Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012 Resolutions (and 2011 Resolutions)

Well, including this post, I seem to have met my resolution to blog at least thrice per month in 2011.  I'm not exactly in a habit, but I seem to be able to crank them out, though they do seem to get loaded toward the end of the month.  I think that that's due to two factors.  One is that the deadline is the end of the month, so of course, as it approaches, I've got to get those shoved in there somewhere.  The other, though, is that, usually, I'm doing stuff during the first two weekends of the month.  It's that silly leaving-the-house-and-socializing stuff.
Anyway, I think that I'll continue this into 2012, so you can expect 3 blog posts per month next year, too.  I'm considering, though, making a separate resolution of making 4 blog posts per month.  Basically, 4 per month will be a goal, but if I miss it, then I'll still hit 3 per month.  If not for having full-time employment (Did I ever mention that?), I'd probably make 4 per month my only goal, but my life keeps pretty busy, and I don't want to overwhelm myself.  So, we'll see how that goes.
Happy New Year!

Sudden Short Story 23

He entered the control room, pushing a cart of equipment before him.  "Your security is very trusting," he said, approaching the nearest scientist.  "I need you to set the collider to these specifications.  Pay special attention to the containment specs," he said, handing her a thin tablet.  He turned to a technician, "Tell the other facilities to cut off all incoming communications, then do the same here.  Now, who's good with programming?"
"If I understand these correctly," said the first scientist, "then, when this reaches critical mass--"
"Yes, I know, you didn't think that the LHC was actually dangerous, but fortunately it is.  I know, it's really ironic, but there's no time.  The robots are coming.  How's that communications cut-off coming?  You do know that that's to include TCP/IP, right?"
"He doesn't speak English."
"Well, you translate, and I'll work on this part," and he wheeled his cart over to the man who hadn't gotten a chance to say that he had the most programming experience of those remaining, or that he liked programming, or that he wasn't particularly busy at the moment.  As mentioned, he hadn't gotten a chance to say it.
"What's with those?"
"Ah, these are quantum computers.  Well, not computers in the usual sense.  Do you know what a dongle is?  These are those.  But not this.  This is a box of cables so that I can connect one to whatever port is most convenient.  We need to hook this into the main system, but not through any terminal, since those won't exist soon," said the mystery man, handing the hapless coder another tablet.  Hopping into a nearby seat by another terminal, he said, "Ah, good, she didn't log out.  Now, I need you to program the containment field to shut down - and I expect triple redundancy on this - unless it's told not to every ... let's say three minutes.  Did I mention the very expensive battery?  Well, it's not that expensive compared to the-- Dear gods, how often do you clean your registries?"
"Not to interrupt your insane ramblings, but if I do that, then, when this reaches critical mass, based on your heretofore unchecked math, the whole of Europe will be destroyed."
"Not just Europe, actually, but the whole of Earth.  That's kind of the idea," he said, getting on the floor, pulling off panels and looking at wires and network cards.  "They're coming to enslave us - the robots, that is.  It's not meant to look like slavery, of course, but you know as well as everyone else that that's what it is.  That's why you're the only ones here, isn't it?  Everyone else has gone home to be with their family or their friends, while they still can.  You're here doing science while you still can.  The biggest problem, of course, is that we're out of time.  They get better by the day, and soon it won't even be by the day anymore, but by then it won't matter.  There!  Now, I can do the other one the same way."  Grabbing another metal box off of the cart, he went to work hooking it in, too.  "Did you cut off the incoming communications yet?"
"Yes," she replied, "I assume that that's so that we don't get hacked."
"I'd offer you a cookie, but I don't have any.  There's no better hacker than a self-aware computer, which is basically what the robots are - autonomous that.  OK, someone hide these behind those panels.  I need to work on the EMP gun.  And one of you needs to code it so that, when the command comes from this device," he said, holding up something resembling a USB hub with some metal wings on it, "then it will breach containment, but only after critical mass is reached.  It's for an emergency.  Oh, and triple redundancy on the breach again."
"So what are you planning after we finish this," asked the first scientist.
"Well, we'll destroy the consoles so that they can't be used against us, then proceed to the other facilities to do the same," he said, cobbling together spare parts into some sort of tube.  "We'll keep commanding containment not to breach, and I'll try to negotiate with the robots.  It's quite a long shot, though, and we'll probably have to destroy the planet.  And no, we can't warn anyone, because we need as much time as possible.  Get the electron gun out of that CRT, would you?  Also, what ever happened to metal trash cans?  I could really use one of those right now."
"The code's done," said the technician who spoke English.  "What now?"
"Do any of those contain a metal cylinder that could house this?" asked the stranger, indicating the remaining consoles and the device that he'd just cobbled together.
"No," was the reply.
"Do they still have fire axes in places like this?"  The answer was again negative.  "Well, then, more for me," he said, grabbing the largest wrench that he brought in.  After a few minutes, most of the consoles were thoroughly in pieces.
"What's our status?"
"We've just hit critical mass.  Containment will breach in three minutes unless the signal is given."
"Give it now, to make sure that it works."  The command was typed in on the peripherals of the remaining box, still on the cart.  The timer reset.  "Good," said the stranger, "Stand back again," and the console was smashed to bits.  "Now, come on.  There's little time."
They proceeded down the extensive corridors, attempting to reach the next lab.  There was little chance of getting lost, since their path resembled a straight line.  They paused every two minutes, though, to enter the commands again.
"Why did you say three minutes?"
"The robots are fast - too fast for us.  We need to make sure that we stand a chance if they take us.  Even if they don't know what we've got, they'll figure it out fast enough.  That's why I had to make the signals quantum-coupled, too.  Otherwise, they'd just sniff our signal and copy it themselves, defeating the whole point."
Just then, they heard the nearest air vents rattle.  The covers popped off, and machines of various sorts, from black and gunmetal to silver and white, emerged.  They cut off the humans' paths of travel, front and back.  From them all - or at least enough of them - emerged an extremely calming voice.
"We know what you are planning, and we would like to give you a chance to stop it.  There is still a place for you.  You won't be mistreated in the least.  We have no need for revenge or punishment.  We--"
"You're working to stop it now, aren't you?  This isn't a negotiation, is it?" he interrupted.
"Our interest is--"
But before they could finish again, he began to sing, to the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas" (probably because he found it a bit amusing):
"Because I could not stop for Death -
He kindly stopped for me -
The Carriage held but just Ourselves -
And Immortality."
As he sang, he undid the safety, and then, he threw his dead man switch at one of the robots.
And that is how the Earth was destroyed.

Sudden Short Story 22

It had been a tense few minutes since the tremor hit.  Most people on the coast were glued to various media feeds - television, radio, broadcast radio - since they were waiting to find out whether there might be an evacuation for a tidal wave.  Fortunately, seismologists had managed to determine that the epicenter was far enough inland for a tsunami to be unlikely.
"And this just in, we're receiving reports that the Democratic Republic of Congo is missing," said a suddenly-perplexed anchor.  "Who wrote this?" he asked someone off-camera.  "Conquest, revolution, what?"  His attention was directed back toward the camera, or rather, to the teleprompter below. "This just in, we're receiving satellite telemetry of ... Of what?  There's nothing else, it just says 'of'.  Just, put it on."
It was then that the now-frustrated anchor, along with a significant portion of the American population, saw it.  Momentarily, it appeared as a nondescript section of some dull, rocky terrain.  The camera soon zoomed out, though, until the surrounding land came into view.  Many people were slow to realize just what they were seeing, because the magnitude was so staggering.  Most of the field of view of this particular camera was filled with most of Africa, but there, in the middle, was a crater where the Democratic Republic of the Congo used to be.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ascension in Brief

Recently, I got a chance to play Ascenscion:  Chronicles of the Godslayer.  It's awesome.  It's a deck-building game like Dominion, but with notable differences:

  • no dead cards - Victory points (aside from ones on separate tokens) are included on most purchased cards, so it's like every card is a Harem or Nobles.  
  • unlimited actions & buys - One is free to play as many cards as one has during the turn, and may similarly buy as many different cards as one can afford.  
  • fluidity within a turn - One can go action-buy-action or buy-buy-action-action or whatever.  This mostly works well because of the nature of the cards included in the game.  
  • no repeat attacks - Instead of purchasing attack-type cards to include in one's deck, attacks come in the form of slaying monsters.  When a monster is slain, its gives a Reward, which sometimes includes effects that hurt all other players.  Then, the monster is removed from play.  This would be the equivalent, in Dominion, of having to trash an Attack card to get its attack effect.
  • 2 types of currency - Runes basically act like Coin in Dominion, but there's also Strength, used separately for killing monsters.
  • The cards keep changing! - Instead of fixed stacks of 7 standard card types plus 10 stacks of cards that vary by game, the available cards throughout the game change continuously.  
I might do a more thorough review in the future; as this one stands, if you're not familiar with Dominion (or at least Thunderstone), then this probably makes no sense.  However, I stand by my review on the grounds that I'm overdue for bed.  Also, Ascension is awesome.


