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Thursday, November 29, 2007

House of Palette

Earlier this month, Jeff Stolarcyk (he of Conditional Axe fame) told me that he was renewing his subscription to City of Heroes, and would I mind terribly helping him with some costumes?

I do believe I squealed with delight at the prospect.

To your left is Kensei Robo, in his original costume. Jeff described him as "a robot cowboy who is also a katana master." Looking at the picture, you can kind of grasp what he's going for... but it doesn't really capture the "sword saint" part of the character, now does it?

And those gears. HATE THEM!

So anyway, I worked my elfin magick upon Robo-Sama, trying to heighten and balance the four key elements of his nature: Samurai, Robot, Cowboy, and Completely Absurd.


A
h, now this is much better, isn't it?


Samurai:
Katana, martial arts gi, and black belt.

Robot: This part pretty much stayed the same, though I changed the colors a bit, deleted those horrible gears, and use different (but still biggie-sized) robot gauntlets.

Cowboy: Blue jeans, cowboy boots, cowboy hat.... and a big ol' stogie clenched between his teeth.

Absurd: It's a robot cowboy samurai, made with complete seriousness. It doesn't look like a half-assed attempt at a joke. The colors balance, symmetry is maintained. Putting this much effort into something that is inherently silly is, to me, the epitome of absurdism.


Samurai Robot Cowboy sez....

"Ah approve of this here costume!"



Wednesday, November 28, 2007

WNW: Chuck Approves These Messages

This is not an endorsement of Mike Huckabee as a presidential candidate, but god damn, the man knows how to use an internet meme:



Your thoughts on his politics aside, you've got to admit, that's the savviest campaign ad in decades. This guy, at least, knows the value of viral advertising and how the internet helps shape elections. For that, I give him props.

But whatever my political affiliation may be, I'd like to point out that I am pro-Chuck Norris. Not even a blender can defeat him!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I am filled with frustration, anger, jealousy

Frustration: After admitting defeat yesterday, I wasn't in bed more than five minutes before having not one but many ideas on what to write about. Of course, I didn't immediately get up and write because I was tired and already in bed. Now that I'm awake I can't think of any of them. Goddammit.

Anger: By a show of hands, how many people remember even 10% of what they learned in high school chemistry? Biology? I dunno about you guys, but I took an algebra or pre-calc class every year and damned if I can recall more than 3 formulas, total.

How about college? Maybe if you're lucky you remember 20% of what you learned there. I'm not so lucky... with the exception of my Literature courses (which I adored) and one or two VERY notable classes, I don't recall shit about my college experiences.

Yet I can quote to you, verbatim, huge uninterrupted passages from Monty Python, Red Dwarf, and Blackadder.

I don't know which pisses me off more: that I have forgotten all of this potentially useful information, or that I spent so much time and effort in learning things that I've never used, nor ever needed to use, since graduation.

Meanwhile, I still don't know how to change the oil on my car.

Jealousy: How the fuck do some bloggers strike it big and amass huge audiences? I'm about ready to attribute it to random chance, because I've read many of the "big name" blogs and I know -- not think, not feel, but know with an ironclad certainty -- that I write as well, if not better than they do.

And it's not a case of my blog "lacking focus," either; some of them are just random opinion pieces about whatever catches their attention at the moment, and they're still pulling in big numbers.

Maybe I should just go "misanthropic bitch" route and try to offend as many people as possible. I got a huge amount of hits from the recent Canadian brouhaha, and from a quick scan of talk radio it seems like people enjoy being offended, seeing other people be offended, and feeling validated in their prejudices by agreeing with the person doing the offending that the offendees had it coming in the first place and really need to get over themselves.

I'm certain I could do it on a constant basis. I just think it wouldn't be healthy for me -- mentally, socially, emotionally -- to live my life in a constant state of venomous ire. Plus, I am a delicate flower and desperately want people to like me and tell me how great I am, not be angry with me and send nasty or threatening emails my way. I realize that criticism and dislike of my work is part of the literary "package", as it were, but choosing to offend as many people as possible just isn't my thing. I'd much rather keep being who I am -- a quirky, over-literate goth chick with a skewed perspective on life -- but to a much broader audience.

Reading that last paragraph, I think I see the problem: "goth" and "over-literate" simply don't belong in the same sentence as "broader audience." I'm too goth for the mundanes, not goth enough for the lifestylers, and no one ever struck it rich in the popular media being over-literate.

Of course, I'm sure I could increase my viewers by about a thousand percent if I posted nude pictures on my blog, but that's a line I refuse to cross.

Le sigh.

To whom must I whore myself out just to get some decent exposure?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Some days, you just gotta say "screw it"

I've been looking at this blank screen for several hours now.

I know when I'm whipped.

Goodnight, all.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I Has A Flavor

So yesterday, one of my Internet Stalker Boyfriends (hi Nathan! *waves*) IM'd me and asked simply, "Flavor?"

Naturally, I replied with "Gothberry."

I had intended to photoshop a picture of a goth girl licking her finger/hand/arm and making a parody of the "I has a flavor" lolcat, but.... well, you put those words into Google and see what YOU come up with.


Instead, I give you this:

GOTHBERRIES TASTE LIKE SCHADENFREUDE



(image courtesy of oskaline)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Razor doesn't cut it

Caution: some Nerd Rage imminent. Also, spoilers if you haven't seen Razor yet.


It should come as no surprise to people who read this blog that I love Battlestar Galactica. I love dark futures, I love survival scenarios where the heroes are massively outnumbered, I love retro-tech, and I love military hardware. I love this show so much that I've even done some work for QMx on BSG material.

That said, I don't love Razor.

