January 17, 2014

My Christmas present to niece Emmy this year involved shipping a 25″ square box to her, because everyone deserves a present larger than they are at least once in their lives.

What was in the box?

squid - Copy

I used this squid pattern from Build-a-DIY Tumblr.  Because I saw it and thought “OMG Emmy needs a giant squid.”

I was mostly afraid that Emmy’s parents would never forgive me for giving her a present that doesn’t actually fit anywhere.  I had hoped by this time to be able to post a picture of Emmy with her squid, but on my visit to Oregon last week, Rob showed me the video of Emmy opening the box and reacting to the squid.

I may have given her a squid phobia for life.  :-/

Maybe when the thing isn’t significantly bigger than she is, her parents can pull it out of the closet and try again.


December 16, 2013

A few days ago I went to an antique store in my neck of the woods looking for chairs.  This particular store specializes in woodwork and restoring wood furniture, but I really like them for the glassware — lots of quirky liqueur glasses and vintage sets and so on.  I got my retro martini glasses and tumblers there.

This time, I found something I completely and totally wasn’t expecting — because this store doesn’t do toys and kitsch and obscure geeky things.  What I saw was a red box with a familiar logo tucked away on a bottom shelf, forgotten.  I dug it out of the pile of dust, and sure enough, it was this:

Powerjet XT-7

The Captain Power Powerjet XT-7.  This was the thing you had to buy to be able to interact with the interactive, shoot-em-up elements on the TV show.  I loved the TV show, but I never had any of the toys and was frankly deeply annoyed at the commercial element of it all.  And the fact that my viewing happiness was interrupted by those red flashy bits that showed up whenever the bad guys did because that was how the show signaled to the toys that something was happening.

The owners of the store heard me gushing at my friend about the amazing thing I discovered shoved away on a shelf, and wanted to know what I was talking about.  They had no idea what this thing was — they bought it as part of a lot of games and toys they’d acquired in a sale (one of the two owners still seemed rather annoyed that the other had done this).  While I explained to them about the show, the toys, the interaction, and so on, they starting looking the toy up on eBay because they hadn’t priced it yet and didn’t know what to charge me.  So I made a preemptive strike as it were, and made them an offer before they could figure out what it was actually worth (and then jack up that price because I was so obviously a fan).  “Sold!”  They were obviously very excited to get any money at all for this thing that they had no idea what it was.

This means that after 25 years of being a fan of Captain Power, I now own a Powerjet XT-7. It’s not that I particularly wanted or needed one — several are usually available on eBay at any given moment, if I’d ever decided I wanted one.  I’m not much of a collector.  I love concepts and shows and worlds and ideas, but I don’t really need things, and almost every action figure or Doctor Who or Star Wars thing that I own was a gift (geeks are so stupidly easy to shop for).  But I bought the XT-7.  Because you see, I had to rescue it.  It didn’t belong in that store, surrounded by 19th century furniture and old china plates, and people who’d never heard of Captain Power.  It belongs with a fan.  Like, me.  So I rescued it.

Next step is to find batteries, put in the DVD’s, and see if this baby still works…

Thought 1:  “Hey, I’ve been wanting to make some new garb.  I’ve got that fabric…  I should make a new outfit for the SCA event this weekend.”

(I’m thinking this on Thursday.)

Thought 2:  “NO NO NO NO NO do not decide to make a whole new outfit in two days!  Just NO!  Stop it!  Stop adding things to the list!  Just stop it!”



December 6, 2013

My comics-guy friend Max and I went out for coffee.  Here’s what we talked about (roughly edited for dramatic effect).

Max:  Did you see they cast Wonder Woman for that Superman v. Batman movie?

Me:  Yes.  You know what the story’s going to be, right?  It’s going to be Superman and Batman duking it out for Wonder Woman’s affections.

Max:  No.  No.

Me:  Yes.

Max:  No, that’s just not right.

Me:  You know who’s directing, don’t you?

Max: ….  Zach Snyder?  Just no, he won’t do that.

Me:  I have two words for you.

Max: (winces)  What….

Me:  Frank.  Miller.

Max: (puts head in hands and repeats in a tone of despair)  No, no, no, no……..

(It’s like the DC movie franchise is utterly terrified of a solo Wonder Woman project.  And yet they desperately, desperately want a Justice League series than can compete with the Avengers.  But they can’t do Justice League without a strong solo Wonder Woman project.  I can see the producers curled up on the floor, hands wrapped around their heads, weeping…)

geek holidays

November 30, 2013

I’m a day late on blogging.  I’ve decided that means I successfully celebrated the holiday.  And I’m not done!  My friends have put together an Artemis party today — we’re looking to get together something like four or five crews working on the same mission.  It should be pretty outrageous.  For the occasion, I made cookies.


Red Five, standing by!

simple pleasures

November 13, 2013

A couple months back at the Rocket Fizz candy shop in Denver, we found a box of vintage trading cards.

I finally opened mine:

photo (5)

Now I want, like, a GI Joe poker set or something.

first contact

November 8, 2013

Some of the Best from Tor.com 2013 is now available for free on Kindle.

This includes my story, “The Best We Can,” and it gives me an excuse to talk about my thoughts on possible first contact scenarios, and why I wrote the story at all.

First off, I do think we’ll find evidence of extraterrestrial life within my lifetime.  Fossil microbes on Mars or something swimming under the ice on Titan.  Something.  But we may even find extraterrestrial intelligence.  It’s not going to happen at all like it does in the movies, or like it has on any number of Discovery Channel mockumentary scenarios.  In fact, it’s probably not going to be very cinematic at all.  It’ll come from the examination of tiny pixels, and the analysis of mountains of data.  It’ll take years to confirm.

The search for exoplanets — planets outside our solar system — has been more successful than anyone dreamed.  According to Exoplanet.org, 755 planets have been confirmed, along with 3455 unconfirmed planet candidates.  That’s over four thousand planets, and the number is constantly growing.  (This is one of the reasons I get cranky when people insist that not having a space shuttle means the U.S. doesn’t have a space program.  You want a space program?  Here, have FOUR THOUSAND EXOPLANETS, BITCHES.)  You use this data to extrapolate the numbers in the Drake Equation for determining the likelihood of finding alien civilizations, and the results start to look ridiculously probable.  Which leads to the attendant question of course — why haven’t we been able to talk to them yet?  And the answer is, to quote Douglas Adams:  space is big.  Really big.  Hugely mindbogglingly big.

Astronomers use a few different methods to find planets:  with the transit method, they can track changes in light that occur when a planet passes in front of its star.  Tiny little eclipses.  They can measure the gravitational pull that planets and stars exert on each other.  Direct imaging has also become possible.

I think at some point we’re going to find a star system that obviously has planets, but the data is going to be wonky.  Astronomers will find light where it shouldn’t be, on the shadowed side of a planet.  They’ll find something orbiting something else that predictions say shouldn’t be there — because it’s artificial.  It will be evidence not just of life, but of civilization.  And it’ll be dozens and dozens of light years away, and it’ll take a lifetime for our message saying we know about them to get there.  Maybe we’ll finally get that radio signal SETI’s been looking for — but it’s not going to be a message meant for us.  It’s going to be a random alien thing, noise sent to the stars, like what we’ve been sending out for the last 80+ years.  Plus — it will likely have been traveling for many, many years.  Whatever evidence we find, whether light or radio or something else on the EM spectrum, will be old by the time we get it.  Maybe ancient.  It will be a message in a bottle, and likely an accidental one to boot.  Discovering extraterrestrial life is going to be like archeology.

And it will be so bloody frustrating, won’t it?!  We’ll turn to the heavens, shouting, because what we really want is to talk to them.