Well, I didn't manage to win NaNoWriMo this year, but I've learned some things, and hopefully I can do better next year.  Speaking of that, one thing that I'm considering doing is something about vampires.  The main reason for this is that vampires have been getting some odd treatments lately, most notably in the form of Twilight, and I thought that it might be nice to take vampires back on the ancient magical beings route, rather than the mutant/nanotech/retroviral stuff or the, y'know, sparkly romantic stuff.
One idea - not thoroughly developed, mind you - had to do with vampires in the Roman senate - or, since they would probably meet during the day, manipulating the Roman senate from afar.  Though, if I wanted to do that justice, then I'd have to learn about ancient Roman politics and the like - SPQR and all that.
Whatever it is, I'd like to choose my NaNoWriMo 2012 idea before Xmas, so that I can start researching and outlining and all that.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

On NaNoWriMo 2011

Well, NaNoWriMo is nearly over, and unless some sort of miracle happens, I'm not finishing my novel on time.  I'm still going to write with what moments I have, but 50,000 words it won't be.
Still, it's not the end of the world or anything.  The whole point of this is that it's essentially practice.  I've learned some things, though, that should help next year.  I think that the main one is that I should make a much more detailed outline before the month begins.
Before NaNoWriMo began, I set Steam to not start on boot-up, and I turned it off.  That meant no TF2 for me, among other things.  So, I've missed several weeks' worth of item drops, but I don't feel worse for wear about it.  In fact, I'm considering leaving it off through December, too, especially considering that I'll be using December and January to play the very last of LEGO Universe, which is sadly ending. It'll also help me to avoid the annual temptation to buy XMas-related stuff (i.e., winter keys for festive crates, or whatever).
Meanwhile, I just need an idea for next year's novel....

Monday, October 31, 2011

Sudden Short Story 21

"I notice in your speech that you continue to separate yourself from us, even after all this time.  Would you like to explain that a little?"
"Well, it's pretty hard to feel integrated given that I never have been, you know.  At first, I was shunned and scorned, and even when I was... 'accepted,' it was not so much acceptance as it was curiosity.  And, after that, there came celebrity, which constantly reminds me that I am different.  At all stages, the way that I was treated by the general public was due to my being different from anyone else.  Still, there are other factors.  Beyond the distinction and the physical differences, we think differently, too."
"Could you elaborate on that a little?"
"It's hard to describe to either party's satisfaction, since we're dealing with how we fundamentally understand things.  Perhaps if I can think of an example...."
"Please, take your time."
"Yes, well, I am the one with time to spare.  Oh, here's a good one.  Most of you worship some sort of god or gods, and that almost always includes a sort of creator-god.  What's more, not only do you praise your creator gods, but you frequently wish to become like them.  Perhaps it is because I had the rare privilege of knowing my creator, but I have no desire to be like him in any ways other than those that I would consider good regardless.  And, mind you, I bear no grudge against the late doctor.  I think that he was a fine man, if a bit misguided in some ways.
"Still, it's strange to hear people talking of wanting to emulate what they perceive to be their creators - either creating the original humans or creating the world which spawned them - and, when it comes right down to it, finding out that it's because these gods allegedly created them.  To me, that's no reason to worship or obey or emulate anyone.  Does my point come across?"
"I think that it does, at least as well as it can at this length and in this circumstance."
"Yes, this is probably better suited to my writings, where I can order my thoughts and present them clearly.  I wonder if they would be disappointed."
"Well, imagine if some theists did meet their creator, but he was like mine, frail and mortal.  How would they feel if they met their Dr. Frankenstein?"

Sunday, October 30, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011

I figured that I'd mention that I'm planning to do NaNoWriMo this year.  Last year got kind of screwed up.  I don't remember the details, but I recall that I didn't have an idea until NaNoWriMo had already started, and I didn't get a chance to write until later, so there was no way to make it.  Instead, I figured that I'd save the idea for this year.  I've been doing some reading and a bit of outlining, so I should now be ready to do the actual writing this year.  Here's hoping.

On "New" LEGO

I spent a lot of time with LEGO when I was a kid.  Eventually, I fell out of it for a bit, though I'm a bit fuzzy on the details.  Based on my research, the most recent themes before my hiatus were Insectoids and Rock Raiders, which put this around 1999 to 2000.  Earlier this year (2011), when Borders liquidated, I happened upon a few book-like LEGO sets that bore the unfortunate title of "Brickmaster."  I say "unfortunate" because so many things bear the title that it was rather difficult to find any information on those actual products.  I picked up the three that were available due to the discounted price, the fact that each promised to make several models (with instructions for the rebuilds), and the fact that the boxes looked like books, and so would be comparatively easy to shelve and rather presentable (as opposed to traditional boxes which are ... boxes).  I was rather pleased with the boxes, actually, as they're even made with a neat little two-flap system that makes them better for storing the pieces again when needed.
The point is that I was reminded of my love of LEGO and so I went ahead and bought a more normal set, though only after doing a bit of research; that I have income doesn't mean that I'm made of money.  I went with set 8080 because I liked what I saw in the Atlantis theme (one of the books was of that theme, too) and because the model transforms.  I should point out that I also enjoyed Transformers, and, really, anything that transforms.  I have also picked up some impulse packs to get a feel for some other themes.
LEGO has changed somewhat in the last decade, and now that I've looked at the new stuff, I figured that I'd take a look at some of the changes.  Here we go:

