athelind: (WARNING: TV Tropes)
The Everlasting Gobstopper* is Your Obedient Serpent's own rhyming slang for a "Neverending Doorstopper", the most egregious metastasis of Trilogy Creep.

To qualify as an Everlasting Gobstopper, a work must have most or all of the following traits:

  • Each volume in the series will run around a thousand pages, putting each individual installment firmly into Doorstopper territory.

  • There is no clear end to the progression of installments: while the saga appears to be telling a story, there is rarely a hint of actual resolution. It is, in short, Neverending.

  • The characters rarely manage to accomplish anything of significance. They are tossed around from event to event, becoming increasingly mired in events outside their control.

    • Corollary 1: The more sympathetic they are, the less they manage to accomplish.

    • Corollary 2: Any minor "victories" will happen early on in the series. As it progresses, the characters become increasingly less effective, as the author finds it easier to play on readers' sympathies tormenting characters rather than advancing the story.

  • Readers often develop Stockholm Syndrome. After investing so much time and energy into a work, they are not going to walk away and leave it unfinished, no matter how much of a slog it has become or how little they care about the characters anymore.

  • As the work continues to expand, it becomes increasingly likely that the author will walk away and leave it unfinished.


While these symptoms are most commonly found in Fantasy Literature, the contagion has spread to other genres and media as well. HBO's Game of Thrones, of course, is the most obvious example, being a direct adaptation of one of the quintessential Everlasting Gobstoppers.

An example native to television might be Supernatural: after the resolution of its original story arc and the departure of the creators, the series has continued without actually progressing, to the point where one can tune into any random episode from Seasons 6-10 without being able to determine if it is, in fact, a rerun.

In the world of comics, Hickman's multi-year run on the Avengers titles spiraled into a Gobstopper. Hicman managed the rather impressive feat of making the defeat of a vast alien armada seem ultimately meaningless. Geoff Johns' tenure on Green Lantern and its spin-offs deserves a mention, as well: it even outlasted the original author (though Mr. Johns is, thankfully, still with us); after his departure from the books, those who followed him kept spinning out the plot threads he set in motion, stretching them ever-finer and more tenuous.

Note that an author can crank out novel after novel about the same characters for decades, but if the characters resolve the issue at hand in each installment, it's not a Everlasting Gobstopper. The continuing adventures of Philip Marlowe, of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, or even those of Harry Dresden do not qualify as Gobstoppers. Yes, Harry's saga has an ultimate over-arching story arc, but each volume is largely self-contained; he and his friends resolve the most immediate of threats and dangers, and even multi-volume plot threads are resolved every few books. Butcher lets his characters win now and then, and that big looming metaplot actually progresses as we learn more about it.

I am ... not a fan of Everlasting Gobstoppers, and I try to avoid them. I get sucked in on occasion, of course; the Agent Pendergast series seemed like a tidy batch of fairly self-contained superhantural thrillers until it swallowed its own tail diving into the protagonist's dysfunctional family background; ultimately, I walked away from that one and haven't looked back. More recently, after thoroughly enjoying the tidy trilogies and done-in-one works of the preposterously prolific Brandon Sanderson, I picked up The Way of Kings ... and discovered, as I was immersed in the second volume, that Sanderson intends to run that series for at least ten full doorstoppers.

Coyote help me, I am looking forward to them all.


*The phrase, of course, is borrowed from Roald Dahl's masterpiece, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
athelind: (work)
It's called "Friday" because, by the time it gets here, you're fried.

It's called the "Weekend" because, by the time it gets here, you're weakened.


athelind: (facepalm)
This one should be easy to parse: it's a portmanteau of "dot your I's and cross your T's" with "mind your P's and Q's".

It describes over-attention to detail, to the point where you're "correcting" things that aren't really mistakes.

A more subtle variation is "cross your eyes and dot your T's".


athelind: (Eye of the Dragon)
It should come to no one's surprise that a great deal of what I read on the Internet, particularly on the Friends list of this very site, concerns dragons.

It should come as no further surprise that I greatly appreciate someone taking the time to present the following:



Credit: David Morgan-Mars
athelind: (loop)
When Your Obedient Serpent says "hoopy", he's not making a Douglas Adams reference.

