- Jul 15, 2015: Pluto is a planet. So are the others.
- Apparently in all the foo-fraw about "Pluto is just a dwarf planet, not a 'real' planet", the IAU has apparently forgotten basic English. (They actually argued about this, because they still don't want to admit that we have more than 8 planets). "Dwarf" is an adjective modifying "planet". A "dwarf planet" is a planet, no matter what the idiots in the IAU vote.
Officially, the planets of the Solar System are:
3. Earth-Moon double planet
4. Ceres, which has a lot of asteroids in the same orbit, too.
10. Pluto-Charon double-planet
Unofficialy, we're pretty sure of several more:
14. Orcus (who let the D&D players name things?)
15. 2002 MS4
18. 2007 OR10
There are 5 more Trans-Neptunian Objects that are "highly likely" candidates for dwarf planet. (Up to 24 planets now...)
And researches expect that with complete exploration of the Kuiper Belt (that big asteroid belt beyond Pluto's orbit), we may find 100-200 more. Add stuff beyond the Kuiper Belt, and we're talking thousands.
When I was a kid, we had just 9 planets, and discussion of planets around other stars (exoplanets) was confined to science fiction. Welcome to the 21st century.
- Jul 4, 2015: Comments, Use of Weapons
- I just finished reading the Iain M. Banks Culture novel, Use of Weapons. I am not impressed; I think the author cheated, or tacked on the twist ending (that I saw coming) at the last minute and was sloppy about editing.
( SPOILERS AHOY! )
- Jul 4, 2015: Comments on Northanger Abbey
- I finished this book last week or so. It was not actually a parody of The Mysteries of Udolpho, though it may have been a bit satiric of it. Northanger Abbey was an Austen romance, not a gothic, in which the author, via the heroine, snipes at Ann Radcliffe's stories (such as Udolpho).
The first bit is the protagonist: I gather that Austen thought Radcliffe's heroines were precious little Mary Sues (she would have completely understood the modern concept) and deliberately made her heroine the opposite: plain, not incredibly intelligent, indifferent as to education, not especially virtuous and obedient as a daughter, not inclined to writing poetry or the arts, but just Jane Average and a tom-boy. Her parents are pointedly not tragically dead, nor are they cruel guardians--they are laid-back, agreeable people who love their children.
Of course, the girls in the story have been reading Udolpho and think it is the most awesome thing since sliced bread... at first. Later on, our protagonist gets herself in a bit of embarrassment because she lets her Udolpho-inspired imagination run away with her and imagines a cruel tragedy committed by her boyfriend's father--but the hidden manuscript turns out to be someone's forgotten laundry list, and the general's "guilty aversion" to the portraits and topic of his dead wife are the still-lively grief of a man whose beloved wife died when he was away on vital business and couldn't get home in time to be at her bedside. Our heroine realizes (after her dryly-sarcastic boyfriend points it out) that dark, tragic secret crimes might be possible in isolated manors in southern France of the mountains of Italy, but in midlands England, where everyone is all over his neighbor's business and a servant can't sneeze without everyone in the county gossiping about their cold, and our legal system really doesn't go along with that sort of thing? Yeah, no.
The titular abbey turns out not to be the "romantic" ruin Catherine imagined it to be--her boyfriend's family has modernized and expanded the place, because it's where they live, and wealthy families don't camp in ruins. (It would appear Catherine missed the part in Udolpho where Montoni was having the castle repaired and modernized, too...) After seeing how many servants the general has to maintain the abbey, Catherine becomes skeptical of just how realistic her gothic novels are, that have one or two old servants maintaining an empty manor or castle.
Finally, Austen clearly disliked the bad romance trope mentioned in my remarks on Mysteries of Udolpho: stupid misunderstandings that persist for half the book that could be cleared up by five minutes of conversation. Several places she pointedly has Catherine NOT jump to the conclusion that someone's brother or sister who she has not met yet is their secret lover so they can have a big misunderstanding over it.
- Jun 21, 2015: Remarks on "The Mysteries of Udolpho"
- I just finished reading the 1794 novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliffe. It's considered one of the seminal Gothic Romances, alone with The Castle of Otranto and The Monk.
It's solidly in the romance genre, as defined now: girl meets boy, various obstacles keep them apart, obstacles vanquished by end of novel, girl and boy get married live happily ever after. The "gothic' part of Mysteries is purely atmospheric, as all the apparently supernatural events are explained away by human action.
That being said, there's a reason that literature classes study Jane Austen and not Ann Radcliffe--she's just not that good. Jane Austen is much, much better.
Issues I had with the novel, such that I can see why Jane Austen parodied Mysteries of Udolpho in Northanger Abbey (It's on my To Be Read list):
Women in 2-D!
There are four types of major female characters in the novel:
- innocent, young, beautiful upper-class girls, who are so sensitive and innocent that they inconveniently faint whenever anything exciting happens, or when the idea of anything exciting happens. Someone needs to loosen their corset stays or something.
- hysterical servant women.
- Kind, generous, compassionate and conveniently deceased upper-class ladies who are relatives.
- Shallow, spendthrift, self-centered to the point of meanness, and living upper-class matrons who are relatives. Something tells me that Ann Radcliffe did not get along well with her older female relatives.
Elizabeth Bennett would have been embarrassed by the lot of them.
As in Tolkien's work, we get a lot of the author's poetry randomly interspersed in the novel, purportedly written by the various characters. This is one case where I would have preferred the character's poetry writing to be an Informed Attribute. The poetry is distracting, not that great, and interrupts the flow of the story. (And, in the E-book I was reading, incorrectly formatted, which really didn't help)
Idiot Plots and Informed Attributes
These are connected, as we have several characters--the heroine Emily St. Aubert and the secondary parental figure Count de Villefort who are described as rational, anti-superstition, trained in reason and philosophy, who nevertheless behave like irrational idiots.
In Villefort's case, the otherwise skeptical man who doesn't believe rumors of hauntings and suchlike is willing to believe every bad rumor he's heard about Valancourt's(the romantic lead) character, in spite of having met the man in person and knowing his family. This only happens when the plot requires it, of course.
In Emily's case, in spite of supposedly being quite anti-superstition and a rational devotee of Reason, she's quick to assume every weird thing must be a supernatural horror and doesn't look for alternative explanations--when the plot requires it.
And let's not forget that classic bad romantic trope, the tragic misunderstanding that keeps the couple apart for half the book that could have been cleared up with five minutes of honest conversation.
ETA: One minor thing that drove me nuts several places in the book: our heroes, both male and female, have the singular ability to lose a mountain trail in broad daylight, not find the well-known inn their accompanying guides supposedly were taking them to, and insist that the cleverest thing to do is keep on walking in the dark looking for the missing inn. In the mountains, complete with floridly described cliffs and chasms. In the dark. Because obviously that's the way to find a place--try to walk off random drop offs in the dark.
Seriously, someone needs to teach these people the concept of "making camp at dusk". If you can't find the inn, guess what, you can sleep in the carriage and your useless guides can at least tend the fire and keep watch.
The author has an explicit Aesop tacked on in the afterword: good, virtuous people triumph in the end and live happily ever after while evil people die horribly even if they temporarily get to push around the good guys. Not only is this obviously not true in Real Life, it's not true in the book. The completely innocent Marchioness dies painfully of poison, the merely shallow but not evil Madame Montoni (neé Cheron) dies badly; the gentle, kindly father Mons. St. Aubert dies of illness after losing his family fortune and outliving his wife and the Marchioness (who he loved as a young man), leaving his beloved daughter an impoverished orphan, and the completely honorable Mons DuPont drifts out of the book at the end, sad over unrequited love. The real Aesop is "if you are a main character that the author likes, you get to live happily ever after", but that's hardly a surprise.
The implicit Aesop is that one should use reason and control one's emotions and do not trust rumors and appearances, but investigate things that don't make sense. It would have been a much shorter book if the major characters who were supposed to be rational had done that. On the other hand, IF Emily had listened to the rumors around Montoni's character and run off with Valancourt instead of following her guardian aunt to Italy with her new husband Montoni, it would have been a much shorter book. Or at least a different one. Admittedly, Emily neither acted on the rumors nor did she investigate the matter rationally--she did nothing and just went along with things (not that she had much chance to investigate).
In general, Emily was just the kind of overly-sensitive, excessively sheltered twee character that I just want to grab and shake some sense into. Not that it would help, she'd just faint and be feverish for days over the shock to her senses. (Maybe she needs some quinine for that recurring illness?)
Her reaction to Valancourt's supposed disgrace was, frankly, not mine. My reaction would have been: "Clean up your act, get out of debt, and come back when you've proven you can control yourself and your spending habits and then we'll talk." Incidentally, that would have provided him an opportunity to realize that what "I" had heard about him was possibly not the same as what he actually did. Instead, Emily was all weeping and crying and "You have lost my esteem FOREVER, go away and don't even try to talk to me," without mentioning what he'd supposedly done, since obviously he knew how disgraceful he'd been.
This book would have been thrown at the wall several times if I weren't reading it on an e-reader that wasn't built for that kind of abuse. I am looking forward to reading Northanger Abbey to see just what kind of takedown Jane Austen did to it.
- Mar 9, 2015: Not Always Right, Honorverse edition
- My first thought on reading this entry was "So Victor Cachat does his retail shopping in Texas?"
- Feb 22, 2015: Time sure flies when you're not having fun
- Wow, I haven't posted here since last July? Is that because LJ/DW is becoming less relevant, or because I have been depressed for a long spell. Six of one and half a dozen of the other, as they say. I have been posting on Minecraft Forum about mod works off and on, playing on The Wake, and not much else. I retreated from Tumblr because I stay up too late reading stuff that just gets me spun up and angry, and it's a terrible medium for communication. You can't do conversations worth a flip there, so I can't really talk about what pisses me off. Also the mob mentality there is really annoying--if you say something someone interprets crosswise as being rude about the Cause du Jour, you get a bunch of young idiots dog-piling you and telling you you're a horrible, terrible person who should just die. Oh wait, that's the entire internet.
Maybe if I just dumped all the 'follows' that brought up the Cause du Jour and kept only the Transformers pron & RP ones, I'd enjoy it more.
I haven't written anything except RP posts in ages, which is usually a sign that I'm not in good mental health. Right now I'm not in good physical health--got an inflamed tendon in my elbow, aka "tennis elbow", and wearing a wrist stabilizer (yes, you use it for the elbow condition too, as the tendon in question is pulled on by the muscles that make your hand grip tightly) makes it cumbersome and slow to type.
State of the Cynthia: I have tennis elbow, I'm working on Minecraft mods (slowly), I'm employed still, the spouse is in good shape after years of all kinds of not-fun hospital stuff, and I'd like a dog and some large cats. Also, someone needs to clean the fish tank, it's 3 weeks overdue and one arm is out commission.