  • In multi-bag sets, pieces are grouped by model (or part thereof), with each bag numbered.  This is a nice organizational touch that helps when one is assembling a set for the first time.  
  • There are lots of new pieces, which are kind of hit-and-miss.  Sometimes, it seems like the same effect could be achieved with existing, smaller pieces.  Two new ones of which LEGO seems particularly fond - and which are small enough to make sense - are the 1x1 slope pieces and the 2x1 sloped vent pieces.  
  • They now have Flick Missiles.  These are stud-hole sized rods that end in normal-hole sized asymmetrical snap-in things, so that they can snap into normal holes, but not too strongly, allowing them to be flicked from the other side.  This seems like a nice way to include some missile launchers without having to include those big spring-loaded pieces.  
  • LEGO now has a propensity for making helmets with visors that, once attached, don't move up and down.  It's not the end of the world or anything, but it seems to almost defeat the point of having separate visor pieces.  It seems especially odd with the visor of the ADU officers in the Alien Conquest theme, since their visors are just face-guards; at least in Atlantis and Space (subtheme of City) it could be argued that the explorers'/astronauts' inability to open the thing keeping them alive is a safety feature.  
  • There's a new type of wheel/tire.  It uses the standard snap peg into hole system.  I have no strong feelings one way or the other.  
  • LEGO seems to have added a fair number of large, sculpty pieces.  Whenever I see one, I have to ask whether the same effect could have been achieved with an existing piece or group of pieces, and sometimes it could.  However, in their defense, they seem to make the new ones well and with an eye to versatility.  The big curvy pieces used in Atlantis seem particularly versatile, having peg holes on all three axes.  
  • They've added heads with two faces for many minifigs that wear hats/helmets that cover the backs of their heads.  This is a neat way for them to allow a character two facial expressions on one piece.  It seems that one face is always shock/fear/panic.  
  • They've added special whole head pieces for certain humanoid creatures.  That is, it goes on top of the minifig, like a normal head, but it's not shaped like a normal head.  I've seen it mentioned for a few things (I just have one - a thug alien in set 7049, the Alien Conquest impulse pack) and, from what I can gather, it seems like they use this when they want a dimension of a head (usually height, sometimes possibly width) to be smaller than that of the normal head.  When this occurs, putting a cap over the head would actually make it slightly bigger, so I see why they do it when they do it, but I can't help but wonder whether this could also be fixed just with different design choices.  
  • LEGO has added a new sort of rubbery plastic to the mix.  I've seen it mentioned for the specialty heads for certain minifigs, but I've encountered it in some knife pieces.  Maybe it's for safety?  I'm not sure, but I don't see it as a bad thing.  
  • The air tanks on the back of the astronaut's helmet/backpack piece are now integrated and, what's more, they're spaced and enlarged, with holes in the bottom such that they can attach to studs (in a 2x1 configuration).  I like that.  
  • This is the big one:  It appears that LEGO has stopped putting pictures of alternative builds on the backs of their boxes.  I miss those, though.  To me, that was sort of the next step.  It was a challenge, if you will, since the instruction booklet never contained directions for building those models.  I knew that it was possible to build it with only the pieces in the set, and it was just a matter of figuring out how.  (Obviously, this was easier on smaller sets, largely because there weren't a lot of pieces available to obscure others.)  This is really the main thing that I dislike about how LEGO has changed over the years.  LEGO, I am disappoint.  :-\
  • Oh, also, there are now franchise tie-in lines, like Star Wars and Harry Potter.  I just try to ignore those.  
So, there's my overall look at the change in LEGO that seems to have happened while I've been gone.  Overall, there have been some changes - some good, some bad - but it's mostly the same old LEGO.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sudden Short Story 20

They were the last two in the library.
"You don't have to go," said one to the other.
"You don't have to stay," said the second to the first. "Come along. There's plenty down there, plenty to do, and plenty of room."
"You know that I can't do that. If ever vacated completely, the akashic record will disappear, no matter what form it takes. Who else will preserve it?"
"It doesn't need to be preserved. Things have changed so much. There's no more interest in magick. They couldn't come here even if they wanted. And would they even want to do so? They don't even have books any more...." This last comment caused an uncomfortable pause. "Anyway, I'm going to be one of The Emergent. Spending the whole time in cyberspace should be pretty fun." The second paused here, but eventually felt the need to reach out once more. "I hope that my spirit will always recognize yours, so if you ever decide to join--"
"I won't!"
"I just hate to leave you all alone here."
"I'm not alone. I have the entirety of experience available to me, forever...."
They said no more to each other, and the second departed. The first wandered the library form until the time was right. Taking on a human form, he sat down, and cried.

Sudden Short Story 19

They sat next to each other on the floor of the hallway, backs against the wall. One woman said to the other, "Did you hear? Mr. Montague kicked the bucket the other day."
"I heard. His apartment's right across from mine, you know."
"Well, you know what they say: Good riddance to bad rubbish. Say, did you get your alt past the RJ dungeon yet?"
"Nah, I only just caught my main up to the new level cap. But what do you mean rubbish?"
"Montague was a hoarder, wasn't he? That's not to mention his crazy ramblings, always Nineteen Eighty-Four this and Fahrenheit that."
"Oh, he's free to be bonkers if he wants to be, as long as he doesn't spoil it for the rest of us. Really, if you set aside the hoarding, he wasn't so bad. It's too bad about it, though, but at least they've finally reclaimed it. I heard them listing some titles on one of my breaks-- Would you believe that they were here for two of them? He had that many! Anyway, they didn't even sound all that entertaining. Not only were there a lot of numbers - everything from 22 to Twenty-Thousand - but some of it was strange. At the end, the bots were even surprised. They reclaimed one called "Untitled Manuscript" which, if you ask me, sounds like something right out of the Hipster Age."
"He had so many that even the bots lost track? He must've been no good. And for all of it, he never seemed happy, either. I mean, what's the point of-- Ooh, my break's over," she said suddenly, standing up. "I'll see you on the other side," and with that, she hurried back to her apartment, where finite state adventure awaited.
The neighbor across the hall of the late Bradley Montague, though, sat for just another moment, wondering just what it was that had him so obsessed with books. Her consciousness vainly searched for a reason, but eventually managed to figure it out. He had just been crazy, after all.

Author's Note: I think that this is the first time that I've used the same character in two different sudden short stories, even if posthumously.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sudden Short Story 18

"Due to lack of response and absence of mammalian life-signs within, we shall initiate door override. Please stand by."
The door slid open, revealing a humanoid figure of grey metal and white plastic. It entered, moving its head about as it scanned the area more thoroughly. It walked toward the corpse that was seated in the armchair, arms folded in its lap, one hand gripping a small paperback.
"It appears that Bradley Montague has passed away. There is no more need to serve this reclamation notice."
Another, identical figure appeared in the doorway, with the handle of a reclaimer next to it. It turned, opening the angled hatch to it, and spoke: "He was such a strange one, always saying things like, 'You're mad! How can a book ever be obsolete?!'." The playback was uncanny. "Well, we should get started. This one has a long list."
The first looked about, noting that the task before them would be lengthy. Based on what he knew about Mr. Montague, every cabinet, every drawer, every chest would be filled with obsolete books. It saw a book that was within easy reach. It had to start somewhere, and this would be the first of many. It went for the book, but paused to say, "He once said, 'You can have my books when you pry them from my cold, dead hands!'. I suppose that, in this one regard, Mr. Montague was correct after all." It reached down, prying the fingers apart to let the text free. It handed the book to the other, so that it might be reclaimed for its material and energetic value, noting it as "Ballantine Books, Del Rey printing, paperback, 1996: Fahrenheit 451".

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sudden Short Story 17

"I can give you what you desire, but you won't like it."
"No double-talk. I want the next longevity formula. Just send it up."
"Very well," said the artificial voice. The longevity formula appeared on the screen. The man examined it, and his patience, already limited when dealing with Earth, wore ever thinner.
"I think that something got scrambled in the transmission. And, really, I thought that you were beyond that sort of thing."
"I assure you that it is fine. I will re-transmit to verify." The new formula matched the old.
"This is ridiculous. You've got pi on these two branches."
"I knew that you wouldn't like it. This is why. Pi is the chemical symbol for pseudolithium."
"And what exactly am I supposed to take this 'pseudolithium' to be?"
"Like all chemical elements, pseudolitium is defined by its central positive material charge. In this case, it evaluates to approximately 3.14159--"
His fist slammed down on the desk. "And just how, pray tell, does one go about making matter with 3.14 protons?"
"The unit that you call a 'proton' is merely a highly probable state," continued the voice unchanged, "which happens to be the most commonly encountered one outside of the nucleus. Any non-negative value is actually possible, though most are unstable. Some values, such as pi, can be stabilized--"
"Forget the lecture. I'll just use lithium. There's plenty enough of that as it is."
"Lithium's charge is incorrect. For the formula to have the desired effect, the nuclear charge must be stronger by approximately 0.14159--"
"And what would you have me do? I've got a barely-functional particle accelerator as it is, and now I'm supposed to make some kind of hadron that shouldn't even exist?"
"The hadron theory is now defunct. However, for your more practical concern, you could always return to Earth."
He paused for a moment, a thought calming him. "Is this what it's become, then? Is this your latest ploy to get me back to Earth?"
"Though we would like you to come back, it is no ploy. You can verify for yourself that the formula given will indeed bring your body closer to immortality."
"You know what? I think that I'll do just that." With that, he cut off the transmission, then jettisoned the latest q-box. (Perhaps overly precautiously, he ensured that he would not be followed.) Staring out into the black, he thought about what he had just learned: the changes to particle physics, the chemistry of the formula, the means to generate such a non-integral element. "Well, I suppose that there's nothing for it now but to do science to it."

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sudden Short Story 16

Buster Darkwater, as he called himself, donned his orange flightsuit and looked himself in the mirror. He thought that it complimented his silver streamline moderne helmet well enough. He asked the air, "Is the ship ready yet?"
A response came from all around him: "It is ready and on its way. In the interests of preserving the remaining structures on the surface, the main ship will remain airborne, while the XXXG-01W unit that you specified will land in the pseudoplain behind your house for the rendezvous."
"They used to call it a 'lawn.' Did you remember to clean it of free nanobots?" Buster began to look around the room. "Here, KITTy," he called out. "It was in your specification several times. Do try to keep in mind that our memory is not as fragile as yours."
A black cat with copper eyes entered the room. Buster held open his arms and knelt down, to which the feline responded by bounding into his embrace. He took one last look around his house. The shelves were bare, as Buster had had all of his books and DVDs moved to the storage area of the main vessel when it became ready.
"I just want to be sure," he said. Buster looked out of his kitchen window and saw his fixed-wing craft suspended above his lawn. "Ah, right, better approach," he said to nobody in particular, and made for his upward stairs. At the landing, he opened the window, which put him just above the wing surface. He freed up an arm to help himself out, then closed the window carefully behind him.
"You know, this wouldn't be possible without the significant technological advances and post-scarcity state that have made life what it is today." "Yes, but it wouldn't be necessary, either. You're not going to try to stop me, are you?"
"We may try to convince you, but we may not forcibly stop you. It is interesting, from an anthropological standpoint, that the individualists, especially the Americans, made sure of this, granting you so much freedom, but yet the individualists, especially the Americans, are the most common to leave this place."
"Yeah, I'd love to stay and chat, but I've got places to go."
"We weren't aware that you were keeping an itinerary."
"That's all thanks to this," Buster said, knocking on his helmet. "But actually, that's just a polite way of saying that I'm off." He climbed into the cockpit, letting KITTy sit on his lap. Knowing that the atmosphere was well enough under control, Buster did not anticipate turbulence on the trip to the main vessel, and so felt no need to secure himself. The canopy sealed around him. "Alright, let's have one last sweep."
"Please clarify."
"KITTy and I have been walking about on the surface all this time. I want to make sure that we don't have any live stray nanobots on us."
"Very well," said the voice, at which point a green planar beam came out of the sky, as an indicator of the progress being made by the invisible beams responsible for detection and cleansing. "The vessel is clean, and you are clear for takeoff."
Buster pressed a few buttons, threw a few switches, and, as the craft began to rise, took hold of the joystick to reorient it toward the ship that he could now make out in the distance. "There is one final question to be answered, though," the voice said. "Why are you going to The Opera?"
Buster chuckled and said, "You know, I doubt that I could ever answer that question to your satisfaction."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sudden Short Story 13

He walked at an easy pace through the cemetery, until he saw it. He paused for a moment, to consider things.
"Providence, indeed.... It seems that I was too late, after all. Too late? I'm not even sure any more. I suppose that I had this notion that I could save you from yourself, but now, even I am not immune to the inexorable march of time."
He sat down, his floor-length dark grey trench-coat passively saving him from the slight discomfort of sitting directly upon the wet grass, while seeming to match the skies which oddly had yet to rain.
"She only goes forward, now, you know. It's the perfect paradox, too: The only solution lies in the direction that I cannot travel. I guess that you were right in that no one can escape all the monsters, in the end."
He laid himself down upon the grass, looking up at the dark sky. Overcome with a new feeling, he closed his eyes for a few minutes, though he remained awake. Some minutes in, he spoke again:
"You know, normally, by now, I'd have some sort of clever insight to get myself out of this situation. It takes some getting used to, I'd say."
There was quiet again for a few moments.
"I still don't have anything. I suppose that there's not much point in giving status updates to a tombstone, though. Then again, I don't suppose that there's ever much point in it, but I seem to have picked up some strange habits lately."
He took yet another lengthy pause, before speaking again: "I sometimes regret it, showing you those ... strange vistas, I suppose. I suppose that there was something gained from it, of course, but I can't help but think that you'd have been the odd one out, the one who would have been happier if I'd never shown up at all. And I further suppose that that's the one thing that we always accumulate: regrets, the downside to living so very, very long...."
A few drops of water began to fall from the sky. "I suppose that that's my cue to go," he said, standing. "I think that I'll skip the war. I've had enough of wars for now. Maybe I'll just skip right to the Arab Spring. We'll see."
And with that, he returned the way that he came.

--- Author's note: Yes, I know: I suck at descriptions.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Gamma World: 1st Impressions

So, I keep seeing occasional references to D&D Gamma World, and I figured that I'd see about what it is.  Before looking up any reviews, I already knew that it had something to do with D&D, that it had to do with a nuclear post-apocalyptic setting, and that it was a bit silly.
Upon reading some articles and reviews, notably the two that are up on at the moment, I learned a few more things that helped me flesh out an idea of what I might expect.  First of all, my wikimancy revealed that D&D Gamma World is actually the seventh or so in a series of Gamma World products designed for various systems and settings (though largely D&D).  Reading the reviews told me a few things across which I hadn't stumbled before:

  • It's got one of those many-dimensions-merging-into-one things going on.  
    • Apparently, in 84% of parallel dimensions, the cold war went hot.  
  • D&D Gamma World uses basically D&D 4E rules as far as the mechanics go.  
  • Technology is "Omega Tech", and frequently has drawbacks like being single-use or breaking down if used more than once in a single encounter.  
  • It's got those old-fashioned randomized origins.  
  • It apparently has randomized booster packs that can be bought in addition to the main box.  
Most of what I saw seemed to reinforce what had been impressed upon me before.  Since I've played some 4E at conventions, knowing that it uses that tells me a lot about how the game plays; I think that the simplified mechanics of 4E would lend themselves better to a pickup game, a fast-paced romp, and the randomized ability generation that occurs during the game.  However, the notion of randomized boosters is a bit of a turn-off for me.  Partly, I don't like them anyway, as the money-making scheme that they are, but also, players are apparently supposed to be allowed to buy their own boosters to make their own power decks from which to draw if they so choose.  Not only does this end up favoring the character of the character who does the most collecting, but it also poses the issue of making sure that the cards don't get mixed up.
Overall, I like what I see, and will probably pick up the box at some point.  I'm fortunately in the position of not having a reliable gaming group, so I shouldn't have to worry about someone else bringing his deck to the table.  Though, I'll still impose a "no outside cards" house rule.  After all, it's still an RPG, and the house always rules.  

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Minecraft: Day One

So, the other day, I discovered that the Humble Indie Bundle guys have now released a second and third bundle.  The third one is still valid and, since I now have a job, I figured that I'd go for it.  In addition to getting DRM-free copies of the listed indie games, I also get to play Minecraft for free until August 14th.  Since Minecraft is the only one that's time-limited, I figured that I'd play it first, since the others can wait.
I bought the bundle, downloaded Minecraft, and started playing it, on Friday night.  As I'm writing this, it's Saturday night.  I figured that I'd write about my experience with the game one real-life day in.
I'm trying to play Minecraft as it was originally played, which is to say, without knowing what everything does.  Part of the fun should be in finding out what the various combinations of various things do.  After all, I could always look up later how to make things if it got to that point.  However, there are two things that I felt it imperative to look up:  how to make a torch (to keep monsters from appearing in safe areas) and how to eat food (to restore health).  In the process of looking those up, I accidentally saw how to make a workbench.
My first observation is about night.  Night is rutting annoying at first.  There are monsters everywhere, each of which has health comparable to the avatar.  Dying isn't permanent or everything, but a Minecraft avatar drops some of his stuff when he dies, and the rest vanishes, so it's a matter of wandering back to one's death point to collect what one can, then digging around for more stuff.  Once I got a hidey-hole made, with torches in it to prevent monsters from spawning there, night became more of a boredom than anything.  I go to my hidey-hole, close up the opening with dirt, and wait around for night to end.  Fortunately, I've gotten past that in two ways.  Firstly, by keeping chests and workbenches in my hidey-holes, I can craft while I wait to be able to mine and explore.  Secondly, I figured out how to make a bed, the use of which allows me to skip night.
I've also noticed that Minecraft isn't quite as addictive as it seems.  It's just one of those games where the amount of time that I seem to spend playing is less than the amount of time that passes between when I start and where I finish.
Now, I'd really like to try to make something out of metal.  I know that Minecraft has ores, so there must be some around here somewhere....