A hoopy task or process is one that requires jumping through hoops: before you can perform the task, you have to perform another task, which in turn requires another task, and another. It's a highly gradable adjective: a process can be "a little hoopy, but worth the trouble", or "too bleeping hoopy to mess with". It's also a relative value, based on the quality of the end results: something that delivers amazing end results can be worth a few hoops.

Corollaries:

  • A moderately hoopy task only requires you to jump through the hoops the first time you set it up; a really hoopy task requires a series of hoops every time you perform it (and probably demanded different hoops for set-up.
  • If you jump the same hoops frequently, or in a wide range of tasks, they stop being visible as hoops. They don't go away, you just don't notice them. Come on: you know there are, say, common Windows tasks that you have to burrow through nested menus to find when it should be available on a right-click or a handy button, but you do them so often you just shrug and move on.
  • Hoops that could be automated are frustrating, because they should be.


Examples:

  • Running IrfanView on a Linux system using WINE is Moderately Hoopy: while it is vastly superior to any of the graphics viewing and conversion tools available natively on Linux, it is generally less trouble to use those inferior tools than Jump Through The Hoops when I just want to crop or resize a file or view a graphics directory in chronological order instead of alphabetical.
  • Torrenting and watching TV on my computer is hoopy.
  • Character creation in GURPS is hoopy. Character creation in Champions is hoopier. Character creation in The Dresden Files is even hoopier, but the hoops are entirely different than GURPS or Champions.
  • Changing software is always hoopy. "Yeah, that software has a lot of amazing feeps, but I've got all my stuff set up on this one. Changing now would be really hoopy."
  • Equal time for Microsoft: Specifying Spreadsheet Cell Borders in OpenOffice Calc is significantly hoopier than it is in MS-Excel. The "Format Cells" dialogue box are almost identical, but Excel has a nice little button in the toolbar that lets you select commonly-used patterns (say, Thick Solid Border Around All Selected Cells) and apply them with a single click. The similar button in Calc just calls up the dialogue box, and makes you specify your border pattern every time. Hoop, hoop, hoop.
  • Makers and programmers are people who have jumped through hoops to learn how to cut through other hoops. Bless you all. Now get to work.




athelind: (Eye in the Pyramid)
Wikipedia has a surprisingly good, succinct and precise explanation of a concept that is supposed to be deliberately inconcise and obfuscating. It begins:

Fnord is the typographic representation of disinformation or irrelevant information intending to misdirect, with the implication of a worldwide conspiracy.



And it goes on from there.

Kind of sounds like the mission statement of Fox News, doesn't it?

So what sounds better: "Fnord News" or "Fnox News"?


athelind: (Default)
Your Obedient Serpent has traveled a lot in his life. Throughout his high school years, his family lived in a motor home, and would take any excuse to pull up stakes and hit the road for a weekend or a week or a month, however long we could get away from work and school.

Needless to say, in those days when the TLA for "map" was "AAA" rather than "GPS", our navigation was not always perfect.

We were never lost, though. Whenever we took an unanticipated turn, whenever the highway underscored Dr. Korzybski's adage that "the map is not the territory", whenever our best-laid plans gang agly ... my mother or my sister or I would say, in a voice full of deliberately-synthetic cheer:

It's an adventure!


And it was. New vistas, unexpected discoveries, experiences that we'd never have had if we'd stayed in the Comfort Zone of interstate highways and Good Sam Parks.

It was an adventure. Every wrong turn, every misread map. Never lost, always seeking.

And those words, that rule that we were never allowed to say "lost"—it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. It became an adventure.

This is a metaphor that extends past the road.

A friend of mine, a good friend who's been there through my own recent fumblings with life's map, is about to head off into new territory. His life has taken some unanticipated turns lately, and he's been stuck by the side of the road, unsure where he's going.

He's moving, now. Moving away, alas, but in motion, heading out on the highway. It's not any place he ever anticipated he'd be headed, but it looks like it's full of possibility and potential that just hasn't been available here, in his Comfort Zone.

It's an Adventure.

And, despite the stress behind the move, despite the sorrow that he'll no longer be local ... it is just so cool that he's got this opportunity, this adventure ahead of him.

