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: (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: (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)

"Omnomnomnivore."




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


H.G. Wells: This is delicious, far superior to that Scottish place I breakfasted.
Amy Robbins: Scottish?
H.G. Wells: MacDougall's.
-- Time After Time (1979)


athelind: (Default)
Both Kinds: X1 and X2 indicates a distinction that seems non-existent to an outsider, but to an insider, seems not only significant, but a proud example of diversity and broad tastes.


Derives from the scene in The Blues Brothers in which the eponymous band cruise into a cowboy bar and claim to be the act that's actually booked their, stealing their gig. As they're setting up, they try to get an idea of what they should play:



Elwood: What kind of music do you usually have here?
Bar Manager: Oh, we got both kinds. We got country and western.



Can also be used for the inversion, where an insider who really knows the diversity of a field winces at what a dabbler considers "diverse":


Grognard: "What kind of games do you usually play here?"
WoW Refugee: "Oh, we play both kinds: Dungeons and Dragons."
addendum, 16 Feb 2010: "I don't play D&D, I play Pathfinder."


In rare instances, it works both ways simultaneously:


Customer: "What kind of comics do you sell?"
Loyal Diamond Minion: "Both kinds: Marvel and DC."



athelind: (Default)
I find myself amused by some of the "new entries" in the "Canonical Glossary of Slang for Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0".

Current slang such as "Cobweb Site" and "Dead Tree Edition" has infiltrated "future" slang as as the "bleeding edge of the One-And-Twenty" slips toward the Present Day and into the Recent Past.


athelind: (Default)
"...and I feel fine."

Usually uttered after exposure to some particularly unpleasant news article about the state of the environment, the economy, or legislative stupidity.

It comes from the chorus (and title) of a certain song by R.E.M., and is intended to suggest the immediately-preceding phrase.

Depending on context and intonation, it can also imply overtones of "...bring it on", "this, too, shall pass", or "I'm too tired to care anymore" -- sometimes, all three at once.

But, honestly -- how can you listen to this and not feel better?



athelind: (Default)
The mild case of the flu that I've been fighting since Tuesday has transmogrified into a day of Coughing Up Globs of Unpleasantness, Mental Incoherence*, and General Misery.

Semantically, I have discovered that the word "phlegm" is an ideal expletive. While it refers to a bodily secretion, it is not technically scatological. It manages to simultaneously avoid both the social taboos and the banality of more traditional vulgarities, eschewing the conventional form of "shock value" in favor of a genuine, visceral revulsion. When you utter "phlegm" as an expletive, the listener's mind immediately clicks onto the word's meaning.

The sound of the word is deeply evocative of its meaning, to the point of onomatopoeia. The dictionary insists that it's simply pronounced [flěm], but, personally, I tend to give "ph" a slightly more plosive emphasis than "f", and that "g" isn't so much "silent" as subliminal. [flěm] simply isn't as gutteral. With the proper pronunciation and emphasis, uttering "phlegm" at an irritating or offensive situation should clearly convey the impression that you are suppressing the impulse to clear your throat and spit.

It is my fervent** hope that, upon reading this, others will simply be too revolted to adopt this usage; if it were to enter common usage, it would soon lose the qualities that make it so effective an expression of displeasure, becoming as conventional as any of Carlin's Seven Words.



*Yes, this is how I communicate when I'm "incoherent". The little words go first, leaving a cascade of polysyllabic babbling that is only superficially erudite.
**in its literal meaning of "fevered"; rest assured that I would not wax so eloquently about such a topic were I, in fact, in my right mind.
***I suppose you could say that I'm "operating under the influenz-a".
****Or perhaps I'm merely a hack writer.

athelind: (Default)
Avocado Age: The 1970s, a period when Avocado Green and Harvest Gold were considered appropriate and fashionable colors for interior decoration, particularly in kitchen appliances.


(Posted by request of [livejournal.com profile] halfelf; really, anyone old enough to remember the era wouldn't have needed a definition.)
athelind: (Default)
Derives from the 1976 revival of The Liar's Club, one of the "celebrity panel" game shows that were so popular in the Avocado Age. TLC's gimmick was to hand an obscure, odd-looking tool, device or gadget to the "celebrities"; each one, in turn, would describe its function.

Only one, of course, would actually be telling the truth, and it fell to the contestants to decide whose story was most plausible.

As I recall, the very first object in the very first episode of the revival was this... thing... that looked more or less like a loop of barbed wire, with sharp spikes facing outward. One of the celebrities insisted that it was, in fact, a Mongoose Collar, and, after initial guffaws, spun an entertaining and entirely plausible tale about how, in India, the household mongoose would wear one of these to repel the deadly bite of the cobras they were kept to hunt.

The object turned out to be some kind of wool-comb for spinning, if memory serves, but for the rest of the episode, "mongoose collar" became a running gag, used (jokingly) to describe every other object presented in subsequent rounds.