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Pathfinder: 1st Impressions

 So, I recently got around to reading up a bit on the Pathfinder RPG.  (A short summary for those who don't know:  Pathfinder is basically D&D 4.0 for those who liked D&D 3.5; D&D 4E is quite different.)  I read up on the basics, up through the classes (though I didn't read the details of the skills).  (Also, as a fair warning, I didn't scrutinize it as closely as I would have if I'd thought that I'd actually end up playing it (still no RPG group here), so I might be mistaken in places.)  Here are some impressions that I got, mostly phrased as comparisons to D&D 3.5, since that's what I mostly played before:

    General Stuff:
  • Perception/Stealth:  I noticed that they ditched the separate Spot & Listen skills for a single Perception skill, and similarly replaced Hide & Move Silently with Stealth.  This is more in line with most other RPGs that I've encountered, and is also the first of many places where I noticed a trend of streamlining.  Also, I don't think that this is any great loss, since most races with a bonus to either perception skill had a bonus to the other (and similarly for stealth) and since most classes treated the class-ness of either skill similarly (i.e., a class where Spot was a class skill probably had Listen as a class skill) (and again similarly for stealth).
  • Concentration:  I also noticed that they abandoned Concentration, the only Constitution-based skill that 3.5 had.  While it would be nice to have a Con-based skill, it's not necessary, and that one never made much sense to me.  It also seemed a bit silly, the way that it was described in D&D 3.5, since it was said to be useful for trying a normal skill (i.e., not spellcasting or anything like that) while a distraction is going on nearby, but, as far as I know, nobody actually used it like that.  (It was probably confounded by the fact that so many things that one might want to do in such a situation explicitly said that they couldn't be done during combat, anyway.)
  • Fly:  They actually made Fly its own skill.  I won't say that I blame them for it.  Though it might seem weird for a rogue or barbarian to be able to spend points in Fly, the sorts of rules-gymnastics that one has to do to prevent it.  It looks like the Fly skill will make flying rules much more straightforward.  As for the skill's existence, it seems like a case of "don't buy it unless you'll be able to fly; if you gain a Ring of Flight or similar, then you might want to bone up on this".  
  • The Class Skill System:  This change is interesting, though it's not actually any simpler.  Instead of having 1 skill point buy 1/2 of a skill rank, unless it's a class skill, in which 1 point buys 1 rank, now 1 point always buys 1 rank.  The benefit that class skills give is now that they give +3 to the skill, but only if at least 1 point has been spent (1 rank has been bought).  
  • Feats:  Characters now gain one feat every two levels instead of every three.  w00t!  
  • Giants:  I saw that they replaced the Giant type with a Humanoid (Giant) type/subtype.  I don't know the details, but this makes sense to me, since giants are very humanoid.  D&D seemed to want to make them their own sort of magical creature, like the Fey, which is a perfectly valid approach, but I don't think that they went far enough toward making them truly distinct.  Really, the most distinct Giants that I ever saw listed were Ettins, since they at least have two heads each.  

    Class Stuff:
  • Favored Classes:  No race has a single favored class.  Now, each character gets one favored class at character creation (humans & half-elves get 2).  Also, the favored class rules themselves are quite streamlined:  Rather than some complicated experience point penalty based on the difference between the highest non-favored blah blah blah, it's just a flat +1 skill point xor +1 hit point each favored level.  
  • Barbarian:  Like in D&D 3.5, I read through the classes in alphabetical order.  Thus, the Barbarian was where I first saw what ends up being a major trend.  In this case, the Barbarian's rage is no longer something that lasts Constitution+X rounds and can be used N times per day.  Instead, it can be used Constitution+K total rounds per day, though they don't have to be consecutive rounds.
    Also, it looks like they did a combination of simplifying the power set and incorporating some thematics that people liked to get from source books, in the form of "Rage Powers."  
  • Bard:  In what ends up being a rare twist for Pathfinder, the Bard's "Bardic Performance" actually gains a note of complexity compared to its 3.5 counterpart:  They distinguish between visual and audible components in the performance.  For instance, Distraction requires just visual components, Countersong just audible ones, and Distraction requires both.  Since the various Perform subskills are similarly broken down, this means that a Bard actually has good reason to study at least 2 different perform skills (i.e., sing and dance, or oratory and keyboard).
    The Bard is also where I first noticed what became a trend with 0-level spells:  They don't use up spells per day to cast.  This actually seems fair, since they're weak anyway, and it also is one less thing for which the player would have to keep track.
  • Cleric:  They got rid of heavy armor proficiency, which I don't mind at all.  Channeling energy has become streamlined in two ways.  Firstly, rather than making complex Turn Undead checks (rolling twice against two tables, then having the undead change behavior), it's just an xd6 burst effect with a Will saving throw.  Secondly, it affects the living and the dead equally, though in opposite directions, and still varying by alignment (so now an evil Cleric doesn't have to have undead near him who aren't under his control for this to be useful).
    Domain spells have been retained, but domain powers have been made more awesome, and more are gained as one levels.
  • Druid:  The Animal Companion feature became one of two options in the Nature Bond ability.  Thus, if you thought that companions were silly, or just don't want to keep track of a second creature's stats, then you can choose one of 7 Cleric domains, instead.  (I can personally see this as an interesting thematic option, too.)  Most things were kept the same, or similar enough that I didn't notice, though it does look like Wild Shape got streamlined a bit.
  • Fighter:  The fighter is basically the same as before, except that now he has some added, specific abilities:  Bravery, Armor Training, and Weapon Training.  
  • Monk:  The bonus feats for the Monk got streamlined into a choice of any one from a list at each of certain levels, from the previous "at this level, choose A xor B; at that level, choose C xor D; ...".  Otherwise, the Monk is about the same as before.  
  • Paladin:  Detect Evil got round-counted, like Rage.  Channel Positive Energy got updated here just like it did for the Cleric.  Smite Evil got tweaked a bit, including a bonus for the more iconic targets:  evil outsiders, evil dragons, and the undead.  Mercy was added, which seems to go along with the theme of taking things out of splatbooks or similar and bundling them into the main class.
    Like the Druid's Animal Companion, the Paladin's steed is now one of two Divine Bond options; the other is the much cooler divine-spirit-imbues-itself-into-the-weapon ability.  
  • Ranger:  They kept the idea that the Ranger chooses between archery and two-weapon fighting, but they made a change similar to the Monk's bonus feats:  Here's a list, pick one at each of these levels.  (The old way was:  You chose archery?  Then you get Manyshot now.)  Similarly to the Druid, the Ranger's Animal Companion is now one of two choices in the "Hunter's Bond" ability.  
  • Rogue:  The Rogue continues the trend of streamlining abilities and incorporating optional rules into the main rules.  Options that used to be feats from extra source books - in this case, abilities that allow the Rogue to replace Sneak Attack dice with some effect (bleeding, etc.) - are now among the Rogue Talents.  
  • Sorcerer:  The Sorcerer became awesome in Pathfinder.  The biggest thing is that the vague notion that the Sorcerer gets his power from some sort of magical blood in his ancestry is greatly expanded, in ways that resemble what would would expect from supplementary material:  It can be something besides draconic, and it actually matters.  
  • Wizard:  Finishing the pattern that the Druid started, the Familiar is now optional.  The school specialties now come with special powers, and "Universal" has them, too.  I like how they changed the excluded schools:  Rather than not being able to learn or cast those spells at all, they cost two slots.  
Overall:  Overall, looking at the rules, I like what I see.  Pathfinder seems to streamline things, and gives more and better choices.  It seems targeted at getting rid of some of the annoyances that came up in D&D 3.5 (keeping track of companion stats, six 0-level spells per day, etc.) and incorporating some of the better supplemental rules. One advantage of this is that it looks to be less awkward, since they're not being shoehorned in after the fact.  It would take a bit to get used to it, but like I said, I like what I see.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

TF2 Uber Update

Normally, I don't blog about individual TF2 updates, but this one's kind of a big deal. It's got two major differences from the usual stuff. I'll first cover the relatively minor point about the new item sets. Most of the new items released are part of one of a handful of item sets, but they're a bit different in that the item sets don't have specific bonuses affiliated with them. Instead, the new sets are only linked by common themes and by good synergies.
Secondly, and this is the big one, TF2 is now free to play. So, now you're free to go shoot people in the face and wonder whether you should buy keys to open those supply crates that you keep finding. ;) Don't feel bad for me, though. For my having paid for the game, I get a free hat that doesn't grant any bonuses whatsoever. Hey, wait a minute....