I'm sad that he's going, but I'm excited for him.


athelind: (funny)
I'm such a slacker, I only manage to be an amateur crastinator.


athelind: (hoard potato)
Charles Stross explains why he's burned out on "Steampunk".

It boils down to "90% of Steampunk is crud", of course, and over at Futurismic, Paul Raven's commentary applies the inevitable and immortal coda to that clause.

I enjoyed both articles, and my superficial summary should not be construed as a dismissal; both Stross and Raven do provide some analysis of why Sturgeon's Ratio arises.*

Personally, I think that Stross's issues arise because, as a writer, he sees "Steampunk" primarily as a literary movement. In contrast, Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing tends to approach it more as a design aesthetic, applying the craftsmanship, materials and visual motifs of a bygone era to both wardrobe and cutting-edge technology.

I lean toward Doctorow's view: the current "Steampunk Movement" is connected to the Maker Movement. Steampunk's central defining elements are artifacts that imply a backstory. The literature that actually provides a backstory is a secondary effect. Science fiction writers and fans do love to follow such implications reductio ad asburdum, sometimes to good effect—but they often stretch a simple premise to its breaking point.

However, none of that is the main thrust of this post.

You see, inevitably, when discussions of this currently-trendy subgenre arise, there's always someone who fixates on the word used to describe it, insisting that it's neither "steam" (being more often wood, brass, and high-voltage Teslary) nor "punk".**

After reading this tedious protest one too many times, I hereby affix thumb to nose.

Steampunk is Punk because, as a design aesthetic, it's rebelling against mass production and homogenization by reintroducing the idea of hand-crafted artistry to technological artifacts.

Steampunk is STEAM because of a literary device known as synecdoche, in which part of something is used to refer to the whole thing. "Steam" is a concise shorthand for "Victorian Era Technology", because it was, in fact, the dominant and most distinctive technology of the era. Tesla and Edison, fine; Nemo's electric batteries, fine; Cavorite, if you must -- but it was the steam locomotive and the steam engine that reshaped the human landscape. Moreover, it's a technology that has by and large fallen out of use in the present day; by contrast, things like electricity are far more prevalent now than they were then.

Of course, once you discover that the original meaning of "punk" is neither "mohawked rocker" nor "small-time hood", but "prostitute" ... well, then, the whole "transformation of the subgenre into the current trendy cash cow for skeevy publishers looking to milk a quick buck" just makes it all the more appropriate. As Mr. Raven points out, the same thing happened to both the "rock" and the "cyber" variations on the theme.



*A quick look around suggests that the "second artist effect" that Unca Charlie cites may in fact be a new and elegant coinage for a principle that has been stammered about in genre analysis circles for decades. Has anyone else heard that turn of phrase ere now?
**No, it's not just you. Or you. Or any of the many of you who think this is personally aimed in your direction.
Cross-posted to KDDR.

athelind: (Warning: Memetic Hazard)
A Bad Case of the Sparkles describes those classic Hollywood vampires who ignite when exposed to sunlight.

This can range from a slow, Joss-Whedon-style smolder to an instantaneous Hammer-style Roman Candle.


athelind: (Warning: Cognitive Hazard)
In a blog comment just now, I almost referred to SF author Charles Stross as "Unca Charlie".

To remind the linkophobic, "'Unca' is an honorific that refers to an individual whose words or writing have had a marked influence on Your Obedient Serpent's philosophical development."

... It also carries obvious connotations of "Older, Wiser Mentor".

Charlie Stross is almost exactly my age. In fact, he's eight months younger than I am.

I'm just sayin'.


athelind: (facepalm)
For the record, Measure J passed with 60% of the vote.






I think "monorail!" (with exclamation point) is now part of Athelind's Argot.
athelind: (Eye of the Dragon)
In the late '80s, one of the numerous transit systems in the Bay Area had a cultural enrichment program, putting art and poetry in those overhead add slots on the bus. I believe some of the brief poems were actually commissioned for the program.

Around 1987, there was a poem that stuck with me, though I could only remember part of the first line (I'm pretty sure I wrote it down at some point, but I can't even find documents from a year ago, much less twenty-three).