I'm going to skip past the part where I say that, as the only new BSG programming we're getting this year, it should deliver a lot of bang (it doesn't) and leave us on the edge of our seats for season 4. Instead, I'm going to concentrate on what I didn't like about this movie. If you accuse me of nitpicking, you're probably correct; such is the stuff of nerd rage.
  • The movie introduces us to a new character, Capt. Kendra Shaw. She is haunted by the ghosts of the past, and in an effort to put her past misdeeds behind her she lashes out and does drugs and yadda yadda yadda. Not only is this cliché, it is practically shorthand for This character will die before the end of the movie. Seriously, did anyone not see this coming? Please, let me know. I promise I won't mock you. I just want to know if anyone was caught by surprise by this.
  • Admiral Caine has a lesbian affair. This bothers me, but not for the reason you probably think, for I have no problems with straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or any other kind of sexuality so long as it isn't done to children, animals, or nonconsenting adults. No, my problem here is that by making Gina her lover, they once again fall back to stereotype: that any strong-willed military woman must be a ball-busting dyke to succeed.
  • Speaking of Caine, what is up with her hair? Forgive me for getting all girly on you here, but why does the Admiral's hairstyle go from dark and wavy -- -- to lighter and straighter ---- in the span of three months? Yes, I suppose she could have changed her 'do, but putting aside the possibility that the Pegasus has a beauty salon aboard to straighten and lighten her hair, please realize that she is an Admiral at war. Officers, especially those at the top of the chain of command, simply do not do that sort of thing, because they have to project the image that they are consistent in thought, action, and deed -- in other words, unchanging. I know this because my father is a career Army Colonel. Say what you will about Adm. Cain (and believe me, a lot can be said), she never once stopped projecting a constant "I am in total command here" vibe.
  • The movie is told almost entirely in flashback. That in itself isn't an indictment against it, though; some movies, such as Pulp Fiction, make good use of it. This one doesn't, though, because 90% of the flashbacks are of things we already knew happened. What this means is that we spend so much time dealing with needless backstory that by the time the movie is 3/4ths finished, very little has actually happened plot-wise. As a result, the next 30 minutes are resolved in a rather half-assed fashion, and the truly interesting questions the show raises (What did Sharon mean by "evolutionary dead end?" Were the Guardians rogues, or simply left to die by the rest of the Cylon race? Did Jaycie die from her injuries? Were the things that Husker saw on the ice planet simply products of his imagination, or was the hybrid communicating with him in some way?) simply aren't answered.
In summation: too much backstory, not enough plot. I realize that some backstory was necessary to introduce us to the character of Kendra Shaw, but I feel that it was dwelled upon excessively and to the detriment of the story.

Things I did like:
  • The way they used some original-series BSG stuff (Cylon raiders, Centurions, Colonial Warrior uniforms) to highlight the difference between the First and Second Cylon War.
  • Three old-school Cyons in a Raider, speaking in classically cheesy synthvoices. Excellent!
  • One of the marines is named "Hudson," in an obvious nod to Aliens.
  • The Razor Flashbacks which detail the adventures of Bill "Husker" Adama in the First Cylon War.
Oh, one more thing: the constant advertisement of the DVD release of this movie on December 4th, "with deleted scenes," really began to bug me. It's sort of like saying, "This movie you're seeing now, for free? It's incomplete. If you want to get the WHOLE story, you need to buy the DVD, sucker!"

Who knows, maybe it'll be better. Maybe it will provide a better framework on which to hang the story, or the deleted scenes will answer more questions. But as it stands now though, Razor is just... dull.

*ba dump bump*

Friday, November 23, 2007

Never, ever eat the Chicken a la King

There's an interesting discussion of "What's in iron rations, anyway?" over at The Twenty-Sided Tale. (Please note that they are discussing fantasy/medieval rations, not the emergency rations of World War I.)

General consensus is that whatever they are, they taste horrid, much like modern-day MREs.

Freak that I am, the MREs I've eaten have actually been pretty tasty (though the dehydrated pork patty needed some substantial "modification"). It might have something to do with the fact that for whatever reason, I don't have much of a taste for salt (you have to POUR it into food for me to detect it -- like fast food french fries -- and if the mashed potatoes are undersalted I'll never know).

But stay away from the Chicken a la King, though. That shit is nasty.

And the less said about Chipped Beef on Toast, the better.

A Random Observation

Someone found my site using the Google search string "Stanley Tucci naked".

I am quietly appalled, and yet strangely comforted.

And now, to increase my Google hits, I will now say "Angelina Jolie naked lesbian pictures".

Thank you; that is all.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Perfect Political Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers!

As you slip further into your tryptophan-induced postprandial coma, take a few moments to read the very amusing "A Conservative's/Liberal's Guide to the Perfect Thanksgiving". I regret that I wasn't the one to write this, but at least it frees me from any real creative duties so that I can have another helping of pumpkin pie.

Enjoy your feasting, and for those of you brave enough to face the hordes of rabid shoppers, I leave you with this benediction:

"Better you than me, you crazy bastards."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

WNW: Slashy, slashy!

Since yesterday's post mentioned Slashfic, I thought I'd hearken back to the original source of slash... Kirk/Spock.

That it happens to be set to a Nine Inch Nails song is just icing.

Pardon my pun.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Return of VIMH

Voices In My Head: Hey, there's some interesting stuff up here.

Me: I beg your pardon?

VIMH: Up here, in your memory. There's a large box labeled "Blogs I wrote in my head just as I was drifting off to sleep and then promptly forgot about." It's quite interesting.

Me: I don't like the thought of you rummaging about up there...

VIMH: Hey, you asked us for help, remember? So we're helping.

Me: By snooping?

VIMH: Precisely. It's not like we can go for stroll to clear our minds, you know? We're stuck in your head, after all. So it's only right that we get to riffle through the interesting fiddly bits you keep up in the attic.

Me: I'm not sure how wise that is, but go for it.

VIMH: Oh dear lord.

Me: ... what?

VIMH: This... this is horrible. Disgusting, even. Morgan Freeman slashfic? HAVE YOU NO SHAME?

Me: I'd like to point out in my defense that I was drunk at the time. Besides, he and Edward James Olmos make a very cute couple:


VIMH:
(A chorus of disjointed voices) I... I can't deal with this right now. This is sickening. I feel hurt and betrayed. I rather liked it. Shut up, you!

Me: Aw, don't be like that... look, I can write you some nice lesbian fiction if that'd make you feel better.

VIMH: No, we think it'd be better if we just left.

<Exeunt VIMH>

Me: Huh. Apparently the Voices in my Head are a bunch of homophobic men. Who knew?

Monday, November 19, 2007

A shocking explanation

WARNING: Mild spoilers to follow, if you haven't seen tonight's Heroes.


I can't believe I'm actually going to discuss electrical theory in the same sentence as a show about superheroes, but goddamn it, people who write Heroes, electricity doesn't work like that!

Electricity, like all other forms of energy in the universe, flows from areas of greater concentration to areas of lesser concentration (or as electrical engineers say, from higher to lesser potential). You get electrocuted only when you complete the circuit between those two potentials, which is why birds don't get fried when they perch on power lines. It's also why rubber boots/gloves/mats keep you safe from electricity, because they insulate -- rubber doesn't conduct electricity, and therefore prevents a circuit from forming between voltage, you, and the ground.

So what HRG did to Elle tonight is completely wrong. Again, I know it's rather silly to discuss physics in a show about superheroes, but there are certain expectations of logic in a medium such as this. For example, if a hero had fire powers, you would expect that his power would not work if he were, say, immersed in water.* Likewise, since Elle has electrical powers, you would expect that her powers follow the basic rules of electrical current.

How's that, you ask? Excellent question, Voices in My Head! Allow me to explain!

As I stated above, you only get shocked if you are in the link between high and low potential. But since Elle generates electricity, she is high potential! It doesn't matter that she's been sprayed with water and her feet are in a tub, her electricity will not harm her for the same reason that water doesn't flow uphill and skittles make a mess on the floor when the bag breaks: the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Interestingly enough, the basic effect -- neutralizing her power -- could be easily achieved by chaining her to a metal stake buried in the ground, because the volume of the planet has much lower electrical potential than, well, anything else on Earth, and is quite happy to absorb however many volts you care to throw at it. This is, in fact, how lightning rods work.

So I guess I'm incensed because it's both poor science and poor writing. Elle doesn't need to get shocked; the scene isn't supposed to convey great irony or poetic comeuppance. It's sole purpose is to say "Hey, I've neutralized your power; now you must do as I say." This entire mess could have been avoided if a writer somewhere had simply done his homework and not decided to get cute.

----------------
Now playing: Apoptygma Berzerk - Electricity
via FoxyTunes


*Unless you gave some sort of handwaving explanation about how water is really only hydrogen and oxygen, both of which burn, and then proceeded to have the character engage in some really terrifying atomic-scale manipulation. Or possibly overheat his own body, boiling the water into its components. Either way, it will in all likelihood be very painful for said hero....

Mystery solved!

Many many hugs and kisses to John, who was able to identify the mystery book as Buying Time by Joe Haldeman. Ironically, once the title was known, it was easy-peasey to find information and reviews on it.

Hail Eris.

For those interested enough to Read More About It, I recommend this review by none other than Orson Scott Card.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

And now, a word from our sponsor.

I meant to talk about this last week, but as you may remember, stuff got in the way.

Anyhoo.

If you're into Firefly stuff, go buy this:



It's handier(book sized, not poster sized), cheaper ($30), and packed with more stuff than the Serenity Blueprints. If you play the Serenity RPG, this is an excellent reference manual for your game.

I even had a very small degree of involvement with this project, so if you're just interested in supporting me, please buy it. A good Christmas Season for Quantum Mechanix means a happy Palette.

Also, if you've purchased the Mal Stunt Pistol, or plan to get the metal Hero Pistol, and you'd like a high-quality, screen accurate holster for it, please let your voice be heard. The greater the interest there is for such an item, the greater the chance it will be sold AND the cheaper it will be for everyone.

Thank you for your time.

Now, back to our irregularly scheduled lunacy.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Internal Dialogue

Palette: Okay, Voices In My Head, this has to stop.

Voices In My Head: What do you mean? Like T.S. Eliot's Hollow Men, we have always been here. You aren't going to get rid of us just by asking, oh no. It'll take years of psychoanalysis, medication, and possibly even electroshock therapy.

P: That's not what I meant. No, you guys have been falling down on the job lately.

VIMH: That can't possibly be right. We've been giving you fucked-up dreams at industry-standard schedule, the Department of Inadvertent Outbursts has just embarked on its award-winning "Get her to say 'Goddammit' in church" program for the third year in a row, and the Subconscious Miners have been dredging up uncomfortable memories like clockwork. How can you possibly say we aren't doing our jobs here?

P: You're not giving me interesting material to write about.

VIMH: Well excuse us, Miss Demandypanties. We're your Id; we don't have to do what you want.

P: You don't seem to grasp the symbiotic nature of our relationship here.

VIMH: Grasp this, you little...

P: I'm a writer. Without new material to write about, I'm just an "er". Do you know what "ers" do? They watch reality television, work in retail, and follow celebrity gossip. I'm pretty sure I could drown you out, and kill more than a few brain cells in the process, if I suddenly start caring about Nicole Richie, Lindsey Lohan, and Paris Hilton.

VIMH: ... well played. What are your demands?

P: I need new material for my blog. I've stopped reading comic books, run out of authors to imitate, and new episodes of Jericho and Battlestar Galactica don't air until 2008. Furthermore, I've got a bit of a reputation as an eccentric, and I want that characteristic flavor of inspired, ecstatic lunacy to be prevalent in this new work.

VIMH: Hmm. The problem here, you see, is that we're inherently chaotic in what we do. Schedules don't work well for us.

P: All I need is a sperm of the idea and my conscious mind can do the rest. I'll handle the structure and implementation; all you guys have to do is churn out wild-ass notions. Sound reasonable?

VIMH: I think I can sell that, yes.

P: So help me out here.

VIMH: How about a series of internal dialogs between you -- the author -- and the voices in your head? You could turn it into a recurring series of faux conversations, with us suggesting insane notions and you responding to them.

P: Give me an example?

VIMH: With gas prices the way they are, I bet you'd save a ton of money if you refit your car to run by burning cow patties. Heck, if you changed your diet and stopped flushing your toilet, I'll bet you could even get it to work on your own excreta! And composting is so very trendy these days.....

P: It's been a pleasure doing business with you.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Week: An Executive Summary

Monday: Felt like shit.

Tuesday: Spent entire day at courthouse for jury selection, only to be told to go home at 5:30.

Wednesday: Tried to make up for missing Monday & Tuesday.

Thursday: Exhausted. Don't feel like doing anything but vegging.

Friday: Wake up at 7:30 am with the bastard child of a migraine and a sinus headache. Go back to bed at 8:30. Finally achieve some measure of respite around noon. Sleep until 7 pm.

Now: Head doesn't hurt any more, but I feel like I've been wrung out like a towel.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wednesday Night Where the Hell is Palette? (Special Thursday Edition)

I spent almost all of Monday sick in bed.

Tuesday I was feeling better, but then had to go to the courthouse for jury selection. (I wasn't picked, but the day was wasted anyway.)

Wednesday I had to catch up on my two lost days, and spent most of my time scurrying about.

Hopefully I'm caught up now, and can resume blog posts today. *crosses fingers*

Thanks for the warm thoughts and well wishes.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Morals Ain't Just a Mushroom

by Troy Hickman

Not long ago in my blog, I posted some questions I asked my students about the general knowledge they possess (if you haven't checked it out, you might want to do so, as the results were fascinating.

In a similar vein, when my classes begin working on persuasive papers, we usually go through a few exercises to get their "argumentative juices" flowing. One such exercise is sort of a version of the board game "Scruples," where they're confronted with an ethical dilemma, and they say what they would do in a given situation, and why.

Below are the questions, then a brief summary of what the answers look like. Again, interesting stuff. Answer 'em yourself, and see what you get.

1. You're walking down the street, and in front of you is a well-dressed man counting a wad of money. He drops a $100 bill, but doesn't notice, and walks on. No one else is around. What do you do?

2. You accidentally find out your romantic partner's email password. What do you do?

3. You're friends with a couple, and one of them confides in you that they're having an affair with someone. What do you do?

4. You're in a department store, and you see a woman strike her young child hard across the face. What do you do?

5. You see someone's car stuck in the snow, and they're trying to push it out. What do you do?

6. Your neighbor's dog regularly barks all night long, sometimes keeping you awake. Then one day you see your neighbor kick his dog. What do you do?

7. You're working as a volunteer for a political candidate whose policies you strongly support. Then one day you find that they're secretly putting some campaign funds into their own personal account. What do you do?

8. You see a woman in the supermarket with three shabbily-dressed kids. You watch her put a jar of peanut butter into her purse, and walk out without paying for it. What do you do?

9. You're in a store and you break something expensive, but no one is around to witness it. What do you do?

10. You have a co-worker who regular slips out of work early, but the boss is unaware of it. What do you do?






Results:


1. Most of my students say they'd give the cash back. Of the few who wouldn't, the reason usually given is "he doesn't need it as much as I do." A couple would give it back hoping for a reward. A couple of them had the smarts to ask "What if he was dressed well because he was going to his wife's funeral, and he had the money to pay the funeral home" or similar hypotheticals. One guy said he'd sack the man and take the rest of his cash, but I hope he was joking.

2. This one went about 50/50. About half of them said they would either tell their partner, or they would just never use the info. The other half either said they'd look (mainly out of nosiness), or they'd only look if they felt "there was good reason."

3. Half the class said they'd basically stay out of it. About a third of them said they would tell the other partner (or give the person confiding in them the chance to do so first). A large number of them said it depended on which partner was the better or older friend to them. An alarming number of them said that if the confider were the same sex as them, they'd keep their secret, but not otherwise. Talk about your gender loyalty. One guy said that if it were the woman confiding in him, he'd use the info to blackmail her for sex.

4. About half the class said that it depended on (A) how hard the slap was, (B) the age of the child, and (C) what the child had done to provoke it. About a third said they'd do nothing, as it wasn't their business. The rest said they'd go to some kind of authority, whether it was the store's management, the police, or Child Protective Services (though there's a real fear of CPS and their overzealousness).





5. Most folks said they wouldn't stop to help, but they would offer to call for help on their cellphone. Of the ones who would help, most of them said they'd stop if it was a woman, but not if it were a guy (so if Laurie Dann or Aileen Wuornos were stranded, they'd stop, but bearded, scary-looking pussycat Troy Hickman would die from exposure).

6. About two thirds of them would do something, whether it was contacting the authorities, confronting the guy, or stealing the dog. Interestingly, a lot more folks were willing to help the dog being kicked than the little kid being struck in the face.

7. Most everyone said they would either turn the guy in, or confront him and give him the chance to do so. Wheeewwww. Unfortunately, a handful said that if they supported his causes, they would let it slide (what do you want to bet those are exactly the folks who WILL end up in politics?). One guy said he'd blackmail the politician (I sense a trend here).

8. Very few folks would turn her in. Some said they would offer to pay for her peanut butter. One guy said he'd slip a jar of jelly into her bag so the sandwiches weren't too dry. This question provoked a truly amazing interchange, however. I have an old hippie guy in one of my classes, and he's got some truly loco ideas. So when this question came up, he said he thought it was OK for her to steal it, because the store had more money than the woman did. Here's how the convo went from that point on:

ME: So, it's ok to steal from someone as long as they have more than you do?

HIPPIE: Yes.

ME: Soooo...if I'm living below poverty level, is it ok for me to steal from someone else below poverty level, as long as they make a little more than me?

HIPPIE: No.

ME: So what's the cut-off point? How much do you have to make for it to be ok to steal from you.

HIPPIE (without a hesitation): $24,000 a year.

ME (gasping for breath): $24,000 a year???? How...what...where did you come up with that amount?

HIPPIE: Well, that's assuming we're talking about someone who's single with no children.


So not only did he have an actual number at which you could be robbed, but he must've worked out some sort of chart that made adjustments for spouses and dependents!!!


9. About half said they'd tell the store owner, assuming they probably wouldn't have to pay for it anyway. The other half would either walk away inconspicuously or hide the item.

10. With this one, almost every person said it depended on whether they LIKED their co-worker. Of the ones who would act, most said they'd let the boss know indirectly.


So what about you?

Friday, November 9, 2007

More book information

I've remembered more information about the book I'm looking for.
  • It cannot have been printed after 1999.
  • It was in hardback.
  • The cover was green.
  • It was not part of an anthology.
  • There is a sequence where the heroine's private spacecraft is launched into escape velocity by a massdriver. I further suspect this is at a spaceport in or near the Canary Islands.
  • The heroine is an immortal, just like the hero.
  • It was fairly hard sci-fi.
  • It is categorically NOT "Holy Fire", by Bruce Sterling.
  • It was not, to the best of my knowledge, written by any of the "big guns" of science fiction.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

This just in

The pseudonym "Warren Peace" is no longer cool.

It was pretty groovy back in the 70s when Geoffrey A. MacCormack originally rocked the moniker, but even he has gone back to using his real name.

It was even good for a giggle back in 2005's Sky High.

But now? We get it.

It's no longer funny.

It is, in fact, tired and old.

Please let it die.

Looking for a book

Okay, I need help in finding a book.

Like you might expect, I can't remember the title or the author, but I remember enough details that perhaps a helpful librarian or bibliophile might be able to help.
  • I read it about 10 years ago, and I believe it was new at the time.
  • It is science fiction.
  • The protagonist is a fabulously wealthy man with a kevlar-reinforced skull.
  • He and his girlfriend are immortal, but this immortality is surgical in nature; every 20 years or so, they need to have their genes re-set in a hideously expensive and complicated procedure. In fact, it's so expensive that it bankrupts whoever has it done.
  • Somewhere along the line, they discover that the procedure is being deliberately botched; done properly, the recipient never needs to have it done again.
  • They flee to the asteroid belt and take refuge in a colony called Novosibirsk.
  • They are pursued by bad guys (naturally) who like to incapacitate their victims with a drug called zombie, which slows the victim's perception of time such that seconds seems to last minutes.
Can anyone tell me what book this is? I can't recall how it ended and I want to reread it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

WNW: Daft Hands

EDIT: video is working again.

It's a little slow at first, but give it a minute until the lyrics kick in.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

BSG vs B5: A Nerd-Off

Pardon me while I phone this in.

Inspired by Salem's comment that "I'm a sucker for the end-to-tail flips the Vipers can do. Those have to be the most maneuverable fighters I have ever seen," I present to you the following nerd-off question:


Who would win?


The Viper Mk. II
Race Colonial
Type Military
FTL No
Propulsion 1 x Voram VM2-D15 upper turbothrust engine, 2x Voram VM3-D22 turbothrust engines, 2x reverse thrust motors: RCS points
Crew 1 pilot
Capacity
Role Space superiority fighter
Weapons 2 Kinetic Energy Weapon, missiles
Armaments 2 x MEC-A6 30mm Thraxon forward-firing kinetic energy weapons (KEW) mounted in the wing roots with 800 round magazine, Dorsal storage bay for 8 x HD-70 Lightning Javelin missiles (optional 50 megaton nuclear warhead)[1], Weapon hardpoints for mounting missiles / munitions pods, etc. under the wings
Status Obsolete / In current Colonial service
Other Images More images...
Dimensions
Length (8.4082m)[2]
Height (2.7247m)[2][3]
Wingspan (4.7168m)[2]


OR


The SA-23 Mitchell-Hyundyne Starfury


SA-23 Mitchell-Hyundyne Starfury
Status: Active
Afilliation: EarthForce
Class: Aurora
Length: 9.56m
Mass: 48mt
Crew: 1
Engines: 4 Copeland ion engines
4 vaporized solid propellant engines
Weapons: 4 40mm pulse cannons
2 30mm pulse cannons (rear)
Defenses: 4.2cm re-inforced hull
1 grappling claw
1 cutting laser
Power: 3 fusion batteries


(Data and images shamelessly swiped from The Battlestar Wiki and The Babylon Project.)



Vote in the poll, argue your point in the comments section... basically, fight each other for my amusement.

EDIT: The votes are in, and the Viper wins, 8 votes to 6. It was a close one!

Monday, November 5, 2007

RAC: Shiny new swag

Thought I'd share this with you...

As a "thank you" for the hard work I did for them, QMx was nice enough to send me a personalized Battlestar Galactica-style dogtag!

Inside this neat little metal box, suitable for holding Space Altoids...



... is a neat little bag (I wonder how many cubits it can hold?)...


... with this really shiny dogtag!


Yes, my serial number is "Elite" in l33tsp34k. I'm sure I'm going to Hell for that, but I'd be going there anyway, so why not have a bit of fun in the process?

Anyway, I'm told that this dogtag is unique. Whereas most personalized tags have random serial numbers, I was able to pick mine (because I'm special!) and I seriously doubt that combination will come up again. So, if you ever meet someone at a convention claiming to be Erin Palette, ask to see her dogtags! Because if they don't look like this, then she isn't me!

My tags also came with an "Induction Order," which is a fancy way of saying I've been drafted into the ranks of the Colonial Forces. (I hope I can qualify for flight status... I want to be a Raptor pilot!)



And that's really neat, because it wasn't long ago that I was discharged from the Independent Forces:



This came with my Ships' Papers and was a special deal restricted to those people who ordered within the first 24 hours (Thank you again, Nathan!) If you haven't bought one of these, you really need to... they only made 1500 of these, and 900 have already been sold.

Yes, I do believe I have sold my soul for geek swag.


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Now playing: Bear McCreary - Passacaglia
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Sauriel, the Archangel of Souls

In honor of All Souls' Day, I present something that I started way back in 2002 and never got around to finishing. It's for In Nomine, a roleplaying game published by Steve Jackson Games, where you can engage the oldest cold war in history: the War between Heaven and Hell.

Special thanks to Moe Lane for helping me with this, and for being one of the few people who read my blog to actually get the references. My apologies to everyone else who won't understand what the heck I'm talking about.

If by some miracle you do play this game, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think of this post!


Sauriel

Kyriotate Archangel of Souls

The world dies and is born anew each day. Be both undertaker
and midwife.

