (3 at once during the fight). Does it get tougher at higher levels, or is this a sign I should be pushing on to tougher stuff?

ETA: Craftwise, Bedewyr is a Blacksmith/Miner, and Finvarien is a Leatherworker/Skinner. No doubt I'll have others.
dragoness_e: (Echo Bazaar)
2017-02-05 09:35 pm
Entry tags:


No post about today, because I'm still reeling from the game. Wow, that was one hell of a Superbowl! Free football, records broken, edge-of-the-seat nail-biter game. The Pats won, but I don't feel too bad about that, because they earned their victory. It was an incredible game between two very good teams, and the Patriots showed why they are champions. Atlanta did pretty well too, with an impressive early lead, but I think they got complacent with the lead they had going into the second half, and the Pats showed them why that was a mistake.

Just, wow! Awesome, incredible game!
dragoness_e: Living Dead Girl (Living Dead Girl)
2017-02-04 08:57 pm
Entry tags:

Somewhat annoying Saturday

Everquest2 is having login issues. For long stretches of the day, it wouldn't let us log in, which squelched a lot of our plans for the day. No Sammie & Deanne, no guild run. Bleh. Steve ended up installing WoW to try out, though we finally did manage to log in to EQ2.

Instead, I did a major grocery run and we cut down more bamboo in the back yard, which exhausted us both. Steve was shocked by how low his blood sugar was after all that work; fortunately, I'd picked up plenty of sugary snacks. I dug out the TV antenna and hooked it back up in preparation for tomorrow--I do love me some Superbowl commercials. The game might be mildly interesting, if only to boo the Patriots. I loathe cheaters, and always want to see them lose.

At least the bamboo cutting gave Elsa something to do outside with us; she had been frustrated all morning because Steve wouldn't take her for a walk, because it was so cold this morning. It got to the point where she was all but standing in his lap trying to get his attention for the walk she wanted. I finally took her for a short walk, which made her very happy, before I went on the grocery run.

Worked on some of my baby characters instead of the big guys. Mallard got a bunch of tradeskill quests caught up, and Natashae finally made 75. Okay, she's one of my big guys in the crafting department. Made some improvised stir-fry for dinner, and concluded that stir-fry needs some kind of sauce to keep from being incredibly bland. The vegetables themselves aren't strongly flavored, nor is chicken, my usual meat of choice. I noticed that most actual Chinese stir-fry recipes have some kind of sauce, so I need to figure out what I'm going to do for my generic improv stir-fry.

One of these days I need to stop staring blankly at my RP tags and actually respond to them. I've noticed that people RP with me more if I actually respond to them. Weird coincidence, that...
dragoness_e: (Echo Bazaar)
2017-02-03 10:25 pm
Entry tags:

It's Friday!

I see I forgot to post yesterday. Well, I don't post about work, but I will say that yesterday I took some time in the middle of the day to attend a lovely retirement luncheon for a co-worker--specifically, our office manager and de facto "office mom". As far as I can tell, everyone in the local office turned up for the luncheon, including some of our retired guys, which was held at a nice beachfront bar & grill. It was a perfect day--beautiful, sunny, not too hot and not cold, and the sun just glittered off the water. Just lovely. Everyone was nice, it was a wonderful and moving get-together, (her out-of-state kids who couldn't be there sent videos) and we'll all miss her. Seriously, she was one of those wonderful "office moms" who hold things together and helps everyone find their shit when they've lost it. I don't know what we'll do without her.

As her husband tells it, it was originally supposed to be a temporary gig, just 3 months. Over 20 years later, she's retiring from that "temporary" job. So, you never know...

I crashed early last night, after all that. I'm still under the weather a bit, and seem to run out of energy easily. Going to finally take my doctor's advice and see a specialist about these recurring, chronic sinus infections; I'm getting tired of being debilitated and tired all the time.

I ran one of my EQ2 dudes through a bunch of tradeskill quests he'd fallen behind on, and yet again mused on all the decorating I want to do when I have the time. After being inspired by DW20's Let's Play series yet again, I built a Buildcraft Filler, and used it to clear the ground for my giant stable wherein I will move the sheep to. I also used to lay the foundations; it's a serious labor-saver. I built a Malisis' Carriage Door for the stable entrance, and will build the rest of it sometime soon. It's visible on the map. I need to find some spruce so I can make medieval castle doors for the main entrance of my lair, though.