Every few years, I do a Google search for it; this morning, I finally got a single hit. Alas, it remains uncredited:


Soft chains are most difficult to break: affection, ease.
The spirit, wide-eyed, limp-muscled; nestles on its side, and waits.




If anyone can chase down the proper credits, I'd appreciate it (and so, I suspect, would the poet).

There will now, of course, be two Google hits for the opening line; odds are good that this post will be on top very quickly.


athelind: (Eye - VK)
Pupils equal and reactive is a phrase you'll hear on any medical show, and in a lot of real-life emergency rooms and accident scenes. It was almost a catch phrase on Jack Webb's classic paramedic drama, Emergency!, and that's where it entered my vocabulary, long before my own excursion into the rescue-response field.

The Original Meaning: When faced with an unconscious or unresponsive patient, one of the first things an emergency responder does is shine a penlight into each eye, in turn. If the pupils don't contract (are not reactive), or don't react to the same degree (are not equal), that's an indication of head trauma, concussion, and possible brain damage.

When Your Obedient Serpent Says It: It's usually in response to "how are you?", and invoked when the answer is "All Systems Nominal, with cause for optimism."

Because, you know, any day where you don't have brain damage is a victory, right? Any landing you can walk away from.


... I have no idea if this is a glass-half-empty or glass-half-full attitude.
athelind: (fascism)
In response to yet another BoingBoing article about TASER Abuse, I offered the following comment:

Please remember that "TASER" is a registered trademark of TASER International.

The continuous and increasing use of "taser" as a generic term risks trademark dilution and the commensurate devaluation of TASER International's business interests.

I would like to submit the more descriptive and accurate term, "AGONY GUN", as an acceptable substitute.


As a Star Trek fan, I did, of course, consider "Agonizer" as my suggested alternative, but I thought "Agony Gun" carried more of the desired semantic connotations.

Other Rejected Terms:

  1. Pain Lance
  2. Neurolash
  3. Electric Scourge
  4. Torment Pistol
  5. Convulsionator
  6. Spasmotron


Feel free to provide more suggestions in the comments.


athelind: (Eye of the Dragon)
It's actually spelled Æþelind, and pronounced with a long "A".

It means "noble serpent" in Old English, and I've discovered, to my surprise, that a very similar name was actually used historically.

Originally, I spelled it "Æthelind" when writing by hand, but "Aethelind" just looked wrong when typing. I think one of my early BBS hang-outs or e-mail providers had a maximum of eight letters—which is particularly amusing in this day and age, when 6 to 8 alphanumerics is often a minimum.

If I actually have proper Unicode access, of course, then "AE Ligature-Thorn-E-L-I-N-D" is eight letters, but I'm not going to fight with log-in screens and Old English characters.


athelind: (Eye of the Dragon)
It's actually spelled Æþelind, and pronounced with a long "A".

It means "noble serpent" in Old English, and I've discovered, to my surprise, that a very similar name was actually used historically.

Originally, I spelled it "Æthelind" when writing by hand, but "Aethelind" just looked wrong when typing. I think one of my early BBS hang-outs or e-mail providers had a maximum of eight letters—which is particularly amusing in this day and age, when 6 to 8 alphanumerics is often a minimum.

If I actually have proper Unicode access, of course, then "AE Ligature-Thorn-E-L-I-N-D" is eight letters, but I'm not going to fight with log-in screens and Old English characters.


athelind: (grognard)
From Bill Cosby's epic routine on parents and grandparents:




My father walked to school, 4 o'clock every morning, with no shoes on -- uphill. Both ways! In five feet of snow. And he was thankful.



(Jump to 1m57s.)



Used to indicate how tough things were when the speaker was a kid, acknowledging that there might just be some humorous exaggeration for effect. Also used in response to a speaker who's ranting about that topic, as a curt dismissal: "Yeah, yeah, we know. Uphill. Both ways."

More than the moon landing, more than the Nixon resignation -- this was the defining moment of my generation. Every Baby Boomer and the early batch of Generation X has heard this routine, and knows this phrase, even if they can't place the source.

And yes, heard it, not "seen" it: back in those days, we didn't have your YouTubes or your DVDs or your Comedy Centrals. We had to get our comedy on LPs -- big, black hunks of vinyl with sound physically etched into it that you had to play back with a needle, a real, physical needle, not a beam of light.

