2019/01/18

Combat Frame Data: XCD-001-3


XCD-001-3 Xanthippe
  
XCD-001-3 Xanthippe

Technical Data

Model number: XCD-001-3
Code name: XSeed
Nickname: Xanthippe
Classification: energy weapon optimized Sentinel use combat frame
Manufacturer: Seed Corporation
Operator: [REDACTED]
First deployment: CY 1
Crew: 1 pilot in cockpit in chest
Height: 19 meters
Weight: dry weight 65 metric tons, full weight 80.3 metric tons
Armor type: "1D" carbyne laminar armor
Powerplant: cold fusion reactor, max output 2795 KW
Propulsion: rocket thrusters: 4x 41,790 kg, 4x 20,910 kg, 2x 12,000kg; top speed 3564 kph; maneuvering thrusters: 20, 180° turn time 0.80 seconds; legs: top ground speed 196 kph
Sensors: radar, thermal, optical array; main binocular cameras mounted in head
Fixed armaments: 2x plasma sword, power rated at 0.50 MW, stored in recharge rack on back, hand-carried in use.
Optional hand armaments: magnetic disruptor rifle, hand-carried; carbyne shield, mounts to either forearm.

General Notes

The third XSeed prototype, produced after the XCD-001-1 Prometheus and the XCD-001-2 Kreuzgun, the XCD-001-3 Xanthippe largely eschewed plasma weapons in favor of more terrifying experimental armaments.

The XCD-001-3's rifle used magnets made from graphene superconductors to accelerate a coiled carbyne filament to a significant fraction of light speed. The weapon had two fire modes: a matter disruptor setting that released the hyper-velocity filament and fired it as a projectile, and a neural disruptor setting that didn't release the filament but instead used it to generate a focused EM burst capable of severing the neuron connections in a target's brain through barriers up to and including 1D armor.

The Xanthippe's other custom weapon was a modified coffin shield much like the model carried by Prometheus and Kreuzgun with one notable addition. Megami added a spool of nearly unbreakable carbyne cable mounted on the inside of the shield near the lower edge. A magazine inserted next to the spool housing contained six superconducting magnets. Pressing a switch on the weapon control stick in the cockpit activated a mechanism in the shield that fed out a magnet and attached it to the cable.

The tethered magnet was wielded by the strength of the Xanthippe's shield arm. It had a variety of melee weapon applications including a whip, a flail, a garrote, and could trap enemy CFs by attaching magnets to both ends of the cable and pinning the target between some larger object and the wire. The magnets were powerful enough to stick to nearly anything, not just ferrous metals. The Xanthippe's pilot could decide how much of the cable to pay out, could reel it back in, or release it at will. When lashed like a whip, the carbyne cable was able to slice through almost any substance, even 1D armor. The pilot could manually untether a desired length of cable from the shield and attach a new magnet at any time.

Such a lethal and versatile weapons loadout came at a cost. The Xanthippe had no easy way to discharge energy stored in its onboard capacitor, leaving it visible to radar and more vulnerable to energy weapon attacks after absorbing its maximum power load. Then again, the stealthy nature of its weapons meant that few opponents detected the third XSeed's presence before it destroyed them.

2019/01/17

The Primacy of Speculative Reason - Encore

Author's note: Here's one from the vaults. It struck me as particularly relevant now.

Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.
-Dr. Ian Malcolm

Americans' habitual contempt for speculative reason never fails to dismay me, though our great country's myopic fascination with pure practicality is hardly surprising. A brief survey of our history reveals a clear preference for asking, "What should be done/how should we do it?" over "Why should we do this/what does it mean?".

From before the time of Plato; through Aristotle and Aquinas, the chief concern of Western philosophy was to address important questions through dialogue based on appeals to first principles (i.e. speculative reason). This noble tradition's downfall can be traced to the work of a single German philosopher. No, it's not Karl Marx. To pinpoint the moment when speculative reason toppled  from its throne, we must go back yet another century to the work of Immanuel Kant.

Frustrated by the perceived lack of stability in classical metaphysics (despite probably having read very little of it), Kant restricted the sphere of rational knowledge to experience and empiricism--despite the fact that doing so requires an appeal to sources of knowledge beyond experience and empiricism. Likewise, he failed to anticipate the catastrophic results of undermining natural law-based ethics while absolutizing personal autonomy.

If you're a typical postmodern Westerner, you probably couldn't care less about anything in the post above (except for the Jurassic Park quote--man, is it amazing how well that movie holds up or what?). You can be certain that I understand your deeply ingrained impatience with history, ontology, and philosophy in general. Rest assured that I'll explain why you should be gravely, intimately concerned with the airy notions that a bunch of Greeks and Germans discussed in the forgotten dark age that gripped the world before last Wednesday.

Exhibit A in my case for speculative reason is this article by Matt Saccaro. I cite this piece as a perfect example of 1) the practical reason-fueled utilitarian bias that dominates American culture and 2) the self-refuting absurdity of that bias. In support of his proposal to cut liberal arts disciplines from college curricula, the author argues that these fields of study serve only to shelter "intellectual cravens" unfit for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics degrees. Removing "soft disciplines" like literature, fine arts, etc. would keep the riffraff out of college and in their rightful place as blue-collar laborers.

Mr. Saccaro's belief that, "the realities of the 21st century world make it true" that students whose natural gifts and dispositions lead them to non-STEM vocations have no business in college is less self-evident than he assumes. I could build a counter argument based on declining STEM job security due to the glut of outsourcing and work visas, along with the need for authoritative standards in fields like law, education, and yes, art; but that would mean first accepting the current zeitgeist's false, biased terms. No, all that's needed to show the faults in Saccaro's position is to ask, "How do you know that?"

Setting aside the flagrant hubris of pigeonholing all human beings in either STEM or Intellectual Craven categories (I'll take Mr. Saccaro's identification of skilled tradesmen with college washouts more seriously when he demonstrates enough skill to install water and gas lines for a laundry room without flooding/blowing up his home), I'll point out that asserting the supremacy of STEM fields over liberal arts involves a value statement. I.e. to avoid circularity, arguments from utility must appeal to principles discovered through metaphysics. Practical reason depends on speculative reason.

I couldn't cast a silver bullet more lethal to utilitarian bias than the one Saccaro uses to shoot himself in the foot:
There are two possible fates for the American postsecondary education system. One is for it to maintain its current status as a factory that produces debt-slaves and baristas that can recite Emmanuel Kant’s passages from memory. The other is for Universities and Colleges to become leaner, more-functional institutions that remove all unnecessary coursework, and focus only on what matters.
That whirring sound is Kant spinning in his grave.

2019/01/16

Movie Ranks: Men vs Women

Seen on Twitter:


Cursory analysis: Women like newer children's movies. Men like mature films--with a marked preference for war movies, westerns, and sci-fi--that span all eras of film.

Additional observation: Number of entries on each list that also appear on AFI's list of the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time

  • Women: 1
  • Men: 7

Also, I haven't dug deeply into this, but the women's list contains a glut of movies based on books, whereas the men's list appears to feature a preponderance of original screenplays.

What's the takeaway? Honestly, I'm not sure. I do have a sneaking suspicion that women give pride of place to stories as stories while men take a keener interest in film as a medium. Perhaps the disparity has something to do with men being more visual. This phenomenon warrants further study.

2019/01/15

Book vs Movie

Book vs movie

In my work as a freelance editor, I've noticed a common tendency among the current crop of science fiction authors to write books as if they're writing movies. That practice is understandable since most science fiction and fantasy novels published after 1980 suck, and therefore today's authors are disproportionately influenced by film.

However, writing a novel by playing a little movie in your head and transcribing what you see in your mind's eye hobbles the final product. Because this generation of authors don't read as much as their forebears did, few of them realize the storytelling advantages that books have over movies.

The film advantage

First, let's examine the storytelling tools in a film maker's repertoire that simply aren't available to novelists.

  • Film is a visual medium. Movies don't have to spend time describing characters, action, and settings. They can just show those elements.
  • Movies are easier to consume. As passive entertainment, they require less time investment and skill on the part of the audience. Bibliophiles often take the ability to read for granted, but nearly half of all American adults now have significant difficulty reading or are functionally illiterate.
  • In addition to their main visual aspect, movies are also enhanced by audio. Music and sound effects add extra layers and depth to the moviegoing experience.
Book advantages


Film makers certainly have storytelling tools at their disposal that novelists don't. On the other hand, authors can pull off feats of story craft that make movie directors jealous.

  1. Authors can directly convey their characters' emotions. Storytelling works by evoking an emotional response in the audience. When it comes to making audiences empathize with characters, novelists who understand their medium have all other artists beat. Authors have a thousand ways to relate characters' emotional states to readers, from subtle word choices that filter descriptions through a POV character's mood, to outright saying how a character feels.Movies have to rely on actors' performances and musical cues to get the same info across. Unless the director decides to include a voiceover, which is hard to do without getting heavy handed.
  2. Novel characters can be themselves. Related to the point above, the simple and necessary act of casting an actor to portray a character imposes hard limits on that character and the audience. Star Wars fans who read the 1976 novelization before the 1977 movie came out were free to imagine what Han Solo looked and sounded like within the broad descriptions supplied by Alan Dean Foster. Then the movie came out and effectively vetoed their imaginations. Now Han Solo is and forever will be Harrison Ford, Just like Aragorn is Viggo Mortensen and Daniel Radcliffe is Harry Potter. Books give readers more creative freedom.
  3. Books let readers make more choices. Every author has a personal vision for his work. Each reader has his own interpretation of a book's events, characters, and setting that will always differ from the author's to varying degrees. I've talked to readers who picture some of my most prominent characters with wildly different hair colors than are clearly defined in the book, for instance. That's an extreme example, but smart authors take advantage of readers' desire to stake ownership over the story by opening aspects up to interpretation. Use your books' higher necessary audience investment to foster audience participation.
  4. An unlimited special effects budget. The author is so called because he wields effectively unlimited authority over his secondary world. And compared to a film director, exercising that authority is practically effortless. As a novelist, you can conjure monsters as big as any realized on film--or bigger, stage battles between millions of swarming starships, and create worlds yet undreamed of. For free. Bonus: You can go the Lovecraft route and totally own film makers by writing of creatures so otherworldly as to defy mortal comprehension.

2019/01/14

Who's Frank Pentangeli?

Frank Pentangeli

Perusing this humanist blogger's semi-apt comparisons of various dissident Right figures to characters from the Godfather saga, one comes across this howler:
Also, because of excessive pride, Fuentes is too often and too easily dismissive of views and ideas that doesn’t jibe with his paradigm, and this is especially true when it comes to Catholic vs Pagan debate. His sadistic side just can’t resist putting on the robe of the grand inquisitor and insulting neo-pagans on the right and stretching them on the rack.
There's a reason why secular humanists white knight for neo-pagans. The latter are simply atheists who crave the ritual and fellowship of real religion without the morality or discipline. Similarly, atheists on the Right all too often turn out to be indistinguishable from Leftists who hate Christians and Jews instead of just hating Christians.
...Perhaps, Fuentes is drawn to Catholicism because he senses that his immense ego, if un-anchored to faith in God, can easily fly off the handle like that of fellow Latin Mussolini. It’s like a willful dog needs an especially powerful leash to prevent it from running wild and crazy. But for Fuentes, his Catholic leash has become more than a check on his emotions. It has become a check on his intellect and imagination, even to the point of dismissing evolution and entertaining the notion of geocentrism. 
Lens Flare Fedora Shrek
It has also become an easy whip of moral indignation. In this, Fuentes has something in common with the young Pat Buchanan who, as a young conservative, was an odd-man-out in Columbia Journalism school filled with Liberals(as recounted in his delightful autobiography RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING). Buchanan always had brains and passion, but his overt Catholicism limited his imagination and scope as a thinker, culture critic, and politician. It’s interesting that Fuentes is most like Buchanan but really admires Donald Trump who, being free of religious dogma, has been able to forge a new kind of politics.
If Catholicism is a limiting principle on political thought and imagination, then Matteo Salvini, Jair Bolsonaro, and Andrzej Duda, to name a few, seem oddly unaffected.

Exhibit A: Contra the OP's association of Trumpism with "being free of religious dogma", Trump had more support from Catholics, Protestants, and Jews than from atheists.

Vote by Religion

Exhibit B: a telling exchange between the Audacious Epigone and the decidedly less-antichrist Dissident Right atheist the Z Man:

A Conquered People

Heritage Americans are devoid of purpose because, like the American Indians, our culture and religion have been stolen from us. Christianity is the rock on which Western civilization was founded. It cannot be replaced with appeals to materialism or racial idolatry. It most certainly cannot be replaced with false graven images.

Self-styled Right wing commenters like Andrea have drunk deep of the Boomer Kool-Aid. They've been conditioned by enemy propaganda to abandon the religion of their fathers, never noticing that the enemy hates and fears the Christ more than any political movement. Perhaps the anti-Christian atheists and pagans on the Right don't serve the enemy's designs knowingly, but they serve them all the same.

Decision time is rapidly approaching. The Left will not allow anyone to pursue the drug high, sexual thrill, or consumerist indulgence of their preference while maintaining neutrality on Christ. Atheists on the Right have four choices:
  1. Join the Left--most will.
  2. Repent and convert to Christ.
  3. Failing 2, LARP in their church of choice for an hour on Sundays.
  4. Shut up.