Saturday, August 19, 2017

Explaining the Bay of Naples to aliens

[This was originally posted on Facebook and was inspired by these musings from the internet about what aliens might find strange about humans, if we drop the assumption that all other life must be like us.  While the musings are good in general, the two that most inspired this were the actual mention of Pompeii at the very end and an alien freaking out in response to the fact that we explored the poles with humans instead of specially built drones:]
Alien: . . . and they didn't die?
Human: Well, the first few did.
[Anyway, Bay of Naples]

Alien: So it took out multiple cites --not villages, cities-- from the most advanced human civilization in existence at the time, in a way so violently legendary that you named Super Death Eruptions after it, and then you went and set up bigger more populated cities there just because?

Human: Well, no. First the people who survived by virtue of running like Hell in the lead up went back, dug down through the ash layer--

Alien: The literal tons of Death Ash that had the cities covered deeper than a height of three humans.

Human: Well, just on the good side, the other side wasn't buried in ash so much as smashed by a fast moving mountain.

Alien: Right, the Super-Heated Death River composed of rock and --

Human: We call it a--

Alien: It's more than a flow, it's more than fire, and it does more than simply break things!

Human: Whatever, first people went back to the city destroyed on the side that didn't get smashed, and dug in the ground to get their valuables.

Alien: Everyone in the entire area was eradicated by a force so beyond your comprehension you wouldn't even begin to try to understand it for nearly two thousand years --see, I can do human terms-- and they just strolled back over so they could dig in the Death Ash that had killed off almost everyone they'd ever known in hopes of finding their old shiny things?

Human: And after that we realized that the ground--

Alien: The Death Ash that left your expired species-mates without proper funerary rituals between three and four human heights beneath your feet.

Human: --was really good for agriculture, so we figured why not?

Alien: Because it would kill you.

Human: Well since then it's only had, like, little eruptions that were only mildly deadly and merely burned and melted through the towns and cities.

Alien: And you didn't, maybe, take this as a sign that the area wasn't safe?

Human: Well it's a really nice place, and people go their for fun--

Alien: To a massive Death Mountain!?

Human: Well there was a societal collapse, unrelated of course--

Alien: I refuse to believe that that could in any way be obvious.

Human: So after a while we sort of forgot about the ruined cities.

Alien: At this point they were massive unmarked graves.

Human: But when we rediscovered them we sent people there to dig th--

Alien: You rediscovered that this place was Death Incarnate and your response was to send people into the kill zone?

Human: Well how else would we dig up the buried cities to get good looks at them?

Alien: But they were deadly!

Human: Yeah, while digging we found these cavities in the ash and weren't sure what they were, so finally someone decided to just pour in some plaster to get a better feel for their shape, it was a very low tech time, and we found out that that they were the impressions of the dead people.

Alien: They were what?

Human: Well by the time the bodies had decayed the ash was packed pretty solid, so it kept their shapes preserved, now you can see the faces of the dead people, preserved more or less in the state they died.

Alien: And you still didn't evacuate?

Human: Hell no! It's a major tourist attraction.

Alien: It's-- a-- why? Who would-- WHAT!?

Human: Walk the streets of the fallen city, look at the people who fell with it. Reconnect with history. You know, the whole--

Alien: I most certainly do not know. Why do you people always run toward death and destruction?

Human: Well it's pretty, and it gives us a sense of connection with the past, and--

Alien: Past failure; the place is the worst kind of doom.

Human: Even if we didn't have parts of the city excavated to look at, nothing gives you hot springs like an active volcano. That was why Pompeii was a city instead of a nothing settlement in the first place. People came to go in the springs.

Alien: The spawn of the Death Mountain Volcano?

Human: Yeah, you should try it some time.

Alien: I'm not even going near your planet!

Human: It's a really nice place.

Alien: That planet--

Human: I meant around the volcano. It's a great spot to go for a nice relaxing vacation.


Human: It's renowned for how laid back and relaxed the population around there is, and it's got--

Alien: Please tell me you at least have an evacuation plan.

Human: Well that depends on whether there's a lead up or not. If its a quiet that build takes us off guard, well the biggest city around is only three minutes out as the pyroclastic mass flows so--

Alien: You can't evacuate a city in three minutes with your technology.

Human: True. So evacuation plans only work if the mountain gives us some decent warnings. And some people won't evacuate anyway, they'd rather bet on the chance that it's a false alarm than leave--

Alien: The Horrible Death Zone!

Human: Exactly. I think you finally get it.

*Alien too shocked to say anything*

*Human walks off*

Alien (to self): I "get" none of this.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Chatlog -or- Not that kind of necromancy

[Random thought about a text message conversation between parallel worlds that briefly grazes the topic of how you might want to be cautious when you don't know the lay of the theological land as well as you did back home.]

24601: Hey.

Abelian Cue: Hey

Abelian Cue: Whatever you're typing, break it up into smaller chunks.

Abelian Cue: You seriously don't have to compose a novel before hitting submit.

24601: Do you know any kind of necromancy --not stupid fiction "I raise a zombie army" scare-quotes "necromancy", actual-definition learning secrets from the dead necromancy-- that isn't evil "sell your soul and fray your morals" magic which I would be able to learn without blowing myself up?

Abelian Cue: Why?

24601: I need to talk to the native-to-this-universe version of me, but she died about a decade before I arrived.

Abelian Cue: That would explain why you never had to deal with a double.

Abelian Cue: Wait, _she_!?

24601: Don't get hung up on the gender.

24601: It's seriously the least important concern right now.

Abelian Cue: Why do you need to talk to her?

24601: Complicated emotional shit.

24601: Can you help?

Abelian Cue: Necromancy just has a bad name because idiots don't know what "-mancy" means.

Abelian Cue: Very few forms of divination are inherently evil.

24601: So you can help?

Abelian Cue: Maybe.

24601: Thanks.

Abelian Cue: Also maybe not.

24601: That's what "maybe" means.

24601: Could have gone without saying.

Abelian Cue: Just because the living world there keeps to a close parallel doesn't mean the afterlife there is anyone like the one back here.

Abelian Cue: *anything

24601: I am aware that things might not work.

24601: I have reason to try.

Abelian Cue: You'll explain it.

24601: Of course.

Abelian Cue: I'll dig up the right books.

Abelian Cue: See if I can get a decent ritual prepped.

24601: That's all I ask.

Abelian Cue: I'm still going to want an explanation when I cross over.

24601: I said I'd give one.

Abelian Cue: If I'm not satisfied with your reason . . .

24601: Yeah, yeah.

Abelian Cue: . . . I will head back to this world without giving you a thing.

24601: Of course.

Abelian Cue: You don't poke gods who are strange to you without good reason.

24601: It's a good reason.

Abelian Cue: We'll see.

Monday, August 7, 2017

I Can See!

It's difficult to describe the experience of getting new glasses for me.

My vision doesn't change with any great speed, and (with the exception of outright losing them) neither do my glasses.  Whether my eyes get better or worse (they've actually been on a getting better streak) my vision gradually gets worse as my eyes stop matching my prescription and my glasses are ravaged by the twin horrors of time and having me as their owner.

And then, one day, I get new glasses based off of a new prescription that matches how my eyes are right now and . . . the world changes.

It's sort of like switching from craptastic resolution to UHD, if the craptastic were scaled by blurring instead of nearest-neighbor count-the-pixel methods.

It's sort of like switching from 2D to 3D.

It's probably sort of like many things.

But it's exactly like nothing else.  Suddenly the world appears with a focus and clarity that I didn't even know was possible because I lost it too slowly to notice and had forgotten it could look like this.  I mean, I obviously know that it can look better than the prescription before the one I got six years ago (and lost down a toilet) as modified by scuffs and scratches to the lens.  That could almost go without saying.  But that doesn't mean I have a sense of what that looks like.

Part of this is doubtless my very non-imagey imagination.  I can't conjure up a memory of seeing the world correctly that includes how it looks, because I can't conjure up how anything looks.  A sense of how something looks, an idea, a feeling?  Sure.  All those I can do.  But an actual thing to see?  Nope.  Can't do it.

And so when I get new glasses the world I experience changes in a way I find myself ill-equipped to describe.

I can see.  I could see before.  I can see in a way I couldn't see before.

The world is different now.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Final vote for those meaningless awards that I nonetheless really want your vote for

Annual Kim Possible Fannie Awards time again.

So, I asked to be nominated, and I was; I asked to be voted for in the preliminaries, and I was; now the final stage of this drawn out project has come round at once.

Nominating and voting are both anonymous so I have no idea if anyone here actually did any of that stuff, but I would guess that me asking here made a difference of some sort.

So, here's the deal: the absurdly large field of nominees has been winnowed down to five or six per category, now it's time for the final vote on which of those five or six should get the award.

* * *

The voting process is back to sending an email, to [kimmunityfannies (at) yahoo (dot) com], or a PM, to this account, this time it's limited to one vote per category (or no vote if you have no strong opinion.)  The full list of nominees can be found here.

What follows are the categories in which I or my work was nominated, as well as other ones I have strong opinions on.

It was easier to create an exhaustive list than try to decide for each one whether I/my work really truly deserved to win each thing, but I will say that I'm not actually going to be voting for my thing in category 1 (Best KP Style Name).

Also, I think either GerbilHunter or HopefulHuskey deserves to win Best Reviewer (24), but I haven't figured out which I think deserves it more.  (Hopefully I come up with a better way to decide than flipping a coin.)  So I listed them both since "strong opinion" but someone can only vote for one of them.
  1. Best KP Style Name
    • Leela P. Poossible – Being More than A Simulacrum – ChrisTheCynic
  2. Best KP OC
    • Leela P. Possible – Being More than A Simulacrum – ChrisTheCynic
  3. Best Minor Character
    • Joss Possible – Being More than A Simulacrum – ChrisTheCynic
  4. Best Villain
  5. Best Songfic
  6. Best AU
    • Life After – Chris the Cynic
  7. Best Cross-over
  8. Best Alternate Pairing
  9. Best KiGo
  10. Best Kim/Ron
  11. Best Comedy
  12. Best Romance
  13. Best Friendship
    • Place and Joss – Being More than A Simulacrum – ChrisTheCynic
  14. Best Action/Adventure
    • Being More than A Simulacrum – ChrisTheCynic
  15. Best Drama

  16. Best One-Shot
  17. Best Series Overall
    • Touch Series – AlyssC01
  18. Most Unlikely/Unique Story
    • Life After – ChrisTheCynic
  19. Best Novel-Sized Story
    • Being More Than A Simulacrum – ChrisTheCynic
  20. Best Short Story
  21. Best Young Author
  22. Best New Author
  23. Best Lines
    • (ChrisTheCynic – From Life After) – As it was he was staying alive mostly by means of having arms. The dogs were big, the dogs were scary, the dogs were fast, but they were incapable of changing direction as quickly as a human being who could reach out, grab onto something, and pivot around it as if they hated their shoulder with a fiery passion and were just begging it to become dislocated.
  24. Best Reviewer
    • GerbilHunter
    • HopefulHuskey
  25. CPNEb Kimmunity Award
    • SharperTheWriter
  26. Kimmunity Achievement Award
  27. Best Story
    • Forgotten Seeds – ChrisTheCynic
  28. Best Writer
    • ChrisTheCynic

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Species Dissonance (MLP:FiM + EG)

I did warn you that Sunset Shimmer fanfiction might appear at some point, granted I wasn't really expecting it to be so soon or to skip the entire story just to address a point about . . . yeah.  So, anyway, I have this fragment.

Things it would be useful to know:
  • Sunset Shimmer was a unicorn pony in Equestria but then spent her teenage years as a human in ??? (definitely not the earth we know since skin and hair color match My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fur and mane colors which are generally not real life human colors.)
  • Luna is an apparently immortal co-ruler of Equestria, god of night, and can visit the ponies of Equestria in their dreams.  She's what the series calls an alicorn: she has the wings of a Pegasus, the horn of a unicorn, and the *mumble mumble* of a non-Pegasus non-unicorn pony (called an "earth pony".)
  • Both Luna and Sunset originally appeared as villains until Twilight Sparkle, with the help of five friends, slammed them with the rainbow magic of friendship which instantly reformed them but didn't help so much with aftereffects of being evil like feeling guilt or being shunned.
  • The following takes place while the two are in Equestria (pony form both) and sharing a picnic with each other.

* * *

Luna leaned forward, into what would have been a wonderfully romantic first kiss if Sunset had met her in the middle instead of jerking backward.

Luna pulled back herself, "I'm sorry, I thought . . ."

It isn't often one sees their immortal god-pony ruler at a flustered loss for words, but this had been bound to happen eventually.  Sunset had known that it would, just as she'd known the right thing to do would have been to keep their relationship from ever reaching this point.  She'd just felt too drawn to Luna to keep an appropriate distance.

"It's not--" no, wrong words.  Sunset tried again, "You didn't do anything wrong, it's just that I . . ." how exactly could she explain this?

There was a long, very awkward, silence.

Sunset sighed.

"It would be easier to show you," Sunset said.  "Could you visit my dreams tonight?"

"I could," Luna said.

Sunset closed her eyes and nodded.

"Please do that," Sunset said.  "I can show you my problem --mine, not yours-- and you'll at least know that nothing is your fault."

"I will," Luna said. "However, I do not believe you have done anything wrong."

"There are things I should have told you," Sunset said.  "But I was . . . I'll just show you tonight.  Thank you for the chance."

It was tense as the two ponies finished their food, Sunset felt she'd ruined the picnic and royally-- nope, wrong choice of words.  Massively screwed everything up.

Luna would probably hate her when she learned that Sunset had known from the beginning that the relationship couldn't work, but Sunset considered that . . . acceptable, if it meant Luna knew that she wasn't at fault.

* * *

Sunset's dreams were only somewhat visual, a lot of it was made of thought-stuff and abstraction.  She didn't necessarily see that Twilight was over there so much as have a feeling indicating that the concept of "Twilight Sparkle" was located in the concept of "over there".  What was visual didn't really mesh well with itself as her mind tried to construct a world from the perspective of a human and of a pony at the same time.  She'd never really noticed how disjointed it could be before.

Things, though, were coming into a sharper focus than they ever had before.

Then other people, human and pony alike, started fading away and she became aware of another presence in this world.  She glanced down at her own body, noted her hands, and then focused on the other presence.

Soon she and Princess Luna were face to face and everything other than the two of them had drifted away into insignificance.

"I'm seeing a human form, I presume," Luna said.

"You're seeing me," Sunset said.  "I may have been born in Equestria, but I finished growing up as a human in the human world.

"This is who I am."

"I see," Luna said.

"It doesn't bother me to be in a pony body," Sunset said, "but being human has left other marks on me.  I . . . I'm only attracted to other humans." Sunset looked away so she wouldn't have to see Luna's reaction. "I want to love you." That wasn't right. "I do love you," that was right, "but I can't find a pony attractive.  I just . . . there's nothing there."

Sunset looked at her feet, in her shoes.  Her very human feet.  "I can tell that you're beautiful, but I don't feel anything.  I wish that I could control my attraction, because I love you and I want the same kind of relationship you seem to want, but I can't.  I'm just . . ."

Luna said nothing.

"Unless you have one Hell of a strange kink that happens to be incredibly useful as part of a vanishingly unlikely coincidence, there's no way a relationship between us can work and I am so, so sorry for leading you on," Sunset said.

There was silence.

Luna finally broke it by asking, "Are you finished?"

Sunset nodded.

"Please look at me."

Sunset looked at the majestic blue Alicorn with starlight in her mane and tail.  Beautiful, but Sunest felt no attraction.  Luna was just a pretty a pony, no different than a pretty duck, a pretty squid, or a pretty flower as far as Sunset's human-conditioned libido was concerned.

"Perhaps what matters," Luna said, "is not what kink I have, but what I'm willing to do for the one I love."  Luna's form melted away and was replaced by a young woman --college age, like Sunset-- with skin the color of Luna's fur and hair like a starlit night, the same as Luna's mane had been.

Sunset worried a bit that Luna hadn't really come to visit her and this was merely a good dream.  Still either way the correct response was to treat it as real.

"You--" Sunset tried, and failed, to start.  "You're really ok with . . . with taking on a human form for me?" Sunset asked.

"I don't pretend to know if this will work," Luna said, "but I am willing to try."

Luna took a step forward and the world around them sprang from nothing to a perfect memory of their picnic as it had been when Luna had leaned in for a kiss.

"Now," Luna asked.  "Where were we?"

The kiss was something Sunset could happily spend eternity feeling.

When they broke off, Luna said, "If the real world is this good, our next date should be in the human world."

"And if it isn't?" Sunset asked.

"We'll always have dreams," Luna said.

"I love you," Sunset said before kissing Luna again.

* * *

It wasn't long after Sunset woke up that there was knocking on her door.  She opened it to find Luna, pony-Luna not dream-Luna, standing just outside.

"I'm very busy today, and will not be able to spend time with you," Luna said, "but you requested I verify that what happened last night was more than just a dream."

* *
* * *
* *

Ok, so . . . canonically Twilight Sparkle has no problem switching from pony-attraction to human-attraction in a real hurry, because what would a movie be if it didn't have an awkward semi-romantic subplot?  (Better.  It would be better.)

That said, I'm not really on board with the idea that jumping through a magical portal rewrites what you're attracted to so that it matches the dominant species in the dimension.  I'm not entirely sure why I'm not on board with that idea given the other out-there things that I have absolutely no problem accepting as part of the story universe, but I'm just not on board.

If we flip things and have Sunset, who is presented as almost exclusively human in spite of her pony origins, go to Equestria I'd can definitely see her looking at ponies the way an average human does: with zero lust.

Luna being a dreamwalker presents the possibility of dealing with the problems that would create in a romantic relationship in a novel way.  Where I took the story allowed me present Luna as someone who isn't tied to a specific way of how a body should be either in terms of her own identity or in terms of her lover's form.  Granted Twilight Sparkle's experiences in the Equestria Girls movies try to set that up as default, but I feel would be a good deal rarer.

Another Year Older

Today is my birthday.  Well . . . today is my birthday unless you're not reading this on August 3rd, or you're more into a "First [day of the week] in [month]" thing in which case it's this Saturday, or it could be the third day (or first Saturday) after the second full moon after the Summer Solstice in which case next Wednesday (or the following Saturday.)

Pretty much regardless of how you look at it, if you're in any way linked to the solar year my birthday falls on some day near now.

I considered a flippant, "What did you get me?" but the truth is that you all have kept me from becoming homeless, bought me Cadbury eggs for Easter when I said I couldn't afford any this year, got me playing cards when I asked for them (it'll be a while before I ever need a new deck again even if I use them for all of my bizarre projects I had in mind, if I can remember what those were), got me a gift certificate for really nice socks that one time, bought me video games so I didn't lose my mind to boredom while a broken ankle and need to elevate forced me to be laying on my back (with my foot above me) nigh constantly, got me a fucking console to play the games on before that, and done so much more.

I know what you've gotten me, and I am so, so grateful.

And, apparently, still never spell grateful correctly on the first try.  (I feel like it should have a "great" in it.)

If you particularly want to get me anything, which you don't need to do . . .

Let me emphasize that: "which you don't need to do".  I'm not expecting anything, I'm not asking for anything, this is more me using the post to think "out loud", in a figurative kind of way, about things I could use.


At this point I could use Lego "system" bricks (the standard height ubiquitous square and rectangular Lego bricks) because they're really useful in mold making (you need to pour the liquid silicone into something and wait for it to dry, a container that can be constructed to whatever size you need is incredibly useful.)  Also base plates.

Still on the Lego front, at some point I want to work on collecting one of each (in terms of form, not color variations) Lego hair, hat, or head piece.  Though that's a more distant project with no ETA whatsoever.

Some day I'm going to want a vacuum chamber for casting purposes (bubbles can be a real problem under certain circumstances.)  The expensive part of such a thing is the vacuum pump itself.  The rest can be made from cheap materials.