Analog. None of this fancy "digital MP3" mumbo jumbo.

If we couldn't get our hands on a comedy LP, we might make scratchy, bootleg tape recordings off the radio -- if we were lucky enough to have an FM station that carried The Doctor Demento Shows for a couple of hours, once a week.

Most of us just had AM radios that played disco and elevator music.

And we were thankful for them!


athelind: (Default)
From Bill Cosby's epic routine on parents and grandparents:




My father walked to school, 4 o'clock every morning, with no shoes on -- uphill. Both ways! In five feet of snow. And he was thankful.



(Jump to 1m57s.)



Used to indicate how tough things were when the speaker was a kid, acknowledging that there might just be some humorous exaggeration for effect. Also used in response to a speaker who's ranting about that topic, as a curt dismissal: "Yeah, yeah, we know. Uphill. Both ways."

More than the moon landing, more than the Nixon resignation -- this was the defining moment of my generation. Every Baby Boomer and the early batch of Generation X has heard this routine, and knows this phrase, even if they can't place the source.

And yes, heard it, not "seen" it: back in those days, we didn't have your YouTubes or your DVDs or your Comedy Centrals. We had to get our comedy on LPs -- big, black hunks of vinyl with sound physically etched into it that you had to play back with a needle, a real, physical needle, not a beam of light.

Analog. None of this fancy "digital MP3" mumbo jumbo.

If we couldn't get our hands on a comedy LP, we might make scratchy, bootleg tape recordings off the radio -- if we were lucky enough to have an FM station that carried The Doctor Demento Shows for a couple of hours, once a week.

Most of us just had AM radios that played disco and elevator music.

And we were thankful for them!


athelind: (big ideas)
Mostly for my own reference:


Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design




While Dr. Akin is an aerospace engineer, most if not all of these Laws apply to systems design in general.

[livejournal.com profile] normanrafferty should take particular note of the following:


14. (Edison's Law) "Better" is the enemy of "good".



Snagged from [livejournal.com profile] theweaselking, whom I forgot to credit when I first posted this.

.
athelind: (Default)
Mostly for my own reference:


Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design




While Dr. Akin is an aerospace engineer, most if not all of these Laws apply to systems design in general.

[livejournal.com profile] normanrafferty should take particular note of the following:


14. (Edison's Law) "Better" is the enemy of "good".



Snagged from [livejournal.com profile] theweaselking, whom I forgot to credit when I first posted this.

.
athelind: (Default)
"Unca" is an honorific that refers to an individual whose words or writing have had a marked influence on Your Obedient Serpent's philosophical development.

It is, obviously, a diminutive of "Uncle", and is in itself an homage to Unca Carl,* who invariably had Huey, Dewey and Louie address their elders as "Unca Donald" and "Unca Scrooge".

Note that Your Obedient Serpent doesn't have to agree with everything someone has said or done for them to receive the honorific. Sometimes, he just shakes his head sadly and says, "Yeah, there goes Unca Bob** again." Often, such lapses are instances when the person in question doesn't consistently apply his own avowed principles.


*Not to be confused with Unca Carl.
**Not to be confused with Unca Bob.

athelind: (Default)
"Unca" is an honorific that refers to an individual whose words or writing have had a marked influence on Your Obedient Serpent's philosophical development.

It is, obviously, a diminutive of "Uncle", and is in itself an homage to Unca Carl,* who invariably had Huey, Dewey and Louie address their elders as "Unca Donald" and "Unca Scrooge".

Note that Your Obedient Serpent doesn't have to agree with everything someone has said or done for them to receive the honorific. Sometimes, he just shakes his head sadly and says, "Yeah, there goes Unca Bob** again." Often, such lapses are instances when the person in question doesn't consistently apply his own avowed principles.


*Not to be confused with Unca Carl.
**Not to be confused with Unca Bob.

athelind: (food)

"Omnomnomnivore."




Thanks, [livejournal.com profile] araquan.
athelind: (Default)

"Omnomnomnivore."




Thanks, [livejournal.com profile] araquan.

November 2016

S M T W T F S
  12345
6 78 9101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930   

Tags

Page generated May. 27th, 2017 04:23 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios