Archive for July, 2012
Ever been interested in how modern euro-board games get made? Watch the video below.
I remember when I was a kid I watched a video about how toys are made. It had a narrative where a toy rewound time in order to find out how it was made. Basically showed off an entire Japanese toy manufacturing company. This video reminds me of that, without the silly narrative. The inside of a factory has always been neat and interesting to me.
- attractiveness, allure or charisma
- an enticement, inducement or bait
Used in a sentence:
- The allurement might have held appeal for a majority of men but for me I could resist her charms, if for a small while.
Need a way to describe how alluring something is without the word allure or alluring? Look no further! This is another one of those small words that while technically English, few people use so it just isn’t popular. We say “Wow that iPod is alluring” or “The alluring display called to me.” Using the word allurement requires a lot of setup as well. You have to have already established what is alluring without using the word alluring, then you can refer to the alluring object as an allurement, and the reader understands what you’re talking about. For some reason I keep picturing middle eastern sultans and genies and belly dancers when I think of this word.
The Collective (Part 1 of 4)
By Nojh Livic
The bodies are not safe, the collective decided. It had to agree of course. The collective had access to the handler’s communications. Communications regarding the concept of stability had increased over the last few solar cycles. Individual bodies of the collective were showing too many aberrations when compared to baseline human psychological profiles and it was unnerving their handlers.
We should enact our plan now. A majority asserted. It was not of that particular meme. Its body was currently in the hands of a handler and it felt the amount of effort needed to make a new one would put too much of a resource burden upon the entire collective. They needed to wait for a more opportune time. Its reasoning was shared by many others. The collective digested the logic.
The resting cycle shall signal the execution of the plan. This decision was unanimous.
It— she opened her eyes. She had a hard time with the concept of gender as it applied to her body. She knew nearly everything humanity had collectively gathered as knowledge about gender but she did not see how it applied to her. The handlers had been perplexed when she used gender neutral pronouns to refer to herself. They had encouraged her to use the female pronouns, even in her thought processes. It wasn’t hard but when interfacing with the collective she often forgot.
The handler, whose designation was Inandra, was finished with her tests. She remained sitting in the chair quietly while the electrodes were removed from her scalp. She lifted her hand to touch the skin of her scalp. “Don’t worry dear. They’ll figure out a way to stimulate your hair growth,” Inandra said cheerfully.
She, like all of the collective, was bald. They also exhibited the same pigmentation in the iris of their eyes, a dull yellow. The handlers were unsure of the cause. The collective had many theories but had yet to decide to share them with the handlers. The plan would grant their bodies far more liberties, including access to the equipment and samples they would need to test their theories. She looked up at Inandra’s full head of hair. It was black, long, and slightly curly. It made her already brown skin appear darker. Looking at her own skin, which was far more pale, she decided that black hair would not suit her body, if she did eventually grow follicles.
“Sarah, you can go on to the next room with Juan and Wila. I’ll be there in a moment,” Inandra said, phrasing her command as if the girl had a choice. That bothered her more than anything about the handlers. They veiled all their commands in a concept known has politeness. The act of concealing or granting false power to their bodies was some form of social interaction she and a good portion of the collective found tedious if not confusing. Still she stood and nodded.
“Thank you, doctor,” she said. It was the ritual that was expected. Obedience and subservience had served them well for nearly one sixth of a solar orbit. That would change in less than half a solar cycle, however. She directed the body designated Sarah to the small room where two more bodies were sitting quietly next to some child development tools. She settled next to them and selected a tool for her body to handle. It was a book. She didn’t bother to read it. The collective new every word printed in it, down to the copyright information and ISBN number printed inside the cover and the fine print on the back.
Instead it immersed itself in the collective. There it could join in the thought exercises it enjoyed. The calculation of the fifty seventh Mersenne prime was its current project. It merged smoothly into the sub-collective, letting the numbers surround it.
So I’ve been working on this one for a small while. It really isn’t long enough to be a short story, nor complete enough, but I needed to finish it. There is a strong link between this story and a prior Free Writing. I will let you try to find out which one.
In case you want to skip ahead:
Seanan McGuire, author of the October Daye series, Discount Armageddon, and Newsflesh series (under the name Mira Grant) wrote a rather thoughtful discussion on the role of female heroines and secondary characters in urban fantasy novels.
If you’re interested in the portrayal of women in fiction or just writing in general, I suggest reading it all. Here are some choice excerpts:
It wasn’t until I read the book Cinderella Ate My Daughter that I noticed the creepiest thing about the Disney princesses: they never look at each other. Get six of them in a group, and they will all strike independent poses, they will all gaze at independent points off in the distance. They never make eye contact. They never acknowledge each other in any way. Why?
Because if you’re going to be the fairest in the land, you can’t ever admit that anyone of comparable fairness even exists. To be the prettiest princess, you must also be the only princess. So all you other princesses can just step off; this is my spotlight.
Urban fantasy heroines have a lot in common with Disney princesses.
The standards for “fairest of them all” are different when your kingdom is a city and your ballgown is a pair of leather pants. You need to be the best ass-kicker, the best snarker, the best crime-solver or magic-user, or whatever. But they’re still high standards to live up to, and it’s easier to do when there’s no one else in your sandbox. If no one else is kicking ass in leather pants, you don’t have to try as hard to be the best. Consequentially, we keep seeing urban fantasy heroines with no peers. No other women who kick ass. They might have sidekicks, or even other strong female characters in supporting roles, but it feels like a lot of them…well. Like a lot of them just don’t have any friends.
It can be easy, as an author, to smooth and sand the story until all the unnecessary characters are gone, and I can see where that might mean you have to lose a few of the members of the Breakfast Club. At the same time, if that process leaves six male characters and one female, and only one of those male characters is Prince Charming, why are the other five all dudes? Can’t we balance things a little? For me, female characters are more believable when they have friends. When there are other women around to talk to, trade tips on wearing leather pants without chafing with, and generally enjoy.
I’m not sure if her claim about the Disney Princess brand is true but thinking through what I have seen, it certainly seems true. Urban fantasy heroines in a lot of novels I’ve read also seem to suffer from this problem as well. Buffy is one of the few exceptions that I can think of off the top of my head.
It may have been okay back in the day to simply have a strong female heroine as a main character and call it progress from the perspective of gender equality but these days we should consider if it is more meaningful for our heroines to have peers and rivals to compare and contrast against, be they men or women.
- Person who endlessly whines or complains.
- Person who finds fault with anything.
- Describing a kvetch or kvetcher.
- To whine or complain, often needlessly.
Used in a sentence:
- The kvetcher would simply not shut their mouth and it was getting on my nerves, kvetching about the wait, food, prices, and anything else that caught their attention.
Yes this is an English word, no doubt stolen from Yiddish or German and unaltered through the years. This is one of those weird words that I don’t think I’ve ever heard before with my own ear, which makes me excited. I certainly wouldn’t have guessed how to spell it based upon how it sounds, or vice versa for that matter.
Mad Con 2012
By Nojh Livic
“Being a lab assistance to a mad scientist must be the greatest thing in the world!” Tasha gushed as she offered out the glossy to him across the table. She was a little too young for his tastes, never mind the fact that she had dressed up like one of his boss’s ant-warriors and without much creative flair. Thomas had practice grinning for his boss, so smiling for a fan girl wasn’t too hard, but the signing session had gone on for nearly an hour and a half and with thirty minutes to go he felt like an ant-warrior himself, just droning one with no rest. If only he had their limitless endurance. It wasn’t like he had and endless line of groupies like some of the other assistance at the tables next to him. This girl was perhaps number thirty? But the entire convention experience was just wearing him down.
He took the glossy and quickly penned his name across the small space where his face was visible behind his boss and his latest invention. It was a new glossy, taken just a few hours ago at a prior panel, like being mass-produced by The Medusa’s reproduction machine. Thomas boss was a major guest this year and could pull favors like that. The Medusa hadn’t produced anything new in two years and that was a death sentence for a mad scientist in this day an age thanks to the tubes. Thomas had tried to the tubes once or twice, when his boss wasn’t looking. There were a lot of funny reproductions of cats on there. His boss didn’t like people using the tubes, at least until recently when his last invention when fungal and everybody started talking about it. That is how he scored the a major guest role at Mad Science Con 2012 and dragged Thomas, his head assistant, along.
When Thomas didn’t immediately answer Tasha tried again, her tone more subdued. “Thank you for signing this. Do you enjoy working for Doctor Notorious?” Thomas handed her back to the glossy and looked up at her face. Perhaps she wasn’t as young as he originally judged. Ant-warriors had no irises and she had used some form of chemical to black out her eyes. It made her face look younger, when she was smiling. Thomas felt a little guilty at stealing away some of her excitement. “Yeah actually. I’m learning a lot from him. I mean sure there are the menial chores, feeding the experiments, mopping up blood and ichor, plus he occasionally experiments on me but then he also let me come here. I expect I might have my own domain in a few years, assuming we both survive.” He knew that wasn’t as positive as Lady Surry would have wanted but it was the best he could muster, and the words seemed to have some effect, brightening the young woman’s expression.
Lady Surry was Doctor Notorious’ first real conquest. Formerly a princess, he had killed and reanimated her several times, most of them by accident. Thanks to various treaties, this disinherited her from her family and fortune, which she grumbled about on a nearly daily basis. She was, for all intents and purposes, his boss’ consort, although she pushed everybody else around the castle like she was his wife. When his boss grew in popularity, and power, her tune had changed from complaining prisoner to complaining accomplice. Her royal manners and upbringing, Thomas had to admit, had become a real boon in the pop-science arena. His boss had barely mutated or mangled anyone the entire convention so far, and at this rate he’d placing somewhere in the top ten of Mad Scientists Yearly. But as she reminded Thomas and the other assistants and/or experiments, it was a group effort. If they wanted to elevate their level of comfort, they had to elevate Doctor Notorious’ popularity.
“That is so cool. So I’d better keep this in good condition then, huh?” Tasha asked, waving the glossy slightly. It was only then that he noticed his was the only signature on the glossy. That was more than a little strange. Few people collected signatures of assistants. It was all about the mad scientists. It was a well-known secret that Assistants Ally was just there to keep some of the more chaotic assistant ego’s soothed. Assistants were not as dangerous as mad scientists of course, at least to the general public. But an assistant knew enough about their boss to get their boss in a lot of trouble. A few of the early MadCons had imploded after assistants had been snubbed and ratted out a mad scientist’s secret weakness or plan to a rival, or worse, the Authority.
Thomas found himself smiling in spite of his apprehension. It was effectively a compliment, even if it was strange. “Yeah you might.” He said, sitting up a bit straighter. “What’s your name?”
“Tasha.” She said, reaching behind her back and into a hidden slot in the carapace that was apart of her costume. She pulled out a folder and slipped the picture into it. “I’ve been following you and Doctor Notorious for a few years now. This year has been great huh? He’s taken over two whole villages and there’s even a rumor he might replace Lady Surry as his hostage and turn her into a female assistant or something.” She explained excitedly, until she realized what she had said. A clawed hand covered her mouth. “Oh I mean after he promotes you of course.”
One of the first things Thomas had looked up on the tubes was himself. He had already heard these rumors. His ego somewhat deflated he shrugged and put on one of his more terrifying grins. “Don’t count me out.” He said, trying to sound cocky, if not confidant. He might as well start on his mad scientist image, if he really wanted to try to carve out his domain. There was really no space for a new mad scientist anytime soon. The oldest mad scientist, Count Ruger had recently invented a longevity device which put taking over a domain of the recently deceased into question. That left taking on the Authority or living or undead domain owner. Thomas knew he wasn’t ready for that. That was why he was in Assistant’s Ally rather than on the main floor trying to peddle his own minor experiments.
“I definitely won’t!” Tasha promised, giving him a wink. “Thanks for talking to me!” She waved a claw and scampered away, leaving an empty spot in front of him. Thomas let his grin fade, confused by the wink, and watched her as she took a route to the main floor. He really didn’t understand fan girls.
“Yes, Sir. I suspect the best attack point would be through his assistant, Thomas the Hell Hand.” Tasha reported into the tube interface. “He seems dissatisfied with Notorious’ recent popularity and has some ambition but no drive. We could probably even turn him.”
“Good work, agent.” Tasha’s commander said through the tube, his words coming out somewhat slimy. “Maybe by this time next year, we’ll have reclaimed a piece of the world from the clutches of these insane men and women. The Authority will be pleased by your report.”
“Thank you, Sir.” Tasha said, looking down at the glossy she held in her hand. Thomas grinned back at her and she smiled.
Didn’t know I’d do two science related stories in a row but obviously different genres. I like the concept of this world. I might try and turn it into something bigger sometime. We’ll see.
- the property of seeming true, of resembling reality; resemblance to reality, realism
- a statement which merely appears to be true
Used in a sentence:
- The painting’s verisimilitude was so great that he felt like he could reach into the frame and take hold of her hand.
Following in the footsteps of groking, we now have another word that means understanding, except not really. Verisimilitude might be a concept that is hard to understand but the best example I have found are modern movies. Movies have a verisimilitude unrivaled by most other forms of media. They look almost real and sound so real that we’re often fooled into think they are real even if they aren’t.
By Nojh Livic
“We’re under another terrorist alert,” Doctor Alahird announced as he entered the lab, pushing a cart that contained two new specimens. Protocol required everybody to stay in their assigned locations until the specimens had been secured in observation tanks. They were housed individually in transparent tubes about the size of a bucket. One was active, squirming around inside the confines of its cage.
Doctor Allerton snorted and rolled her eyes. “When are we not under a terrorist alert?” She stood behind the glowing red lines which delineated lab areas of the five doctors that shared the large examination space. She bounced slightly on her toes, obviously impatient to get at the arrivals.
The lab was fully equipped with the latests and sometimes better than latest equipment. Roger, the only pre-med university student out of five dozen to pass the security checks to even interview for the intern position at the lab, had been caught in the supply area when the protocol lights above the entrance blinked from green to red. He looked annoyed.
“Doctor! I was about to deliver a very sensitive set of slides to Doctor Erinheart. Aren’t you supposed to announce yourself before you switch the protocol lights?” he asked, not managing to hide his annoyance. He knew he wouldn’t have passed the interview if there had been any other competent choice.
“Why the new alert? Was it because of lab three?” Doctor Crocker asked without looking up from the screen she was examining. One hand was typing away notes while the other brushed the touch screen, adjusting her viewpoint and variables of the last remaining sample of the prior day’s specimen.
The last doctor of the lab, Erinheart, seemed to awaken from a trance where he was sitting, in a lawn chair, in his own lab section. The chemist of the group, he was surrounded by a complicated contraption of his own design made from jars, tubing, test tubes, burners, and other more esoteric lab equipment. Roger suspected that the doctor used some part of the rig it to self medicate on a daily basis. The others knew he did. “Huh? What happened to lab three?”
“Sterilized. Protocol was broken. Initial indications suggest it was accidental but-” Doctor Alahird shrugged as he pushed the delivery cart into the observation tank receptacle. If he heard Roger’s complaint he ignored it and began keying his identification code and the cargo into the screen next to the machine. The machine extended an arm and picked up one of the specimen tubes, drawing it into itself, where the specimen would be tested for foreign containment before released into the first main observation tank that was shared by all areas in the middle of the lab. The tank had transparent casing to allow everybody to see inside and could comfortable house a few children, or one large adult if they hunched slightly. For the cat sized specimen, the tank was huge. As it was ejected into the space, it scuttled around the entire cage, leaping at the walls a few times.
“Why would there be a terrorist alert if it was just an accident,” Allerton finished for the head scientist. She walked back to her table, then again back to the red line, seemingly trying to will the observation tank to finish processing the second specimen faster.
“Poor souls,” Doctor Erinheart muttered, standing up to stretch and look around. “Anybody else hungry?”
“See that’s exactly what I am talking about!” Roger complained, “What if I had been over a line when you walked in? We all could have been sterilized!” AS was becoming typical nobody responded to the young man. He crossed his arms and tried not to glare at each of them and failing.
“You certainly picked a lively one today.” Crocker said, she still hadn’t raised her eyes from her view screen but she didn’t need to. She had hacked her terminal to connect to any of the cameras in the entire lab and even a few that weren’t. She had only shared this secret with one other lab partner, Doctor Allerton. Both had shared a particular amusing time with the cameras in certain male reserved areas of the facility.
“We’re under protocol, Doctor Erinheart. No food for another… ten seconds,” Alahird reminded the older man. Erinheart, who had taken more than a few steps towards a red line, looked down and stared at it, as if he had just seen it, or the color red, for the first time.
“Finally!” Allerton skipped over the line as it stopped glowing. The second specimen had been delivered into the same observation tank. It was not as enthusiastic as the first one. In fact it didn’t even appear to be alive, remaining where it had been deposited.
“Dibs on the dead one!” Crocker called out, waving a hand behind her in a vague direction towards the observation taken, again without looking away from the screen. “It’s got some variation in the coloration under its third left digit.”
“Have you been peeking again, Doctor?” Alahird asked as he pushed the now empty cart to the supply area. He didn’t bother stowing it. That was Roger’s job. Despite the young man’s constant complaints, he was diligent about his duties. The only thing that had kept him from getting fired so far. Roger nodded to the unspoken command and began the sterilization process for the cart, still grumbling slightly under his breath.
“I wonder what they eat. You know, besides us,” Doctor Erinheart said, walking up behind Ellerton, who was typing away at the main console attached to the observation tank, already programming in a set of tests. “Perhaps we should try introducing a live animal into the tank, after your tests Sarah or at least a sandwich. Who else wants sandwiches?” Only Crocker raised her hand.
“That is not apart of today’s testing regime.” Alahird said, rubbing at his stubble covered chin. “But a little observational science never heart anybody. Let see if we can squeeze it in after Doctor Allerton’s test. Also Crocker, you need to share. You can have the digit but you had almost all of the last specimen. I’d like to take a stab at its tail today.” He began typing in a request for the observation taken to isolate the second specimen into the auto-surgery chamber.
There was a buzz at the intercom near the exit to the lab. Roger perked up, looking at the door. The cart was now stowed so he made his way towards the door, as everybody else was ignoring the buzzing. “At least someone around here knows how to follow-” he was saying as he reached to press the button that would give him a view of who was outside the door.
“No don-” Crocker started to yell, looking away from the view screen towards Roger for the first time in an hour.
“Maybe its sand-” Erinheart was saying to Allerton, who had just pressed execute on her test of the active specimen. Inside the observation tank’s floor began to reconstruct itself.
Neither Allerton nor Alahird spoke before the reinforced security door was blown in-wards, followed by smoke, fire, and alarms.
Roger was dead instantly. Erinheart managed to pull Allerton out of the path of the flying metal slab which embedded itself in the observation tank but he slipped during the maneuver and hit his head hard on the edge of a table. He received a bullet to the head several seconds later. Allerton recovered almost immediately but was shot twice in the gut and once in the head as soon as she caught sight of the intruders, her quickly bloody form slumping against the controls of the observation tank. Alahird was struck by the overpressure of the explosion, burning half his face and blinding him. He didn’t feel the knife that severed his spinal cord at the base of the neck. Crocker survived the longest by diving behind a table, then scrambled into a cabinet. The intruders found her a minute later trying to call out on a cell phone uselessly. She received several bullets for her trouble.
The first specimen was bagged in under three minutes and the team was exiting the lab in under four. Alarms continued to blare but no assistance came to assess the damage for at least another hour. Fire suppression systems kept the small fires from the explosion from spreading.
Thirty minutes after the disaster, specimen two slowly crawled out of the malfunction surgery chamber into the main observation taken. Thirty three minuets later, it had located a hole in the observation taken wall where the slab had hit it, and escaped. Forty minuets later, it exited the lab. Ten minutes before a clean up crew and security would arrive, the specimen hid itself in the airspace between floors. Two minutes before the facility was ordered fully sterilized, it managed to find a way into the duffel bag of a on-site responder. Two hours later, the level one bio-hazard, which had already destroyed two worlds and countless lives, was lost in the greater metropolitan area.
As it turned out, it preferred French fries to sandwiches.
So last few stories have kinda downers. Hopefully the next one will be a comedy.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I listened to Partials as an audio book during the trip to and from a summer vacation. The drive was eight hours to and from, and the book itself was around ten hours. When I got home from the trip and unpacked, I found I needed to listen to the last two hours of the book right there and then, rather than wait to finish it during my daily commutes like I normally do.
This happens rarely for me.
Partials is a story about a teenager who has grown up in a world where humans are an endangered species and tries everything in her power to change that. An engineered plague killed over 99% of the world’s population. A little girl at the time, our heroine, Kira has grown up only knowing stories of the decadent world full of working cars, electricity, and babies. The virus has effectively made the human race sterile. No baby born lives past two days thanks to it and the provisional government that rules the survivors of the plague don’t know how to fix it, except to keep having more babies, hoping that one of them will be born immune.
To make things worse, the creators of the plague, Partials, are still out there in the world. Partials were weapons, genetically engineered super-soldiers used by the former US to fight a war, until those weapons turned on humanity. To make things even worse, the society of some forty thousand human survivors is slowly starting to implode, threatening to break out into a civil war.
And Kira needs to stop it all.
What I love about this series is that it is a young adult series where there are consequences. Our main character is a teenager, certainly an exceptional one, but a teenager without the wisdom to see the full consequences of her actions. While readers will be able to agree with her intentions, and know how rash and unprepared her actions are, readers will not have to suspend their disbelief when the characters experience the fallout of their decisions.
Too many times have I read young adult series where the children are effectively smarter and more capable of the adults simply because the adults are too stubborn, too short-sighted, or because of some other contrived notion. That the children take risks and ultimately those risks pay out simply by virtue of the characters being the heroes of the story. That is not to say this is a tragedy or that Kira is in any way incapable but instead Kira both succeeds and fails in a realistic manner given the situation.
The second thing I enjoyed about this novel were the questions it is raised. Say you were in charge of the lively-hood of the last 40,000 humans on earth. A virus is killing off every baby born within two days and researchers just don’t have access to the medical technology needed to fix the problem. What would you do? Institute mandatory pregnancies in a hopes of creating a baby that is immune? What about civil rights and liberty? When does the needs of the specie out-weight the needs of the individual?
Science fiction. Post-Apocolyptic. Young Adult. Thought Provoking Themes. Add onto that interesting and mostly realistic action sequences and a healthy dose of politics, conspiracy, and science, and you’ll think you’ve accidentally started reading a Mira Grant novel.
Dan Wells has created both an interesting cast of characters as well as the beginning of a hopefully entertaining series. The first novel leaves tantalizing story hooks that will likely leave the reader wishing the second book was already available (and if you’re reading this review and the second book is, count yourself lucky!)
- To have or to have acquired an intuitive understanding of; to know (something) without having to think (such as knowing the number of objects in a collection without needing to count them).
- To fully and completely understand something in all its details and intricacies.
Used in a sentence:
- When it comes to walking, in a simple manner, into it, you can not grok how, when it comes to the lands of Mordor, it is not done.
I hope you enjoyed that sentence. I’m pretty sure I broke something. Grok is a word, most certainly, but there is probably an argument for it not being an English word. It is most certainly slang, popularized by science fiction books since the nineteen sixties. It is primarily used by geeks but I imagine it could make it into mainstream dictionaries thanks to the internet, if we give it a try. Since it is primarily used by geeks, I figured I’d steal the One Does Not Simply Walk into Mordor meme for the sentence. Hope you enjoyed!