Sauriel, Soriel, Zariel, Sariel, Zauriel ... call her what you will; she doesn’t seem to mind. Just don’t expect her to reply. She has as many faces as there are concepts of death, birth, and rebirth, and all of them apply.
She loathes Saminga, Demon Prince of Death, as would be expected, but lacks the word-friction which causes the erratic behavior of the Archangel and Demon Prince of Fire. Her Word is as much about life as it is about death, and she lets Saminga have his rotting corpses and moldering tombs (or more accurately, she lets her Malakim have at them); she is more concerned with peaceful repose, closure, and new beginnings.
Originally an angel of Purity, she was awarded her Word shortly after Cain slew Abel, whereupon Yves presented her with the Book of Life. This powerful relic contains the names of all souls that have ever been born, the dates of their birth, an the dates of their deaths -- all barring Celestial interference, of course. Sometimes this interference is angelic in nature, and while Saurielites are willing to overlook an angel extending the life of a mortal so that it may achieve its Destiny, any mortal killed before its time will earn that angel a harsh rebuke; a scathing report to its Archangel, the Divine Inquisition, and the Offices of the General of the Heavenly Host; and in drastic situations, an abrupt one-way ticket back upstairs to ponder its Heart for a time.
Only her Servitors, and those Archangels to whom she is allied, have seen her true form. All others must speak to her behind a thick curtain within her Cathedral. (This is deliberately suggestive of the Holy of Holies, for it is rumored that to look upon her is to invite soul-death.) On the rare occasions when she manifests upon the Corporeal plane, she prefers to swath herself in thick, dark clothing, with an emphasis upon veils, scarves, and hoods.
Her chief characteristic in either form is "quiet". She is soft-spoken, treads lightly, and is prone to introspective silence. An almost monastic sense of calm seems to radiate from her, and it is difficult to be panicked in her presence; the ability to think calmly in any circumstance is an ability she strives to instill in her servitors, and her angels are unusually competent, even for angels.
Given the stakes, they have to be.

Her Cathedral
Sauriel's Heavenly abode is actually two places: the Memorial Guardians, which are public, and the Guf, which is restricted to angels of Souls and other Archangels.

The Memorial Gardens
Everyone needs a place to mourn, even in Heaven. This quiet, dignified park contains memorials to those who have died and are beyond the grasp of the Divine, either by meeting their Fates and being damned to Hell or by being soul-slain in the course of the War. The atmosphere here is reverential but not funerary; introspection and closure, not sorrow, is the Gardens' purpose. It borders the Cathedrals of Faith, Destiny, Flowers, and the Sword, but it is understood that certain topics are forbidden in this place, and politics is one of them.

The Guf
Named for the Jewish treasury of souls, the Guf is a dark, warm, quiet room of infinite size that somehow seems small, but in the cozy sense, not claustrophobic. It might well be called a womb, because it is where souls yet to be born upon the mortal plane are created and stored. Interspersed with the souls are the Hearts of her servitors, and they are tended to with the same care.

Within the center of this infinite space is a room which only Sauriel and her highest-ranked servitors may enter. It is from this room that she grants her audiences, speaking to others across what seems to be a thick curtain that blocks all senses except hearing. This room is known as the Well of Souls, and newborn souls simply appear here at random without fanfare or warning. It is theorized that this is a one-way Tether from the Higher Heavens, a mirror to the ascent-only Jacob's Ladder.

It is noteworthy that no other Archangel has ever entered this room, not even Yves.


Role in the War
Sauriel barely accepts the need for a War, and she certainly doesn't approve much of anything that isn't for the express purpose of reducing inimical celestial interference. Note that the word is 'inimical', not 'diabolic': Sauriel disapproves of Michael's actions almost as she does Hell's.

What work she does in the corporeal plane mostly involves preventing and minimizing the actions of more active Superiors on both sides. Her servitors try to guide human lives on track after they've been derailed (often completely unintentionally) by some successful action by either side of the War. They've gotten good at that, at the cost of increased cynicism towards the ham-handed clumsiness of the average celestial.

When she isn't desperately trying to repair large holes in the Symphony, Sauriel helps ease the coming and passing of individual humans. The latter often eclipses the former, but it should be remembered that her servitors preside over as many births as they do deaths.

Relations
Sauriel is pretty much an outsider in celestial politics. Her role in the War takes up most of her energies, and she's predisposed against supporting any kind of preemptive action made by the Host. Couple that with what seems a deep personal detachment and it's not too startling that almost none of her colleagues really count on her support.

However, she does have some links in place with others (mostly based on personal likes or common philosophy). Laurence and Khalid seem to have the firmest mutual working relationship with her: that, coupled with Dominic's professional respect, would seem to make her a member of the War faction. On the other hand, Sauriel seems to prefer the company of the most powerful members of the Peace faction (who, Yves notwithstanding, usually find her slightly uncomfortable to be around). Sauriel is also one of the few Archangels that can get Jordi's attention, and keep it.

Allied: Eli, Novalis, Yves, Zadkiel
(Dominic, Laurence and Khalid are Allied to Sauriel)
Associated: Dominic, Khalid, Laurence, Jordi
Neutral: Blandine, David, Janus, Jean, Marc
Hostile: Gabriel, Michael (Both are Neutral)

Archangel's opinions of Sauriel
(and hers of them)

Blandine: "She has affected many a dreamscape, and not always to the Host's benefit. There is no hatred in Sauriel, though. I sympathize with her burden."

"She gives them hope, and I give them surcease when hope is gone. We move to different rhythms."
David: "It takes strength for mortals to accept their deaths, or the deaths of those close to them. Sauriel does not encourage that strength as much as she could. But she does help the dying to show courage, which is honorable."

"One should peacefully face his or her time because it is best for that person, not because it is helpful to others. I understand, though, that our perspectives differ. His soldiers rarely need much comfort in that penultimate moment."

Dominic: "A worthy Archangel, making sure that others tread lightly in the lives of mortals ... and exposing those who have transgressed. Her Servitors are somewhat less likely to come to my attention than others."

"Too quick to do that which he decries in others, but his actions only rarely impinge on mine."

Eli: "Sauriel? She's lonely, a little too standoffish, and doesn't seem to really recognize when it's OK for us to be involved of the world. I wonder how someone so intimately involved with the Creation of new life can think otherwise."

"He is the source of everything I do; I merely ease the channels of the life he has fostered. I wish that he would come back to us, but I recognize that his wild beauty cannot be controlled."

Gabriel: "She makes it too easy for the Cruel. Death is sometimes not punishment enough."

"I have watched her slow fall to madness, and I ask myself: has her time come at last? I fear that the answer might be yes."

Janus: "I like her determination, hate her stodginess, and just plain ambivalent about her constant need for closure. Overall, I'd say that Sauriel is an asset to us; the irritation that we may feel is nothing to the aggravation that she deals out to Hell's schemes on a regular basis."