It's a dream of mine, that I doubt will ever come true, to have a decent gaming computer.  Did you know that you can buy two to three gaming consoles (with money left over) for the price of one high end PC GPU?  I don't think I'll be buying the parts needed to make a gaming PC until I'm rich, but I'd totally welcome second hand stuff from people who just upgraded.  (The GPU is but one example.)

If there's a book anywhere on earth (I haven't found one yet) that talks about types of angels and gives detailed accounts of what's believed about each one in various traditions and folklore and such, damn would I want that.  The best I ever seem to find is, "This book has a lot vague stuff about the author's beliefs and maybe two pages briefly saying X group believes in Y angel-type which I'll describe in the least descriptive way possible (and then never touch again) in one short, mostly disappointing, paragraph."

Bookshelves, but this is (above and beyond the rest) in the "thinking out loud" category because even if someone did want to help out with that shipping costs are terrible.  Well a GPU or vacuum pump would probably be expensive enough that they'd rival bookshelf shipping costs.  Like I said, thinking out loud.

Um . . . yeah, brain not work.

Using the post to create a list of stuff has failed.


Have a post.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Some thoughts about the origin of flight

We don't really know how flight came along.  We just know that it did, and it did multiple times.  [pre-post edit] I'll be sticking to non-insect flight. [/edit]  There are many theories, and here's my totally non-scientific one:

It was hopping.

Feathers and stretched membrane are both used in thermoregulation and mating displays, so the things that would eventually become flight among non-insects definitely show up for their own reasons, but there's a long way to go between "I've got feathers/membrane" and "I can fly".

So how did the building blocks of flight become flight?  I really think it was hopping.

A lot of people say gliding and I just don't buy that.  If "flying" squirrels or "flying" fish ever develop actual flight it's going to be something totally unlike the flight we're used to in other non-insects.  Truth be told, I'm not sure what flight that evolved from their gliding starts would even look like.

Moreover, I don't see a natural progression from gliding to flying.  I can see it for hopping.

You've got your membrane or feathers on your limbs for whatever reason but it's not enough to let you fly.  Can you use this for anything beyond what it first appeared for?  The answer is, I think, yes.

Once there's enough of it to really push air, you can use it for something.  You can use it to assist in hopping.  The ill fated bird that I tried to save after my cat caught it and injured it couldn't do something that even resembled flying, but do you know what it could do when it tried to fly?  It could hop like nobody's business.

It didn't have enough properly powered flight surface to fly, but it sure as fuck could hop on a level that could in no way be attributed to its legs.

And that's what I've always assumed came before flight.  Hopping.

It makes sense to me.  The building blocks of wings end up allowing animals to power hop as a complete byproduct, unrelated to the evolutionary pressures that created them, but once the animals have that power they use it and then it becomes a selective pressure of its own.

The longer one can hop the better able one is to survive, so as soon as you have wing-powered hopping you've got selective pressure that makes the best wing-powered hoppers most likely to pass on their genes.  Combine that with random mutation and a metric fuckton of time and you've got animals that are able to stay in the air for longer and longer as evolution marches on, and then, eventually, you have an animal that isn't a wing-powered hopper anymore.  It's an actual flier.

That's where I think wings come from.  Non-flight related things have a byproduct of arms that can be flapped to extend the duration and distance of one's hop.  Those with the best hop duration and/or distance survive more, and finally it reaches a point where it's stopped being hopping at all, the flapping limbs have grown so strong that they can actually achieve flight.

I have a great deal of difficulty seeing gliding leading to flight in the same way.  The problem is, basically, that no matter how great of a glider selection makes one into, gliding doesn't have any inherent mechanism that would lead to power.  Flight requires power.

Using flapping to extend a hop is all about power, with gliding eventually falling out (in some cases) as a side effect of the machinery developed to do that.

A flapping hop naturally points in the direction of flight, a glide doesn't.  Longer and longer glides, yes, but not flight.  Likewise, starting with a flap can lead to body parts well equipped to glide, but I don't see how starting with a glide would lead to body parts equipped to flap.

So there are some thoughts on wings.

[Which was the original name of this post.]