Thus, a Mongoose Collar is:
  1. A gizmo, gadget, or thingamajig of indeterminate purpose or provenance; or
  2. An unlikely, implausible or blatantly incorrect answer chosen completely at random.


athelind: (Default)
In the 1965 Batman tale, "Partners in Plunder" (Batman #169, February 1965), the Caped Crusader had to deal with that Felonious Fowl, The Penguin, in the second Silver Age Appearance of said scurrilous scofflaw.

The Dishonorable Mister Cobblepott, you see, had just been released from prison... again... and had the villain's equivalent of writer's block. He simply could not come up with a sufficiently flamboyant plot to be worthy of his attention -- and that of the Dynamic Duo.

What? Go straight? and give up the game?? Nonsense!!

Instead, in a flash of Genre Savvy inspiration, he came up with a plan to have Batman and Robin plan his next caper for him. He set up a seemingly-honest front selling his trademark umbrellas, and then pulled entirely random umbrella-related stunts around Gotham City: exploding umbrellas, giant, radio-controlled umbrellas, and more.

At one point, Batman and Robin show up in the umbrella shop to warn him that they're onto him, but, of course, they have no real proof. After they leave, Robin notes in puzzlement that Cobblepott was wearing his monocle on the wrong eye.

He plants a radio transmitter in one of the errant bumbershoots, and, when Batman and Robin have it in their hands, he cheerfully listens in as they piece together the "clues" he's left, figure out the "target" he plans to steal, and thoroughly detail the way they think he's going to pull it off.

He chortles, and goes through with exactly that crime, exactly the way they described it. He does tweak a few things, but to no avail; he winds up in their clutches anyway.

He doesn't care, though. Why not? Well, for one, the World's Greatest Detectives never figure out that they planned the job for him.

For another... they're still scratching their heads over the significance of the monocle.

And he reveals, to the reader alone... there was no significance. He put it in the wrong eye just to fuck with them.

This was later adapted into Burgess Meredith's two-part debut as The Penguin in the Adam West Batman TV show: "Fine Feathered Finks"/"The Penguin's a Jinx".

Reading this tale a few months back pretty much cemented Oswald's status as My Favorite Bat-Villain.

It also describes My GMing style -- or my most successful one, that is -- which is why it merits the Argot entry.

As a Game Host, the approach that works best to me is to have a general framework in mind, but be willing to change things on the fly -- and to be willing to take good suggestions from the player, whether they intended them as suggestions or not.

(The obvious extension of this, of course, is the Monocle Mystery: Always leave a loose end or two to mess with their heads.)

As an example:

In the first big adventure of the [livejournal.com profile] legacy2020 game, Robin rattled off this entirely reasonable chain of "villain profiling" logic that ended with, "so, obviously, Squid's hideout must be HERE."

I stopped, blinked, and realized that what Robin's player had come up with was far better than anything I'd thought of myself. So... there it was. Penguin Plotting prevailed!

[livejournal.com profile] eggshellhammer contrasts this with pixelbitching, "Like in the old adventure games, where you had to click just... the right... pixel... And it looked like every... other... pixel..."


athelind: (Default)
Since it's Friday the 13th, it seems an appropriate time to explain a phrase that I use with great frequency:

"Coyote Loves Me."



I often utter it in situations where other folks might invoke "Murphy's Law" or "Finagle's Law", which leads many people to assume that it's entirely about, well, bad luck.

That's not it at all -- or not the important part.

It's a philosophy -- and one that requires a backstory.

Though I didn't coin the phrase until many years after this incident, the definition comes from my mother: "For all the bad luck we have, we have a lot of good luck."

She said this around 1980 or so, after my stepdad -- who had been working long hours with a long commute -- fell asleep driving home on the twisting, turning country road in the backwoods of Northern San Diego County. He veered out of his lane, and had a head-on collision with another vehicle -- kind of.

The glancing impact peeled all the bodywork off the driver's side of his little blue Toyota -- and that's it. The Toy was still drivable after the panels and windows were replaced.

Nobody in either car was injured at all -- except for little cubes of safety glass in Papa's hair.

His tight, curly black man's hair.

So... a potentially fatal tragedy turned into a comically annoying nuisance.

Coyote, you see, loves us.

God is a prankster with a slapstick sense of humor, desperately trying to get a laugh... and the harder it is to get you to laugh, the harder he tries.

If you see the joke, and laugh... well, he might not go easy on you, exactly, but he might not try so hard to get a reaction.

And all the random, wonderful, serendipitous good things that happen? Those are part of the joke, too.

(For the record, my relationship with Coyote made the transition from "catch phrase" to "something akin to religious faith" after the 2004 "re"-election of George Dubya Bush.)


For further reading:
  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein ("Man is the animal who laughs... we laugh because it hurts, because it's the only way to make it stop hurting.")
  • Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons ("Hey... I never said it was a good joke! I'm just playin' along with the gag...")

athelind: (Default)
A man falls from the observation deck of the Empire State Building.

As he falls, people on each and every floor hear him say 'so far, so good' as he plummets by their windows.