"He embodies Chaos, and without Chaos, there is no room to grow. But Chaos is a tool, not an ideal."

Jean: "She has a task that is both necessary and thankless. My colleagues may find her uncomfortable, but I do not."

"He is another whose path does not often intersect with mine. A shame, for I think that we would work well together."

Jordi: "Animals are born knowing the truths that Sauriel is still trying to teach to humanity. If nothing else, her persistence is laudable: a shame she doesn't have better material to work with."

"Jordi understands my duties with an ease that I can only hope the others will someday duplicate. I wish that he could learn to accept his pain, and move on."

Khalid: "Sauriel has a glimpse of Allah's plan for His creation. I listen to her when she speaks."

"Of all my colleagues, he respects my work the most. I respect his as well."

Laurence: "Sauriel is as deeply involved in the beginning of life as in its end. The latter may overshadow her work in the former, but I for one do not forget her unceasing service, and I honor her commitment."

"One of the few who try to see the entire War, rather than just one portion of it - and one who knows when to accept the inevitable. I certainly prefer him to Michael."

Marc: "She's traded knowledge of what was to be for the ability to prevent it. I'm glad someone did, but I'm also glad it wasn't me."

"He does more to aid humanity than one would think. Money cannot buy one more second of life when it is your time, though. Nothing can, I am afraid."

Michael: "Here's a radical concept: humans have free will. Here's another: when the master plan goes bad, junk the plan. Sauriel seems to have never quite gotten either concept through her shrouded head. 'Written down somewhere' does not equal 'optimal solution'..."

"Michael cannot seem to ever learn when to let go. His meddling has hurt so many humans, and so often it makes no difference anyway."

Novalis: "I recognize that she has her task: however, I cannot walk past the hurt or dying and simply shrug it off because 'it was their time'. Neither can my Servitors. We do not oppose each other, but... I cannot count on her aid."

"A wise human sage once had Death say that, for him, proper compassion was a sharp edge. If it were not for Novalis, my task would be unsupportable: I am truly sorry when she cannot save someone. But, at the end, everyone has his or her time."

Yves: "She bears a subtle Word: why should anyone be surprised that it has made her subtle, too?"

"The goal of it all, in the end, is for every life to begin and end in Destiny. With him showing us the way, I believe that someday, it will."

Zadkiel: "I simply have to accept that sometimes she won't help to protect someone, no matter how good the reason. I don't agree with it at all, but I won't reject the aid she does offer, either."

"Another who makes my tasks infinitely easier: would that she could accept that not even she can Shield someone forever."


Dissonance
As possessor of the Book of Life, Sauriel knows the decreed lifespans of all souls ... barring celestial intervention, than is. Servitors of Souls, having partial knowledge of the Book, are forbidden to interfere; saving the life of a human whose death was ordained is as Dissonant as slaying him before his allotted time to die. However, it is not Dissonant to remove the pain and fear of the dying, but in fact encouraged.


Choir Attunements

Seraphim (restricted)

This choir’s ability to perceive the Truth extends into the spiritual realm. With a successful Perception roll, they may detect the final destination of any soul currently inhabiting a body: Heaven, Hell, the Marches, reincarnation, or dissipation. This destination may change as a result of celestial interference. This attunement will also work upon a Celestial or Ethereal within a vessel/host, though in this case the information returned will only indicate which plane of existence they call home However, a 6 on the Perception roll's check digit will reveal that the Seraphim has indeed pinged a celestial (what type would still be unknown).

Cherubim (restricted)
Sauriel’s Guardians are charged with protecting those who are in danger of being killed by the Forces of Hell before their time. If their charges are killed, they automatically succeed in a Nemesis attunement to the slayer(s). (See the Angelic Players' Guide for more information on Nemesis attunements.)

Ofanim (partially restricted)
Wheels of Souls can feel the pull of the dying or about-to-be-born within a number of miles equal to their Perception, and may use their direction finding Resonance to locate them. Their purpose is to comfort those who are dying alone in inaccessible locations, and give help to mothers giving birth in empty apartments and back seats of cars. To this end, they may add their Ethereal Forces to all rolls that provide comfort and assistance to these people.

Elohim (restricted)
Master counselors, Sauriel’s Powers automatically succeed in their Resonance rolls when consoling the bereaved and those contemplating suicide. Note that while it is Dissonant for them to prevent a mortal’s death, there is nothing wrong with providing mortals with a new perspective that allows them the opportunity to change their minds. Elohim know this is a fine line, and tread it carefully.

Malakim
Virtues of Souls are celestial repo men. They are charged with seeking out the undead and destroying them, and as such detect them upon sight. As these creatures no longer have souls, slaying them does not cause Dissonance.

Kyriotates (restricted)
Kyriotates of Souls are eerily similar to Shedim in that they do not displace the mind of their host; however, the host is aware that the Kyriotate is inside it, and therefore has full control over its body. The Kyriotate may sing songs, activate Attunements, and spend Essence on behalf of the host, but may not take control of the host’s body ... unless the host allows it. If so, the host may regain control at any time thereafter. Mortals chosen for hosts are typically terminally ill and sincerely wish for a chance to make reparations or do one last good deed before they die. If this is accomplished the Kyriotate gains no Dissonance if the host dies as a result.

Mercurians
Sauriel’s Friends of Man are skilled at explaining difficult questions, such as “Why did Mommy have to die?” or “Where do babies come from?” They may add their Ethereal Forces to all skill rolls involving communication of difficult or abstract concepts.


Servitor Attunements

Book of Life (required)
All angels of Souls must purchase this attunement upon character creation. It allows one to look at a mortal and know the date, time, and circumstances of their birth and death as written in the Book of Life (that is, barring any celestial interference). If any mortal is saved from death due to this interference – even one the angel is not otherwise aware of – the angel perceives a Disturbance within the Symphony as though the mortal had died by celestial hands! This is often dubbed "The Keeler Effect" by angels more in-tune with mortal pop culture.

Silent Wings
If attending to his duties in an area where human observation would prove troublesome, the angel may choose not to be noticed. While not true invisibility, the angel will nevertheless not be noticed except by other celestials and those defined as innocents (young children, animals traditionally defined as sensitive to spirits). Recording devices will still record the angel, but the non-symphonically aware will not see anything within the recording.