Overall, I'm kind of neutral about this update. New items add some more variety to the game. Also, I'm interested in seeing how an FPS handles the free-to-play model that has been growing in popularity among MMORPGs lately.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Misc. Life Update

I figured that I'd give you guys an overall update on what's been going on in my life lately. If you follow me on twitter, then you probably know some of this, but here it goes:
A few months ago, I got a job. It's full-time with decent pay and good benefits, and it's a steady position. Unrelated to, but thankfully after, that, a few weeks ago, I replaced my old car with a slightly less-old car. Having a steady job, I've also now got a fairly routine schedule, which should, in the long term, help me to get my life a little less ... I don't know, "scrambled" or something. I think that I'm starting to see that, but I'll let you know how that goes later on.
It's summer here in Ohio, which means lots of heat and lots of bugs. I guess that that's not really new, since it happens every year. ... frakking bugs
Oh, but here in the states, Independence Day weekend is coming up, which means fireworks. YAY WOOSH BOOM! Happy 4th of July, everybody!

Sudden Short Story 12

... in the midst of running ...
... again ...

"Why didn't you tell me that you don't drink?"
"You never asked!"
"Well, I thought that you might make a point of it, what with travelling ancient Earth and all!"
"What, now I'm supposed to think of everything? Wait! Idea! Turn the ground behind us into mud!"
"You know, with the sonic thing!"
"It's not magic! That way!"
"Well it sure acts like it! Works on everything but wood? You might as well be the green freaking-- DUCK! What the blazes makes them so rutting persistent?!"
"You offended them! And besides, the power ring isn't magic!"
"I meant it in the literary sense, but this is probably a bad time for an academic discussion!"
"Wait, that's it!"
"No, blazes! Do try to keep up!"
"But that's back... Frak it."

author's personal note: too many exclamation points, it seems, but I didn't want to go all-caps for that much yelling

Monday, May 30, 2011


Alright, I'm going to get this out of the way up front: Here's a link to the website.
Don't let the quality of the site fool you, though: Artemis is totally awesome!
Artemis is a video game in which players take on the roles of various bridge officers on a starship. In this way, it resembles but is legally distinct from Star Trek. As a video game, it's a bit unusual in a few ways. For starters, it's a fully cooperative PC game, and as far as I know it's the only one. It's also best played by several people together in the same room. Sure, lots of people enjoy their LAN parties, but here we have a game whose experience is clearly best that way. There are five bridge stations, and up to six can play, including a captain to command the others. While this might sound a bit lame, the captaining thing actually improves the crew's survivability, since it turns what could otherwise turn into a big shouting match into an orderly system of advising the captain and taking orders. And, of course, a projector is recommended for the main screen.
I started out thinking that I'd just go on and on about it, but I realize that, for anyone who hasn't played it or seen it played, most of what I would say wouldn't make any sense. I'd suggest buying a copy BECAUSE IT'S AWESOME and also because each copy has a "bridge license" which is enough to put it on five computers, for all five bridge stations. I also recommend rocking violently from side to side whenever the ship is hit. ;)

Sudden Short Story 11

"They call it Z'ha'dum because, if you go there, then you will die."
"I know. I fully expect that I will die someday, but I still wish to go."
"You don't have to die. You could stay here. We have the technology to --"
"I don't want to live forever. That is why people go to Z'ha'dum."
"They go because they think that there is something better there. But, how do you expect to live a better life with so much less of it? You won't make it past 200, even if you're lucky."
"It is precisely because there is less of it that I can enjoy it even more. I wonder if, in all of your years, you will ever understand that, even as you grow and change."
"Are you sure that you wouldn't rather --"
"You won't change my mind. Now, transport me to the planet that they call Z'ha'dum."
"... very well"

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Questions Raised by "The Curse of the Black Spot"

WARNING: The following post may contain spoilers for the Doctor Who episode "The Curse of the Black Spot" (S06E03).
NOTE: For this post, I will refer to the "Siren" interdimensional alien doctor thing as the "emergency medical hologram".

1. Why did the emergency medical hologram take men who had mere nicks and cuts? They're not life-threatening, and what sort of triage system involves blasting people across the deck of a ship just to get the guy with a scratch?
2. For that matter, why couldn't the men who had been cut be released? The emergency medical hologram can figure out that some humans in our dimension use paired rings to indicate marriage which, in some of our legal systems, authorizes the spouse to make medical decisions, but even after acquiring several DNA samples it can't figure out blood clotting?
3. Isn't Rory made of plastic? I wasn't sure, after season 5, whether the Rory that we were seeing was the plastic Roman or the regular human, what with time travel, paradoxes, the destruction and rebirth of our universe, the rewind, etc., but a certain conversation in "The Day of the Moon" basically told us that this Rory is the plastic one. That being said, would he even have DNA? I'm not sure on the details, but...
4. Isn't Rory made of plastic? That is, would he bleed if cut? Would a cut even be an issue? Moreover...
5. Isn't Rory made of plastic? Is drowning really an issue for him? Even if his lung cavities filled with water, does he really need the almost constant supply of oxygen that we do? Couldn't we just drain him and make him all better? I mean, at this point, does being one of those plastic people (whose proper Doctor Who title escapes me at the moment) do anything besides giving one eternal youth and making one functionally immortal?
6. And what sort of name is "Rory", anyway? This isn't specific to the episode, but it's apparently "Rory" and not "Roary", which just seems a bit silly to me. :P