It's almost a zen koan in its simple, elegant statement of universal truth.


athelind: (Default)
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control:

Influenza usually starts suddenly and may include the following symptoms:
  • Fever (usually high)
  • Headache
  • Tiredness (can be extreme)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Body aches
  • Diarrhea and vomiting (more common among children than adults)

Having these symptoms does not always mean that you have the flu. Many different illnesses, including the common cold, can have similar symptoms.


Ever get mild versions of these symptoms, one or two at a time, over several days instead of all at once? One day, you've got the body aches; another day, the gurgling stomach; a third day, you've got a mild sore throat -- but not all at once, and, other than those specific symptoms, you feel okay.

I call that Serial Flu.

And that's how I've spent the last three days or so. Body aches and slight sore throat on Wednesday; on Thursday, I woke up with a raging headache, and spent the afternoon with a gurgling stomach; today, I've got sinus pressure and more stomach joy. I'm not quite sick enough to really feel sick, but just crappy enough that I don't feel well.

At least I missed out on Con Crud!

It usually hits in years that I've had a flu shot, which makes me suspect that I would have been slammed pretty hard without the shot.
athelind: (Default)
If there's a little crack in your windshield, it's not just going to spontaneously heal itself -- even if it's so small you can only see it at certain angles. It's just going to get bigger and bigger, so slowly you don't really notice, until, finally, kerSMASH.


This is a metaphor.
athelind: (Default)
Easterners like to snark about how the Golden State "doesn't have seasons."

Of course it does. They're just different than East Coast seasons.

We have:


  • Air, when the hills are green, the flowers bloom, and the wind is a pleasant, offshore breeze.

  • Earth, when the hills have turned brown golden.

  • Fire, when the hot devil winds blow from the mountains, and the wildfires bloom.

  • Water, when the rains roll in.



The seasons may start earlier or later, and they may be more intense in one year than another, but, by golly, they're there.
athelind: (Default)
"Beware of the Leopard!": When vital information is hidden in obscure locations, esp. when the people who require that information are blamed when they can't find it.

From Douglas Adams:

"But Mr. Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months."

"Oh yes, well, as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them, had you? I mean, like actually telling anybody or anything."

"But the plans were on display ..."

"On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them."

"That's the display department."

"With a torch."

"Ah, well, the lights had probably gone."

"So had the stairs."

"But look, you found the notice, didn't you?"

"Yes," said Arthur, "yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard'."


Exempli gratia, from a discussion on FurryMUCK:

Leonard proposed The Rules Lawyer's Maxim: Where there is no Text, there is an Argument.

[livejournal.com profile] normanrafferty countered with Rafferty's Extension to the Rules Lawyer's Maxim: Stopping at the end of the line and not cross-referencing is NOT a lack of text.

Your Obedient Serpent responded with [livejournal.com profile] athelind's Commentary on Rafferty's Extension to the Rules Lawyer's Maxim: If you can't FIND the rule, you don't HAVE the rule. Lack of cross-referencing IS a lack of text.

The Beware of the Leopard school of game design scatters vital rules for important situations -- say, combat -- all over the rulebook, with neither repetition for emphasis nor cross-reference. If important rules appear in the Index, you will only be able to find them if you know in advance what specific game-jargon term the system uses -- and that term will only be used in the Index and in the single obscure entry that's a footnote to a seldom-used table in the back of the book.

This is in no way a reference to actual leopards.
athelind: (Default)
Read more... )
athelind: (Default)
In a comment thread in another journal, someone asked just what version of their holy texts Christian Fundamentalists considered... "fundamental".

To understand Fundamentalism, one must first understand the meaning and the etymology of the word "fundament":

fun·da·ment: n.

    1. The buttocks.
    2. The anus.

      [Middle English foundement, from Old French fondement, from Latin fundamentum, from fundare, to lay the foundation, from fundus, bottom.]


In other words, a "Fundamentalist" is one who pulls their religious beliefs out of their ass.

And now you know.

And knowing is half the battle.


athelind: (Default)
Everyone's heard of Herman Melville's classic, Moby Dick. Some have actually seen one cinematic adaptation or another.

Damned few people have actually read the book. I myself have only gotten about a third of the way into it -- not because the book itself is the tedious experience that so many much-ballyhooed "classics" seem to be, but because of an ill-timed move and a misplaced copy.

However, the opening passage immediately resonated with me. A lot of people can quote that oft-repeated first line -- but it's what comes after that speaks to me.

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago--never mind how long precisely--having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off--then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

Today is an Ishmael day.

Watch your hat. I have no ship on which to sail.
athelind: (Default)
"He has a mind like a steel trap: once it clamps down on a misconception, it's nearly impossible to pry it open again."
athelind: (Default)
Today in the lab, I found myself mildly irked by uncooperative software. At one point, I turned to one of my co-workers, and said, "Hey, Rocky! Watch my pull some numbers out of my ass!"

I've realized that it's a philosophy that crops up all over the place -- particularly in game design. Most RPGs just toss in numbers that "feel right" without really thinking about what kind of results they'll give.

Quel says it's a popular approach at her workplace, as well.

So, now, in the future, when you hear me refer to "The Bullwinkle School" or "Bullwinkle Design", you'll know what I mean.

March 2010

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