This is what was driving my story:  the idea that we’re going to find the holy grail, incontrovertible proof of alien civilizations.  And we’re not going to be able to do a damn thing about it.  We’re not going to be able to talk to them.  We’ll just have to gather and catalog the data and try to figure out what it means.  I know the story depressed a lot of people because of its depiction of bureaucracy overwhelming the wonder of discovery.  But really, I meant there to be a thread of hope as well:  because hey, we found life.  We found civilization.  We aren’t alone.  And that’s very likely going to have to be enough, at least at the start.

The Book of Mormon

November 1, 2013

The musical, I mean.  This is the hardest ticket to land in Denver right now.  Apparently, it’s easier to find Book of Mormon tickets in London than it is here.  This is the second time the touring show has come to Denver, and it still sold out within hours.  The national tour opened in Denver a couple of years ago — sold out in minutes.  I expect this is because Parker and Stone are locals.  They’re ours.  We claim them.

I put myself on spoiler blackout for this like three years ago when I first got an inkling of the thing’s existence, and when I heard the first song posted online:  “Hello” on youtube.  I loved this so much, and I decided I didn’t want to hear anything else about the show, the songs, or anything, until I could actually see the thing live myself.  I have been waiting three years for this.

Mom landed the toughest tickets to get in Denver, because she’s just that good.  We saw it Wednesday after a great dinner and two bottles of wine between the five of us who went, which is exactly the way to do it.  We dressed up.  The theater.  Awesome.

The show:  Parker and Stone (and Robert Lopez of Avenue Q) are pretty much the greatest satirists working right now, and this was like seeing a live action version of one of the better episodes of South Park.  It’s crass, rude, horrible, and wonderful, and as a long-time fan of musical theater, I never thought I’d see a Broadway show that had female genital mutilation as a plot point and made it work.  As a fan of South Park, I knew what I was getting into.  But I wonder how many people in the audience were only there because this is the biggest musical of the last ten years and it won the Tony and well, they liked The Lion King so maybe this’ll be good too…  Oy!

Between all the grossness and profanity, these writers know exactly what they’re doing and have tough, meaty issues under the sensationalism.  The Book of Mormon isn’t about profanity or wild caricatures of both Mormon missionaries and western perceptions of Africa.  It’s about how faith and religion are not the same thing, and one should never be mistaken for the other.  This is awesome.

Plus, one of the main characters is a serious science fiction geek and they nailed it.  Glorious, to see that on stage, and I’m so glad I didn’t know about that ahead of time because discovering Elder Cunningham was delightful.

a maudlin post

October 30, 2013

So, River Phoenix died twenty years ago, tomorrow.

He was my favorite actor when I was a teenager.  I think I still have that giant poster of him stashed away somewhere.

I found out…badly.  A good friend of mine who was well known for spinning ridiculous but convincing tall tales told me he’d died.  I didn’t believe her.  She knew I adored him, but she just kept saying, “No really, I’m not joking.”  Which was exactly what she said to convince you her lie was truth.  I refused to listen to her until she found a newspaper and showed me.

This was during my junior year abroad in York.  I spent the rest of my college years in Los Angeles, and there are two momentous things that happened in L.A. that year that I missed — the Northridge quake, and Phoenix’s death.  I would have been one of the groupies lighting candles outside the Viper Room.  So it’s just as well I wasn’t there.

I’m still pissed off at him, and still upset that he’s gone.  I keep wondering about all the movies we never got to see.  I know every generation has their tragic fatality, their young icon gone too soon.  River Phoenix is mine.

If I had to name just one of his movies as the best?  Well gosh, all of them, but if you could only watch one I’d say make it Running On Empty.  Or My Own Private Idaho, or Stand By Me, or Sneakers

still at the con

August 30, 2013

I’m still at Worldcon doing Worldcony things, so here’s a geeky picture from my personal archives:


The Lady Rainicorn/Adventure Time parade at San Diego Comic Con, 2011.


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