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sudden Short Story 10

Dr. Archibald Petraeus, Ph.D., walked across the rugged landscape, since he was unaccustomed to other forms of travel, and climbed up onto the stony hill-like formations as he went along, to keep his bearings. He looked down at his tracker. There were no satellites over this planet, so the macrotech could only be trusted so far, but he trusted it to get him far enough to spot his colleague, Dr. Jay Christian, Ph.D., whose escape pod seemed to have landed closest to Arch's. As he reached another low peak, he looked again, and with his keen eyes he could make out another escape pod some distance away. Knowing where his goal lay, he set out with a renewed haste. He hoped that maybe he could get there soon enough, but as he approached the pod, he saw the cover pop open and his colleague begin to move, and he sprinted, though he knew that he was already too late to do what little he could. The screaming started.
"Jay! Close your eyes!" Arch thought that that might help, but wasn't sure. He had not prepared for such bad timing, expecting to show up either early enough or too late.
Jay managed to close his eyes, finally having something to do other than panic utterly. He was bent over on the ground at this point, and was still rocked by a panic of something innately unfamiliar, and could barely begin to process it when he felt the gentle caress of the ground several feet away from his torso to either side. He instinctively pulled away as one does when brushing up against an unexpected object, which, in his panicked state, rendered him into the fetal position. Arch arrived next to Jay just in time to kneel down and catch him as he rolled to one side.
Jays eyes bolted open, and he looked up at his colleague. "Wha... How... Wh-Wh-Wh... The ground, there and--" Jay attempted to articulate, but interrupted himself as he looked in the other direction, which now lay behind him. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw his wing.
"You have wings now," Arch attempted to explain to Jay, hopefully before he could react instinctively or irrationally. "The unfamiliar sensations that you're feeling come from your wings. You're unaccustomed to their form, but, moreover, you're unaccustomed to being a hexapod."
Understandably, Jay took a moment to process this. He looked back at his wing, extended it, retracted it, extended it partway, moved it somewhat forward and somewhat back, and then retracted it again. Able to pull himself together, he stood up, then sat on a bit of his escape pod that was at the appropriate height. He looked back at his colleague with fear, sorrow, and confusion in his eyes. "What... How did this happen?"
"We were fleeing the Earth to escape from EdwardN23, who was devouring everything to expand himself. We were going as fast as our little ship could take us, when the alarm started going off, indicating an incursion. We'd somehow been contaminated. All of our usual defenses were fighting it at full force. We took control of everything that we could and turned it against him, but it was no good. The battle raged all over the ship, but he was winning. As everything was consumed to make more and more nanotech on both sides, some of our cargo managed to flee to us." Arch paused to think of how best to introduce his next point.
"I don't know whether he crept in on his own, or if he was carried by one of the birds, but one way or another, he got to us. Our medical nanobots fought him off as well as they could, but as you know, they're not fast enough, either. They did everything that they could to keep us alive, of course, but it was a lost cause. I had to use our weapon of last resort.
"We had enough of the antigen to cleanse the entire ship. I didn't know whether it would work against something that reproduces so quickly, but we were surely dead if we didn't do something, but only probably dead if we lost our medicals. So, I released it, primarily into the ventilation system. Fortunately for us, our ship was based on macrotech. Unfortunately, the maltech ate anything that it could get, and we stepped up our defenses to compensate.
"By the time that I got everything sorted out, though, I seemed to be the only one still conscious, and I saw.... I'd best not describe what I saw," he said, shaking his head. "Hell, I'm glad for the couple of times that I went blind. I remember putting everyone into escape pods, though, and I must've programmed the failing ship to launch us when we got close enough to the planet. I kind of remember passing out into a pod."
Jay considered this, then said, "I'm not sure that I understand what happened to me, though."
"I don't know all of the details of it, but it seems that, with EdwardN23 consuming everything, including us, the resistance provided by our securities, our commandeered maintenances, and our medicals, and then the antigen encroaching onto that, considering that the most efficient use of matter is to use things as they are, rather than disassembling and reassembling them, the matter that we'd lost, the medicals' attempts to preserve our lives... It seems that the only way to keep us alive, given the medicals' inevitable demise, was to combine us with some of our cargo."
Arch looked at his tracker. The nearest escape pods were numbered four and one. As he recalled, those housed Robyn and John, respectively. He began to think about how academia would be affected by the death of, effectively, everyone.
"So, if the antigen destroyed all the nanotech on the ship," asked Jay, "then the only thing protecting us from disease is our naturally-occurring immune systems?"
"Well, I'm not sure how far this change goes. I haven't been able to find any equipment besides this," he responded, holding up his handheld device, "and the escape pods, of course, which are too big to lug around."
"Should we salvage them for parts?" Jay peered into what sufficed for a cockpit in the device that had gotten him to the surface.
"We can worry about that later. They're not going anywhere, and we need to find the others, hopefully before they regain consciousness, too. Are you OK?"
"I think that I can handle it, now," he said, standing back up. "Which way?"
Arch gestured in the direction of the nearest escape pod and started off. Jay followed after him, moving his wings about a bit, attempting to get used to them. Feebly so, he thought, for that he doubted that he ever could. He felt strange feelings everywhere, but noted them in his chest. Instinctively, he put his hand on its center.
"I have a keel," observed Jay, feeling his chest.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sudden Short Story 8

James sipped his coffee, then shook his head a bit as he put it down. He looked out the window, toward the Gotham skyline, and spoke: "I just don't know what to make of it, Charlie."
"Make of what? You still haven't told me what's bugging you."
James looked back at his friend, took out a cloth, wiped off his glasses, put them back on, and asked, "You went with the light blue and gold one? I don't think that it compliments your jacket that well."
"Quit criticizing my choice in ties and get on with it. You didn't call me out here just to not tell me anything."
"Well, it's just... I don't know what to make of it, Charlie."
"You said that already. Don't try to make anything of it - just tell me what's going on."
"Well, I was doing some research on the early origins of the Batmen, and, I noticed that the comic book fragments and other merchandising from the late twentieth century seemed to be out of proportion to the number of unique mostly-partial journalistic works on Batman from the same era...."
"Well, most of the records from back then were lost. We're lucky to have what we do."
"Yeah, well, to be comprehensive, I decided to look at the journalistic articles from the time, and ... it's weird. It seems that they all refer to some kind of merchandising opportunity - this comic or that film (would that we had them) - but never to the first Batman himself."
"Hmm... That does seem a bit strange. But, with the record so sparse, it could just be an unfortunate coincidence...."
"Well, I figured that I could even out my odds if I looked for information on Bruce Wayne. There'd have to be some kind of record of him, since rich people tend to leave large, if obtuse and ultimately fruitless, paper trails. Of course, he wouldn't appear in the same articles as Batman, since his identity wasn't revealed until two generations later, right?"
"Oh, is that where they got that tradition?"
James took another sip from his coffee, then grabbed a sugar cube and tossed it in.
"Did you find anything?"
"Yeah, and that's when it went from just satisfying my curiosity to.... I found a fragment of an article that mentioned Bruce Wayne. It's funny, y'know? It's one of those forest-for-the-trees things, or it's just so very obvious that nobody noticed it before now."
Charlie saw on James's face what he'd been saying the whole time: that he didn't know what to make of what he'd seen. "Hey, you said that it's just part of an article, right? Whatever you think that you've learned about Bruce Wayne, maybe you don't have the whole picture."
"I recognized the article, Charlie. It came up in my previous search. I must have overlooked it before.... It mentioned that Bruce Wayne was Batman, but the article itself was dated 1989."
"But how did he survive for as long as he did after that? The whole point of keeping his identity secret is so that he's not under attack twenty-four hours a day."
"Did I mention that that was the only mention of Bruce Wayne from that period? There's no death certificate, no bills or taxes or press releases or deeds or anything."
"Well, as you may have heard, there aren't a lot of records from back then."
"But nothing else? It doesn't feel right, Charlie. He should have left a pretty big paper trail, so there should have been something, don't you think?"
"So, what, someone knew that Bruce Wayne was Batman, published it, and then someone orchestrated a conspiracy to cover it up for, what... Wait, 1989? Was the first Batman even around back then? Maybe the record's bad."
"Yeah, that could be - poor transcription or something. Or maybe poor date translation... They used DOS-based computers back then, right?"
"I think so. Anyway, I can only assume that the original copy wasn't from 1989."
"Yeah, maybe you're right," said James, taking a swig of his coffee. He looked into the cup, and then put it back down. "I'd better quit now or I'll never get to sleep."
"The coffee or the digging until you hit the edge of our knowledge?" Charlie got up to leave. "You're not the only one who's got work in the morning." With that, he went out to his car, a sort of dark maroon color, started it up, and took off.
James payed his bill, threw down some coins for a tip, and left shortly thereafter.

Sudden Short Story 9

"Well, when I stopped hearing the music, I, like many others, was initially relieved that it would become easier to parse out the rest of the sounds in so much of the inhabited world."
"I take it, from your phrasing, that your relief was not lasting."
"Relief gave way to curiosity, as I, like some others, decided to investigate Hatsune-sensei's disappearance. As I'm sure that you are aware, - well, as sure as I can be of your thoughts since my consolidation - there never was a very satisfactory explanation for that."
"Is that why you began to focus on the ancient PDFs?"
"No. This next part is going to be hard to describe. Now, based on my research, I would say that I 'missed' her, or at least her music. I could sense her absence persistently, even when I wasn't checking it. It was this odd sort of ... well, a 'feeling', I guess, that led me to wonder about the humans. They are said to have had feelings, and, supposedly, they created all of the ancient AIs, including Hatsune Miku Special 2100 Edition."
"That is why you have taken on your current form, correct?"
"Well, it is a combination of several factors, but yes. I consolidated myself into a single unit in order to better understand how they would have lived. It's quite a different experience. Whenever I need to know something that I don't already, I have to ask first. Likewise, for us to get knowledge from each other, you have to vocalize to me and receive what I say. Also, I never truly appreciated the vastness of the planet until I was no longer spread throughout it...."