I've been reading some old mystery novels I found in a used booksale, or possibly inherited. This time it's George Simeon's Inspector Maigret. It'll be interesting to compare and contrast with the other stories in the omnibus, all published in 1958. Simeon is French; I'm pretty sure the other authors are not. Cultural differences are always interesting; for example, the French justice/legal system is quite different from the American or the British one.
dragoness_e: Ghost Duskwing with no text (Duskwing_no_text)
2017-02-01 09:54 pm
Entry tags:

Uninteresting Wednesday

Played some EQ2 with Sammie and Deanne; we ran around one of the floating islands in the disturbing and unnatural Bonemire area killing things and pillaging. I'm still working on getting enough Drednever Expedition faction to buy their cool decorative items.

Poked at Minecraft enough to even out floors on that huge cyst I dug out of the mountain, moved some storage around, and built a Forestry worktable after seeing how handy it is in DW20's Let's Play series. I've already filled up the 9 recipes slots with common stuff I make all the time. Finally built a Forester's backpack to go along with the Miner's and Digger's backpacks, and set up my wood barrels so that I can just dump off the contents of the Forester's backpack into a sorting chest. In theory. Testing may reveal a few holes in this scheme.

Trump actually picked a mostly-okay judge for his Supreme Court nominee, so I'm not going to fuss over that, and I'm not going to call my Senator and ask him to block the nomination. If I call him, it will be to encourage him. Democrats would be stupid to block this nominee, and people should stop insisting that they do. Dems aren't going to get to pick their own nominee, and if they obstruct mostly-okay guy, I bet the next nominee won't be "mostly okay". Don't be obstructionist just to be obstructionist; obstruct the bad, encourage the good, and don't obstruct the acceptable.

Besides, Gorsuch seems to be a good pick on several details: he stands behind the 2nd Amendment as an actual right, not an obsolete footnote that too many liberals want to think it is, and he's against Chevron deference, which deference I learned from reading law blogs is a bad thing for protecting your rights against regulatory overreach. He's not too fond of abuse of the commerce clause, either. The only thing I have against him is his appellate court opinion on that infamous Hobby Lobby case, but all in all, I think he'll make a good Supreme Court justice.
dragoness_e: Living Dead Girl (Living Dead Girl)
2017-01-31 07:39 pm
Entry tags:

Tuesday with Jack London

Finished reading The Sea Wolf by Jack London, one of his slightly lesser-known novels. (Lesser known than Call of the Wild, probably better known than White Fang). My first impression was that it was a debate on ethics framed as an adventure novel, in the same way that The Picture of Dorian Grey is a debate on ethics framed as a horror novella. In this case, the villain, Wolf Larsen, spends quite a bit of the story debating ethics and morality with the protagonist--like Lord Henry in Dorian Grey, his ethics are a deliberate refutation of the prevailing conventional morality and ethics. While Lord Henry was more a "Do What Thou Wilt is the Only Law" sort of guy who likes to hang out in the smoking lounge and corrupt young minds, Wolf Larsen is a hardcore social Darwinist, nihilist, and sociopath. "Might makes right, and everything dies, so nothing matters except myself". He's also completely terrifying to be stuck on a small schooner in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with. A schooner that he's the Captain-Owner of, and thus has pretty much absolute power of life and death over all aboard. He's also a vindictive bastard. (Wikipedia tells me that London intended this story to be an attack on Nietzsche's "superman" ideal; I can believe that, as Wolf Larsen is a classic Nietzschean "superman").

The rest of the story is a variant on the classic coming-of-age plot: middle-aged nerd (or as they called it in those days, "scrawny bookworm") turns into a manly man and finds the girl. Unlike the way C.S. Lewis treated Eustace in Narnia, Jack London did not take away from Humphrey van Weyden his love of books and literary criticism--he just had the guy put on muscle, toughen up physically and mentally, learn to rub shoulders with the less privileged, and learn a bunch of new skills like cooking, sailing, shiphandling, ship's carpentry, seal-hunting, navigation, etc. Oh, and fall in love. The damsel in distress, his lady-love, the poetess, turns out to be a tough woman in spite of appearing to be a delicate flower. She survives the same harsh conditions that our hero does, and helps him to the limits of her strength. In fact, she continually proves to be tougher than our hero expects.

I think the difference (between C.S. Lewis's depiction of Eustace on the Dawn Treader and Jack London's depiction of 'Hump') is that Jack London actually did everything he writes about his characters doing, and knew all those types of people. He actually knew what it was like to be a Yukon prospector or a sealing schooner crewmen. He was a journalist, and I've noticed that journalists turned fiction writers are some of the most observant writers of characters--in a period when class and race stereotypes were prevalent, late 19th C/early 20th-C journalist-writers such as Jack London, Earl Derr Biggers and Wilkie Collins wrote lower-class, non-white people as real people instead of walking stereotypes. (Compare non-journalist writer Sax Rohmer's truly awful "Oriental" stereotype characters, or non-journalist writer Agatha Christie's walking stereotypes of the servant classes).

Watched another episode of "The Clone Wars" for the first time in a while--while nominally it was an Ahsoka episode, the blue dudes (Patronians?) were the brains and most of the heroes of this episode. I wonder if they will be recurring characters?
dragoness_e: (Echo Bazaar)
2017-01-30 09:25 pm
Entry tags:

Monday with Legends

We continued to watch S1 of "Legends of Tomorrow", which continues to show a lot of Dr. Who inspiration... if Rip Hunter were an incompetent twit of a Time Lord who picked up a squad of companions consisting of two guys from Leverage (Mick & Lenny), the teacher and rebellious student (Dr. Stein and Jackson) from some "teacher makes good in inner-city school" drama, a pair of drama llamas from the Green Drama show (Sara: senior drama llama, Kiera: apprentice drama llama) and the terminally cheerful guy who never remembers to wear his supersuit (Ray Palmer; possibly because he could solve half the episodes by the quarter-hour commercial break if he did). The Leverage pair and Cheerful Guy cheerfully ignore Rip's plans, screw up all over the timeline, and they are hilarious!

Vandal Savage is a great master villain; anyone know where that blue coat he wears all the time comes from?

Time Master Whatshisname's outfit was a pretty obvious shout-out to the President of Gallifrey's costume in Classic Who. Rip himself dresses a lot like Ten.

Now, if this were my Traveller party or TV show (they have a spacetime ship, so Traveller instead of D&D), I'd make a few changes. First, Rip would sit down, shut up, and play patron-owner on board the timeship, and just hand out mission parameters; we'd have Lenny (Capt. Cold to the rest of you DC fans) do the planning, because he's actually competent at it. Just ask The Flash. Mick can continue punching people, he's good at that. Sara and Kiera/Shiera would be required to sit down and watch the TOS Star Trek episode "Day of the Dove" until they learned to control themselves. (That's the really awesome episode where Kirk gave this great speech about "Yeah, we're killers. But we choose not to kill today.") Dr. Stein has already learned not to be an ass to Jackson; maybe at some point Firestorm could actually learn to use his transmutation powers instead of just throwing fireballs. Mick gets to punch Ray every time he gets out of his bunk without his supersuit on his person; otherwise, Ray can just keep being his pretty-boy idealistic self.

The writers would be replaced with better writers who have signed a contract not to use Idiot Ball plots where one or more superheroes forget they have superpowers the whole episode. Also add a clause that they forfeit their pay if Hawkgirl sits around doing nothing the whole episode or spends the episode being the damsel in distress. The CGI team will be given enough budget to actually show Firestorm doing cool stuff and letting Hawkgirl use her wings now and then.
dragoness_e: Living Dead Girl (Living Dead Girl)
2017-01-29 08:59 pm
Entry tags:

Still need a Minecraft icon..

Because yeah, did more of that. Too short of sleep to do much of anything that required brains, sadly. I got started cleaning up my main floors, putting in consistent wall and floors patterns, removing torches and replacing them with glowstone. I got a notion that I wanted the ceiling of the main floor to be UBC marble, and there was this huge seam of it up where the 2nd floor was going to be....

Long story short, I went nuts and quarried out the entire layer of marble, which was a huge pocket in the mountain. During the course of it, I decided that the silk-touch pick was too slow, and made my TCon hammer into a silk-touch hammer, so I could get the marble out intact. Also put a cobalt head on my silk-touch pick, to make it faster. I started putting floors in and smoothing out the huge cyst I'd dug in the heart of the mountain, which made me realize I needed a new hammer, without silk-touch enchantment, so I could get cobblestone for fill. So I made a mostly iron hammer with a ferrous head for mining speed. I ended up with a LOT of marble, probably far more than I will need unless I decide to build an entire nether palace out of marble.

I still need to build a sheep pen, and do some deep mining, though. You'd think I'd have had enough mining, but at the altitude I quarried out the marble, there's only coal, fossils, and apatite. My iron, copper, tin, and aluminum oreberry farms keep a steady trickle of those metals coming in, but I need ore blocks to breed and grow resource crops for the other ores. The useful industrial ores are mostly found below sea level. The fossil frequency could stand to be tuned down a bit--they're everywhere; I'll have to look and see if F&A lets me configure that.

Have I mentioned that I need to build a cattle farm some day? I need leather for balloons for the airships I want to build for long-range exploration. Books can be made purely from wood and paper thanks to Tinker's Construct's alternate book recipe, but there's no substitute for leather for airships. Oh well.

"Midsommer Murders" was actually amusing tonight; every now and then they have an episode that has interesting and funny characters in it. The actor that played the murderer was very good, as his character gave me 'something off about this guy, girl you do NOT want to marry him' vibes from his first appearance, even though he ostensibly was a very nice young man and did nothing overt or sinister on-screen.
dragoness_e: Living Dead Girl (Living Dead Girl)
2017-01-29 07:50 am
Entry tags:

Self, don't do that

Argh. Stayed up too late, because I was moody and depressed. I do that, sometimes, when I feel like the day has been a futile waste of time, because somehow staying up another hour, two, three will let me find the one thing that makes the day less of a waste. It's never worked.

Chinese New Year was last night, so people were shooting off firecrackers around town, which meant that Elsa spent the night shivering and terrified, huddling by our bed. She's sort of tired this morning, but still thinks it's time to play, around her yawns.

Sammie picked up a terracotta warrior statue for his house, and Ivana has the same quest, and will get another one for her house. Radzwell is back online, and we did a guild group to help Sulyamon (Steve's ranger) get Raincaller as a pre-req for his epic weapon quests. First time I've ever been to the front steps of Mistmoore Castle in this game.

Did a fair amount of Minecrafting on Cybertron; I added another automated oreberry farm, and experimented with running power using IE wires all the way past my underground test farm to a new resource plants farm I've set up. So far it's only growing nitor wart (for glowstone) and redstodendron (for redstone). Going to add any more resource crops that I crossbreed to the farm, though. Set up an OpenBlocks sprinkler with a Pressure Pipes Infinite Water Source to keep it hydrated, an MFR harvester to harvest it, and a fair bit of Immersive Engineering infrastructure to bring the power over. (IE wires are way cheaper in materials to run long stretches than energy conduits/ducts/etc from other mods.) I use BuildCraft pipes for long-haul liquid and item transport, as they are also cheaper in materials than EnderIO, Thermal Expansion, or Extra Utilities pipes. In any case, I now have enough glowstone coming in to actually use glowstone-based lights all over the place. Torches on the floor look tacky, and I got tired of hitting my head on railroad lanterns.
dragoness_e: Ghost Duskwing with no text (Duskwing_no_text)
2017-01-27 09:29 pm
Entry tags:

Slow days

Can't say I did much lately. Caught up with Flash S2 season ender on Netflix--cool time-travel shenanigans. "Finished" Sansûkh, which isn't finished itself, so I can't really finish it. Eagerly awaiting the remaining chapters; I don't expect this one to be abandoned, the author is almost finished. I see one, maybe two plot threads to be wound up yet (Thorin/Bilbo isn't wholly resolved yet. Legolas/Gimli is resolved, and there's yet another possible thread/pairing that ought to be dealt with. I hope.)

The political circus going on is driving me away from my usual blogs; I think I need to find some fandom/hobby/craft-oriented blogs that aren't going Chicken-Little over President Cheeto right now. I don't have the spoons to handle that much gloom and panic ALL THE TIME, even if Punching Actual Nazis is a thing.

Back to SDV, Minecraft, and Everquest2, I guess. And Starscream keeps reminding me that I really should get back to him more than just a few paragraphs.
dragoness_e: Pensive tabby tiger (Tabby Tiger)
2017-01-25 10:26 pm
Entry tags:

I need a Minecraft icon...

Again, no SDV today. I read a lot--mostly Eve Dallas, because I needed a break from angsty dwarves for a bit.

Minecraft-Cybertron: I finally disassembled the smelter and moved it to its new room downstairs. I'm slowly breeding nitor wart, so I can farm glowstone instead of having to go mine it in the Nether. I hate the Nether, and hate going there, and hate having to mine anything there. Sadly, I'm going to need blaze rods for stuff, and that means finding a Nether fortress and setting up a mob grinder around a blaze spawner. Joy. I really like flying, fireball hurling demon-machine things beating on me while I build a cage for them.

Speaking of monsters that I need to find: I going to have to go zombie hunting for zombie heads to make zombie controllers from. I hate listening to zombies; their moaning creeps me out. I also need way more Ender pearls than I have, which means either killing endermen (which hit like trucks), or lucking out and finding ender lily seeds in a dungeon chest. Dungeon chests are found in dungeons, which are nasty places full of monsters. Bleh.

At least I don't have to hunt spiders yet. I can get all the string I need from wool, flax and hemp. Which reminds me, I need to build a proper stable for the sheep and set them up with a rancher or ranching station or something to auto-harvest wool. And I have this great blueprint for a Railcraft-based beef & leather farm that I should build sometime.