Quietus
If a mortal truly wishes to die, and it is his time to die as written in the Book of Life, then by spending 1 Essence an angel may grant that mortal a swift, painless death. If it is not his time to die, then the mortal falls into a deep, restful sleep that grants respite from all forms of pain.


Distinctions

Vassal of Transition
Angels with this Distinction may follow a soul to its afterlife when it dies as if it were following another celestial to its heart. Thus, following a pagan soul results in the angel ascending to the Marches, while pursuing a damned soul places the angel in the line before the Gates of Hell. There are more than a few angels of Sauriel with this Distinction who stay with a soul up to the point it is processed through the Soul Yards, in the hope that it will sincerely repent of its sins and achieve reincarnation, if not redemption. While the odds against being successful in this are enormous, it has happened before... demons tend not to trouble angels of Souls working in this manner, as the Angels of Final Judgement consider Saurielites to be under their protection.

Friend of Souls
The angel may separate a soul from its body without sending that soul to its afterlife or harming its corporeal sheath. While in this state, consider the soul to be in Celestial form, but with no ability to ascend to the Celestial Plane. It also does not generate Disturbance. Friends of Souls frequently use this ability to give coma victims one last look at their family and friends, or to save the lives of those being hunted by demons. Soulless bodies killed in this way do not generate the additional +10 Disturbance for the death of a human. If the body is not completely destroyed, the soul may be returned to it with no ill effects once Corporeal Healing is sung to repair the damage. If it is totally destroyed, the soul may be placed in any soulless living body to live out the remainder of its allotted lifespan. If the angel is slain before the soul is placed within a body, the soul is trapped in Celestial form but is stranded upon the Corporeal plane, and is vulnerable to soul-killing. Needless to say, returning these souls to flesh is of the highest priority to Sauriel.

Master of the Guf
An angel of this rank has access to the Well of Souls, the room within the Guf from which souls periodically spring. Constant exposure to its mysteries has led to enlightenment, the realization that all souls are essence and all essence potentially a soul. Masters of the Guf may use this knowledge to sacrifice one of their Celestial Forces, converting it into (Celestial Forces x Will) notes of Essence, which is then immediately applied to any single roll. Refer to the rules on auto-success on p. 39 of In Nomine rulebook if necessary. This ability may be used multiple times per turn, but only once per action.


Basic Rites

  • Assist a mother in giving birth.
  • Ease the death of a mortal through comfort and reassurance.
  • Disrupt the plans of a servitor of Saminga.


Chance of Invocation: 0

Invocation Modifiers
+1 A deathbed
+2 A maternity ward
+3 The deathbed of a human who has accepted his or her coming death.
+4 The moment and place when someone has given birth.
+5 A former Tether of Death that has been realigned to any Divine Word.
+6 The deathbed of a human who has met his or her Destiny without any celestial interference at all.


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Now playing: E Nomine - Himmel Und Hölle
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Camel Spider: Not As Scary As The Unfiltered Marlboro Spider

By Troy Hickman

As a few of you may know, one of my areas of knowledge is folklore, especially urban legends. So earlier this week when I gave one of my classes a journal assignment dealing with what scares them, and the subject of camel spiders came up, I listened intently. It was interesting to hear what they'd heard about these guys, and even moreso to try and follow the trajectory of the legends.

The camel spider recently received his fifteen minutes of fame because of this photo. Yeah, it's a damn big, creepy-crawly thingy, no two ways about it. And what did my class "know" about the camel spider?

1. It can be as big as a garbage can lid when its legs are extended.

2. It can jump three feet vertically in the air.

3. It can run 25 miles per hour.

4. It lives in and feeds off the stomachs of camels, hence its name.

5. It has a novacaine-like sting that keeps you from noticing it's slowly taking big chunks out of your flesh.

6. It runs alongside military vehicles in Iraq, making a screaming noise as it chases them.


Scary, huh? From the sound of it, these things make the facehuggers in Alien seem like Monchhichis in comparison. But how much of what my class is so sure of is really true? Well...

1. It's a big SOB, but it doesn't get as large as a garbage can lid. A frisbee MAYBE...

2. Much like white men, camel spiders can't jump.

3. It runs about ten miles an hour. So it could probably keep pace with a man, but it's Michael Johnson is safe.

4. It's called a camel spider because it lives in the desert, not because it lives inside or feeds on camels.

5. Not venomous. In fact, they aren't generally dangerous to humans, preferring to eat insects and maybe the occasional lizard or very small bird. Camel spiders actual aren't even spiders; they're of the order Solifugae, which makes them arachnids, but not true spiders.

6. The reason that some folks have accused them of being aggressive is because they're nocturnal creatures, preferring to stay out of the hot desert sun, and so when humans or other creatures are around, they try to get in your SHADOW for shade (this may be where the camel stomach rumor came from; perhaps they tend to sit under a camel's abdomen to keep cool).

So where do the rumors come from? Well, as you can see in the somewhat infamous photo above, and a number of the camel spider videos on YouTube, our soldiers in Iraq have been encountering these thingies since they've been over there. If I may do a bit of urban legend psychoanalysis here (like the "king" of urban legends, Jan Harold Brunvand, who I was lucky enough to correspond with for a while many years ago), I would suggest that it stems from our fears (A) for our troops in a strange foreign land, and (B) our own sense of xenophobia about "those people" and "that place" over there. It's a hard thing to think of our own sons and daughters over there in harm's way, and even harder to think about them killing and being killed by other human beings. And I think perhaps we express all that fear and uncertainty by creating an even more alien enemy and landscape in our minds. Hence things like the camel spider.



The thing is, the camel spider is not even a middle eastern phenomenon. They exist is most of the world's deserts in one form or another, including the southwestern part of the United States. In other places they might be called the wind scorpion or sun spider, but when we talk about them, they tend to be the camel spider, because what's more middle eastern in the collective consciousness of the United States than a camel?

So when it comes down to it, if the camel spider is a monster, it's mainly a monster created by our subconscious, and our psycho-sociological need to create scapegoats and cautionary tales.

Also, it's one big, scary freakin' bug...

The Fine Print


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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