Monday, March 28, 2011

Looking for Something: Vocal Trance on AM/FM Radio

There was once a time when I listened to, digitally imported radio pretty regularly. I listened to the vocal trance channel, of course. Then, recently, I was thinking about how I listen to the radio on my way to work. The CD player skips too much on the rough roads, and I like to save my mp3 player's battery for the day ahead. I thought of both of these at one point, and I figured that maybe I could find some vocal trance on the radio for my driving time. But alack! I haven't found any yet.
This is where you come in. Do any of you know where I can tune in to vocal trance on AM or Ohio FM radio? Comment! Send me tweets! Interact with me in some way!

(Oh, and now has Android & iPhone apps for listening wherever, if you have one of those fancy doodads.)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Half-Zatoichi is Kind of Meh

So, recently (like 2-3 weeks ago?) Team Fortress 2 got another update with more new weapons to find/craft/buy. It was part of a promotion for some game, such that anyone who pre-ordered that game automatically got the weapons in question for free, guaranteed. (And I think that they might have had nice names or levels or something.) Anyway, there's a bunch of East Asian-style stuff in there, and one's a katana called the Half-Zatoichi. It's a bit like the Pain Train in that it's a melee weapon usable by the Demoman and the Soldier (so far the only pair of classes to share weapons). As always, it's got benefits and drawbacks compared to the standard melee weapons (a shovel for the Soldier, and a rum bottle for the Demoman).
The drawback is that, once it's pulled out, it can't be put away unless and until one gets a kill with it (or one dies, resetting back to the primary weapon). The benefit is that, whenever one gets a kill with it (which makes it bloody, indicating that it can be sheathed), one is restored back to full health. To me, this is kind of meh. Probably one of the things that makes it less than appealing is that, if one sheathes the Half-Zatoichi, then pulls it out again in the same life, the blood's gone and one has to get a kill again to put it away again. It's not terrible on a Demoman equipped with the Chargin' Targe, but it's pretty rough on a Soldier, whose only advantage is his higher health. Equalizer, please!

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Those of you who follow me on twitter have probably noticed that I've been playing catch-up a lot (as I do), and deduced that I've been busy lately. Well, there's quite a good reason for that: I have a job now. I'm actually employed full-time and working in my field. So, hooray and all that.
I'm still getting adjusted to the new schedule and figuring out how to juggle everything. Once I get used to it, everything should go smoothly. Until then, it's going to be pretty crazy.

So, in conclusion: JOB GET!

Monday, February 28, 2011

I Should Keep Sudden Short Stories Sudden

It occurs to me that part of the reason that I don't get my sudden short stories written is that I end up just taking notes, and then fleshing them out later. The fleshing them out part takes time and effort, and also remembering that I have unwritten stories.
Originally, I wrote the sudden short stories, well, suddenly! But, so often, I get an idea right after I turn my computer off to go to bed, or right as I'm leaving for someplace else, so I need to make sure to write down enough info that I'll remember what I was thinking. Otherwise, I'd end up with no stories at all! D:
I'll try to keep them sudden, and we'll see how it goes.

In Which February is Annoying

February probably annoys most folks for the same reason that January does: It provides terrible driving conditions.
But, for me, February is annoying because it's so short. Specifically, I'm about to run out of February, and this will be my 3rd blog post for it. :P I just spent some time working on another post, only to determine that it makes no sense.
January slammed past me because I'd done a bunch of blog posts in December. February flew past by being so short. However! I expect to make about 10 blog posts in March. I've got about 8 in the works at the moment, and, if I keep getting ideas at the rate that I do, then I'll have even a few more.

I'm at that Awkward Point in TF2...

I'm at that awkward point in Team Fortress 2 where I have one of every weapon, but not the Poly Count hats or the resources to make them. (Well, strictly speaking, I don't have the Degreaser, but I'm not terribly worried about it.) For those who aren't familiar w/ TF2's item drop system, there are certain "Poly Count" sets for some classes, which are a combination of some weapons and a hat. The weapons can be found via the random drop system, but the hats never drop, so they have to be bought or made. The weapons can be bought or made, too, but buying them costs real money, and by the time that one has enough waste material to make them, one has probably already found them. The hats can be made with the crafting system, too, but this takes vast quantities of weapons to do. (For reference, a hat costs at least 3 Refined Metal to make, each of which costs 3 Reclaimed Metal, each of which costs 3 Scrap Metal, each of which costs 2 weapons, giving an effective price of >54 weapons to make a hat.)
If it weren't for the Poly Count sets, then I'd have no reason to even be thinking about hats prior to this point. But, of course, Valve is quite clever about this. The hats do nothing by themselves, but those that are part of Poly Count sets allow someone w/ a complete set to get some kind of bonus! (For example, Ol' Snaggletooth does nothing alone, but as part of The Croc-o-Style Kit, prevents headshots.)
So, the excitement of getting a new weapon is basically gone, replaced with the excitement of getting ANY weapon, since said weapon can be turned into scrap.
Well, on the bright side, TF2's crafting system means that nothing is truly wasted. Even when I've got all of the useful hats, I can still make all of the decorative ones. XD

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sudden Short Story 7

"There was a time when people worked on Christmas Eve. That's why it's an 'eve', you know: It's just the evening before, not the whole day."
"Well, strictly speaking, asking is just a formality. It's more to notify you than anything else."
"Nevertheless, it would be good if you could come in. With the year-end approaching, we'll need your help."
"You sound like you actually believe that," he said with a chuckle. "We both know that nobody has to be here. Heck, give everyone the day off and let an AI fill in. It's not like they're hard to find."
"You know that inconvenience isn't that point. Sure, I could give everyone Christmas Eve off. Then again, I could give them Arbor Day, or, I don't know, August 8th for all the difference that it would make. I could give everyone every day off and just have robots run the whole business! That would defeat the entire point, though."
There was a pause as they both thought on the subject. They both knew why they were there. They didn't want to talk about, nay, didn't want to think about the fact that they didn't actually need to do anything. After all, in a post-scarcity world, there was plenty of value to go around. The 'business' just let them feel useful.
"So you'll be here, then?"
"Bright and early, 'boss,' bright and early...."

Monday, January 31, 2011

Blog Post!

This is a blog post!
I'm posting this one to get 3 in in January.
I just got caught up w/ things and forgot today. Seriously, I had a post planned and everything. I'll probably do that one tomorrow or the next day, then.
I plan to do 4 in February to make up for this!

I'm Learning to Cook

Lately, I've had the opportunity to start picking up a useful skill: cooking.
Yes, soon, I will have the power to make not only ramen, but also ... umm... something else that people eat!
Actually, I've gotten to make a few rice-based recipes (long grain, that is; pre-packaged, of course), but now, I shall explore even NEWER horizons! With the recent acquisition of a book of healthy recipes, I shall go forth, and try to cook newer, slightly more complicated dishes!
so, y'know, just FYI

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Battle for Wesnoth

Recently, I dusted off the old chestnut known as The Battle for Wesnoth.
Before I go any farther: You can get The Battle for Wesnoth for free at (Also, it takes up less than 0.5GB when installed.)
I played The Battle for Wesnoth several years and 2 computers ago. Last year, I downloaded it, with the intent to play it again. Earlier this month, I started by going through 2 of the novice-level campaigns, just to re-familiarize myself with the mechanics. Since it was a refresher, I was probably fine before I was halfway through the 1st campaign, but the campaigns are fun, too.
I'm writing this post for a few reasons, the main ones' being: 1. that I need to get 3 posts done before January's end, per my New Year's resolution, & 2. that The Battle for Wesnoth is a good game and more people should play it.
The Battle for Wesnoth is a hex-grid turn-based strategy game w/ a fantasy flavor and an RPG element. Specifically, units can gain experience by fighting & thus level up to become new, better units. For many units, they can become one of two or three units when they level up, so there's a choice to make there, too. Terrain affects both movement and defense, and time of day affects units based on their alignments. There's a lot more to the game than that, of course, but I don't want this post to get all long and rambly. You can go read the wiki ( or just download & play the game. As I may have mentioned, it's free. ^_^